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Ultralight Backpacking Stove Guide

Lightweight and ultralight backpackers have a lot of different options available when it comes to picking an ultralight backpacking and camping stove. Here are the pros and cons of using alcohol stoves, canister stoves, solid fuel stoves, wood stoves, and just going stoveless.

Esbit alcohol stove and cap

Classic Trangia alcohol stove and cap

Alcohol Stoves

Alcohol stoves are popular with ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers because they burn denatured alcohol, which is inexpensive and widely available, particularly in small towns that don’t have an outdoor outfitter that  sells more specialized camping stove fuel. For cooking, alcohol stoves are best used for boiling water which is added to dehydrated freezer bag meals or Mountainhouse style camping meals, although some alcohol stoves are available with simmer rings that enable you to cook more complex meals. The downside of using an alcohol stove is that it is very senstive to wind and must be used with a windscreen which can be awkward to pack. Alcohol fuel is also less efficient than most other types of fuel and it takes a relatively long tome to boil two cups of water (7-10 minutes).

The Bottom Line: The fuel for an alcohol stove is inexpensive and easy to find in small towns.

Recommended Alcohol Stoves

Soto Windmaster Canister Stove

Soto Windmaster Canister Stove

Canister Stoves

Canister stoves have two main components, a stove head and a pre-filled pressurized fuel canister that you can buy at many outdoor stores. Some models, like those from Jetboil, also have an integrated pot which is easily packable and burns very efficiently, letting you stretch your fuel on longer hikes. Unlike denatured alcohol, canister stove fuel burns very hot and can quickly bring two cups of water to a boil in 4-5 minutes. Canister stoves also have the ability to simmer a meal by regulating how much fuel is fed to the burner.

Canister stoves are also much less susceptible to wind than alcohol stoves and can often be used without a wind screen because the gas inside them is released under pressure. The downside of using a canister stove is that they can be hard to resupply on long hikes because you can only buy them at outdoor stores that carry fuel canisters like an REI or EMS. The total burn time for a small canister is also about an hour or less, making it a more appropriate cook system for shorter hikes that are 5-6 days in duration or less.

The Bottom Line: Canister stoves cook food quickly, many can simmer meals, and are an excellent option for shorter trips where you don’t have to worry about running out of fuel. 

Recommended Canister Stoves

Esbit Stove and Windscreen

Esbit Solid Fuel Stove and Windscreen

Solid Fuel Tablets and Stoves

Solid fuel tablets were developed in the mid 1930’s to provide soldiers with a smokeless, high energy fuel for heating food rations. The most popular type of solid fuel, called ESBIT, is packaged in 0.5 ounce tablets which burn for 12 minutes and provide enough fuel to boil 16 ounces of water. Solid fuel tables require a very simple stove to use, often with a built-in wind screen to improve fuel efficiency.

Like alcohol, solid fuel is best used for boiling water to rehydrate dried foods, although same stoves provide you with the ability to simmer or even bake with Esbit tablets. The downside of solid fuel tablets is that they can be difficult to resupply in small trail towns and they can leave an oily residue on the bottom of your cook pot.

The Bottom Line: Solid Fuel/Esbit Tablets are best for short trips where you don’t need to resupply or as a rainy day fuel alternative for cooking when you bring a wood stove.

Recommended Solid Fuel Stoves

Solo Woodstove

Solo Wood Stove

Wood Stoves

Wood stoves are great camping stove option if you are camping and hiking in areas that permit wood fires, downed wood is readily available, and the weather is fairly dry. Wood stoves consist of a square or can-like firebox with vents to pull in oxygen. You fill them up with small sticks the thickness of your finger, light them from the bottom or top, and stack a pot on top to boil water or cook a meal. Simmering is made possible by bringing water to a boil and then feeding the flame with just enough wood to keep the water in your pot boiling slightly.

The advantage of using a wood stove is that you don’t need to carry fuel because you can find it all around you. The disadvantage of wood stoves is that it can rain and you need to carry an alternative fuel like Esbit to cook with or eat stoveless meals.

The Bottom Line: Wood stoves are great if you want to minimize the fuel you carry and enjoy having a fire at night, but don’t want the overhead of starting a campfire.

Recommended Wood Stoves

Garbanzo Bean Salad

Garbanzo Bean Salad

Stoveless Cooking

A final minimalist ultralight backpacking cooking solution is to go stoveless by eating foods that don’t need to be cooked or foods that can be rehydrated using cold water. I know a lot of stoveless hikers who simply rehydrate their meals in a plastic peanut butter jar while they hike, replacing the eaten food with a new batch whenever the jar is empty. This is a good solution if you’re hiking someplace with warm, dry weather where there’s little likihood that you’ll get chilled by cold temperatures or wet rain.  In addition to not have to carry a stove or fuel, eating stoveless meals can save a lot of time, enabling you to hike bigger miles during the day or spend more time relaxing in camp.

The Bottom Line: Stoveless cooking eliminates the need to carry a stove or  fuel and gives you more time to hike.

Recommended Stoveless Foods

Written 2013. Updated 2014. 

