The Best Backpacking Stoves in 2020

Before you hit the trail, you will need to make sure that you have a stove in your pack. The best backpacking stove for you after a long day is the one that meets your cooking needs, uses a fuel that is easily accessible for you, and fits your budget.

We have good news and bad news for you on this issue. The bad news is that there are so many backpacking stoves on the market that finding the right one can take a long time. The good news is we have done a lot of work for you, so you can save some time and effort to find the best backpacking stoves!

Quick Summary

  • If you are traveling with two or more companions, the Trangia 25 is an alcohol stove with the clean-burning capacity you will need.
  • Heading into the backcountry alone? The REDCAMP Mini Alcohol Stove is a super lightweight backpacking stove option for one and easy to use.
  • If you are looking for ultimate flexibility, the MSR Whisperlight Universal stove is able to burn almost any kind of fuel, so you will be able to access fuel anywhere it is sold.
  • The Solo Stove and Pot 900 Combo is a biomass stove with a wide enough base to support a larger pan, so you can boil water for you and your trail companion.
  • A biomass stove that works well for a solo backpacking hiker is the flat-pack kampMATE Woodflame Ultra, which will take up almost no space in your pack.
  • Wind is the enemy of small flames, but the REDCAMP Windproof is a canister stove that can handle the gusts.
  • For a very small, durable canister stove, the MSR PocketRocket Ultralight has lots of user-friendly features.
  • Cold weather can prevent some stoves from functioning, but the Optimus Vega 4 Season is made to keep the fuel flowing in even the coldest temperatures.
  • For ultralight backpacking, it is hard to beat the Esbit Ultralight Folding Titanium solid fuel stove, since it folds down small enough to fit in your pocket!
  • The freedom of using a biomass stove is hard to beat, but the Lixada Stainless Steel Wood Stove + Alcohol Burner has the added security of a small alcohol burner for the times that twigs are in short supply on the trail.

Best Backpacking Stove: What To Look For

Since there are so many types of backpacking stoves, it is very helpful to know what you will need so you will only look at the stoves that meet those needs. Here are some considerations you should take into account:

Capacity and Stability: How Much It Can Hold

If you are on the trails alone, you do not need to look for a large stove that can heat a liter of water at a time. If a stove is too large for your needs, you will end up wasting fuel and space in your pack!

Conversely, if you are traveling with a small group, you will be frustrated with a stove that is only capable of heating a cup or two of water. As a general rule, the broader the base of a stove, the more stable it is, and the larger the pan, it will be able to support.

Speed: The Length of Time It Takes To Heat Something

The speed of a stove has to do with how many BTUs it can produce. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, or the amount of energy it takes to heat one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. In other words, the more BTUs a stove has, the faster the water will heat. Some backpacking stoves do not measure output in BTUs, but rather by the amount of time it takes to bring water to a boil.

Fuel Type: The Kind of Energy You Will Need to Find

Stoves are typically manufactured to burn a specific type of fuel. Occasionally, you will find a stove that functions with multiple types of fuel, but it is more common to need to commit to one type. Each fuel type has its own pros and cons, so it is important to make sure that you are comfortable using that type of fuel before you choose a stove that burns it.

  • Liquid fuel (sometimes called ‘white gas’) is used to fill the fuel bottles of liquid gas stoves. Stoves that use liquid gas must be primed and pumped to create the pressure that helps the stove burn.
  • Canister stoves use pre-filled single-use canisters of isobutane. Since these single-use canisters are not refillable, you are not able to customize the amount of fuel you have to carry for shorter trips. They can also be affected by very cold temperatures.
  • Alcohol stoves are a popular choice with backpackers because alcohol is inexpensive and easy to procure. However, because it contains about half the energy by volume or either isobutane or white gas, you will need to carry more.
  • Biomass stoves burn twigs, bark, pinecones, or other flammable material that you find on the trail. Using a biomass stove means you do not have to carry fuel and can save on weight in your pack, but they can also be a risky choice since you are dependent on finding burnable material.
  • Solid fuel stoves burn tablets of hexamine, which is manufactured through a chemical reaction of formaldehyde and ammonia. These tablets are a very lightweight, non-spillable option that is popular with ultralight backpackers. However, some people find the odor of the fuel, and the black residue it leaves on pans and surfaces, to be very unpleasant.

Weather Resistance: How Wind and Cold Hardy It Is

Some stoves stand up the wind better than others – literally. In addition to having a broader base, some stoves include their own windscreens. Windy days are the enemy of any small flame, so if your stove does not include its own windscreen, you will want to add your own, which will add weight to your pack.

Additionally, some stoves perform better in very cold temperatures – and some stoves just plain do not work at all. If you plan on hiking in very cold temperatures, you will want to make sure your stove can handle the chill!

