HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR BEST BACKPACKING STOVE
As with my previous article “My Best Backpacking footwear” we’ll start by determining your needs, using a few questions I’ll ask you.
The second part will consist of exploring the different types of stoves with the advantages and disadvantages of each model.
Now that you have determined the type of stove that suits your needs, we will move on to the different selection criteria, to find out what to compare between the existing stove models.
Finally, I will finish by giving you some advice regarding the use of hiking stoves.
Now that you have an idea of how things are going to turn out in this article, let’s start by determining your needs.
DETERMINE YOUR NEEDS
First of all, there is no such thing as the best backpacking stove! Each situation needs a different stove. Therefore, determining your needs is a very important step to take, in order to find YOUR best stove.
- The first question you must ask yourself is the question of season; in what type of climate do you plan to hike?
- What type of food will you use your stove for?
- Are you going to take your fuel with you or will you collect it on-site?
- Are lightweight and bulk more important to you than heating power?
- Can criteria like smell and noise affect your choice?
- Do you take the plane to hike? If so, you should know that certain fuels are prohibited by certain airlines.
- How many days do you plan to use your stove? And for how many people are you going to cook?
- Is the possibility of adjusting the flame an important criterion for you?
Now that your needs have become clearer with these few questions, let’s move on and take a look at the different types of stoves.
TYPES OF BACKPACKING STOVES
Gas stoves use a small stove that screws onto a canister. They have a turning plug to ignite, then adjust the flame. They use a mixture of pressurized butane and propane.
Canister, on the other hand, is readily available in outdoor stores in a variety of sizes, small to serve you on overnight hikes or as a reserve just in case, medium size for multi-day hikes, etc.
Please note: there is a very specific reason why manufacturers do not use windscreens in their products. Indeed, these can heat the canister, which can cause an explosion. But you can build a windshield that will fight the wind on one side only, to keep ventilation on the other side.
Alternatively, you can also look for a location where there is not a lot of wind.
Since this type of stoves does not require extra time to heat up, it is ideal for boiling water in dehydrated meals, or oatmeal for example.
If the weather conditions are unfavorable (rain or cold), they must keep the canister in your sleeping bag for example, in order to keep the gas warm; thus, you will not burn only propane, which would cause in the canister an excess of butane, alone and unusable.
Although manufacturers generally recommend using only their own gas canisters, these are interchangeable between different brands.
- Usually more compact
- Usually lighter
- Relatively powerful heat
- Easy to use
- Low maintenance.
- Adjustable heating temperature.
- Do not work well in windy conditions.
- Unreliable in cold weather.
- Non-refillable canisters.
- Difficulty finding canisters in some countries.
- Price of canisters.
- Difficulty knowing the remaining fuel in a canister.
- Empty canisters requiring disposal in a suitable place for recycling.
- Refusal of certain airlines.
- Flame can easily be extinguished by the wind.
- Small canisters can be unstable if you put a lot of weight on them.
However, this system is ideal for couples or a solo hiker looking for a stove that is easy to use and with minimal weight.
GASOLINE AND MULTI-FUEL STOVES
In terms of appearance, gasoline and multi-fuel stoves differ from the previous type by the fact that the stove is placed on the ground, and that it is connected to a bottle equipped with a hand pump using a pipe.
On the operating side, gasoline or multi-fuel stoves require pumping to obtain the necessary pressure in the bottle.
Aside from gasoline, some multi-fuel stoves also use diesel, kerosene, or jet fuel. It is particularly thanks to this versatility that this type of stove is appreciated by international hikers.
But using this type of stove also requires a bit of knowledge to make it work properly and safely.
Apart from its use, this stove system also requires maintenance and cleaning to achieve better performance.
- Better system stability thanks to its position directly on the ground.
- The remaining fuel level is easily visible.
- Good performance in cold weather and at high altitudes.
- The fuel bottles are refillable, and with easily found fuel, even in the most remote places of the world.
- More heating power than a gas stove.
- Possibility of taking with you on a hike just the quantity of fuel required.
- The price of inexpensive fuels.
- Require preheating before use.
- Tend to be heavier than gas stoves.
- The initial purchase may turn out to be a little more expensive.
- The presence of impure fuels can clog the pipe.
- Require regular maintenance.
- Some models are noisy.
- Need more attention and knowledge for optimal use.
- Can be dangerous if used improperly.
- Some fuels give off an odor.
This stove model is ideal for expeditions or long treks in groups, in extremely cold weather and at high altitudes.
LIQUID ALCOHOL STOVES
These liquid alcohol stoves are distinguished by their very low weight.
At first, this type of stove was made by DIY hikers, but subsequently, manufacturers of hiking equipment began to release their own products.
This stove works by putting a little alcohol in it, then igniting everything.
Due to its low heating power, this system should only be used for boiling water intended for preparing freeze-dried meals.
Alcohol bottles are easily found, even on non-specialist and non-hiking websites.
