A backpacking stove is both convenience and necessity. Venturing into the backcountry without one will not only severely limit your food and drink options, but it could put you in mortal danger, especially if conditions take a turn for the worse.
Today’s backpacking stoves are lightweight, compact and highly efficient. They’re built to last, set up in about a minute and can boil a pan of water in as little as 3 minutes.
Whether you are heading into the wild alone or in a group, having a high-quality backpacking stove with you can ensure a safe and rewarding experience for everyone.
The following are the 10 best backpacking stoves of 2021.
1. MalloMe Backpacking Stove
This MalloMe Backpacking Stove has everything we want to see. It’s light, simple in concept, has few moving parts, and sets up quickly. Just screw it onto your propane canister and fire it up. It’s also widely compatible with different brands of fuel, is fashioned from stainless steel and aluminum alloy and allows for precise flame control.
The MalloMe Backpacking Stove will easily accommodate pans up to 7 inches in diameter. And when you’re done with it the stove slips away into its convenient 1.8 x 2.4 x 3.2 inch carrying case for super-easy storage. For about the cost of the entrance fee to most national parks you can enjoy this incredible backpacking stove for years to come.
2. Redcamp Windproof Portable Backpacking Stove
The Redcamp Windproof Portable Backpacking Stove is a canister stove with a liquid fuel stove design twist. Instead of screwing down onto the top of a canister it stands on its own and has a feeder line that extends to the canister which stands nearby. This greatly increases stability which is important, especially in windy conditions.
There’s also a modest, but surprisingly effective, wind deflector around the burner, which has an adjustable flame so you don’t waste fuel. This Redcamp stove will bring a quart of water to boil in about 5 minutes and comes with a 1 year manufacturer’s warranty. Just be aware it is not compatible with 1lb Coleman propane tanks.
3. AOTU Portable Backpacking Stove
Trying to determine which of our top stoves was number 1 was a chore because a convincing case could be made for 4 or 5 of them. Including the AOTU Portable Backpacking Stove. We love how compact this stove is. You could literally slip it into your pocket and carry it all day without a problem. It’s also powerful, light and affordable.
The flame is fully adjustable so you don’t waste fuel. It boils a quart of water in 3-5 minutes, depending on conditions, and it’s built like a brick house. The only thing keeping this stove from the #1 spot is the fact that it’s not compatible with standard propane canisters. Instead, you’ll need an Isopro 7/16 thread butane/propane canister, which isn’t exactly hard to get.
4. Jetboil Flash Backpacking Stove System
If you have a little extra room in your backpack, consider something like the Jetboil Flash Backpacking Stove System. This set includes the stove top, extensions to stabilize the fuel canister, a wind guard and a tall, insulated pot (with handle) for boiling water. And does it ever boil water. 1 quart/liter takes 90-100 seconds.
The Jetboil Flash has a push-button ignition system, integrated measuring cup, a color-based heat indicatore and weighs less than a pound. That insulated pot we mentioned also keeps your water nice and warm for a good long time.
5. BRS 3000T Backpacking Stove
The BRS 3000T Backpacking Stove is a minimalists’ dream. It’s fashioned from ultra-tough, ultra-lightweight titanium, tips the scales at about 1 ounce and folds down to a minuscule 1.4 x 2 inches. As such, can put it into its tote bag and slip that bag into any pocket, freeing up valuable real estate inside your pack.
But the BRS 3000T is not just small and light. It’s also extremely effective. It will bring a quart/liter of water to boil in about 3 minutes. Of course, with such a small, lightweight stove you’re going to sacrifice a bit of stability. But, as long as you set it up square to the ground, and don’t overload it, you shouldn’t have any problems.
6. GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Canister Stove
The Pinnacle Canister Stove from GSI Outdoors is another compact, lightweight beauty that will enhance your backcountry experience without weighing you down. The company has been making high-quality stoves for more than 30 years. And the Pinnacle embodies everything they’ve learned about efficiency, stability and build quality.
Flame adjustment is easier and more precise with the Pinnacle than with some other ultra-compact stoves. And you’ll heat a quart/liter of water in 3-4 minutes. If there’s a downside it’s the lack of a windguard and the price, which will be a tad steep for some folks.
7. Terra Hiker 3500W Backpacking Stove
If you liked the Redcamp Windproof Stove we profiled above but you want to save a few bucks, consider the Terra Hiker 3500W Backpacking Stove. Like the Redcamp, it sits firmly on the ground, increasing stability and separating the stove from the fuel source. There’s no windguard, but because it sits so low that’s not a huge deal.
The 3500W will boil a pot of water in about 150 seconds, which is pretty impressive. There’s also push-button ignition to save you some hassle on those freezing cold mornings. And at 8.5 ounces it’s not going to break your back. Just keep in mind that it’s not compatible with standard propane canisters.