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95 Responses to Ultralight Backpacking Stove Guide

  1. AlanR March 3, 2014 at 4:07 am #

    My favourite lightweight stove is the 12-10 from Trail designs. And if you turn it upside down and place a small disc of foil onto it you then have the platform for hexamine tablets. So 2 fuels from one ultralight stove.

  2. JimC March 3, 2014 at 6:06 am #

    Outside of winter (northern midwest winter) Caldera Cone and its 12-10 stove. It is very fuel efficient, quick (for an alchy stove) and the windscreen/pot_stand allows it to be used in harsh conditions. I also have the gram cracker esbit holder … esbit is lighter and more compact for quick trips where I’m doing only a couple boils.

    I’ve recently added their simmer ring with hopes that it’ll work for real cooking and baking … I haven’t tested that yet.

    I have an MSR WindPro that can be run in liquid feed mode for winter use.

  3. Susan March 3, 2014 at 7:22 am #

    Optimus Crux canister stove

  4. Marco March 3, 2014 at 7:43 am #

    Stoves are for cooking. Why Cook? Well, there are several reasons.
    1) Simple comfort. They provide some heat for you and your body allowing you to relax. Anyone that goes out in cold weather will tell you a warm drink just is nice to have on a cold day.
    2) Nutrients. Vegetables especially are hard to digest for people. We only have about 20’ of intestine. Heat will begin the process of breaking down cell walls and indigestible cellulose before we ever start chewing by the it. Cows, typically vegetarian, chew their cud for a reason.
    3) Parasites, diseases are usually killed if we heat stuff to about 160F. One of the greatest inventions people made was fire.
    4) Water/hydration. Out camping, it is hard to find clean drinking water. Tried and true, boiling water before drinking it makes a good backup for the filters, chemicals and UV treatments we now commonly use.
    Alcohol can be considered partially combusted sugars (hydrocarbons.) Quite a bit of the energy has already been consumed by the microorganisms, usually yeast. So it only has about ½ the heat value of butane/propane found in common canister gas/White Gas. Hexamine or Esbit has about 3/5 of the heat as canister or WG. Wood is far less than either, but this is not usually a problem, since it is a found fuel and only a small baggie of starter needs be carried.
    Only methanol/ethanol should be used for stove fuel. Some denatured alcohol uses gasoline or other elements to denature it which screw up a burner. Yellow HEET (methanol), Everclear (180 proof), or SLX are known to be good fuels for alcohol stoves. Isopropyl alcohol is not. At a hardware store, insure that whatever you find there says “suitable for marine stoves” or something along those lines. Marine stoves use alcohol because it can be put out with water, unlike WG or propane.

    • eddie s. February 24, 2015 at 11:00 am #

      Great Post Marco!!!

  5. Mike Spalding March 3, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    Catfood alcohol stove, with aluminum flashing windscreen and small aluminum pot from my daughter’s ’90’s girlscout equipment. Windscreen wraps around the fuel bottle, all else nests inside the pot. Complete outfit weighs 8 oz. (not including fuel), boils a pint of water in 5 minutes on less than one ounce of denatured alcohol. Marco, thanks for the fuel info – I’ll start looking for the “marine stoves” note. If the weather is going to be cold/stormy, I’ll take a canister stove, and below freezing a Whisperlight – under those conditions especially, a hot meal or drink is well worth the extra weight. Philip, it will take more than bean salad or banana pudding to get me to go cold…..

    • Philip Werner March 3, 2014 at 9:39 am #

      Lunch has always been a big problem for me, so I am tempted to go the stoveless/rehydration route for it, simply so I eat better. Snacking on cliff bars and chocolate all day gets really tedious. I’d much prefer sitting for 15 minutes, taking my socks off, and eating a wholesome meal. But, I also like hot food at night, so I’m not tempted to go completely stoveless.

  6. Kevin O March 3, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    I’ve always gone stoveless until this year when I started doing more winter over nights. I always hated taking the time to stop and cook.

    This winter I went w/ a simple Esbit stove and ate a lot of Mac and Cheese on cold nights. It was a luxury I’d look forward to on long cold nights.

    If Spring ever deciedes to return to New England, I’ll probably keep the esbit in my pack for some variety but still do 90% of my meals stoveless.

    • Philip Werner March 3, 2014 at 9:42 am #

      Esbit has really grown on me this past year. I carry it in winter as an emergency fire starter, and like using it as a backup to my wood stove when it’s raining. Not sure I’d want to carry it exclusively, but I do like it a lot btter than alcohol which I consider inefficient and rather fussy. I’d probably feel differently though if I was a thru-hker.

  7. Shawn A March 3, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    This is a great recap of all the different stoves. Personally, I prefer an alcohol stove. Mostly because I’m cheap! I’ve made several different designs over the past year or two, some of them just a basic tuna can, and more complex models as well. As it turns out, one of the best alcohol stoves I made was one of the simplest to make. There is something to be said about canister stoves as well. I’ve used those before and I certainly appreciate the faster boil times.

  8. RevLee March 3, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    I carry a very minimal homemade Esbit stove in my SAR pack. It practically weighs nothing, but does require some sort of pot stand.

