Camp Cooking - Best Backpacking Stoves 2018

Best Backpacking Stoves of 2019: Let’s Get Cooking

The right stove makes life on the trail better. From solo-canister to four-season multifuel options, we’ve tested and found the best backpacking stoves.

Sure, you could just eat a packet of tuna and a handful of nuts, but it’s hard to beat a hot meal after a long day on the trail. On the other hand, you want to keep your pack weight down. Luckily, there are plenty of backpacking stoves on the market today that make quick work of heating up dinner — without weighing you down.

msr pocketrocket stove

We spend a lot of time camped out in the backcountry and understand how important it is to have a reliable, longlasting stove. From multiday trips in the Desolation Wilderness to lightweight overnights in the Rocky Mountains, we logged a lot of time preparing meals outside and testing stoves. The primary factors we looked at were weight, packed size, simmering ability, and ease of use. Secondarily, we considered fuel efficiency, time to boil, durability, and additional features.

While there isn’t a single backpacking stove that’s best for everyone out there, we’ve organized this guide into categories to help you find the best stove for you. Below, you’ll find stoves separated into four categories: canister stoves, liquid fuel stoves, alcohol stoves, and wood-burning stoves. In each section is an explanation of the category and a list of the best lightweight options within it. And at the end of this article is a buyer’s guide with useful tips on choosing the best backpacking stove.

Canister Stoves

These stoves typically screw directly onto a fuel canister, filled with isobutane-propane. Benefits include ease of use and low maintenance. On the flipside, canisters can’t be refilled, causing additional waste. And they’re prone to freezing up in extreme winter conditions.

Snow Peak LiteMax Titanium Stove: $60

Snow Peak LiteMax Backpacking Stove

Weighing in at just 1.9 ounces (excluding the fuel canister), this stove strikes a great balance between performance and low weight. It performed well at quickly heating up water, and we were impressed with its ability to stay lit on a lower simmer setting as well. You’ll want to make sure you have a lighter or matches, as this stove does not have a piezo igniter.

And, as with all canister stoves, be sure to set it up on level ground to avoid any spills. This stove doesn’t boil water as quickly as some other stoves on this list, but it does a good job using fuel less quickly. This can be a key factor on the trail, and especially for thru-hiking when you need your fuel to last until the next refill station. Between its fuel-sipping abilities, overall durability, small packed size, and weight, this is one of the best backpacking canister stoves available. Pair it with the GSI backpacking cook set and you’ll have everything you need to eat well on the trail.

Price: $60
Weight: 1.9 ounces
Time to reach boil: 4.5 minutes

See the Snow Peak LiteMax Stove

MSR WindBurner: $150

MSR WindBurner Backpacking Stove

The integrated, lock-on pot maximizes heat transfer, and the radiant burner means you don’t have to worry about a flame dying in the wind. There are lighter and cheaper options available, but what makes the WindBurner great is its quick boiling time and ability to work in all manner of weather. At the end of a long day on the trail, it’s nice to be able to easily fire it up and make your favorite dehydrated meal in a flash. And being more efficient means wasting less fuel.

I used this stove while motorcycle camping for more than a year and never once had a problem. It fired up without a hitch, boiled water quickly, and packed up small. The canister packs into the pot, and the plastic cup slips on the bottom to create an integrated package. Just remember to remove the cup before cooking. Trust me: It will melt.

If you’re feeding a group or aiming to cook more complex meals, check out the WindBurner Stove System.

Price: $150
Weight: 15.3 ounces
Time to reach boil: 4.5 minutes

See the MSR WindBurner

MSR WindBurner Review: Fuel-Sipping Stove
MSR WindBurner Review: Fuel-Sipping Stove

The WindBurner Combo is the latest stove system in the growing MSR lineup. Over the last few months, our editor used it to cook all his camp favorites – from sunrise pancakes to late night pasta. So, should you buy the MSR WindBurner? Check out the full review. Read more…

Jetboil MiniMo: $145

Jetboil MiniMo Backpacking Stove

The wider, shorter shape of the MiniMo pot is extremely convenient to eat out of while still having a 1L capacity. The simmer control allows you to both boil water quickly and cook temperature-specific meals. It will work in cooler temps (down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit), but we’d recommend a liquid fuel stove for regular cold-weather camping.