8. Bulin 5800W Backpacking Stove
The Bulin 5800W Backpacking Stove looks like something of a hot mess from a design perspective. But once you unravel it and get it going you’ll soon discover it’s no joke. It boils a pot of water in about 2.5 minutes, is not intimidated by the wind and can accommodate up to 25kg. Not that you’re ever going to place 25kg on it.
The 5800W has one of the widest cooking platforms you’ll find on any backpacking stove, which makes it a good choice for groups. And with all 3 burners set to max the heat is intense. There’s no other word for it. It’s also relatively light at about .5 lbs. Just be sure to bring enough fuel because it can burn through it pretty fast.
9. Texsport Single Burner Propane Stove
The Texsport Single Burner Propane Stove uses the tried and true propane stack to provide a stable, effective cooking platform that’s perfect for groups. That cooking platform is wide and strong and easily accommodates large pans. The flame is fully adjustable for boiling water or keeping food warm. And the stove fits any standard propane tank. There are also stabilizer legs to ensure the tank doesn’t tip even when boiling a full pot of water.
The Texsport Single Burner Stove is not small by backpacking stove standards. And it’s not the lightest stove on our list either. Which means it’s not going to find favor with strict minimalists. But a lot of folks will find it compact enough, and light enough, and they’re bound to enjoy its effectiveness and reliability.
10. Hamans Ultralight Backpacking Stove
The last of our best backpacking stove is the Hamans Ultralight. This 4 ounce stove sets up in about a minute and will bring a pot of water to boil in about 5 minutes. When you’re done with it, just fold it back down, slip it into its tiny plastic box and store it in any pocket of your backpack.
The Hamans Ultralight screws onto the top of any standard isobutane canister with 7/16 inch threading, features Piezo ignition, and has a fully adjustable flame. If there’s a downside it’s the lack of a windguard and the relatively light and short arms that constitute the cooking platform.
What Is a Backpacking Stove?
A backpacking stove is a compact device that attaches to a fuel source and provides a means for heating water and cooking food in the wilderness. The stove is one of the most important items a backpacker brings with them when they hit the trail and can literally spell the difference between life and death.
As beautiful as America’s forests and mountains may be, they are fraught with danger for the unprepared. Having a high-quality backpacking stove with you is as important as having sufficient warm clothing, a good sleeping bag and a tent. Fortunately, there are scores of companies large and small these days that make reliable, affordable backpacking stoves.
What are the Benefits of a Backpacking Stove?
Backpacking stoves enable mobility. Campers and backpackers both love the outdoors. But the similarities tend to stop there. Campers like to drive into a campground, pull their multi-burner, 20lb stove out of the trunk and get cooking. Backpackers, on the other hand, prefer hiking many miles into the wild where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play. Problem is, lugging that big camping stove along isn’t going to work. Backpacking stoves are a compact solution that enables the backpacker to go wherever their heart desires and be confident in the knowledge that they’ll have a nice hot meal at the end of the day.
Backpacking stoves are light. In order to be able to lug a stove around all day in a backpack it has to be light. And the best backpacking stoves are just that. Most backpacking stoves weigh only a few ounces, so they can be carried easily by anyone. Of course, you will need to consider the weight of the fuel too. Although that is typically pretty modest, around 4 or 8 oz for a canister of isobutane or propane.
Backpacking stoves help you get going in the morning. Waking up in the wilderness is an intoxicating experience. The smells, sights and sounds are rejuvenating to both mind and spirit. Before you hit the trail again, however, it’s important that you fuel up properly, and a good backpacking stove can make sure you do that. Nothing beats having a nice hot breakfast and a cup of coffee before breaking camping and slinging your pack.
A backpacking stove can save your life. Most fatalities in the backcountry are the result of falls or hypothermia. Hypothermia (1) happens when your body loses heat faster than it can replace it and your core temperature drops. The progression of hypothermia starts with uncontrollable shaking, followed by confusion and disorientation, and then unconsciousness and death (2). Having a good backpacking stove with you can help ensure you don’t become a victim of hypothermia. Whenever you feel you’re getting too cold you can stop and make yourself a nice hot drink. While you’re at it you should remove any wet clothes and/or add an extra layer or two of clothing to help warm you back up.
Backpacking stoves extend your culinary horizons. Trail mix, energy bars and water are all very well and good, but they’re a poor substitute for nice hot meals. If you have a backpacking stove with you the sky’s the limit on what you can cook. Okay, maybe not the sky, but you’ll be able to expand your culinary horizons and ensure that meal time is something you look forward to.
Today’s backpacking stoves are powerful. Your parents or grandparents (maybe even you if you’re old enough) probably remember lugging canisters of Sterno fuel into the woods with them on their hiking trips. And while Sterno was better than nothing, it wasn’t a lot better than nothing because it took forever just to bring a pot of water to a boil. Today’s best backpacking stoves can boil a quart of water in about 3 or 4 minutes. This is not only important from a practical standpoint, but from a safety one too. If you or someone in your party is showing signs of hypothermia every minute counts.