  9. Dennis A. Cooley March 3, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    I wouldn’t call my stove an ultralight but it works great. I bought one of those Coleman stoves that screws onto a butane canister. I’ve used it for 3 years.The only issue I’ve had is when the temperature was 19°F one morning and the pressure in the canister was too low. I had to eat a cold breakfast. The flame adjusts easily and boils water quickly. It also works well for actually cooking oatmeal or heating Beanie Weenie. :) I do like the performance of the Jetboil as it boils water very fast. I might start carrying a tuna fish can wood burner, just in case.

    Thanks for the great article.

    • Doug March 7, 2014 at 10:56 am #

      If you find yourself in this situation again, set the canister in a shallow dish of cold water. It will come up to pressure and run just fine.

      • Visionque November 25, 2015 at 7:56 pm #

        Put a hand warmer under it for a few minutes.

  10. Louis Brooks March 3, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    I used several different alcohol stoves and never really found one I liked. Others will disagree but for me they all failed the KISS principle and I found them slow. I recently went back to my MSR Pocket Rocket and have been happy with it. I keep flirting with the JetBoil Ti but I have not bought one yet due to the versatility of the pocket rocket. My current cooking setup is the pocket rocket (3oz), 700ml Ti pot (4.5oz), home made cozy (2.5oz), Ti Spork (.5oz) & 8 oz gas canister (16 0z full)

  11. Kid A March 3, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    Of all the days to see this post…. I’ve made my decision to purchase a new stove (sick of borrowing from friends) and I’ve decided to go with an Alcohol stove for my trips this coming year. Anyone have a favorite (or two?) that they would recommend?

    • Trailyogi March 7, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

      Caldera cone from Trail Designs with the 12-10 stove is the best one. You get it to fit a particular pot. The drawback is that it is a little bulky to pack, though I’ve found that one of the tall ziploc screw-on containers works well and can double up as a bowl/cup. The cheapest and easiest to make, and one that works fairly well, is the supercat stove. You also need to figure out a windscreen with this, though.

    • Milton Beauregard April 23, 2015 at 1:16 am #

      I recently acquired a Vargo Titanium alcohol stove. It has three folding legs and three folding potholders. It folds down to a unit that is not much bigger than a Peppermint Patty chocolate covered mint. And probably a little lighter. It works like a charm if you don’t mind a few extra minutes for it to boil water. I then went to hardware store and got some of that 10″ aluminum flashing. I cut it to size and made a windscreen that is several inches higher and about 1/5th the weight of commercial windscreens available. I use bike spokes to fasten it to the ground in a breeze. A highly functioning alcohol stove unit that is lighter than any other system I have seen anyone have.

  12. Keith March 3, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    What do I use? All of the above. I have a Trangia, Giga, Fancy Feast and Solo Stove. I can only get out for one/two nights max so I pick/choose based on weather/time of year/mood. My “go to” would be my GSI Minimalist with a diy Fancy Feast alky stove.

    • Mr.Griz February 14, 2016 at 10:23 am #

      I would choose the Trangia, hands down. Atad bit heavier but you can carry your fuel in it. About 2.5 oz . Also it has a simmer ring with it , so you can conserve fuel after the initial boil.

  13. Heicurr March 3, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    Zelph makes awesome alcohol stoves! He spends a ton of time testing his designs.

  14. Cragdwella March 3, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    Kid A I would recommend looking at Intenseangler on youtube. He also has a website that he has some great little stoves that are not expensive. I have been using his stoves for a few years and love them.Peace

  15. Mark March 3, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    Hey Philip, this is a really great post. Question, I’m doing the JMT this summer and am thinking about incorporating more non-cook dehydrated meals like the ones you mentioned in the “stoveless foods” section above. Do you recommend any others? Is there a resource you could point me to where I could get more recipes or info on this? Thanks!

    • Philip Werner March 3, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

      Try Outdoor Herbivore. Their blog is full of fantastic information. I’ve been planning a trip today with stoveless lunches and breakfasts and they also have an excellent selection of no cook meals to choose from.

      • Mark March 3, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

        Great thanks!

  16. Grannyhiker March 3, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    Out here in the West, where we have fire restrictions every summer (and they will undoubtedly be a lot more strict in drought-stricken southern Oregon and California this year), wood stoves are considered the same as campfires and there’s an increasing tendency to ban alcohol stoves. Many jurisdictions (and each one may be different!) insist on a UL approved stove with an on-off valve when fire danger is high. This year on most of the PCT, it’s probably going to be either isobutane canister stoves or stoveless.

    What are the ingredients in that garbanzo bean salad; it looks yummy!

    • Philip Werner March 3, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

      I already lost track of the recipe. It will turn up. :-)

      • Grandpa March 4, 2014 at 12:11 am #

        In the meantime, send Granny and me some of that!

