TOP GEAR PICKS

Best Backpacking Stove: Key Element of Survivalist Camping Gear

backpacking stove in snow
John C. Porter
Written by John C. Porter

During any long backpacking trip you need to be able to melt snow, boil water, prepare coffee and basic meals. Reliable access to safe water and nourishment, remain the key aspects of successful survival in the wilderness.

While an occasional campfire can help you in a pinch, nothing can replace a reliable stove. It’s impossible to choose just one best backpacking stove set for any travelers, as different types of hikers would consider different characteristics of their tool as essential, and any model is a trade-off between various features.

Our Top Picks

Product NameVolumeFuelDimensionsWeightPrice
Jetboil MiniMo32 ozisobutane / propane8 x 7 x 6 inches1.6 lbCheck price on Amazon
MSR WindBurner32 ozisobutane / propane9 x 5 x 5 inches1 lbCheck price on Amazon
Snow Peak LiteMaxN/Aisobutane / propane3 x 4.9 x 4.9 inches0.12 lbCheck price on Amazon
SOTO Outdoors WindMasterN/Aisobutane / propane4.7 x 3.9 x 3.6 inches0.14 lbCheck price on Amazon
MSR PocketRocketN/Aisobutane / propane4 x 2 x 2 inches0.18 lbCheck price on Amazon
Optimus CruxN/Aisobutane / propane3.3 x 2.2 x 1.2 inches0.18 lbCheck price on Amazon
Solo LiteN/Awood4.25 x 3.8 x 3.8 inches0.56 lbCheck price on Amazon
MSR DragonflyN/Akerosene, white gas, unleaded auto fuel, jet fuel6 x 6 x 7 inches1 lbCheck price on Amazon

Important Things to Consider Before Buying

When you are choosing a stove for your adventure, consider the type of fuel. In a long run this decision will influence the cost of fuel replacements, availability of refills, reliability of stove in extreme conditions, user safety, your carbon footprint, and necessity of valve and cookware maintenance.

Type of fuel

Most of popular models on the market use propane / butane canisters. This type of fuel burns cleanly and heats efficiently, however, it may disappoint you in extreme weather conditions, during major, cold spells, and on high mountain ranges.

While selecting fuel canisters for your stove, choose a mix containing isobutane and propane, as it tends to perform better in those circumstances. A few classic models let their users burn wood to maintain the flame. If you choose this option, don’t buy any fuel for your stove, as any sticks and pine cones will suffice.

This solution works quite well for backpackers, who like to go for long treks in wilderness areas removed far from civilization. Eco-friendly users, who try to keep their carbon footprint as low as possible, typically prefer to burn wood as well.

burning backpacking stove with fuel tank

However, any wood stove has a few drawbacks as well. Certain areas in the wild don’t contain enough dead wood to fuel the set; choose different model when traveling in the desert.

As wood combustion process produces smoke and carbon monoxide, it’s too dangerous to use wood burning model indoors, especially in small spaces such as tents. Finally, you have to be careful with it in dry areas, as burning wood can occasionally produce a few sparks.

Certain stoves use other types of fuel as well and the best models can burn a few different ones. With the right gear you could use kerosene, diesel, auto and jet fuel. While these types of stoves tend to be noisy and a bit dirty, they work efficiently. Moreover, it’s very easy to resupply them.

Wind resistance

While certain stove models are difficult to ignite during the windy weather and tend to splutter easily when subjected to strong gusts of breeze, others work reliably even during windstorms.

wind resistant backpacking stove

A few different factors influence wind resistance of different models. If you want to ensure, that your stove would stand against the wind well, choose any gear with a low, broad flame cone. Most reliable sets feature partially covered flame or work with heat induction processes.

As the level of fuel in gas canister decreases, the pressure of gas tends to drop accordingly. This process can weaken the flame so much, that it fails even before the canister run out of fuel. A few models contain regulation systems, that maintain an equal gas pressure in the stove all the time.

It’s possible to use an additional windscreen to protect any working stove from strong winds. You can also place the gear in naturally covered areas, if you pay attention to terrain features and a direction of the wind.

Balance and stability

As the toppling of stove can result not just in wasted supplies, but in a burn injury as well, you should pay an attention to the balance of your chosen set. Narrow systems with small footprints tend to be particularly unstable, when you top them with large pots.

man firing backpacking stove on ground

If you like one of those models, try to use an additional canister stand and a windshield with it. Select any stove with a broad pot support, if you wish to try gourmet cooking outdoors. When you place any cookware on the burner, make sure to put it centrally on the support, so that it won’t topple to the side due to an upset balance.

