Outdoor Gear 101: Exploring Solid Fuel Stoves

Solid Fuel Stoves: A close-up of a hiker using a solid fuel stove on a rocky ledge

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

Welcome to the world of ultralight and efficient camping gear: solid fuel stoves. These small, lightweight stoves are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.

In this post, we’ll explore how they work and why they’re so handy for camping, hiking, and emergencies. Let’s get started.

The Basics of Solid Fuel Stoves

Solid fuel stoves are simple but incredibly useful tools for outdoor cooking. Let’s break down the basics:

Solid Fuel Stove for Backpacking
  • What Are They? Solid fuel stoves are small gadgets made to burn fuel tablets or other materials, creating heat for cooking during camping. Although their designs differ, they usually have a basic setup with a plate for the fuel and a stand for your pot.
  • How Do They Work? You place a solid fuel tablet (often made of hexamine1 or trioxane2) inside the stove, ignite it, and it starts burning steadily. The heat from the burning tablet is what you use to cook your food or boil water. If you’re interested in learning more about the ins and outs of these fuels, we recommend checking out this detailed post.
  • How Light Are They? You can find titanium options that weigh around half an ounce (14g). The fuel, for example, an ESBIT tablet, also weighs the same. Since one ESBIT tablet can boil 2 cups (500ml), for a three-day trip, you might manage with a cook setup that only weighs 2 ounces (56g). That’s as light as most canister stoves without the canister. However, for optimal efficiency, you’d need to bring a windscreen.

Pros and Cons of Solid Fuel Stoves

Like everything else, solid fuel stoves have their strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a closer look at what makes them a great choice and where they might fall short:

Pros of Solid Fuel Stoves:

  1. Portability: Solid fuel stoves are incredibly compact and lightweight. They won’t weigh you down during backpacking trips.
  2. Easy to Use: Lighting solid fuel tablets is straightforward, making these stoves user-friendly, even for beginners.
  3. Minimal Maintenance: Unlike complex gas stoves, solid fuel stoves require little to no maintenance, reducing the hassle during your outdoor adventures.
  4. Environmentally Friendly: Solid fuels like hexamine and trioxane tend to burn cleanly, leaving behind minimal residue and reducing their environmental impact.

Cons of Solid Fuel Stoves:

  1. Slower Cooking Times: Solid fuel stoves are generally slower at heating food or water compared to some liquid or gas stoves.
  2. Fuel Tablet Costs: Fuel tablets for these stoves can be more expensive compared to other fuel options.
  3. Availability: Depending on your location, finding solid fuel tablets might be more challenging than other types of fuel.
  4. Temperature Control: Controlling the flame’s temperature on solid fuel stoves is limited compared to more advanced stoves.
  5. Wind Protection Needed: While they perform well in the wind, you might still need to set up some form of wind protection to maximize efficiency.
  6. Potential Odor: Some solid fuels can produce odors during combustion, which can be less pleasant compared to other stove types.

Solid Fuel Stoves vs. Other Stove Types

Solid Fuel Stoves: A close-up of a solid fuel stove in action at a campsite

Solid fuel stoves offer unique advantages, but how do they stack up against other stove types commonly used by outdoor enthusiasts?

Let’s compare them to liquid fuel and gas stoves:

Solid Fuel Stoves vs. Liquid Fuel Stoves:

  • Portability: Solid fuel stoves are generally more compact and lightweight, making them ideal for ultralight backpacking.
  • Ease of Use: Solid fuel stoves are easier to light and require less maintenance compared to liquid fuel stoves, which often involve priming and pumping.
  • Environmental Impact: Solid fuel tablets tend to burn cleanly, producing fewer emissions than liquid fuels. They have a lower environmental impact.
  • Fuel Availability: Liquid fuels like white gas may be more readily available in some regions, while solid fuel tablets can be less common.
  • Versatility: Liquid fuel stoves can operate in extremely cold conditions, making them suitable for winter camping. Solid fuel stoves might struggle in freezing temperatures.

Solid Fuel Stoves vs. Gas Stoves:

  • Portability: Both solid fuel and gas stoves are small and light, perfect for backpacking. However, for shorter trips, solid fuel stoves come out on top because the main weight depends on how many tablets you need.
  • Ease of Use: Gas stoves are generally easier to ignite and offer precise temperature control. Solid fuel stoves are simpler but less versatile.
  • Fuel Availability: Gas canisters are widely available in outdoor stores and can be easier to find compared to solid fuel tablets.
  • Environmental Impact: Gas stoves produce fewer emissions than solid fuel stoves, making them a more environmentally friendly choice.
  • Cost: Initial costs for gas stoves may be higher due to the purchase of the stove and canisters, while solid fuel stoves are often more budget-friendly.

Comparison: The Bottom Line

Solid fuel stoves excel in terms of simplicity and portability, making them great for minimalistic camping and ultralight enthusiasts.

However, if you prioritize precise temperature control or anticipate cooking in cold conditions, you might lean toward liquid fuel or gas stoves.

Final Thoughts

Solid fuel stoves are ideal for ultralight backpackers, offering compactness, simplicity, and reliable performance in outdoor cooking.

While they excel in user-friendliness and low maintenance, they may not quite match the rapid heating and precise temperature control of liquid fuel or gas stoves. Nevertheless, we highly recommend giving them a try.

In the end, your decision should be guided by your unique requirements and preferences. Here’s to happy experimenting and unforgettable outdoor adventures.

Looking for an ultralight backpacking stove? Explore our TOP 5 guide to discover the lightest options on the market.


Can you fly with solid fuel tablets on a plane?

You cannot bring solid fuel tablets on a plane. These items are considered hazardous materials due to their flammable nature, and airlines typically prohibit them in both carry-on and checked luggage. It’s essential to follow airline regulations and TSA guidelines to ensure a safe and hassle-free journey. If you need solid fuel for outdoor activities at your destination, it’s often best to purchase them locally or make suitable arrangements once you arrive.

Are solid fuel camping stoves any good?

Solid fuel camping stoves can be an excellent choice for outdoor enthusiasts. They are prized for their compactness, simplicity, and reliability in various conditions. These stoves are easy to use, require minimal maintenance, and are environmentally friendly, producing fewer emissions. However, they may not match the speed and temperature control of other stove types like liquid fuel or gas stoves. The suitability of a solid fuel stove depends on your specific needs and preferences, making them a good option for some campers and ultralight backpackers.

  1. Hexamine: Hexamine tablets are a popular choice. They burn cleanly and efficiently, making them excellent for cooking. They’re known for their reliability and ease of ignition, making them suitable for various outdoor conditions. ↩︎
  2. Trioxane: Trioxane tablets are another common option. They’re often used by the military. These tablets burn with a light blue flame and have a long shelf life, making them a good choice for emergencies. ↩︎
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