  17. Jim Chatterton March 4, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    This is a great article Philip, and greatly appreciated. I love my Caldera Fusion Stove and use it a lot, but I also use my Jetboil Ti, and more increasingly so, I use the Litetrails V3 Solid Fuel system. Every time I think I have settled on one of them (usually the Litetrails or Caldera Cone), I am reminded of the speed and efficiency -and to be honest – the sheer convenience of the Jetboil, and the whole debate begins again. I guess I will never settle on just one of them, and I am perfectly fine with that!!

    I am glad you mentioned the issues you have with power bars, chocolate etc for lunches. I too grow tired very quickly with this and have been looking for a no cook, no fuss method of enjoying a good lunch out on the trails. I appreciate the mention of Outdoor Herbivore, and I am going to scour their website in the hope of satisfying my need for tasty, nutritious, no cook lunches!!


  18. Chris March 4, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    Packafeather XL alcohol stove for its ability to simmer, picogrill 85 for a lightweight woodstove.

  19. romney March 5, 2014 at 8:14 am #

    I use a Trangia with a Pocket Stove (from backpackinglight) as the windshield/trivet, lit by firesteel. The Pocket Stove can also burn small wood or use tablets.

    I brought it along on our first camping trip just as insurance, having been assured that our experienced camping friends were bringing their gas stove for the serious cooking. In 5 days camping they never did find a shop that sold canisters and we used my Trangia every day.

    • Marco March 5, 2014 at 8:40 am #

      Yeah, that has been my experience with cannisters, too. Alcohol, too. Often the resupply stops do not carry everclear (requires a alcohol license in NY, unlike beer which is a food.) Yellow HEET may or may not be available at a gas station, and, SLX can only be had in QUARTS at a hardware store. I usually end up carrying what I need for the entire outing from the start. A 20oz bottle of WG works well for up to three weeks. I have never found anything to give me a lighter starting weight of fuel.

      • Philip Werner March 5, 2014 at 8:44 am #

        Hunting for fuel in town sucks. I’ve done it and it is an infuriating waste of time. I’d rather carry more weight like you than ruin my mood.

        • Grandpa March 5, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

          My wife and I once flew into Seattle late at night for a business workshop just over the border in British Columbia. After the workshop, we’d planned to camp in B.C. and the Mount Baker area for a few days. We stopped at 23 stores over a three day period trying to find a canister for my JetBoil. We could have driven to Seattle or Vancouver and gotten one at a big outdoor retailer, however, we were a long way from those places. The last day, a kindly park ranger gave us a couple partially filled ones that someone had turned in on the way to the airport. Yes, hunting for fuel is an infuriating waste of time.

  20. eddie s March 5, 2014 at 9:30 am #

    Tried them all, including three types of esbit fuel tab types and the Military’s lates Jell Fueled stoves. Coleman also makes a nice one similar in size, shape and weight in their Peak Series that is similar to all the other brands including a Lantern. But out of all of them I prize my Snow Peak Giga the best mainly because the Pot supports fold up into a tight little bundle and it also has available the Lantern, it is different than the one pictured in that the supports fold up into a tight little bundle for stowing away in the Ti pot set with one small Canister of fuel. I timed the Snowpeak Small Canister and it gave me a two hour burn time. So I imagine the larger Canister might give you a 3 and half to 4 hour burn time. Far cry in weight and ease than my old 1973 SEVA 123R blowtorch, which still works perfectly, cost me $16. and $1. shipping back then.

    • RonKB September 15, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

      Love my Svea 123 as well, and it still works great (bought in 1973 or so). It’s a bit heavier than some more modern options, but you can’t beat the drama of pouring some gas on it and lighting it up to prime it!

  21. Axel Johnson March 5, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    Caldera cone with Trangia tea pot and 12-10 stove. I used a canister stove last year because of the fire restrictions out west. I was disappointed in the canister stove because it always runs out of fuel while boiling water for morning coffee, and long boil times as the canister becomes less than half full.

  22. josh camp March 5, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    Trail designs Caldera cone fissure. Super efficient. It fits in my 700ml snow peak pot and it can run alcohol, wood or esbit. I usually bring some alcohol as a backup to wood cooking, but I’ve been toying with some esbit recently.

  23. xabiarteta266 March 6, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    I have an alcohol stove which i have been using for smoking fish. The article is right, they are very sensible to wind. It was always hard to light it in heavy wind.
    A good advice: Never refill the alcohol while the stove is burning. I once made this mistake, the alcohol caught on fire with the whole can, and I have found myself trying to get rid of a burning can of alcohol in a matter of minutes. I managed to throw the can into the river, but my mates who witnessed it still laugh out loud when the story comes up.

  24. nlewisecon March 7, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    Nice recap. After much experimentation, I too found that alcohol and Esbit are really only suited for boiling about 16oz of water for use in dehydrated foods. I don’t like dehydrated foods myself. For real cooking, like boiling regular pasta, or for larger amounts of water as you might like for soups, tea, etc., you need more oomph from a canister, white gas, or wood stove. These days, I mostly go without a stove. Alas, there are people who try to “cook without a stove” like the recipes presented here. This can be OK, although it typically involves carrying a heavy ziploc etc. of water/food in your pack, which sort of negates the weight advantage. I just go with foods that naturally don’t need cooking, like dried fruit, chocolate, cheese, hard sausage, dense breads like bagels, granola, nuts, canned fish, etc. For my last trip, I did ten days with nothing but dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate, and was surprised that I did not get tired of it.

