Best Backpacking Stove 2018 Featured Image

Strictly speaking as a person that has tried several camping stoves over my lifetime, I can tell you picking a good backpacking stove is essential. The last thing you want to experience is trying to cook yourself something warm on a cold blustery day only to find out the stove you brought with you doesn’t work all that great in subzero temperatures.

As a boy scout, outdoorsman, and write for Woodland Gear I have cooked food in a number of ways while out in the backcountry. Including once on a rock.However, while you can cook your food using a fire….or rock having a quality stove with you is the preferred option.

Thanks to the popularity of backpacking there is no shortage of companies producing all sorts of stoves targeted at backpackers. The problem with this surge of backpacking stoves is there are now more choices than ever and it can be a bit confusing to choose the backpacking stove that works best for you.

In this guide I’ll cover the various types of backpacking stoves you can pick up, a number of considerations you will need to address, and like always offer my thoughts on a few different backpacking stove options.

Backpacking Stove Comparison

Backpacking Stove QualityOur Rating
MSR Pocket Rocket 2A+
Etekcity Ultralight StoveA
Emberlite Fireant Wood StoveB
Lixada Wood StoveB-
Esbit Folding StoveB
Coghlan 9560 Emergency Camp StoveB
Solo Alcohol BurnerA
Trangia Spirit BurnerA+
Whisperlite Liquid Fuel StoveB+

What You Need To Know When Choosing A Backpacking Stove

Backpacking Stove Fuel Types

Backpacking stoves come in a variety of fuel options. Choosing which one works best for you can be quite challenging if you’re not familiar with the various types of fuels available.

Canister Style Backpacking Stove

A mix of propane and butane, the canister style backpacking stove is probably the most popular choice among backpackers today. This style of stove is super lightweight and is screwed on to the fuel canister.

The stove itself actually folds open and is usually no larger than the palm of your hand. The fuel canister itself usually has a decent sized base for supporting pots and pans. Along with being lightweight and small, they’re also extremely easy to use.

Unfold the stove, screw it on to the top of the canister, open the valve, and light just like a regular gas stove. The canister also is designed to be sealed when the stove isn’t attached so you don’t have to worry about fuel spills.

One caveat of canister fuels is they’re pretty much only good three seasons of the year depending on where you live. They typically work best in temperatures above 20 degrees. I have tried to use this style of stove in extremely low temperatures and it just doesn’t work.

Another thing to note about these canisters is they may not be readily available in other countries, and because they are a pressurized gas you can’t take them with you on a plane even in a checked bag.

Liquid Style Backpacking Stove

Stoves that are designed to burn liquid fuel have a fuel line that connects to a refillable fuel bottle. The fuel these stoves typically burn is known as white gas, but some will burn other fuels like kerosene and unleaded auto fuel. Making them more ideal when traveling abroad where white gas or butane/propane canisters may not be available.

Liquid stoves also tend to do better in below freezing temperatures and are great for melting large amounts of snow for drinking water. However, they’re also heavier and bulkier than other options on the market today and have sort of fallen out of style.

One thing liquid fuel stoves are good for is setting up base camp, or if you are going to be feeding a lot of people - like say a boy scout troop. But if you’re planning any long distance hike, it’s best to leave the liquid fuel at home.

Wood Burning Backpacking Stove

Backpackers are always looking for ways to lighten the load, and wood burning stoves have become a new trend. The idea is simple. Create a small stove that easily assembles but lays flat when not in use. Use Esbit fuel tabs or materials collected along the trail. Start a small fire and voila you’re cooking away.

While that sounds all well and good on paper, there are a few drawbacks to this style of backpacking stove.

First being that dry material is not always available. Secondly controlling and cooking on a small fire can be rather difficult. Especially if you’ve never cooked over an open fire before. Third, many places will have fire bans in effect and these stoves can’t be used.The last thing is they tend to get really dirty, so they require a fair amount of maintenance.

If you are trying survival camping these stoves aren’t too bad. However, I feel they are kind of gimmicky. It seems like a really cool idea and I have even used the Lixada Wood Stove, but I think the idea has been poorly executed.

Alcohol Stove

Once super popular among thru-hikers, these stoves are very light and simple. Plus you can even make one yourself from a soda can. However, with the recent onset of canisters style stoves, alcohol stoves have fallen out of popularity.

Alcohol stoves are cheap to buy or make and the fuel for them is readily available. The fuel they burn is HEET(in the yellow bottle) and can easily be picked up at any gas station pretty much. However, now that canisters are becoming more readily accessible in small trail towns finding fuel like HEET is less necessary.

