The right stove makes life on the trail better. From ultralight canisters to four-season and multifuel options, we’ve found and tested the best backpacking stoves.
Sure, you could just eat a handful of trail mix, 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 low. Luckily, there are plenty of backpacking stoves on the market today that make quick work of heating up dinner without weighing you down.
We spend a lot of time camped out in the backcountry, so we understand how important it is to have a reliable, long-lasting stove. From multiday trips on the PCT or AT 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, boil time, and simmer abilities. Secondarily, we considered fuel efficiency, performance in wind and cold, and additional stove 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 our best picks for budget, wind performance, and more, as well as the best options in the following categories:
In each section is an explanation of the category and the options within it. And at the end of this article is a buyer’s guide with useful tips on choosing the best backpacking stove.
And it’s worth noting that this article focuses solely on backpacking stoves. If you’re looking for a larger, two-burner camp stove, check out the best camping stoves of 2020.
The Best Backpacking Stoves of 2020
The majority of stoves we tested were canister stoves. While these stoves aren’t the only option on the market, they do have lots of perks, which we’ll explain in detail below.
These stoves typically screw directly onto a fuel canister, filled with a blend of isobutane-propane. Benefits include ease of use and low maintenance.
On the flipside, canisters can’t be refilled, causing additional waste (they can be recycled, but you’ll need to take them to a recycling facility). And they’re prone to freezing up, or just providing a weak flame, in cold winter conditions.
Best Overall Canister Stove: MSR PocketRocket Deluxe ($70)
The MSR PocketRocket Deluxe is similar to the MSR PocketRocket 2 (see below) but with a few improvements and extra features.
The Deluxe model is an ultralight stove with stainless steel folding pot legs, a fast boiling time, and compact design. The Deluxe is just a few grams heavier than the PocketRocket2. But unlike the 2, the Deluxe has a built-in pressure regulator (like in the MSR WindBurner), a broader burner with wind protection, and a piezo igniter.
During testing, we found that the pressure regulator did equate to more consistent boil and simmer capabilities, and, like the brand claims, helps reduce the impact of cold and wind on stove performance. It also boiled faster than all but one other stove on this list.
Plus, the simmer capabilities of this stove are great. The slightly wider burner makes a difference, and when cooking dishes like oatmeal or mac and cheese, we didn’t experience any burning or sticking on the bottom of the pot.
Simply put, this stove is the best due to its combination of light weight, consistent performance, boil time, and price.
Packed Weight: 2.9 ounces
Time to reach boil: 3 minutes 23 seconds (all boil times listed in this article are for 1 L of water)
Best Budget Canister Stove: GSI Outdoors Glacier Stove ($28)
The GSI Outdoors Glacier has a lot going for it, and not just the amazing price. The canister stove can support virtually any size pot or pan (great for those who frequently camp and cook in groups), and the wider burner spreads heat out evenly.
The burner also has an impressive output of 11,000 BTUs, putting the power of a traditional camp stove in canister stove form. Given the output, we were hoping this stove would have a slightly faster boil time. That said, it held up in windy conditions, and the boil time stayed roughly the same.
The stove also has clearly marked “+” and “-” simmer controls. We loved using this stove to pan fry, saute, and even rehydrate and cook some beans. Everything in the pan was nice and evenly cooked.
Our only con? The wide and sturdy pot support design doesn’t fold, so — with the 5-inch diameter — it’s not the most compact. However, it can still be packed/stashed into a larger pot. And for the quality of the stove, it’s still a great deal.
Packed Weight: 5.8 ounces
Time to reach boil: 5 minutes 30 seconds
Best Canister Stove for Cold/Wind Performance: MSR WindPro II ($100)
The reason this canister stove made it on our list is its ingenious configuration specifically for cold-weather cooking. The MSR WindPro II combines the design of a liquid fuel stove with the lightweight perks and versatility of a canister stove.
This stove has a wide burner with folding pot legs and a fuel line that allows the stove to burn fuel in the upright canister position or an inverted liquid-feed mode. The stove comes with a windscreen and canister stand.
Upon testing, inverting the canister definitely equates better performance and fuel efficiency in cold and wind.
