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Over the last 12 years, we've tested 38 unique backpacking stoves in our quest to find the best, with the top 21 in this review. We surveyed the stove market, purchased the best burners, and tested them side-by-side, measuring performance specs in controlled conditions, and taking the stoves out into the backcountry. We've brought these backpacking stoves on many different trips over the years — everything from deserts and high-altitude peaks to warm weekend getaways and frigid glacier expeditions. Below you'll find information to help you figure out which stove is right for the kind of backpacking you do.
Editor's Note: The review was updated on November 10, 2022, to include the Optimus Crux Lite and to reflect test results from our new fuel efficiency and boiling tests for the Whisperlite Universal and the Primus Lite+.
Essential Weight: 3.0 oz | Windy Boil Time: 5 min 46 sec
REASONS TO BUY
Great pot supports
Convenient and easy to use
REASONS TO AVOID
Less compact than other models
From the first time we fired up the Soto Windmaster, we were surprised by its respectable performance across all metrics. The piezoelectric igniter works almost every time, which is a rarity among auto-igniters. The 4-flex pot supports provide generous stability for pans of all sizes — even burly 2-liter pots won't threaten this stove's stability. The Windmaster produces a smoldering blue flame that boils water quickly and lends to above-average fuel efficiency. However, the most noteworthy feature of this stove is its impressive wind resistance. In an 8-10 mph breeze, this thing stays lit and can even boil water.
This backpacking stove performs so well that we have very few gripes about it. That said, the high-octane flame comes at the expense of your peace; this stove is a little loud (though certainly not the loudest in this review). The Windmaster is also not the most compact of the stoves we tested. It was challenging to pack the generous pot supports, burner, and a fuel canister into our small tester pot. That said, we found this a small price to pay for the sturdy pot supports. Bottom line, we think this an essential piece of backpacking gear and is the best stove for most people most of the time.
Essential Weight: 2.79 oz | Windy Boil Time: 6 min 30 sec
REASONS TO BUY
Lightweight and easy to use
Performs well in wind
REASONS TO AVOID
Igniter can be unreliable
Pot supports not ideal for large pots
The Soto Amicus is an attempt at making an affordable ultralight stove that lives up to the company's reputation. Not only did Soto achieve their goal, they surpassed it. This stove is very fuel-efficient and is compact enough that you won't notice it in your pack. The piezoelectric igniter worked most of the time to light the stove, and the recessed burner ensures that it performs well in variable weather. The pot supports are generous enough to accommodate most 1-liter pots and even held our 1.7-liter kettle with 1 liter of water without threatening to topple over.
We had very few complaints about the Amicus The high-powered burner means this stove is a little loud, though nothing out of the ordinary. The pot supports pivot around a spring rivet mechanism that may wear out or get grimy over time, but this wasn't an issue during our testing. The pot supports also were not as wide as some other small canister stoves. Additionally, to stow this stove in its stuff sack, you must open the fuel valve, which means you must also remember to close it before attaching a canister. As long as you remember to do this, it isn't an issue; otherwise, you'll get sprayed with a little fuel. Finally, our reviewers found the piezo igniter to be somewhat unreliable. You'll always want to carry a lighter anyway, but we hope future iterations of this stove will be more consistent, like other Soto stoves. Setting aside these minor issues, it is easy to recommend this stove for thru-hikers, backpackers, alpine climbers, or anyone looking for an affordable way to shave grams off their backcountry kit without sacrificing quality.
Essential Weight: 0.9 oz | Windy Boil Time: 14 min 45 sec
REASONS TO BUY
Incredibly lightweight and easy to use
Stable for the size
Tiny packed size
REASONS TO AVOID
Inconsistent performance in the cold, wind, and higher elevations
Small burner head
No piezo igniter
We had low expectations for the BRS-3000T due to its low price. Straight out of the box, we were shocked by its size — this is tiny, and it weighs next to nothing. It can fit comfortably in any ultralight hiker's 375ml titanium cup. Despite the diminutive size, this stove sports a wire valve that's easy to use and provides nice low-end flame control for simmering. The pot supports are also sturdier than they appear — they held a 1.7-liter stainless steel kettle with a liter of water without any issues.
