Best Backpacking Stove: 9 Top Picks of 2021

Looking for the best backpacking stove for your backcountry adventures? In this guide, we introduce you to 9 lightweight and trail-ready meal-makers that will ensure you can always enjoy hot eats after those hard days on the trail.

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Best Hiking Stoves for Camp Kitchen Gastronomy

Looking for a Great Backpacking Stove for Your Next Trip?

You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:

    • Why you need a camping stove for backpacking
    • Pros & cons of different types of stoves
    • What you should consider when buying
    • Reviews of the best backpacking stoves on the market this year
    • Our unbiased recommendation on the best backpacking stove on the market today

Planning a multi-day trip in the wilds? If so, you need a reliable, kick-ass stove that’ll let you whip up your evening eats and boil water for those all-important morning brews. If you’re anything like the peeps here at My Open Country, without one, a suffer-fest is sure to ensue…

As luck would have it, our collective dependency on hot evening meals and mugs of something strong and caffeinated come breakfast time has led to us trying and testing dozens of camping stoves over the years. 

This year, we’ve been busy putting another batch of newcomers and upgraded versions through their paces. Below, we reveal our findings with a detailed review of the 9 best backpacking stoves out there. From wood stoves and multi-fuel stoves to all-in-one systems and ultralight canister models, our guide has something for everyone!

MSR PocketRocket 2 & Soto Amicus backpacking stoves in Scottish Valley
MSR PocketRocket 2 & Soto Amicus backpacking stoves out for some wilderness testing. ©MyOpenCountry

Editor’s Choice

MSR PocketRocket 2

MSR PocketRocket 2 Mini Stove Kit

When MSR announced that they’d be releasing an “upgraded” version of their awesome PocketRocket canister stove, we couldn’t help but chuckle. How was it possible, after all, to upgrade perfection? Call us cynical, but we smelled an Apple-esque marketing ploy in the offing…

A few months down the line, we stand corrected, humbled, and – to be frank – frickin’ amazed by the tinier, lighter, sleeker contraption resting in the palm of our hands, the PocketRocket 2.

Weighing 2.7 oz. and measuring a mere 3.1” x 1.1” when folded away, this is one of the lightest and most packable folding camp stoves on our list. It has an impressive boil time, taking 3.5 minutes to turn a liter of tepid water toasty, has precise simmer control, and courtesy of a WindClip windshield offers superior wind resistance to other screw-on stoves.

It does, in short, everything your average backpacker needs. 

There’s no push-button ignition and you’re restricted to one fuel type, granted. But given the PocketRocket’s intended end-use, ultralightweight, and awesome performance in every other metric, it feels harsh to quibble over these minor shortcomings.

Bottom Line: An ultralight, compact, and affordable camping stove for backpacking that’s as powerful and reliable as stoves in its weight class are made.

Quick Recommendations

  • Editor’s Choice:  MSR PocketRocket 2
    “An ultralight and ultra-compact canister stove that packs a mighty punch.”
  • Best All-in-One System:  Jetboil Flash
    “A super-convenient, streamlined, and speedy integrated system that boasts the best fuel efficiency of the bunch.”
  • Best Ultralight:  BRS 3000T
    “Weighing just 1 oz., this nano-sized backpacking stove is ideal for fast-and-light backcountry adventures.”
  • Best All-in-One with Simmer Control:  Jetboil MiniMo
    “A highly efficient, uber-convenient, and user-friendly integrated system that allows for more precise cooking than many of its all-in-one competitors.”
  • Best Multi-Fuel Stove:  MSR WhisperLite
    “This remote canister stove can burn on a wide variety of fuel types, making it the most versatile of the bunch and the top performer both in sub-zero conditions and at higher elevations.”
  • Best Wood Stove:  Solo Stove Lite
    “This remarkably well-designed alternative-fuel stove is a great option for long-term backcountry travel.”
  • Best for Car Camping:  MSR WindBurner
    “This one’s a little on the heavy and pricey side, but was a top performer in strong winds and among the most fuel-efficient in our review.”
  • Best Value:  Soto Amicus
    “A simple but highly effective and reliable canister stove with excellent simmer control and push-button ignition.”
  • Best Budget:  Primus Essential Trail Stove
    “This canister stove is, in short, a slightly bulkier, heavier, and cheaper alternative to the PocketRocket 2 backpacking stove.”
MSR Windburner enjoying a spot of climbing
Brewing up some hot joe while enjoying a spot of climbing ©MyOpenCountry

This Year’s 9 Top Backpacking Stoves Reviewed

MSR PocketRocket 2

Editor’s Choice

MSR PocketRocket 2 Mini Stove Kit

Our criteria in choosing the best stove for backpacking were simple. We wanted a stove that is reliable, lightweight, compact, has a quick boil time and performs well in windy weather. The MSR PocketRocket 2 ticks all of those boxes. 

