How To Choose A Backpacking Stove?

Rilor Staff
Update: August 19, 2021
Table of Contents

How to choose a backpacking stove? 

For starters, cooking might be a thing that they want to try for their first camping trip. Of course, the idea of being able to cook your meals while in the wild is definitely riveting. Those who have been doing this errand for quite some time already have the insight that having the right cooking tools and a well-prepared menu is essential in enjoying sumptuous meals in the wild. 

A camping stove is an essential cooking ware, especially if your campsite doesn't allow the building of fires. Also, if you don't have plans of looking for branches and igniting them manually, then you should have a reliable outdoor stove. 

How To Choose A Backpacking Stove

There are numerous things that you need to consider whenever buying a camping stove. You need to have an idea of how many people are there that you need to cook for. You might also have to delve into the type of fuel available for the stove, as well as the latter's mechanisms. 

Meanwhile, the following serves as a foolproof guideline when choosing a stove that you can take on your adventures. 

Types Of Camping/Backpacking Stoves

  1. Canister Stoves  

One of the most typical stoves used by backpackers and campers today is canister stoves. They are simple to use and don't require rigid maintenance. You simply have to screw or attach the stove to the top of the fuel canister, and it will work the way you expect it. There are two fuels that you can use for canister stoves: propane and isobutane.

Some of these canister stoves have a compact size. You can fold them so that they can fit in your pack. Their weight is almost non-existent. 

Advantages of canister stoves: 

  • Lightweight and portable
  • They are easy to ignite; you don't need to prime them anymore before they light
  • They produce adjustable flames; they have decent simmering, too
  • Once you unscrew the stove, the canister will seal itself; there's no need to worry about leaks and spills
  • Other canister stove models have pressure regulators integrated into them so that they can function more efficiently

Disadvantages of canister stoves:

  • They have small arms that aren't compatible with huge pots
  • It is difficult to identify the remaining fuel inside the canister fuels; hence, it is essential that you bring extra canisters for good measure
  • They shouldn't be used with a windscreen because that can result in the trapping of heat, which, in turn, would cause the fuel to explode
  • Canisters aren't that useful when they are exposed to cold weather since they are prone to be depressurized; the only exception here is using a stove with a pressure regulator
  • Fuel costs of these canister stoves are pretty high
  • You have to learn how to dispose of the canisters properly to avoid environmental harms

Interestingly enough, there are several variations available for these canister stoves! Here are some of them:

  • Remote canister stoves - This particular stove has its own base and fuel hose that directly attaches to fuel canisters. You can pack them compactly and lightly. However, they are bulkier than the standard canister stoves. You can flip over these stoves so that they can work in cold conditions and low temperatures. Moreover, they have broad arms so that they can hold big pots. 
  • Integrated canister stoves - Unlike conventional canister stoves, these integrated systems have a tall construction. They come with a burner that you can screw to the fuel canister. You can use them with cooking pots and French press--if you like to have a sip of your favorite coffee. Keep in mind that the general function of these integrated canister stoves is to boil water fast. They usually have a built-in pressure regulator so that they can work in cold conditions and elevated areas. But because they are tall, they are easy to topple.
  1. Liquid-Fuel Stoves

Another type of outdoor stove that you should consider is a liquid-fuel stove. Specifically, these liquid-fuel stoves are using white gas for them to operate. This particular gas is highly efficient because it has been refined properly. Hence, there are minimal impurities on it. 

With a white gas, the stove burns cleanly and efficiently. Furthermore, they can also function at low temperatures. In fact, they can work in freezing temperatures. When it comes to the per-ounce price, it is undeniable that white gas is cheaper than canister fuels. 

Moreover, it is notable that these liquid-fuel stoves are also compatible with other fuels such as diesel, jet fuel, kerosene, and even unleaded gasoline. Due to this versatility, liquid-fuel stoves are great for individuals who travel internationally from time to time. After all, your fuel choices are limited if you are outside the United States. 

