Backpacking stoves can greatly increase your comfort and safety on multi-day trips and in challenging weather conditions. There’s nothing like hot food at dinner to warm you up after hiking in the rain all day or hot coffee after sleeping in a shelter after a cold night.
However, backpacking stoves can also be very dangerous if used carelessly. Here are a few guidelines to keep you safe and your tummy happy.
- Most backpacking tents are highly flammable and cooking inside them or near them should be avoided.
- Bring along food than can be eaten without cooking for periods of heavy rain or snow. One spark and you could quickly become a crispy critter or lose your shelter.
- If it is raining or snowing and you must use your stove to get warm, try using your tent’s rain fly or your tent footprint as a tarp and suspend it well away from your stove.
- If you are using a fuel like isobutane, be careful how much gas you let out before you light your stove. Too much gas can cause a big flame-up and could burn you or set your clothes on fire.
- Be very careful if your stove has a built in piezo sparker because your hand will be closer to the gas explosion.
- Do not cook without adequate ventilation. Backpacking stoves generate carbon monoxide and if you cook in your tent you risk death by asphyxiation.
- Bears and other scavengers are attracted by the smell of food. Avoid storing food or cooking in or near your tent. Otherwise, you could have a very unwelcome visitor at night.
- Only use a backpacking stove on a level surface to avoid spilling liquid fuel on the surrounding area or yourself, and to avoid having your food fall on the ground and possibly burn you
- Be very careful if you are cooking while it is still daylight. The flames generated by certain fuels, particularly denatured alcohol, are very difficult to see in daylight and you can easily burn yourself or catch you clothes on fire if you are careless.
- Let your stove cool after use and before you put it away. Otherwise you can burn yourself.
- Avoid leaving your stove fuel in full sun because it could explode or expand into gas and become dangerous if you open it near an open flame or spark.
- Carefully inspect all of the hoses on your stove (if it has them) to make sure that they are in good condition. If not replace or repair them.
- Be very careful when lighting a stove while wearing gloves since you will have less dexterity than normal.
Written 2008. Updated 2015.
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