This ultralight canister stove tips the scales at a tiny 2.6 oz. (3.7 oz. packaged), making it the second lightest on our list after the BRS 3000T. It also has an impressive boil time of just 3.5 minutes, takes up very little pack space thanks to its folding pot supports, and offers excellent simmer control. 

The wind performance of ultralight canister stoves is, of course, notoriously poor. However, the PocketRocket 2’s WindClip wind protection and focused burner ensure you have a solid, steady flame even when conditions are particularly breezy. 

Our review’s other canister stoves, the BRS 3000T, Soto Amicus, and Primus Essential Trail all provided the PocketRocket 2 with stiff competition. In the field, however, we found the PocketRocket 2 to be a better performer than all 3 in windy conditions and a more fuel-efficient stove than both the Amicus and the Primus Essential. 

The only downsides to this backpacking stove are its lack of a push-button ignition and its poorer wind performance as compared to all-in-one systems, both of which are highly forgivable given its fair pricing and ultralight weight. 

Specs

  • Fuel Type: Canister
  • Weight: 2.6 oz. (minimum); 3.7 oz. (packaged)
  • BTUs: 8,200
  • Boil Time: 3.5 mins
  • Auto Ignition: No
  • PROs

    • Ultralight and compact
    • Speedy boil time
    • No priming needed
    • WindClip wind protection
    • Stable pot support
  • CONs

    • No auto ignition
    • Poorer performance in high winds, cold conditions, and at altitude 

Bottom-Line: An ultralight, compact canister stove that offers decent wind performance and packs a surprisingly powerful punch given its tiny dimensions.

Jetboil Flash

Best All-in-One System

Jetboil Flash Camping Stove Cooking System, Carbon

Since it first arrived on the scene over a decade ago, the Jetboil Flash has become one of the best-selling backpacking stoves on the market. And with good reason.

In addition to boasting an integrated heat exchanger and 1-liter, insulated cooking cup with a burly heat-proof handle, it has a thermochromic color-change heat indicator, push-button igniter, and a fuel-canister stabilizer that helps to prevent spills on uneven terrain or in windy conditions. 

The Flash’s boil time of 3 minutes and 20 seconds is also mightily impressive and makes it the second-fastest boiler in our review after the BRS 3000T. 

But how does the Flash compare to our review’s other all-in-one systems, the JetBoil MiniMo and MSR WindBurner? 

In a head-to-head with the MiniMo, the Flash came up trumps owing to its far speedier boil time, even if we appreciated the MiniMo’s smaller dimensions and inclusion of simmer control. 

And while the MSR WindBurner was more effective in windy conditions, its extra weight and heftier price tag meant we judged the Flash to be more suitable for backpacking and better value for money overall.

Specs

  • Fuel Type: Canister
  • Weight: 13.1 oz.
  • BTUs: 9,000
  • Boil Time: 3 mins 20 secs
  • Auto Ignition: Yes
  • PROs

    • User-friendly design
    • Integrated pot/mug, heat exchanger, and burner
    • Push-button ignition
    • Fast boil time
    • Heat indicator
  • CONs

    • Heavy and bulky
    • No simmer control
    • Less efficient in windy conditions than other all-in-one systems

Bottom-Line: An expensive but powerful and efficient hiking stove that takes convenience to a whole new level. Ideal for dehydrated meals and basic boiling. 

BRS 3000T

Best Ultralight

BRS Stove BRS 3000T Stove Ultralight Titanium Backpacking Stove Portable Propane Camping Stove Only 26g

If you’re an ounce-counter or looking for a featherweight backup stove in case your main cooking system fails, then the BRS 3000T is well worth considering. 

This titanium-made mini camp stove weighs just 1 oz., but packs 9,200 BTUs and offers a highly impressive boil time of under 3 minutes, making it the most rapid boiler in our review. 

