Best Camping Stoves: Buying Guide

Outdoor cooking can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences out of any trek that can quickly go south if not planned for accordingly. Whether you’re an avid hiker with an arsenal of equipment or an excited newbie just itching to get outside, an extra touch of forethought never hurts when it comes to choosing the proper tools to cook your evening dinner.

Camping Stoves are about as diverse as the outdoors themselves. It can be easy to be left wondering which stove is right for you. The casual camper will need a much different stove than somebody looking to tackle the Pacific Crest Trail from start to finish. Do your due diligence by reading over our guide before investing in your next essential camping tool.

The Basics of Powering Your Cooker

The most significant difference between camping stoves will be their fuel source, and the primary two sources are canister stoves and liquid-fuel stoves.

There is no easy way to answer the question of which stove is right for you. Most of it boils down to your own personal preference and the trips you are planning to go on. Some canister stoves have distinct advantages in some situations, while white-gas and liquid fuel stoves thrive in others. By-and-large, liquid fueled stoves will be the preferred method of hikers planning longer trips that run the risk of experiencing full-weather conditions and when canister fuel might not be available.

White Gas!

Propane and white-gas are the two more commonly seen types of liquid gas. These stoves will likely be the most practical for the majority of excursions, including cold-weather environments and long-distance treks. But the added utility and practicality come with a cost, as these stoves often have a steeper learning curve when you are starting out.

The most commonly used elements in these fuels are Kerosene, Naphtha, and unleaded gasoline. These gases can often produce much higher British Thermal Units (BTUs) compared to canister stoves. This gives you the highest number of cooking options and better overall control of your cooking temperatures. You can’t find a more traditional and time-tested white-gas stove than the MSR WhisperLite . This company’s range of products will fill almost any of your outdoor requirements and check all of the boxes when it comes to quality and durability.

MSR WhisperLite Portable Camping and Backpacking Stove
133 Reviews
MSR WhisperLite Portable Camping and Backpacking Stove
  • Shaker Jet technology makes cleaning as simple as shaking the stove.
  • Made to last with durable stainless steel and brass.
  • Burns cleanly on White Gas and white gas varieties.
  • Minimum Weight: 11 oz. (305 g) Packaged Weight: 14.5 oz. (410 g)
  • Lifetime warranty

Seeing that all of these gases are in liquid form while stored in their container, you will need to manually pump air into the stove to create the necessary pressure. This process, along with the preheating of the stove, is what is tricky for new hikers. Ensure there is enough pressure by pumping the built-in plunger until you begin to feel resistance (about fifteen to twenty pumps).

We mentioned above that white-gas stoves will take some time to get comfortable with, and safety should be at the front of your mind as you become comfortable with your new equipment. Avoid fire hazards by tightening down the cap of the fuel bottle, and always leave a small amount of air in the containers when you go to refill them. You don’t want the gas, in its liquid form, to have nowhere to go when it begins to expand when heated!

Pros of a white-gas stove

  • Not Affected by Local Temperatures
  • Versatile
  • Easy to Ignite

Cons of a white-gas stove

  • Heavy and Cumbersome
  • Operating Systems are Not User-Friendly
  • Requires care and attention to run safety.

Canister Stoves!

Canister stoves will be the more straightforward and the more light weight of the primary fuel sources. These stoves are often ready to go straight from the box just by screwing in a pressurized fuel can. These are great for casual campers, but begin to lose their advantage as the difficulty of your treks increases. Canister stoves start to lose their effectiveness as temperatures decrease, and will stop working altogether if they get too cold.

The most commonly seen gas utilized in canister stoves will be a mixture of propane, butane, and iso-butane. Iso-butane is converted from classic butane through a process called Isomerization. By including Iso-butane in the mix used to power your stove, it helps keep the fuel more stable as temperatures grow lower and lower (especially compared to purely propane-based stoves).

Coleman is a trusted name in camping and offers a range of light-weight butane stoves. Their Portable Butane Stove would be an ideal place to start building a camping stove collection. It’s portable, cheap, and you can get a ton of mileage out of a standard 8.8oz butane canister.

Coleman Portable Butane Stove with Carrying Case
555 Reviews
Coleman Portable Butane Stove with Carrying Case
  • Instastart ignition for matchless lighting; 7,650 total BTUs of cooking power
  • Fits up to a 10 inch pan
  • Lasts up to 1.25 hours on high on one 8.8 ounces butane gas cylinder (sold separately)
  • Adjustable burner gives precise temperature control, and large base offers stability for easy stirring
  • Durable porcelain coated grate is easy to clean, and aluminum burner is rust proof for years of use

Pros of a canister stove

  • Simple to use
  • The fuel is easy to find and purchase no matter where you are
  • Wide variety in design makes finding a perfect one for you very simple.
  • Great control over the BTU output

Cons of a canister stove

  • Propane begins to lose energy in cold weather, not making this the preferred method of cooking in freezing temperatures

The Right Stove for the Right Occasion:

Everyone will be looking for different things in a camp stove, and your goals and ambitions should be considered when purchasing yours. Everything from weight, BTUs, Fuel, maintenance, personal preference, and more should be considered when deciding if white-gas or canister stoves should be your next move.

