Best Backpacking Stoves Reviewed and Tested

Part of the appeal of heading out, is to test yourself against the elements. To do battle with earth wind and water and through toughness, ingenuity and strength of will come out on top, asserting  your place at the top of the natural food chain. It’s a primal calling, and one we support wholeheartedly. But let’s be honest, it’s hard to do without coffee. And it helps to have a hot meal from time to time. So for the sake of humanity we’re going to go ahead and suggest that you make room in your pack for a stove. Nothing massive, nothing serious but something that’ll provide you with warm food and drinks. “Man does not live by bread alone,” the saying goes; but toast, now that’s another subject entirely.

Last Updated: August 8, 2018
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By Kevin Enochs:

We've updated this list with a new introduction and a few new products that'll spark your interest and hopefully spark easily when you're out in the field. As always we've concentrated on price, quality and ease of use. So please take a look and treat yourself the next time you head out into the wild with some coffee and a warm meal.

Featured Recommendations

Etekcity Ultralight
  • Etekcity Ultralight
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Amazing Value
  • Price: See Here
Coleman Classic
  • Coleman Classic
  • 4.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Ready to use
  • Price: See Here
RoadPro 12-Volt
  • RoadPro 12-Volt
  • 4.3 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Worthwhile features
  • Price: See Here

So your basic backpacking stoves comes in three basic varieties: liquid, Canister, and Alternative-fuel are the three main types of backpacking stoves. Canister stoves are the cheapest and most recognizable and can be stored in small spaces. Liquid fuel stoves are reusable and connect to refillable fuel bottles, with options for using fuel that is accepted internationally. There is a lot of universal appeal with this type of stove since it has longer runtime than a canister. Alternative-fuel stoves are a mixed bag, and useful for more experienced outdoor users. They use everything from wood, fuel pellets and other cheaper fuel with varying degrees of success. Some buyers even carry around two different types of stoves depending on the environment they will be cooking in. It’s all about choice and knowing what will work as the best tool for the current situation.

Should You Shop By Prices?

 Most of the products on the list are low priced right out of the box. A small few are average to high priced, but they are worth the extra dollars when you look at the full feature list. Deciding to splurge a bit on your backpacking stove is a good idea depending on what you want to do with it. Some single stove sets let you combine them to make a two or even three stove set. There are even stoves that come with different options like wind guards and protective suitcases. Find out the feature that attracts you the most and go from there, making it a priority to find out at least two things you can’t live without. There is no point in getting a backpacking stove that doesn’t use the fuel you want it to. And there is also no point in getting a backpacking stove that isn’t as portable as you need it to be. Plenty of options are available with each type of stove, so the price should only be a factor if your wallet doesn’t allow it.

How Important Are BTUs?

A higher BTU doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll cook food better. It will no doubt cook the food faster and at higher temperatures, but BTU is one of many factors that determine how good your food turns out. BTU is an acronym for British thermal unit, which is the amount of heat that is needed to raise the temperature of water. Without getting too specific with the mathematics of it all, higher BTU is what you’ll want if you are planning on doing elaborate cooking setups with backpacking stoves. Buyers that want to warm up leftovers or cook beans don’t need to worry about BTUs since a low BTU can do the job just fine. Spacing, heat coverage and other extras are just as important. Combined with a good BTU it makes for a perfect cooking experience outdoors. 

15 Best Backpacking Stoves

 

1. Etekcity Ultralight

1. Etekcity Ultralight
Seeing an Etekcity product at the top of the list is a little surprising for avid outdoor users. But the truth is out about the value of this backpacking stove, with its usefulness being the best on the list.

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Price

You can’t beat this value with any other product in the industry. It is the lowest priced while also being the most useful in multiple situations.

Brand Recognition

Etekcity is not a well-known brand among the giants of outdoor camping stoves. Their strength comes from copying high end models and improving on those core features.

Dimensions/Weight

2.3×1.8×3.5/4.8 ounces

Ease Of Use

This isn’t the easiest set to use, and it will take a bit of practice to get going if you’ve never used a backpacking stove. Once you learn how to operate it the first time the preceding times are much better.

Durability

Although the materials are light they aren’t prone to easy breakage. The durability is above average, even when used on a daily basis.

Summary

There are plenty of great backpacking stoves on the list, yet none of them reach the overall value of this product. This is the best you can get for a price that can’t be matched by competing products.
Pros
  • Made of stainless steel and aluminum alloy
  • Lowest price on the list
Cons
  • Higher learning curve than other stoves

2. Coleman Classic

2. Coleman Classic
Coleman is one of the big brands for outdoor equipment, and comes in solidly at the #2 spot. They really nailed it when it came to making a stove that was ready to go out of the box.

