3.0 oz | Wind Boil Time:
Great pot supports
Convenient and easy to use
Decent fuel efficiency
Average boil time
Just when we thought that there wasn't much room left for innovation with small canister stoves, the Soto Windmaster came along. Small canister stoves are supposed to be light and easy to use and this one is. The piezo igniter works almost every time (not to be assumed with all auto-ignitors), and the 4-flex pot supports are really generous. 2-liter pots do not threaten this stove's stability. What makes the Windmaster the stove to copy is its wind resistance. In an 8 - 10 mph breeze this thing not only stays lit, but it also boils water!
We had a few small quibbles with this stove. It wasn't as fast to boil as some of the competition. More importantly, it is not as fuel-efficient by a small margin. We were also challenged to pack the burner and the pot supports into our smaller cookware with a fuel can in there. That being said, we found that a small price to pay for the pot supports. For most backpackers most of the time, we think this is the best stove out there.
Read review: Soto Windmaster
Best On A Tight Budget
0.9 oz! | Wind Boil Time:
Super lightweight and easy to use
Stable for the size
Tiny packed size
Inconsistent performance in the cold, wind, and higher elevations
Tiny burner head
We didn't expect much from the BRS 3000T given its super low price. We also didn't realize how small it would be. This thing is tiny! It will fit comfortably in any ultra-light hiker's 375ml titanium cup. Despite the diminutive size this stove sports a wire control valve that's easy to use, and it provided nice flame control at the lower end. We were also pleased with the sturdy feel of the pot supports. They held a 1.5L aluminum pot with a liter of water in it with no problems.
A number of consumer reviews mention problems with those supports melting. We have yet to experience those issues, but quality control sometimes falls by the wayside when a product is remarkably inexpensive. Despite the good flame control when turned down, the burner head of the BRS is tiny, making it easy to scorch some foods if you get lazy with the stirring. This stove also lacks a piezo igniter. For ultralight solo weekend (or long weekend) backpacking trips, this little stove saves weight and cash.
Read review: BRS-3000T
Top Pick For Liquid Fuel
MSR Whisperlite Universal
11.6 oz | Wind Boil Time:
Doesn't simmer easily
The MSR Whisperlite Universal takes the original gangster of the liquid fuel stove world and updates it for modern wilderness travelers. It is everything we expected from its predecessors: relatively simple (for this kind of stove), durable, and field repairable. Most users can expect this thing to last forever. It will also burn most any type of fuel, including canisters. With most North American backpackers moving away from liquid fuel stoves, with think multi-fuel versatility is becoming more important in this category.
Scores for fuel efficiency are unexceptional for the Universal. While simmering is a challenge, preparing tricky meals with liquid fuel is still possible with patience, savvy, and an understanding of how the stove works. While canister stoves are rightfully the go-to for most backpacking trips, the Whisperlite Universal is our top pick on any multi-day adventure that involves melting snow for a group or crossing international borders.
Read review: MSR Whisperlite Universal
Top Pick Integrated Canister Stove
12.2 oz | Wind Boil Time:
Good boil time
Pot and burner mate well
Diminished wind performance
Only so-so at simmering
The JetBoil MiniMo is the top-performing integrated canister stove from the company that invented the category. JetBoil stoves have always had a confidence-inspiring burner head and pot attachment, and that's true here. In the past, piezoelectric lighters on the stoves were a known failure point; our testers used this ignitor hundreds of times with no issues. The big advancement over previous models is the burner head. The MiniMo scored well in boil times and fuel efficiency. Amongst integrated canister stoves, it's the best at simmering. Add this to the unique short and squat pot shape and voile - you can consider cooking real food.
The MiniMo stays lit and boils water at wind speeds that would have most backpackers hiding in their tents. However, our testers know from experience that gustier winds will blow the stove out. After they're on, the MSR Reactor and Windburner stay on regardless of wind speed. The latest version of the Jetboil Flash with its color-changing heat indicator and less messy pour is giving the MiniMo a run for its money. Nevertheless, for backpackers dreaming about alpine or big wall ascents (and have practice keeping the stove out of the wind), we think the MiniMo is an excellent choice.
Read review: Jetboil MiniMo
Why You Should Trust Us
Jessica Haist and Ian McEleney are our two primary backcountry experts. Jessica is a Canuck who has dedicated her life to adventure education. She is a staff trainer for Outward Bound California, where cooking for groups in the backcountry happens every day. Ian is an AMGA certified Alpine Guide. He and his clients climb routes and peaks throughout the country. Together these two cook meals outdoors more than 150 nights per year.