Design improvements over the years have begun to make the differences in performance much less clear when compared to white-gas stoves. But white-gas and other liquid fuel stoves are still the preferred methods for more extended trips and in cold weather conditions.

The Casual Trekker

If you find yourself planning trips that last between 2-3 days, you will likely be putting certain priorities ahead of others. The weight of your gear will probably be the most important thing when planning a trip like this. Extended day trips will make a well-cooked meal at the end of the day that much more enticing.

The temperatures on these hikes will likely never be below freezing, and preparing simple meals like pasta or freeze-dried meals will be your best option. Grab a canister stove such as the MSR WhisperLite . Its low weight and low fuel economy make it perfect for an average weekend venture out into the field. Including the fuel needed to run this stove, the overall weight is kept at a low minimum.

MSR PocketRocket 2 Ultralight Backpacking, Camping, and Travel Stove
216 Reviews
MSR PocketRocket 2 Ultralight Backpacking, Camping, and Travel Stove
  • Ultralight (2.6 oz) and compact (2x2x3 in) folding canister stove for minimalist adventures, backpacking, hiking, trekking, camping, and global travel
  • Boils one liter of water in just 3.5 minutes and flame easily adjusts from a simmer to a rolling boil for gourmet cooking in the outdoors
  • Fueled by high-performance isobutane-propane fuel canister (not included); self-sealing threaded canister fuel is available in most countries
  • Easy to setup and operate-no priming, preheating, or pressurizing is required; serrated pot-supports accommodate a wide range of pot sizes and styles
  • Lightweight protective case included; stove weighs 2.6 oz (4.2 oz with case), measures 4.8x4.8x3.6 inches open, collapses to 2x2x3 inches; made in USA

For other gas stove options, check out our extensive list of alternatives.

The Prolonged Packer

If you plan to spend more than seven days on the trail, you would likely fall into the category of the prolonged hiker. A week without resupplying is a long time, and it brings its own set of concerns. Sure, weight and reduced pack burden is a priority, but also being prepared throughout the entirety of the trek is of the utmost importance.

Backpacker Magazine recommends the Pocket Rocket 2, as it is specially designed for these types of hikes. It has excellent fuel efficiency, which will help offset its larger build weight by requiring less fuel overall. This stove is ideal for groups of hikers who want to get a lot of mileage out of a single burner. These stoves will often come in multi-fuel versions, which can make traveling easy in regions that may not necessarily have a specific fuel readily available.

MSR WhisperLite Portable Camping and Backpacking Stove
133 Reviews
MSR WhisperLite Portable Camping and Backpacking Stove
  • Shaker Jet technology makes cleaning as simple as shaking the stove.
  • Made to last with durable stainless steel and brass.
  • Burns cleanly on White Gas and white gas varieties.
  • Minimum Weight: 11 oz. (305 g) Packaged Weight: 14.5 oz. (410 g)
  • Lifetime warranty

Honorable Mentions for White-Gas Stoves:

  • MSR Dragonfly

MSR Dragonfly Portable Camping and Backpacking Stove
155 Reviews
MSR Dragonfly Portable Camping and Backpacking Stove
  • Durable, collapsible multi-fuel stove for camping, backpacking, and global travel provides precision flame control and stability for large cookware
  • Boils one liter of water in just 3.5 minutes and dual-valve makes it easy to go from simmering to a rolling boil for gourmet cooking in the outdoors
  • Burns a variety of fuels, including white gas, kerosene, unleaded auto fuel, diesel, and jet fuel
  • Stable base handles pots and pans up to 10-inches in diameter; suspended burner cup increases efficiency and reduces heat lost to the ground
  • Stove weighs 14 ounces, measures 10.5x7x4 inches open, collapses to 3.5x3.5x6.5 inches; manufacturer's limited 3-year warranty; made in the USA

  • Kovea Booster Stove

  • Optimus Vega Stove

Optimus Vega 4 Season Dual Mode Camp Remote Canister Stove
40 Reviews
Optimus Vega 4 Season Dual Mode Camp Remote Canister Stove
  • Lightweight at only 178g and portable; Precise Simmer Control
  • Wide Burner Head allows for precision cooking without spot burning the pan
  • Powerful Burner 1.400 Watt/4.760 BTU in efficiency mode 3.700 Watt/12.580 BTU in 4 season mode
  • Low profile provides stability on uneven ground
  • Includes Stuff Sack and Windscreen

  • Trangia X2 Multifuel Burner

Trangia - X2 Multifuel Burner | Burns: Gasoline, Diesel, Kerosene, White Gas & Butane Cartridge Fuel
5 Reviews
Trangia - X2 Multifuel Burner | Burns: Gasoline, Diesel, Kerosene, White Gas & Butane Cartridge Fuel
  • Part Kit: Flame spreader, priming pad, O-ring, holder pad, leather gasket, jets .28mm & .32mm
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs (525g)
  • Ignition: Manual
  • Output: 10,500 BTU -- Boil Time: 3.5 min (1 liter)
  • Fuel type: gasoline, diesel, kerosene, white gas and butane cartridge fuel.