    • David Kang July 6, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

      Wow! you did ten days trips without using stove. That’s amazing!

  25. Rob Kelly aka QiWiz March 7, 2014 at 11:36 am #

    As you might imagine, I’ll use a FireFly wood burner on most trips that I take in the nearby eastern woodlands of PA and OH. If I am above treeline out west, I’ll use a Caldera Cone system with Esbit or alcohol. I find that in the Cone, I can easily bring 4 cups of water to boil with alcohol or Esbit for dinners (2 cups for a hot drink, 2 cups to cook/heat my food). The other alcohol stove that I found that could do this was a DIY Penny Stove with a good windscreen. A fuel that I’ve recently tried is the ReadyFuel gel, which claims it can be checked on an airplane (have not yet tested this claim myself). In a 10-day trip in Glacier this past September, I used a ReadyFuel gel pack for my dinners, and an Esbit tab for breakfasts and/or additional hot drinks in camp with a Caldera Cone and Stanco greasepot. This worked very well for me.

    Rob Kelly aka QiWiz

  26. Rob McLeod March 7, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    I have used Minibull designs for the Alcohol stoves. He started with Coke cans and then took the designs way beyond anyone else. His new stoves are a work of art and he is using light weight materials no one else uses. try them out. Some people have a hate on for him I just think it is just them being jealous.

  27. Rick Thomas March 7, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    I have used and made many different kinds of stoves all of which worked well, the home made alcohol and solid fuel stove work great. The one important thing is the fiddle factor = how much set up, getting it started, getting good boil times in the field, and maintenance. After years of stove wars with a friend I found the best set up for me. LITE TRAIL winded titanum cook set, 500ml pot with handles, lid, wind screen, stove which is mechaned for the pot, stuff sack at 4.0 oz. Using solid fuel this stove rocks and can be used w/ different pots .9 liter works great when the wife is along, works in all seasons, boils on half a tablet. You can make your own that will have the same proformance but I found I had to rebuild the stove every 3 months. The cost of the system has gone up since I got mine, still worth the price.

  28. dara in Ottawa March 7, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    each trip is different so i use what works given the weather, availability of wood, alcohol or canisters. First choice is the bushbuddy as it uses twigs and such and works very well. Second is Caldara with alcohol as it protects from the wind and keeps weight down. Third is a pocket rocket msr which is fantastic if you dont mind carrying the canisters. Canisters are pretty anti environmental though so prefer alcohol or just wood.

  29. Jeff Ross March 7, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

    Have used numerous stoves and have settled on my Trangia Alcohol Stove, with a Clikstand & windscreen. The windscreen fits inside my .9L pot, so no problem there. I cook for myself only, and may not recommend if you are using for a group or more then one. I normally only boil 1 to 1.5 cups of water at a time. Yes it takes a minute or two longer, but I am backpacking and time is not normally an issue. Takes about .75oz of alcohol to boil 1 cup of water, and takes 4 to 5 minutes max. I plan out my meals, and know how many times I am going to boil water, then add a little for the unexpected and go from there. Fuel is easy to find, but stay away for the ‘Green” labeled Alcohol, they add something to it and does not burn as well. The stove and Clickstand are light, almost indestructible, and always start. I use a Flint Stick to start the alcohol, but carry matches for other unexpected needs just in case. Have been using for 4 years and am sold on it.

  30. J. Schifferns March 7, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

    Soto OD-1RX the windproof model of the Soto OD-1R model reviewed in this article. The RX has a flatter burner and is almost windproof – certainly better than any other stove I’ve ever used. It also has better pot supports than the original OD-1R and you can upgrade the stock supports to a four leg version for a small price.

  31. Grandpa March 7, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    Hi, I’m Grandpa and I’m a stoveaholic,

    It started with just a taste of Svea 123 as a teenager and I couldn’t control myself from there. Next was Coleman Peak 1 (renamed Nuke 1 after memorable conflagration in Boquillas Canyon involving toasted buns not of the grain variety). Along came titanium Sierra Zip, JetBoil, then Penny, followed by Caldera Cone.

    I tried by myself to break the habit but I did not have the power within me. I was clean for many days but when JetBoil came out with the SolTi, I caved like a politician offered special interest money. I completely cratered, waking up on the trail one morning next to a folding Esbit and a White Box alcohol stove. I have no idea where they came from. I’m sure there are many others that I cannot remember. They were simply a one hike stand.

    I’m only working my way through the alphabet–everyone needs a harmless hobby… a PackaFeather XL, Solo woodstove, and Trangia will knock off a few more letters and then I’ll quit. I know I will!

    Somebody help me! Cut up my credit cards! Freeze my PayPal account!

    Must try new stove… I can’t stop!

  32. Jon B March 7, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    No mention of the $7 Amazon backpackers stove? Not using that any longer?

    • Philip Werner March 7, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

      Nope I stil have it, but I like those others better.