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Price

The price is low, although nowhere near as low as the top product on the list. With everything that comes with the stove, it is still a good deal.

Brand Recognition

Coleman is the most recognizable brand name on the list. Whenever you think of leading outdoor equipment, Coleman always ends up in the top three names.

Dimensions/Weight

4.1×21.9×13.7/4 ounces

Ease Of Use

There are a lot more advanced features to take advantage of with this unit than others, but the learning curve is low. Coleman does a good job in keeping things accessible to all levels of users.

Durability

With a removable chrome plated grate, not only is it resistant to minor damage but it’s easy to clean. This is one product where the quality doesn’t need to be questioned.

Summary

More than enough people are familiar with the excellence that is Coleman, and this stove is a viable portable option. With some great outdoor features built into it, there are few others that can compare.
Pros
  • Built in wind block panels
  • Cooking power is 20,000 BTU
Cons
  • Could use better valves

3. RoadPro RPSC197

3. RoadPro RPSC197
The unique look of this RoadPro portable stove will draw in a lot of users that want simplicity. It packs in a lot of worthwhile features into a small and manageable box.

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Price

Count this as another low priced product in the lineup for backpacking stoves. Since the power comes from your car, you’ll also save a lot of money on energy.

Brand Recognition

RoadPro has a dedicated user base that stands by their products for thinking outside of the box. Although they lack the prestige of bigger brands, they hold their own by always looking to offer something different.

Dimensions/Weight

10.5x7x7.8/1 pound

Ease Of Use

If your car has enough amps then there isn’t an easier to use backpack stove on the market. This thing is ready to go, quite literally out of the box.

Durability

The plastic case is nice but it won’t hold up to much damage. Some users have complained that the latch that keeps it closed is prone to be a problem after a few years of use.

Summary

Take your stove with you in the easiest way possible with this RoadPro solution. With the right setup it’ll be the only product you’ll need to heat up food.
Pros
  • Warms up to 300 degrees
  • Comes in portable black box with handle
Cons
  • Needs at least 20 amps

4. Ohuhu Portable

4. Ohuhu Portable
Consider this the stove for the more serious outdoorsman. Besides having an unbeatable professional look, it is made of some of the finest materials in the industry.

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Price

This is one of the lower priced options on the list, and all without lowering the value of the materials. Buyers will get their money’s worth with this purchase and more.

Brand Recognition

Ohuhu is known but usually doesn’t rank high on a lot of lists. This isn’t because of bad quality, and has more to do with the company having a low profile.

Dimensions/Weight

3.3×5.6×5.7/0.06 pounds

Ease Of Use

Using this particular product isn’t going to be the easiest thing you’ve ever done. For seasoned outdoor store users it is a walk in the park, but for everyone else it will take a while to get used to.

Durability

Small and strong, it takes a lot to break this portable stove. For most users durability isn’t an issue, and it’s more about storing this in a place where you won’t lose it.

Summary

Even with a high learning curve you can’t ignore the usefulness of this product. It is the smallest backpacking stove on the list and heats up fast from the start.
Pros
  • Stainless steel set
  • Uses twigs, pinecones, wood and leaves
Cons
  • Instructions aren’t clear

5. Camp Chef Explorer 2

5. Camp Chef Explorer 2
Portable isn’t the best way to describe this backpacking stove, yet it has a lot of diehard fans. Campers that travel in big groups can’t do without it, as it is a much better option than your normal portable outdoor stove.

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Price

The price is average, and goes a little bit into the high category. This price range is more than justified for all of the extras you get to start with.

Brand Recognition

Camp Chef has a bit of notoriety in camping circles for their top notch camping equipment. The Chef Explorer 1 was very well received, and is one of their most popular products.

Dimensions/Weight

34x16x9/22.5 pounds

Ease Of Use

Even with the optional upgrades and multiple fuel options, this remains a very easy to use product. They keep it simple with the attachments and make sure to use as few steps as possible.

Durability

Just like the rest of the stove won’t break down, the two aluminum burners are made to be used extensively. This is grade A materials that will get you through a lot of meals while you’re out.

Summary

The large size of this backpacking stove can be intimidating, but don’t let that throw you off. When groups camp together it is a must, and a true must have product for having the most cooking options possible.
Pros
  • Completely customizable
  • Multiple fuel options
Cons
  • Size

6. Iwatani Corporation ZA-3HP

6. Iwatani Corporation ZA-3HP
When you’re unsure of the right size to get, then having a manufacturer like this one makes a big difference. The ZA-3HP comes in a variety of sizes that will make the most out of your current needs.

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Price

Depending on the size you get, the price goes in the order of low, average and high. Their largest model is one of the few high priced backpacking stoves on the list.

Brand Recognition

Iwatani Corporation of America specializes in cooking products, on both the residential and industrial sides. Their presence in the industry is small, yet they have managed to grab the attention of multiple magazines.