A number of consumer reviews mention a durability problem with melting pot supports. We have yet to experience this issue, but high-end quality control can't be expected when a product is significantly less expensive than the competition. While the BRS has good flame control, the burner head is tiny, so you have to be attentive to avoid burning rice and beans or scorching the bottom of your pot. It also does not perform well in the wind, cold, or at higher elevations and lacks a piezo igniter. Truth be told, if you plan to cook anything more complicated than a freeze-dried meal, oatmeal, or coffee, you may want to look elsewhere. However, for ultralight solo backpacking trips in temperate climates, this little stove will save weight, space, and cash.
Essential Weight: 3.0 oz | Windy Boil Time: 5 min 27 sec
REASONS TO BUY
Fast boil time
Works well in the wind
Great for simmering
REASONS TO AVOID
Inconsistent piezo igniter
There might be lighter-weight stoves on the market, but the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe strikes the best balance between a high-performing stove with excellent simmer control, fast boil times, and an ultralight option for gram-counting aficionados. The large regulator knob is easy to use with or without gloves, and it fits well in most pots with a small fuel canister.
The piezo igniter is somewhat inconsistent on the PocketRocket Deluxe. Our reviewers found that it worked most of the time but would occasionally experience low functionality — a common plight with auto-ignitors. This stove also has fairly average fuel efficiency, likely due to having high-output burners. This means the stove will boil water quickly in a range of conditions but might burn through more canisters. All told, it is a great option for backpacking when you want a lightweight stove, but don't want to compromise on durability, boil speed, quality design, and simmering ability.
Essential Weight: 13 oz | Windy Boil Time: 4 min 50 sec
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent fuel efficiency
Good boil time
Comes with a pot stabilizer
Pot and burner mate well
REASONS TO AVOID
Diminished wind performance
A bit heavy
Average simmer ability
The Jetboil MiniMo is our favorite integrated canister stove. Jetboil stoves have always included a confidence-inspiring burner-to-pot connection, and that's true here. Previously, piezoelectric igniters were a known failure point. However, on this model, our testers used the igniter hundreds of times with no issues. The main improvement with the "Mo" is a redesigned burner that boils quickly and more efficiently than other models. This one is the best at simmering among the integrated canister stoves in our review, owing to greater fuel valve control. The short and squat profile of the pot makes it easier to avoid scorching your meals and lends stability to the design. With all these features combined, you could even use it for cooking a real (one-pot) meal in the backcountry!
The MiniMo stays lit and boils water at wind speeds that would have most backpackers hiding in their tents. That being said, gustier winds will definitely blow the stove out if you don't shield it from gusts. It is also a bit heavy for a backpacking stove. Nevertheless, hikers and backpackers who also have alpine climbing or big wall plans (and who have practice protecting a stove from the wind) would do well to consider the MiniMo.
Trail Weight: 11.5 oz | Windy Boil Time: 6 min 40 sec
REASONS TO BUY
Best for multiple people
REASONS TO AVOID
Can simmer, but difficult to finesse
The MSR Whisperlite Universal takes the classic Whisperlite of liquid fuel fame and updates it for the modern wilderness traveler. Liquid fuel stoves are known for field repairability, durability, and the ability to cook bigger meals. The Universal ticks each of these boxes with the added benefit of being equipped to work with isobutane canisters in addition to kerosene and auto fuel. We tested its fuel efficiency and boil time with a fuel canister and found it to have respectable fuel efficiency, even if it had slightly slower boil times. Most American backpackers are shifting to canister stoves because of their lighter weight and ease of use. However, if you seek a nimble stove ideal for traveling outside the US, this stove's multi-fuel versatility and bombproof design could be an ideal match.
Preparing anything more than simple meals still requires practice and savvy when running the Universal on liquid fuels. This stove ranked in the middle of the pack in our boiling tests, both with and without wind. Still, for serious snow melting, backcountry trips involving groups, or crossing multiple international borders, the Whisperlite Universal is our first choice for a liquid fuel stove and has been for years.
