Honestly, I never put too much thought into my backpacking stove until a friend of mine started using my backpacking weight calculator and messaged me to ask how it was possible that my stove was so light – she thought it was a typo, at just over 3 ounces.
It was not a typo, friends, and I still have that same stove today, 5+ years later, and love it!
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She had been carrying an 12 ounce stove, and that’s without the weight of fuel added in!
So, bare with me, I’m about to nerd out and tell you all about the different types of backpacking stoves so you can figure out what the best stove is for you, and upgrade if you need to.
5 Types of backpacking stoves
These are arguably the most commonly used stove. They are ultralight, and usually fold up to be very compact, so they can fit right inside your cook pot or mug. Canister stoves are made to attach to a self-sealing, pre-pressurized can of fuel.
They are pretty easy to operate, since they don’t require any priming and some even come with an auto start feature that makes a small spark to lights the stove instead of you having to use a match or lighter. (Although manually lighting it isn’t very hard, but can be a bit scary in the beginning!)
Canister stoves are great for cooking for 1-2 people and do have the ability to actually cook and simmer food in there. You can do more than just boil water in these bad boys versus the Jetboil, which really is only meant for boiling water (consider yourself warned.)
Their one downfall is, since the cans of fuel are pre-pressurized, they can be finicky in very cold weather. But I hear you can overcome this by keeping the can warm, in your sleeping bag with you at night, and shaking it before using it, if it’s cold.
Denatured alcohol stoves:
This is another popular choice among ultralight backpackers and long distance hikers. You can get these pre-made, like the one pictured above, or make your own classic coke can or cat can stove. Another perk is once you have a good idea of how much fuel you use to cook, you only have to carry as much fuel as you need (and maybe a little extra just in case.)
Denatured alcohol stoves are also great for cooking for just one or two people.
Liquid Fuel Stoves:
These stoves do tend to be on the heavier side, but are great for cooking and simmering meals for bigger groups, like 3-5 hikers. And liquid fuel or white gas is more readily available if you’re travelling internationally or places that aren’t so well known for backpacking.
Liquid fuel stoves do take a little bit more effort, and mastery, to light since you have to manually pressurize the fuel container each time, prime the stove, then turn it on. But that manual pressurization means it works more efficiently in cold weather.
Pellet or tablet Stoves:
These are also an ultralight option that use small fuel tablets that burn to create heat under your pot. While they are very inexpensive, I have to be honest and say the few hikers that I’ve met who have had this type of stove, did not like it! I’ve heard it takes a very, very long time to make water hot enough to have a hot meal, and in some conditions, like if it was even a little bit windy or a little bit chilly out, it just wouldn’t really work at all.
But, if you’ve used a pellet or tablet stove and liked it – please let me know in the comments below! It’s just like I said, I haven’t used one, and the few people I know who have, only had bad experiences.
Wood Burning Stoves:
These stoves are gaining buzz and popularity, especially since Biolite released a wood burning camp stove with a USB charging port on it. But for me, the cons outweigh the pros on this one.
They aren’t very cheap, some are light but some are also very heavy (like 2 lbs!) and on top of that, you would always need to have perfectly sized, dry wood on hand. If you’ve ever been backpacking for more than a long weekend, you know sometimes it can just rain and rain and rain for days. Everything is wet, inside and out, I can’t imagine relying on a wood burning stove in times like that.
But again – if you have a wood burning stove and love it – I’d love to hear from you, so I can change my tune!
For now though, I’ll stick with my Snow Peak GigaPower canister stove.
If you have any questions about backpacking stoves or want to share your favorite stove, leave a comment below.