Anyone who lives at altitude and frequently camps in colder conditions should consider this stove. And at $100, it won’t break the bank.
Minimum packed weight: 6.6 oz.
Time to reach boil: 3 minutes 45 seconds
Most Compact Stove System: Jetboil Flash ($110)
Jetboil’s newest stove system is designed for solo backpackers who want to keep weight down. The entire system (stove, pot, stand, cup, and lid) weighs just over a pound and packs together nicely.
The biggest perk of this stove is its superfast boil time: about 3 minutes per liter. Like the previous model, the Jetboil Flash has an all-in-one design with a push-button igniter, plus improved stove-vessel integration (locking the pot to the stove) and updated pot and lid designs.
The stove also has a heat-indicating sleeve that changes color to let you know when water is boiling so you don’t waste time or fuel.
Overall, this is a great and durable stove system. However, it does have its limitations, as you can only cook what can fit in the pot. If you’re looking for a stove that can easily boil water and cook the basics quickly, this is a great option.
Packed Weight: 13.1 ounces
Time to reach boil: 2 minutes 58 seconds
This new stove from Primus works really well, offers pretty great simmer control, and, best of all, comes with a hard-to-beat price point. It’s a simple construction with no folding elements and easily stashes into a pot or mesh stove bag. You can also get the new Primus Essential Trail Stove kit (a stove, an anodized aluminum pot, a hybrid pan/pot lid, and a storage bag) for just $60.
The only con we discovered is that there’s no resting notch or angled indentation in the pot support design. They are completely level, which makes balancing a well-used pot (i.e., one that might have some heat warping or dents) tricky. It’s definitely not a flaw, but rather something we wanted to note. What’s nice is this stove’s pot supports are wide enough for a variety of cookware sizes (we tried it with 1-2L pots and an 8-inch pan).
Why this isn’t our top budget choice: It was very close. But ultimately, while this stove weighs a few ounces less than our top budget choice, it also has fewer BTUs, and the heat isn’t as evenly distributed across the burner. That being said, it’s still a great stove.
MSR PocketRocket 2 ($45)
For the budget- and weight-conscious hiker, the PocketRocket 2 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. The MSR PocketRocket 2 is also one of the best-performing stoves out there in terms of price.
Why it’s not our top choice: Trust us, it was close. But between the PocketRocket 2 and MSR’s new Deluxe model (which offers an integrated pressure regulator and igniter and performs better in wind), the Deluxe won us over.
Weight: 2.6 ounces
Time to reach boil: 3.5-4.5 minutes depending on wind
GSI Outdoors has long been a popular brand for camping cookware, and with stoves like this, it’s moving more into the technical camping space. The GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Stove is a high-efficiency backpacking stove with pot supports that swivel down for super-compact storage and swivel up to create a 5-inch-diameter cooking surface.
The first thing you’ll notice on this small but mighty stove is the pot supports. They’re attached to the stove body with grommets and swivel into a notch to lock in place. They also sit slightly higher above the burner than other stoves, which we think contributed a little to this stove’s slightly slower boil time.
That being said, we found this stove to be just as stable as other ultralight options we tested — as long as you pick a good surface.
In terms of performance, the stove boiled fairly well and simmered well too. It’s also a similar price point as other stoves about its size. The Pinnacle made this list because of its compact nature — it’s the smallest and lightest stove out there.
Why it’s not our top choice: This stove is a bit slow to boil but still functions great.
GSI Outdoors also makes a four-season version of the Pinnacle with a fuel line, stove stand legs, and remote burner specifically for alpinists. We haven’t tested it in full yet, as we’re waiting for colder weather, but we’ll post an update once we do so.
Weight: 2.4 ounces
Time to reach boil: 5 minutes 40 seconds
Camp Chef Stryker Multifuel Stove ($118 on Sale)
One of the most unique things about this integrated canister stove is its ability to work with both propane and butane. That’s a nice option when switching between backpacking and car camping, or if you don’t know what type of fuel will be available wherever you’re traveling. The stove works great and is one of the most affordable integrated stoves available.
We found it a little slower to boil than the Jetboil Flash 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.