Compared to our list’s other stoves in the “ultralight” category, the BRS 3000T makes a few compromises, as you might expect.

It’s a poorer performer than the PocketRocket 2, Soto Amicus, and Primus Essential in windy conditions, and also lacks a push-button ignition. However, it’s considerably cheaper than all three of these small canister stoves and still a good pick for solo campers or anyone else who’s short on pack space or averse to carrying too much weight.

Specs

  • Fuel Type: Canister
  • Weight: 1 oz.
  • BTUs: 9,200
  • Boil Time: 2 mins 58 secs
  • Auto Ignition: No
  • PROs

    • The price!
    • Tiny packed size (it’s the smallest camping stove we know of!)
    • Ultralight
    • Speedy boil time
    • Wide wingspan will accommodate even a large cook pot
  • CONs

    • No push-button ignition
    • Poor wind performance

Bottom-Line: Weighing just 1 oz. and boiling water lightning-fast, this ultralight backpack stove is a great pick for solo campers and thru-hikers keen to cut down on pack weight without compromising on boil time.

Jetboil MiniMo

Best All-in-One with Simmer Control

Jetboil MiniMo Camping and Backpacking Stove Cooking System

The Jetboil MiniMo is, in short, a more elaborate version of the Jetboil Flash. Compared to the Flash, the MiniMo offers better functionality courtesy of its built-in temperature regulator and awesome simmer control. It has a shorter and wider build, which gives it slightly better stability than the Flash, and the wider diameter also makes it easier to eat directly from the pot with a spoon.

The Flash’s lower price and far speedier boil time (3.5 mins compared to the MiniMo’s 4.5 mins) mean it remains our favorite all-in-one system for simply boiling water for brews or dehydrated meals. However, the MiniMo is a better choice if you plan on cooking up more elaborate meals that require more precise temperature control. 

Compared to the similarly priced MSR WindBurner, the MiniMo offers less impressive performance in windy conditions but is a fraction lighter and has the benefit of a push-button ignition. 

To see the full review, click here.

Specs

  • Fuel Type: Canister
  • Weight: 14 oz.
  • BTUs: 6,000
  • Boil Time: 4.5 mins
  • Auto Ignition: Yes
  • PROs

    • Fuel efficiency
    • Ignition system
    • Wind performance
    • Simmer control
    • Fuel canister stabilizer included
  • CONs

    • Slow boil time
    • Pricey

Bottom-Line: A compact integrated canister system with awesome simmer control and great fuel efficiency. 

MSR WhisperLite

Best Multi-Fuel

MSR WhisperLite International Multifuel Backpacking Stove

So far, our review has focused on isobutane/propane canister stoves, which are a great choice for general, three-season camping but less so when temps slump below the twenty-degree mark. 

If you plan on camping in cold conditions, the most efficient backpacking stoves are those that run on liquid fuel and use an inverted/remote canister, like the MSR WhisperLite. 

The WhisperLite can run on a variety of fuel types, including LPG, white gas, kerosene, and even unleaded auto fuel. This makes it by far the most versatile backpacking stove on our list and also a shoo-in for trips overseas, where it’s often tricky to find compatible fuel for screw-on canister stoves.

The WhisperLite may look a little complicated, but it’s actually very easy to use. All you do is connect your fuel bottle to the burner via the fuel line, light the flame, and you’re good to go. 

At 10.9 oz., the WhisperLite is a little heavier than most other non-integrated stoves on our list and will weigh more than most all-in-one systems once you’ve added the weight of your pot. Its impressive cold-weather performance, however, makes it well worth those extra few ounces and our go-to for winter-camping trips regardless. 

Specs

  • Fuel Type: Multi
  • Weight: 10.9 oz.
  • BTUs: 5,300 (LPG vapor); 10,300 (LPG liquid-inverted); 9,500 (white gas); 7,300 (kerosene)
  • Boil Time: 3.5 mins (white gas); 4.5 mins (kerosene)
  • Auto Ignition: No
  • PROs

    • Ideal for cold conditions and international travel
    • Invertible/remote canister
    • Runs on various types of fuel (unleaded gasoline, LPG, kerosene, white gas)
    • Good boil time running on white gas
    • Includes a fuel pump, windshield, heat reflector, instructions, and storage sack
  • CONs

    • Expensive
    • Quite heavy

Bottom-Line: A fuel-efficient, versatile, and compact stove that works with various types of fuel and boasts awesome wind protection and simmer control to boot. One of the most popular liquid-fuel stoves on the market.