After researching the top stoves on the market, we selected and purchased the 20 shown here for side-by-side testing and analysis. We tested these stoves in the "lab" and in the field. For months in the mountains, the woods, and the desert, we used them daily for all of our cooking needs to evaluate for ease of use and simmering ability. We also conducted tests in a controlled environment to score the stoves for fuel efficiency, boil time, and weight.
Our backpacking stove testing is divided across five rating metrics:
Fuel Efficiency (25% of total score weighting)
Weight (25% weighting)
Simmering Ability (20% weighting)
Ease of Use (20% weighting)
Boil Time (10% weighting)
Mary Witlacil and Ian McEleney are backcountry experts. Mary has logged thousands of backcountry miles as an alpine climber and backpacker. She lives in Fort Collins, CO, and spends most of her time adventuring and climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park and around the desert Southwest. Ian is an AMGA-certified Alpine Guide, climbing routes and peaks with his clients throughout the country. Together these two cook meals outside (both simple and complex) more than 150 nights per year.
Analysis and Test Results
We tested all manner of backpacking stoves, from small canister stoves and remote canister stoves to integrated canister and liquid fuel models. The type of stove that's best for you will depend on your specific needs. There's a stove for every backpacker, but first, think about what's important for the kind of backpacking you do: weight and bulk, fuel efficiency, cooking ability, simple operation? Read on to learn which stoves excelled in each of these areas.
A common misconception is that spending more money gets you better outdoor gear. The simple fact is that this is not always the case. The cheapest stove in our test, The BRS-3000T, ended up with a middle-of-the-pack score and performed well enough to meet the needs of the occasional backpacker. The Soto Amicus is a little bit more money but performed excellently across the board while remaining relatively affordable compared to other stoves. The Jeboil Flash is an excellent value for an integrated canister stove and the Soto WindMaster and MSR PocketRocket Deluxe scored the highest while still costing less than the majority of other products in our review.
Fuel efficiency is an important metric for backpacking stoves, but it's tricky to evaluate because many variables influence it. Our testers know from personal experience how running out of fuel can ruin a trip. Backpackers should know that any fuel efficiency numbers are only suggestions for pre-trip planning or performance on a trip. Tests performed both by our team and manufacturers happen in a controlled setting that's very different from real-world backpacking.
We measured efficiency concurrently with boil time. Both boil time measurements involved bringing one liter of water to boil inside our garage "lab" at 5000 feet in elevation. We start with a fresh fuel canister for each stove and weigh it before we begin. For the first boil test, we boil one liter of water in the presence of constant 2-4mph "wind" generated by a box fan on the low setting. We ensure wind speed by using a pocket anemometer. In between boil tests, we weighed the canister a second time. Then, we record how long it takes to boil a liter of water in the absence of wind. After the second boil test, we weighed the canister a final time. To determine fuel efficiency, we calculate the percentage of fuel used for each test, then base our score on the average between the two tests. Due to limited pot capacities, we tested a couple of stoves with only a half-liter of water.
Fuel efficiency matters for a few reasons, the main one being that you don't want to run out of fuel while you're in the field! Fuel efficiency is also a huge consideration for environmental reasons — all those spent fuel canisters add up, and they have to go somewhere. The less efficient the stove is, the more fuel canisters you'll burn through.
Recycling Fuel Canisters
Did you know you can recycle your spent fuel canisters? First, you need to burn off all the fuel (just open the valve and fire up your stove until the flame dies out). Then puncture a hole in the canister (you can do this with a rock in the backcountry or a Phillips head screwdriver and a hammer). Finally, locate a "mixed metal recycling center" in your area. In some places, you can recycle punctured canisters with the rest of your recycling. To find out if you live in one of those areas, call your local recycling company to ask if they take punctured fuel canisters.
Fuel efficiency also matters for saving weight in your pack. If you're an ounce counter — as any prudent backcountry traveler should be — having an efficient stove can cut down on the weight of fuel you will need to carry. By anticipating how much fuel your stove and cooking style requires, you may be able to leave an extra canister at home or bring a smaller canister to save weight and pack space.