We tested these stoves in the field and the "lab." For months in the mountains, the woods, and the desert, we used them daily for all of our cooking needs. We also ran tests to compare boil times, fuel efficiency, and performance under consistent wind speeds. We scored them in five categories: fuel efficiency, weight, simmering, time to boil, and ease of use.
Related: How We Tested Backpacking Stoves
Analysis and Test Results
We tested small canister stoves, integrated canister stoves, and liquid fuel stoves. What's best for you will depend on your needs. There is a stove for everyone's needs, but first, you should decide on your priorities: weight and bulk, fuel efficiency, cooking ability, or all of the above?
Related: Buying Advice for Backpacking Stoves
Different flame sizes and shapes on small canister stoves. Which one do you think throws the most heat?
A common fallacy is to assume that spending more gets a better stove, but that's not always the case. The cheapest stove in our test, The BRS-3000T, gave us a middle-of-the-pack score and performed well enough to meet the needs of the occasional backpacker. The Camp Chef Stryker Multi-Fuel is an excellent value for an integrated canister stove. The MSR Whisperlite is the best value for backpackers who need a liquid fuel stove.
Fuel efficiency is a tricky category to evaluate and includes many variables. Our testers know from experience that running out of fuel at the wrong time can suck the fun right out of a trip. Backpackers should take any fuel efficiency numbers as mere suggestions both in pre-trip planning and when out on the trail. We tested for fuel efficiency on our own with standardized boil time tests (including boil time in the wind) but also took the manufacturer's word for it on certain specifications like max burn times.
We measured two different boil times; both were to bring one liter of water to a rolling boil. The first boil time was with no wind, and a full 4 oz MSR ISOPro fuel canister (or 11 oz fuel bottle for the liquid fuel models). For the second number, we placed the stove with the same fuel can or bottle in front of a box fan blowing about 3 mph, as measured with a pocket anemometer. We average these two numbers for our final score. Readers should note that, due to their pot capacities, the Jetboil Zip and Primus Lite+ were tested with only 0.5 liters of water.
Having a fuel-efficient backpacking stove is essential for many reasons, the main one being that you don't want to be left high and dry by running out of fuel. Fuel efficiency is also an essential consideration for obvious environmental reasons, as well as weight savings. If you are an ounce counter, as prudent backpackers are, having a fuel-efficient stove can cut down on the ounces of fuel that you need to carry. If you can accurately calculate how much fuel your stove needs, you may be able to leave an extra canister at home, or bring a smaller one and save some weight.
Canister Fuel Efficiency Tips
- If your canister gets too cold, performance and fuel-efficiency suffer. Consider sleeping with a canister in your sleeping bag or at least put it in your jacket and warm it up before use.
- Let food soak. Put in your food when you turn the stove on and then let it soak when it reaches a near boil.
- Turn the stove down a half turn - it will only take a little longer for water to boil but saves lots of fuel
- 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.
There are a lot more fuel saving tips out there
Integrated canister stoves steaming away: The MSR Reactor and Windburner, and the Jetboil MiniMo and Flash.
The overall most fuel-efficient stoves we tested are the Jetboil Flash and the Primus Lite+ because of their integrated heat exchange systems and insulated pots. The least efficient stoves were the Primus Classic Trail and MSR Windpro 2. Like cars built for fast and furious street racing, they have impressive power outputs but gulp down the fuel.
Some of the small canister stoves had severe problems in the wind, and this affected their fuel efficiency. Notable exceptions to this are the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe and the Soto Windmaster. These two stoves feature burner heads that shield the flames.
Canister stove manufacturers advise against a windscreen that encloses the burner and fuel can, as this can heat the canister to a dangerous level and cause an explosion. The Windpro is an exception to this. Its remote canister design separates the burner from the fuel like a liquid fuel stove, so a windscreen is ok.
Winds were gusting to 40mph this day when we tested the MSR Windburner and Reactor side by side. Both burners will blow out easily if the pots are removed in these kind of winds, but once the pots are attached they are virtually windproof.
Liquid fuel stoves are relatively more fuel-efficient because they come with windscreens to shield breezes and focus the heat on the pot. Flexible aluminum windscreens are also sold separately. The added weight (a few ounces) is well worth it.
