How to Choose a Backpacking Stove

Backpacking Stoves: An ultralight Jetboil canister gas stove in a winter forest clearing

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Whether you’re gearing up for a trekking adventure or just curious about backpacking stoves, you’ve landed at the right spot.

We’ll delve into the diverse world of backpacking stoves, shedding light on their strengths and weaknesses.

By the time you’ve reached the end, you’ll be equipped to pick the perfect backpacking stove for your upcoming outdoor adventure.

Interested? Let’s get started.

Key Takeaways

  • Canister and alcohol stoves are lightweight, compact, and user-friendly, making them ideal for ultralight backpackers, while liquid fuel stoves are better for extreme cold.
  • Consider factors like intended conditions, weight, size, cooking needs, and fuel availability when selecting a stove.
  • Simplicity and reliability are key – the best backpacking stove is easy to operate and performs well in the expected conditions for your trip.

Types of Backpacking Stoves

Alright, let’s dive into the different varieties of backpacking stoves. Think of these as your outdoor kitchen options. Here’s what’s on the menu:

1. Canister Stove:

Backpacking Stoves: Canister stove

It’s the lightweight, quick-and-easy choice, like the fast food of backpacking stoves. Just screw on a fuel canister, and you’re good to go. Gotcha – it’s never that simple.


  • Boils water in a flash
  • Lightweight and easy to carry
  • Compact for space-conscious campers
  • User-friendly, perfect for beginners


  • Fuel canisters can be pricey
  • Not the best choice in cold (below 21°F (-6°C))

2. Liquid Fuel Stove:

Backpacking Stoves: Liquid fuel stove

This one’s like the seasoned chef of backpacking stoves. It can handle harsh conditions like a pro, but it’s a bit more complicated to use and requires extra care.


  • Thrives in freezing conditions
  • More affordable fuel options
  • Versatile, works with various liquid fuels
  • Great for cooking for larger groups


  • Heavier and bulkier
  • Requires a separate fuel bottle
  • A bit more complex to operate
  • Demands regular maintenance

3. Alcohol Burning Stove:

Backpacking Stoves: Alcohol burning stove

Perfect for the budget-conscious backpacker, these stoves are cheap and lightweight. They use alcohol-based fuels and are easy to find, but they take their time when cooking. You can learn more about alcohol stoves in our detailed post here.


  • Wallet-friendly
  • Super lightweight
  • Uses readily available fuels like denatured alcohol


  • Slower cooking times
  • Vulnerable to wind and cold
  • Burns fuel relatively quickly

4. Solid Fuel Tablet Stove:

Backpacking Stoves: Solid fuel tablet stove

Super light and straightforward. You light a fuel tablet, put your pot on top, and wait. But they’re not the fastest, and they can be a bit too smelly. Learn more about solid fuel stoves in our detailed post here.


  • Compact and lightweight
  • Easy to use
  • Cost-effective
  • No spillage risk with fuel tabs


  • Slower cooking times
  • Fuel tabs can be a bit expensive
  • Not widely available everywhere
  • Slight odor
  • Struggles in windy and rainy conditions
  • Limited flame control
  • Not allowed in fire ban areas

5. Wood Burning Stove:

Backpacking Stoves: Wood burning stove

Ideal for those who love the crackling sound of a real fire. You can gather sticks and twigs as fuel, which is eco-friendly and budget-friendly. However, it can be a bit challenging in bad weather. We’ve also covered backpacking wood stoves in detail in our post here.


  • Environmentally friendly (burns renewable fuel)
  • No need to carry fuel
  • Cost-effective


  • Requires effort to gather fuel and start the fire
  • Ineffective in bad weather, especially wet conditions
  • Not allowed in fire ban areas
  • Longer cooking times

Choosing the Right Backpacking Stove

Now that we’ve covered the pros and cons of different backpacking stove types, it’s time to figure out which one is the perfect fit for your outdoor escapades. Here’s a roadmap to help you make the right choice:

  • Consider the Fuel Type: Think about where you’ll be camping and the conditions you’ll face. If you’re going into the cold wilderness, a liquid fuel stove might be your best bet. For simpler trips, a canister stove could be ideal.
  • Weight and Size: If you’re backpacking, every ounce counts. Canister, alcohol, solid fuel, or tablet stoves are the most compact options. Car campers have more flexibility with stove size and weight.
  • Cooking Space: Think about the number of pots and pans you’ll need. Some stoves are designed for single-pot meals, while others allow for multiple cookware items simultaneously.

By considering these factors, you’ll be well on your way to selecting the backpacking stove that suits your needs and ensures you enjoy delicious outdoor meals.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re preparing for a trekking adventure or simply curious about backpacking stoves, this guide is your ultimate resource. We’ve delved into the realm of outdoor cooking, exploring a diverse range of backpacking stoves while shedding light on their strengths and weaknesses.

To simplify your selection process, we hold a strong preference for canister backpacking and alcohol-burning stoves. Our experience has shown that these stoves have served us exceptionally well during our travels for hiking in various countries. Plus, the required items are budget-friendly and readily available locally.

Check out our TOP 5 Guide, which highlights the lightest backpacking stove options available on the market.


What is the best camping stove for high altitude?

Liquid fuel stoves, such as those using white gas, are generally reliable at higher elevations because they maintain consistent performance in cold and low-oxygen conditions. Canister stoves with a mix of isobutane and propane can also work well at moderate altitudes. However, it’s crucial to consider factors like temperature, wind, and fuel availability when choosing a stove for high-altitude camping.

What is the best fuel for camp stove in winter?

When it comes to the best fuel for your camp stove in winter, white gas, often known as Coleman fuel, is a top choice. White gas excels in cold temperatures, making it ideal for winter camping. It’s readily available in outdoor stores and compatible with many liquid fuel stoves designed for cold weather. If you’re using a canister stove, opt for a fuel blend containing isobutane and propane, as they perform better in cold conditions compared to pure butane.

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Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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