Solo Stove Lite

Best Wood Stove

Solo Stove Lite - Portable Camping Hiking and Survival Stove | Powerful Efficient Wood Burning and Low Smoke | Gassification Rocket Stove for Quick Boil | Compact 4.2 Inches and Lightweight 9 Ounces

Alternative fuel stoves for backpacking aren’t to everyone’s liking, granted. They have slower boil times, are bulkier than other types of non-integrated stoves, and using one means you stake the viability of a warm dinner or morning brew on being able to find an adequate supply of dry fuel (wood, twigs, and leaves) at camp. 

Nevertheless, by allowing you to leave your gas canister or fuel bottle at home, they’re rightfully viewed as a practical alternative to canister or liquid-fuel models. If that is, you’re heading on a multi-day trip and need to keep pack weight to a minimum. 

The Solo Stove Lite is far from being among the lightest or most compact stoves on our list. However, its double-walled construction and impressive boil time compared to other alternative-fuel stoves make it a winner if schlepping multiple canisters in your pack or restocking en route aren’t an option. 

This may look like a fairly rudimentary, low-tech contraption, but there’s a lot more to it than first appearances suggest. 

The Solo’s double-walled design and the air intake holes at the base create natural convection that allows it to recirculate warm air. The narrow cooking ring also focuses heat on the center of your pot whilst simultaneously acting as a windscreen, thereby improving burning efficiency.

Beneath the burning chamber, a wire grate allows oxygen to enter the device from below, which makes the biomass fuel burn faster and at hotter temperatures. Beneath that, a handy ashpan is included to simplify cleaning and prevent your fire from burning the earth below it.

The Solo can also function as a windshield and pot support for an alcohol stove, something we’d always recommend you carry as a backup if you have any doubts about being able to find enough biomass to get a blaze going on your wood-burner. 

Specs

  • Fuel Type: Wood
  • Weight: 9 oz.
  • BTUs: N/A
  • Boil Time: 8-10 mins
  • Auto Ignition: Nope!
  • PROs

    • Lightweight
    • No need to carry fuel
    • Compact
    • Easy to use and maintain
    • Doubles as a windshield for an alcohol burner
  • CONs

    • No output control
    • Dry fuel (twigs, sticks, leaves) required
    • Wood stoves aren’t permitted in some national parks and wilderness areas

Bottom-Line: Although it takes a little longer to bring water to the boil, this wonderfully simple little backpacking stove is ideal for extended stays in the wilderness.

MSR WindBurner

Best for Car Camping

MSR WindBurner Personal Stove System for Fast Boiling Fuel-Efficient Cooking for Backpacking, Solo Travelers, and Minimalist Trips

If you’re looking for an all-in-one stove system with a little more nuance than the Jetboil Flash, or that performs a little bit better in windy conditions, then the MSR WindBurner is well worth a place on your shortlist. 

The WindBurner is the most expensive stove on our list and, at 15.5 oz., also the heaviest. However, it brings enough to the table to make it a solid option for anyone not prone to counting – and grudging – every added ounce in their pack.

Like our review’s other all-in-one systems, the WindBurner offers awesome fuel efficiency thanks to its use of a radiant burner, built-in heat exchanger, and an enclosed design that shields the burner from outside conditions. While a little pricier than the Jetboil Flash, it’s a far better performer in windy weather and includes simmer control for more precise cooking.

The Windburner also comes with a tripod-like canister stand that provides extra support and stability when you’re using it on uneven ground or in blustery conditions. 

If you want to read the full review, then click here.

Specs

  • Fuel Type: Canister
  • Weight: 15.5 oz.
  • BTUs: 7,000
  • Boil Time: 4.5 mins
  • Auto Ignition: No
  • PROs

    • Fuel-efficient
    • Good simmer control
    • Great in windy conditions
    • Secure-locking insulated pot with handle
    • Nesting components make it surprisingly packable
  • CONs

    • Heavy 
    • Pricey
    • Slowish boil time

Bottom-Line: An expensive and slightly heavy all-in-one system that atones for its heft and price tag with an effective windshield, versatile pot, great simmer control, and good fuel efficiency.

