Backpacking Stoves: Things to Consider Before Buying

Backpacking stoves make cooking on the trail simpler, and do less damage to the environment than open camp fires. Before you jump in and buy one for your camping trip, there are a few things you should consider before buying.

Your requirements

It might sound obvious, but the ideal backpacking stoves for a winter climbing trip, a summer camping vacation with children, and a trek across the desert, are not going to be the same. Consider where you are going, and the likely weather conditions. Also think about the altitude, the duration of the trip, and access to replacement fuels. If you're backpacking in a large group, it might be worth carrying a heavier stove with multiple burners and sharing the fuel out between the group, rather than several members carrying single burner stoves and fuel.

Temperature and altitude

If you are at a high altitude or the climate is likely to be cold, your main considerations will be that you need a liquid fuel stove with buttons large enough to manipulate while wearing gloves. That's because canister fuels contract with the cold, and thus are less efficient. However, if you are going solo and need a lightweight option, the Snow Peak LiteMax at just 2oz, uses Snow Peak GigaPower canisters, with an isobutane/LPG mix, designed for high-altitude cooking.

Safety

When you're camping with children, your main concern is for safety. A canister stove may be your best option in this case, as there are no fuel spills to contend with, and the fuel doesn't have to be primed prior to use. You should also look for stoves with flame control and test the stability of the base. Although a little more expensive, an integrated stove and canister system such as the Jetboil may be ideal, as it offers increased wind protection and better fuel efficiency.

Portability and versatility

If you're setting up a base camp to return to each evening, you can probably afford to take along a heavier stove with hefty white gas canisters. If you're trekking cross-country, you want a lightweight stove and fuel canisters. For international travel, where you may not be able to obtain a single fuel type, a multi fuel stove such as the MSR WhisperLite International, which burns a wide range of fuels from white gas and kerosene to jet fuel and unleaded automobile fuel, may be a good compromise. The fuel tanks may still be heavier than their screw-on canister counterparts, but the stove itself is lightweight and you can obtain fuel locally.

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