Weight and Size: How Much It Weighs and How Much Space It Takes Up

Every backpacking stove is lightweight, though some are lighter than others, and some are more packable than others. However, do not make weight your first consideration, because the stove needs to meet your needs. A stove might be really lightweight, but if it is not able to function in 30-degree weather, you saved all that weight for nothing!

The best plan of action is to choose the type of stove you need, and then look for the lightest stove in that category that fits your budget.

Once you decide the capacity you need and choose which fuel you would like to work with, the other choices become. Here are our picks for the best backpacking stoves.

Best Backpacking Stove: Our Picks

1. Trangia 25 Alcohol Burner

  • Save

The Swedish-made alcohol-burning Trangia 25 series is a good stove if you plan to travel with two or three other people, since it is capable of boiling 1.5 liters of water at one time. This stove comes with two pans and a kettle, so you have lots of flexibility with your cooking choices.

Why We Like It:

  • Two pans and a kettle are included
  • The super-long burn time of 8 hours makes this a good choice for longer trips
  • Denatured alcohol is an inexpensive fuel choice, and you can easily re-fill the stove yourself.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • At 45 ounces, this set is heavier than some, but it also includes the cookware.
  • You might not be comfortable transporting denatured alcohol in your pack, and you cannot fly with this type of fuel, so if you are traveling with this stove, you might encounter difficulties in purchasing the right kind of fuel at your destination.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

2. REDCAMP Mini Alcohol Stove

  • Save

The REDCAMP Mini Alcohol Stove is a good choice if you plan on doing a solo hike, since the boil time of a cup of water is about four minutes.

Why We Like It:

  • Weighing only five ounces, you will hardly even notice the weight this camp stove adds to your pack.
  • This backpacking stove will burn for nearly one hour on just 3.5 ounces of alcohol.
  • This stove is easy to refill with denatured alcohol, so you can customize the amount you need to carry for the length of your trip.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • Denatured alcohol cannot be carried on airplanes, so if you plan to travel with this backpacking stove, you will need to make sure that an appropriate fuel is available at your destination.
  • You may also need to carry a windscreen to protect the flame of this very small backpacking stove.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

3. MSR Whisperlight Universal Canister and Liquid Fuel Stove

  • Save

The MSR Whisperlight Universal stove is able to burn almost any liquid fuel from any kind of canister, giving you the freedom to avoid worrying about what kind of fuel will be available wherever you go. Of course, you will have to buy the canisters and fuel separately.

Why We Like It:

  • With attachments for canister fuel, white gas, kerosene or even unleaded gasoline, you will have almost unlimited fuel flexibility.
  • The included inverter stand for canister fuel makes this backpacking stove cold-weather friendly.
  • The included windscreen also acts as a heat reflector to increase the efficiency of the stove.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • While the minimum components of this stove weigh just 11 ounces, bringing all the elements with you means it weighs more than one pound, so this is a heavier stove than many.
  • The stiffness of the hose attachment for the canister can make setting up the stove on an uneven surface a challenge.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

4. Solo Stove and Pot 900 Combo Biomass Stove

  • Save

The Solo Stove and Pot 900 Combo is a good choice if you plan to travel with a companion, or if you are traveling by yourself and would like to boil water at once, and you know that you will have access to plenty of burnable fuel. Though it is larger than some backpacking stoves, the fact that you do not also need to carry fuel makes it comparable in weight to other lighter stoves.

Why We Like It:

  • This stove and pot combination can heat nearly four cups of water at once.
  • There is no need to carry fuel for this stove, since it will burn whatever is available.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • Soot from the fire will accumulate on the bottom of anything that comes in contact with the flames, so to keep the inside of your pack clean, you will need to remove the soot before packing it each day. Burning only hardwoods will help reduce the soot, but hardwood may not be readily available.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

5. kampMATE Woodflame Ultra Biomass Stove

  • Save

If a biomass stove appeals to you, but you prefer a slimmer profile, the kampMATE Woodflame Ultra is a great choice. The stove is durable and easy to set up – just slide the pieces into one another like you are assembling a box.

Why We Like It:

  • The flatpack design means that it can rest inside your pack and take up almost no space at all – and there is no fuel to carry, either.
  • Crossbars on top of the stove allow you to boil water for a smaller cup, while the wider square base can also accommodate a larger pan.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • As with any biomass stove, soot accumulation can be a problem. You might also not be comfortable with taking the risk that burnable fuel will be present at every place you camp.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

6. REDCAMP Windproof Canister Stove

  • Save

The REDCAMP Windproof portable stove is a very lightweight option for isobutane canisters. The ignition switch means that you do not have to rifle through your pack for a lighter. You will have to purchase the isobutane fuel canister separately, but they are easy to obtain at camping supply and hardware stores.