Soto Amicus

Best Value

SOTO Amicus Stove with or Without Igniter

If you were impressed by the tiny packed size and light-weight of the MSR PocketRocket 2 but would prefer the convenience of push-button ignition, the Soto Amicus mini-stove may well be your bag. 

With a boil time of 4 minutes and 42 seconds, this pocket stove is the slowest of all the mini camp stoves on our list. It’s also a poorer performer in windy conditions than the PocketRocket 2 and nearly twice the price of the Primus Essential. 

However, this folding camp stove is a little lighter than both of those options, has good simmer control, and boasts that potentially deal-making, convenience enhancing addon – a push-button ignition. 

The Amicus also comes with a full cook set, including a 500ml pot for scrambling eggs, frying sausages, or sauteing onions, etc., and a 1,000ml pot for pasta, dehydrated meals, gruel, porridge, or other bulky fare. 

Specs

  • Fuel Type: Canister
  • Weight: 2.9 oz. (11.2 oz. with cook set)
  • BTUs: 11,000
  • Boil Time: 4 mins 42 secs
  • Auto Ignition: Yes
  • PROs

    • Affordable
    • Simmer control
    • Auto-ignition
    • Spring-loaded pot-support legs
    • Ultralight
  • CONs

    • Slow boil time
    • Less efficient in the wind than PocketRocket 2

Bottom-Line: A reliable, lightweight, and highly packable folding campfire stove that offers the added convenience of a push-button igniter.

Primus Essential Trail

Best Budget

Primus | Essential Trail Backpacking Stove

Low-cost canister stoves that offer similar performance to pricier, high-end models are few and far between. The Primus Essential Trial, however, is exactly that kinda stove.

The Essential Trail is the heaviest of the canister pocket stoves on our list, and also the bulkiest since the pot supports don’t fold up like those used on the PocketRocket 2, BRS 3000T, or Soto Amicus. However, it has the second speediest boil time of that bunch, offers better wind protection than the Amicus, and costs half the price of both the Amicus and the PR2.

Compared to other budget mini camping stoves we put to the test, this canister stove won our vote on account of its sturdier design, reliability, impressive boil time, precise flame control, and above-average performance in windy conditions.

Specs

  • Fuel Type: Canister
  • Weight: 4 oz.
  • BTUs: 8,600
  • Boil Time: 3.5 mins
  • Auto Ignition: No
  • PROs

    • Cheap!
    • Fast boil time
    • Relatively lightweight
    • Good flame control
    • Built-in pot support doubles as wind protection
  • CONs

    • Bulkier packed size than the PocketRocket 2, BRS 3000T, and Soto Amicus

Bottom-Line: An affordable, lightweight stove with wind-blocking pot supports and impressive simmer control.

How to Choose the Best Backpacking Stove for Your Adventures

Backpacking Stove Fuel Types

The term “stove” is pretty much a catch-all umbrella term that encompasses a wide variety of backcountry cooking systems. Below, we’ve added a short explainer of each type of system, per fuel type used, to help you choose the most suitable option for your needs. 

backpacking stove and pot sitting on cliff edge intext
Different types of stoves work with different fuel types & choosing the best fuel type for your needs is an important first step in choosing the best backpacking stove for you.

Canister Stoves (Isobutane/Propane)

There are a total of three types of canister stoves: screw-on, remote (aka “hose-fed”), and all-in-one systems, all of which usually run on isobutane and/or propane. 

Screw-on and remote canister stoves are a popular choice with backpackers owing to their light-weight, quick boil times, user-friendly design, and tiny packed size. 

These stoves consist of a simple burner that screws onto the top of a propane or isobutane fuel canister. Once attached, you simply turn the dial to release the fuel, light up with a match or push-button ignition, then begin cooking. 

While not as fuel-efficient as all-in-one systems, canister stoves are far lighter and usually much cheaper, too. They’re also far more efficient than solid-fuel stoves and alcohol stoves. 

Remote canister stoves connect the canister to the burner via a gas hose. Because these stoves are closer to the ground, they are usually more stable and burn better in windy conditions than screw-ins. On the downside, remote hose-fed systems are usually much bulkier and heavier.

bear canister and stove
Canister stoves are one of the most popular options amongst backpackers

All-in-one systems consist of a pot, burner, and heat reflector that attaches to the canister. Because they enclose the burner, these models heat faster with less fuel, making them the most fuel-efficient of the bunch.  

