Best Backpacking Stoves: The Top 5 of 2019

Backpacking stoves come in so many varieties it can be hard to wrap your head around it. However, all these options means that there’s something out there for everyone’s needs.

When we head out the door for a backpacking trip, choosing our stove system for cooking is a critical consideration. Do I take a heavier stove with more fuel and an easier to use functionality? Or do I save weight and opt for an ultralight backpacking stove that’s more finicky or harder to operate? It’s always a trade-off.

To help you know which one to get, we’ve listed below our picks of the five best backpacking stoves available today. Then we’re going to examine what makes a great backpacking stove and how you can pick the right one for your needs. Let’s get to it!

Top Pick: Snow Peak LiteMax Titanium Stove

The Snow Peak LiteMax Titanium Stove earns our Top Pick award for being a nice blend of lightness, functionality, and affordability. This canister fuel stove weighs in at less than 2oz yet provides tons of convenience since canister stove options are simple and intuitive to operate.

With an easy-to-adjust knob, you can quickly turn the flame from full power to a gentle simmer. Though the stove itself is only 2oz, when it comes to weight considerations, be prepared to carry any used fuel canisters out of the woods with you. You’ll want to carry a good backpacking lighter to ignite the stove, too.

On a final note, these stoves have wide bases but tend to be tall so an additional windscreen could greatly help improve efficiency.

Best Value: Etekcity Ultralight Portable Outdoor Backpacking Camping Stove with Piezo Ignition

For a great price, you can pick up a pocket-sized canister stove burner with an electronic ignition. It’s hard to beat that value. Canister stoves are simple, versatile, and the electronic Piezo ignition means you can light the stove at the push of a button. No batteries needed!

Canister stoves like this one are hassle-free, simple, and foolproof. They’re awesome options for solo backpackers. Without a doubt, canister stoves are the most popular option on the market today.

Highly adjustable fuel output means that, like most canister stoves, changing the stove from a full boil to a low simmer is simple.

The downside?

Because this stove is made from stainless steel base material, it will be significantly heavier than other comparable stoves. So, if weight is a big consideration for you, look elsewhere. If price is your biggest concern, though, then look no further.

Best for Techies: BioLite Campstove

Wood-burning backpacking stoves are a touchy subject for many. They’re often heavier than other options on the market.

However, the upside of that trade-off is that you don’t need to carry any fuel. Simply find fuel on your trip each evening and burn that fuel to warm your dinner. In that respect, they can ultimately weigh less than other stoves by alleviating the need for carried fuel.

The BioLite CampStove takes it a step further by harvesting energy from burned fuel to not only cook your meal but charge your phone or GPS. If you’re carrying tech gadgets and need a charge, consider taking the CampStove to be able to cook food and charge up your devices.

Ultralight Pick: Zelph’s Stoves StarLyte Stove

While there are tons of ultralight alcohol backpacking stoves out there, we’ve chosen the Zelph StarLyte because it tips the scales at just 0.5oz overall. Weighing less than an ounce is great for keeping pack weight down, but it also means it will come with a few drawbacks.

The StarLyte is feature-slim and has a few considerations to keep in mind. You’ll have to burn all the alcohol fuel each time in order to store the stove. Otherwise the unused fuel will spill all over your bag. With practice, however, you’ll get used to this small quirk. The other big drawback is that the stove is small and provides very little base of support to balance your pot. It’s easy to accidentally knock the pot off the stove.

There is no windscreen included, but you’ll want one because it is extremely important for an alcohol stove. Always use a windscreen to maximize efficiency.

Most Reliable: MSR WhisperLite Stove

This stove isn’t going to win any contests for lightweight function. You’ll firstly need to carry the stove itself which is much larger than most canister stoves. You’ll also need the fuel pump and the fuel bottle. Together, these pieces are larger and heavier than most other backpacking stoves

Why is this stove included on our list, then?

Because liquid fuel stoves are extremely reliable and flexible options for single or multiple backpackers in any weather conditions or elevations. While canister stoves can lose efficiency at high altitudes or cold temperatures, the MSR Whisperlite suffers no such shortcomings.

Completely field serviceable and rugged, this stove has been trusted by programs like the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) for years. Once you know how to use it and repair it, you’ll be hard pressed to leave it behind on any trip.

How to Choose the Best Backpacking Stove for Your Needs

As always, the best choice for your backpacking equipment might not be everyone’s first choice. So, what factors do you need to consider when making your pick for the stove that will find its home in your backpack?

Let’s take a look at some of the most important criteria.

Weight

As with any backpacking equipment, it’ll fall on you to carry it around the mountains day in and day out. Most of us prefer to carry as little weight as possible when climbing mountains, crossing rivers, and seeking shelter. That’s not to say that lightweight gear need be the most important choice for every hiker. Minimize weight were possible but be sure to choose a stove you’re comfortable with using!

Bulk

There’s only so much room in your pack and every piece of gear takes up a little space. Often, people choose to purchase all of their gear first and then pick a backpack which accommodates their gear needs. If you’re just starting out, this can be a great way to avoid running out of room in your backpack. If you already have a backpack, then just be sure to consider the overall size of your stove choice and how that fits with your other gear.

Type of Stove

There are many variations of stoves available to the modern backpacker, but we’ll review the four most popular types and their pros and cons. They are:

  • Liquid Fuel Stoves
  • Canister Stoves
  • Alcohol Stoves
  • Wood-burning Stoves

Let’s break down each in turn.

Liquid Fuel Stoves

These stoves are usually bulkier and heavier than the other options. They’re great for extreme weather or elevations such as those encountered when mountaineering. They’re also sometimes more efficient in group camping situations such as expeditions or group trips. Liquid fuel stoves can often burn multiple fuels such as gasoline, white gas, or even jet fuel. These make great choices for institutional group trips or rugged mountaineering adventures.

Canister Stoves

These are by far the most popular type of stove on the trail today. Screw in the stove to a pressurized bottle of fuel, ignite the stove, and you’re ready to go. No priming, no hassle. They’re usually very lightweight and compact, too.

Canister stoves have their drawbacks in extreme weather or large group cooking situations, though. These are the perfect no-hassle choice for a solo backpacker in 3-season weather.

Alcohol Stoves

These, along with solid fuel (Esbit) stoves, make up the majority of the “ultralight” stoves. Among super lightweight backpackers, most will opt for these stoves. They’re extremely lightweight, can often be made at home, and are very fuel efficient when used properly. These stoves can be finicky and flimsy, however, and you’ll want to be sure they’re a good match for your needs as the low weight comes with an often hassle-prone trade-off.

Wood-burning Stoves

These stoves serve to contain the fire of wood-burning fuel which means you don’t need a fire-ring. You can build a small fire of slim twigs and have a pot of water boiling in no time. Of course, these are bad choices in areas with slim or no fuel for burning. They take longer to set up and boil than other options, but a lightweight wood-burning stove can sometimes be a great option as you’ll avoid having to carry fuel sources with you.

These are good choices if you don’t mind taking extra time each night to find sticks to burn and aren’t worried about wet fuel from prolonged rainy weather.