Weight and size

While some people travel by car and care little about the size of their luggage, others walk long distances and prefer to pack as light as possible. Especially alpinists tend to discover quickly, that any ounces of additional weight make their climb more difficult.

Engineers have designed a few extremely lightweight, foldable stove models, which can suit even the most demanding rock climbers. However, these stoves provide only basic functions. You can melt snow, boil water, prepare desiccated meal on them – but that’s all.

Simmering ability

While basic camping sets provide just one level of flame strength, more advanced models can be regulated. Some of these, offer campers just a narrow range of flame power. Others provide their users with a broad range of flame strength, from a full throttle jet necessary to melt snow, to a delicate simmer appropriate for cooking a sauce.

multiple types of backpacking stoves

If you wish to prepare more advanced recipes during your backpacking trip, use any stove with a reliable simmer option. Keep in mind, that some models, which in theory should be adjustable, have issues with maintaining the low flame without letting it expire.

Top Products on the Market

When choosing a backpacking stove, it is important to think about all the above mentioned features. Therefore, we have included all of them in our reviews so that your choice ends up being the perfect one.

Jetboil MiniMo Cooking System

jetboil minimo

Price: Approx. $130

Weight: 1.6 lb (without fuel stabilizer)

Dimensions: 8 x 7 x 6 inches

Specific features: Isobutane / propane, 32 oz

Best use: Camping trips for backpackers who like to cook

Description: The Jetboil MiniMo Cooking System is a lightweight backpacking stove useful for camping trips. Its simmer control enables precise flame regulation, so users can easily cook their food without burning it. Eating from the bowl seems quite comfortable, thanks to the clever design of the spoon and the dish in this MiniMo set.

The fuel ignition seems easy, as it requires just one push of the button. On the model with a black base, this button can be a bit difficult to find in the dark, but it’s clearly visible on similar models with colored stove bases. Unfortunately, any plastic parts located close to the burner can melt, when people use this stove with metal pans, but without the pot support.

As this portable stove is easy to fold and quite fuel efficient, it provides a perfect cooking tool for those people, who enjoy long backpacking trips or like to camp with their family or friends.

PROS:

  • It is lightweight;
  • The food doesn’t get burned easily;

CONS:

  • The price;
  • Any plastic parts located close to the burner can melt.

Related: Jetboil offers this stove model in various colors. Additionally, campers can purchase various add-ons for MiniMo series, such as a Pot Support, Coffee Press and Hanging Kit. To power the device, use either Jetboil Jetpower fuel cans with a mixture of iso-butane and propane, or any cartridges conforming to EN417 specification.

Check the price on Amazon

MSR WindBurner Stove System

MSR WindBurner Stove System

Price: Approx. $120

Weight: 1 lb

Dimensions: 9  x 5  x 5 inches

Specific features: Isobutane / propane; volume 32 oz

Best use: Camping in cold and windy conditions

Description: The MSR WindBurner Stove System is designed to work well in unpleasant weather conditions. Thanks to its enclosed design, primary air combustion and internal pressure regulation, this item maintains a stable flame even during cold and windy spells.

This stove is one of the most fuel efficient devices on the market, because it uses a heat exchanger, instead of relying just on the convection of heat. Its compact build and flame protection makes the set nearly, completely windproof. While you can’t regulate the heat with great precision, the system still works well enough for simmering.

Be careful when handling warm pots on the stove, as its top part gets really searing hot. The system can melt snow or heat water very quickly, thanks to its radiant heat feature. During a nasty weather it outperforms most of the other stoves, even if they are used with windscreen.

The MRS WindBurner has no inbuilt automatic ignition, so you need to have a windproof lighter or matches. This set consists of a stove burner, folding canister stand, bowl and pot. To maintain its efficiency, use it only with compatible MSR parts.

PROS:

  • It maintains a flame during cold weather;
  • It is windproof;

CONS:

  • It does not have inbuilt automatic ignition.

Related: Campers can enhance this set with a few add-ons, such as an additional pot, coffee press and a hanging kit. Check out MSR Reactor Coffee Press. Use it with complimentary isobutane / propane fuel canisters. If you plan to use this stove in a strong wind, bring along a reliable lighter, which can perform well in the difficult weather.

