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 four popular categories: canister stoves, alcohol stoves, liquid fuel stoves, and wood stoves which can serve double duty as fuel tablet stands.
isobutane canister stoves are best for solo cooking and frequent resupply
alcohol stoves are best for ultralight backpacking and thru-hiking,
liquid fuel stoves are best for group cooking, cold weather use, and international travel.
wood stoves are good for wilderness backpacking where permitted by local regulations.
Below are our picks for the best backpacking stoves of 2023.
Note: When comparing the weights of these products, it’s important to differentiate stoves from backpacking stove systems. The latter often include integrated cook pots, windscreens, and stove stands, in addition to the stove burner unit.
1. MSR Pocket Rocket 2
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. Read our review. The Pocket Rocket Deluxe Stove is also an excellent stove worth considering with a push-start igniter and a broader burner head for better heat distribution and simmering. While it’s only 0.3 oz heavier, it is significantly more expensive.
The 1L 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 1 liter of water in 4 minutes and 30 seconds (although it can only boil a half liter 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 cookpot, making it easy to pack. The 0.8L Jetboil Zip is very similar but more compact, while the 1.8L Jeboil Sumo is large enough for two people to use.
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. Read our review.
The Trail Designs Caldera Cone is an ultralight, all-in-one alcohol stove system with a combination windscreen/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 Kojin 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 a 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 to alcohol stove systems and only adds a few ounces to the weight of your cook pot and fuel. Read our Review
Soto is a well-respected stove company known for making finely engineered stoves. The Soto Windmaster is specially designed to provide superior wind performance with a recessed burner head that acts like a built-in windscreen. This also lets pots sit closer to the burner head, improving fuel efficiency. The Windmaster comes with a clip-on 4-arm clip-on pot support that can support larger cook pots. Weighing 3.0 ounces, the Windmaster is a very powerful 11,000+ BTU stove, that can simmer or boil wicked fast. It’s also available with or without a piezo igniter, and very reasonably priced. Read our review. We’re also fans of the Soto Amicus Stove, which has an attached pot stand and is available with an integrated cookset.
The Jetboil Stash is a 7.1 oz fully integrated personal cook system that includes a titanium stove, an anodized cook pot w/lid, and a stand. It’s much less powerful than the Jetboil Flash listed above but also much smaller, lighter weight, and packable which is the reason it’s such an attractive option. When not in use, the stove, stand, and a 100g oz gas canister fit inside the cookpot, making the Stash remarkably easy to pack. The Stash can boil a half-liter of water in 2 minutes 30 seconds and boil up to 12L on one small fuel canister. Matches not included. :-)
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 windscreen, 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.
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, this 10,000 BTU stove 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 cookpots with a gas canister. An add-on windscreen is also available to boost its impressive fuel efficiency.
The Zelph Fancee Feest Stove and an aluminum alcohol burner with a built-in stainless steel pot support that positions your cookpot at the proper height above your stove for an optimal burn. Weighing 0.8 oz, the Fancee Feest comes with fiberglass wicking that pulls the fuel upwards for a complete burn of fuel. The boil time for 2 cups of water is about 8 minutes depending on water and air temperature. This stove works best with squat pots rather than tall skinny ones and requires a windscreen. It should also be used on a flat surface to avoid being tipped over, something that can be an issue with many simple alcohol stoves like it. Zelph makes a number of other great alcohol stoves as well.
The QiWiz Firefly is an ultralight titanium woodstove weighing 2.8 oz that breaks down and folds up flat, making it very easy to pack and carry on backpacking trips. It has a side port so you can reload the stove with fuel while it is burning. Woodstoves are a great stove option because you can use biomass (sticks) instead of carrying a fuel canister or fuel bottle. It’s also nice to have a small fire to kick back with in camp while you cook dinner. Just keep in mind that wood-burning stoves are often banned in regions susceptible to wildfires. Be sure to check with your local authorities to see if wood stove use is permitted.
