Choosing a backpacking stove

A step by step guide to get the right stove…

Or… If you wanna cut to the chase... my recommendations at the bootom of the page...

There are numerous backpacking stoves out in the market. It can easily take you too much time to choose. This is a simple three steps way to get the right stove:

1.    Figure out your needs and budget.
2.    Choose the stove type (what fuel should it use)
3.    Choose your specific stove (size and weight, Brand, Price, etc)

Now, in details…

First - Figure out your needs and budget.

  • How long are you going to carry it on your back? Day hike? Long trail? A few days in the forest?
  • How much should it weigh? Can you tolerate some extra ounces? Does it have to be ultralight?
  • How many people should it serve?
  • Any fuel limitation? Traveling abroad? Can you count on a steady fuel supply?
  • What are you going to use it for? Just boil water? Do you plan some gourmet cooking?
  • What's your budget? Backpacking stove prices range from next to nothing to around 200USD (for reasonable stoves that is…)

Second – choose stove type

Here is a summary of the different stove types. Use it to figure out which is the one for you. Click on the headlines for more details on the different options.

Gas stoves (Canister stoves)

Running on liquid gas blends such as Butane, Propane or some mixture of the two. Generally speaking, it's the simplest and most straight forward option. Numerous variants out there. The main reason not to use it is if you plan to use your stove cold temperatures.

  • Simple to use
  • Clean burn, no odor
  • Full simmer control
  • No maintenance required
  • Many brands
  • Not dealing wind very good.
  • Using windscreen is problematic.
  • Tend to fail in cold temperatures
  • Fuel somewhat expensive
  • Fuel canister not always available out side north America and Europe

Gasoline backpacking stoves

(Many times referred to as multi fuel stoves)
Running on white-gas, unleaded, kerosene and more. A good multi fuel stove is as reliable as the other stoves types. You can run it on white gas throughout North America and on other fuels all over the world. The stove might get a little expensive.

  • Works in any weather
  • Fuel can be find anywhere on the planet
  • High heat
  • Comparatively inexpensive fuel
  • Messy
  • Smelly
  • Need maintenance
  • Requires a preheat phase

Alcohol stoves

Running on denatured alcohol. A great option if you are not in a rush… It's not very fuel efficient but on the other hand, fuel can be carried in any container, not just in a dedicated one.

  • Simple to use
  • Clean burn, no odor
  • Quiet burning
  • Ultralight (in most cases)
  • Low fuel cost
  • Easy to carry fuel around, no unique container
  • No moving parts, hence reliable.
  • Low heat
  • Few significant brands
  • In case of most DIY versions – somewhat squeezable
  • Careful! In full sunlight the flame might be invisible.

Wood burning camp stove

This is an option too… there are several backpacking stoves that run on wood. Usually, it's a low rate option.

  • Fuel is for free
  • Usually low overall weight (since you carry no fuel)
  • Low cost
  • Can be used to warm you up
  • It's real fire after all, which is always fun to gaze at…
  • You might get stuck with no fuel
  • Makes smoke like a campfire
  • Might leave trace
  • Need continuous care during cooking
  • Some of the stoves are relatively big
  • Will turn all cookware black and smelly
  • Require some campfire skills in order to ignite

Wood gas stove

It's a stove that you feed with plain wood. Once burning, the wood is gasified. Then, the wood gas is ignited. It runs with little to no smoke. The commercial versions are usually heavy. The homemade, on the other hand can do the job as a backpacking stove.

  • Fuel is (almost) everywhere, and it's free.
  • Almost no smoke (when comparing to the wood burning stove).
  • You can build it yourself.
  • Usually needs battery to operate
  • You might find yourself with no fuel (unless you gather it on the way).
  • Comparing to gas, alcohol and liquid fuel stove, makes some smoke.
  • Usually heavy and relatively big.
  • Require some campfire skills.

Third – choose your specific stove 

(size and weight, Brand, Price, etc)

OK, after choosing a backpacking stove type, let's focus on what stove to buy. There are numerous options. It can get really frustrating.  In my opinion, check out these parameters:

Heat – how long does it take it to boil a liter of water?
Efficiency – how much water can it boil on, say, 100g of fuel?
Brand – since you are buying it for years, it's nice to know who is behind it.
Price – it can range from nothing to hundreds of bucks.

The numbers can be usualy found either on the manufacturer site or on the dealers website. You can just go to any on-line store and check out what they got. The way I see it, from here it's up to your preferences. Are you willing to pay for a known brand? Do you care only about efficiency? Do you have a friend with a good recommendation? (this always works best for me…).  There are many, many stoves. You can see some of them in other pages here in my site.


If you wanna cut to the chase... Here are my recommendations:


Fair and simple High end
Gas stove optimus-stove-crux-folded
Optimus Crux
Can be found for about 40$.
I'dd also consider Coleman exponent F1 ultralight.
Primus EtaExpress.
I would consider the MSR reactor too. It is much more expensive, though.
multi fuel backpacking stove Coleman-Feather-442-Dual-Fuel-Stove
Coleman 442.

for 60$ to 70$ 
primus-omnifuel-stovePrimus omnifuel.
for ~120$
Alcohol stove
DIY pepsi can stove.
Consider the trangia westwind if you are not a DIY person. It should cost around 25$.
Trangia-25Trangia 25/27