Dimensions/Weight

14x11x4.2/3.7 pounds

Ease Of Use

Operation of this product couldn’t be any easier, and it is very beginner friendly. The small uptick in price is worth it if you want don’t want the hassle of more complicated stoves.

Durability

Customers are mixed on the durability of this particular product, although it doesn’t seem to be related to the build quality. The temperature runs hotter than usual which in turn leads to a shorter lifespan by default.

Summary

Enough interested parties in the backpacking stove industry have taken notice of this product. All of the sizes are worth a try when you need a quick cooking solution.
Pros
  • Comes in three different sizes
  • Great fuel efficiency
Cons
  • Overheats easy

7. Coleman Perfect Flow

7. Coleman Perfect Flow
Coleman is on the list again, this time for their perfect flow grill stove. As one of the best models to come from their outdoor lineup, this still ranks high years after being released.

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Price

The price hovers close to average, but is still low than the bulk of the products in the industry. As a Coleman product, you’ll be getting the best quality possible.

Brand Recognition

Coleman has been around as a company longer than any other brand on this list. They continue to tweak their products and make them better with each iteration.

Dimensions/Weight

6.5×15.5×23.75/7.5 pounds

Ease Of Use

All products from Coleman come with comprehensive instruction manuals. You’ll never be lost on what is needed to get your stove going.

Durability

The product is durable, but the wind block panels tend to wear out quicker than in other models. It isn’t a big deal since these can be replaced for very little money.

Summary

Even if this isn’t the best Coleman product on the list, it still has a place among the best of them. It’s a reliable model that has a huge amount of upside for any outdoorsman.
Pros
  • The grill and stove can be used at the same time
  • 20,000 BTUs
Cons
  • A lid would have put this higher on the list

8. Coleman 2000020951

8. Coleman 2000020951
Buyers that are considering this butane stove will be happy to know that it can optionally come as a set. It’s a good deal that lets you expand a single stove into something for a bigger group.

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Price

This stove is sold as a single or as a set, and both options are low priced. So you can essentially get a double stove for less than the price of a single one from a competitor.

Brand Recognition

It’s been said time and time again that Coleman is all about excellence. The bulk option with this product is a good example of why most users default to buying Coleman stoves.

Dimensions/Weight

20x12x4/4.7 pounds

Ease Of Use

You’re not going to have problems getting this started and setting the temperature correctly. The knobs are easy to reach and labeled so that there are no mistakes in preparation.

Durability

When it comes to damage these are average, so nothing really to write home about. They’ll hold up to the normal wear and tear when being used.

Summary

This butane stove is one of the forgotten products from Coleman’s lineup, and is worth the purchase. Users will get the best deal when they purchase the double pack and double the space available to cook.
Pros
  • Flame adjustment control
  • Can handle up to a 10 inch pan
Cons
  • Only 7,650 BTU

9. Camp Chef MS2HP

9. Camp Chef MS2HP
When this Camp Chef model was first introduced it set the bar really high for a lot of bigger brands. A few small hiccups in the cons keeps this from being tops on the list, yet it still remains one of the best values in the world.

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Price

You can buy for this about an average price, which is great for a dual burner setup. Just make sure to factor in the price of the gas that it goes through.

Brand Recognition

Camp Chef is respectable as a company and can stand toe to toe with any on the list. That says a lot since Coleman is on here multiple times, and with stoves that offer similar features.

Dimensions/Weight

13.5×23.5×4/12 pounds

Ease Of Use

Using this stove can get a bit trick when you’re trying to maximize the gas output. It tends to burn a lot hotter than other stoves and eats through gas like it is nothing.

Durability

Consider this the toughest stove on the list, primarily due to the hard metal carrying case. The internals are just as tough, and the entire product comes with a one year warranty.

Summary

If this stove was a little more fuel efficient like the company claimed, it could have easily unseated some Coleman products on the list. Even in its current gas hungry state, the power of this stove is hard to pass up.
Pros
  • Hard suitcase design
  • 20,000 BTU dual burners
Cons
  • Goes through gas canisters too quick

10. GAS ONE GS-3400P

10. GAS ONE GS-3400P
Possible buyers that want to try a product that is different from the others need to look no further than this GasOne stove. There are three available models, and all come with their own set of strengths and weaknesses.

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Price

All three available model are in the low price range, with the grill option being the most coveted. An ambitious outdoorsman could buy one of each and have the best outdoor stove in history.

Brand Recognition

GasOne is not a brand that a lot of people know about, even with their previous stoves. Their strengths are always including extras when possible, like the carrying case with this stove.

Dimensions/Weight

1.73×4.41×5.31/3.1 pounds

Ease Of Use

As long as the propane option isn’t your primary source of fuel, this will be a stove that takes little getting used to. They set it up just right for all levels of users without leaving out important features.

