There are many different ways to cut your costs when traveling but one of the most effective is to cook your own food on a camping stove.
When I first the road I took a battered tent and a nearly indestructible old backpacking stove given to me by my father. I camped out, and cooked my own meals, probably four or five days a week for nearly two years... It was an amazing experience, and it saved me a ton of money.
I'm a big believer in supporting yourself when your travel or hike. It makes you a stronger, more capable individual.
Hiking with a tent and a high-quality backpacking stove gives you a ton of freedom as it means you don't have to worry about where you're going to sleep, or how you're going to eat, in the evenings (And did I mention it's a great way to save money?).
I've been camping out and cooking on backpacking stoves for nearly ten years now. I'm passionate about being outdoors and providing for myself in beautiful, truly wild, places.
Over the last ten years, I've owned half a dozen different backpacking stoves and in this in-depth review, I'll compare some of the best backpacking stoves on the market so you can choose the perfect burner for you based on your own weight, fuel and budget preferences.
Table of Contents
- Top Picks for 7 Best Camping Stoves in 2018
- #1 The Best Overall Backpacking Stove
- #2 Best Value Canister Backpacking Stove
- #3 Best Jetboil Backpacking Stove
- #4 Best Liquid Fuel Backpacking Stove
- #5 Best Budget Backpacking Stove
- #6 Best Multi Fuel Backpacking Stove
- #7 Best Wood Burning Backpacking Stove
- What to Consider when picking a Backpacking Stove
- Conclusion: Do I really need a backpacking stove?
Quick Answer: The Best Backpacking Stove
- Best Overall Backpacking Stove - MSR Windburner
- Best Value Canister Backpacking Stove - MSR PocketRocket 2
- Best Jetboil Backpacking Stove - Jetboil Zip
- Best Liquid Burning Stove - MSR Whisperlite
- Best Budget Backpacking Stove - Etekcity
- Best Multifuel Backpacking Stove - Lixada
- Best Wood Burning Backpacking Stove - Biolite CampStove 2
- Jump to --> Backpacking Stove Reviews
Comparison of the Best Backpacking Stoves
The best backpacking stoves are reliable, durable and work quickly. Let's be honest, a warm meal after hiking through the wilderness and waking up to a hot cup of coffee, can be pretty damn hard to beat!
I've saved an absolute fortune over the years by cooking my own meals and traveling with a lightweight backpacking stove was a crucial part of my strategy to stay on the road long-term.
There are a ton of high quality hiking stoves out there so really you are spoiled for choice. Read on and I'll introduce you to the different types of backpacker friendly camping stoves on the market as well as the best backpacking stove for newbie hikers...
The best backpacking stoves don’t add kilos to your backpack, thankfully over the years, outdoor companies have continued to innovate and have introduced lighter, more compact, stoves. I've used a few backpacking stoves over the years and whilst my favourite is hands down the MSR Windburner, there's a lot of great options on the market.
When determining what is the best backpacking stove for you, consider a number of factors before boiling down (haha!) to the best option. I’ve compared a variety of the best backpacking stoves on the market with detailed backpacking stove reviews, to help you sift through the clutter...
Top Picks for 7 Best Camping Stoves in 2018
#1 The Best Overall Backpacking Stove
MSR's flagship hiking stove is the MSR Windburner and this is by far the best quality backpacking camping stove on the market right now. The Windburner has everything you need in it’s all in one integrated stove/cookware system, including a secure 1L lock pot, coffee press and personal mug. If you buy this set, you won't need anything else.
This stove runs off canister fuel and whilst it is expensive it offers a fully integrated system which makes it simply awesome...
When you're camping, you need a high-quality stove for backpacking that will protect against the wind, this is exactly what makes the Windburner so great. The primary combustion and internal pressure regulator enables this backpacking stove to be unaffected by the surrounding weather, which is why the boiling times are so rapid.
This backpacking stove has high profile stability, even on uneven terrain. During windy weather, the folding canister stand prevents it from tipping over. The Windburner can cook up enough grub for two people and potentially more if you purchase additional accessories. Check out this video on how to use the MSR windburner stove whilst camping out.
Although the Windburner backpacking stove is easy to use, it doesn’t have an automatic lighting button. Another downfall is that the canister is sold separately; therefore the overall price of your backpacking stove increases when you purchase the necessary extras.
Is the MSR Windburner for you?
While not cheap, this is one of the highest quality camping stoves on the market. The MRS offers incredibly high quality and is a worthwhile investment if you'll be spending a lot of time camping out and want to be able to cook up quickly and easily. Highly recommended.