Like a tent, each stove gets two scores in this metric. We weighed each stove with all of the things that come with it: stuff sacks or cases, accessory cups, and maintenance doodads. This was the "packed" weight. We also weighed each stove at its bare-bones "trail" weight. This excludes packaging or accessories and keeps only what was needed to cook or boil water. The BRS 3000T owned this metric, at an unreal 0.9 oz trail weight and a tiny packed size. Most canister stoves we tested weigh 4 ounces or less. Your phone is significantly heavier. The Stryker had the heaviest trail weight, 18.5 oz. It was followed by the MSR Reactor and the Windburner. Be aware that liquid fuel-burning stoves also require you to carry the weight of liquid fuel, unlike the compressed gas that's inside canisters. As a trade-off, you'll be able to cook many more meals over liquid fuel.
Consider if the pot is included or not; all of the integrated canister stoves come with one and have a higher trail and packed weight. If you are comparing an integrated canister stove with a small canister stove, remember that cookware needs to be included in that comparison.
The Zip with lid, burner, and pot. This is the lightest integrated stove in our test bunch, but the volume of the integrated pot is only 0.75 L, compared to the standard 1 to 1.5 L volume of most other integrated pots in our test bunch. For solo or two-person use, 0.75 L is usually enough.
Most of the integrated canister stoves have multiple compatible pots available for purchase. That is not the case with the Stryker. The Stryker is only available with a 1.5 L pot. This skews 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 L, MSR only makes them in 1 L and up.
A 4-ounce fuel can, lighter, pot grip, Windmaster burner, and pot support fit snugly in this 1-liter pot.
We also took size and packability into account in this category. Fitting stove, fuel, and a lighter into your pot for packing could help you go with a smaller (and thus probably lighter) pack. We looked at how little each burner got and how well it nested into a pot.
The surprisingly small BRS (and its stuff sack).
Our testing team felt that this was a fairly important metric. Sometimes we're in a hurry and will eat whatever freeze-dried concoction we have left over from our last trip, no matter how unidentifiable. However, much of the time, we want to eat actual food, and we think that doing so improves our experience in the backcountry. A stove that can simmer well can handle pancakes, a fresh-caught golden trout, or maybe even that steak that's been thawing (double bagged!) in our pack on the hike in.
We looked for stoves that had good control valve sensitivity, particularly at the low end. A broad burner head, or the built-in heat exchangers on integrated canister stoves, help distribute the heat more evenly around the bottom of a pot. Narrow burner heads and focused flames lead to scorched oatmeal in the center and a cold mess around the edges. We also looked to see how low each stove could be turned down before sputtering out.
The Windmaster, PocketRocket Deluxe, Classic Trail, and GigaPower are champs here. The control wires give just the right amount of resistance, which let us dial in the flame and not carbonize our oatmeal.
Conducting the classic oatmeal test with the PocketRocket and a titanium pot.
The other three small canister stoves also performed well. Unless you want your dinner cajun style and are prepared to stir fast and continuously, don't get an integrated canister stove like the Reactor and Flash for cooking. Interestingly, the Stryker performed better than the other integrated canister models in this metric. Liquid fuel stoves generally require some know-how to get a good simmer. The Dragonfly and Omnilite Ti are designed for simpler simmering. Though they simmered more easily than their brethren, sauteing was still not as simple as with the small canister stoves.
We made this delicious and impressive pot-pie with the MSR Dragonfly, a testament to its versatility.
Ease Of Use
After a long day on the trail, the last thing anyone wants to do is struggle to make dinner. Backpacking stoves should be intuitive and easy to operate.
We discovered if the stoves had a lot of small parts and accessories, they were also easy to lose. We examined the stove controls to see if they were easy to access and operate. The large wire knobs that are becoming the standard, like on the GigaPower 2.0, really shined here. The tiny knobs on the Primus Classic, Lite+, and Zip seem dated.
The very reliable piezo ignitor and easy-to-use wire fuel control knob of the Windmaster.
Piezoelectric lighters have become quite 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, we never have to search for it when what we really want to be doing is drinking coffee. Finally, MSR has added a piezo to the PocketRocket line in the Deluxe. Our testers would love to see the Reactor and Windburner also sprout them. Over half of the small and integrated canister stoves in our review sport a piezo. However, they didn't all work with the same reliability in our tests. We were pleased that the Soto Windmaster and JetBoil MiniMo fired up consistently by clicking the auto-ignitor. The PocketRocket Deluxe didn't give us this same consistency, which is one of the reasons it didn't secure our Editors' Choice Award.