The pot can be a bit of a pain to clean, so if you’re going the dehydrated meal route, save yourself the hassle by boiling water and pouring it into the meal bag.

Price: $145
Weight: 15.5 ounces
Time to reach boil: 4.5 minutes

See the Jetboil MiniMo

Camp Chef Stryker Multifuel Stove: $100 (On Sale Now for $67)

Camp Chef Stryker Multifuel Stove

One of the most unique things about this integrated canister stove is its ability to work with both propane and butane. It’s a nice option when switching between backpacking and car camping. The stove works great and is one of the most affordable integrated stoves available.

We found it a little slower to boil than the MiniMo but were impressed with how reliably the piezo igniter worked. The main downside is the packed size. The 1.5L pot is overkill for solo backpackers and takes up too much pack space in ultralight backpacks. But for a group, this is a solid option with a larger capacity and versatile design.

Price: $67
Weight: 27 ounces
Time to reach boil: 5 minutes

See the Camp Chef Stryker Stove

Soto Amicus Stove Set: $45

Soto Amicus Backpacking Stove

This set has everything you need to chow down outdoors, and it’s a great value at just $45. The stove itself weighs just 2.9 ounces, and the entire set (including two pots) weighs 7.6 ounces. With an outptut of 11,000 BTUs, this stove boils water fast. And while it’s not as fuel-efficient as an integrated stove, it didn’t burn through fuel too fast. The push-button igniter worked well, and we like that the smaller cook pot can be used on its own or as a lid to the larger pot.

It’s not the lightest camping cookware on the market, but this is a quality stove set for the price. This is an especially great option if you’re just starting out backpacking or are looking for a budget addition to your camp kitchen supplies.

Price: $45
Weight: 7.6 ounces
Time to reach boil: 4 minutes

See the Soto Amicus Stove Set

MSR PocketRocket 2: $45

MSR PocketRocket 2 Backpacking Stove

For the budget- and weight-concious hiker, the Pocket Rocket is a proven stove at a good price. Weighing in at a scant 2.6 ounces (excluding the fuel canister), this is a supremely packable stove. The serrated supports can hold a variety of pots, and lighting is a simple matter of turning the knob and using a match to ignite. We’ve had a few close calls when stirring aggressively or bumping the pot, so set it up in a level spot and take care to keep the pot upright. Nobody wants to pick their dinner out of the dirt.

Price: $45
Weight: 2.6 ounces
Time to reach boil: 4.5 minutes

See the MSR PocketRocket 2

Etekcity Camp Stove with Piezo Ignition: $14

Etekcity Ultralight Camp Stove with Igniter

For an absolute bargain buy, check out this camp stove from Etekcity. With an adjustable flame and built-in igniter, it’s the top-value choice on this list. It’s received a lot of rave reviews, especially for such an inexpensive product.

Caveats are its size and materials. It’s small, which makes balancing pots tricky, and the build quality is a little lower than some more expensive choices. There are some higher-quality stoves on this list. But if you need a light stove on a tight budget, this is one worth checking out.

Price: $14
Weight: 4.8 ounces
Time to reach boil: 4.5 minutes

See the Etekcity Camp Stove

Optimus Vega: $95 (On Sale Now for $76)

Optimus Vega Backpacking Camp Stove

This low-profile (and therefore quite stable) stove is touted as a four-season canister stove. When cooking in normal conditions, keep the canister upright. When you need a boost or are camped out in cold weather, invert the canister. In efficiency mode (canister upright), we found the simmer control a bit finicky, and it also took a bit longer to get going. In “4-season” (canister inverted) mode, though, it worked like a charm. Including the stuff sack and windscreen, it weighs in at 8.5 ounces.