This is the exact same ultralight backpacking stove that I am currently traveling with and cooking on when I camp out. The PocketRocket offers incredible value for an affordable price and packs up small.... very small. This ultra lightweight stove weighs in at 2.6 oz and folds down to 2 x 2 x 3 inches and is the best canister stove on the market right now.
I've used a few canister fuel lightweight stoves over the years and the MSR PocketRocket is by far my favourite. You can usually pick up fuel canisters in most places around the world - I even recently found some canisters in a tiny shop whilst camping out on an island off the coast of Iran...
It is ideal for long-term use and for creating elaborate hot meals. You can adjust the flame to bring water to a boil or to simply simmer that delicious spaghetti sauce. Built into the PocketRocket backpacking stove is a wind clip to shield the flame in breezy conditions.
This stove is not integrated with a cook pot like the Windburner or Jetboil, below, so whilst it is ultra lightweight, you will need some additional accessories to actually cook with it.
Is the MSR PocketRocket for you?
The MSR PocketRocket was voted the best backpacking stove of 2017 and is still going strong in 2018. I love this stove and intend on using it on many more adventures. This super compact stove is ideal for ultralight backpacking or trekking trips and can cater up to two people and is definitely one of the top ten camping stoves out there.
#3 Best Jetboil Backpacking Stove
The Jetboil Zip is the best camping stove for backpacking if you're a solo traveller who prefers the benefits of canister fuel.
It’s great with both simmering and boiling, due to its adjustable burner. Included is an 800ml cup/bowl with a pour spout, strainer and the bottom doubles as a measuring cup.
If you're looking for a Jetboil for backpacking, this is the Rolls Royce of Jetboil camping stoves and whilst it isn't quite as good as the MSR Windburner, it offers great value and is probably the best value fully integrated canister fuel hiking stove on the market.
This backpacking stove is ideal for shorter trips unless you want the burden of carrying around multiple canisters, which take up precious space in your pack.
It’s easy to use and is simple to light using the match ignition. The Jetboil Zip is fairly stable as it’s mounted onto a sturdy gas canister preventing it from moving in the wind, making it a kickass mini backpacking stove.
Is the Jetboil Zip for you?
Great value, and possibly the best Jetboil for backpacking. Beware of the lack of a starter/lighter, but that aside, if you prefer the benefits of canister fuel you'll love the Jetboil Zip. Below is the best price as of May 2018.
#4 Best Liquid Fuel Backpacking Stove
There are some serious advantages to traveling with a liquid fuel burning stove - namely that you can find liquid fuel (such as petrol, diesel or alcohol) almost everywhere in the world.
If you are heading off into remote areas, a liquid fuel stove is the obvious choice. You also get a lot more bang for your buck by traveling with a liquid burning camping stove - one bottle of fuel is equivalent to seven canisters and liquid fuel is a lot cheaper than canisters in the first place.
Canisters are not heavy but they are bulky and it would be inefficient to travel with lots of them on a hike... especially since you can't easily dispose of them and would have to carry them around until you get out of the woods.
I strongly recommend a liquid burning stove to anybody who plans on cooking on their backpacking stove a lot. My first ever backpacking stove was a liquid burning stove and I later upgraded to the MSR WhisperLite - it's a fantastic piece of kit but there is a learning curve and it's not that easy to figure out without instructions so make sure you know how to use it before you hit the road.
Liquid burners are not as compact or lightweight as canister stoves but they are cheaper to run, easier to source fuel for and produce a hotter flame that can be used to cook up more advanced meals.
Is the MSR WhisperLite for you?
If you are heading off on real adventures or want to cook a lot, I recommend picking up a liquid burner over a canister stove. The MSR WhisperLite is one of the best liquid burner options on the market.
#5 Best Budget Backpacking Stove
The Etekcity backpacking stove is ideal for hiking or even as an emergency backup (just in case) as it’s so lightweight and compact. It’s surprisingly strong, with extra long fold-able arms that can hold a 20cm pot and support a weight of up to 5 kilos.
This is definitely is the best budget backpacking stove on the market - it's cheap, reliable and sturdy. It probably won't last forever but it'll get the job done when camping.
The Etekcity camping stove is suitable for 1-2 people and is fairly simple to use. The product quality is guaranteed with a 2-year warranty included in the price. The AstroAl is a low profile backpacking stove and is fairly stable thanks to the canister mount below the burner, it's one of the best stoves for camping or ultra-lightweight hikers.
Is the Etekcity for you?
The cheapest, lightest, and most compact option on the list, the Etekcity rocks. It's certainly not of the highest quality (and therefore reliability) but if you are looking to save a buck, the Etekcity comes highly recommended.
