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How to Buy a Camping Stove For Your Next Adventure

In the backcountry, a lightweight backpacking stove is a convenience most of the time, an irritation sometimes (when it doesn’t work as it should) and, in certain circumstances, a critical piece of gear that can help get you through a challenging situation (such as when you must melt snow or heat stream water to stave off hypothermia).

It isn’t always essential, but when you want or need a camping stove, you want it to perform reliably.

The world of camping stoves has seen major evolution since your dad’s time, giving you more choices but also requiring a little pre-purchase research. In this buying guide, Gear Guy dishes on all you need to know to get the camping stove for your adventures.

3 BACKPACKING STOVE CATEGORIES

Backpacking stoves fall into one of three basic categories, according to the type of fuel they burn:

MSR PocketRocket 2

MSR PocketRocket 2 ($45, msrgear.com): For performance, simplicity, price and low weight, it’s hard to beat the PocketRocket. Screw it onto a canister, fold out the pot-support arms, turn it on and you’re cooking. A liter of water boils in a blazing-fast 3 1/2 minutes, and the flame control won’t burn your noodles. It’ll pack inside any pot and last for years. 2.6 oz.

CANISTER STOVES run on an isobutane-propane fuel blend in pressurized canisters. These stoves are compact, lightweight, reliable, durable and easiest to operate. They have good flame control, and some are inexpensive. Their designs range from integrated systems — where the pot and stove assemble as a single unit (like a Jetboil) — to separate, tiny backpacking stoves weighing just a few ounces that screw onto fuel canisters made by a variety of brands.

While ideal for three-season backpacking or camping, their flaw is diminished performance in strong wind and sub-freezing temperatures.

MSR Whisperlite

MSR Whisperlite ($90, msrgear.com): A generation after its introduction, the Whisperlite remains a solid and affordable choice among liquid-fuel stoves. Burning white gas, it has a self-cleaning jet (below the burner, where the fuel gets vaporized) and provides a wide, stable platform for large pots. It’ll boil a liter of water in 4 minutes and works in wind and cold. Flame control is limited. 11.5 oz.

LIQUID-FUEL STOVES like the MSR Whisperlite run on white gas and sometimes other liquid fuels like kerosene. They consist of a separate stove and fuel bottle that must be assembled. Users pressurize the fuel bottle by pumping and then prime the stove before lighting. These are heavier and bulkier than canister stoves, and they require occasional maintenance. They excel in sub-freezing temperatures and high altitudes.

Esbit Titanium Stove

Esbit Titanium Stove ($18, industrialrev.com): You can’t get much simpler, cheaper or lighter than the Esbit Titanium Stove. The three folding legs double as pot supports, opening around a tiny tray that holds a solid fuel tablet (purchased separately). Unfold, light a fuel tablet and you have a slow cooker. It pairs well with the 750ml Esbit Titanium Pot ($70) or any pot of similar size. 0.4 oz.

“ALTERNATIVE-FUEL STOVES” is a catch-all term for otherwise dissimilar models that do not fall into either of the above categories. This includes camping stoves that burn small sticks of wood you collect (such as the Solo Stove Lite), denatured alcohol or solid fuel tablets (like the Esbit Titanium Stove), purchased separately. While alcohol and tablet stoves are popular with thru-hikers for their low weight and simplicity, they are much slower to boil water and cook food than the above types. The same is true of wood stoves, and dry wood isn’t always easy to find.

The BSA does not recommend alcohol-fueled camping stoves — although they are not banned — because clear liquid alcohol is tough to see and could pose a safety problem to those unaccustomed with proper handling. Read more about BSA chemical fuels and equipment safety guidelines.

HOW TO CHOOSE A CAMPING STOVE

Canister stoves are widely popular and considered the most convenient for backpacking trips. Liquid-fuel stoves are often the choice of winter campers and mountaineers. And many thru-hikers prefer pocket-style stoves that take up little space in their already-stuffed packs.

Consider how you will use your camping stove, talk with your buddies to get their recommendations and check out a few of our favorites, shown on this page.

MORE RECOMMENDED CAMPING STOVES

Optimus Crux Lite Solo Cook System

Optimus Crux Lite Solo Cook System ($60, optimusstoves.com): The Crux Lite pairing offers a complete backcountry cooking system (for one hiker) weighing less than 10 ounces and all at a great price. Using screw-on isobutane fuel canisters, the tiny stove can boil a liter of water in 3 minutes. The entire system, including a 0.6-liter pot and lid/fry pan with folding arms and a 100-gram fuel cartridge, nests together and packs inside an included stuff sack.