Advantages of liquid-fuel stoves:

  • They are low-profile and can be packed compactly
  • Liquid-fuel stoves have exceptional stability even if the ground is not flat
  • You can identify if you are running out of fuel; simply peer on the fuel container to see the remaining contents
  • There's no need for you to discard the fuel container or bottle; which is quite the opposite when it comes to canister fuels
  • A liquid-fuel stove has impressive functionality even under frigid conditions and elevated areas

Disadvantages of liquid-fuel stoves

  • You are required to prime and maintain it regularly
  • They are prone to fuel spillages
  • Compared to canister stoves, they are heavier
  • They are costlier than canister stoves
  • If you don't use white gas on liquid-fuel stoves, you have to deal with impurities, which, in turn, could cause the stoves to clog
  1. Camping / Backing Stoves With Alternative Fuels

Having a stove that is using alternative fuels is quite a good deal. Specifically, they are an ideal choice for long-distance backcountry applications. Moreover, they are also useful in emergencies and survival instances. 

The weight of these stoves vary; some are light while others are bulky and heavy. Here are some of your options when it comes to these alternatives:

Stoves Using Wood As Fuel

These stoves are the perfect alternative for people who don't want to start a campfire from scratch. They serve as a portable platform so that you can burn the leaves and twigs on your area as quickly and efficiently as possible. You don't need to carry fuel anymore, as long as your destination has stray branches and other kindling materials. Ultralight backpacking trips will benefit from these stoves. 


  • They are lightweight and compact
  • They have simple structure and operation; they don't require a steep learning curve before you can use them properly
  • Other models of these wood-burning stoves can produce electricity while they are running
  • Other models of these wood-burning stoves are compatible with small grills


  • You have to spend time to gather your kindling materials; if the weather is rainy or snowy, doing such an errand is difficult
  • Some areas and camping sites don't allow the burning of twigs, branches, and leaves--especially if you are on elevated areas
Stoves Using Denatured Alcohol

I know that some of you haven't heard of these stoves, but they do exist! In fact, they are quite popular for ultralight campers and backpackers. After all, these stoves only weigh less than two ounces. You don't need to fuss over the fuel since you can just bring a bottle of alcohol, which isn't that problematic. 


  • They don't require extensive maintenance; you don't need to prime them, either
  • Denatured alcohol is cheap and available in most states and countries
  • Denatured alcohol tends to burn quietly


  • It is not a secret that denatured alcohol doesn't burn hot as compared to white gas and canister fuel; hence, it will take time for the alcohol to boil water
  • You will need a lot of this fuel so that you boil and cook food
  • These stoves will require the use of windscreen
Stoves Using Solid Fuels

You can also consider these stoves in your backpacking and camping trips. They are light and compact enough to fit inside your pack or pocket.


  • They are inexpensive; in fact, they are the cheapest outdoor stoves available today
  • They are lightweight; even a combo model will only weigh roughy 6 ounces
  • Of course, these stoves are compact and foldable
  • These tablets are quick to ignite; they are easy to put out, too


  • Similar to denatured alcohol, tablet fuels don't run hot; hence, they would need time before they can boil water
  • They produce noticeable smell or odor
  • Tablet fuels are prone to leave grease and messy residues in your cooking wares.

Other Considerations In Choosing Camping Stoves

Aside from knowing the different outdoor stoves out there, you must also be aware of the following factors. They will help you refine your selection and arrive at a pick that suits your needs, preferences, and intended application.


The weight of the stove matters for a lot of people. Some intentionally shed weight on their trips. If you are among them, the stove you pick mustn't be heavy. Even an increase of few ounces can impact thru-hikers and ultralight backpackers. But of course, others don't mind the weight. Glampers and tailgaters, for instance, are free to bring large stoves. 

Burn Time 

In choosing an outdoor stove, it is crucial that you pay attention to its burn time. In fact, you can always use this factor as a means of comparing two stoves. The more efficient the burn time, the easier it is for you to cook multiple meals per a particular fuel volume. 

Boiling Time

Another aspect that you have to consider is the boiling time of these stoves. A fuel-efficient stove should have a quick boiling time. For example, a canister stove can boil water fast; it also works well in simmering. Meanwhile, liquid-fuel stoves can still boil water fast even under cold conditions. However, their ability to simmer varies from one model to another. Of course, those alternative-fuel stoves can still boil. But at the same time, they aren't that fast. 

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