When choosing a backpacking stove it’s best to consider:
the stove’s weight
the availability and cost of the fuel required to run it
whether it’s best for individual or group use
the operating temperatures in which it must perform
Stove and Cooking Fuel Types
There are five main types of backpacking stoves:
White gas (liquid fuel, Coleman fuel) stoves
Canister stoves that burn an isobutane/propane mix
Alcohol stoves that burn denatured alcohol
Wood stoves that burn twigs and small sticks
Solid fuel stoves
White gas stoves burn a refined form of unleaded gas. They’re good for group cooking and winter cooking because they generate a large amount of heat. They can be bulky, however, which is why most solo hikers don’t use them. Canister stoves are best used for individual use or couples. Some can simmer, but most are specialized for boiling water. Alcohol stoves are very simple and preferred by thru-hikers and ultralight backpackers, in part because it is so easy to resupply denatured alcohol on a long distance hike (sold in supermarkets, drug stores, and hardware stores.) Wood stoves can be convenient if natural fuel is easily available, but fire bans in dry states often prohibit their use. Solid fuel stoves burn prepackaged fuel cubes and are also very lightweight, but the fuel can be hard to resupply on a long trip.
Backpacking Stove Systems
A stove system includes everything you need to boil water or cook food including a stove, a cookpot, windscreen, and a stove stand, making it a very convenient and economical way to acquire the stove components you need for backpacking or camping. While group stove systems are available, most of them are designed for single users and solo backpacking. Most stove systems are based around canister stoves and are quite windproof, which increases their fuel efficiency. They are limited in their capabilities, however, and more geared toward boiling water quickly, rather than simmering meals.
Winter Backpacking Stoves
Winter stoves are designed to burn fuel at lower temperatures, usually in a liquid form. White gas stoves can burn down to external temperatures of 40 below zero, Fahrenheit, while canister stoves that can burn a liquid feed (called inverted canister stoves) can burn down to about 10 degrees, Fahrenheit. Winter stoves are designed to melt snow to create drinking water and usually lack the ability to simmer meals since they’re glorified flame throwers.
Backpacking Stove Power
Stove power is measured in BTUs. The higher the number of BTUs, the more heat the stove will put out and the faster it will boil water.
Backpacking Stove Ignition
Many canister stoves are available with integrated sparking units called piezo igniters, so you don’t need to carry matches or a lighter to ignite your stove. While they are incredibly convenient, they have a tendency to wear out if you use your stove frequently. They are usually replaceable, but many people buy stoves without this feature to save money if they plan on using their stove heavily.
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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After reading the list, I realized that I’m backpacking stove collector. Currently have 11 in my collection! Hate to admit how many water filters I’ve collected…
To cope with your addiction, you might join me at our meetings at BSA–Backpacking Stoves Anonymous. My problem is that after every meeting, I buy another stove. The same thing happens at my WFA (Water Filters Anonymous) meetings!
Let me guess: your sponsor owns the local backpacking store?
hahahaha, that’s funny. but probably true.
For me, stoves are like backpacks, I never met one I didn’t want to buy.
I’ve just stopped counting.
Having used a Jetboil Stash for a while now (formerly used Jetboil Flash) I can attest that for one person who really just needs to boil water (like me) it works perfectly. Very light and compact as well.
I just love how the canister packs into it.
Do you miss the windscreen or insulated cozy like the “regular” Jetboils have?
Not sure what you mean by a “windscreen” – there’s as much of one on the stash as any other Jetboil. But no I don’t miss the cozy. I like the fact that it’s much more compact and less tippy.
By “windscreen,” I meant the metal and plastic housing on the other Jetboils that the pot locks into, with the plastic bits that hang down – I’ve never really noted that it made a huge difference, but I always assumed that was supposed to function as a windscreen.
It’s really just a pot stand. It doesn’t block any more wind than the bottom bracket of the heat retention fins
I believe the Soto Windmaster is 2.3 oz with the smaller TriFlex Pot Support and 3.0 oz with the larger 4Flex Pot Support shown in photo. Your links take you to Soto Windmasters with 4Flex Support which is better for everything from small to large pots. The smaller TriFlex can be purchased separately and is for small pots. Really like this regulated canister stove and have both supports for different trips. Thank you for a good stove overview, only missing an Esbit stove, which few use or like.
I mainly use esbit and have for years (although I do still use canister and liquid fuel, mainly for car camping). But you can use any piece of metal as an esbit stove, like a bottle cap or a can lid. The most important thing is having a wire stand to put your pot on.
Glad to hear that you use them, many dislike them. My two lightest cook kits are a 2 oz DIY Esbit kit used for many solo trips over the years. And a heavier 6 oz Caldera Cone cook kit when not solo. Now unfortunately here in the Mountain West, Sierra Nevada, anything without a “shut off valve” is banned because of “additional fire hazard associated with these stoves,” (since 2013). No Esbit, no Alcohol. So my cook kits gained over 5 oz for that canister.
