How to Choose the Best Backpacking Stove for Hiking & Travel

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Choosing among the best backpacking stoves is not an easy task. The small luxury of a warm meal or a morning coffee after a long hike means the world to many backpackers and with good reason.

It gives you something to look forward to when you finally settle in and provides a communal place to discuss plans and wind down. 

However, like most backpacking gear, you are faced with hordes of backpacking stove options. Figuring out the perfect fit can seem obnoxious and time-consuming, but don’t worry we are here to help.

Top 5 Best Backpacking Stoves

PRODUCTDESCRIPTION 
Jetboil Flash Camping Stove Cooking System
- Best Use
Backpacking
- Fuel Type
Canister
Fuel
Isobutane-propane
- Auto Ignition
Yes
- Average Boil Time (1L)
3 min. 20 sec.
- Dimensions
4.1 x 7.1 inches
- Weight
13.1 ounces
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MSR WindBurner Personal Stove System
- Best Use
Backpacking
- Fuel Type
Canister
Fuel
Isobutane-propane
- Integrated Pot
Yes
- Burn Time (Max Flame)
110g canister: 95 minutes
- Average Boil Time (1L)
4 min. 30 sec.
- Dimensions
8.3 x 4.5 x 4.5 inches
- Liquid Capacity (L)
1 liter
Liquid Capacity (fl. oz.)
33.8 fluid ounces
- Weight
15.5 ounces
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BioLite Wood Burning CampStove 2 with FlexLight
- Best Use
Camping
- Fuel Type
Wood
Fuel
Wood
- Heat Output (per burner)
10,000 british thermal units
- Average Boil Time (1L)
- Dimensions
8.25 x 5 x 5 inches
- Weight
2 lbs. 1 oz.
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MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove
- Best Use
Backpacking
- Fuel Type
Canister
Fuel
Isobutane-propane
- Burn Time (Max Flame)
Approximately 60 minutes
- Average Boil Time (1L)
3 min. 30 sec.
- Dimensions
7.25 x 5 x 4 inches
- Weight
2.6 ounces
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MSR WhisperLite Backpacking Stove
- Best Use
Backpacking
- Fuel Type
Liquid
- Fuel
Auto, White Gas, Kerosene
Burn Time (Max Flame)
(White gas) 20 oz. of fuel: 1 hr. 50 min.
- Average Boil Time (1L)
3 min. 30 sec. (white gas)
- Dimensions
6.5 x 5 x 4 inches
Weight
(Stove and pump only) 10.9 ounces
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Quick Answer: Best Backpacking Stove


Things to Consider When Choosing A Backpacking Stove


Before you power into the various stove types you need to analyze three attributes and find out which are the most important to you.

Weight

Best Backpacking Stoves

Whether you are planning a leisurely weekend hike or a month length adventure, the weight of your backpacking stove matters. Although it is not just the weight of the stove itself, the weight of the fuel needed to power it and space it will take up in your pack. 

Weight concerns go down if you are doing a simple overnight but still why would you want to carry more when you don’t necessarily have to.

Efficiency

Jetboil cooking while camping

Naturally, the efficiency of the stove affects the amount of fuel needed and therefore the weight and waste produced. If you plan on using your stove to cook dinner every night and make coffee each morning, it is important to know how long it takes to boil the water.

Before setting off on an adventure we always make our consumption predictions with a fuel calculator.

Functionality at High Elevation and Colder Temperatures

Elevation and colder temperatures directly affect the efficiency of a backpacking stove. For example, stoves that utilize canisters can become depressurized in colder climates.

Also, at higher elevations, it will take longer to boil that same pot of water increasing your fuel usage and degrading your efficiency.  If you intend to hike in these extremes regularly, make sure the stove you choose can hold up to the task.


Types of Backpacking Stoves 


Now that we know the biggest factors to consider, let’s see how the main types of backpacking stoves line up with these characteristics.

Jet Boil Stove

Canister Backpacking Stove

Best Backpacking Stoves

A canister backpacking stove is a small lightweight construction that screws into the top of a self-sealing fuel canister filled with either propane or isobutane.  These stoves can be adjusted just like your kitchen stove to control the heat and amount of fuel being burned. 

Due to the self-sealing feature, you won’t have to worry about spills or leaks and some even have a built-in pressure regulator, reducing the effects of high elevation and cold weather on the efficiency of the stove.

Nevertheless, because of their focus on simplicity, the holding arms may not be as long or as stable as some of their counterparts making cooking with large pots and in high winds difficult. The canisters are also not refillable meaning you will be producing more waste than with other backpacking stoves.