The main downside to all canister-powered stoves is that the isobutane and propane fuel that they run on is expensive. The canisters are also heavy and bulky, and can’t be refilled, meaning they’re not the most eco-friendly option either. Isobutane and propane are also poor performers at altitude or in cold weather, and finding compatible canisters overseas can be tricky. 

In our review, there are 3 integrated canister stoves (Jetboil Flash, MSR Windburner, Jetboil MiniMo), 1 remote canister (MSR WhisperLite), and 4 non-integrated canister stoves (MSR  PocketRocket2, BRS 3000T, Soto Amicus, and Primus Essential Trail). 

Liquid-Fuel Stove

Liquid-fuel stoves aren’t the speediest option available, but their fuel efficiency and awesome cold-weather performance mean they’re great for longer trips and winter camping. 

They’re also often a more suitable choice for trips overseas (finding compatible canisters for canister stoves is often a struggle in Asia, South America, and parts of Europe) and perform better at high altitudes than other fuel types. 

Most liquid-fuel stoves run on white gas, kerosene, LPG, or unleaded gas. These fuels are less expensive than isobutane/propane, but burn a little hotter, meaning you’ll go through fuel a bit quicker. 

One of the most appealing things about liquid-fuel stoves, for some, is that – unlike canister stoves – the bottles used with a liquid-fuel system can be refilled, thus reducing waste from spent fuel canisters.  

The only downsides to liquid-fuel stoves are that they tend to be heavier and bulkier than other canister stoves, and also require regular cleaning and maintenance. 

The MSR WhisperLite is the only liquid-fuel stove on the list. It is also compatible with different fuels, such as autogas, kerosene, and white gas.

Alcohol Stoves

These run on denatured alcohol and are particularly popular with thru-hikers and ultralight backpackers because they’re affordable, lightweight, easy to use, and very hard to break!

Fuel for this type of backpacking stove is also easily sourced and can usually be found in hardware stores or even in gas stations.

There are, however, several trade-offs for all of the above. Alcohol stoves don’t have any temperature control, cook slowly, and perform poorly in windy conditions, even with a windscreen. They also can’t be used in areas/campsites that prohibit open fires.

Solid-Fuel Stoves (ESBIT)

These are simple, ultra-compact, and lightweight stoves that use small spirit tablets that resemble standard domestic firelighters. While smokeless and energy-efficient, ESBIT fuel is often hard to find, pricey, prohibited in many national parks, and can be toxic if used in areas that aren’t well ventilated. 

The tabs also excrete an unpleasant smell and are prone to leaving residue at the bottom of the pot.

Wood-Burning Stoves

This is the most basic kind of stove on our list. Using one entails doing things the old-fashioned way – gathering dried leaves, sticks, pinecones, and other deadwood materials and throwing these in the device as fuel. 

wood burning backpacking stove intext
Wood burning stoves are simple to use and are lightweight

While this has its benefits (no need to purchase or pack fuel!), boil times are lengthy, there’s no simmer control, and your foraged fuel is sure to leave grubby soot marks all over your cookware. As with ESBIT and alcohol stoves, the use of wood stoves is prohibited in many national parks and wilderness areas. 

The only wood-burning stove system on our list is the Solo Stove Lite, which is lightweight and compact enough for multi-day trips but takes 8-10 minutes to boil a liter of water.

Integrated or Non-Integrated Canister Stove?

Of all the backpacking stove types listed above, canister stoves are by far the most popular among backpackers, primarily because they’re convenient and easy to use. The difference between non-integrated and integrated systems in terms of weight and performance, however, is vast. 

Non-Integrated canister stove
Non-Integrated Canister stoves such as the Whisperlite and the Spider consist of only a burner

Below, we’ve added a brief overview of the advantages and drawbacks of both types of systems to help you decide which is most suitable for your needs.

Integrated Canister Stove System

  • Includes everything needed for meal prep/boiling – a burner, heat exchanger, and pot 
  • More efficient than other systems, consume less fuel
  • Some have built-in handles that allow you to use them as a mug
  • Often lack simmer control, meaning they’re good for boiling water and cooking dehydrated meals, but not for more complicated culinary endeavors 

Examples: Jetboil Flash, Jetboil MiniMo, MSR WindBurner. 

