Updated: Sep 20, 2021
A handful of reputable brands come to mind when selecting a backpacking stove, all of which will adequately provide a means to a hot meal on the trail. In general, they’re reliable, compact, and produce enough heat to boil a quart of water somewhere inside 5 minutes. From here, a variety of different styles come into play, along with several considerations to help identify the right pairing of stove to your style of adventure.
If travelling by plane, TSA restricts all forms of fuel, requiring it be located from the destination city. Will it be available? Or how will cooking be done, solo-style or for a group? Does this trip include peak-bagging in alpine environs, or camping below 12,000 feet? Do you fancy yourself a connoisseur of the refined – the type who appreciates a well developed process, or are you a fan of the straightforward – Ron Popiel, “Set it and forget it” method?
Such pondering! Such consideration! Ahhh – listen closely, to the universal chorus of gear junkies everywhere, humming abuzz at the excitement of so many great options, and the prospect of acing the pre-trip pack list. Options abound – and this, my fellow gear folks, is great news. Below are three types of backpacking stoves to the test to show a few highlights, including hits and misses for each. A big thanks to our partners over at Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus for providing these. They’re all available, along with several other models online or in-house. Be sure to use coupon code “AD2018” at checkout to receive 10% off.
Optimus originated in Sweden, and the Swedes have a history for engineering things with an acute sense of spacial awareness – (think IKEA), and their camp stoves are no exception. The brand is now part of the Katadyn group, which spans the globe with a variety reliable outdoor gear offerings.
The Nova+ is a compact portable stove that runs on a variety of fuel sources. It effectively burns diesel, kerosene, or jet fuel, and comes with a built in cleaning needle, keeping the nozzle clear. Low maintenence and it’s multi-fuel applications make the Nova+ a great choice for global expeditionary use.
- Multi fuel: Huge advantage to covering your bases when traveling to remote or unfamiliar destinations.
- Generous heat: boil time for 1 liter of water – aprox 4 mins.
- Size/weight: Folds down to 1/2 of it’s usable size, weighs in at 16.2 oz.
- Flame control: Integrating the flame control into the fuel line reduces parts and saves weight, but if your plans require frequent and precise temperature management, there may be better options.
- Price: At $150, this represents the higher-end of stoves on the market. Budget minded campers may want to opt for something less expensive.
The MSR brand has been around since Larry Penthberry set out to conduct his own version of the “gear review” in 1969. An engineer by trade and lifelong mountaineer, Mr. Penthberry set out to test ropes, stoves and pitons for the group called “The Mountaineers”. Eventually this team grew, pushed further into the process of product development, and resulted in the manufacturing of MSR products. Mountain Safety Research has been a staple brand in any adventurer’s bag ever since, and they sure do make reliable stoves. The dragonfly is a stable workhorse, a do-everything stove. Two fuel valves allow for unparalleled flame control, so if your menu includes simmering from the saucepan, reheating last nights dinner, and boiling 2 qt. pot of water – this is your stove.
- Multi fuel: burns white gas, kerosene, unleaded fuel, or diesel.
- Reputation: MSR’s been in the stove game for over 35 yrs.
- Flame control: A must for the backcountry chef trying for something memorable.
- Stability: Wide and heavy enough to instill confidence with larger cook ware.
Size/Weight: Not quite as compact as other choices. It comes with added control and stability, but at 18+ ounces, also some extra weight. The two former should rank higher on your list than the latter.
JetBoil came on scene in 2001 with a revolutionary method of increasing the efficiency in backcountry cooking. With their patented and trademarked FluxRing, they elongated the surface area heat transfer source by introducing a series of bends into a self contained cooking pot. The result astounded outdoor athletes and guides alike – drastically improving the fuel efficiency and cook time. The stoves they make are tiny, and also pack quite a mighty punch. The fuel source comes from pre-pressurized isobutane canisters – this stove, with a 4 ounce canister is about as packable as they come.
- Size: For the weight saving solo athletes or ultralight folks, it weighs in at a mere 3.3 oz.
- Simplicity: For my Ron Popeil fans out there, the trifold base and simple push-button ignition makes this setup as easy as “1..2..3”.
- Efficiency: Burns hot for it’s size. The little bugger’s mighty, indeed!
- Flame Control: A surprising amount of control.
- Price: At $49, easily the most affordable of the three tested.
- Fuel: limited to pre-pressurized isobutane canisters, which are non-refillable. Not the best option for high alpine use.
- Durability: This may seem a little backwards, like “guilty until proven innocent” but with its small size and lightweight makeup, I can see it being less durable than the others. A $49 however, you could buy a backup and still spend less.