Best Backpacking Stoves

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

29 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
360 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best backpacking stoves

Last Updated December 2019

If you frequently go on extended hiking trips, you know how important a cup of coffee in the morning and a hot meal at the end of the day can be. With a quality backpacking stove, both are possible, and a stove is more dependable and considerably easier than trying to cook or even boil water on a campfire.

There are a variety of different types of hiking stoves available, from liquid-fuel stoves to wood-burning models, and selecting the right one could be the difference between a memorable hike and one that you’d just as soon forget.

This guide will help you sort through the various types of stoves to find the right model for your needs. We also check out some of the leading stoves on the market and offer up our picks for some of the best and more affordable backpacking stoves available.

To cut down on the annoyance factor, select a stove that does not require you to move the cooking pot to add fuel to the fire.

Which type of stove is right for you?

Backpacking stoves are available in a variety of types, but the majority of them fall under one of five categories based on the fuel they use:

Canister stoves

These stoves run on disposable propane or other fuel canisters. They are convenient and easy to use with a reliable and hot flame. They also burn clean and don’t require either pressurization or preheating like other stoves.

However, the canisters can be a bit on the bulky side, particularly if you’re on a long hike with limited space. These stoves can also go through fuel at a decent clip, possibly leaving you with no fuel and empty canisters to lug around halfway through a hike.

Wood-burning stoves

For the truly adventurous, wood-burning stoves require you to carry no fuel, because you’re going to be harvesting it while on the trail. This cuts down on the weight you need to carry and has a certain survivalist appeal to it that some hikers will enjoy.

But if it rains, you’re going to have a problem. Inclement weather will leave this stove difficult to use. You also have no way to adjust the flame, and what flame you do have is often sooty and messy. You’re also out of luck if you are hiking in an area with a fire ban.

Liquid-fuel stoves

Stoves that use liquid fuels offer a wide range of cooking options based on their heat output and adjustable flame range. You can use a variety of inexpensive fuels in them, and the bottles that hold it can be reused, so you’ll have no empty canisters to discard.

These stoves are a bit more work to maintain than other stoves, though, and can be difficult to use. They also are heavier and bulkier than other stoves, making them probably not the best option for those hikers watching both backpack weight and space.

Alcohol stoves

These are lightweight, simple to use, and the fuel is both inexpensive and easy to find. The flame these produce, however, does not burn all that hot, and it can’t be adjusted. The low heat output will require a longer cooking time. Wind screens are almost mandatory for these types of stoves.

Solid-fuel stoves

These simple stoves use fuel tabs such as Esbit and are compact, lightweight, and easy to use. They can also be difficult to cook with. The heat output is low, and the flame can’t be adjusted. As with alcohol stoves, a wind screen is a must, and the fuel tabs are smelly, leave a residue on pots, and can be both expensive and hard to find.

Lightweight and powerful

The MSR PocketRocket 2 is super lightweight and compact, folding up to just 2 x 2 x 3 inches. It features a superior build quality and serrated arms to better hold pots and pans. At 2.5 minutes to boil one liter of water, it is also second to none in terms of power.

Key considerations

Construction

Whatever type of stove you decide on, it has to hold up to the rigors of the trail. Between weather, frequent use, and being bounced around in a pack all day, a stove should have a strong build. Stainless steel is a solid choice here, offering both sturdiness and rust resistance.

Beware of plastic components, particularly if they are used for control knobs or other moving components.

Weight and size

It’s probably a given, but any stove you purchase for hiking should be both lightweight and compact. The lightest stove we’ve seen weighs in at under three ounces, while the smallest folds down to around two inches to a side.

Stability and support

A stove should be able to stand on its own and not easily topple over because of wind or weight on it. Know how stable your stove is before attempting to boil a large pot of water atop it.

Power

When it comes to power, the go-to test is: how long does it take the stove to boil a liter of water? The length of time varies from under three minutes to 10 minutes or more, depending on the stove. If you don’t like to wait around for that morning cup of coffee, find out how the backpacking stove you’re considering does at this test before you buy.

EXPERT TIP

Available in gas stations or department stores, the gas-line antifreeze Heet can also be used as a fuel in alcohol stoves.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Alternative fuel stoves — such as those that burn wood or pine cones — are best used for simply boiling water.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Never use a backpacking stove in an enclosed space, such as a tent. Not only is this a fire hazard, but these stoves can also produce dangerous carbon monoxide.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Flame adjustment

If you can adjust the height of the flame, you will have considerably more control over your cooking and will be able to cook more complex dishes. Flame adjustment allows you to crank a flame up for quick cooking or turn it down to gently simmer your food.