I made a very light Esbit stove for section hiking by riveting two aluminum cat food cans together back to back. I drilled a bunch of holes in the sides of the bottom one and another bunch through the junction between the stoves. This was to allow air to come in through the bottom and flow upward past the burning Esbit cube. The top can is my pot support and wind screen. I drilled some more holes around it to enhance air flow.
The stove works quite well. One cube will bring about 24 oz. water to boil in my Olicamp pot with heat exchanger in under ten minutes. I use that time to do other camp chores.
My stove, extra Esbit, and matches fit into the Olicamp pot. Although the soot from the Esbit is relatively easy to wash off to an acceptable degree, I put the stove into a Ziploc to keep soot off the inside of the pot and I put the Olicamp into another Ziploc to keep soot off my pack.
A problem I’ve had lately is that REI in Dallas, Jacksonville, and Charlotte has been out of Esbit when I tried to purchase some. Fortunately, my hiking buddy had some but if it’s going to be hard to come by, I’ll have to use another stove on my next section hike, which won’t be hard to solve with my collection of stoves.
I just order it in large quantities from Amazon. It’s ok to send it by ground and they do.
what is your favorite Esbit set up?
You’re right about that weight. Checked the soto specs. Thx.
I have finally pulled back from the latest n greatest hook and paired down my stoves to 3. All this reading and buying gets a little expensive. I hate to think what money I have lost to reselling my “lightly used” camp gear! Ha!
Big fan of Soto Windmaster stoves here. I use 4-flex, since I use wider pots, which are more efficient and 4lfex gives it extra stability. MSR pocket rocket deluxe is a close 2nd choice for me.
In places where alcohol stoves are banned (aka JMT some years), soto or MSR are great choices. efficient, light and canisters of various sizes are widely available.
Good write up, wide comparison of stove types and brands. I own a couple of the stoves in the comparison. As an engineer, glad to see no knock-offs included. Companies spend R&D money to produce a good product versus reverse engineering a design. I bought a Svea 123R from REI on sale for $29.99 back in the mid 1980s. I use the Svea when feeling nostalgic, it is loud, but make me smile.
When it comes to stoves, you really are better off buying the name brands in terms of the engineering and quality. They are much much better which becomes important if you have to depend on them.
My old Bluet stove hit the dust while bike packing a few years ago. Based on your reviews I purchased the Amicus Soto. What a great stove. It packs into its own little pot though I often carry other cooking vessels like the older MSR Bugaboo solo with a lid that can be used as a frying pan.(the new version is bigger!) I also carry a folding Esbit and cubes. This gives me a back up if I run out of fuel or just want a second flame. I know there are reasons for having multi-fuel stoves, but for my current purposes this fills the bill nicely. I’m not going over seas or camping in winter. Big fan of the Soto stoves.
I like the fact that the pot stand is permanently attached to the stove on the Amicus! Glad it’s worked out for you.
I’ve been testing a few alcohol setups lately in my lab (garage) and the most efficient system I’ve found is a
Zelph Starlyte Burner raised 1 inch off the ground coupled with a Caldera Cone and Evernew 500 ml pot-mug.
Would be great for a long trip,saving weight. Alcohol is quiet, letting you “hear” the woods. Thanks.
Spec for the Jetboil Flash and the MSR Windburner is 1 liter in 4.5 minuets. You state Windburner is twice as efficient as the flash. Could you provide something in the way of a specification to explain that?
Is there a “safe” alcohol stove out there? One that won’t set the woods on fire?
Alcohol stoves don’t burn down forests. People do.
The MSR Windburner is flame-less? OK. Put your hand over mine after it’s LIT and tell me if you feel a flame.
It is actually flameless. It and the MSR Reactor stove are called radiant stoves and no flame. That’s why you can (must) screw the pot on top of one. The stove head is shaped like the top half of a tennis ball and glows red when the stove is lit, instead of a flame.
Here’s a picture of the burner head in action:
See – no flame.