Alcohol stoves are a fun project and one I recommend everyone do, but they have a few problems of their own. One is they are super susceptible to wind. If you’re fighting the wind, you can pretty much forget lighting an alcohol stove. Secondly, these stoves can be used where fire bans are in effect. Lastly, it takes a long time to cook anything on these stoves and are best suited to warming up food at best.

Solid Fuel Tablets

Developed by the military these ultra lightweight stoves are designed to burn fuel tablets. The fuel tablets burn a low - medium flame that will burn for about 10 minutes or so. Pop a fuel tab in the stove, light it, and set a pot on top until the water boils.

However, it’s not all sunshine for solid fuel tabs.

First, they are pretty susceptible to wind, making a good windscreen important. Second, they also take a while to heat anything and you may need more than one fuel tab to get your water boiling. They’re also more expensive than other fuel sources, making them less economically friendly than other stove fuels. Lastly, the fuel tabs stink to burn and they will leave a sticky residue on the bottom of your pot.

Backpacking Stove Considerations

Now that you know the different fuel sources that exist when it comes to choosing a backpacking stove, there are a number of considerations you will need to keep in mind as you are choosing a stove and fuel type.

Weight - Stoves come in a variety of sizes. Liquid fuel stoves can weigh close to a pound, while canister stoves can weigh less than an ounce. However, when choosing a stove you also must take the weight of the fuel into account as well. Overall canister style stoves tend to weigh less overall and are a great choice for backpacking.

Cooking vs Boiling - Most regular backpackers choose to opt for meals like mountain house that only require boiling water to make. Because of this, a number of stoves are designed to boil water quickly rather than do any actual cooking.

Party Size - If you will be traveling in a large group, it is recommended to have a stove for every 2 people in your group. Due to the availability of stoves and the extremely affordable price of most stoves, it’s not inconceivable for every person in the group to have their own cooking setup.

If you’ll be cooking a large meal for everyone in the party for something like a boy scout group you’ll want to choose a larger stove that is capable of handling larger pots and pans.

Winter Use - As mentioned above canister stoves do not perform well in below freezing temperatures, but liquid fuels tends to work better in colder temperatures. Make sure to choose a stove that will work in colder environments if that is where you will be spending your time.

Fire Bans - I mentioned fire bans a few times already. It’s important to keep in mind that any open flame stove may be banned. But most likely canister stoves and solid fuel stoves may be permitted. Alcohol stoves and wood burning stoves will likely not be permitted. Make sure to consider this if the season has been dry or regular burn bans occur in your area.

Wind Protection - Not all stoves will work well in the wind. Canister stoves tend to perform the best overall. Alcohol stove, wood burning stoves, and solid fuel stoves all tend to be susceptible to wind and will require a windscreen to help them along.

Best Backpacking Stove Reviews

Backpacking Stove QualityOur Rating
MSR Pocket Rocket 2A+
Etekcity Ultralight StoveA
Emberlite Fireant Wood StoveB
Lixada Wood StoveB-
Esbit Folding StoveB
Coghlan 9560 Emergency Camp StoveB
Solo Alcohol BurnerA
Trangia Spirit BurnerA+
Whisperlite Liquid Fuel StoveB+

MSR PocketRocket 2 Review

The PocketRocket 2 from MSR is an upgrade of the original MSR PocketRocket. This canister style stove is great for backpackers who want to hike light and count every ounce. Weighing a small 2.6 ounces. A decrease in weight from the original model.

The PocketRocket 2 has great simmer control and will boil water fast. It can boil a liter of water in about 3.5 minutes. Because it relies on a fuel canister for its base you’re pot size options are limited. This stove is great for making soup, coffee, or meals that only require water.

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • Great For Soup or Coffee
  • Boils Water Quickly

CONS

  • Pricey for a canister stove 
  • No built-in ignition 

Backpacking Stove Budget Option: Etekcity Ultralight Portable Stove

If you are looking for a cheaper option, the Etekcity Ultralight portable stove is a great choice. It will do everything the MSR PocketRocket will do, but is slightly heavier at 4.8 ounces. However, the Etekcity does have an igniter. Giving it a slight edge over the MSR PocketRocket 2.

Emberlit Fireant Review

One of the lightest wood stoves, the Emberlit Fireant weighs a mear 2.8 ounces and lays flat when packed away. The stove itself comes with a nice carrying case to store the stove in when not in use. This is great features, since wood stoves often end up covered in ash and soot.

The vertical walls help to disperse heat more efficiently towards your pot resulting in a quicker cook time. The walls also help to act as a decent windblock. Making it easier to start a fire in the stove.