Check the price on Amazon

Snow Peak LiteMax Stove

Snow Peak stove

Price: Approx. $60

Weight: 2 oz

Dimensions: 3 x 4.9 x 4.9 inches

Specific features: Isobutane / propane

Best use: Rock climbing trips

Description: The Snow Peak LiteMax Stove is a very lightweight and durable, that takes almost no space when folded. Thanks to its solid brass and titanium construction, the device is likely to serve reliably during any trip in harsh weather conditions. It has no built-in ignition.

There’s a tradeoff between its weight and efficiency, so it’s a relatively slow cooker. Its wide flame pattern protects the cookware from damage, but it can be ineffective on small pots. The set comes without any bowls or pots, which must be purchased separately.

As its construction is quite high, protect your SnowPeak LiteMax from wind and use it only with a narrow pot, or it might topple in the breeze. Purchase a stand designed for a similar type of canister to improve the stability of this set. While this stove has no special features, it’s a perfect choice for people, who need the lightest gear possible on their backpacking trips.

PROS:

  • It is reliable during harsh weather.
  • It is very lightweight.

CONS:

  • It does not have special features.

Related: To use this set, campers need to purchase separate pots and cutlery. Bring along a reliable firestarter as well. To improve the stability of this stove, use a windscreen and a canister stand. Use this stove with complimentary isobutane / propane fuel canisters. Snow Peak Titanium Mini Solo Cook Set is a great addition too.

Check the price on Amazon

SOTO Outdoors WindMaster Stoves

Soto Windmaster

Price: Approx. $75

Weight: 2.3 oz

Dimensions: 4.7 x 3.9 x 3.6 inches

Specific features: Isobutane / propane

Best use: Trips in windy conditions with cooking involved

Description: The SOTO Outdoors WindMaster Stove is a portable, lightweight device resistant against strong winds. A ledge around its concave burner helps to protect the flame from gusts of wind.

The micro regulation system ensures, that the flame remains consistent regardless of outdoor temperature and the level of fuel in the canister. This stove has a piezo igniter running through a center post of the device, which makes it resistant to accidental damage.

The design features an excellent simmer control, so cooking with this stove becomes an easy task. A pot support consisting of three arms provides the stable environment for a small pot, however, if you plan to use large cookware, try to use a four-prong support instead to improve stability.

The Solo Outdoors set comes without any pots and contains just a stove, support and a bag. This system is too big to fit it in a typical camping pot together with a fuel canister.

PROS:

  • Good for windy conditions;
  • Good simmer control

CONS:

  • It is heavy.

Related: To use this stove, you need to acquire some additional cookware. A four-prong support can be useful for campers, who use this system with big pots. MSR Universal Canister Stand can be also used. Use any reliable canister stand to improve the balance of this set in windy conditions. Use this system with complimentary isobutane / propane fuel canisters.

Check the price on Amazon

MSR PocketRocket Stove

MSR PocketRocket Stove

Price:  Approx. $40

Weight: 3 oz

Dimensions: 4 x 2 x 2 inches

Specific features: Isobutane / propane

Best use: Lightweight trips for 1-2 persons.

Description: The MSR PocketRocket Stove is a lightweight and perfect for one or two backpackers. It features precise simmer control, so you can cook any food without risking to burn it.

You can handle its controls easily, even when you wear gloves. To protect the flame from winds, this set contains trisectional clip windshield.

Due to its small size and a three prong support, the set works best with small pots, as it can become unstable when used with large cookware. To improve its balance, use it with an additional tripod for leg support.

Make sure to place it on a flat ground to avoid an accidental spill. Use the MSR PocketRocket to prepare or reheat simple meals, melt snow, or make some coffee, but if you prefer to cook more complicated dishes, consider purchasing slightly larger MSR model with more options included.

The set isn’t very fuel efficient and contains no inbuilt flame ignition.

PROS:

  • It is small and lightweight;
  • It is affordable;

CONS:

  • It is not very stable.

Related: Campers must purchase cookware separately. Due to its small size, use an additional canister stand to improve stability. Check out MSR Piezo Ignitor! To use this stove you need to have a reliable lighter. Use this set with complimentary isobutane / propane fuel canisters.

Check the price on Amazon

Optimus Crux Stove

Optimus Crux Lite Stove

Price:  Approx. $50

Weight: 2.9 oz

Dimensions: 3.3 x 2.2 x 1.2 inches

Specific features: Isobutane / propane

Best use: Long trips with cooking involved

Description: The Optimus Crux Stove is quite compact and fits easily into an empty space on the bottom of fuel canister when folded.