Non-Integrated Canister Stove System

  • These consist of a burner only, meaning you’ll have to buy your cook set/pot and windscreen separately
  • More versatile because you have the option to choose the size of pot you need
  • Lighter and more compact than integrated systems
  • Heat exchanger is not included
  • Less stable and less efficient because the flames are exposed to the wind (using a windscreen or parking your *ss upwind of the burner helps!)
  • Usually made of stainless steel or titanium – stainless steel is cheaper, titanium is lighter and has a higher strength rating

Examples: MSR  PocketRocket2, BRS 3000T, MSR Whisperlite,  Solo Stove Lite, Soto Amicus, Primus Essential Trail.

Water Boil Time and Fuel Efficiency

Judging a stove’s performance requires looking at both how long it takes to boil water and how much fuel it takes to do so. After all, if it brings water to the boil lickety-split but burns through crazy amounts of fuel in the process, then you’re going to have to carry lots of extra fuel if you plan on preparing any more than a few cups of coffee on your trip. 

timing the boil time of backpacking stove
Timing the boil time of the MSR Whisperlite ©MyOpenCountry

As a general rule, integrated stove systems boil water quicker than the rest of the bunch, and alcohol or wood-burning stoves are the slowest. The Jetboil Flash, for example, can boil 1 liter of water in 3 minutes and 20 seconds, whereas the Solo Lite – our review’s only wood-burning stove – will require around 10 minutes of patience before enjoying your morning brew. 

The speediest boiler in our review, the BRS 3000T, boils 1 liter of water in under 3 minutes but is a far poorer performer than the Jetboil Flash or MSR Windburner when there’s any semblance of wind. 

Alcohol and kerosene take considerably longer than other fuels to boil. The MSR WhisperLite, for example, can boil 1 liter of water in 3.5 minutes when running on white gas but takes almost 4.5 minutes when running on kerosene.  

Burner Power: BTUs

The output or power of stove systems is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). This refers to the amount of energy required to heat 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit, and the higher the figure, the stronger the stove’s output will be. 

BTUs give you a general idea of how effective a backpacking stove system will be. However, they should not be taken as the sole indicator of power or efficiency, because size and wind resistance will also come into play. 

This is demonstrated by the Soto Amicus canister stove, which has a rating of 11,000 BTUs but also one of the slowest boil times (4 mins 42 secs), and the Primus Essential Trail, at only 8,600 BTUs can boil water in 3 mins and 30 secs.

Weight and Packability

The importance of this metric largely depends on what kinda camping you tend to do. If the answer’s car camping, then the weight and packed size of your stove aren’t likely to be such big issues. If you plan on backpacking, thru-hiking, or remote backcountry camping, however, then keeping weight and bulk to a minimum is likely to be a top priority. 

Kovea Spider packed down
The lightweight Kovea Spider packs down to a stuff-sack 4 inches x 6 inches. ©MyOpenCountry

Bear in mind, however, that there’s often a trade-off between weight savings and other desirable attributes such as power, wind resistance, and convenience. 

The lightest backpacking stoves (usually alternative-fuel stoves or folding camping stoves) typically offer the least wind protection, aren’t the most fuel-efficient, and of course, don’t include the pot you’ll put your fluids/eats in. On the other hand, heavier all-in-one systems are generally best in windy conditions, fuel-efficient, and have an integrated pot for your grub/drinks.

The lightest stove we reviewed was the BRS 3000T, a non-integrated system that weighs a piddly 1oz. The MSR WindBurner, which is an integrated system, weighs the heaviest at 15.5oz

It’s also worth bearing in mind that while integrated stove weight includes the overall weight of the burner, pot, and heat exchanger, the weight of non-integrated models refers only to the weight of the stove/burner. It is therefore wise to factor in the added weight of a pot (and windshield) before deciding to buy.  

Simmer Control

This refers to the ability to regulate the stove’s output, which fussier campers might need when working on more elaborate or complex culinary creations. 

Backpacking stove and backpacking meals outside tent
Simmer control is a “nice to have” but if you plan only boiling water for freeze dry meals or coffee then it’s a feature you can do without. © MyOpenCountry

Most screw-on and hose-fed stoves offer simmer control via the gas-release dial on the burner. With all-in-one systems, on the other hand, there’s a fifty-fifty split between those that have and those that don’t.  