You Can Never Have Enough Options. . .

Sometimes backing everything on your back and heading out for a week in the wilds just is not for everyone. Packing a few creature comforts in with a truck-bed full of camping gear and heading to a designated campground is the favored method for many trying to detach from the hustle and bustle of city life.

If you are not constrained by weight, space, or style, then your options are open to a world of other cooking options such as charcoal, wood, and even solar-powered stoves. If you hadn’t considered some of these options, we’re here to help you get started.

The Smokey Perfection of Charcoal

A juicy steak cooked outside is as iconic as the summer itself. A perfect charcoal grill is a must-have for anyone looking to feed friends and family while spending quality time outside. It goes without saying that these are not meant to be taken deep into the woods, but if you have the luxury of a charcoal grill, you really can do no wrong at your next campout.

There is a ton of quality options when it comes to choosing the best charcoal grill for you. There is a range of prices, qualities, sizes, and more. Check out our comprehensive guide if you are thinking charcoal is the way to go this camping season.

Let’s Get Solar

Solar stoves are relatively new to the market and have been gaining popularity for their eco-friendly setup and usage. These stoves and ovens use the power of the sun and can be brought along to a campsite by those wanting to save a little energy.

Be warned that there are a fair amount of drawbacks when using these stoves. The biggest one would be that you need the sun to make it work, and trees will frequently block out your stoves power source.

National Geographic did a piece highlighting the benefits similar solar stoves have had across the world, specifically in refugee communities. Read the full essay to learn how a refugee of Africa’s rebel conflicts in the late ’90s used cartoons to spread the word about the benefits of solar stoves.

Wood-Fired, the Natural Way

Some hikers want to avoid bringing along hazardous fuel sources while on the trail. A viable alternative would be to find a portable wood-fired stove to throw in your pack. Like most other stoves, there is a wide range of wood-fire stoves available to fit whatever needs you may require.

If you are looking to try out a portable wood-fired stove for your camping kit, try the Ohuhu Camping Stove. It’s lightweight and easy to fit in your pack. The three sturdy legs help keep the device level while cooking, and you only need to gather a few branches and twigs to get it started.

Ohuhu Camping Stove Stainless Steel Backpacking Stove Potable Wood Burning Stoves for Picnic BBQ Camp Hiking with Grill Grid
963 Reviews
Ohuhu Camping Stove Stainless Steel Backpacking Stove Potable Wood Burning Stoves for Picnic BBQ Camp Hiking with Grill Grid
  • STURDY STAINLESS STEEL: Crafted with high quality stainless steel, this portable camping stove will steadily burn bright, whatever heavy weight or high heat comes its way
  • STABLE AND SAFE: Geared with a 3-arm base support system, even the grassiest fields will be your personal cooking countertop, stable even in windy conditions
  • FUELLED BY NATURE: Mother Nature presents the best fuel catalogue, with the abundance of dried twigs, leaves, pinecones and wood as nature's perfect kindling
  • COMPACT & LIGHTWEIGHT: Easily collapsible and lightweight, this camping stove comes with its own mesh carry bag so you can sling it along and serve up a warm piping meal wherever you've set up camp
  • ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY: With no fuel canisters or alcohol needed, we'll be leaving no chemical emissions behind. Treating the earth with extra good care, without any of the hassle

Pros of a wood stove

  • Stainless steel material
  • Very stable
  • Lightweight

Cons of a wood stove

  • Quick Burning Fuel
  • Ash buildup makes for difficult cleaning

Bringing it All Together:

There are more options available for stoves than ever before. Now there is a wide variety of brands and styles for many different uses and at many different price points. It is important to remember that what you need and prefer out of a stove will be different than your trail-mates’ preferences.

Reach for white-gas stoves if you are a somewhat experienced hiker, or plan to become one shortly. They are built to last, and often some of the easiest to use once you get the hang of operating one. Keep in mind that sometimes the fuel needed to run a white-gas stove may not be available, so do your research before bringing on along when traveling abroad (especially in colder climates!).

Canister stoves, on the other hand, are the straightforward option. Classic canister stoves use fuel like isobutane, which stand up to extreme weather conditions much more readily than other fuels. The best part about canister stoves is that there are plenty of makes and models, so finding the specific one for you should be an easy and fun adventure.

We look forward to seeing you outdoors!

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