The overall most fuel-efficient stoves we tested are the Jetboil MiniMo, the Jetboil Flash, and the Primus Lite+ thanks to their integrated heat exchange systems and insulated pots. The MSR Whisperlite Universal also proved highly fuel efficient over our tests. The least efficient stoves are the Snow Peak Giga Power 2.0, BRS 3000T, and MSR Windpro 2. Some stoves are less fuel-efficient because they have high-powered burners that waste fuel struggling to boil water in our wind test. Like cars tuned for fast and furious street racing, these models have impressive power outputs but burn through fuel fast.
Canister Fuel Efficiency Improvement Tips
When your canister gets cold, you lose performance and fuel efficiency. Consider sleeping with the canister in your sleeping bag, or at least put it in your jacket to warm it up before use.
Let food soak. Put food and water in the pot when you turn the stove on, then once boiled, turn the fuel off and let the food continue to soak.
Turn the stove down a half turn — it will only take slightly longer for water to boil.
Avoid a full boil. A near boil is good enough for most cooking and drinks.
Don't light the stove until there is something in the pot and it's on top of the burner.
Some of the small canister stoves had severe problems in the wind, and this affected their fuel efficiency. There were a couple noteworthy exceptions to this rule. The Soto Windmaster, Soto Amicus, and the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe feature burner heads that shield the flames proving that you can be lightweight, compact, and perform well in wind.
Manufacturers advise against a windscreen that encloses the burner and fuel canister, as this could potentially heat the canister to a dangerous level and cause an explosion. The Windpro, GSI Pinnacle 4 Season, and MSR Whisperlite Universal are the only exceptions to this rule. Their remote canister design separates the burner from the fuel — like a liquid fuel stove — so it's safe to pair them with a windscreen.
Like remote canister stoves, liquid fuel models come with flexible aluminum windscreens to block wind and focus the heat on the pot. Toaks makes a Titanium windscreen that pairs well with liquid fuel stoves and stoves where the burner sits adjacent to the canister. The added weight (a few ounces) is well worth it.
In this review, we consider weight from three different angles. To determine the "packed" weight, we weigh each stove with all of its accessories: stuff sacks or cases, accessory cups, and maintenance doodads. We also weigh each stove at its bare-bones "essential" weight. This weight excludes any stuff sacks, accessories, or canister supports. The BRS 3000T excelled in this metric, at an unreal 0.9-ounce trail weight and a tiny packed size. If you prefer a stove that is lightweight but also durable, the Optimus Crux Lite is a great option at 2.7 ounces. At 3 ounces, the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe only tacks on an additional .3 ounces, but you get a high-performing and durable stove in a lightweight package.
When comparing an integrated canister stove with a small canister stove, remember that your camping cookware should be included for the comparison. This is why we calculated the "trail" weight for each stove. Trail weight includes the weight of the burner, a pot, and a fuel canister. This way, you can compare the functional weight of each stove with fuel and a pot to eliminate some of the guesswork. For the small canister stoves, trail weight includes the "essential" weight of the stove, plus the weight of a 4-ounce fuel canister (7.35 ounces) and the average weight of the five most popular titanium pots (4.78 ounces). For the stoves that include an integrated pot, we added the weight of a small fuel canister to determine their "trail" weight. For the stoves that take liquid fuel, we weighed an 11-ounce MSR fuel bottle filled with white gas, which weighs 13.6 ounces, and added this to the combined weight of the stove and average titanium pot (4.78 ounces).
The nominal description of canister size (4, 8, or 16 ounces) describes the amount of fuel in the can, not the weight of the fuel and the can together. That number is always more. A four-ounce fuel canister weighs approximately 7.35 ounces when full, and an 8-ounce can weighs about 13.1 ounces.
Most integrated canister stoves have multiple compatible pots available for purchase. This can skew their weights and should be noted by readers considering these models. Jetboil makes pots for its stove systems in several sizes, starting with 0.5-liter; MSR makes them in 1-liter and up. The Camp Chef Stryker is only available with the 1.5-liter pot that it comes with. The Jetboil Zip comes with a 0.75-liter pot, which helped make it the lightest integrated canister model we tested.