  33. Grandpa March 7, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    Ummm… I forgot to mention that one. Yep, got it, tried it, and then bought a folding Optimus Crux. I’m incurable!

  34. Tom Dykes March 7, 2014 at 10:21 pm #

    For a couple of years, I carried the penny alcohol stove, but my new favorite system is the Bobcat by FlatCatGear. I have the Bobcat alcohol stove and the Epicurean for Esbit (mentioned in this article). Very flexible to be able to use either fuel. Stove, fuel and the ingenious windscreen will all fit inside a 1.3L Evernew pot. It’s a sweet setup and very light. You can even bake with it. Highly recommended.

  35. Paulicus March 8, 2014 at 1:37 am #

    Don’t forget the trail designs Ti-tri! It can burn wood, alcohol, or esbit, and weighs only 5-6 ounces! I love mine :) I usually carry alcohol as a wood backup, but if you’re crafty you can usually find some dry wood anyway, or at least grab some when it starts raining.

  36. Spelt March 8, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    For summer I use a Packafeather XL. I really like this stove. It’s not the absolute lightest alcohol stove, but the simmer function lets me be a little more creative with meals with little weight penalty.

    For colder weather or when I want a fast boil, I have an Optimus Crux. No muss, no fuss. I would like to replace it with an Optimus Vega, however, so I can use in the winter with inverted canisters.

    I’m still trying to figure out a wood cooking system. I may just give in and buy a Bushbuddy. I’ve used a borrowed one before and know they work well.

  37. Doug March 9, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

    About Esbit tabs,
    You forgot: Hard to light and stink when they burn.

    I solved the hard to light issue by carrying a small (1 oz?) flip top squirt bottle of Colman fuel.
    About three drops “primes” the Esbit for immediate results and easy lighting.
    Light it quick and don’t overdo it. Too much and it seems to melt the surface of the tab making it smooth and actually harder to light.
    Esbit tabs are only suitable for one, maybe two, people who refuse to cook and only want to boil a few cups of water.
    That is a lot of negatives. The plus is they are unit-dose, reliable,spill proof, and light weight: One tab @1/2 oz seems to work the same as 1 oz of alcohol in my hands. That may not be completely accurate but it is my general experience. My understanding is that it can be ground, not air, shipped to resupply points.

    • Marco March 9, 2014 at 11:16 pm #

      Doug, I ran tests with esbits and it worked out that esbits had about the same amount of heat as about 5/8-3/4oz of SLX. This was with a caldera cone, a 10-12 stove/gram cracker stove and a grease pot and 2 cups of water.

    • Philip Werner March 9, 2014 at 11:19 pm #

      Esbit is easy to light with a match.

      • heather-lee March 15, 2014 at 10:43 am #

        We’ve been using Esbit in their mini stove for years now. just finished a 17 day remote hike with no resupply – carried 2 tabs for each day plus some in reserve – great cos I was able to help out my friends whose gas canister ran out unexpectedly. I use 1 tab for heating our rehydrated meal, and 1 tab for a hot chocolate (for two of us) Our pot set is a 900ml titanium cup with lid, titanium long spoon and windsheild is a piece of tooling foil. add a scourer and matches and it all fits together nicely and I never have to guess. weight of all this with two days fuel which fits inside the stove is 330g / 11.6oz,- more of course as I add fuel for extra days. I have tried canister and trangia but they just didn’t stack up for us … and I’ve never had trouble lighting the Esbit …
        another great thing is that your weight keeps reducing – there’s no empty canister or fuel bottle to carry out :)

        • heather-lee March 15, 2014 at 10:48 am #

          oops – did my conversion wrong – we only use grams here !! – 11.64 oz

          • heather-lee March 15, 2014 at 11:18 am #

            So to recap weight – my system without fuel is 230g / 8.11oz.
            Add 1oz of fuel for each day out, plus 5 spares.
            Complete cookset and fuel for 17 days for two people = 2lbs 6oz.
            He carries the tent :)

      • Rob Kelly aka QiWiz March 25, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

        Esbit is easy to light if you are out of the wind. Before I became enamored of wood burning on trail, I once used Esbit for 3 weeks as my only fuel on the AT and was happy I had a few cotton/vaseline fire starters with me. In a windy spot, just a small twist off one of these fire starters tucked under my Esbit tab was quickly lit and would get the tab going with my windscreen down around the burner. I used Esbit in a Caldera Cone setup and found I could heat to near boiling 4 cups of water with 1.25 Esbit tabs, or to boiling with 1.5 tabs (0.75 oz). To do the same with alcohol would take more than 1.25 ounces of alcohol using the same pot, cone, and water temp. So I saved a half-ounce of fuel weight every dinner meal. Plus no alcohol container to carry. Can you dig it?

  38. Doug March 11, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    Thanks Marco, great info.
    I keep forgetting about Google: Hexamine (Esbit)= 30 MJ/kg, alcohol= 21MJ/kg. So 0.5 oz Esbit is about equal to 0.7 oz alcohol. Given the cost of Esbit and your info about fuel use, I think I will switch back to alcohol.