Price: $76
Weight: 8.5 ounces
Time to reach boil: 4.5 minutes

See the Optimus Vega

Liquid Fuel Stoves

These stoves connect to refillable fuel bottles. These are generally filled with white gas, but other fuels are used, including kerosene and gasoline. This is ideal if traveling overseas. This stove type can be slightly more complicated to use, but it performs well in cold conditions.

MSR DragonFly: $140

MSR DragonFly Liquid Fuel Backpacking Stove

This multifuel stove is a great option for travelers and winter campers. The adjustable flame means you can quickly boil a pot of water and perfectly scramble an egg. This is also a great choice if you need to cook for a large group. We were impressed with the stability, even with large pots. It’s a bit noisy, but it’s a great choice if versatile group cooking is what you’re after.

Price: $140
Weight: 14 ounces
Time to reach boil: 3.5 minutes (white gas)
Burn Time: 126 minutes per 20 ounces of white gas

See the MSR DragonFly

MSR WhisperLite Universal: $140

MSR WhisperLite Universal Backpacking Stove

With the option to burn nearly any fuel — including white gas and isobutane-propane — this stove has quickly become a four-season favorite. This is especially true if you find yourself traveling overseas, where fuel options may be limited. It’s not the lightest stove on the market at 13.5 ounces, but its versatility makes up for that.

We had no problem balancing a pot on it. With simmer control, we were able to make everything from fluffy pancakes to delicately scrambled eggs. Plus, it got the water boiling for coffee in no time. We’ve heard reports of problems with the fuel connector threads stripping, but we haven’t experienced a problem over several months.

Price: $140
Weight: 10.9 ounces
Time to reach boil: 3.5 minutes per half-liter (white gas)

See the MSR WhisperLite Universal

Alcohol Stoves

These win the prize for simple, light, and cheap. Composed of one small fuel canister, alcohol stoves are primitive and far less efficient than other options. A previous favorite among thru-hikers, these are quickly declining as fuel for canister stoves becomes easier to find in small trail towns.

Lowpricenice Alcohol Stove Set: $14

Alcohol Stove for Lightweight Backpacking

For a budget-friendly alcohol stove, it’s hard to beat this setup. Weighing in at just 4.59 ounces and measuring 60 x 90 mm, it won’t weigh you down or take up much space. That said, know that you’ll be cooking much more slowly and unpredictably on an alcohol stove. We wouldn’t choose this method as our go-to, but there certainly is a contingent of alcohol stove fanatics out there.

Remember: Wind is the enemy. So use a wind block to ensure success. Also, denatured alcohol burns rather clear, so pay close attention to make sure it stays lit. And if you’re looking for the next level in alcohol stoves, check out this kit from Trangia. It comes complete with two aluminum saucepans, a frying pan, and an alcohol burner.

Price: $14
Weight: 4.59 ounces
Time to reach boil: 10-12 minutes

See the Alcohol Stove Set

Solid Fuel Stoves

Solid fuel stoves are light, quiet, and relatively simple to use. Open a fuel tab, light it on fire, and set your pot above it. The trade-off, though, is that these stoves are much slower than canister or liquid fuel stoves. They’re also vulnerable to wind, and the fuel tabs are surprisingly expensive when compared to other fuel sources.

Esbit Ultralight Folding Pocket Stove with Fuel Tablets: $13

Esbit Ultralight Folding Backpacking Stove

Looking to test out Esbit cooking without breaking the bank? This is a great choice. Pop open one of the included fuel tabs, place it in the holder, and light it up. Expect a low-to-medium flame for about 12 minutes. Think of it as a time to practice patience and enjoy nature.

The stove and six fuel tabs weigh just 6.3 ounces, and you’ll never have to worry about spilling fuel all over your gear. On the other hand, the tabs leave residue on the bottom of your pot, there’s no temperature control, and I personally find the smell offputting. For $13, though, it’s at least a worthy addition to the bugout bag.