On the plus side, the slightly larger and wider pot means it has a greater surface area to distribute heat. For a couple or group, this is a solid option with a larger capacity and versatile design.
Why it’s not our top choice: It’s not as easy to pack, and the propane fuel adapter is heavy.
Weight: 27 ounces
Time to reach boil: 5 minutes
MSR WindBurner Stove ($150)
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.
One of our editors 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.
Why it’s not our top choice: It’s not ideal for groups, and its price is on the higher end.
Weight: 15.3 ounces
Time to reach boil: 4.5 minutes
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 (i.e., requires maintenance), but it performs well in cold conditions.
Best Liquid Fuel Stove: MSR WhisperLite Universal ($140)
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 to countries outside North America, where fuel options may be limited. It’s not the lightest stove on the market at 13.7 ounces, but its versatility makes up for that.
We’ve used this stove for really tough winter camping, and it has outperformed everything other folks have brought to elk camp. While canister stoves die in cold weather, the WhisperLite Universal cranks out water-boiling BTUs, even above 10,000 feet.
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 more than a year of testing.
Because it uses liquid fuel, this stove does require some TLC and stove knowledge, including priming the stove before use, and stove maintenance in the field on longer excursions. As long as you familiarize yourself with the stove, you should be set. One more bonus with liquid fuel — gas is cheap! A gallon of white gas will cost around $10 and should last you for years.
Weight: 13.7 ounces
Time to reach boil: 3.5 minutes per half-liter (white gas)
MSR DragonFly ($140)
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.
Weight: 14 ounces
Time to reach boil: 3.5 minutes per half-liter (white gas)
Burn time: 126 minutes per 20 ounces of white gas
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.
Best Wood Stove: Solo Stove Lite ($70)
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.
In our testing, we loved that the design, which encourages “gasification” of the solid fuel. This means it pretty much burns all the smoke, resulting in very few fumes and a nice hot fire.
For a fully integrated system, consider adding on the Solo Stove Pot for an additional $35.
For more, check out our Solo Stove cooking system review.
Weight: 9 ounces
Time to reach boil: 8-10 minutes
BioLite CampStove 2 ($150)
Yes, this stove is pricey and significantly heavier than others on this list, but it’s also more than just a stove. Most of the stove weight is in the integrated battery, which takes energy from a burning fire and converts it to charge your electronics. So not only do you not need to pack fuel, but you also won’t need to pack a portable battery charger for your next outdoor excursion.
Upon testing, we can attest that a lot of time and effort went into this stove’s design. The BioLite CampStove 2 has lightweight aluminum legs, a protective exterior between you and the burn chamber, and uses combustion technology to circulate air and increase efficiency.
While there’s not a power switch like on gas stoves, the four fan settings (ranging from low to high) do a great job at controlling the size of the flame. It also doesn’t take too much time to cool after use.
At first glance, we had concerns about the “scalloped,” curvy pot stand lips (which are designed to be compatible with BioLite’s pot and grill cookware). But upon testing, we had no issues with balancing off-brand pots as well, even a small 1L pot.
We also were skeptical of its trail weight, but the components of the CampStove 2 pack within each other nicely. If you’re investing in a stove for longer trips and don’t want to carry excess weight in fuel, consider getting this stove.
For a wood-burning stove, the BioLite also has an impressive boil time at a little over 4.5 minutes.
Price: $150 (if the price is a deterrent, know that this stove goes on sale a few times a year)
Weight: 2 pounds
Time to reach boil: 4 minutes 40 seconds
Vargo Titanium Hexagon ($60)
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 sidewall 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.
Weight: 4.1 ounces
Time to reach boil: 8-10 minutes
Burn time: Endless depending on wood supply
These win the prize for simple, light, and cheap. Composed of one small fuel unit, 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.
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.
Weight: 4.59 ounces
Time to reach boil: 10-12 minutes
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 cookset 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 to melt snow and boil a lot of water. You need to be able to rely on it when the mercury drops. For this, you’ll want a liquid fuel or four-season stove. We’ve found liquid fuel stoves the most reliable choice in winter.
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. If you camp frequently in rainy climates, invest in a tarp and some guy line for a safe kitchen shelter.
Have a favorite backpacking stove we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.