#6 Best Multi Fuel Backpacking Stove
Lixada is the best multifuel backpacking stove and this bad boy can burn pretty much anything!
You can burn twigs, wood, alcohol, petrol or other solid fuels. This very versatile hiking stove is made from titanium so it is ultra lightweight, durable and for the price it offers fantastic value, making it the best portable multi fuel backpacking stove.
Lixada's mini size is convenient, you can take it anywhere and you’ll be able to find fuel wherever in the world you are. To be honest, it’s not an ideal backpacking stove for long-term trips but is perfect for solo short trips or weekends away.
The Lixada is a high profile cheap backpacking stove, so stability isn’t the best. But I do love the fact that it is environmentally friendly and uses twigs, pine-cones and wood as fuel. In case you can’t find wood, you also have the option to use either alcohol or solid fuel.
Is the Lixada for you?
This backpacking stove is meant for ultimate convenience at a very affordable price. If you are looking for something easy, and don't need it to work for a long trip, the Lixada is a great choice. The button below has the best price on Amazon.
#7 Best Wood Burning Backpacking Stove
Biolite's CampStove 2 brings fuel efficiency to the next level.
Not only does it run on natural fuel (this stove can burn twigs, pine cones, and wood chips), it also uses heat to produce electricity. Essentially, this means that you can charge your cellphone while you're cooking dinner - which is pretty neat!
While Biolite is incredibly innovative in terms of energy use, it's not the lightest option on the market (because you're buying a stove, an internal battery, and a fan). I'd recommend splitting the weight between a couple of people, if possible. Or use this stove while you're car-camping, when weight isn't an issue.
I love this stove because the engineering is spectacular... It really is a game changer and us backpackers are always looking for multi-use products. The CampStove 2 definitely fits that description. But on top of that, it packs down to an impressively small size. Check out our full review of the Biolite Campstove 2 here. This is definitely the best backpacking wood burning stove on the market.
Is the Biolite Campstove 2 for you?
If you can splurge, then the Biolite is worth every penny. Not only does it look awesome, but it's possibly the most efficient and functional backpacking stove on the market. The ability to use any type of fuel AND generate electricity is a game changer.
What to Consider when picking a Backpacking Stove
- Fuel Type
- Size and Weight
- Group size
- Trip length and Location
- Ease of use
- Boiling or Simmering
Different Fuel Types
There are various fuel types you can use on backpacking stoves, which can cause some confusion. You should consider what type of backpacking stove is suitable for you...
I've categorized camping stoves into four main fuel types:
- Canister Stoves
- Alternative Fuel Stoves (wood and alcohol)
- Wood Burning Stoves
- Liquid Burning Stoves
Canister stoves are usually the most popular options for travelers as they are ultralight, compact, stable, durable and easy to use. In my opinion, they’re the best backpacking stoves on the market, as they perform well even in the harshest climates. Canister stoves are ideal for hiking and trekking as canister burners are so compact and don't take up much space in your backpack.
The best part about canister backpacking stoves is just how easy they are to use. All you have to do is simply screw your canister into your stove and light it up for a quick, easy meal. Most canister backpacking stoves run on pressurized gases that are self-sealed and detached from the stove itself. Primarily isobutane gas is used, however, some models also run on propane.
You can modify your flame control, enabling you to cook more elaborate meals while you are travelling, making it a great lightweight camp stove that packs some real oomph which can feed you pretty quickly and easily.
Emerging technology in recent years has lead to the release of integrated all in one backpacking stoves, which typically include a cooking pot and/or mug. They’re ideal for hiking or trekking as the boiling times are fast, they are windproof, compact, light and even fuel-efficient.
The Jetboil Zip is a really cool stove which offers full integration, if it wasn't for the price the Jetboil would probably be my top choice for the best value canister backpacking stove category but the MSR PocketRocket takes the gold as it offers incredible value... Still, you would need to buy a cooking pot and it won't offer the same kind of integrated ease of use as the Jetboil.
PROS of canister fuel backpacking stoves
- Lightweight and compact
- Stable and durable
- Easy to use
- Fuel efficient
- No pumping or priming required
CONS of canister fuel backpacking stoves
- Fuel is expensive
- Hard to find fuel in remote locations when trekking or travelling
- Don't work well in the cold ( -1 degree & below)
- Difficult to measure remaining fuel
Alternative Fuel Stoves
There is a whole range of alternative camping stove models to fit a range of different uses and situations on the road. These can be broken down into two further categories...
