How To Buy a Camp Stove

Hot goulash under the stars and steam­ing cof­fee at dawn will give you a nice slice of civ­i­liza­tion wher­ev­er on this plan­et you might be. And boil­ing a dense snow­pack into drink­able water will keep you hydrat­ed in the moun­tains. All you need is a stove. The right stove will dras­ti­cal­ly improve not only your qual­i­ty of out­door life, but also your chances of sur­vival. The fol­low­ing top­ics will help you choose the best stove for you and your camp­ing party’s needs.

When choos­ing the best stove for your needs, ask your­self two ques­tions: do you want a stream­lined stove for boil­ing water/melting snow in the back­coun­try, or are you okay with a slight­ly bulki­er mod­el that gives you more con­trol over the heat set­tings so that you can sim­mer veg­gies and meats and impress your friends at camp with a gourmet meal?

Camp stoves are gen­er­al­ly cat­e­go­rized by fuel type. Once you under­stand your pri­ma­ry options there, you’ll want to decide how much extra vol­ume and weight you’re will­ing to car­ry. The gen­er­al rule is: if you want less weight, expect to pay a bit more.

Sin­gle Burn­er Alco­hol Stove: These are ultra-light, com­pact, and great for tak­ing on long expe­di­tions when there isn’t a lot of time or ener­gy to cook gourmet meals. The alco­hol burns with­in the burn­er until extin­guished or exhaust­ed. Sin­gle burn­er alco­hol stoves are a great option for emer­gency kits and as back­ups, but if you have the pack space, oth­er options will prove to be more efficient.

Can­is­ter Stoves: Can­is­ter stoves are refill­able, light­weight, and easy to pack. The draw­back is they require com­pact can­is­ter fuel and do not work well in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures. There are two main types of can­is­ter stoves: Upright, and low profile.

Upright Can­is­ter stoves: These have burn­er screws that screw direct­ly onto the fuel can­is­ter, which is gen­er­al­ly a fat­ter, cylin­dri­cal shape. This is the ide­al option for back­pack­ing expe­di­tions where weight and size are of impor­tance. Smaller/lightweight stoves cost more so gauge your usage.

Low Pro­file: This design sits on its own base and is con­nect­ed with the can­is­ter by a fuel line. Low pro­file stoves can be eas­i­er to set up on uneven ground but can take up a bit more space in your pack.

Inte­grat­ed Can­is­ter Stoves: Designed to be used with fuel can­is­ters, these pop­u­lar prod­ucts (such as those made by Jet­boil) use an inte­grat­ed sys­tem that includes a stove and cook­ing pot. The advan­tages of this sys­tem are fast boil­ing times, sim­plic­i­ty, and effi­cien­cy. Inte­grat­ed can­is­ter stoves are not very ver­sa­tile though so they might not be the best choice if you want to cook more sophis­ti­cat­ed camp meals for the whole family.

Liq­uid Gas Stoves: A time-test­ed and ver­sa­tile design, liq­uid gas stoves are inex­pen­sive to use and work well in both cold weath­er and at high alti­tude. Most run on white gas, which is sold in gal­lon cans at many out­door spe­cial­ty stores. These stoves either stand alone or with a sep­a­rate, liter-sized gas tank con­nect­ed via gas line, or have an inte­grat­ed gas tank in the base. Small, inte­grat­ed hand pumps that must be worked before light­ing and peri­od­i­cal­ly dur­ing cook­ing pres­sur­ize tanks.

Some liq­uid gas stoves are capa­ble of burn­ing more than white gas. Known as mul­ti-fuel stoves, these ver­sa­tile burn­ers run on white gas, unlead­ed gaso­line, kerosene, and alco­hol. They are great when trav­el­ing to places where white gas is hard to find.

 Bio-Burn­er Stoves: If you don’t want to haul fuel you might con­sid­er a more tra­di­tion­al con­cept: the bio-burn­er stove. Sim­ply add bio­mass such as small sticks or pinecones then ignite and cook away. Some new mod­els, such as the Bio­Lite Camp Stove, will even charge USB devices using the ener­gy gen­er­at­ed from the burn­ing mate­r­i­al. The down­side (or part of the fun depend­ing on you per­spec­tive) is find­ing dry mate­r­i­al in sog­gy areas. Bio-burn­er stoves also tend to be slow­er cook­ing and heav­ier than their liq­uid fuel counterparts.


Things to con­sid­er: There are a few specs that sep­a­rate the good from the expen­sive. Choose wisely.

Weight: This is obvi­ous­ly an impor­tant fac­tor depend­ing on how you plan to trans­port      your camp­ing gear. If you will be liv­ing out of your back­pack for weeks or even months, then you will want to choose a light stove that does­n’t take up too much room in your pack. Alter­na­tive­ly, if the stove won’t go fur­ther than your truck’s      tail­gate, then you might want to opt for a big­ger stove that offers more cook­ing space and bet­ter tem­per­a­ture controls.

Aver­age boil time: Depend­ing on what and where you’re cook­ing, aver­age boil time can be a decid­ing fac­tor in which stove to choose. Through-hik­ers typ­i­cal­ly opt for the speed­i­est boil time pos­si­ble so they can have their cof­fee and get on the trail with­out wast­ing too much day­light at camp. Car campers or fes­ti­val campers often don’t mind a longer boil time, as they are not in as much of a hur­ry to get on the trail. If you plan on using your burn­er in the moun­tains, remem­ber that boil time increas­es both with ele­va­tion and at cool­er temperatures.

Effi­cien­cy: Effi­cien­cy is basi­cal­ly how long your stove can run on full blast until it is out   of fuel. A decent burn rate is 10 min­utes for 1 ounce of fuel. If you’re burn­ing gas       faster than this rate, you might want to look for a more effi­cient stove.