After scoping out 50 of the best backpacking stoves on the market, we picked 15 for side-by-side testing. With over 100 days in the backcountry, we got to figure out which models perform the best and under what conditions. We cooked at elevations ranging from sea level to 13,000. We adventured on overnights, multi-week trips, alpine climbs, and glacier expeditions. Testing each product to its capacity we've come up with some great recommendations for you based on some key criteria. Whether you're looking for overall performance, something that will fit into a tight budget, or if you want the best of the high tech options, we've highlighted award winner and top picks for your needs.
The Best Backpacking Stoves of 2019
|Price||$44.95 at REI|
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|$144.95 at REI|
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|$43.12 at Amazon|
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|$99.99 at Amazon||$149.95 at REI|
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|Pros||Simple, light, inexpensive, strong hardcase||Light, fairly fuel efficient, piezoelectric lighter, can simmer||Lightweight, easy to use, good at simmering, piezo igniter||Easy to use, inexpensive, fuel efficient||Windproof, fast, fuel efficient|
|Cons||Unstable||Not windproof||A bit heavier and bit pricier than the competition||Heavy, bulky||Heavy, poor stove/pot connection, no Piezo ignitor|
|Bottom Line||This small, light, easy to use stove can actually simmer and is perfect for backpacking.||This light, relatively fuel efficient and convenient stove is our Top Pick For Integrated Canister Stoves.||This stove does everything well.||This big stove does everything an integrated canister stove is supposed to do, and does it well.||Great fuel efficiency and wind performance in a not-so-user-friendly package.|
|Rating Categories||MSR PocketRocket 2||JetBoil MiniMo||GigaPower 2.0||Stryker Multi-Fuel||MSR Windburner|
|Fuel Efficiency (25%)|
|Simmering Ability (25%)|
|Time To Boil (10%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||MSR PocketRocket 2||JetBoil MiniMo||GigaPower 2.0||Stryker Multi-Fuel||MSR Windburner|
|Boil Time (1 liter)||4:41 min:sec||4:06 min:sec||5:02 min:sec||5:11 min:sec||5:36 min:sec|
|Trail Weight||2.6 oz||12.2 oz||3.0 oz||18.5 oz||15.0 oz|
|Packed Weight||3.7 oz||15.2 oz||3.9 oz||27.2 oz||16.8 oz|
MSR PocketRocket 2
MSR's first PocketRocket debuted over 15 years ago, and it changed the way backpackers cooked. Hikers were happy to abandon more complicated and bulky systems for something lighter. The latest generation of this stove has been on the market for a few years now, and it's still our Editors' Choice Award winner. The MSR PocketRocket 2 weighs less and is more compact than most any stove on the market. It also simmers quite well, which means you cook and eat more real meals (and less freeze-dried food) on your backpacking trip. The price is also excellent; it's a lot cheaper than stoves in our test but still performed the best.
We missed a piezoelectric lighter, a handy feature found on many other popular backpacking stoves. Fuel efficiency is middle of the pack with this stove, too. But for excellent performance and a great price, the PocketRocket 2 is still an excellent choice for most backpackers and hangs on to our Editors' Choice Award.
Read review: MSR PocketRocket 2
Best On A Tight Budget
We didn't expect much from the Etekcity Ultralight given its super low price. We found all the convenience one expects in a small canister stove in a lightweight package. It posts reasonable boil times, and the flame control works as it should. At low altitudes, with warm temperatures and calm weather performance was similar to the MSR PocketRocket 2. At higher altitudes and in colder conditions we discovered the useful limits of this cheap stove.
In more challenging weather and conditions we experienced slower boil times, inconsistent flame levels, and overall sputtery performance. While it ultimately got the job done, it became clear that you get what you pay for. The PocketRocket 2 costs a little more and is a much better choice for regular backpackers (or those who aspire to be). For those who can keep this stove within its performance envelope and don't do much camping, this stove could do the trick.
