The yearning to explore Mother Nature—and eat well while doing so—sends many people on a quest for the best backpacking stove they can find. Sure, you can pack along beef jerky and protein bars, or even go to the mess and trouble of making a wood fire to cook over in camp. But a good backpacking stove makes it easy. It’s one of the best pieces of camping gear you can own and should be on everyone’s camping checklist.

However, backpacking stoves come in many different price ranges and various levels of quality. The size and weight of a stove for backpacking is very important, since the only way to get it to your camp kitchen is to carry it along. But equally important to size is how powerful a stove is—especially if you’ll be cooking for more than just one or two people. Sometimes, even a budget-friendly canister stove can get the job done quite well. To choose the best backpacking stove for you and your purposes, consider the following important factors.

Best lightweight backpacking stove: MSR PocketRocket backpacking stove

Best fast backpacking stove: REDCAMP windproof portable backpacking stove

Best backpacking stove with adjustable flame control: Jetboil backpacking stove cooking system

Best wood-burning backpacking stove: Ohuhu Stainless Steel Backpacking Stove

Best cheap backpacking stove: GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove

Features to consider when shopping for a backpacking stove

Backpacking stoves burn various types of fuels. Many models burn liquid fuel, others burn gaseous fuel stored in canisters and some even burn wood—the most common fuel found in the out of doors. Liquid or canister stoves are going to require you to haul fuel along with you, but their efficiency at boiling water fast—an important factor in camp—far outshines wood-burning stoves. Besides, some camping and hiking areas won’t allow you to burn native wood, even if it is dead and has fallen.

What accessories come along with your stove is also critical. Many have carrying cases that double as containers to not only carry the stove and fuel, but to heat water and cook other food while on the trail.

And of course, weight is a consideration because you’ll be carrying the stove wherever you go.

Is weight a primary consideration?

Long hikes and extreme backcountry camping trips require specialized equipment. In those cases, you need the very lightest equipment money can buy, since every bit has to be packed in and out on your back, along with all of your other necessities. But, a frigid night in the backwoods is not time to find out that you skimped on quality when concentrating on size, leaving you no warm drink or meal on a cold night.

If you need a lightweight stove, look for one made of strong, lightweight materials like titanium that aren’t easily damaged. Make sure it is powered by a lightweight fuel canister or gas bottle.

Make sure the camp cooking stove is easy to set up and operate. You’ll likely be operating it in dark or near-dark conditions using only your headlamp as illumination, so you don’t want one that takes time to get going.

Best lightweight backpacking stove: MSR PocketRocket backpacking stove

Super Light

This tiny stove weighs in at only 2.6 ounces, and measures a diminutive 2x2x3 inches. MSR

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Lightweight backpacking stoves can be fragile. It just comes with the territory. Consequently, getting one with protective storage can save you lots of trouble in the long run. This tiny 2.6-ounce stove includes a lightweight protective case that only raises the total weight to 4.2 ounces. Despite its size, it can boil one liter of water in just 3.5 minutes, and you can easily adjust the flame from a simmer to a rolling boil.

Do you want a fast stove?

The most common use for backpacking stoves is to heat hot water. The amazing variety of lightweight, freeze-dried, just-add-hot-water camping food available today means you can be 100 miles from nowhere and feast on fettuccini alfredo or chicken marsala—as long as you have a stove, and it works well.

But there will be plenty of times when you just want to take a break and have a hot drink and a snack. A hot cup of coffee or cocoa can help warm you back up when the cold weather has you feeling too chilly for comfort.

The key is to have a stove that can heat that water as quickly as possible while using as little fuel as possible.

Best fast backpacking stove: REDCAMP windproof portable backpacking stove

Work Horse

This propane/butane lightweight backpacking stove is easy to use and store, and can boil a liter of water in only 2 minutes. REDCAMP

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Using a propane or butane canister for fuel, the REDCAMP windproof stove is made of aluminum and weighs less than half a pound. The windproof design is compatible with any 7/16 thread single butane/butane-propane mixed fuel canisters. This wind-resistant backpacking stove also packs up easily with a small footprint, both for carrying in your pack and storing out of the way while in camp.