In our review, the following stoves have simmer control: MSR PocketRocket 2, BRS 3000T,

Jetboil MiniMo, MSR WindBurner, Soto Amicus, and the Primus Essential Trail.

Wind Protection

No factor impacts more on a stove’s efficiency than the wind. Even when there’s barely a breeze the wind can direct the force and heat of the flame away from your pot. As such, wind protection is all-important when picking your stove. 

Integrated systems are by far the best performers in windy conditions because they are designed with the burner enclosed within a heat exchanger that traps excess heat and delivers it directly to the pot.

With non-integrated systems, you can buy a separate windscreen that both blocks out the wind and reflects the heat from the flame, which can seriously improve cooking time. However, even with separate windscreens, non-integrated systems are still usually less effective in the wind than integrated systems. 

backpacking stove and pot sitting on cliff edge intext
If you’re expecting open windy conditions then non-integrated systems could be tricky to keep lit.

Finally, because hose-fed canister stoves sit lower to the ground, they’re usually more stable and better performers in windy conditions than screw-on models.

NB: Using a windshield with a screw-on canister stove isn’t recommended as the shield can reflect heat onto the canister, which could cause it to explode.

Cooking at Altitude and in Cold Weather

Another important factor to take into consideration when choosing a stove is when and where you plan on doing your camping. Certain types of fuel perform better in particular conditions than in others. 

In sub-zero conditions, isobutane and propane often fail to vaporize, meaning they’re unable to travel from the canister to the burner, and at high altitudes, gas canisters can depressurize. In both cases, you’ll be left with either a very weak flame or no flame at all. 

If you plan on hiking at higher elevations or in winter conditions we recommend opting for a stove that runs on white gas or other liquid fuels. These are the most effective and reliable options in both situations. The only liquid-fuel stove on our list is the MSR WhisperLite. 

Integrated Ignition System

Aka “push-button” or “Piezo igniter”, this means the stove has a built-in button that ignites the flame when pushed, thereby saving you the hassle of carrying and using matches. As you can imagine this is especially handy in wet and/or windy conditions. While this may add to the overall weight of the device, it’s so convenient it’s well worth having regardless.

In our review, the Jetboil Flash, Jetboil MiniMo, and Soto Amicus have integrated ignitions.

Stability

A backpacking’s stove’s stability is determined by the width and design of the pot supports, and in the case of canister stoves, the use (or absence) of canister supports. Stability is especially important if you’re using larger pots to cook for a group and when you’re doing your cooking in windy conditions. 

All of the integrated stove systems in our review (the Jetboil Flash, Jetboil MiniMo, and MSR WindBurner) have tripod leg supports that provide a solid base for the canister. And because the burner locks onto the pot and canister in these systems, they are by far the most stable of the bunch. 

backpacking stove and pot sitting overlooking valley intext
Screw on stoves are typically the least stable option

The next most stable options are remote (aka “hose-fed”) systems like the MSR WhisperLite, which sits lower to the ground than screw-on canister models and uses a robust tripod stand to support the burner.  

Screw-on stoves are generally the least stable option, mainly because the pot isn’t locked onto the burner and sits on top of the leg supports where it’s exposed to the wind and liable to slide off. Given this, the wider the leg supports are, the more stable the system will be. 

The non-integrated systems in our review that have pot supports wide enough to support larger cooking vessels are the MSR PocketRocket 2, Soto Amicus, and BRS 3000T. 

Last update on 2021-10-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Kieran James Cunningham is a climber, mountaineer, and author who divides his time between the Italian Alps, the US, and his native Scotland.

He has climbed a handful of 6000ers in the Himalayas, 4000ers in the Alps, 14ers in the US, and loves nothing more than a good long-distance wander in the wilderness. He climbs when he should be writing, writes when he should be sleeping, has fun always.

Kieran has taught mountaineering, ice climbing, and single-pitch and multi-pitch rock climbing in a variety of contexts over the years and has led trekking and mountaineering expeditions in the Alps, Rockies, and UK. He is currently working towards qualifying as a Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor and International Mountain Leader.

Kieran’s book Climbing the Walls—an exploration of the mental health benefits of climbing, mountaineering, and the great outdoors—is scheduled for release by Simon & Schuster in April 2021.