Durability

You shouldn’t have any concerns about this stove breaking down for no good reason. The quality is good, and there are no flimsy parts in the other optional models.

Summary

No matter which model you choose, you’re going to get the deal of a lifetime. And whenever you want to upgrade to the other models, the price makes it an attractive option.
Pros
  • Available as stove, stove with grill and stove with wind screen
  • Uses propane or butane
Cons
  • Using the propane option takes practice

11. BRS Only 25g BRS-3000T

11. BRS Only 25g BRS-3000T
The BRS Only 25g BRS-3000T Ultra-light Titanium Alloy Camping Stove is built for the serious outdoorsman in mind. The makers took into consideration how much stuff you’ll need to pack with you on a trip, and in turn produced a very lightweight stove that won’t take up much room at all. On top of that, they wanted their stove to be able to hold together well time after time despite its stature, so they used super strong materials to build it.
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Ultralight
By design, camp stoves aren’t going to be very big, tough there are exceptions. If you’re buying ione in this style, however, weight is important to you, and the BRS Only 25g BRS-3000T Ultra-light Titanium Alloy Camping Stove is ahead of the pack in that regard.


Titanium=strong
This camp stove is constructed in part with titanium alloy materials, making it super rigid and resilient for those extra grueling long hikes in the woods. Knowing that at the end of the day you’re going to be able to have a hot meal is a good feeling.

Cost and Value
This camp stove brings a bit of luxury onto a camp out by providing a hot meal after a tiresome day on the trails. For that comfort alone, the low price it takes to buy this stove is more than worth it.
Pros
  • Made from titanium-alloy
  • Very light
  • One piece structure
  • Great price
Cons
  • Seals can get heat damaged
  • Questionable durability

12. Bisgear Camping Cookware Stove/Gear Set

12. Bisgear Camping Cookware Stove/Gear Set
We've included the Bisgear here because it's a whole thing. Literally a whole thing, a stove and a matching set of utensils pots and pans designed to fit the Bisgear. We haven't seen that very often and we think it's pretty cool, a whole all-inclusive set-up like those picnic set backpacks you can buy but add-in the ability to cook your food on site. Bonus!
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Versatile
For a product that is even smaller than its originally miniscule predecessor, the Bisgear comes with its own pots and pans which makes it easy to find products it can work with.

Efficiency at its best
The fuel used to power this stove is Isobutane, which is a very high efficiency LPG, allowing for it to work in lower temperatures than normal. It also has a lower environmental impact than most other gases, which in this day and age is never a bad thing.

Cost and Value
As small as it it, the Bisgear actually comes in towards the high end but it's not a bank buster. In that price range though you're getting quite a bit. and you've got some top quality construction and enough power to boil water in about four minutes, so you are getting good value.
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Comes with its own pot sizes and styles
  • Efficient burning does not waste fuel
  • Really durable
Cons
  • Unpredictable Delivery
  • Scratches Easily

13. Primus Classic Trail Stove

13. Primus Classic Trail Stove
This is a very simple, classic looking camping stove, almost a throwback to decades past. That just goes to show that Primus has pretty much perfected their craft, and have no need to add any unnecessary bells and whistles to this well made stove. It`s light, powerful, sturdy and robust, which really, is everything you could want for your outdoor cooking needs.
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So much cooking space
Unlike most other portable backpack stoves on the market, Primus built theirs with a much larger diameter burner. Dwarfing the approximate one inch found on the others with a 3.25 inch diameter lets food cook much faster and more evenly.

Back off wind!
The built in windshield on the Primus Classic Trail Stove removes the hassle of having to hunch over your stove to block out the wind and allows the food to get done that much faster.

Cost and Value
With classic look comes a classic price. You are going to get exactly what you'd expect with a portable stove, and you`re going to be spending all that much for it. As far as reliability goes, this is a great value.
Pros
  • Built in windshield
  • Large diameter burner
  • Solid construction
  • Holds a flame really well
Cons
  • Larger than a traditional fold up stove
  • Leaks when fuel tank is attached or removed

14. Flash Personal Cooking System

14. Flash Personal Cooking System
Given my penchant for variety as well as unorthodox choices, I had to throw this one on the list. It comes complete with a one liter capacity cooking cup and a stabilizing tripod, making it unique looking, at the very least. This one is more for single day outings than a prolonged overnight trip. Nonetheless it is very efficient, able to boil two cups of water in under two minutes, which is especially handy on those cold autumn or winter morning hikes.
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It’s ready!
This model is an update of a previous version, and it’s added an external temperature indicator by way of a color changing window. It’s a small upgrade, but one that is infinitely useful and well thought out.

