There’s nothing like a hot meal after a day of hiking through the woods with a full pack. To make that hot meal, you need a reliable backpacking stove that’s small and light enough to tote in a backpack. A good backpacking stove weighs around a pound or less and can boil water in minutes.
Backpacking stoves come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Canister stoves burn isobutane propane gas and are easy to use, while liquid fuel backpacking stoves are suitable for cold weather camping or camping at high altitudes. Alternative fuel camping stoves are among the lightest of outdoor stoves.
In this guide, we’ll explore the features to consider when shopping for the best backpacking stove and review some of the best models for cooking in the great outdoors.
- BEST OVERALL: MSR PocketRocket Ultralight Stove
- RUNNER UP: Odoland Camping Cookware Stove
- PERFORMANCE PICK: SOTO WindMaster Stove
- BEST COMPACT: Esbit Ultralight Folding Pocket Stove
- BEST ALCOHOL STOVE: REDCAMP Mini Alcohol Stove for Backpacking
- ALSO CONSIDER: Coleman PowerPack Propane Stove
- ALSO CONSIDER: AOTU Portable Camping Stoves Backpacking Stove
What to Consider When Buying the Best Backpacking Stove
The type of fuel the stove burns, its ease of use, and its size and weight are just a few of the important characteristics to consider when shopping for a backpacking stove. Read on for tips in choosing the best backpacking stove for your next outdoor adventure.
Camping stoves use a variety of fuel types. Canister fuel stoves, which feature a burner and a cooking grate assembly that screws directly onto a pressurized gas canister of isobutane and propane, are the easiest to use. Light the stove via an integrated piezo ignition system or with a match or lighter. A knob on the side of the burner controls the size of the flame.
Liquid fuel stoves use a refillable bottle. Most use white gas; however, they also may run on other types of liquid fuel, such as a pressurized gas canister. However, they’re heavier and can be complicated to set up and use and must be primed before each use. Because they use liquid fuel, the possibility of spills or leaks exists.
Another type of liquid fuel stove, an alcohol stove, uses a small canister of alcohol as fuel, sits on the ground, and has a stand. Although these backpacking stoves take longer to heat food or boil water, they’re compact and much lighter, making them a popular choice for ultralight backpacking.
Solid fuel stoves burn wood, twigs, and even leaves, eliminating the need to carry fuel. These stoves consist of a metal frame, which is usually foldable, a small firebox, and a grate. The firebox holds small pieces of wood, a fire starter, or a solid fuel tablet to create a fire under the cooking grate.
Size and Weight
When backpacking, weight is the primary consideration. Each item, including the stove, must be carefully assessed for weight. Large liquid power burners can weigh up to a pound, while ultralight stoves might weigh only 4 or 5 ounces. Most backpacking stoves fold into compact shapes for easy transport. Some stoves are as small as 3 by 3 inches and 1 inch thick. Most stoves, however, measure around 5 by 7 inches, while stoves with larger burners may be a foot long.
Most backpacking stoves range in power from 8,000 BTUs to 11,000 BTUs. While a stove with more power will boil water faster, it also burns through fuel supplies more quickly.
Most backpacking stove manufacturers rate their stoves by how quickly they can boil water. Liquid fuel and canister stoves can boil water in just a few minutes, while alternative fuel stoves that burn wood or fuel tablets take longer. Most, but not all, backpacking stoves have regulators to adjust the size of the flame for temperatures optimal for simmering or boiling.
Wind and Winter Performance
Performance during extreme weather is another consideration. Liquid fuel stoves perform better in cold temperatures and high altitudes than canisters, which can depressurize in cold weather, resulting in a weak flame.
Wind also can have a negative impact on a backpacking stove, blowing the flame and preventing it from transferring to the underside of the pot. Backpacking stoves that feature concave burners, which are closer to the pot, block wind from affecting the flame and allow heat to transfer from the burner to the pot.
Since they often operate in primitive settings, camping gear manufacturers design backpacking stoves to be easy to set up and use. Canister-style stoves are the easiest to start. After screwing the burner to the canister, open the valve and light it. Liquid fuel stoves take a little more skill, requiring a priming process to get the fuel flowing from bottle to stove.
Liquid fuel stoves have wider cooking grates than canister stoves, reducing the chances of a large pot or pan sliding off the burner. Alternative fuel stoves are lightweight and don’t require a fuel source; however, the user must hunt for fuel when arriving at the campsite.
Backpacking stoves are an effective way to cook, especially if campfires are banned in the area, which happens periodically in state and national parks during dry periods.
Backpacking stove accessories are designed to make them easier and safer to use. Some stoves include stabilizers that mount under the canister to prevent accidental tip-overs. Others have piezo ignition systems that allow convenient push-button lighting. Most backpacking stoves include bags to protect and hold the stove’s pieces to prevent damage or loss during transport.
Our Top Picks
The list below takes the weight, size, heating power, and other important considerations of each product into account to narrow the field to some of the best backpacking stoves organized by class.