We also took size and packability into account in this category. Being able to pack your backpacking stove, fuel, and a lighter inside your pot can help you squeeze into a smaller (and thus probably lighter) backpack. It also helps keep things organized in your pack. We looked at how small each burner got and how well it nested into a pot. Again, the BRS crushed; we could fit it and a 4-ounce fuel canister into a 500mL pot.
Our testing team believes this is an important metric. We'll shovel down whatever freeze-dried food is left after our last trip when we're pressed for time or need to cut down on weight. But most of the time, we want to eat actual food because eating well really enhances our backcountry trips. A stove that can simmer well can handle an egg scramble, sauteed veggies, or a fresh-caught golden trout.
We looked for backpacking stoves that had good control valve sensitivity, particularly at the low end. This allows you to turn the stove down without turning it off. A broad burner head can help distribute the heat more evenly around the bottom of a pot. Narrow burner heads and focused flames often lead to scorched oatmeal in the center and a cold goop around the edges. The Soto WindMaster, PocketRocket Deluxe, Soto Amicus, Primus Essential Trail, and Snow Peak GigaPower 2.0 are champions in this department. Their control wires give just the right amount of resistance, allowing us to dial in the flame without carbonizing dinner.
Unless you want your dinner cajun style or are prepared to stir fast and continuously, think twice about using an integrated canister stove for tricky cooking. This type of stove is mostly made for boiling water quickly, not cooking rice slowly. Interestingly, the Camp Chef Stryker performed better than the other integrated canister models in this metric.
Liquid fuel stoves often require experience and skill to achieve a good simmer. While you can learn how to finesse the heat down with a liquid fuel stove, it is a steep learning curve and isn't recommended by the manufacturer. Besides, who wants to practice using their backpacking stove when not actually backpacking? This is another reason why we think that most backpackers will prefer small canister stoves over liquid fuel models.
Ease Of Use
We think it's important that backpacking stoves are easy to operate. After a long day on the trail, the last thing anyone wants to do is struggle to make dinner. This is why we prefer models that only require a quick glance at the operating manual.
Our testers have discovered that if a backpacking stove comes with a bunch of small parts and accessories, the likelihood of losing them is high. We also examined the controls on each model to see if they were easy to access and operate. Large wire knobs, like on the Windmaster, Amicus, PocketRocket Deluxe, and MiniMo, are becoming the standard. The tiny knobs on other stoves seem dated in contrast.
Piezoelectric lighters have become more reliable, and we think they should be a standard feature. Our testing team always goes into the backcountry with a lighter (or three), but with this feature, you won't get caught up looking for one when what you really want to be doing is drinking coffee. MSR has added a piezo to the PocketRocket line on the Deluxe, though its performance was semi-inconsistent. We'd love to see the Reactor and WindBurner sprout them too. Over half of the small and integrated canister stoves in our review sport a piezo, though they didn't all offer the same reliability. Unfortunately, the igniter on the Amicus proved somewhat unreliable. We were pleased, however, that the Soto WindMaster and Jetboil MiniMo fired up consistently by clicking the auto-igniter.
The integrated canister stoves score well for stability because the burner and pot are designed to interlock, but they are quite tall and can be easily knocked over when full. All of the manufacturers try to address this problem by including canister stands, but we rarely bring these on trips because they're one more thing to keep track of and don't change the fundamental center-of-gravity issue. Small canister stoves are also tall once screwed onto a canister and have smallish pot supports. One standout here is the WindMaster; its 4Flex pot supports are long and noticeably more stable than most of its competition.
Lower and broader designs give more stability and allow for a wider array of cookware, and therefore meals. Liquid fuel models are more stable because they are low to the ground and have wide stove legs that act as stable platforms. The MSR Dragonfly is the most stable, in part due to its giant pot supports. The Windpro 2 looks more like a liquid fuel stove, and is nearly as stable as one.
Though stove manufacturers like to make a big deal out of boil times, most backpackers will not notice if their stove is a minute or two slower — only if it's 8 - 10 minutes slower. Boil time is also a complicated specification, with many contributing variables, so we don't give it a ton of weight in our scoring.
