Backpacking, Camp Stoves, Camping, Outdoor Education

Backpacking Stove 101

Everyone must eat, and this is no different on camping expeditions. Whether you are a seasoned camper or just starting out in this thrilling hobby you will need to decide what camp stove is best. In Backpacking Stove 101 I will look at the benefits of using a backpacking stove for its many advantages. There are many excellent standard camp stoves, but sometimes the size and weight do matter. Having a backpacking stove along on a camping trip can increase your comfort and safety levels. Just like at home, you will need to cook some of your meals whether to prevent foodborne illness or make it more palatable. Having a small backpacking stove will help you to meet these most basic requirements. If car camping is more your thing you will need to consider another type of stove.

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Annually, thousands of people are separated from their group or wander off into the wilderness never to be seen again. Just because you are lost out in the woods does not mean that the necessity for properly prepared foods vanishes. Carry a small backpacking stove with you on hikes to prevent insufficient caloric intake from happening. It will allow you to prepare foods safely, boil water to remove common waterborne illnesses such as Giardia or light a larger fire if necessary. Obviously, you need to locate food to cook if you are lost for a long period of time. A backpacking stove will increase your odds of survival and they are relatively light to carry with you.

Initial Considerations

Backpacking Stove 101 highlights some important things to look for when purchasing a backpacking stove is its weight, size, adjustability, and fuel type. Each of these should play a critical role in helping you decide which is best for your trip. Weight is important because the lighter it is, the less weight you will add to your backpack. Consider how the size and shape affect backpack arrangement and carrying. Just like at home, having a burner that is adjustable will help you to cook food at an appropriate temperature. Finally, determining the fuel type that you are going to use is critical to determining long-term storage requirements or how long each fuel could last in an emergency situation.

There are a few models of backpacking stoves. Your backpack and strength will determine the weight and size you can manage. We recommend choosing a lighter-weight stove with a small form so that it is easy to pack. Remember that when it comes to each of these types of stove you will need to take into account the storage and weight of your fuel as well. The three fuel types of backpacking stoves are canister-fuel, liquid fuel, and alternative fuel. Canister fuel stoves come in two types, a straight canister burner or an integrated burner system. So which one of these is best for your situation? Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of each type. There are affiliate links throughout this article and by purchasing through these links we will receive a portion of the sale.

Need something a little more lightweight? Check out these ultralight options.

Backpacking Canister Stove (Burner Only)

Canister Burners typically run on propane. A benefit of modern propane tanks is that they self-seal when the burner or the connection is removed. There are two types of canister burner-only stoves. The first is an upright stove where the burner attaches right to the top of the tank. This is by far the winner on size and weight since it is small and light, but this comes with a drawback because larger pots will easily tip over the burner.

The second option is a low-profile burner. This version provides added stability, but it significantly increases the weight and size of the product. Both of these items also struggle with the lack of protection from the wind. In addition, canisters of propane also struggle with ambient temperature. When the cans get too cold, they can depressurize (sounds worse than it is), which means that there will not be gas on the burner when you need it. The best way to combat this is to place your can somewhere warm overnight, like inside your sleeping bag while you sleep.

Whether you go with an upright or low profile you will get great flame control for simmering, fast heat output, and clean-burning Canister Burners. However, you will find that the fuel may become expensive over time, varying heat output as the propane lowers, or running out of propane when you least expect it. These are a great option for first-time campers who want a safety net while out camping due to their ease of use. There are also great options like this one for starters that come with all of your cooking needs except the fuel.

If you are camping with one of these backpacking stoves then you may want to try some dehydrated meals

Integrated Canister Stove System

Another version of the canister stove highlighted in Backpacking Stove 101 is the integrated stove system. This is an upright canister stove that comes equipped with its own pot. The pot is sized and balanced specifically for the burner which is advantageous. There are also many additional attachments available such as a french press for coffee. Additionally, these are very fuel-efficient and have a built-in wind buffer. The issue with this type of burner is that they are less versatile than existing pots that you may have, and they do have a higher upfront cost. We recommend an integrated stove system for everyone. If you are just starting out or learning what best fits your needs you may want to opt for the traditional canister setups.

Backpacking Stove: Liquid Fuel

A backpacking stove with liquid fuel works on white gas, which is also known as naphtha. This fuel is relatively inexpensive in comparison to canister fuels such as propane. There is the added benefit here that white gas burns very hot and does well in low-temperature situations. Canister fuels have issues at low temperatures, and having a white gas option could limit this issue when you are heading on a colder camping or hiking trip. One other benefit of the liquid fuel stove is that there is no canister to dispose of when you are done cooking on the low-profile designed base.

These benefits do come with some drawbacks. Liquid fuel stoves are heavier than their canister counterparts. A liquid fuel stove is more expensive and takes practice setting up. In most instances, these require priming prior to use and as with any liquid fuel, there is a potential for leakage or spilling of the fuel. Maintenance is also an issue. The fuel degrades over time, which could cause settling, blockages, and increased cleaning of hoses and gaskets.

Some liquid fuel stoves are rated for multi-fuels. These can run on kerosene, unleaded gas, diesel, or white gas. Each of these fuels comes with its own problems and increased maintenance is a strong possibility. Some of these fuels are extremely easy to come by and may make getting ready for camping easier.

Due to these factors, we recommend the liquid fuel stove for more seasoned campers and hikers. We also recommend these for large groups because you may need more fuel to accommodate a larger group and having an inexpensive fuel may make it more economical.

You definitely need a place to store your stove out on the trail. Check out our backpack picks.

Backpacking Stove: Alternative Fuel

There are three primary alternative fuel-type stoves. These are Wood Burningdenatured alcohol, and solid tab. Wood-burning stoves offer an interesting alternative because you would not need to carry any fuel with you. It can easily combust any dry material like twigs and leaves that you find out in the woods. Some of the wood-burning models even feature electricity generation for small devices or even to charge a cell phone (as shown above). This is another added benefit in the unlikely event that you become lost. Now, these sound like some fantastic upsides, but there are some drawbacks to a wood-burning stove. Most of these models are large, heavy, and finding dry material to burn in a rainstorm can be difficult. We recommend a Wood Burning model for a moderate level of experience. However, a novice may be able to pick up on its use quickly with practice.

The other two alternative fuels, denatured alcohol and solid tab, are great options for experienced backpackers who need a very light option. The drawbacks are that they do not burn as hot and take time and fuel to get food to temperature. A benefit is that they have a limited number of parts that could cause issues. This makes them great for long-term storage in a backup or emergency kit. These stoves may not be for beginners because of their low efficiency and high cost. Some of the other options provide better value for the money for those just starting out.

Final Thoughts on Backpacking Stove 101

Camping and hiking are all about taking in the wilderness and becoming one with nature. With Backpacking Stove 101, you now have a better understanding of one tool needed to stay fed. When heading out, there is no reason to limit the type of food that we eat. It is possible to rough it and still enjoy that steaming cup of joe in the morning to kick-start your day. A backpacking stove makes this possible for everyday camping. The stove is an important part of your emergency kit because it allows you to prepare food properly or boil water.

There are many brands and options, but hopefully, these brief explanations in the backpacking stove 101 will help you get more comfortable with the options you have for backpacking stoves. Come back soon to see our comparisons of each of these different types of backpacking stoves! You will be sure to find one that fits your needs and budget.