Backpacking stoves can make or break your hiking trip. Having a nice meal after a long day in the mountains is something anyone would appreciate. But, how do I know what’s the best hiking stove out there?
That’s why we’re here. One of our big goals here at The Adventure Junkies is to help make your life easier when it comes to gearing up for the outdoors. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to consider to find the best backpacking stove for you and show you our selection of some of the best models of the year.
QUICK ANSWER: THE BEST BACKPACKING STOVE
- MSR Windburner
- MSR Whisperlite Universal
- MSR Dragonfly
- JetBoil MiniMo
- JetBoil Flash
- MSR MicroRocket
- MSR Reactor
- Optimus Nova+
- White Box Alcohol Stove
THE BEST BACKPACKING STOVE – A COMPARISON
BACKPACKING STOVE 101
4 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST STOVE FOR BACKPACKING
1. FUEL TYPE
There are 3 types of stoves depending on the type of fuel they burn – canister, liquid fuel and alternative fuel stoves.
The canister stoves run on pre-pressurized gases, being isobutane the primarily gas used (some models also run on propane). The canister self-seals when the stove is detached, eliminating the possibility of fuel spills.
- Lightweight & Compact
- No priming required
- Easy to Use
- Fuel is more expensive
- Poor performance in cold weather
- Hard to gauge remaining fuel
A popular option emerging in the last years are the integrated canister stove systems like the Jetboil Series. These stoves are paired with a cooking pot (other accessories available too) to make it all one piece of equipment. This way they provide super-fast boiling times, excellent fuel efficiency and a wind buffer. However, they’re more expensive and less versatile.
LIQUID FUEL STOVES
Liquid fuel stoves run on white gas and some models can also take kerosene, diesel and petrol. They require a bigger investment upfront and learning how to use them properly can take a few tries.
- Great for international travel
- More stable design
- Excellent performance in cold weather
- Most models require priming
- Requires maintenance
- Heavier and Bulkier
ALTERNATIVE FUEL STOVES
Alternative fuel stoves fill a whole range of different models. These are the most popular ones:
1. Wood burning stove: It burns leaves and twigs you find in the backcountry. You don’t need to bring fuel but they tend to be heavy and bulky. Another disadvantage is finding dry fuel can be difficult in wet weather.
2. Denatured alcohol stoves: They are light and burn silent, but you need more fuel and it takes longer to boil water.
3. Solid fuel tablet stoves: Also very light and compact, but they take a long time to boil water.
2. NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THE GROUP
Some ultra-light stoves are designed to be used by one person only, while most of the models can boil enough water for 2 people.
Liquid fuel stoves tend to be more stable and therefore can hold a bigger pot. We’ve been cooking for 3 people with one of those but it’s really on the limit.
If you plan to cook for more than 3 people, consider bringing an extra stove with you if you don’t want to be dying of hunger at the end of a hiking day while you wait for the water to boil.
3. TRIP LENGTH
You’ll need to plan for the amount of fuel you need for the entire length of the trip.
As a general rule, shorter trips are better suited for canister stoves as they are lighter and more compact than the other types.
But the longer the trip, the more useful liquid fuel stoves become. A liquid fuel bottle will last longer than a canister and it’s easy to pack an emergency small fuel bottle just in case you run out. With the canister stoves, you’ll need to pack several canisters which will increase the weight and bulk of your backpack, plus you’ll likely have to carry the empty ones all the way out.
4. TRIP LOCATION
The place where you plan to go hiking can determine the kind of stove you need to bring.
If you plan to traveling internationally, gas canisters might be hard to find depending on the location, and you can’t bring them with you on the plane. However, gasoline can be found even in the most remote places so a multi-fuel stove would be the best choice in these cases.
If you plan to go hiking in altitude or in cold weather, consider bringing a liquid-fuel stove burning white gas as they perform much better than a canister or alternative fuel stove.
5. SIZE & WEIGHT
Depending on the type of trip you are planning, the size and weight of your stove can be a critical factor.
For ultra-light hiking adventures, a canister stove is definitely the way to go. They’re light, compact and easy to use. Ideally, you should only need one canister for the whole trip.
For longer hiking trips where you might need more than 1 canister, a liquid fuel bottle can be a better option. The stove plus the liquid fuel will be heavier but more compact, as you only have to carry one bottle (as oppose to several gas canisters).
6. EASE OF OPERATION
If you’ve never used a backpacking stove, this one is an important consideration.
With canister stoves, you only have to screw the gas bottle to the stove and light it up like you do with a normal gas burner. That easy. No maintenance is required. They are by far the easiest stoves to operate.
With a liquid fuel stove, you normally need to prime it before using it. This is done in different ways depending on the model you use and it takes a while to master it. They also require periodic maintenance as they are more delicate than the canister models.