The biggest and smallest integrated canister stoves.
Generally, lower and broader designs give more stability and allow for a wider variety of cookware, and therefore meals. Liquid fuel models are the most stable because they are low to the ground and have wide stove legs that act as stable platforms. The MSR Dragonfly was the most stable, in part due to its giant pot supports. The Windpro looks more like a liquid fuel stove, and it's about as stable as one.
We like taking the MiniMo on fast and light backpacking trips, especially when using the stove for more than one person. Seen here with the Tarptent Double Rainbow.
The integrated canister stoves did well for stability because the burner and pot are designed to mate, but they are quite tall and can be easy to knock over when full. All of the manufacturers try to address this problem by including canister stands, but we did not bring these along most times because they add weight and don't change the fundamental center-of-gravity issue. Small canister stoves are also tall once screwed onto a canister and had smallish pot supports. One stand-out here is the Windmaster; its 4Flex pot supports are long and noticably more stable than most of its competition.
The WindPro's solid pot supports handle big cookware with ease.
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. It's also a complicated specification, with many contributing variables. We do not claim to be scientists, but we made our tests as objective as possible, controlling the environment and other variables to create a fair playing field. We did our testing in a garage at about 8000 feet, where the ambient temperature was approximately 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and the water we used was approximately 43 degrees. The boiling point of water at 8000 feet is 197 F. We tested the time to a rolling boil of one liter of water for each of the stoves. 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 with an ambient air temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. All of the fuel bottles were full, and the canisters used were all identical.
The integrated pots that come with the Jetboil Zip and Primus Lite+ have smaller volume capacities, which prevented us from testing them with a full liter. We tested their boiling times using only 0.5 liters of water, which makes their boil times seem fast (compared to stoves tested with 1 liter).
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 39 seconds. The MSR Reactor, and Jetboil MiniMo and Flash were close behind, practically tied just a hair over 4 minutes. The slowest stove in our test (but not by much) is the Omnilite TI, which clocked in at a leisurely 8 minutes and 11 seconds.
The MSR Reactor is great for fast and light alpine missions and boils water fast.
Liquid fuel stoves inherently take longer to boil water because they must be primed. To keep our comparisons fair, we started the clock after priming. We found it took anywhere from 36 seconds to 1 minute 30 seconds to prime these stoves. We think user results for priming times will vary so widely that we did not bother to publish ours. Boil times after priming were in the 6-8 minute range, the fastest being the MSR Universal at 6 minutes 44 seconds. We think that boil times for these stoves are less critical because their other functions (including their versatility) are more important than speed.
The BRS in our boil test. The fan is out of view to the left, blowing 2 - 4 mph.
Wind plays a big part in boil times. Since it's less likely to have windless conditions on your next backpacking trip, we also tested these stoves in a 2-4 mph wind (provided by a fan operating at the same speed for consistency's sake). Some models were unable to boil water in these conditions, but most continued to perform reasonably well. Models that weren't able to cook in front of the fan are indicated as "15 min" because after 15 minutes, we shut them off.
Canister stoves do not come with windscreens, and every manufacturer explicitly warns against using them in their instructions. The exception to this is the MSR Windpro. Because its design separates the burner from the can, using a windscreen that fully encloses the flames poses no risk. It saw a boil time increase of only about 20% in front of the fan. Several small canister stoves also worked in the wind. Both the Soto Windmaster and the PocketRocket Deluxe were able to boil water in our fan test. The inexpensive Etekcity Ultralight also surprised us by pulling off this feat.
The integrated canister stoves fared much better. As we expected, the Reactor and Windburner were only slightly affected by the wind. It should be noted that they are difficult to light in the wind. The MiniMo, Lite+, and Jetboil Zip surprised us by also doing well in this moderate breeze (although these stoves struggle in stronger wind gusts that tent to extinguish their flames). If a speedy time to boil is essential for your backcountry experience, consider one of the higher scorers here. Our backcountry experts don't recommend making this metric the sole source of your decision-making, though stove marketing and advertisements will try to convince you otherwise.
The Windpro 2 performs better in the wind than any small canister stove, just make sure the windscreen is wrapped snugly around your cookware.
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, to the high peaks of the Alaska Range. Most of our testers and friends agree food tastes better in the outdoors, especially when you do it right. We hope you find the right stove for your needs that leads you to many happy, tasty meals in the backcountry.