A backpacking stove is used to boil water and cook food. It is mainly used for outdoor activities: camping, hiking, trekking and mountaineering, fishing, hunting…
Which hiking stove to choose? Gas, multi-fuel, wood or alcohol.
The choice of the best backpacking stove for your need depends first on the fuel you will find on site and the type of fuel you wish to use.
Technologies available are isobutane or propane, multi-fuel (gasoline), wood and alcohol, each have advantages and disadvantages to take into account before leaving!
Table of Contents
The canister gas stove is reliable and easy to use. To operate, it uses a mixture of liquid gas under pressure: propane, butane or isobutane.
The efficiency of a gas stove is high and the flame level is precise. It is, without a doubt, the lightest and most compact heating and cooking tool on the market.
Gas has some disadvantages: depending on the place of destination, it is not always easy to find a gas cartridge suitable for your stove.
It is preferable to purchase a backpacking stove that uses the international standard: threaded valve canister of type Coleman, Primus, MSR, Optimus, Jetboil.
The advantage of the canister with valve (screw thread): it disconnects and reconnects, even when full, and safely traps the gas.
Some canisters are pierceable and with have unthreaded valve cartridges that are not compatible with stoves using a screw thread (valve).
In this case, an adapter is required. In some countries, these pierceable cartridges are difficult to find. To overcome this problem, some manufacturers offer compatible “Dual” stoves with threaded and threadless gas canisters.
Gas under pressure cannot withstand cold. Butane quickly becomes inoperative at negative temperatures.
In this case, the cartridge must be reheated so that the butane can vaporize again.
To overcome this disadvantage, it is preferable in a cold environment to equip yourself with a gas canister that uses a mixture of propane and isopropane.
For winter use, or at low temperatures, it is preferable to use an inverted canister stove.
There is a new generation of optimized stoves. They have high efficiency and can be used in harsh weather conditions.
They are composed of a burner, a heat diffuser, a pot and a lid. These 2 in 1 (stove + pot) combinations save energy consumption by reducing boiling or cooking time.
To help you choose from the wide range of gas stoves, I have classified them into 4 categories:
1 – “Traditional” stoves: these are the simplest models. These burners are light, compact and powerful.
2 – “Duo valve” stoves are composed of a valve that allows the connection of threaded and unthreaded valve canisters. This means that they are compatible with all valve cartridges on the market: Primus, MSR, Optimus, Jetboil and also Camping Gaz.
3 – Remote and/or inverted canister stoves. The burner is connected to the cartridge by a feed tube. This system allows much more stability and safety when preparing meals. In addition, this system allows the use of large pots. Reverse cartridge models allow the stove to be used at low temperatures. Putting the gas cartridge upside-down promotes better gas mixing.
4 – Integrated stoves: these are integrated models (2 in 1) which are composed of a burner and an optimized pot. The pot is equipped with a heat distributor optimizing the speed of heating and consumption. In this section, we have also integrated the stoves delivered with a pot.
The advantage of a liquid fuel stove: petrol, oil or diesel can be found easily and anywhere in the world.
The principle of this type of stove is simple: by operating a pump, the liquid fuel is put under pressure, then passes over the burner which, under the effect of heat, transforms the liquid into a gaseous state.
There are two types of liquid fuel stoves:
The gas or multi-fuel stove can be used at any temperature. It performs very well, even in cold weather.
It is the stove of expeditions in polar regions and high mountains, ideal for long treks.
Using a gas stove is more complex than using other systems. It requires attention: before it can be used at full power, it must be preheated. It requires regular cleaning and minor maintenance.
The supply of liquid fuel is easy and inexpensive. It is much more economical than gas (but the stove is more expensive to buy).
Fuel must be stored separately from the stove in a dedicated flammable liquid cylinder. Unlike propane or isopropane, liquid fuel is not under pressure when stored.
White gas is the cleanest liquid fuel on the market: it contains no residues. It’s the one that clogs the gas stoves the least. It is the ideal fuel for extremely cold weather and high altitude expeditions. If possible, choose this fuel!
Wood is a free and abundant natural resource! It does not need to be transported since you can find it directly on the site of the camp. The user is completely autonomous and does not have to carry unnecessary extra load.
The wood stove requires collecting kindling wood and maintaining the fire. Lighting requires method, especially when the wood is wet.
It is unusable in areas without wood: glacial areas, deserts and high mountains.
With a wood stove, it is preferable to use a pot that can be easily cleaned, because wood cooking is dirty: soot settles on the pan or pot.
