When you’ve decided to take your backpacking adventure away from the city and into the great outdoors, a hot meal at the end of the day can be a big comfort. To make this dream a reality, unless you plan on going through the effort of starting a fire with flint and a knife every night, a backpacking stove is essential.
Backpacking stoves come in all shapes and sizes with many options for bells and whistles. So how do you know what’s right for you?
Here are some things to consider when choosing a great portable backpacking stove:
Type of stove:
- Canister Stoves – Canister stoves are small, easy to use, great for when you need to control heat output, and the lightest option on the market. The downsides are that the petroleum based fuel can be very costly. While they are great for land-travel, note that attempting to carry a canister on an airplane is prohibited and will cost you a hefty fine.
- Liquid Fuel Stoves – Liquid fuel stoves are lightweight, portable, and many of them have jets you can change to burn a variety of fuels in them such as white gas, unleaded gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, or diesel. The downside to these is that they often need priming and have a tendency to be finicky when trying to establish a steady flame.
- Alcohol Stoves – Alcohol stoves are a popular option due to their lightweight nature, affordability, and ease of finding fuel. The cons to alcohol stoves are that you have less control over the flame and they generally have long boil times.
- Alternative Fuel Stoves – Including stoves that burn solid-fuel tablets and wood. These come in a variety of weights, are portable, and some include options for grills. The downside to these is the difficulty in burning alternative fuels in wet weather.
Choosing a backpacking stove that you can easily carry is of utmost importance to any long-term backpacker. You will want to purchase something that doesn’t take up much space in your pack, that you can take on an airplane (if applicable), and that won’t weigh you down.
If purchasing a fuel-based stove, consider one that comes with a stabilizer. This will insure that the stove will not tip over, wasting your valuable resources.
Note that if you have your heart set on a stove that does not come with a stabilizer, some companies sell compatible ones that are sold separately.
For many backpackers, boiling water in order to re-hydrate food is more common than actually cooking food. Consider buying a portable backpacking stove that has a fast boil-time, yet uses minimal fuel; this will give you the best bang for your buck! If you plan on doing more than just rehydrating a pack of ramen noodles, make sure you check out the specs on your stove in regards to simmer control.
Consider how long your stove will burn using a given amount of fuel. Efficiency is not only better for your wallet and efforts, but also for the environment.
Many backpacking stoves require priming before they will work properly. Essentially, priming is when you pre-heat a small amount of fuel in the stove to warm it up. Liquid fuel stoves generally require priming, while canister stoves do not.
Usage tips for your stove
- Operate on a level surface & with a stabilizer if possible
- Never operate in an enclosed space
- Bring weatherproof matches with you in case of issues starting your stove
- Carry a multi-tool with you in case the stove needs repairs
- Check your destination beforehand in case of any fire bans