Hikers and campers choose to select and rely on backpacking stoves as they tend to be most practical to boil water as necessary, cooking their food, reheating ready-to-go meals or canned foods, and are environmentally friendly. Many backpacking and hiking trails do not allow wood-burning nor cutting due to risks of pollution, scarcity of available tree-wood, and because of the risk of starting a forest-fire in dry plains or environments. Selecting a backpacking stove can be intimidating at first, but don’t be nervous! Below we will break down and compare some of the most popular backpacking stoves and which will make the most sense for you, and why.
Before considering the following makes and models of backpacking stoves, it’s important for you to understand the differences of power (or the ability to boil or simmer), how quickly each can heat up food and water, in what sorts of environments, the fuel type (canister v. liquid v. natural), and lastly size. These main elements will help you decide on the most effective backpacking stove so that you can have the safest, most enjoyable, and purposeful trip without going hungry or even worse thirsty!
Take into consideration the average boiling time, what climate each backpacking stove is designed for, the type of fuel it uses, and how many heads it can feed as well as how quickly. Understand that not all stoves are meant for the same weather conditions or altitudes, and that some backpacking stoves will be unsafe to use in certain temperatures or conditions.
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This backpacking stove product is desirable for individuals seeking to cook food or reheat meals ready-to-go with a boiling pot of water or the mug it includes, dependent upon what you have brought with you, or by simply cooking it in the flash cooker itself such as coffee, noodles, soup, etc.
This model is user and novice-friendly as it provides a temperature gauge, a push button igniter, and a transparent lid to see the progress of your boiling water or (thin or small) food products that you’ve placed into it to be boiled.
This backpacking stove brings 1 cup of water to boiling temperature in only one minute, which is very desirable for a rush-cooking mission or heating in-between hiking/camping breaks. It’s also an especially convenient backpacking stove because you can disconnect the mug portion and drink right from it, and it’s insulated!
This system only weighs 14oz, which arguably is not too heavy, and conveniently sized for long-distance hiking and camping trips. It comes with a windscreen to protect the flame during windy weather, so it is practical to assume it will function well both in hot and colder climates within reason. It’s important to remember that different fuel methods will react differently, dependent upon how cold for example, could make the igniter and fuel very difficult to trigger under severe or extreme weather conditions, such as cold in this instance. The mug securely connects onto the tripod, and then onto the fuel canister, so it’s unlikely that it will fall over easily and has been built to withstand the volume of mass in which the size calls for. The system uses Jetpower fuel canisters, which means the contents are more compressed and secure in comparison to other products, doesn’t include gas lines or hoses for fuel usage, and offers a more compact and convenient experience! In total, just one Jetpower fuel canister will provide up to a total of 100 cups of boiled water so again this is great for a beginner, seeking a safe backpacking stove solution, and is preparing for a long hiking and camping journey!
However, a drawback with these is although they have fast cooking times, they’re often limited to only cooking or boiling food and drinks within the mass or size of the factory canister or designated pan, as the draw of the flame will become weaker with using bigger pans or trying to cook more than it was designed to handle and concentrate heat on. You can get about 16oz of water to a boiling point in around 10-12 minutes, which isn’t the most impressive turn around time for a boiling point. Additionally, due to the ventilation build of this backpacking stove, it might be worth considering other backpacking stoves if you are going to be using it in extremely cold, or windy climates and environments.
Esbit CS985HA 5-Piece Lightweight Trekking Cook Set
This cook set ]is limited to only relying on denatured alcohol, so it’s very specific and strict as to how you can power this stove on your trip. You can use fuel tablets inside of this stove, but it’s not recommended, might blow the flame around inconveniently, and could ultimately be dangerous if you are a beginning in using backpacking stoves. This stove comes with two pots, and weighs in conveniently at a total of only 15oz! This is arguably a backpacking stove for the more experienced, independent, and backpackers that already have premade and know the exact size and purpose for the foods or drinks that they wish to heat up before heading off on the trail. Because of this, although convenient, compact, and not necessarily unfriendly to the environment, it’s worth considering other options if this is your first go. However, with it’s brass construction, flame regulator, and sealable screw to hold the fuel, it could work for you, barring you are willing to read the instructions or have an experienced backpacker or the store explain to you how to use this backpacking stove safely.
The MSR Reactor 1.7L Stove System
The MSR Reactor backpacking stove is a very desirable stove system for camping and hiking because it’s heavy-duty, boils water fast, and is extremely fuel efficient. This stove has a 3 minute boil time for 1 liter of water, which is very impressive. This Stove is great for someone that does long-distance backpacking, goes high altitude hiking, and is serious about having a reliable stove to count on when it’s time to eat or rehydrate. Another great perk of the MSR Reactor is that it can cook and prepare enough water to feed up to three people at a time.
Although a bit more on the high-end of price, you are getting a premium backpacking stove for a premium price. Weighing in at almost 1.5lbs, it’s important to consider whether or not this is the kind of stove you want to be lugging around. This is considered an integrated stove system, and although it does not have a temperature-gauge, it does have a transparent lid so that you can see the progress of your water-boiling and simmering.
