How To Choose a Backpacking Stove


Many campers can agree that meals are one of the highlights when camping. It is something you can look forward to, especially after trekking long and treacherous trails. Your creativity in making sumptuous meals will be tested as well. In the early morning, what’s better to wake you up than a cup of hot coffee in your hand while marveling at a scenic view. All that becomes only possible when you bring with you a backpacking stove for camping. 

backpacking stove for camping

Since there’s a myriad of stoves available now, it might be challenging for you to choose which of them is best for you. This is how to pick the best backpacking stove for your camping needs:

  • Determine the type of stove you want to use based on the type of fuel used and how it is stored.
  • Figure your preferences in the stove’s specs and features.
  • Understand how each type of stove functions based on your camping activity and location.

Choosing the right backpacking stove for camping is not a one-size-fits-all task. Different factors need to be taken into consideration when selecting one such as the weight, versatility, functionality, even on the number of companions you have on the trip or if you are camping locally or internationally. So, we went ahead and broke down the details for you on how to select a backpacking stove for camping.

Different Types of Backpacking Stoves

Canister Stoves

This type of backpacking stove for camping is user-friendly and requires little maintenance. They are compact and light ideal for short trips and lightweight backpacking. The canister contains two types of pres-pressurized gases, which are the isobutane and propane. 

Pros:

  • Small size that it can serve as a backup stove.
  • Has lightweight perfect for an ounce-conscious backpacker.
  • Lits quickly with the use of a match or lighter without any need for priming, making it easier to start cooking.
  • Burners can cater to different cookware.
  • More simmering capability.
  • Seals automatically when the stove is unscrewed to protect from leaks and spills.
  • Some models have pressure regulators that’s already built-in.

Cons:

  • Less fuel-efficient because it couldn’t diffuse heat to the bottom of a pan or pot.
  • It doesn’t work very well in windy locations. Use of windscreen is not advisable, for it may cause fuel explosion from the excessive trapped heat. 
  • Strategically choose the location when using a canister, such as a tent vestibule with proper ventilation or a location that’s naturally sheltered.
  • Although it allows you to use different cookwares, it’s size being small may limit you to small pots only.
  • Since it is a closed canister, there is no telling you how much the remaining gas left inside.
  • It can depressurize in cold weather and high altitudes, which will cause it to solidify. This is when the built-in pressure regulator comes in handy.
  • For environmentally-conscious campers, which we all should be, this type of stove is prone to waste. 

So, if you are not up in the mountains during winter or don’t have the patience for priming, a canister stove may suit you. It is important to remember, though, that after you empty a canister, you need to dispose of them properly to be recycled.

Integrated Canister

As the numbers of campers rose exponentially, stove technology has advanced as well. They have come up with an integrated stove system where they combine a burner with a heat exchanger pot. 

Pros:

  • Works fantastically in water boiling. 
  • Fuel efficient due to the heat exchanger that’s already built-in in the pot, which is also insulated. 
  • Wind resistant thanks to its built-in windscreen for an increased protection from the wind.
  • Perfect for fast alpine mountaineering or short trips on small groups.
  • Perfect for making a quick hot drink during ice climbing.

Cons:

  • Can’t be used to cook or simmer your food other than noodles or frozen, dried meals in a bag. 
  • Heavier compared to a canister stove, which makes it prone to tip-overs.
  • More expensive compared to traditional backpacking camping stoves.

Liquid Gas

The most common and trusted stoves spread out in the market uses liquid gas to make flames. This stove runs on different kinds of fuels such as unleaded auto fuel, kerosene, jet fuel, diesel fuel and the most used is white gas. 

Pros:

  • Renders great stability for any kind of cookware and even on uneven surfaces.
  • You can peek into the fuel bottle to check how much fuel is left.
  • The bottle is refillable, so there’s no need to discard a canister.
  • This stove works better in cold temperatures and glaciated peaks
  • Can cook and simmer food.
  • The multi-fuel is excellent for international trips when you are uncertain what fuel is available in the area.
  • Ideal for longer expeditions with larger groups.
  • Have some form of temperature control.

