How to Choose a Backpacking Stove

How to Choose a Backpacking Stove

How to Choose a Backpacking Stove

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Knowing how to choose a backpacking stove can be an incredibly important consideration. Imagine, you’re out on the trail, packed with some of the best dehydrated food your local outfitter has to offer and the stove that you’re carrying has stops working on you. To paraphrase the movie Wild “great – cold mush.”

Make sure that your stove is the right one for the right occasion. Taking considerations like fuel, seasonal weather and where you’ll be backpacking are all important considerations that tend to go overlooked by some experienced backpackers, not to mention beginners. Of course the main considerations of weight and boil time are typically carefully studied before making the first purchase. Here’s a guide to help you decide what kind of stove you should be buying.

Integrated Backpacking Stove Systems

Integrated stove systems like the ones by Jetboil and MSR are great all in one style systems that pair the stove with a pot that’s designed specifically to work with that stove making these stove systems great for boiling water. They’re also fuel efficient, wind resistant and compact. The challenge to them is that they don’t work quite as well in extremely low temperatures because the isobutane-propane fuel canisters need to be kept above freezing and most of them require an adapter to use other pots, potentially rendering that cook set you bought useless.

Stove

Fuel

Weight

Avg Boil Time

Jetboil Flash Cooking System

Isobutane-propane

15.25 oz

5 min
JetBoil FlashJava Kit

Isobutane-propane

1 lb 0.25 oz

5 min

Jetboil Joule Cooking System

Isobutane-propane

1 lb 9.2 oz

2 min 40 sec

Jetboil MiniMo Cooking System

Isobutane-propane

14.6 oz

4 min 30 sec

Jetboil Zip Cooking System

Isobutane-propane

11.75 oz

5 min

MSR Reactor Stove System

Isobutane-propane

1 lb 3 oz

3 min

MSR WindBoiler Stove System

Isobutane-propane

15.25 oz

4.5 min

Canister Fuel Backpacking Stoves

Canister stoves are the most convenient for trail experiences that don’t get too cold. They attach to isobutene-propane blend fuel canisters and are easy to use without any priming. Canisters self-seal to prevent fuel spills and are easily adjustable for varied cooking temperatures. Fuel canisters do need to be kept above freezing to operate efficiently so, as long as you’re not in sub freezing conditions, these types of stoves should work well for you.

Stove

Fuel

Weight

Avg Boil Time

MSR MicroRocket Stove

Isobutane-propane

2.6 oz

3 min 30 sec
MSR PocketRocket Stove

Isobutane-propane

3 oz

3 min 30 sec

Primus Classic Trail Stove

Isobutane-propane

8 oz

3 min

Primus Eta Stove

Isobutane-propane

1 lb 5.1 oz

3 min 35 sec

Snow Peak BiPod Stove

Isobutane-propane

7.76 oz

4.5 min

Snow Peak GigaPower Auto Stove

Isobutane-propane

3.75 oz

4 min 48 sec

Snow Peak LiteMax Stove

Isobutane-propane

1.9 oz

4 min 25 sec

Liquid Fuel Backpacking Stoves

Liquid fueled stoves are best for cold weather, international trips and longer term trips. The great thing about liquid fuel stoves are that, while they all run on white gas, some of them can also run on kerosene, jet fuel, diesel or plan old unleaded automotive gasoline so, no matter where you are in the world, you should always be able to find fuel. Fuel for these stoves is relatively inexpensive but most do require priming the stove to preheat the fuel line before you start cooking. These stoves are also perfect for longer trips because they can be maintained, and even repaired, in the field.

Stove

Fuel

Weight

Avg Boil Time

MSR DragonFly Stove

White gas / kerosene / diesel / auto

14oz

White gas: 3 min 30 sec
Kerosene: 3 min 54 sec
MSR WhisperLite International Stove

White gas / kerosene / auto

10.9 oz

White gas: 3 min 30 sec
Kerosene: 4 min 24 sec
MSR WhisperLite Universal Stove

White gas / Isobutane-propane / kerosene / auto

13.2 oz

White gas: 3 min 30 sec
Kerosene: 3 min 45 sec
MSR XGK EX Stove

White gas / kerosene / diesel / auto

13.7 oz

White gas: 3 min 30 sec
Kerosene: 2 min 48 sec

Alternative Fuel Backpacking Stoves

These stoves are great for ultralight backpacking because the stoves themselves are incredibly light and use fuel sources that are also lightweight or found on the trail. Some of these stoves can even generate the electricity you need to keep your electronics charged on the trail (21st century backpacking at its best) The downside to these stoves is that these fuel sources don’t burn as hot as other fuels so it’ll take longer to boil your water when you’re ready to cook.

Stove

Fuel

Weight

Avg Boil Time

BioLite CampStove

Wood

2 lbs 1 oz

4 min 30 sec
Esbit Pocket Stove

Esbit fuel tablets

3.25 oz

Unknown
Esbit Solid Fuel Stove & Cookset

Esbit fuel tablets

7 oz

Unknown
Hexagon Titanium Wood Stove

Wood

4.1 oz

Unknown
Ian Campbell Ian Campbell is the founder of Love the Backcountry, a freelance writer and a long time lover of adventure travel based in San Diego, CA. When not writing about the backcountry, he can typically be found hiking, backpacking and camping in the mountains around San Diego and looking to lay his head beneath as many trees as he can find.