Why We Like It:

  • The adjustable flame on this stove can raise and lower the heat output, which means that simmering or even warming food is possible.
  • It is powerful enough to boil a liter of water in less than two minutes.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • Since you cannot adjust the amount of fuel in a single-use isobutane fuel canister, you cannot customize the amount of fuel you need for a shorter trip.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

7. MSR PocketRocket Ultralight Canister Stove

  • Save

All backpacking stoves are lightweight, but the MSR PocketRocket Ultralight has a reputation for being the lightest and sturdiest of them all. At less than three ounces and less than three inches, this tiny fuel canister stove will fit in your pocket. (Note: You will have to purchase the fuel canister separately.)

Why We Like It:

  • The windclipped windscreen on the burner head means that even if one or even two of the sections are blown out by a gust of wind, the stove will continue to burn.
  • The serrated pot-supports can hold a wide variety of pot sizes, and the fold-down around the body of the stove for easy storage.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • It is loud and sounds rather like a jet engine when it is lit, so if a quiet canister stove is something that is important to you, this stove might not be a good fit.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

8. Optimus Vega 4 Season Canister Stove

  • Save

If you are planning on needing more than two layers when you set out on the trail, the Optimus Vega 4 Season stove is an excellent choice, since it will not hesitate to burn efficiently even in very cold temperatures. Weighing just six ounces, this stove also comes with a windscreen to help make cooking on a windy day more successful.

As with any cold-weather canister stove, it is important to invert the canister before you try to light this stove in cold temperatures. You can also invert the fuel canister if you want the flame of the stove to be larger in warm weather.

Why We Like It:

  • The low profile of this canister stove makes it sturdy and less likely to tip in windy conditions.
  • The included windscreen offers good protection for the flame.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • Regulating the flame on this canister stove can be difficult, so if you plan to do more than just boil water, you might want to look at another option.
  • The stiffness of the hose can make setting up the stove on uneven surfaces a big challenge.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

9. Esbit Ultralight Folding Titanium Solid Fuel Stove

  • Save

The Esbit Ultralight Folding Titanium stove is a very good choice if you want to avoid liquid fuel sloshing around in the fuel bottle, and you do not want to search for burnable fuel. Because it takes up almost no space and adds very little weight, this is also a good option for a backup stove or for a small backpacking stove to keep in an emergency kit at home.

Why We Like It:

  • Since it folds down to a size of less than three square inches and weighs less than one ounce, this is a great choice for ultralight backpacking.
  • With a few parts, there is no maintenance and nothing to break.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • Solid fuel is the result of a chemical reaction between formaldehyde and ammonia, so it will smell accordingly!
  • Solid fuel tends to leave an oily residue on the bottom of pots and pans.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

10. Lixada Stainless Steel Wood Stove + Alcohol Burner

  • Save

The Lixada Stainless Steel Wood Stove + Alcohol Burner gives you the flexibility of choosing to burn biomass or using the pocket alcohol burner for heating your dinner. The flat-pack stove weighs less than seven ounces, and the alcohol burner adds about four more, so it will not significantly increase the weight of your pack for the added peace of mind it brings.

Why We Like It:

  • Lightweight and versatile, this combination can ensure that you will still boil water and get a hot meal even if you cannot find enough twigs and burnable material to keep a small fire going.
  • The hinge and pin assembly make it quick to set up and add to the sturdiness of the stove – it can be moved to a different place after it is assembled without the stove pieces slipping apart.

Why It Might Not Be For You:

  • The alcohol burner can leak if alcohol is stored in it, so it is best to carry the denatured alcohol in a separate bottle and fill it as needed.
  • Because the edges of the stove can be very sharp, you will need to use the included sandpaper to smooth down the edges.

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Stove Care: Staying Safe On the Trail and At Home

No matter which stove you choose to carry, you should always travel with at least two other ways to make fire in case of an emergency, like running out of fuel, or in case the ignition on your stove fails. A small butane lighter is a popular choice, and waterproof matches are also a good choice to keep in your pack. A flint and steel or a ferro rod are also handy to have, since they never run out of fuel, but you should practice using them before you hit the trail, since it can take a few strikes to get a good spark.

It is very important that you know how to tell how much fuel is left in your canister before you set out! Make sure that you measure and mark any canisters you bring along, especially if they have been previously used.

Finally, when you get home, you should learn how to store your leftover fuel, or how to safely dispose of fuel you no longer need. As with anything that is flammable, you need to treat all fuel with care and dispose of it in a way that is safe for living things. Make sure that your stove is clean and free of soot. Store it away from temperature changes and humidity. Your stove will be your hiking companion for many years, so take good care of it, and enjoy all the warmth it brings you!

What is your favorite backpacking stove? What food do you like to make when you are on the trail? Let us know!

Leave a Comment

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap