The Best Backpacking Stoves For Bringing Cooking Power to the Backcountry
There may be no finer example of human’s quest to create and control fire than the modern camping stove. Top options weigh a few ounces, can blast out 10,000 BTUs or more, and boil half a liter of water in under three minutes—less time than it can take to fold a USGS topo map on a windy day. Short of conjuring flames from your fingertips, there’s no faster or more efficient means to ignite and control fire away from home.
Take a look below at quick info on the top backpacking stoves from our testing, then scroll down for buying advice and more in-depth reviews of these and other models.
Types of Backpacking Stoves
Walk through the camping aisle of REI and you’ll see liquid-fuel stoves that are great for long trips and large groups, obscenely light models that burn fuel tabs, and even stoves that run off sticks you collect around your campsite. But the two most popular versions are canister stoves for backpacking and larger tabletop options for when you’re cooking closer to your car. We’ve focused on evaluating the former here.
Canister options typically include a burner that sits on small disposable cylinder of fuel. Compared to liquid-fuel stoves, they’re typically lighter, require less maintenance, have better fuel efficiency, and are easier to use: Just screw in a canister of fuel and you’re ready to cook.
We tested two types of canister stoves: stand-alone models and integrated systems. The latter come with everything you need to boil water—stove, pot, lid, and a heat exchanger that transfers heat from the burner to the sides of the pot. Integrated systems are faster, but most are designed to only boil water.
How We Tested and Chose
Our test focused on two important metrics in food prep: how quickly the stoves boiled water and how well we could use them to sauté mushrooms. One requires intense power; the other requires consistent low-temperature control. For the boil test, we used half a liter of water directly from a single campsite’s potable water pump. We considered the test completed when water hit a rolling boil, where bubbles poured over each other violently enough to shake the pots. For integrated systems, we used the included pots; for standalone stoves we used an MSR Trail Mini Duo Cook Set 1.2-liter pot with lid.
For sautéing, we used half a cup of mushrooms and a spoonful of butter in a frying pan from the Primus Campfire cook set. We set stoves to the lowest temp we could maintain without flickering—aiming for a slow simmer that left the mushrooms soft without burning the butter or crisping the edges. We stirred consistently with a wooden spoon and allowed the pan to cool between tests. We did not test mushrooms on integrated systems as the pots are mostly for boiling water and need further attachments to accommodate pans.
We also took into account weight and packability, given that you’ll likely be carrying this kind of stove over long miles crammed into a pack with everything else you need for an extended trip.
For any stoves that we have but weren’t able to test or haven’t been able to get samples of yet, we relied on our past experience using similar stoves and evaluations from trusted expert review sites like Outdoor GearLab and Switchback Travel. Below you’ll find the seven best backpacking stoves worth your dollar.
Snow Peak BiPod
Sleek stove with a stable base and great power
Boil time 2:53 min | Weight: 7.8 oz | BTUs: 11,600 | Dimensions: 2.7 x 4.9 x 2.3 in.
The elegant bipod design of this stove (which becomes a tripod when you attach a fuel canister) works supremely well. You can adjust the height of the legs to fit different sized cans, and they fold away for packing. Combined with the four burner arms (many of the stoves have just three), this makes this stove the most stable of any we tested. We never worried about the pot tipping and we could shake a pan on the burner while sautéing shrooms. It has enough power to reach boiling temps rapidly, and the best flame control of any backpacking stove. Our mushrooms turned out perfectly—super soft, with no crunch.
Coleman Peak 1
A compact, and cheap, stove that will get the job done
Boil time 3:55 min | Weight: 6.7 oz | BTUs: 10,000 | Dimensions: 4.5 x 4 x 2.4 in.
The Peak 1 is reasonably light, has a stable, three-arm cooking surface, and is priced low enough to make it appealing, even though its performance lags some behind top options. The stove requires a match or lighter to ignite, but so do pricier models. And the Peak took longer to boil water than any other model, but just barely. The Peak gives you minimal flame control, and our mushrooms suffered because of it. We appreciated how much plastic Coleman uses around the base, making this stove easy to handle while hot.
MSR PocketRocket Deluxe
Stable, tiny, packs a lot of power
Boil time 3:15 min | Weight: 2.9 oz | BTUs: 11,000 | Dimensions: 3.3 x 1.8 x 2.2 in.
We loved the clever design of this little stove—it packs down super small and the burner arms spread wide when it’s open, which kept our pan stable while we cooked mushrooms. The stove has good power and maintained a flicker-free low flame during our sautéing, but it didn’t get as low as some others; our mushrooms got a little crispy because of it. The low weight and compact size makes this a good option for minimalist adventures, but it still has some handy features. We especially liked the built-in igniter, which fires the stove with a satisfying click.
Supremely fast boiling system that packs into itself
Boil time 1:35 min | Weight: 13.1 oz | BTUs: 9,000 | Dimensions: 7.1 x 4.1 in.
The JetBoil puts out an unbelievable amount of power, which translates to ultra-fast boils. The stove system assembles easily and has protective plastic over the heat exchanger and a sheath over the pot that not only shields you from the heat, but changes color when the water reaches a rolling boil. That meant we didn’t have to lift the lid to check the water, saving precious heat. The stove boils water incredibly fast—just over 90 seconds in our test—but it also is the loudest, earning the “jet” in its name.
OTHER GREAT STOVES
Integrated system with speed and cooking room for two
Boil time 2:05 min | Weight: 15.3 oz | BTUs: 7,000 | Dimensions: 8 x 4.5 in.
The WindBurner is well made with smartly placed plastic housings that protect your hands from the hottest parts of the heat exchanger. It also has an easy-to-operate linkage between the stove and pot that requires only a small twist to attach or remove. A neoprene cover allows you to grip the pot to turn off the stove, even during a rolling boil. The 1-liter capacity is more than enough for one person and can serve two in a pinch. Despite the stove’s power, it is remarkably quiet. It’s not perfect though. Without a built-in ignition system, you need a match or lighter to start it.
Small integrated system, smart features
Boil time 3:05 min | Weight: 15.3 oz | BTUs: 7,000 | Dimensions: 5.9 x 3.9 in.
Even with a canister of fuel, this tiny stove takes ups less space than a big can of Foster’s. The stove connects to the pot with a unique twist-in system that made this the easiest stove to set up. The strength of the connection allows you to hang the Lite+ from a cord, which is super helpful if your campsite lacks a flat cooking space. The lid is easy to remove, but difficult to see through as water begins to boil. Plastic guards over the heat exchanger help protect you from burns, but they’re not big enough to grab onto when you unscrew the stove from the fuel canister.
Primus Essential Trail Stove
Lightweight and affordable, this is a stove for backpackers
Weight: 3.9 oz | BTUs: 8,600 | Dimensions: 4.3 x 3.5 x 2.4 in.
Given that it has no folding parts, the Essential is straightforward and easy to set up; simply screw it into the gas canister and fire it up. It also has a wire control valve, one of our favorite styles for the level of control over the flame and heat it affords. Reviewers at Backpacker got the Essential to boil a full liter of water in less than four minutes. And though they noticed the flame flickering in the wind (being such a small stove, the Essential doesn’t have a windscreen), it stayed lit. The only way this stove could be easier to use is if it had a piezo igniter, but it’s a relatively minor tradeoff for something so light and user-friendly.
Published at Thu, 25 Mar 2021 20:54:00 +0000