The system features a foldable burner, which is capable of the broad distribution of heat. Therefore, this solution diminishes the chance of spot burning of the food, as well as faster cooking due to better, improved heat distribution.

Its simmer capability is adjustable, so you can cook a quality meal on this design. Serrated supports that are shaped like a turbine effectively hold the pod increasing its stability on the stove. The system heats water quite fast, but is not very fuel efficient.

When the flame is set on the lower simmer setting, after a while, it blinks out and dies. Furthermore, this stove is quite sensitive to wind as well. This set features a quite useful and practical carry bag, but no pots or internal ignition.

PROS:

  • It has a foldable burner;
  • It is affordable;

CONS:

  • The flame dies quickly.

Related: To use this set, you need to acquire some additional cookware and a reliable firestarter. A windshield makes a useful addition as well, because this stove doesn’t perform well in high winds.

Check the price on Amazon

Solo Stove Lite

solo stove

Price: Approx. $90

Weight: 0.56 lb

Dimensions: 4.25 x 3.8 x 3.8 inches

Specific features: Wood

Best use: Long, eco-friendly and frugal trips,

Description: The Solo Stove Lite is perfect for eco-friendly backpackers, who don’t want to carry any fuel around. Unlike gas burning stoves, this one incinerates sticks, branches and pine cones to sustain the flame.

When working with this model, the camper has to feed the flame every few minutes to keep it stable.

The patented system used in this set triggers the secondary ignition and helps users to extract more energy from natural fuel, while depositing less gunk on the sturdy stainless steel construction.

This method produces less smoke during wood burning as well. It’s cheap to exploit, as users don’t have to buy fuel canisters, which never end up in landfills afterwards.

This stove is excellent for long trips, as you don’t risk running out of fuel. After a few meals you may need to clean your cookware from black gunk.

You can’t use this stove in any regions with limited natural firewood. Never use it indoors, as the burning process creates some carbon monoxide and smoke, which is dangerous!

PROS:

  • It is lightweight;
  • It is perfect for eco-friendly hikers;

CONS:

  • It is unstable.

Related: The Solo Complimentary Pot fits around this stove during transport, however you can use any different cookware as well. Separate lighter or matches are necessary to light the fire.

Check the price on Amazon

MSR Dragonfly Stove

MSR Dragonfly Stove

Price:  Approx. $140

Weight: 1 lb

Dimensions: 6 x 6 x 7 inches

Specific features: Kerosene, white gas, unleaded auto fuel, jet fuel

Best use: Gourmet outdoor cooking

Description: The MSR Dragonfly Stove has been designed to enable backpackers to prepare a quality meal for a few people. It’s compatible with many different types of fuel, so it’s easy to refuel it anywhere.

Thanks to a clever design involving the use of two valves, its flame control remains highly sensitive, so you can easily simmer a sauce on low flame or melt snow on full throttle.

The broad pot support makes it possible to place large pots on the stove without endangering their balance. This set remains reliable for years, thanks to a self-cleaning jet.

While this one is more bulky and noisy than propane / butane stoves, it has more flexibility than other models as well. Thanks to its solid design, one item can serve you for many years. MSR Dragonfly Stove has been a classic model known among backpackers for decades. The full set contains a windshield, heat reflector, stuff sack and instructions as well.

PROS:

  • It is compatible with many types of fuel;
  • It is easy to refuel;

CONS:

  • It is noisy and bulky.

Related: To work with Dragonfly stove, you need some cookware, firestarter, and a fuel supply.

Check the price on Amazon

Final Thoughts

You can find many great stove designs, intended to fulfill the needs of different types of backpackers. Most sets burn isobutene / propane as fuel, but some of them work with wood, white gas, kerosene, and diesel or jet fuel as well.

Best Backpacking Stove: Key Element of Survivalist Camping Gear

A few models are extremely lightweight and foldable, while others feature great resistance to wind. Those campers who want to try gourmet cooking in the wild can find a few stoves with an excellent simmering capability and stable pot supports.

Which features do you consider most important, when selecting a quality backpacking stove? Please let us know in the comment section down bellow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John C. Porter

John C. Porter

John is passionate about hiking long distances. His record is over 65 miles in one day with backpacking gear. John hiked over 10 thousand miles, tried over 100 hiking shoes and visited 56 countries so far. His favourite hiking route is West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.