Built in cup!
The cooking vessel used here is a one litre cup that attaches directly to the burner, resulting in very little heat lost. The cup itself has an insulating cozy and sip through lid, preventing burns and spills.

Cost and Value
For such a small and specialized stove, this thing is expensive. Keep in mind though, that because of its niche use, it's a very efficient, high functioning piece of equipment, and will always bump the price tag up. For what it does, it does very well.
Pros
  • Built in temperature indicator
  • Jetboil Fluxring maximizes efficiency
  • Compact footprint
  • Boils water in two minutes
Cons
  • Automatic ignitor can be finicky
  • Cozy is not very heat resistant

15. OUTAD Windproof Foldable

15. OUTAD Windproof Foldable
While this is still technically a backpack stove, it is quite a bit larger, making it ideal for bigger groups of people or longer trips. It’s still light and folds up nicely, however it would be just as at home on a family camping trip as it is while hiking. It does come with a nice little carrying case, keeping it safe and making storage simple.
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Lighter than you’d expect
Alright, this stove isn’t all THAT big, but it is larger than most folding stoves out there. That’s why, when you pick it up, and find it only weighs about 9.5 ounces, your first reaction may very well be surprise.

Won’t melt
That seems like a foolish thing to write, but unfortunately, sometime parts of your camping stove can get too hot and melt, or in a worst case scenario, catch fire. Given that this stove was built using stainless steel and aluminum alloy, that isn’t likely to happen here.

Cost and Value
Despite its larger size, there aren’t very many parts involved in the construction of this stove, and it it made from cost efficient stainless steel, so you won’t end up having to pay all that much for the convenience this provides.
Pros
  • 360 degree wind deflector
  • Can withstand high temperatures
  • Carrying case included
  • Surprisingly light
Cons
  • Fuel line too close to the burner
  • Hose isn’t very durable

Brands

 Coleman is going to be the top name on the list, and they make multiple appearances because of this. That doesn’t automatically make them the default winner since the top spot went to a completely different company. Most of the companies on the list haven’t gained a core base like Coleman, so their approach to a backpacking stove will be a little different. There are also concerns about whether they will back their warranty, and of course what the overall build quality is. Up to a certain point, it only makes sense to get a Coleman if you want a complete experience with a company that stands by its products. Yet the top product on the list is from Etekcity, so the best available isn’t always a recognizable name. Give the other brands a chance, then if you can’t find something that catches your eye, a Coleman is the correct choice.

Do You Need Experience To Use A Backpacking Stove?

 A lot of the experience involved will come down to familiarity with the type of fuel it needs. In other instances, no experience is needed at all, since it will just plug into a car outlet. Buyers that have never operated a portable stove like the ones on the list can always fall back on their experience using a BBQ grill. They are similar in their setup, with the backpacking stove requiring a lot less preparation. Once you get used to what is needed for the stove your purchase, it becomes second nature when cooking. A lot of these may cook hotter than you want them to, while others will not provide the heat you are used to. That is why familiarity with a stove helps out a lot since the tastiness of your food will depend on it. Always bring the instructions provided with you, even if you’ve used it multiple times. You never know when an important note might make a difference in how you use the product. And for buyers that have never owned a personal BBQ grill before, it does take a little bit to learn, but not a lot.

How Important Is The Protective Case?

 Not all of the stoves on the list come with a protective carrying case. Now the debate is strong in favor of having the case since it also doubles as a wind guard. Wind guards that come as separate pieces are less durable than using the strong case as one. For users that tend to pack light, a protective case usually means unnecessary bulk that isn’t needed. The smallest stove on the list can fit in a small pouch and is a far cry from the heavy and bulky models that come with a carrying case. When packing light is the only option, there is no room to lug around a carrying case with a stove in it. And for many buyers, they tend to avoid these bigger models at all costs. Factor in whether size means anything to you and you’ll get a clear answer on just how important the protective case is to your buying decision. A once great feature may turn into something that you’re better off without.

Can You Use Full Pots And Pans?

Spacing issues are going to be a concern for any backpacking stove you purchase. Some models support full-size pots and pans while others are more limited in their spacing. In reality, it isn’t really a spacing issue that you need to be concerned with, but the distribution of heat. A backpacking stove that doesn’t heat properly will overcook, undercook and even scorch some of the things you want to eat. There are pots and pans that are backpack stove friendly, and it is generally advised not to take the same ones you use in your kitchen. A little trial and error will play into this entire situation, as users get used to how their new stove operates with their accessories. A little bit of patience will go a long way, and in all cases, aluminum foil will be something that you can’t live without. To get the most out of it, always use the aluminum foil sheets.

Can The Stoves Accommodate Large Groups?

