A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing the Right Stove for Backpacking

A Beginner's Guide to Choosing the Right Stove for Backpacking

If you’re a novice backpacker or an outdoor enthusiast looking to take your adventures to the next level, choosing the right stove for backpacking is essential. Planning ahead will ensure that you have a hot meal during a long day of hiking and that you’re able to enjoy all of the benefits of being out in nature. But if exploring new trails with all sorts of gear has got your head spinning – don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with essentials tips below on selecting the best stove for your needs and budget.

Fuel Type

When it comes to camping stoves, there are four main types of fuel available: Canister Stoves, Integrated Canister Stove, Liquid Fuel Stoves and Alternative Fuel Stoves. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks depending on your needs.

Canister Stoves

Canister Stoves run on small pressurized gas canisters that can be purchased in most outdoor stores. They are easy to set up and use but their flame output is limited by the pressure in the canister so they may not last for many trips. These are the most likely stove to use for single day hikes due to their weight and size.

Typically they will be used for boiling water for dehydrated meals and hot drinks. Due to their small size, they are not good for big pots, and so not suitable for cooking more elaborate meals.

But they are easy to use – just screw in the canister, fold down the arms, release the valve and light the gas. They boil water fast and the valve can be easily controlled.

  • Weight – typically between 3 – 8 ounces (85 – 225 grams)
  • Size – these stoves are very small. They fold up and take up very little space. They fit easily in a small pot or mug.

Recommended Canister Stove

Integrated Canister Stoves

Integrated Canister Stoves combine a liquid fuel bottle with a canister-style burner. This type offers more stability than traditional canister stoves but still relies on pressurized gas as its fuel source so it’s best suited for short trips.

These are becoming more popular due to the integrated cup – this saves buying several items. Boil time is ever so slightly quicker than a small canister stove, and are also more fuel efficient. However they are somewhat heavier, so bear this in mind when buying. Due to their height they can be a little unstable, so choose a flat surface, sheltered from the wind and potential people knocking over if possible.

  • Weight – typically between 14 – 18 ounces (400 – 510 grams)
  • Size – this stove is larger than a small canister stove, but it is still relatively small. These stoves are built to work with a full system, and they always nest perfectly.

Recommended Integrated Canister Stove

Liquid Fuel Stoves

Liquid Fuel Stoves burn white gas or kerosene as fuel sources and offer greater flame power than other types of stoves. They are also more reliable in cold temperatures which makes them ideal for winter hiking trips. The downside is that they tend to be heavier than other types of stoves due to the need for a large tank of fuel and they require more maintenance than other stove types.

These are the oldest form of stove, so favoured by veteran hikers in particular. Check which liquid you can use, but most of these are cheaper than the isobutane used in canister stoves, so will save you a bit of money if used reguarly. They are also more fuel efficient. Howver boil times are longer and older models are noisy!

  • Weight – typically between 10 – 18 ounces (285 – 510 grams)
  • Size – very big and do not fold up easily. They have a lot of parts and you usually need a special case to hold all the pieces. They also do not stack well, unless you have very large pots.

Recommended Liquid Fuel Stove

Alternative Fuel Stoves

Alternative Fuel Stoves burn alternative fuels such as alcohol or solid fuel tablets instead of traditional propane or white gas varieties. These are great for backpacking since they are light and easy to pack but their flame output tends to be weaker because of their smaller size.

Popular with ultralight backpackers, you can even make your own! But boil time is poor.

  • Weight – typically between 1 – 3 ounces (28 – 85 grams)
  • Size – small and have only one or two pieces. They can fit anywhere.

Recommended Alcohol Stove

Trip Length

The length of your trip is an important factor in determining the type and size of stove you will need. If you plan to be hiking for multiple days, then a lightweight, compact backpacking stove is probably best. These stoves are designed to be highly portable and can often fit into a small pocket in your pack. On the other hand, if you’ll be out for just one night or two, then something larger (like a campground stove) might be more suitable. These types of stoves are usually larger and heavier but offer more cooking power so they’re great for groups or those who want to cook bigger meals while camping.

Number of People

The number of people who will be on your camping trip is another key factor when it comes to selecting a stove. If you’re traveling with just one other person then something small and lightweight should suffice; however, if there will be four or more people in the group then something that offers more cooking power may be necessary. It’s also important to note that some backpacking stoves have limited pot supports which could limit how much food you can cook at once.

Size and Weight

When it comes to backpacking stoves, size and weight are two key factors as well. If you’re planning on carrying your gear over long distances then every ounce counts! Look for models that offer good performance while still being lightweight enough to carry with ease on multi-day trips. Also consider whether or not the stove fits into any existing cookware sets that you already own as this could save space and weight in your pack as well.


Where exactly will you be stopping to eat? Some areas may have restrictions regarding open flame fires so it’s important to check local regulations before purchasing any type of campfire stove or portable gas burner that requires an open flame source such as propane gas tanks or wood burning fuel logs (for example). In addition, different types of stoves may require specific terrain features (such as flat ground) in order for them to set up properly so keep this in mind when choosing a model that works best for where you plan on setting up camp.

Type Of Use

What type of meals do you plan on eating while hikingOpens in a new tab.? Are you just boiling water for hot drinks and freeze dried or rehydrating foods? Are they simple one-pot dishes like macaroni & cheese or do they involve complex ingredients like fresh vegetables? Depending on what type of cuisine you plan on preparing during your trip, different types of stoves may work better than others – for instance, wood burning models tend to provide better heat control than propane-powered ones which makes them ideal for slow cooked recipes like soups & stews that require lower temperatures over longer periods of time.


Stability is also an important factor when selecting a backpacking stove – after all, no one wants their dinner toppling into the dirt! Look for models with wide base legs that can spread out easily over uneven terrain as well as adjustable pot supports/burners that accommodate numerous size pots & pans so they don’t tip over while cooking (especially if there are kids around).

Lighting the stove

One final thing to mention is it is best to have a back up plan with regards to lighting your stove. Matches are the most common method, but keep them in a plastic jar to stop them getting wet. You may want to carry a lighter as well. If you are more hardcore, then a flint striker can be used. Becoming more common is choosing a stove that has Piezo ignition, but expect to pay more for this feature.

Conclusion – Choosing the Right Stove for Backpacking

When it comes time to choose a stove for your next adventure, there is much more to consider than just price – take into account trip length, number of people involved in your journey, size and weight requirements based on your location and activities planned during your trip as well as how stable you need the stove itself to be when cooking outdoors in windy conditions! With this guide at hand, we hope that selecting the right backpacking stove has become easier! As always remember safety first when handling any kind of open flame near wooded areas.

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