Buying a camping stove for your next trip?
Good luck! Choosing the right type of stove is quite a task. There are tons of different models available, but they’re all very situational.
So going with the wrong one will definitely make your camping trip a hundred times more complicated.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
To make your job much easier, I’ve covered everything you need to know about camping stoves in this article.
From different models available to everything you need to look for in such a tool, I’ve got you covered.
Without further ado, let’s get straight to the point.
Different Types of Camping Stoves
First things first, let’s talk about all the different types of stoves.
Powered by different fuels, each type of stove has its advantages and disadvantages you should be aware of.
Canister Camping Stove
Nowadays, canister camping stoves are probably the most popular option.
They’re very lightweight and compact, making them a great choice for backpackers – or anyone really that wants to save up on space.
A canister camping stove works on a canister fuel, which is readily available in most outdoor and supermarket stores, as well as gas stations.
This means that you can practically find a refill wherever, no matter how remote you’re going.
Fuel canisters are filled with butane, propane or a blend of both, although recently, isobutane has also been used.
While propane produces more heat, butane and isobutane are much lighter. But if you go with the blend, you have a bit of everything.
- Easy to use
- Doesn’t take up much space
- Good wind resistance
- Canister fuel is somewhat expensive compared to other types of fuel
- Don’t work as good in cold weather
- The canister itself is relatively heavy
How to use a canister camping stove:
This type of stove is the most user-friendly out of all we mention in this article. Just make sure you keep it on a flat surface while using it.
Setting it up is pretty straightforward – screw the canister onto the stove, and it’s ready for use.
Best for: Car campers and casual campers.
Liquid Fuel Camping Stove
A liquid fuel stove has been a standard piece of backpacking equipment back in the day.
Its popularity slightly dropped in recent years, as there are lighter and more compact options available.
But the reason why this type of stove hasn’t become obsolete is that it works well in different weather conditions.
Whether it’s windy or rainy, doesn’t matter. A liquid fuel stove will give out the same output regardless.
The same goes for high altitudes. That makes this type of stove the perfect option for year-round use.
What’s also great is that most models can use more than one type of liquid fuel, including white gas, diesel, and unleaded gasoline.
So even though white gas is typically found in outdoor stores, other types of fuel are easier to come by once you head out to more secluded areas.
- Not affected by cold temperatures
- Affordable compared to other types of fuel
- Fuel refills are easy to come by in any region
- Can be heavy
- A bit more difficult to light up
- Requires more maintenance
How to use:
This type of stove works by attaching a fuel bottle to it. Unlike the previously-mentioned canister, liquid fuel isn’t compressed, so you have to pump up the pressure inside.
With liquid fuels, it’s not the liquid fuel itself that makes flames, but the fumes from it. That means the liquid gas must first vaporize before it starts burning.
To do that, you should let a bit of fuel drip onto the stove. Light it up, which will cause the gas inside to vaporize, after which you can use the stove like usual.
Best for: Winter and cold weather camping.
Solid Fuel Tablet Stove
This type of stove uses different fuels, including hexamine, trioxane or fuel paste. What all of them have in common is that they leave no ash and create no smoke.
And since both the stove and the fuel are extremely lightweight, you can easily fit them in your backpack.
On the other hand, solid fuel is sensitive to wind and rain, so it’s not suitable for less-than-perfect weather.
What’s more, you can’t adjust the flame it creates, so it’s not a great option for simmering food. But given the size and weight of both tablets and the stove, this can be your backup option.
- Lightweight and compact
- Easy to use
- Works well in cold weather and high altitude
- Not as consistent as some other types
- You can’t adjust the heat
- Doesn’t burn well in wind and rain
How to use: This is, hands down, the simplest one to use. You just have to put the tablet inside the stove and light it up. A piece of cake.
Best for: Experienced backpackers
Wood Burning Stove
This is the perfect option for campers who prefer cooking on a real fire. Because let’s be fair, there’s something about real flames that give food that special flavor and aroma.
What’s great about this type of stove is that you don’t have to carry the fuel around, making it a great option when you want to save up on storage space.
This type of stove uses anything from twigs to dry leaves, which can be found in abundance everywhere around you.
With that being said, starting the fire does require a bit more time than other types of stoves on the list.
First, you have to collect kindling and tinder to start the fire, as well as larger chunks of wood that actually serve as fuel.
And second, the fire actually has to burn for a while before the flames settle enough to cook over them.
- Depending on the model, this type of stove can be very lightweight and compact
- No need to carry the fuel
- No fuel expenses
- Not suitable for bad weather (unless your stove is inside of your tent)
- Can be prohibited during the no-fire ban
How to use: Starting the fire with a wood-burning stove is pretty much the same as with a campfire. You need to collect tinder and kindling, as well as larger pieces of wood that will serve as actual fuel.
Best for: Winter tent campers and experienced backpackers who are capable of making fires even in poor weather conditions.