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • Easy Assembly 
  • Packs Up Flat

CONS

  • Fuel is not always available or may be hard to find
  • Can’t be used where fire bans are in effect

Backpacking Stove Budget Option: Lixada Wood Stove

A great budget wood burning backpacking stove is the Lixada Wood Stove. It assembles in just 20 seconds, comes with its own carrying bag, and is made from rustproof stainless steel materials. The major downside to this stove is the weight.

For ultralight backpackers, this stove will not be a great choice as it weighs almost a pound. The stove is great for casual backpackers or for backpackers who aren’t counting every gram.

Esbit Folding Stove Review 

Probably the most famous stove in Esbit’s line of backpacking stoves, the folding pocket stove is roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes and weighs 3.5 ounces. The stove folds out and solid hexamine tabs are burnt inside. When you purchase the stove it comes with 6 to get you started but you will need another pack if you intend to make more than 6 meals at most.

A few things to note about this stove. One it offers little wind resistance you will need to purchase a windscreen or make one. Secondly, if you are attempting to cook in below freezing conditions you will likely need more than 1 fuel tablet to get water boiling and can take as long as 10 minutes.

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Durable

CONS

  • No wind protection
  • Fuel doesn’t work well in low temperatures

Backpacking Stove Budget Option: Coghlan Emergency Folding Stove

The Coghlan Emergency Stove is essentially the exact same stove as the Esbit. It comes with 24 smaller hexamine tabs, and weighs a bit more than Esbits stove, and for roughly half the price.

Solo Alcohol Burner Stove Review

Simple, Durable, lightweight. This stove is designed to work on its own or with the Solo wood stove. This stove benefits from Solo’s efficient air flow system which results in fast boiling times.

The stove features a convenient flame regulator to help you control and snuff the flame with ease. This backpacking stove also features a rubber gasket on the screw top so that you can carry unused fuel in the stove for a short time without having to worry about spills.

The stove used denatured alcohol, that is readily available at most sporting goods stores and is insanely cheap. One great thing about denatured alcohol is it’s made from plant material, is renewable, and burns clean unlike petroleum fuels.

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • Very affordable 
  • Small and compact 
  • Fuel can be carried in the stove

CONS

  • No wind protection

Backpacking Stove Budget Option: Trangia Spirit Burner

A great budget version of the solo alcohol stove is the Trangia Spirit Burner. To be fair the Solo is actually the knockoff but it has a few more features than the Trangia. The Trangia is essentially the same exact stove as the Solo without the simmer control and weighs a bit more. However, it’s still a great stove and it’s roughly half the price of Solo. So if simmer control isn’t a huge deal for you the Trangia is a great buy.

MSR Whisperlite Stove Review 

While our website tends to be oriented towards more practical affordable gear. I felt I needed to add at least one liquid fuel stove for any winter campers we have in our audience. The MSR Whisperlite Is probably the most popular liquid fuel stove and also the most affordable.

Along with being one of the most affordable liquid fuel stoves, it’s also the lightest, smallest and a much quieter stove than other liquid fuel stove models. The Whisperlite also opens up to a fairly large cooking area and has more flame control for more intricate cooking in the backcountry. Because you get a large cooking surface you can also cook for more people, if that’s what your group wants to do.

PROS

  • Works in all four seasons
  • Large cooking surface
  • Can cook more intricate meals than just boiling water

CONS

  • More expensive than other stoves on this list

Considerations For The MSR Whisperlite

I don’t actually have a good budget version of a liquid fuel stove so I figured I would add a few considerations for this stove.

The Whisperlite actually has two more models the international and universal model. These stoves will burn other fuels other than Whitegas making them more ideal if you’ll be traveling abroad where canisters or white gas may be harder to obtain.

Wrapping Up 

When it comes to choosing your next backpacking stove, it’s really not all that difficult. There are a few considerations you will need to keep in mind though. A few things you will want to consider when choosing a backpacking stove include the weight of the stove, what kind of fuel it uses, and when and where you’ll be using the stove. 
 
Canister style stoves that burn a mixture of propane and butane are great three seasons stoves. But do not function well in below freezing temperatures. Liquid fuel stoves work great in all 4 seasons but come with a higher price point. 
 
Novelty stoves like wood burning and alcohol stoves can be great because the fuel is cheap, the stove is cheap. But come with their own sets of problems respectively. 
 
There is no one best backpacking stove. There is only the backpacking stove that works best for you. 
 
If you found this article informative, be sure to share it on social media so that others can learn as well. 
 
As always thanks for reading and remember adventure...is waiting.

 

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