BSR didn’t make the list? Or all the copies? It’s cheap, 0.9oz, and works exactly like a Pocket Rocket, except it’s easier to set up and collapse. I know people complain that they sag if they get overheated and that’s true. But this is an ultralight stove for little pots. Don’t try to heat water for a crowd and it will do great. We have cooked hundreds of meals on ours without any problems. We own a Pocket Rocket because my husband questioned the BRS’s durability, but as soon as he tried the BRS, he never used the PR. Alcohol stoves aren’t allowed in the west, so BRS is the only light option.
The BRS is a terrible stove in terms of fuel efficiency, wind performance, and durability. It does not belong on this list.
I am intrigued, since this is so contrary to our experience. Could you please share with us your time using a BRS, specifically for how many years, and for thru hikes or just the occasional weekend? I see people fuss about them online, but on trail, everyone seems satisfied. Perhaps these are issues you read about?
I don’t know where Andrew got this beta, but Jon Fong (of flat cat gear) has done some very careful wind/efficiency testing with the BRS and it is severely affected by the slightest amount of wind, using close to twice as much fuel as a premium stove like the Pocket Rocket 2 Deluxe. Fuel efficiency is probably the most important metric when comparing canister stoves and wind tends to have the biggest negative impact on it. Picking a better more wind resistant stove tranlates to $$ savings, fewer resupplies, less empty canister waste and less stress on the planet since isobutane gas isn’t the most envionmental stuff to make.
for graphs of his results.
I would love to see a stove comparison that included the cost of running the stove as one of the variables for consideration: i.e. the cost of the fuel. Canister stoves are convenient; there is no denying that. However, the cost of isobutane fuel is almost an order of magnitude greater than the cost of white gas (liquid fuel), and I’m not including the environmental cost of all those empty canisters nor the inevitable waste as many canisters are not completely emptied. Liquid fuel stoves are very reliable and very inexpensive to run, especially over a long period of time. Let’s not even mention the reliability of alcohol stoves or twig stoves plus open fires (Yes, I know, a lot of places don’t allow open fires). Methanol costs almost twice that of White Gas and Twig Stoves, well…we all know the cost of that fuel. I think the cost of fuel is a real consideration (unless you’ve won the lottery ;-) )
FYI – I, like most people here, have a problem(?)/obsession with stoves. I have several MSR Dragonfly’s, a XGK-EX, a Pocket Rocket Deluxe (with a remote canister stand), a Optimus SVEA 123R, a Trangia alcohol stove, a Bushbuddy twig stove, Bushbox XL twig stove, Bushbox LF twig stove, and several grills to put directly over an open fire. I also have a wood stove for inside the tent for winter camping. I camp in spring/summer/fall by hiking and canoeing. In the winter I snowshoe and either pull a pulk (when hot tenting) or hike (when cold tenting).
Curious: no mention of the Trangia or Firebox series?
If your comment is for me, I did mention the Trangia stove. I use it in conjunction with their Triangle pot stand. In addition to this stand, I use the windscreen from my MSR liquid fuel stoves around the Triangle pot stand.
I opted for the Bushbox brand of twig stoves, over the Firebox brand of twig stoves. I prefer the way the Bushbox folds, compared to the Firebox. They are competing brands and their products are very similar to each other.
You told someone with actual experience with a stove that they are wrong because you watched a video years ago that showed the stoves are ineffective indoors with a fan running? Thank goodness I don’t camp in Jon Fong’s house, I’d waste fuel! Cooking in the wind is a skill. And for you to play the global warming card is just absurd. Talk to the guy with 11 stoves.
You’re welcome to have your own opinion. But I’ve known Jon for many years and there’s no one who I trust more when it comes to canister and esbit stove efficiency measurements. I’m sure I speak for others in the backpacking community as well.
He also makes a windscreen for the BRS stove which people can benefit by using to make their canister fuel last longer. You obviously don’t need it since you’re skilled at protecting your stove from the wind. But think of all the other ultralight backpacking newbies who would benefit.
Speaking of Jon Fong, I find his Flat Cat Gear set-ups for alcohol stoves much superior to Caldera Cones. More compact also. Plus there are customized set-ups for different size and brand pots, where all the equipment fits inside.
The BRS stove is perfectly fine for fair weather campers who take short trips ( weekends). I am glad that it works for you.
to see that you still include the good old Wisperlight. When push comes to shove and gasoline is all there is, you will understand why internationally it is the most solid choice. Carry a funnel to fill the fuel bottle.or a piece of bicycle inner tub will fit over the gas pump nozzle and into the fuel bottle. Bill/b3