  39. Richard April 11, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    I use a swiss army gel stove refilled with fuel4.

    Whole thing fits into my cookpot (Stanley Adventure Pot). The Gel also comes in plastic pouches which are great for stashing inbetween stuff to stop it rattling.

  40. Desert Tarheel April 18, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

    I have not used the Bobcat, but I have used most other alcohol stoves. My current fave is the DIY penny stove (I use a nickel, due to inflation). As for fuel, ethanol has about half again the energy per unit weight as methanol or isopropyl. But Everclear is expensive. Try Klean-Strip Greeen (not regular), available at Home Depot, etc.; $7.26/qt. it is 90%+ ethanol (the rest is methanol).

  41. Brian Kennedy May 21, 2014 at 4:26 am #

    Solo Stove with Alcohol Insert- all packs up together. lightweight 2 fuel sources in case of rain. Makes the alcohol burn more efficiently. I got a 2 hour burn time with less than 1 oz of alcohol.

  42. Darren King August 4, 2014 at 3:25 am #

    Can’t go past the good old cat can stove for me. No moving part to go wrong, weighs just 7 grams, is quite efficient when used with a wind shield and costs next to nothing as well!

  43. Kris August 23, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

    I have see a relatively new product called, biolite. After all my research… I think this is the best thing for today’s modern backpacker.

  44. Gary February 14, 2015 at 10:39 am #

    My current set up is the Caldera Cone, which services as a pot stand, wind screen & wood stove. Mini Bull Design Hot Top, which boils a pint from 60* in ~4.5 minutes using ~.5 oz. I can also simmer with it b by removing the donut or just giving it less fuel. I use a syringe to deliver fuel. The syringe is also part of the part of the 1st aid kit and can be used for delivering a few dross to the place I want them on the wood pile. It also extracts sunburnt fuel fromm the stove.

  45. Toby corser February 24, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

    on short camping trips in a wooded area, i only carry my kelly kettle, it can boil a litre of water, and cook a small meal in 5 minutes, and at the same time.

  46. Joshua Rousselow February 24, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    Philip thank you for the “Outdoor Herbivores” suggestion! I have been going through their stock and am really interested in the products, but the one thing that caught my attention the most was the “Sprouting kit.” This looks really cool, and if nothing else seems to be a good source of doing something productive and entertaining on long hikes. Has anyone tried this and what is your experience with it? Thank you!

    • Captainmouse February 24, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

      I have not tried growing sprouts when backpacking. (Make that I have not tried backpacking.) But when I was a kid my grandmother got into sprouting and brought us seed and a sprouter. I think it was just your basic alfalfa sprouts and the container was clear hard plastic with a removable plastic mesh cap at one end. You put in the sprouts, a little water and then put it on the windowsill for some light. I remember it being easy and fun and can’t remember why we stopped doing it.

  47. k1ypp February 24, 2015 at 11:23 pm #

    Great post as usual Philip. I have all sorts of stoves, but keep going back to my canister/Rocket. It is quick and efficient. On thing I do is make a scratch in the paint every time I do a burn so I know how many times I’ve used it. On the small canisters I get about seven burns and on the larger ones, about 13. I carry a spare and tend to never get caught without fuel.
    For emergencies, I do carry a few Esbit tablets, but have never had to use them.
    I’ll be hiking the Vermont Long Trail this summer, with Jane, and will be curious to see if I can find canisters north of the AT turnoff.

    • Philip Werner February 24, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

      That might be tough Dennis. Not much up there in the northern kingdom, but the LT takes an average of 19 days, so you should be able to get by with 2 big ones, or 1 if you eat some cold dinners.

      • k1ypp February 25, 2015 at 12:34 am #

        Jane’s a real pack animal, she’ll carry a few extras. She’ll do anything for hot coffee!

        • Predbeau September 15, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

          My Kingdom for a pack animal like that! In the mean time, I have been toying with cooking with wood. I have discovered that you can make some perfectly dry kindling in a day long rain by twisting pencil sized twigs in one of those two holed aluminum pencil sharpeners that will fit in a watch pocket. Super light, it works like a charm. The kindling builds up fast just like pencil shavings. A handful which takes a minute or two to create gets all the other wet kindling roaring nicely. I found the two holed aluminum pencil sharpener in an online arts supply house. While I do love this system, I will continue to look for a pack animal like Jane.

      • Dennis Blanchard September 15, 2015 at 10:35 pm #

        Believe it or not Phil, I had no trouble getting canisters. There were so many people finishing section hikes or just beaten by the trail that they gave me their unused canisters. Obviously, one can’t count on that but I had no trouble with fuel.

        Jane finished the first 140 miles of the trail but an ankle injury took her off at Middlebury Gap, so I finished the northern section by myself. What a tough trail!!!

        • Philip Werner September 15, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

          If I could just do that with beer….

          Glad you had a good and successful hike. I’m jealous. I may have to go and hike that trail again someday. Sorry to hear about Jane, but I wish her a speedy recovery.