- Wood backpacking stoves
- Alcohol backpacking stoves
The best backpacking stoves are ultralight weight, which is why alcohol stoves are popular among trekkers and travelers. Denatured Alcohol is rather cheap and is widely available internationally. Alcohol backpacking stoves are best used for boiling water, to cook dehydrated meals or for coffee.
Although they burn silently, they’re not very fuel-efficient and are very sensitive to wind so they are not a solid choice for cooking up a hearty meal when camping. Lixada is the best alcohol burning stove on the market and it can run on pretty much anything - wood, solid fuels or alcohol.
- Ultralight weight
- Relatively cheap
- Widely available internationally
- Light and burn silently
- Best for boiling water
- Not good for cooking
- Slow to boil (7-10 minutes: 2 cups of water)
- Poor fuel efficiency
- Very sensitive to wind
Choosing the best wood burning backpacking stove can be tough as there's a lot of options on the market. Luckily, there are a couple of companies that are doing epic things and create products that are clearly superior to a lot of the other options on the market.
Cooking on a wood burning stove is quite similar to cooking on a campfire, just find some twigs and get that baby burning. Note that cooking on a wood burning stove is much faster and more efficient than cooking on a campfire. You don’t have to worry about carrying around fuel because you can gather fuel pretty easily whilst camping.
Wood burning stoves are definitely a cheaper option because you can find your own fuel and burn twigs, pinecones, leaves and other renewable energy sources. The only downfall is that this puts you at the mercy of the weather and if all of your potential fuel is soaking wet it can be tough to get a hot flame going.
It can require a lot more time and effort to light your camp stove which can get annoying after spending the whole day trekking. One thing I dislike about wood stoves is the blackness that rubs off onto your pots & hands when cooking.
Biolite are currently leading the way with their epic Biolite 2 camping stove that can not only cook, but also charge your devices through the USB port.
- Environmentally friendly
- That authentic campfire smell
- Minimal fuel cost and weight
- Cheap as you don't need to buy fuel
- Hard to find fuel when its raining
- Time & effort
- Slow cooking time
- Little control of burn heat
- Leaves black marks on cooking equipment
- Can't use where fire bans are in place
The best backpacking stoves for extreme conditions are liquid fuelled stoves. I have used an MSR Whisperlite, the best liquid stove on the market, in the past but right now I'm rocking a Pocket Rocket canister stove instead, which is lighter. Liquid stoves are bulkier and if you spill your fuel in your backpack, it can be an absolute nightmare.
There are some pretty massive advantages to traveling with a liquid fuel backpacking stove though - the best part about liquid fuelled backpacker stoves is the flexibility. Some stoves burn multiple types of liquids like white gas, kerosene, unleaded fuel and even diesel - the ability to burn these easily accessible fuels make liquid fuel stoves a solid choice if you are trekking to remote locations.
If you're off on a truly epic adventure, then it probably is the right choice to pick up a liquid fuel stove but if you're simply a humble backpacker or traveler, I would go with a canister stove as they take up less space.
Saying that, it is significantly cheaper to run a liquid fuel stove and because you can find the fuel everywhere, liquid fuel stoves are a good choice if you plan on using your stove a LOT.
The majority of liquid stoves have a really stable design that enables you to handle large cookware and feed many people. Beware of the roar of the stove as it can get quite loud at times. The MSR whisperlite is one of the best liquid fuelled stoves in the market.
- Works well in extreme conditions
- Flexible and cheap to find fuel
- Stable design to handle large cookware
- Great for travelling internationally
- Bulky and heavy design
- Majority of the models require priming
- Needs maintenance
How important is group size when choosing a backpacking stove?
Typically one backpacking stove (depending on the model) is adequate to feed two people. However, some ultra light backpacking stoves are designed just for the solo traveller.
If you’re travelling in a larger group I’d recommend picking up a liquid backpacking stove as they’re fairly stable and suit larger cooking equipment. Some larger liquid backpacking stoves cater to a maximum of three people; so if you’re planning to cook for your travel crew, it might be a good idea to bring along an extra stove...
Which stove is best for short trips?
The length and location of your trip determines the amount of fuel you’ll need for your entire journey and what fuel best suits your whereabouts.
Typically canister backpacking stoves are best used for shorter trips, as they’re compact and lightweight. The empty canisters weigh next to nothing but can take up a moderate amount of space in your pack. Be sure to pack enough fuel for your trip, as they’re extremely difficult to find in remote locations and internationally. I love using canister stoves for camping as they've got great temperature control and can do a lot more than just boiling water.