 This is where combining single units into one large unit comes into play. Although the stoves on the list that have double burners are great, when it comes to a truly large camping group, the possibilities of combining single units is endless. It allows you to cook big meals all at once, and gives you a lot more control over the temperatures of each stove. This is especially useful when you want to use a stockpot, a large pot which is incompatible with double burners due to spacing. Multiple single burners can take care of multiple stock pots, giving you complete control over portions when handling large groups. Buyers that want to be as efficient as possible with fuel consumption can really take advantage of this arrangement, getting the most out of their burners.

How Often Should They Be Cleaned?

 Bacteria is a very dangerous thing, and the last thing you would want is for mold to grow in the same places where you make your food. The same care you provide to your dishes, utensils, and pots is exactly what your stove needs. There is also the issue of making sure that the area that you cook on doesn’t have anything that could react badly with the surface. When using a fuel powered stove, leftover oil could react badly and cause the flames to be unpredictable while cooking. With normal care, a backpacking stove can last for years without any issues. They are usually very durable and have few things that go wrong with extended use.

Are There Any Health Dangers To Using A Backpacking Stove?

 The only dangers are through misuse, which is a common theme when users get frustrated with the instruction. Make no mistake about backpacking stoves; they are a very powerful tool for cooking food. Besides the obvious precautions, manufacturers include a lot of detailed instructions about the use of their products. So if there ever comes a time where you need to call in the warranty, there will be a lot of questions related to the use of the product. Coleman tends to be pretty good about marking the dangers of their product in the manual so that you don’t make mistakes.

When Is The Best Time To Cook?

 Even if your product has wind guards it isn’t completely protected from the elements. Wind protection is average at best, even for the best products on the list. With flames that are in the open, a truly windy day can cause real problems if the stove isn’t positioned properly. Users should also adjust their cooking temperatures on hot days. Knowing when to lower the heat due to environmental conditions will make sure you don’t overcook your food. Summertime is notorious for this, and the humid air can really cause issues when you’re trying to get the temperatures right. Always play off of the current conditions and adjust your heat to what you have cooking. One thing that isn’t mentioned a lot is flies, the top nuisance of any outdoor activity. They will hover over you even while cooking, so prep accordingly. Leaving cooked food out in the open is like a welcome mat for flies. 

What’s The Best Fuel?

 Fuel based backpacking stoves use either propane or butane. There are some key differences between the two that may swing your favor over the other. And in some cases, a backpacking stove can use either one so you don’t have to settle. Propane is the popular fuel while butane tends to be used a bit less in outdoor activities like backpacking stoves. It’s still an important alternative fuel source when propane is not an option. You most likely use a butane based product and don’t even know it, like cigarette lighters. Where butane wins over propane is with cost, as it is much cheaper to purchase and maintain. Where it falters to propane is with universal use across multiple products. More products have adopted the use of propane as their number one source, so the integration of butane is more or less going to stay the same for years to come. Propane will get the better innovations when it comes to outdoor stove technology, and in the case where butane is offered as an option, most users will default to using propane as their only fuel source. But the biggest reason propane is used more has to do with the boiling point, something that is discussed regularly about the two. Propane has a lower boiling point, making it favorable for freezing conditions where every second count. No matter how you look at it, propane is the most reliable option when using a modern outdoor stove. Propane is the better choice, and butane should be considered a backup option.

Criteria for selecting the best backpacking stoves

Weight

Weight is a very important factor to consider as far as backpacking stoves go because as its name states, it goes in your backpack.  So do a lot of other essential items, so space is going to be at a premium.  Now, there isn’t a lot that can be done to drastically change the weight of a stove, but there are a few options.

First off is the type of stove that you choose.  They do come in many different styles, from small folding models to bigger single burner styles, all the way up to mini BBQ Hibachi types.  Which one you pick all depends on what your needs are. If you hike with friends or family and like to make an occasion of it, maybe choose one o f the larger ones.  These are going to add weight to your pack, but usually no more than a couple pounds.  Now, if you like to go solo, or even with just one other companion, all you`re likely to need is a compact folding stove.  This is pretty much just a stand and a burner, so of course it won`t weigh much, about three ounces or so.

The bottom line seems to be that it’s not about how much the stove itself weighs, because it’s not going to be very much.  It’s more about the fuel you choose.  The bigger the stove, the more fuel you`ll need, and the bigger and heavier the canister is going to be.

Price

This isn’t as much of a factor as you would think.  There are really only two main price points here.  The very affordable mini stoves, and the high end grills and burners.  Depending on what you’re looking for, your needs will fall under one of those categories.