Do you want a backpacking stove that allows you to adjust the flame size?

Most people who have done much backcountry camping and have used a small camping stove often know that a stove that lets you easily control the temperature can help you make a meal without devoting 100 percent of your attention on the stove. After all, how many times have you been preparing a meal when you weren’t trying to handle a bunch of campsite chores all at once?

Most camp stoves are fairly easily adjustable from just a bit of gas yielding a small flame to a large one producing a big flame, but some are more easily adjustable than others. A backpacking stove with simmer control Is the easiest of all, as It can help keep the flame right where it needs to be for whatever you’re making.

When checking out controls on stoves you are considering, try to determine how much gas each stove uses at different levels of power. Since you have to haul fuel in along with your stove, a stove that produces more heat with less fuel is always preferable over one that burns a whole canister every time you try to boil water.

Best backpacking stove with adjustable flame control: Jetboil backpacking stove cooking system

Easy To Use

This tiny stove’s integrated cooking cup with insulating cozy makes boiling water, and keeping it hot, easier than ever. Jetboil

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One thing better than a lightweight backpacking stove is an all-in-one system that provides you everything you need to heat water and make food without additional items to carry along. This Jetboil camping cooking system includes a fuel canister stabilizer, and the bottom cup doubles as a measuring cup and a bowl.

Do you want a wood-burning backpacking stove?

Cooking over a campfire can be a very enjoyable experience, but doing so repeatedly can be messy, frustrating and plain tiresome. There may be plenty of fuel (wood) around, but there’s a lot of cleanup involved—not to mention the chance of half your food falling off a lopsided grill into the flames.

Fortunately, some manufacturers have come up with a solution for this problem. Wood-burning backpacking stoves might not be as small as their gas-burning counterparts, but you don’t have to haul gas bottles or canisters along with you.

When shopping for a backpacking wood stove, keep weight as well as durability in mind. Strong construction will help make your stove last many years under regular use. Also make sure it has a good, stable base.

Best wood-burning backpacking stove: Ohuhu Stainless Steel Backpacking Stove

Free Fuel

This wood-powered backpacking stove is made of sturdy stainless steel and doesn’t require you to haul any gas canisters or bottles into camp with you. Ohuhu

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One of the problems with conventional liquid and canister stoves is the fact that you have to carry fuel along with you. This light, yet heavy-duty, wood-burning backing stove from Ohuhu will allow you to burn twigs, leaves, pinecones, bark and wood—all quite abundant in nature.

Best budget backpacking stove: What you get for under $50

While “you get what you pay for” is a pretty apt description for backpacking stoves, there are some budget-minded backpacking stoves available that will serve you well, especially if you don’t use them every weekend. If you’re trying to save money, don’t overlook the importance of portability and power when making your decision. You might get a stove for half the price, but if it isn’t easy to pack and won’t heat up water quickly, you will never be happy with it.

Best cheap backpacking stove: GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove

Budget Pick

This high-output butane stove quickly and evenly heats larger pots and pans. GSI Outdoors

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While quite small, this 11,000-BTU unit comes complete with serrated, stainless steel support arms to provide a stable, secure cooking platform. If you’re backpacking on a budget, put this camping stove on your list to consider.


Q: Do you need a stove for backpacking?

The short answer is no, since you can cook over a fire or have a cold camp. But a quality backpacking stove will help you enjoy your time afield much more.

Q: How long does a backpacking stove canister last?

How long a backpacking stove canister lasts is entirely dependent on the stove size and what level you run it on. At lower levels, it will run much longer but won’t heat water as quickly. On very high levels, it will heat faster but will use up the gas canister much more quickly. One thing’s for sure: Having more canisters than you need is better than having fewer.

A Final Word On Shopping For The Best Backpacking Stove

Always consider the weight of the fuel along with the weight of the stove, and think about what you’ll be making on the stove. That will point you toward the best backpacking stove for your needs.