7. BOILING OR SIMMERING
Are you are a camp chef type, who cooks elaborate meals? Or are you just a hiker who wants to boil water fast? This answer will help you determine if you need a stove that simmers or just boils water.
There are a few stoves on the market that can do both functions well, but normally they will excel in one or the other.
You’ll pay more for the fast boiling capacity of the stove.
8. POT & STOVE STABILITY
Having a stable stove and pot while you cook is something important, especially when planning to make more elaborated meals.
A low-profile backpacking stove is the best choice for stability. With these models, the burner normally sits on its own base and a fuel tube is connected to either the fuel bottle or gas canister. They’re heavier and bulkier, but also more stable.
A high-profile backpacking stove is a common design among some canister models, where the burner sits over the canister. They are lighter and more compact, but they are prone to tip-over and can’t hold large pots.
VIDEO: TIPS ON CHOOSING A BACKPACKING STOVE
BACKPACKING STOVE REVIEWS
THE TOP 10 BEST BACKPACKING STOVES
1. MSR WINDBURNER
“THE BEST STOVE FOR WIND AND COLD WEATHER”
The MSR Windburner integrated canister stove is sturdy and boils water super fast thanks to its intelligent design. It also has great fuel efficiency and excepcional wind resistance. Although it’s among the heaviest in its category, the Windburner out-performs the other models. If you’re looking for the best performing integrated canister stove, this model is for you.
2. MSR WHISPERLITE UNIVERSAL
“THE MOST VERSATILE STOVE”
The MSR Whisperlite Universal is one of the very few stoves that can take both gas canisters and liquid fuel. Using the Whisperlite Universal with the windbreaker makes it a very efficient canister stove and you can actually simmer with it. If you want to have a stove suited for different types of backpacking trips, look no further. This is the model for you.
3. MSR DRAGONFLY
“GOURMET CAMP CHEF STOVE”
The MSR Dragonfly has been designed for the hiking chefs out there. Its solid base makes it super stable and it can hold large pots. The Dragonfly is probably one of the best stoves to simmer with, which allows you to prepare delicious and varied meals while on the trail. Although it’s heavier and bulkier than the other models, it’s the best choice if you want to prepare more elaborated meals in the backcountry.
4. JETBOIL MINI-MO
“SIMMERING INTEGRATED CANISTER STOVE”
The JetBoil MiniMo integrated canister stove has a wider and shorter shape than the other JetBoil models. The new shape together with a redesigned burner, allows it to simmer slightly better. But at $135, we think it’s a bit expensive for the value it provides. If the extra cost is not an issue, it’s still a great option if you’d like to get some simmering capabilities in a canister stove.
5. JETBOIL FLASH
“BEST VALUE INTEGRATED CANISTER STOVE”
The JetBoil Flash is a simple integrated canister stove with a great price tag. It doesn’t have the fancy features of the other models but it has all you need to boil water fast. However, it doesn’t perform well in cold or very windy situations. At $100, it offers the best value for your buck.
6. MSR MICRO-ROCKET
“PERFECT FOR ULTRALIGHT HIKING TRIPS”
The MSR Micro Rocket is one of the lightest and compact stoves available that still provides quality performance and durability in one model. It has enough temperature control to be able to simmer more delicate meals, but can also boil water super fast. It’s the perfect companion for ultralight backpacking trips.
7. MSR REACTOR
“EXTRA-LARGE INTEGRATED CANISTER STOVE”
The MSR Reactor integrated canister stove comes with a large 1.7L pot and it’s able to boil water fast for 1-3 people. It’s a great option if your group is made of at least 2 hikers. For solo trips, we recommend to look at the Windburner instead.
8. OPTIMUS NOVA+
“FULL FEATURED MULTI-FUEL STOVE”
The Optimus Nova+ stove is built to serve large groups and cook elaborated meals while hiking. It comes with a long and flexible fuel line, a flip-stop switch on an all-aluminum fuel pump, and a quick priming burner. Similar to the Dragonfly, the Nova+ is a great option if you want to cook well-prepared meals for several people.
“AS CHEAP AS IT GETS”
The JOGR is probably the cheapest stove you can find and it works surprisingly well for such an affordable price. Obviously it has some downsides. The JOGR isn’t very efficient with fuel, so you might burn through your canisters faster, and its durability is not the best, but it’s definitely a good option for just over 10 bucks!
10. WHITE BOX ALCOHOL
“BULLET-PROOF ALCOHOL STOVE”
The White Box alcohol stove is tough and durable. It’s been built to withstand the challenges of long trails. Use it with its windscreen to decrease boiling times and increase efficiency. A fantastic option if you’re looking for a robust, durable and reliable alcohol stove.