You will find this feature primarily on canister or liquid-fuel stoves.

Flame shields

Flame shields provide some cover from the elements, particularly wind. Some stoves have shielding built into them, while others will require you to provide your own. Shields are particularly important for stoves with less powerful flames, such as alcohol or solid-fuel stoves.

Burner arms

Know what size pot fits on your stove burner arms, and also check the arms for ridging or similar features. These can help to grip pots and keep them from vibrating or sliding off the burner.

Carrying bag or box

Available with some stoves, a bag or box will help to keep all the stove’s parts together and offers some protection to the stove in case it is bumped or jostled on the trail. It will also help to keep ash and soot from smudging up the rest of your gear.

Backpacking stove prices

The majority of these range in price from $15 to $35, with liquid-fuel stoves or other specialty stoves costing extra. Pricier stoves will typically be more powerful; they should reach a boil quicker and have a finer flame adjustment and sturdier build.

Affordable and stable

This lightweight stove can support up to 15 pounds and weighs a scant 3.3 ounces. It is easy to use, and the adjustable flame is protected by a built-in flame shield. It also scores high in the boil test, taking 3.5 minutes to boil a liter of water.

Tips

  • Try to find pots that will be the same diameter as your stove’s cooking surface. This will result in less wasted fuel and faster cooking times.

  • Always cover your pots when cooking on a backpacking stove. This will shorten the cooking time, preserve fuel, and help to keep your food moist.

  • You can figure out roughly how full a fuel canister is by placing it in water. An empty canister will float higher, while a fuller one will settle lower in the water.

  • If you will be hiking overseas, consider going with a different stove than one that uses canister fuels. These fuels can be difficult to find outside of the U.S.

  • If you choose a wood-burning backpacking stove, consider also picking up solid-fuel tablets as a backup fuel source.

  • Empty fuel canisters can be recycled by punching a hole in them and flattening the canister. Just be sure they are empty before you do, and always check with the recycling center first.

  • If you plan on hiking at higher elevations frequently, go with a stove that features a pressure regulator, as this will allow the stove to burn more efficiently at a lower pressure.

  • A powerful stove will cook foods faster, but it will also go through fuel more quickly.

Other products we considered

The Bartonisen Camping Gas Stove is easy to use and features a powerful flame, sturdy design, and a piezo ignition. Double your cooking output with the Etekcity Portable Camping Stove (two-pack), which has two burners that fit pots and pans up to seven inches in diameter. And if you’re in search of a complete set, try out the Bisgear Camping Stove and Cookware Set, which has everything you’ll need, from a stove and cookware to utensils and a wine opener, all with a mesh bag to keep it together.

For best results, always set up your stove in a sheltered location on a flat, hard surface.

FAQ

Q. How are these stoves lit?

A. Some of the simpler stoves, such as alcohol or wood-burning ones, use matches or a lighter, which leave you at the mercy of the elements. Others use a built-in, push-button piezo-igniter for lighting. These are particularly common on canister-fuel stoves and offer a simple way to light the stove.

You should always stock up on matches (preferably waterproofed ones) as a primary or back-up ignition method before heading out to the woods.

Q. Can these stoves cook for a crowd?

A. This will vary a bit depending on the size of the stove, but the general rule of thumb is: one stove for every two people. You can use a compact stove for a group, but due to its size, you’re going to need to cook in batches.

One way around this is if you are cooking one-pot meals for the group. If you opt for this route, be sure that you go with a stove that has a stable enough base to hold a larger pot.

Q. Which type of backpacking stove is best for winter hiking?

A. If you plan on doing a fair amount of cold-weather camping, consider picking up a liquid-fuel stove. These do better in wind and poor weather conditions, and they handle winter pressure drops better than any other type of stove. As the stove will often be your only source of water in the winter, you should take care to purchase a reliable one for chilly conditions.

The team that worked on this review
  • Alvina
    Alvina
    Photographer
  • Amos
    Amos
    Director of Photography
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Branson
    Branson
    Videographer
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer
  • Vukan
    Vukan
    Post Production Editor

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