As far as the small stoves go, the prices won’t vary all that much because there’s  not a lot that you can change from stove to stove. This is due to two things. The first is that portable folding backpacking stoves have pretty much been perfected after decades of innovation, and no more tweaking is needed.  The second thing is that its design is necessitated by the need to be fireproof in the face of the open design.  Thankfully, the materials that have been chosen for their fire resistance also happens to be very cheap and efficient to produce.  As such, since production costs are low and can’t really be improved upon, you are not going to need to consider price all that much when choosing your new mini stove.

Now, as a contrast to the folding stoves, the higher end and larger camp stoves can and will vary quite a bit in price, since their designs aren’t as strictly dictated. Whether you’re looking for higher capacity, more heat, or just flash, these stoves have plenty of bells and whistles that can rapidly jack up the price.  Are they worth it though?  They can be.  Some of them use proprietary systems for attaching the cooking vessel to the burner to increase efficiency.  Some are designed to heat up food super rapidly or bring it to an extreme temperature.  Others forgo the burner and incorporate a grill top to emulate an at home BBQ, or just have a really large cooking surface.  In these cases the increased price is more reasonable and even justifiable.  It’s when you get into the add-ons that are strictly cosmetic or take away from the experience that the price goes up but the value doesn’t match up.

Portability & size

As a backpack stove, it needs to be portable, that’s just the nature of its design.  Unlike weight, however, there are several different measures that can be taken to reduce the footprint of the stove, making it even smaller and less intrusive.  At that already tiny size and limited room for improvement, it is a bit of a give and take that needs to be considered.

The foldable stove is going to be the smallest option, bar none.  As I’ve said before, it’s just a burner on a tripod, and uses a pretty small fuel canister.  These are great stoves, ideal for shorter trips where full meals aren’t needed.  I say this because they are small, so a using full sized pot is not going to make a lot of sense in this case, limiting the user to a smaller, more specialized vessel.

The next size up is a wood burning stove that is only slightly larger and is shaped a lot like a tin can.  These ones don’t fold up, but their size is not significant at all, and the fuel source can usually be found laying close at hand.  They do offer less coking power, and even less control since you need to rely on a lightly contained open flame, but they will do the job, and provide more of a sense of “roughing” it.

Now we come to the big boys of the camping stove scene.  That’s a relative statement, because they aren’t big at all, taking up no more room than is needed to house either two small burners or a modestly sized grill top.  These are the ones you’re most likely to find with small groups of campers out for a few days.  These aren’t as common however, since once more power and surface area is required, people start to turn to the much larger and more efficient hibachi style grills, or will even just haul along a full sized charcoal BBQ.

One potential downside to increasing the portability of the backpacking stove is the reduction in cooking surface, cooking power, and fuel capacity.  This isn’t too much of a sacrifice, and manufacturers are always coming up with ways to make this a non-issue.  In fact, there are a couple foldable stoves on this list that actually boast some of the highest BTU`s out there, and at least one with triple the burner size, so really, it’s up to you to decide how much cooking you`ll want to do.

Weatherproofing

A big annoyance when it comes to outdoor cooking is the weather.  Sure, you will find your diehard chefs that will cook in any conditions and happily struggle to keep their fire lit, but for the more sane and practical camper, many portable backpacking stoves are built with at least some protection from the elements.  The most common protection acts against two factors: wind and water.

For wind, there is really only one solution other than cooking in your tent (never do this!), and that is a windscreen.  Many stoves already come with one built around the flame source, but these have to be small in order to not get in the way, and aren’t very useful.  There are, however, larger windscreens available on the market that surround the entire portable stove, blocking out the wind from all angles while leaving you plenty of room to cook.  Also, and this is very important, they are made from durable fireproof materials, usually aluminum.  The nice thing about these windscreens is fold up flat, meaning they really won’t take up any space in your pack.

The next sneaky villain trying to ruin your cooking experience is water.  Now, it’s much more difficult to keep the rain away from the flames, even after you’ve taken wind out of the equation.  The best way to manage this is to use a canister stove, since the LPG used as fuel is unlikely to go out due to water, and the flame itself is pretty well protected.

In summary, it was fairly difficult to come up with a proper list of criteria to use for selecting the optimal backpacking stoves, since they are all very similar in design and function.  It all boils down to need, and to a smaller extent, how much money you’re willing to invest in this piece of equipment.  Do you want classic, simple performance, or are you looking for high tech efficiency to get you hot food fast?

Terminology

Butane: A hydrocarbon gas that is liquefied through pressurization that is often used in heating applications.

BTU: British Thermal Unit.  A traditional unit of heat that measures the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree fahrenheit.

Gas line:  The hose that runs from the fuel tank to cooking stove, and provides the fuel needed to ignite and sustain a flame.  In order to prevent leaking, the hose needs to be made from a corrosion free material such as reinforced rubber.

Fuel source:  This is what you`re going to use to to actually light and sustain the flame.  This can be any number of things from LPG`s to much more primitive sticks, pine cones, and grasses.