- No maintenance.
- Alcohol is inexpensive.
- Alcohol burns silently.
- Longest boiling time of the three types of stove.
- Lowest heating power, which requires more time to boil water.
- Require the use of a windshield in most cases.
- Alcohol can be hard to find in some countries.
- No temperature control on some models.
- Not very stable.
- Requires technical skills to operate in cold weather, high wind, or at altitude.
Ideal for an ultra-light hike, where you have time to boil water for freeze-dried meals, oats, or Chinese noodles.
There are also other types of stoves, such as the heavy-duty alcohol stove and the woodstove. But the first three types of the stove are the most useful to know.
I think it’s now pretty straightforward for you to decide what type of stove to pack for your next hike. 😉
Among the most important selection criteria are weight, stability, combustion time, and heating power.
The autonomy corresponds to the average life of the fuel in minutes in relation to the weight.
For example a stove with an autonomy of 40 minutes per 150 g canister.
TYPES OF FUELS
For gasoline or multi-fuel stoves, there are several types of fuels, but here I will talk about the main three:
- White gasoline: I recommend that you look for this one first, because it’s the cleanest, and what’s more, easily found in drugstores and hiking gear stores.
- Unleaded gasoline: this is the one you use for your car. I don’t recommend it if you have other choices as it has dangerous additives, tends to clog stoves, and has an unpleasant odor.
- Diesel: like gasoline, this is what you find at gas stations. This remains the fuel to use in emergency situations because 1) it heavily clogs the stove 2) it requires more maintenance 3) it gives off smoke.
The more refined your fuel, the less maintenance your stove will require.
Another thing to know: the more the stove has the capacity to work with different fuels, the more expensive it will be.
TYPES OF GAS CANISTERS
For gas stoves, there are three types of canisters. Screw-on canisters, easy-click canisters, and pierceable canisters.
- The advantage of the first type, which is the screw-on canisters, is the adaptability between different brands, which makes them readily available in other countries.
- The advantage of the second type, which is easy-click canisters, is their cheaper price.
- The third type of canister, and which I don’t recommend, is the pierceable gas canister because once the canister is pierced, you cannot take it apart to put it in your backpack unless losing gas is not a problem for you.
TYPES OF GAS STOVE
For gas stoves, there are also three types. The simple stove that mounts on the canister, the stove that sits on the floor and connects to the bottle by hose, and finally, the optimized gas stove.
- The first type of stove is distinguished by its lightness and minimal volume, but it can only work properly with a windshield or in a place without wind.
- The second type, which is the stove that goes on the ground and attaches to the canister with a hose, is the type I prefer because 1) there is no risk of the canister exploding and 2) more stable because it is close to the ground. On the other hand, it is generally bulkier and often heavier than the others. But for me, the purchase is worth it for its safety.
- The third type of stove, which is the optimized gas stove. This type is distinguished by its heat retention, speed, and gas economy.
As with tents, stove manufacturers have different minimum weights. Indeed, some manufacturers do not take into account the weight of all accessories. So check what’s included in the minimum weight to be sure you’re comparing the same.
The climate in which you go hiking really matters, because, in summer weather, a canister stove will do just fine. On the other hand, if your hike takes place in winter or at a high altitude, opt for a liquid fuel stove as they are more reliable in cold weather.
The size means the volume of the stove when folded. The lower this volume, the more you can put it in your cookware to gain space in your backpack.
EASE OF USE
Since stoves are there to make our life easier, finding an intuitive stove is one of the most important selection criteria.
In general, the higher your stove, the less stable it is. But this is not an absolute truth either, so check the stability of your stove.
The heating power is data expressed in Watts (W).
A stove with a heating power of more than 2800 watts takes about 3 minutes to boil a liter of water.
Note that this duration was measured under optimal conditions, so take them for guidance only.
The heating power is also expressed in BTU / h (which is the British Thermal Unit / hour). 1 BTU equals 0.3 Watt.
The boiling time is the time required to boil a liter of water.
The higher the power of your stove, the shorter this boiling time will be.
CALCULATION OF FUEL NEEDED
“How much fuel will I need for my hike?” Is an important question, and one that many of you will be asking yourself.
The best method is to try to cook at home with your stove, and then calculate the amount of fuel used in order to get a real idea of the consumption of your stove.
TIPS FOR USING THE HIKING WARMERS
In order to use your hiking stove safely, these tips must be followed:
- Never cook in an enclosed space, as this can start a fire or cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Always use your stove on a level surface.
- In the case of a type of stove that requires maintenance, having a multi-tool is a necessity.
- In order to maintain the pressure in your gas canister, keep it in your jacket pocket.
- In the case of liquid fuel stoves, when filling the fuel, allow a little air to create pressure when pumping.
That’s it for this article! Hope you enjoyed it and don’t forget: you can leave your questions to me in the comments at the bottom of this article.
Updated on January 23, 2021 by Ben