Whether it’s that steaming cup of black coffee first thing in the morning, or a hot meal at the end of a hard days hike, it’s the small things that truly make any trip memorable. A backpacking stove is the one essential piece of gear to pack if you want to enjoy those special moments.
Several types exist, and your selection will depend upon the weight you’re prepared to carry, the size of your group and the type of fuel you have available. Categorised by fuel type, burn time, average boil time and weight, they meet the needs of a vast array of backpackers.
Solutions exist for those who travel solo over long distances looking for a minimalist ultralightweight stove to those travelling in large groups with no weight or fuel concerns. Let’s take a look at the principle types before we uncover which may be right for you.
Incredibly small and compact, canister stoves are commonly brought along on backpacking trips where weight is a concern. Extremely easy to use, they are comprised of a small gas cannister pressurized with isobutane and propane.
Canister stoves come in 2 main types, namely integrated canister stoves and remote canister stoves. The integrated canister systems are comprised of an insulated cooking pot and a burner that can be seamlessly integrated together. With an enclosed design they boil water extremely quickly, and excel in windy conditions, however, they’re not designed for cooking food.
Remote canister systems are comprised of a stove that sits atop its own base that’s connected via a hose to the actual stove. Lightweight and simple to pack, they are easily carried on any backpacking trip. With the flame exposed to the elements, you’ll want to use windscreen if you’re cooking in windy conditions.
- Lightweight, small and easily transported
- In-built safety with zero leaks once the stove is unscrewed
- High-end options contain a pressure regulator that helps ensure even output throughout the entire lifecycle
- They can generally only be used with small pots due to their limited size
- The cost of gas is more expensive when compared to other stove types
- It can be difficult to ascertain how much gas remains inside meaning you’ll have to carry a backup for longer trips
Liquid Fuel Stoves
The most efficient in terms of fuel use, liquid fuel stoves can run on a variety of different fuels such as kerosene, jet fuel and diesel. If you’re travelling through a variety of different countries where fuel options may be limited, then the versatility that liquid fuel stoves offer make them an attractive option.
- The canister is refillable, meaning there’s no issue with disposal
- They function extremely well in high mountain or polar environments
- Their low profile makes them optimal for use on rugged or uneven ground
- Priming is required, where a few drops of fuel must be ignited to create a small flame that preheats the fuel line
- Less convenient than canister stoves due to their higher weight
- Fuel is less contained and spillages can easily occur
- Periodic cleaning is required as impurities in the fuel may clog the stove over time
Those travelling over long distance may be unable to carry sufficient fuel for an entire trip. In such cases, several “alternative fuel” stove solutions exist.
Wood is often easily found while out on backpacking trips and wood-burning stoves provide a lightweight option that can function as your primary stove or a backup. They generally come in an ergonomic design with support for a pot. While some models even power a USB connection that allows you to charge electronics. Drawbacks include the fact that dry tinder may be hard to find in wet conditions, and if hiking high above the tree line, then it may be difficult to find enough fuel.
Ultrasmall and ultralight, tablet stoves fit in your pocket. Simply open up the small box design and light a tablet before placing a small cup on top. A tablet will generally burn out within 10-12 minutes and provide enough heat to slowly heat a small pot or cup.
Alcohol Burner Stoves
Weighing in at less than 100g, alcohol burner stoves are an extremely portable solution. Alcohol is poured into a small chamber, and once lit, it provides a steady low-heat flame that can be used with a small pot. Many alcohol burner stoves come complete with a windscreen that helps increase efficiency.
Several things should be factored into the equation before purchasing a backpacking stove. Properties such as weight, fuel efficiency, fuel type and boil time will all affect your choice of stove, as will the size of your party.
If you’re a solo backpacker and weight is a concern, then canister stoves and remote canister stoves win hands-down. If you’re hiking to high altitude, then you’ll want to avoid remote canister stoves as they don’t perform as well up high.
For those travelling internationally who want a stove they can use anywhere, then liquid fuel stoves are the clear winner. The versatility they provide in terms of fuel options means that you’ll never be left without.
At Decathlon we stock a wide range of backpacking stoves and fuel options. Whether you’re headed into the high mountains or the desert, alone or in a group, you’ll be sure to find the ideal stove solution.