Backpackers and campers have a wide range of stoves available to them ranging from all-in-one stove systems to general purpose units that can be used across a wide range of temperatures and locales. Backpacking stoves fall into three categories: isobutane canister stoves which are best for solo cooking and short trips, alcohol stoves which are best for ultralight backpacking and thru-hiking, and liquid fuel stoves which are best for group cooking, cold weather use, and international travel. Below are our picks for the best backpacking stoves of 2018.
The MSR Pocket Rocket 2 is compatible with all screw-type isobutane canisters. Compact and lightweight, it weighs 2.6 ounces and includes a built-in pot stand that’s compatible with a wide range of pots. When not in use, the arms of the pot stand fold down and fit into a small protective plastic case. The adjustable flame control is easy to use while wearing gloves and provides fine-grained control from a rolling boil to a slow simmer. The nice thing about buying a standalone stove like the Pocket Rocket 2 is that you can use it with several different best-of-breed pots and pans, instead of being locked into a single all-in-one stove and pot combination.
The Jetboil Flash is a fully integrated personal cook system that includes a stove, insulated pot w/lid, stove stand, and a plastic measuring cup/bowl. It’s designed to do one thing incredibly well, which is to rapidly boil water for drinks and to rehydrate backpacking/camping meals. Weighing 13.1 ounces, the Flash can boil a liter of water in 4 minutes and 30 seconds (although it can only boil a half lite at a time). A push button ignition system eliminates the need to light the stove while a color change indicator on the outside of the pot insulation cover lets you know when your water is hot. When not in use, the stove, stand and a 100 g gas canister fit inside the cook pot, making it easy to pack.
The MSR Windburner is another complete canister stove system that includes an insulated cook pot, stove, stabilizer, and plastic mug/bowl. The thing that sets it apart from the Jetboil Flash is its flame-less stove, wind resistance, and fuel efficiency. Called a radiant burner, it uses a completely enclosed heating element with an internal pressure regulator that makes the stove virtually impervious to outside conditions. Weighing 15.5 ounces, the Windburner can boil a liter of water in 4 minutes and 30 second minutes and is nearly twice as efficient as a Jetboil, so you get twice as many boils per gas canister. When it’s time to go, the Windburner stove system packs up into its cook pot, with space for a 110 g gas canister.
The Trail Designs Caldera Cone is an ultralight, all-in-one alcohol stove system with a combination wind screen/pot stand that’s fitted to one of several dozen cook pots that you specify when you order a Cone. It uses the Trail Design’s 12-10 stove which is designed to perform in the lower oxygen/higher heat environment found inside the Caldera cone systems. The Caldera Cone also includes an alcohol fuel bottle, measuring cup, and plastic caddy to roll up and carry all of the Cone’s components when not in use. The Caldera Cone is considered the gold standard for ultralight backpacking when it comes alcohol stove systems and only adds a few ounces to the weight of your cook pot and fuel.
Soto is a well-respected Japanese stove company known for making finely engineered stoves. The Soto Amicus (“friend” in Latin) includes many of the features found on their more expensive models including four pot supports and a recessed burner head that provides superior performance in windy conditions. The pot supports are permanently attached to the burner head, yet fold down compactly making it easy to store the stove and a gas canister in a wide variety of cooking pots. Weighing 2.8 ounces, the Amicus is a very powerful 10,000+ BTU stove, that can simmer or boil . It’s also available with or without a piezo igniter, and very reasonably priced.
The Jetboil MiniMo is a fully integrated personal cook system that includes a stove, insulated pot w/lid, stand, and a plastic measuring cup/bowl. It’s different from the Jetboil Flash because it’s designed to simmer meals in addition to boiling water, so you can cook gourmet meals on the trail or in camp. It also has a shorter and wider pot that’s easier to eat out of than the Flash. Weighing 14 ounces, the MiniMo can boil a liter of water in 4 minutes 30 seconds (although it can only boil a half liter at a time) and has a burn time of one hour on a 100 g gas canister. A push button ignition system eliminates the need to light the stove. When not in use, the stove, stand, measuring cup, and a 100 g gas canister fit inside the insulated cook pot, making the MiniMo easy to pack.
The MSR Whisperlite Universal burns a variety of fuels including white gas, kerosene, unleaded gasoline and isobutane-propane canisters giving you lots of flexibility no matter where you find yourself. Just switch the fuel line and select one of 3 self-cleaning Shaker jets, depending on the fuel type required. When burning white gas, the Universal can boil a liter of water in 3 minutes 30 seconds while it takes 3 minutes 45 seconds with an isobutane canister. Simmering is possible with all fuel types as well as a roiling boil, while the remote burner makes it possible to use a wind screen, no matter what type of fuel is used. In addition to the stove, the 13.7 oz Whisperlite Universal includes a fuel pump, windscreen, heat reflector, and small-parts kit. View at REI for $139.95.
The Snow Peak GigaPower 2.0 is a standalone isobutane canister stove that can simmer or boil water. It has four pot supports that are compatible with a wide variety of cook pots, as well as a built-in piezo ignition system for matchless ignition. A solid and reliable performer, it weighs 3.2 ounces and takes an average of 4 minutes 45 seconds to boil a liter of water. While it comes with a protective plastic case, it can also be stored in a variety of cook pots with a gas canister. An add-on wind screen is also available to boost its impressive fuel efficiency.
Also known as the Trangia Spirit Stove, this is the most popular alcohol stove ever sold with a track record of reliable service that spans decades. It also has a couple of uniquely useful features that differentiate it from most other alcohol stoves. A simmer ring allows the burner to be adjusted from full power to a lower heat simmer and extinguishes the flame when closed completely. A twist on cap with an o-ring seals the burner so you don’t have to empty unused fuel between uses. Weighing 110 g, the Trangia boils 1 liter (4 cups) of water in 8 minutes. View at Amazon for $14.99.
The Etekcity “Orange” stove is a popular budget canister stove that’s good enough for beginners and scouts. It’s a bit of a cult classic, known for its inexpensive price as well as the orange pocket-sized plastic case that’s included to protect the stove in transport. Weighing 3 and 3/8 ounces, it’s not the lightest weight canister available or the most powerful (6666 BTU), but it’s compatible with all screw-type isobutane canisters and can boil water or simmer meals just like the name brand canister stoves listed above. It has a built-in, fold-away pot stand with serrated feet as well as a piezo igniter for push button ignition. It even comes with a 1 year warranty.
Disclosure: The author has received sample products mentioned in this article over the span of many years from MSR, Soto, and Trail Designs. The rest he’s purchased with his own funds.
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