There is also an internal advanced pressure regulator for optimizing heat, so you again get the most out of your fuel and experience with this stove. If you use the MSR IsoPro fuel canisters you will get up to 90 minutes of burning time, which is pretty impressive, but again this adds more weight to your trip. Overall, if you are an experienced or serious backpacker, are going to be experiencing high-winds on your journey, and want a product that is guaranteed for life than the MSR Reactor might be fit for you!
MSR Dragonfly Stove
This Liquid-Fuel backpacking stove is perfect for serious backpackers, who don’t mind a little extra weight for the flexibility of cooking just about anything. With the base alone, the MSR Dragonfly Stove weights approximately 1.5lbs.
This stove is great for long-trips because you can also use (3.5 or smaller in diameter) most pots and pans for cooking, so it’s not impractical to use it for cooking for multiple people. A lot of customers choose this backpacking stove because it’s a multi-fuel stove, meaning it can burn white gas, unleaded auto fuel, and even kerosene. So while not very environmentally friendly in the sense of gas pollutions, you don’t have to worry about leaving a canister behind either. It also comes with a self-cleaning mechanism which is very convenient, and will guarantee a consistently reliable device for cooking and boiling water when you need it the most.
The dual-valve design of the MSR Dragonfly allows you to control with ease the power of the flame, making it easy to shift between boiling and simmering your food or water for drinking. It’s important to note that fuel-spills are possible, as well as hose-clogging, so this is not for the intermediate backpacker. This model also requires priming, and so again is not for a beginner as the wrong move or misuse of this stove could mean that it no longer works, right in the middle of your journey. Luckily, this backpacking stove comes with a lifetime warranty which says a lot about the product itself, as well as MSR for a reliable source for backpacking stoves. This stove is still efficient in the fuels it relies on, and can last up to 3-4 days on one fuel tank alone!
Solo Stove & Pot 900 Combo
The Solo Stove & Pot 900 Combo is a very convenient, easy-to-use, and environmentally friendly backpacking stove. It relies on burning wood, twigs, and even pinecones as a fire source to cook food and boil your water. This is ideal, as this deducts the weight of having to carry fuel canisters around. This stove is nice because it reuses airflow from the bottom up, and therefore double-compresses heat for a faster, more consistent boiling and simmering point for your backpacking and camping needs.
Additionally, the Solo Stove 900 Combo is reliable and fast swince it boils water in about 8-9 minutes up to 32oz. You can tell the Solo 900 Combo was built with the camper in mind, as it even comes already imprinted with a measuring cup scale on the side of the canister for easy use for cooking or making coffee. This stove is very cool and convenient for packing away as the breaks down and stores itself in the pot, weighing in at 9oz, this is convenient for on the go and will not weigh you down too much while hiking and camping.
The Solo Stove 900 Combo is especially convenient for cooking and boiling water in extremely cold or windy weather because the heating mechanism is on the inside, it blocks out unwanted wind, and relies on natural environmental elements like sticks for heating, not fuel or oils. This stove recently won backpacking stove of the year award in the Backpackers Magazine for 2014. If you want convenience, reliability, and simple usage to cook and boil your water on the go during your hiking and camping trips then this is the backpacking stove for you, it comes with a great warranty, and at a very competitive price.
In conclusion, when determining what backpacking stove is best for you, take into consideration the boiling time, what materials the stove is made out of, and how much it weighs for the sake of your own convenience. Different backpacking stoves have different powering mechanisms such as electric, fuel, or natural. Additionally, each backpacking stove will vary a bit in design, and some will be safer than others to use in, for example, windy conditions. Backpacking stoves powered by fuel that require priming will commonly not work well in extreme cold, or windy conditions. Ultimately, it depends on the build of the backpacking stove and build quality, as some come with wind-protectors or are built with more seals to prevent unwanted air and wind from getting inside while you are cooking or boiling water. Understand that each type of backpacking stove will have it’s own pros and cons. For example, when using liquid fuel stoves, it’s much more common that it will have a built-in temperature gauge, and that they will work well in cold temperatures, dependent upon the build.
However, such stoves also have the risk of fuel-spills which can be extremely dangerous to both yourself and the environment around you. Canister stoves on the other hand for example, will not work well in cold weather conditions, but have the benefit of controlling the flame with ease. Also, there’s no fuel spill rick, and there’s a higher output of flame for cooking or boiling at your desired speed. People choose Integrated Canister Stove Systems because they are conveniently built and easy to use, usually always come with a wind buffer, but do not match well with other pots and pans for cooking purposes. In the end, a multi-fuel stove may prove to be the most desirable model and make of backpacking stoves for more experienced, long-distance, and serious backpackers, hikers, and campers.
Ultimately, the decision is up to you, and it’s important to compare each make, model, and type of backpacking stove to decide not only what will work best for you, but also which is most practical, and what will be the safest option not only for yourself, but also per the environment in which you’ll be traveling and it’s potential climates.
Chris is a travel writer based out of Vancouver. When Chris isn’t busy with his day job as a project manager for an insurance firm, he’s outdoors. Chris has previously written for MEC Blog and Outdoors Magazine.