Denatured Alcohol Stove
This type of stove is yet another popular option for backpackers and thru-hikers.
This stove is basically a small metal burner cup with bottom holes for ventilation. The whole thing is usually not larger than a can of soda.
As for the fuel, it uses any of the alcohol sources that are easy to come by, such as methanol, denatured alcohol or ethanol.
This means you can easily restock by visiting any local shop you can find.
While an alcohol stove heats up quickly, there’s no way you can control the flame. This makes it great for boiling water, but not so great for simmering food.
What’s more, you can’t actually turn it off when you want to. Instead, you have to let the fuel burn down completely.
- Very lightweight and compact
- Boils within a few minutes
- No flame settings
- Doesn’t perform well in wind and cold temperatures
- Can’t be turned off before the fuel burns down
How to use: The alcohol stove is super easy to operate. Just pour the fuel in and light it up. Once the blue flames flare up from the ventilation holes, it’s ready for cooking.
Best for: A backup option for backpackers.
This type of stove has only become popular in recent years, as we started being more aware of the trace we leave on the surroundings.
For fuel, this type of stove uses biomass, which is basically everything from wood and wood waste to plants, grass and even dung!
All of these materials are considered to be carbon-neutral, making this type of stove most environmentally friendly.
Biomass stoves are rather similar to wood burning stoves – after all, they’re both fueled by organic materials found laying around.
What’s also similar about them is that it takes a bit of time to get the fire steady enough for cooking.
- Variety of fuel options
- Fuel can be collected from the surroundings
- Long boiling time
- Somewhat heavy
But, collecting fuel and starting the fire does take a bit of time.
Best for: Those interested in eco camping and leave no trace principles.
Types of Camping Stoves – Compared
Types of Fuel for a Camping Stove
Are all these types of fuel confusing you? I don’t blame you. In this section, we’ll speak about each of them separately, so that you can see the differences more easily.
The gas fuel typically consists of either a mix of butane and propane or isobutane and propane.
The gas is pressurized into the canister, so all you need to do is attach it to the stove, and it’s ready for use.
While pretty much every outdoor store sells gas canisters, they’re much harder to come by in secluded areas and in less developed countries.
And since it’s pressurized, you can’t bring it on the plane, making it harder for you to use the gas stove in some places.
Finally, gas canisters aren’t designed to be refilled. Once you use them up, you need to dispose of them and get a new one, which is a hassle.
On the brighter side, the canisters are recyclable, so using them doesn’t automatically means more waste.
Unlike gas canisters, liquid fuel bottles are refillable. Usually, they’re filled with white gas, but other types of liquid fuel, such as kerosene and unleaded gasoline are used as well.
Between the three, liquid fuel has the most consistent performance, meaning it works in different weather conditions and altitudes.
Different types of liquid fuel are sold in outdoor stores, as well as supermarkets such as Walmart and Target. However, you’ll have a harder time finding them at gas stations and smaller shops in remote areas.
Of the three, this type of fuel saves you the most storage space. Why? Because the fuel can be found in abundance around you, so you don’t actually need to carry it with you.
To fuel the fire, you can use anything from twigs, sticks and dry leaves to larger pieces of wood.
However, once wet, wood can’t be used as fuel. That’s why this is not a suitable option for rainy or snowy weather.
On the other hand, this type of fuel is not allowed during fire bans.
Things to Consider when Choosing a Camping Stove
Alright, now we know what different types of stoves are there. But how to choose the right one? Here are the things you need to keep in mind when making the pick.
Choose Your Style
There are two styles that camping stoves come in: freestanding and tabletop, and both are pretty self-explanatory.
A freestanding stove features legs, allowing you to set it up pretty much anywhere.
This type of stove is usually larger and heavier, with more burners and overall output power.
A tabletop stove, on the other hand, is generally smaller and more compact, as it’s designed to sit on a table or similar surface.
We already discussed the most important features of the different fuel types available.
There’s no single best option – rather, it depends on the type of camping trip.
For instance, gas canisters are lightweight, which makes them great for backpacking.
But they won’t perform well in cold temperatures, so if you’re winter camping, consider another option.
Liquid gas works well regardless of the weather and altitude, so that’s a perfect choice for a summit climb.
However, it’s not a great choice for backpacking for two reasons: it’s heavier than other options and not as widely available.
Finally, wood is ideal for when you want to save up on space. But, it only works when the weather is dry and fire bans aren’t in force.
Also see: How Long Do Isobutane Canisters Last?
BTUs You Require
BTU, which stands for British thermal units, indicates how much heat a single burner outputs.
In other words, a stove with more BTU cooks faster. Most camping stoves have an output between 7,000 and 20,000 BTUs.
Generally, how much BTU you need depends on how big of a group you’re cooking for.
For one or two people, 10,000 BTUs is more than enough. Four a group of six, aim for something above 15,000 BTUs.
As we already established, not all stoves perform the same in different weather conditions.