Cons:

  • Requires periodic maintenance and priming.
  • White gas is highly refined with little to no impurities contrary to the other fuels, which can cause clogging on some parts of the stove.
  • It’s heavier, bulkier and costly compared to a canister stove
  • Prone to fuel spills if not handled with extra care.

Wood-Burning

This is a survivalist type of stove. If you are a seasoned backpacker who is confident in your skills in starting fire and wish to lighten your load, this is fit for you. It gives you the freedom to either bring and use chemical fuel or hunt for flammables along the trail.

Pros:

  • It is simple, lightweight, and packs down small.
  • Some designs can have an optional grill connected.
  • Some designs generate electricity while burning twigs usable for charging small gadgets.

Cons:

  • Burning the chemical fuel produces a horrid smell and inefficient.
  • No temperature control for cooking.
  • Takes time to boil water.
  • If your choice is to burn wood, you will be highly dependent on your environment.
  • There are many places that restrict the use of fire above 10,000 feet.
  • It will be completely covered with soot color.

Denatured Alcohol

This is an ultralight stove that weighs only an ounce or two. It uses denatured alcohol, hence the name, to heat frozen-dried meals and boiling water. 

Pros:

  • Denatured alcohol is inexpensive and can be found anywhere within the US.
  • We can’t emphasize enough how light it is.
  • It doesn’t produce noise when burning.
  • It only consists of a few parts, so less maintenance.

Cons:

  • Denatured alcohol can be difficult to find when backpacking outside the US.
  • Doesn’t work well with cookware, which makes this stove not ideal for larger groups.
  • No temperature and flame control.
  • It takes some level of skills to use this, especially when dealing with wind, altitude, and cold temperatures.
  • Requires great attention when camping in different conditions.

Specs and Features

Now that you have seen the breakdown of each type of stoves, these are the factors you need to account for when choosing your backpacking stove for camping.

Weight

If every ounce in your load matters, which is often the case for long, solo trekkers, your choice of stove may be far different from those that only take the weekend to camp.

Boil Time

If fuel efficiency is your top priority when backpacking, this is the specs you need to look into. Apart from that, outside factors can also affect your fuel usage, such as:

  • Wind. It can impact your stove’s performance greatly when it blows away most of the heat your stove is making.
  • Elevation. Atmospheric pressure can also affect your stove’s ability to boil water.
  • Air temperature. The rise and drop of surrounding air temperature can also impact your stove’s performance and fuel usage.
  • Simmering. When simmering food or melt the snow to drink, you will need to bring more fuel.

Stabilizers

Some stoves have it attached to the bottom, and some need to be purchased separately. Nevertheless, this feature helps your stove from tipping over.

Piezo-igniter

Aside from match and lighter, this is a feature of the stove used to produce spark to start a fire. This becomes useful in events when you lose your lighter, or your match gets wet.

Related Questions

Can I go backpacking without the stove?

The key is to remember the functions of a stove which are used for cooking food, purify water by boiling and heating water for insulation. If you think none of what was mentioned will be needed in your hiking, then yes, you may opt-out on the stove. Usually, that is possible for quick trips or hikes in favorable weather. Other than that, bringing a backpacking stove for camping is paramount.

What food can I pack if I go without a stove?

Given that the weather is favorable and you are on a short trip, you can try packing sandwiches, crackers, veggie sticks, trail or granola mix, canned food, cheese, and protein bars. You can toss in some fresh veggies or fruits like tomatoes in there to add some fun to it.

Choosing the best backpacking stove for camping can come as a trial and error for some. There is no right or wrong when it comes to picking one. What matters is it does what it is required to do and serves its purpose. It may be just a tiny portion in the number of gears you have, but your sustainability greatly depends on it. 

Tria Cinchez

loves outdoor activities, especially when it involves camping. Also, she sees to it she doesn't miss her joyride schedule with friends.

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