Read review: Etekcity Ultralight
Top Pick For Expeditions
The MSR Whisperlite is the original gangster of the liquid fuel stove world. This steadfast performer has won a place in the hearts of many adventurers. For over 30 years MSR has been churning out this same model with few modifications. It's about as simple as a white gas stove can get, and simple to fix in the backcountry. Some liquid fuel stoves, like the MSR Dragonfly, are known for being really loud. The Whisperlite lives up to its name - you can have a conversation with your backcountry partner while cooking dinner.Scores for boil time and fuel efficiency are unexceptional for the Whisperlite. While simmering is a challenge, preparing tricky meals are 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 is our old standby on any multi-day adventure that involves melting snow for a group. If traveling internationally, check out the MSR Whisperlite Universal for compatibility with various liquid fuels and canister gas.
Read review: MSR Whisperlite
Top Pick Integrated Canister Stove
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 igniter 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.
It excels at boiling water. The PocketRocket 2 cooks delicate meals much better. With many integrated and small canister stoves, wind is a problem. The MiniMo stays lit and boils water in most winds that backpackers would choose to be out of their tents in. 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. 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 educator. Regularly, she takes people out into the remote wilderness camping and adventuring. Ian is also a full-time guide, taking climbers out into the Sierra Nevada wilderness. Both cook and take care of clients using backcountry stoves for full-time work. Who's better to test our backcountry camping stoves?
We tested 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 conducted several specific tests to quantitatively compare boil times, fuel efficiency, and performance under consistent wind speeds. We scored all the backpacking stoves in five categories: fuel efficiency, weight, simmering, time to boil, and ease of use. Through our testing, we look at each product through an unbiased lens, giving our top recommendations.Related: How We Tested Backpacking Stoves
Analysis and Test Results
We tested small canister stoves, integrated canister stoves, and liquid fuel stoves. What you'll need depends on what you really think your adventures will call for; there is a stove out there for everyone's needs, but you should decide what the priorities are first: weight and bulk, fuel efficiency, cooking ability, or all of the above?Related: Buying Advice for Backpacking Stoves
Related: The Best Camping Stoves of 2019
The models in our review have quite a price range. It's a common fallacy to assume that spending more gets you a better stove, but that's not always the case. For example, our Editors' Choice Award winner, the MSR PocketRocket 2, is also one of the least expensive stoves in the review. The cheapest stove in our test, The Etekcity Ultralight, 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. We don't factor price into the performance scores of the products we test, but we realize it's a huge factor for most of us and our friends getting after it in the outdoors.
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 20" Lasko brand box fan blowing 8 - 10 mph, as measured with a Kestrel 1000 pocket anemometer.
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. Having a little extra fuel lets you make a hot water bottle when the temperature dips lower than you expected, or make a second (or third!) cup of coffee on a slow morning. 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. For a deeper dive into the weight savings potential as well as a better understanding of canisters specifically, check out our Buying Advice article.
- 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 bit - it will only take a little longer for water to boil but save 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.
The overall most fuel-efficient stove we tested was the Camp Chef Stryker because of its wind-resistant construction, large integrated heat exchange system, and insulated pot. The MSR Windburner and Primus Lite+ were close seconds. The Jetboil Flash was the most fuel efficient in our no-wind test but performed poorly in the wind, and this dropped its overall fuel efficiency score. 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 gas.
All of the small canister stoves had severe problems in the wind, and this affected their fuel efficiency. 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.
Liquid fuel stoves are relatively more fuel efficient because they come with wind screens to shield breezes and focus the heat on the pot. Flexible aluminum windscreens sold separately. The weight (a few ounces) and cost are well worth it. We don't recommend the rigid hinged windscreen models except for car camping situations as they are heavy and don't pack well.
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 PocketRocket 2 owned this metric, at a featherweight 2.6 oz. Your phone is probably twice as heavy. The Stryker had the heaviest trail weight, 18.5 oz. It was followed by the Reactor and the Windburner.
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, include your cookware in the number. We considered this when we scored the stoves for weight — learn how in our How We Tested Backpacking Stoves Article.