Some models of stoves are equipped with a double wall to optimize heat transfer and therefore increase efficiency.
Several models of wood-burning stoves are compatible with other fuels. If there is a shortage of wood, it can be replaced with solid or liquid alcohol.
Eg. in the fireplace of the Firebox wood stove, it is possible to place a Trangia or Tatonka alcohol burner. It also works with solid alcohol or fuel tablets of the Esbit type.
The use of a wood stove requires attention. It should not be used in fire sensitive areas.
The alcohol stove is probably the easiest system to use. There are 3 types: liquid alcohol (methylated spirit), solid alcohol (tablets) or gel.
Easy to handle, it requires no maintenance. Alcohol is a fuel that is easily found anywhere in the world.
These stoves are widely used in Scandinavian countries and have many advantages: they are very light and inexpensive.
Buying an alcohol stove is a more economical system than gasoline or gas. Alcohol does not freeze but requires preheating at negative temperatures.
The boiling time of alcohol is longer than that of other fuels and the flame control is less precise.
But with a system that protects from the wind and can keep the heat, this boiling time can be substantially decreased.
Several models of alcohol stoves are sold in kits including the burner, an integrated windscreen and the pot.
Features of the Caldera Sidewinder Solo stove system:
To help you in the choice of your stove, on each product sheet we have opted for a rating system for stoves according to criteria of weight, power, wind protection, solidity, stability and size.
These scores are established with + (3+ being the maximum score) and a visual system of logos.
|Jetboil MightyMo||95 g (3.3 oz)||3,000 watt - 10,236 BTU/hr||++||++||+++||+++|
|MSR SuperFly Universal Mount Portable Canister Stove||131 g (4.6 oz)||3,571 W - 12,184 BTU/hr||++||+++||++||++|
|Primus Gravity III Portable Cooking Stove||260 g (9.2 oz)||3,000 W - 10,236 BTU/hr||+++||+++||+++||++|
|GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Soloist Complete||448 g (15.8 oz)||2,822 W - 9,629 BTU/hr||+++||+++||++||+++|
|MSR WhisperLite International Multifuel Backpacking Stove||423 g (14.9 oz)||2800 watt - 9,553 BTU/h||+++||+++||+++||+|
|Optimus Polaris Optifuel Stove||475 g (16.7 oz) with pump||4,200 Watt, 14,340 BTU/hr (with white gas) 3300 Watt, 11,260 BTU/hr (with LPG canister)||+++||+++||+++||+|
|Firebox Bushcraft Camp Stove Kit||907 g (32 oz)||++||+++||+++||+++||+++|
|BioLite CampStove 2 Wood Burning||935 g (33 oz)||++||+++||++||+++||+|
|Evernew TI Stove DX Set||86 g (3 oz)||++||+++||+++||+++||+++|
|TRANGIA 27-7 UL Hard Anodized Stove Kit||885 g (31.2 oz)||++||+++||+++||+++||+++|
Some stoves have useful accessories to consider: piezoelectric ignition, integrated windscreen and reflector, heat diffuser, saucepan or pot supplied, remote or optimized stove…
Gas under pressure, petrol and alcohol cannot be transported by air. For this reason, if you plan to travel, find out what type of fuel you will find on site.
The British Thermal Unit is a measure of the energy efficiency of a stove. This unit of value corresponds to the amount of heat required to raise the temperature by 0.56°C (1 degree Fahrenheit) of 1 pound of water (0.45 kg).
Most stove manufacturers indicate BTU energy efficiency per hour. The higher this measurement, the more intense the heat.
The BTU is calculated under optimal climatic conditions that are rarely encountered in the field. Altitude, low temperature, clogging of a stove and pressure level of a gas canister can reduce the BTU.
It is the power (heating capacity output of the gas) expressed in watt (W).
This corresponds to the time needed to bring 1 liter of water to a boil.
The higher the BTU of a stove, the faster the water boils. However, wind, weather conditions or pressure inside a gas cartridge may affect the performance announced by the manufacturer.
Boiling time varies depending on the technology and fuel used. It will be faster to boil 1 liter of water with a gas or petrol stove than with a wood or alcohol stove.
Similarly, this time will be shorter if a gas stove is effectively protected from the wind while an alcohol stove will only perform well if it has an air inlet…
This figure corresponds to the average total consumption time of a fuel. It is indicated in minutes in relation to the weight or volume of fuel (e.g.: autonomy of the Pocket Rocket 2 stove: 60 minutes per 220 g gas canister).
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