Burner: The piece of a stove that disperses the fuel to be ignited through tiny holes spread out over its surface.  They come in a variety of different shapes in order to fully utilize the surface area of the stove.

Grill:  The cooking surface of the stove.  More like a BBQ or charbroiler style than a burner.  Food, usually meat, is usually cooked directly on the grill as opposed to in a separate cooking vessel.

Gas canister: The container that holds the fuel to be used for ignition.  They are pressurized in order to keep the LPG in a liquid state until needed.

Dual Fuel: Dual Fuel allows the use of multiple fuel sources, though only one at a time. Typically this means both the desired cooking fuel as well as unleaded gasoline which increases versatility.

Windscreen: A sheet of melt proof material such as aluminum or stainless steel fashioned to act as a barrier between the flame and the wind while not obstructing the flame from the cooking surface.

LPG: Liquefied Petroleum Gas.  Butane, Isobutane, and Propane are all hydrocarbon gases that fall under this category

Propane: Another LPG that is more commonly used than butane due to its lower boiling point, allowing it to be used in colder temperatures.

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is an integrated canister system?

A: Whenever you see the reusable tall profile of this system, it is usually when they’re boiling water. But an integrated canister system is much more than that, and some even allow you to cook and simmer your food. They have long since evolved from being nothing more than water boilers, although there are still plenty of people that favor this approach over others. With the built-in windscreen, it is a value that is hard to beat for the time you save. When you’re in low temperatures, there are few options that can achieve such a favorable temperature in a short amount of time like an integrated canister system.

Q: What are remote canister stoves?

A: The more involved option for a backpacking stove is the remote canister model. With only a little bit more bulk added to the entire package over the standard canister system, you’ll gain the benefits of extra room for larger pots and of course the use of its very own base. You can also swap out canisters a lot easier than other models, making the entire changeover process nothing more than a couple of minutes. The selection of remote canister stoves are a little less than what people are used to with other backpacking stove options, but they’re still worth looking at if you want the power of choice.

Q: Are alternative fuel stoves useful?

A: This is a mixed bag since it has some inferior specs when compared to the liquid and canister stoves. A good thing to point out with alternative-fuel stoves is that the industry is growing around it, so they are becoming more common than you think. Features that weren’t available in them for years are now the standard and has really opened up the conversation on the usefulness of these compared to propane powered options. So far, alternative-fuel stoves have maintained its ease of use over the other options while also being the lightest choice available if you want to bring a stove along for a trip.

Q: Can you cook in an enclosed space?

A: This is something that is mentioned in every manual, and in case it isn’t, the answer is always no. There is a serious fire hazard if you cook in an enclosed space like a tent or other area. Users also risk carbon monoxide poisoning, which can sneak up on you when you least expect it. Always choose an open area with fresh air when operating a backpacking stove. Even if it is for something as simple as boiling water, you’ll avoid a lot of problems by staying in an open area.

Q: How can you keep canisters warm In cold weather?

A: When the temperature drops and you want to make the most of your canister stove, a good way to keep it warm is by insulating it in something like your pocket or a sleeping bag. It’s all about efficiency, which is something that can be maintained by keeping the materials warm before making use of them in the harsh weather. The last thing you want to do is try to warm up the canister after it has already dropped in temperature. Not only will you have a harder time getting it up and running, there is even a slight chance it won’t burn at all.

Q: Where can you recycle fuel canisters?

A: Not everyone takes used fuel canisters, and it is location specific. Some places still consider it hazardous waste, so be aware of the region you’re in before getting rid of them. A great way to find out who accepts the canisters in your area is by looking up places that take mixed medals. If the local recycling program doesn’t have a place by name, sometimes the manufacturer’s website will offer information regarding the recycling of their product.

Q: Can you use old white gas?

A: Some fuel has a harsher expiration date than the others, and white gas, in particular, can be a headache if it has been aged passed its prime. You can technically use it, but you’re risking damaging your stove by doing so. There are techniques that allow you to clean aged white gas and the best way to identify when it is getting old. Once you see the color change, it would be a good idea to consider swapping it out.

Conclusion

 Finding the right backpacking stove can be a satisfying experience if you get all of the facts straight. And even with Coleman being an industry leader, there are still smaller companies that challenge them head on. Just make sure you get familiar with the instruction manual and you’ll have a way to cook food outdoors in any environment.

Sources

  1. Thesummitregister.com – The Ins and Outs of Canister Fuels
  2. Elgas.com.au –  Butane vs Isobutane vs Propane vs LPG
  3. Rei.com – How to Choose a Backpacking Stove
  4. Backcountry.com – How to Choose a Backpacking Stove: Canister or Liquid Gas?
  5. Backcontryedge.com –  Types of Backpacking Stoves
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