How to Choose the Right Backcountry Stove

How to Choose the Right Backcountry Stove

To go along with our series on Camping Food, let's talk about the different types of backpacking stoves. When thinking about cooking food, or at least boiling water, it is vital to have the right gear. Being able to enjoy a hot meal after a long day on the trail helps boost your morale and keep you warm. Boiling your drinking water will also protect you from bacteria and viruses that could otherwise turn your hike into a disaster. This is why it is very important to think about which stove to bring.

First, you do have the option of creating a campfire if they are allowed at your campsite. This would also be dependent on the availability of dry wood to burn. Campfires are the most common source of forest fires, especially in summer, which is why a lot of parks have strict restrictions. Because of this, it would be better to bring a camping stove which is safer to use and has less impact on the environment.

There are several types of backpacking stoves available, so read on to find out which stove may best suit your needs.

Types of Hiking Stoves

  • Gas Canister Stove: These use pressurized fuel canisters (propane or butane), which are a bit costly. However, the stoves themselves are light and generally least expensive among the various stove options. They may have some issues when used in cold weather and the compact burners may not be able to carry big pots. On the plus side, maintenance is minimal.
  • Liquid Fuel Stove: These types of stoves use liquid fuels, such as gasoline, kerosene, or alcohol, which are generally less expensive than gas fuels. There can be significant differences between the different liquid fuel types. However, in general, the stoves are bulkier than gas stoves. They also require a bit more maintenance.
  • Multi-fuel Stove: Multi-fuel stoves could be used with either gas canisters or liquid fuel. They tend to be the most expensive option. However, the temperature is usually easier to control.
  • Wood Stove: These use wood, twigs or leaves that are often readily available on the trail. They are usually heavy-duty which makes them the heaviest option. Some parks do not allow wood burning stoves because they are prone to starting forest fires.
  • Solid fuel burners: Solid fuel burners utilize solid fuel tablets. These stoves and fuel are compact and light. The heat they produce is low and will run out quickly, so they are not well suited for a lot of cooking. However, they work well for boiling small amounts of water for drinking, coffee or instant noodles.


It's very important to always be safe when using any stove. In addition, please keep the following in mind when selecting what stove to bring along:

  • Make sure that your pots can fit on the stove.
  • During planning, check with the local park or forest service to see if they have regulations regarding stoves or campfires.
  • Always consider the difficulty and length of your hike when picking a stove to bring. Think about the amount of gear and food that you will be carrying and the amount of fuel you will need.
  • Be very careful when setting up your stove because it could easily start a forest fire. Pick a stable and level spot.
  • Check if the stove has self-ignition or if you need to bring a lighter, firesteel, or matches.
  • Use some aluminum foil to create a wind barrier around small burners to keep the heat in and the wind out. Just make sure not to do this for upright gas stove burners because the canisters should not be exposed to extreme heat.

Do you have any other tips for choosing the right camping stove? Share with us in the comments below. Also, check out the rest of our Camping Food articles, including Breakfast on the Trail and Planning for Great Backpacking Dinners.

Camp Kitchen Gear Tips and Resources

1 comment

  • Tim

    The the article statement on liquid fuel stove is do glib and misinformative. Petrolium based stoves are totally different then alcohol stove it is misleading to put them in the same classification. Alcohol stove are the smallest and lightest stoves. Just poor comment.

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