Liquid Fuel Stoves are my go to for long term backpacking adventures, expeditions and real raw adventures. Liquid fuel tends to last a lot longer than a canister and liquids like white gas, kerosene, unleaded fuel are readily available even in small remote towns. In case of an emergency, you can easily take a spare bottle of fuel there is no need to lug around the empty containers afterwards. Liquid stoves are by far the best backpacking stove for long treks and hikes.
Other alternative fuel backpacking stoves like alcohol, are good for ultra lightweight travellers who don't mind being patient while their water boils. If you'd prefer to stick to the good old fashioned wood backpacking stove, be prepared to do the hard yards - preparing, lighting and cooking your food. I personally wouldn't recommend a wood burner for long term trips, unless you're just boiling water for your dry meal or are prepared to gather fuel every night.
Size and Weight considerations
If you plan to set off on a hike or a trek, then you want your backpacking stove to be as light as possible.
Canister stoves are great to use as they’re compact, lightweight, easy to use and you have more control over the temperature. Ideally, one canister should last you your whole trip, therefore you don’t have to lug around multiple canisters taking up precious room in your backpack but it's hard to know and one mistake - e.g. leaving it on by accident - will waste all your fuel.
Alcohol backpacking stoves are also great for short-term trips because they're ultralight weight, but they're mainly used just to boil water. So if you're just heating up water for your dry meal, then it's ideal for you. However, you might get sick & tired of bland army meals by the end of your trip.
For longer trips, I’d recommend taking a liquid fuelled backpacking stove. Although your liquid fuel will add more weight to your pack, it’s far more compact. The fuel will go a lot further than canisters, as one bottle of liquid fuel is equivalent to seven canisters.
Ease of Use
The ease of use is an important factor in determining the best backpacking stoves for you.
Canister backpacking stoves are by far the simplest and easiest to use. Most canister stoves won't require any maintenance; all you have to do is screw the gas bottle to the backpacking stove and light like any other gas burner.
Liquid Fuel Stoves require regular maintenance and need to be primed prior to using them. Each model has a different method for priming, which can take a while to ace.
Alternative fuel backpacking stoves such as wood burners are quite hard to use unless you’re a seasoned camper. Not only does it take a long time to find wood and set up, but they can also be quite difficult to light, especially if it’s windy. Even if you pick out the best wood camping stove on the market you might struggle a bit to get it going!
Alcohol backpacking stoves are neither too simple nor too difficult to use. The main issue with alcohol backpacking stoves is the wind's effect on the flame. It can be difficult to keep it lit even with a windscreen, so alcohol backpacking stoves definitely require a little extra patience. However, it helps to have the best multi-fuel stove with you so you can hustle and get it going with any kind of fuel!
Stability of your stove
The stability of your backpacking stove is important, especially when you’re planning to cook a large delectable meal. More often than not, you’ll be cooking on uneven terrain, therefore you need a backpacking stove that’s stable on the ground and won't easily fall over.
The best backpacking stove with regards to stability is a model that’s low-profile. A low profile backpacking stove sits on its fuel bottle or canister, connected to it is a tube which feeds the fuel to the burner. Because the fuel container is heavy & bulky, it provides you with a stable cooking environment.
High profile backpacking stoves tend to be lighter, more compact and therefore easier to move or fall. They’re not ideal for holding large cooking equipment & are prone to being unstable, as the burner sits over the canister rather than on the ground. The MSR Windburner is a great example of a perfectly stable backpacking stove and it is the best MSR stove in the market even though it may not be the most lightweight backpacking stove out there!
Boiling or Simmering
What kind of camping master chef are you? Do you want to cook delicious food or simply boil water to cook your freeze dry meals? Your answer will lead you to the type of backpacking stove that’ll suit you the best.
There is a range of different models available that can do both, however one function tends to outdo the other. If you plan to do both, then you’d want a backpacking stove with a quality flame control, enabling you to adjust the height of the flame. Be sure to invest in a good quality burner if you aim to go all master chef in the wilderness, as cheap burners don’t run too smoothly on low heat.
Conclusion: Do I really need a backpacking stove?
If you are heading off for a jaunt around South East Asia and have got plenty of money, a backpacking stove may not be necessary.
If however you are an adventurous soul and plan on hitchhiking, camping and basically travelling on a budget then a backpacking stove is well worth having and can save you a fortune. Make sure you know how to use it before you hit the road.
The best backpacking stoves are reliable, durable and long lasting - your stove should last for years. When determining the best backpacking stove for you, take into consideration the various fuel types, trip length and location, size and weight preferences, people in the group, ease of use, boiling or simmering and stability.
Buy the best stove out there before your awesome wilderness adventure. Happy cooking amigos!
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