Backpacking stoves are compact. Weight is a primary consideration when deciding on a stove to take into the wild. But so too is size. You only have so much room in your backpack, after all, so you have to make the most of it. You can’t be leaving behind food or clothes to make way for the stove and any associated fuel. Stove engineers and designers understand this, and strive to outdo each other when it comes to producing the most efficient design.
Backpacking stoves are affordable. Many of the things that make backpacking such a fun and rewarding experience are pretty expensive. A good down jacket and a quality down sleeping bag can each cost hundreds of dollars. Good tents aren’t cheap either. And have you priced high-quality hiking boots lately? Of all the things that make major contributions to the enjoyment of a backpacking trip few are as affordable as a good backpacking stove.
Backpacking stoves are durable. Not only are backpacking stoves affordable they’re also built to last. The stove you buy today could very well be the same stove you’re using on your backpacking adventures 20 years from now. There are a lot of reasons this type of stove lasts so long, including the fact that they are incredibly simple in design, have few moving parts, and are fashioned from durable materials like stainless steel and even titanium in some cases.
What are the Different Kinds of Backpacking Stoves?
There are 5 major categories of backpacking stove, divided by the type of fuel they use. They are:
Canister stoves are the most popular type of backpacking stove. Their popularity is due almost entirely to their ease of use: simply remove the stove from its bag, screw it onto the top of a gas canister, and fire it up. The first canister stoves were produced by French industrial designer Jue Lafare (3) in 1932 and used widely by the French army, until they were overrun by the Germans in 1940.
The Germans were not impressed by the design and melted down most of the captured stoves as scrap metal. Canister stoves would not become commercially popular until 40 years or so after the war. But today, they are produced by dozens of different companies and dominate the backpacking stove market.
Liquid Fuel Stoves
The second most popular type of backpacking stove is the liquid fuel stove. These resemble the canister stove in that both are small and lightweight. But whereas the canister stove is designed to fit atop a canister of propane gas, the liquid fuel stove sits directly on the ground or picnic table and has a hose that connects to a nearby bottle of liquid fuel, most typically white gas (4).
The liquid fuel stove is popular for several reasons. First, you can reuse the fuel bottle over and over. Second, they tend to burn hotter than canister stoves. And third, those bottles of fuel tend to be smaller than propane canisters. Lighter too.
The alcohol stove is prized for its lightweight efficiency. It runs on denatured alcohol (5), which can be obtained at most hardware stores, and the stove platform itself is typically just a shell fashioned from aluminum or stainless steel. The present day alcohol stove is similar in concept to the Sterno stove (6) that has been around for more than a century.
The difference is that the Sterno stove uses denatured alcohol in a jellied state, and the alcohol stove uses denatured alcohol in a liquid state. Alcohol stoves are very light and affordable. Their main drawback is that, like the Sterno stove, they take a long time to bring water to a boil.
Wood Burning Stoves
Wood burning backpacking stoves are a favorite of environmentally conscious outdoor lovers. There is no propane, butane, or denatured alcohol to bring along. No canisters that need to be disposed of and no danger of explosion. Wood burning stoves amount to little more than a metal framework that provides a lower compartment for stacking small sticks, birch bark (7), dry leaves of other combustibles that are found on the forest floor, and an upper platform for placing your cooking pots.
The walls of the lower compartment prevent the wind from blowing out the fire, while having enough slots to allow air to enter and feed that fire. The main drawback of this type of stove is obvious: if you find yourself in a place with no readily available combustibles, dinner will consist of cold water and trail mix.
Solid Fuel Tablet Stoves
This type of stove has fallen out of favor with officials in some parks because of the lack of a shutoff valve. With wildfires such a huge issue these days, anything that raises the risk of accidentally starting a blaze is a definite no-no, especially since you probably won’t have a fire extinguisher with you in the mountains.
That said, some people still enjoy the lightweight convenience of the solid fuel tablet stove. The tablets themselves are made from hexamine (8), don’t liquify as they burn and don’t leave behind ashes. They can, however, leave something of a greasy deposit on the bottom of pots and pans.
What’s the Difference Between a Backpacking Stove and a Camping Stove?
A backpacking stove reflects the needs of someone who is carrying their world on their back. Which means it must be small and it must be light so that A) it does not take up too much room in the backpack and B) it does not tire out the person who is carrying it around all day. By contrast, the camping stove is not encumbered by any such considerations.
The camping stove assumes the user is driving to state park, national park, beach or wherever and that they are going to wind up parking their car, RV or trailer near where they will eat. As such, the camping stove can be as large and heavy as the user wants or needs it to be.
The Bottom Line
A backpacking stove is one of those small but important things that determine whether your time in the wild is a miserable, life-threatening slog or a fun, safe and rewarding experience.
Today’s best backpacking stoves are light, compact and affordable. They’re also dependable, efficient, and built to last.
If you are planning a backpacking adventure, make sure you are properly prepared for what awaits by picking up one of the outstanding backpacking stoves on the above list.