We do not claim to be scientists, though we have tried to make our tests as objective, controlled, and repeatable as possible. We did our testing in a garage at 5000 feet (about 1524 meters), where the boiling point of water is 202.97° F (about 94.98° C). We tested the time it took for one liter of water to make a 1.7-quart kettle whistle with each of the small canister and liquid gas stoves. For the stoves with integrated pots, we tested how long it took for them to reach a rolling boil. With each test, we began with a full 4-ounce fuel canister and weighed it for the wind test. Then after the wind test, we weighed the canister and tested for boiling without wind. All of the fuel bottles were full, and the canisters used were identical.
Be aware that different manufacturers use different amounts of water in their boil tests and are often testing them in a lab at sea level. This is why the specs you see on a product's website may not be similar to what you find on your backpacking trips.
The integrated pot that comes with the Primus Lite+ and Jetboil Zip have smaller volumes, which prevented us from testing them with a full liter. We tested the boiling time of the Lite+ using only 0.5 liters of water (making its time seem faster than it would have been otherwise) and the Zip with 0.75 liters.
Liquid fuel stoves take longer to boil water because they must be primed first. To keep our comparisons fair, we started the clock after priming. We found it took anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds to prime these stoves. We think user results for priming times will vary so widely that we did not bother to publish them. Boil time after priming for the MSR Universal was 7 minutes 28 seconds with liquid fuel. Similarly, the boil time for the Universal when used with a fuel canister was 7 minutes 18 seconds. We think that boil times for liquid fuel stoves are even less important than for other types of stoves because their other functions (including their versatility) are more important than speed.
While our testing team is not usually impressed with boil times, numbers at either end of the range do catch our attention. The PocketRocket Deluxe dominated this metric — when there was no wind — with a time of 3 minutes and 14 seconds. The Soto Amicus clocked in at 3 minutes 52 seconds, followed closely by the MSR Reactor, Soto WindMaster, and Jetboil MiniMo, which were practically tied at 4 minutes.
Wind plays a big part in boil times. Since it's not likely you'll have perfectly still conditions on your next backpacking trip, we tested how these stoves would perform in the presence of 2-4 mph of "wind" generated by a box fan set to low. Some models could not boil water in these conditions, but most continued to perform reasonably well. Models that couldn't boil in front of the fan are indicated as ">15 min" because, after 15 minutes, we shut them off to stop wasting fuel.
Canister stoves usually do not come with windscreens, and manufacturers warn against using them in their instructions. The exception is the Windpro 2 and GSI Pinnacle. Their remote canister design separates the burner from the can, so using a windscreen that fully encloses the flames poses minimal risk. Nevertheless, these stoves saw their boil times increase in front of the fan. Several small canister stoves worked surprisingly well in the wind. The PocketRocket Deluxe boiled water in 5 minutes 27 seconds, a commendable speed. The Soto WindMaster and Amicus were close behind. These three canister stoves did well in this test because the burners are recessed below a lip on the edge of the burner, providing some added protection from the wind.
The integrated canister stoves fared much better. As expected, the Reactor did the best in this metric and was only slightly affected by the wind. The MiniMo, Flash, Windburner, and Lite+ all boiled water reasonably quickly due to their burner being sheltered by the bottom of their integrated pots. It should be noted, however, that the MSR stoves can be difficult to light in the wind. And the stoves from Jetboil and Primus struggle in stronger wind gusts without some shelter. If a speedy time to boil is essential for your backcountry experience, consider one of the higher-ranking stoves in this category. However, while stove marketing and advertisements will try to convince you otherwise, we don't recommend making this metric the sole source for your decision-making.
While there is no single backpacking stove for every application or budget, the stove selection above can take the backcountry enthusiast from a weekend for two on the Appalachian Trail to a week on the Colorado Plateau with a group of friends and the high peaks of the Alaska Range. Most of our testers and friends agree that food tastes better in the outdoors, especially when you do it right. We hope you find the right stove for your backcountry culinary desires that leads you to many happy, tasty meals in the great outdoors.
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