Most of the integrated canister stoves have multiple compatible pots available for purchase. That is not the case with the Lite+ and the Stryker. The Lite+ is only available with a 0.75 L pot, and the Stryker only 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 both of those sizes, MSR only makes them in 1 L and up.
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.
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 pasta, 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 PocketRocket 2 is a champ here. The control wire gives just the right amount of resistance, which let us dial in the flame and not carbonize our oatmeal.
The Primus Classic Trail, with its broad burner head, was also a high scorer. It scored the same as the PocketRocket, just about as good as we can imagine simmering can be in the backcountry.
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. Of note, the Stryker performed better than the others. Liquid fuel stoves that were designed to offer better simmering, like the Primus Omnilite Ti and the Dragonfly performed passably here, though sauteing was still not as simple as with the small canister stoves.
Our testing team thinks that comparing boil times is like comparing times in an Olympic ski race. 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 scientific and 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. 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.
While our testing team is not usually impressed with boil times, numbers at either end of the range do catch our attention. The JetBoil Flash and MSR Reactor dominated this category, and are practically tied at 3 minutes 42 seconds and 3 minutes 56 seconds, respectively. The slowest stove in our test (but not by much) is the Omnilite TI, which clocked in at a leisurely 7 minutes and 3 seconds.
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 6-7 minute range, the fastest being the MSR Dragonfly at 6 minutes 5 seconds. We think that boil times for these stoves are less critical because of their other functions (including their versatility) are more important than speed.
Wind plays a big part in boil times, and we also tested these stoves in an 8-10mph wind (provided by a fan operating at the same speed for consistency's sake). As you can see from the chart below, some models were unable to boil water in these conditions, while others continued to perform almost as well as with no wind.
Canister stoves do not come with windscreens, and every manufacturer explicitly warns against using them in their instructions. Small canister stove performance suffered in the wind. All of them stayed lit, but none got water to a rolling boil even after 30 minutes. 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.
The integrated canister stoves fared much better. As we expected, the Reactor and Windburner were only slightly affected by the wind, increasing their already fast boiling time by about a minute. The MiniMo, Lite+ and Stryker surprised us by also doing well in this moderate breeze. If a speedy time to boil is essential for your backcountry experience, select one of these models.
Most stoves we tested are much faster at boiling water than the models in our camping stove review. For that reason, we often bring an integrated canister stove along for coffee and tea when car camping. The upside is you boil water much faster and free up valuable burner space. The downside is that canister stove fuel is more expensive. Either way, it's nice to have a fast boil option at the ready. Below is our setup for a lightweight breakfast. We take this to the beach and on picnics to be able to make coffee quickly. Donuts sold separately.
Ease Of Use
Are singed hair and burned fingertips a normal part of your backcountry cooking experience? Good meals are streamlined enhancements to our wilderness experience, not dangerous chores.Our questions included but were not limited to:
- Are the controls easy to access, or are they tiny knobs?
- Is the stove easy to assemble (especially white gas stoves)?
- Is it easy or hard to burn our fingertips or singe our eyebrows?
- If boiling over can we turn it off without scalding our fingers?
- For integrated canister stoves: do the stove and pot mate easily and securely?
- Are there lots of small parts or accessories to keep track of?
- How quickly can we go from stove in our pack to a hot cup of coffee?
We discovered if the stoves had a lot of small parts and accessories that were 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. We were disappointed by the tiny knobs on the Primus Classic and Lite+.
Piezoelectric lighters have become quite reliable, and we think they should be a standard feature. While our testing team always goes into the backcountry with a lighter (or three) with this feature we never have to search for it when what we want to be doing is drinking coffee. The Jetboil stoves, the GigaPower the Stryker also did well in this category. With these, we can go from in the pack to sipping a hot drink in the shortest time and with the least amount of fuss.
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 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 exception to this is the Windpro. Its design looks more like a liquid fuel stove, and it's about as stable as those stoves.
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.
— Ian McEleney and Jessica Haist