Recommendations:

  • Jetboil Flash Camping Stove Cooking System
  • MSR WindBurner Personal Stove System
  • MSR PocketRocket 2: This simplistic backpacking stove is the lightest and most compact within the canister stove category.  It is designed with three prongs around the jet and screws on to the top of any self-sealing canister. This little pocket stove weighing in at 2.6 ounces (excluding the canister or pot) has an average burn time of 60 minutes for every 100mg canister.  It’s boil time averages at 3.5 minutes.

Liquid Fuel Backpacking Stove

Best Backpacking Stoves

Liquid fuel backpacking stoves the low profile, highly efficient versions of their canister counterparts.  The stoves can run multiple types of fuel making them great for international travel and their refillable canisters will let you rest easy, knowing you are creating less waste.

Because these stoves run on white gas, they tend to burn hotter and cleaner and are the most efficient stove for high altitudes and colder weather. Also, the fuel tends to be much more cost-efficient than canisters.

The downside? These backpacking stoves require much more maintenance and effort to get started. You will need to prime the stove by igniting a little bit of fuel in a cup below the burner to it can preheat the fuel line allowing the gas to turn to vapor. It will also need to be pumped to keep pressure.

This task also means you are more likely to spill and will regularly need to clean the fuel hose, especially if it utilizes fuels other than white gas which contain more impurities.  These backpacking stoves are also heavier and more expansive than the average canister.

Recommendation: MSR WhisperLite Portable Camping and Backpacking Stove

The best part of this specific stove is its versatility.  The backpacking stove can be powered by either canister fuel or liquid fuel giving you the best of both worlds. It is perfect for elaborate meals because of its low-profile design and will allow you to cook for larger groups.

Weighing in at 13.7 ounces, it has an average boil time of 3.5 minutes and can run for 110 minutes on 20oz of fuel.


Alternative Fuel Backpacking Stoves 

Best Backpacking Stoves

There are two main kinds of alternative fuel backpacking stoves to consider. The first is wood-burning and the second is denatured alcohol.

Wood-burning stoves greatly reduce weight because you do not have to carry fuel with you. You simply gather twigs and leaves from your surrounding area and burn them in the smallholding tank. 

These are great for long-distance treks where you want to cut weight and can come with features such as a USB outlet for charging your phone or a small grill. 

Recommendations: BioLite CampStove Campstove 2 Wood Burning USB Charging Bundle

The only problem with these backpacking stoves is you are directly reliant in your environment.  If hiking in wet conditions, it may be difficult to find viable fuel. Also, some areas may not allow wood burning during fire bans or at higher elevations rendering your stove obsolete.

The denatured alcohol stoves are extremely simplistic and one of the lightest options you can get.  The stoves themselves are designed for minimalism with very few parts and only needing to carry enough alcohol to suit your needs. This means less maintenance and huge fuel cost savings.

Unfortunately, alcohol does not burn as hot as most other fuel though. They take longer to heat up meaning they will require more fuel in the long run and aren’t suited for colder temperatures. Also, if you are backpacking outside of the U.S. it may be hard to find this fuel source.

Recommendation: Solo Stove Little Stove

This is a great starter stove for those ultra-lightweight backpackers that don’t want to be bogged down with pesky fuel canisters.  It can run on either an alcohol burner attachment or wood and weighs in at 9 ounces. 

The burn time cannot be measured due to the inconsistency of the materials, but it averages an 8-10 minute boil time for 1 quart of water.


Additional Features to Look For in a Backpacking Stove


Mountain House meals and jet boil stove

After you have decided which type of backpacking stove best suits your needs, there are a couple of other things to address.

  • Burner Size: A smaller burner size will mean less weight and higher fuel efficiency. However, this also reduces the size of the meals that can be cooked on it and determines what size pot to use with it. An oversized pot with a tiny burner could cause it to topple.
  • Simmer Control: This is a great feature for those looking to reduce the amount of fuel used for non-boiling purposes.  If you need to heat something up or simmer multiple items, this will give you better control.
  • Integrated Ignition System: This built-in ignition system is a great easy to use feature that allows the stove to self-light without the use of a lighter.  While you should ALWAYS carry another ignition source, this gives you the ability to still light the stove if your lighter becomes water-logged or you lose your matches. It does add weight though, so it is important to weigh the pros and cons based on your specific needs.

Conclusion

Each backpacking stove has features that align with different styles of backpacking. A good, cheap starting stove would be the canister do to its reliability and compact design. 

If you are planning high altitude treks or plan to be cooking more extravagant meals, the liquid fuel stove is a much better option.  But, if you want to take lightweight backpacking to the extreme and have the correct environment to do it in, a wood-burning/alcohol stove may be worth your time.

The beauty of backpacking gear is that it will always be based on the individual.  While this can be frustrating it also ensures a unique experience for each and every adventurer.

Best Backpacking Stove Accessories

Best Backpacking Stoves

Windscreens

Fuel

Fuel Accessories

Dishes And Utensils

Cleaning

Water Filtration


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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA



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