Price: $13
Weight: 3.25 ounces
Time to reach boil: 8-10 minutes

See the Esbit Pocket Stove

Wood Stoves

The traditionalists out there will appreciate a wood stove. You get the pleasure of cooking over a fire packed into a smaller space. The upside is you don’t need to carry fuel. The downsides include susceptibility to wind, unpredictable cook times, and fire ban concerns.

Solo Stove Lite: $70

Solo Lite Wood Camp Stove

Anyone keen on ditching fuel and using what nature provides will appreciate this stove. Using small sticks, you can bring a quart of water to a boil in about 10 minutes. Be sure to collect a substantial pile of small sticks before getting started so you can continuously feed the flame. Because you don’t need to pack fuel, the 9-ounce stove weight is reasonable. And the integrated design allows it to pack down easily. For a fully integrated system, consider adding on the Solo Stove Pot for an additional $35.

Price: $70
Weight: 9 ounces
Time to reach boil: 8-10 minutes

See the Solo Stove Lite

Vargo Titanium Hexagon: $60

Vargo Hexagon wood backpacking stove

Constructed of titanium, this sturdy stove packs down flat and weighs in at a scant 4.6 ounces. Like the Solo Stove, you’ll need to collect a pile of sticks and expect to wait around 10 minutes for a boil. Be sure to set this on a sturdy surface to maintain airflow. We had problems at one point in a soft, sandy spot due to sinking and lack of oxygen. Placed on a rock, though, it did great.

On several online platforms, fans of the product have recommended drilling extra holes on the side wall to increase airflow. But we haven’t tried that. As with all wood-burning stoves, this will only work in areas with an abundance of sticks, and you’ll need to pay close attention to fire restrictions.

Price: $60
Weight: 4.1 ounces
Time to reach boil: 8-10 minutes
Burn Time: Endless depending on wood supply

See the Vargo Hexagon Stove

How to Choose a Backpacking Stove

The right stove depends on a variety of factors. What works for one person might not suit your particular adventures. Read on for tips on choosing the best backpacking stove.

  • Cooking vs. boiling: If you plan to eat mainly dehydrated meals, you want a fast boiling time. If, on the other hand, you’d like to cook more elaborate meals, it’s important to find a stove with simmer control.
  • Weight: If you’re an ounce-counter, a canister stove may be what you’re after.
  • Price: Will you be using this stove every weekend? Once a month? Twice a year? It makes sense to invest more if you’ll be relying on it to feed yourself regularly. If you’ll rarely use it, or it’s more of an emergency backup, consider purchasing a less expensive model.
  • Group size: If you regularly backpack and plan meals with a group, consider dispersing the weight and investing in a larger group cook set and stove. If you’re a solo adventurer, a small canister stove is a great choice.
  • Winter performance: Not all stoves are created equal, and nowhere is this more evident than in the frigid temps of winter camping conditions. If you camp in the warmer months only, this isn’t a concern. But if you head out in the winter, you’ll probably use your stove more to melt snow. You need to be able to rely on it when the mercury drops. For this, you’ll want a liquid fuel stove.
Testing backpacking stoves in Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada

Tips for Using a Backpacking Stove

  • Avoid spills by setting up on the flattest spot possible.
  • Always bring waterproof matches to light your stove if necessary. Yes, even if your stove has a piezo igniter. They can fail, and there’s nothing sadder than a cold meal because you couldn’t light your stove.
  • Never cook inside your tent. On top of being a fire hazard, this can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and death.

Have a favorite backpacking stove we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article. 


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By

Gear Editor Mallory Paige credits a childhood spent exploring the Rocky Mountains for her love of the outdoors. She recently spent a memorable year motorcycle camping across North America (with her dog!) and is now enjoying introducing her baby girl to all manner of adventure.

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