Solo Stove Lite

Solo Stove Lite ($70, solostove.com): For a long hike where sticks are plentiful (and dry), the Solo Stove Lite burns pretty efficiently for a wood stove. Its air intake holes at the bottom and vent holes at the top pump oxygen to the flames, producing good heat but little smoke. It’s light and compact, and there is basically nothing to break or fall. 9 oz.

Camp Chef Everest

Camp Chef Everest ($125, campchef.com): This portable two-burner tabletop stove creates a campsite mini-kitchen suitable for large groups, delivering top performance at a competitive price. Its propane burners provide excellent flame control. It folds up into a sturdy case with two solid latches. 12lbs.

Jetboil MiniMo and Sumo

Jetboil MiniMo ($135, jetboil.com) and Sumo ($140, scoutshop.org): Jetboil changed the game when it introduced integrated stove-and-cookpot systems. The MiniMo is sized for solo use, with a 1-liter pot/cup, while the Sumo can cook meals for three or four with a 1.8-liter pot/cup capacity. They both have push-button igniters and good flame control, and boil water in 4 1/2 minutes. Both stoves are designed to break down and store the entire system inside the pot. 14.6 oz. (MiniMo), 1 lb. (Sumo)

As with any flame, burning stoves consume oxygen. They also give off carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas that can kill. Always cook in a well-ventilated place — not inside a completely closed tent or snow cave.

18 Comments on How to Buy a Camping Stove For Your Next Adventure

  1. I have used my brass, Optimus Svea backpacking stove. It will boil 1L water at 10k’ in 6-7 min. I used it in the 70’s in my youth Scouting days.. Still using it a couple of times a month after 20 years as an adult leader. The roar is A good sound to hear in the morning.. Coffee will be ready shortly !.. only question I have is what is a ‘yearly cleaning kit’ ?

  2. One thing to remember is that butane cartridges can freeze. When weather gets cold enough put a cartridge in your sleeping bag when you go to sleep to keep it from freezing. That way you’ll won’t have to make a fire in the a.m. to thaw the slush in the cartridge enough to get pressure to run the stove for hot coffee or chocolate.

  3. Ok. I tried to comment earlier but it doesn’t seem to have shown up. That’s OK because I was in error.
    BSA policy prohibits the use of home made stoves in regards to chemical stove, this includes solid fuels. But, the policy does NOT address or specify homemade store in regards to biofuel (wood). A homemade wood burning stove may be frowned upon by some Scouters, but it is not banned. Building a homemade wood burning or woodgas stove is a valuable skill.

  4. Woodburing or soild are allowed, even homemade.

  5. I have purchased and tried the Solo Stove, which burns small sticks or denatured alcohol (take it in a metal container like the Coleman fuel for the Whisper Lites). I have not taken it camping yet, but it looks like a good alternative and uses dead sticks/branches from the area. (I have 2 Whisper Lite stoves and love them.) The Solo Stove boils water quickly (backpacking meals), and can be adjusted down by a slower feeding of the fuel. I am surprised that no one has mentioned it.

  6. I do not like how close i have to get my hands to the stove to pump the container of fuel! Are there extenders? But other than that, these are great stoves!

  7. We like the Pocket Rocket; simple and light to carry. It’s truly a stove made for us.

  8. Trail Master // May 3, 2013 at 6:15 pm // Reply

    Stick with white gas stoves, they are superior to canister types. MSR make the toughest; I prefer the Dragonfly.

    • I agree. Two Philmont treks and many summer camps and my Dragonfly still outperforms all others. Easy maintenance and it’s ready to go.

  9. me myself and I // November 19, 2012 at 9:50 pm // Reply

    I made a small wood stove out of a large peanut can with air holes on the bottom and coper wire for a handle. Best part about it is you can burn any non toxic substance in it, so you don’t need to bring fuel if it hasn’t rained in a wile.

    • Refer to the BSA Chemical Fuels policy and the guide to safe scouting…
      HOMEMADE STOVES ARE NOT ALLOWED!

      • Pylades211 // December 2, 2014 at 2:56 pm //

        Actually the BSA policy is only with regards to homemade stoves that use chemical fuels. Homemade wood stoves are not prohibited because they don’t use chemical fuels.

      • Crashdog5280 // May 27, 2017 at 5:00 pm //

        My dad made a stove out of a pop can. Super cool!

  10. jetboil all the way its also a good stove

    • Off-trail-Monkey // July 8, 2013 at 5:26 pm // Reply

      Jet boil is not a stove, it’s a water boiler. Try cooking pancakes on it, or a steak, or a fish filet. Enough said.

      • Anonymous // December 2, 2014 at 7:44 pm //

        You can remove the canister from the base with a simple twist and viola’ you have a back back stove. I recommend using a frying pan to cook your food on.

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