  48. Gary Lyons July 7, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    I just got back from a 2 day solo hike. Day 1 I used my alcohol stove once. It seemed to take forever.
    Day 2 I just ate trail mix while on the go.
    I think I’ll try a canister or Trangia next time. Stopping to make tea or coffee or a hot meal adds to the experience and is relaxing. It’s worth the weight and time.

    • Gary Lyons July 10, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

      I was playing with the Caldera-cone and 12-10 stove today. I brought 16 oz. of cold tap water to a boil in 6 min with 1/2 oz. of fuel. The stove went out about 1 min later.
      Then I tried it a second with 1 oz. of fuel. Again the water boiled at just under 6 min. I then put the adjustable simmer rings on the 12-10 stove. The boil reduced to a nice simmer and the stove continue to burn until just over 18 min.

  49. Smith E September 28, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

    I found exactly what i want here. A lot of helpful infor for me, I will pick the msr pocket, it seem suitable for my next trips.

  50. dara October 8, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

    For me the Caldera Cone with 900Mls pot is good. For additional windy quick work the MSR pocket rocket is superb. Given the weights I have sometimes brought both as the only addition is the MSR and a canister to give max flexibility. I love the Caldera cone setup but the one type pot is a problem.

  51. Elmer October 10, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    I have a jetboil stove. For me it’s great, easy to use and carry, quick boil time, durability.

  52. Mark Williams December 10, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    Hey Philip great post here, do you know or have you heard anything about the Vertex esbit stoves?

    • Philip Werner December 12, 2015 at 5:54 pm #

      You do realize that you can use a rock as an esbit stove….

      • Dennis Blanchard December 13, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

        You’re right, Philip. I always carry at least five pounds of rocks in my pack. :>)
        (Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself!)

        • Philip Werner December 13, 2015 at 9:43 pm #

          Mark – sorry to be flip. I looked at the Vertex stove and it is nearly identical to this one from Esbit, which sucks.

          It too has a suspended fuel plate which is almost impossible to position and keep in place. I bought one and I hate it.
          My original point was simply that you can use rocks for esbit as a fuel plate, stove stand, and wind screen if you want to. It’s really that simple. No need to carry all your rocks either (like Dennis – he’s such a ham!)

          • Rick Taylor February 10, 2016 at 4:11 am #

            Philip — I’ve got the folding Esbit stove too. I found the best use for it is to disregard the plate that holds the fuel tablet, and pop a trangia alcohol burner in there instead. It adds some decent protection from the wind, and shaves off a substantial amount of weight and space when compared to the standard trangia kit.

            I haven’t stalked enough of your posts to know whether you’re a fan of the alcohol stoves, but it’s my preferred ultralight option, especially when paired with a recycled soda bottle for carrying extra fuel.

            Hopefully this information will help someone.

  53. Peter February 26, 2016 at 1:51 am #

    To say an alcohol stoves takes up to 10 minutes to boil two cups of water is very misleading. With little study and some trial and error, my pop can stove boils .75 liter of cold water in 5 minutes.

  54. Robin February 26, 2016 at 7:49 am #

    Someone may have noted this in the comments to your excellent post, but the Ti-Tri Caldera Cones, while pricy, are three-fuel stoves, providing great stability, wind and rain protection, and and option to “adjust” heat in its wood-burning mode.

  55. Sspoonless May 9, 2016 at 11:26 pm #

    I did the burn test thing with an EverNew titanium AND a Trangia brass, using denatured alcohol fuel and 6 cups tap water.

    Timed each for min boil time (per cup water) AND max simmer time. The EverNew has a high heat with pot suspended ABOVE, and low heat with pot directly ON. The Trangia has a high heat without simmer ring, and low heat with simmer ring closed down to about 6mm (0.25 inch).

    With either burner, figure the cold pot itself similar to “1 cup of cold” needing heat in addition to the real liquid contained, and figure 6ml (0.2 oz) needed to bring each “cup” nearly to boil – for example 1 pot + 2 cups water = 3 virtual cups.

    Discovered the EverNew high heat burns 6ml in just over 1 minute, and the Trangia high heat takes about twice as long. At a full fuel load on lowest heat, 60ml in the EverNew will simmer for 30 minutes, 90ml fuel in the Trangia will simmer for 90+ minutes.

    So the best alcohol burner with the most options is a set of BOTH. The EverNew low heat is useless in company with the Trangia with simmer ring, and the Trangia without simmer ring is useless in company with the EverNew suspended.

    I can use the EverNew, suspended, to nearly boil 1 pot with 2 cups water in about 3 minutes using 18ml fuel when it burns out. I can use the Trangia with simmer ring open at 6mm to simmer for 90+ minutes. Once the Trangia burns out, I can quickly refuel another 90ml and simmer for another 90+ minutes, and so on. A roast or stew recipe that needs to simmer for 4 hours needs another 60ml to simmer until the 4th hour mark.

  56. Norman May 17, 2016 at 6:12 am #

    Awesome guide. I have been searching for these tips. Keep up the great work. Love your blog.

  57. tekkster May 29, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

    Great page on backpacking stoves. Thanks for all the info. Comments were also great.

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