From MSR, this legendary backpacking stove is compact, lightweight, and easily portable, weighing less than three ounces. Despite its small size, this stove is powerful and can emit more than 8,000 BTUs, enough to boil one liter of water in less than four minutes.
A large wire knob allows for easy flame adjustment, and a serrated cooking surface prevents pots and pans from sliding off. This stove screws onto a standard canister of isobutane-propane fuel and lights with a match or lighter. A lightweight case protects the stove while in transit, preventing it from damage.
This nine-piece cookware set from Odoland, which costs less than some backpacking stoves, includes a canister stove, two aluminum nonstick pots, a set of utensils, and a stainless steel cup with a silicon insulator.
The largest pot is almost five inches in diameter and a bit over four inches tall. A tripod base attaches to the bottom of a standard fuel canister to provide a stable base for cooking. Insulated handles on both pots make maneuvering them safer. The utensils have folding handles, so when it’s time to break camp, the stove folds into a compact shape to fit into the enclosed plastic carrying case. All the pieces fit inside the pots for easy transport.
Wind wreaks havoc on backwoods cooking efforts, especially when camping at high altitudes. SOTO solves this issue by positioning the burner so the pot sits closer to the flame, creating a smaller gap between the pot and flame.
The innovative design keeps its boiling time consistent whether the wind is howling or not. The powerful 11,000-BTU burner, which runs off isobutane fuel, can boil two cups of water in under three minutes. At just over two ounces, the SOTO stove is light, but its burner system can still handle large pots.
The Esbit folds into a small metal box that allows it to fit in a small side pocket of a backpack. When unfolded, this little pocket stove is sturdy enough to support a large pot.
When loaded with an Esbit fuel tablet, it can boil about 17 ounces of water in about eight minutes. The stove comes with six fuel tablets, each of which burns for about 12 minutes. Combined, the stove and tablets weigh just over six ounces, making this one of the lightest stoves for backpacking.
Weighing less than a baseball, this mini alcohol stove from REDCAMP is one of the lightest and most compact stove options for backpacking. The burner sits inside a stove base with a small cooking grate on top that’s large enough to support a small- to medium-size pot. It features aluminum alloy and brass construction.
A cover allows for easy temperature control and creates a tight seal over the fuel source to prevent leaks during transport. Though not as powerful as a gas-powered model, this lightweight stove can boil 16 ounces of water in about seven minutes. A convenient velvet bag keeps all the parts together.
At just over two pounds, this Coleman stove is more than twice the weight of other canister backpacking models. It’s also significantly larger, but size has its advantages: The stove can handle up to 12-inch cookware. A cooking grate with a rimmed edge prevents pans from sliding off.
The stove pumps out an ample 7,500 BTUs and features a knob to allow for temperature control. It uses a large propane cylinder to provide a run time of about three hours. A removable grate makes cleaning easy.
At just a fraction of the cost of comparable canister stoves, AOTU’s backpacking stove comes in at just over three ounces, a hair over higher-priced canister stoves. It folds up into a small carrying case to make it as compact as other stoves in this class.
A larger-than-average burner gives this stove a boiling time of about four minutes for a 600 milliliter pot of water, depending on the size of the pot. A wide burner with serrated edges supports larger pots. A built-in ignition lights the burner if matches or a lighter aren’t available.
Tips for Using a Backpacking Stove
A backpacking stove is an invaluable piece of backwoods camping gear but only if it’s used properly and safely. Some useful tips for operating a backpacking stove include:
- Cook in an open space. Even when it’s cold and rainy, don’t cook inside a tent. It creates a fire hazard as well as a carbon monoxide risk.
- Use a level surface. This tip may seem obvious, but sometimes, finding a level surface in the great outdoors is a challenge.
- Bring matches or a lighter. Many backpacking stoves use a piezo igniter to start; however, these lighters aren’t always reliable.
- Keep fuel canisters warm. Fuel canisters lose their pressure and the ability to burn properly when the temperature drops.
FAQs About Backpacking Stoves
If you’re still wondering which backpacking stove is right for you or how long fuel lasts in a backpacking stove, answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about these products follow.
Q. How do I choose a backpacking stove?
The type of backpacking stove you choose depends on the type of backpacking you plan to do. If you like to go as light as possible, consider alternative fuel stoves, which are among the lightest. For an easy-to-use backpacking stove, choose a canister-style stove. If camping in cold temperatures or at altitude, then consider a liquid fuel stove.
Q. What is the best lightweight backpacking stove?
Weighing just 6.3 ounces including its 14 fuel tablets, the Esbit Ultralight Folding Pocket Stove is one of the lightest backpacking stove options on the market.
Q. How long does 8 ounces of isobutane propane last?
An 8-ounce fuel canister typically can provide about three hours of cooking time. If used at full power, the time decreases.
Q. How long does a backpacking stove last?
If properly cared for, a good backpacking stove should last for many years. Make sure to protect the stove during transport by using its carrying case or bag. Also, periodically clean the burner to remove any residue or buildup.