But some models have features to make up for that, like windscreens for example. So if you expect windy weather during your trip, consider a stove with built-in wind protection.
Weight and Size
If you’re car camping, then the dimensions and weight of the stove aren’t that much of a problem.
In that case, you can go with whatever option you find most suitable for the size of your group and the length of your trip.
But if you’re carrying your stuff on the back, then this is definitely something to consider.
In that case, canister, alcohol, wood and tablet stoves are the most compact options you have.
Most compact models give you just enough room to put just one pot on the fire.
And that’s fine if you’re making a soup or any other single-pot meal.
But if you’re cooking something more complicated or for a larger company, then having enough room to place more pots or pans at the same time would be very handy.
Other Camping Stove Accessories
Aside from the stove, there are other things you might need in order to make your trip a bit more pleasant.
Heat Resistant Gloves
As the name suggests, these gloves keep your hands protected when working with heat. While they’re not a must, they surely can be pretty useful.
Depending on the type of pots you’re using, as well as the size of the flame, this type of gloves will help you remove food from fire without risking getting burned.
Flint and Steel
A primitive fire-starting technique remained relevant over such a long time for a simple reason – it just works.
In case you run out of matches or lighter fuel, this is a backup plan that will help you get the fire going.
Of course, your stove won’t do much without fuel. But the important question is – how big of a bottle should you pack?
Well, it depends on how much you plan on cooking during the trip. As a rule of thumb, you need about one liter of water per person per meal.
Once you figure out how much water that turns out to be, multiply that number by the boil time for your stove model.
Then, divine the amount you get by your stove’s total burn time (which should be indicated on the packaging somewhere).
When you turn that number into a percentage, multiply it by the specified amount of fuel in your stove’s burn time specs.
That’s how much fuel you need for a trip!
While it sounds complicated, it’s actually pretty simple to calculate. Each stove should have these numbers stated on the product label.
The windshield is quite a handy accessory, especially if you’re using other types of the stove rather than the liquid fuel type.
Most windshields are just pieces of metal that you can set around a stove to keep it safe from the wind.
They’re usually lightweight and foldable, so they’re pretty easy to pack.
Without a stabilizer, you can easily tip a pot full of water or food while cooking.
And that’s not something you want to happen; not just because you’ll be throwing away your meal, but also because you can get burned that way.
Well, a stabilizer prevents that from happening, even on uneven ground.
Why do you need a camping stove?
A camping stove is an optional but invaluable tool for making food.
It allows you to enjoy a wide variety of meals on the trail that require heat or water for preparing.
Without it, you can either pack food that doesn’t require cooking, or you’ll have to start a campfire.
Why should you use a camping stove over a campfire?
Compared to a classic campfire, a camping stove is more in accordance with the Leave No Trace rules, as there’s much less effect it leaves on the surrounding area.
What’s more, campfires are prohibited in many areas during hot summer months, because the risk of starting a wildfire is greater.
In that case, a camping stove is your only option for preparing food.
Finally, a camping stove is much easier to set up, making it a more efficient option when backpacking and thru-hiking.
What type of camping stove is best?
There’s no single best type of camping stove, as each is designed for specific situations.
In terms of consistency, liquid gas works best regardless of the weather and altitude. When it comes to weight and compactness, alcohol and tablet stoves are the best.
What is the safest camping stove?
The safest camping stoves are the ones that can be turned off whenever you want.
Both canister and liquid fuel stoves work by turning the knob left or right.
Can you use a camp stove inside?
You can use a camp stove inside, but it’s not recommended. The fire it creates can emit carbon dioxide.
What’s more, there’s too great of a risk of catching the tent on fire.
A canister stove is the safest option and should be your last resort.
Always make sure that you set it up away from anything that can potentially catch on fire, as well as have enough ventilation.
Which gas is best for camping stoves?
Overall, liquid gas is the best overall option for camping stoves. It’s the most reliable type of gas, since it’s affected by cold temperatures and high altitudes.
What’s more, it’s pretty affordable and you can find it in outdoor stores and supermarkets like Walmart and Target.
However, for casual campers and car campers, canister gas like isobutane or propane will likely be your best bet.
Do camping stoves produce carbon monoxide?
No matter whether your camping stove uses gas, wood, white gas, kerosene or alcohol, its fire emits carbon monoxide.
And since CO poisoning can be fatal, it’s important to handle it outdoors, with proper ventilation.
To Sum Things Up
There are many types of camping stoves, but none of them wins the title of being the best camping stove.
Canister gas stoves are reliable, light and compact, but they don’t perform well when it’s cold.
Liquid fuel stoves, on the other hand, don’t mind the weather. But they weigh more, so they’re not ideal for longer trips.
When it comes to wood and biomass stoves, collecting fuel from the surroundings means saving up on storage space.
But that only works if the ground isn’t wet from the rain.
Finally, alcohol and solid fuel stoves are the most compact option out there, but they’re more suitable as a backup option than a primary stove.
So which one sounds most suitable for your trip?