The best backpacking stoves can prove the saying that good things come in small packages. But that only works if the stove in question is done well, and not all of them are done well. To steer you toward the good ones we had a look at 50 of the most popular models for 2019, then bought 18 for side-by testing. We spent more than 100 days checking them out in a huge variety of settings. We fired them up at sea level, 13,000 above sea level and plenty of points in between. Our test sites included overnights, trips of several weeks and glacier expeditions. At the end we point you toward stoves that are best for a tight budget, or are the top performers no matter the cost, or embody a high tech approach.
The Best Backpacking Stoves of 2019
|Price||$69.95 at REI|
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|$53.58 at Amazon||$134.50 at Amazon|
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|$67.25 at Amazon||$44.95 at REI|
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|Pros||Works in the wind, great for simmering, best of the best||Light, works in the wind, great piezo lighter||Light, fairly fuel efficient, piezoelectric lighter, can simmer||Easy to use, inexpensive, fuel efficient||Simple, light, inexpensive, strong hardcase|
|Cons||Unreliable piezo igniter||Not the most fuel efficient||Not windproof||Heavy, bulky||Unstable, no piezo|
|Bottom Line||This simmering champ can also perform in the wind.||This lightweight stove is easy to use and will boil water when it's breezy.||This light, relatively fuel efficient and convenient stove is our Top Pick For Integrated Canister Stoves.||This big stove does everything an integrated canister stove is supposed to do, and does it well.||This small, light, easy to use stove can actually simmer and is perfect for backpacking.|
|Rating Categories||MSR PocketRocket Deluxe||Soto Windmaster||JetBoil MiniMo||Camp Chef Stryker Multi-Fuel||MSR PocketRocket 2|
|Fuel Efficiency (25%)|
|Simmering Ability (25%)|
|Time To Boil (10%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||MSR PocketRocket...||Soto Windmaster||JetBoil MiniMo||Camp Chef Stryker...||MSR PocketRocket 2|
|Boil Time (1 liter)||3:22 min:sec||4:10 min:sec||4:06 min:sec||5:11 min:sec||4:41 min:sec|
|Trail Weight||3.0 oz||3.0 oz||12.2 oz||18.5 oz||2.6 oz|
|Packed Weight||3.5 oz||3.5 oz||15.2 oz||27.2 oz||3.7 oz|
|Wind Boil Time (1 L, 8-10mph)||7:18 min:sec||8:43 min:sec||04:56 min:sec||6:48 min:sec||30 min|
|Category||Small Canister||Small Canister||Integrated Canister||Integrated Canister||Small Canister|
|Dimensions (inches)||3.3 x 2.2 x 1.8 in||4.7 x 3.9 x 3.6 in||5 x 6 in||4.25 x 8 in||3.5 x 2 in|
|Fuel Type||Isobutane||Isobutane||Isobutane||Isobutane, propane||Isobutane|
|Additional items included||Stuff sack||Stuff sack, pot support||1L pot, canister stand, plastic cup, stuff sack for burner||1.5L pot, 2 canister stands, stuff sack, propane adapter||Plastic case|
MSR PocketRocket Deluxe
MSR has been making PocketRocket stoves for years and years and the new PocketRocket Deluxe is definitely the best one yet. While this stove isn't the lightest in our review, its three-ounce weight is respectable. Two things set this version apart from its predecessors (and the rest of our testing field) First, it simmers really well; second, it can boil water in the wind. This is quite impressive for a small canister stove.
Fuel efficiency is only average, especially in the breeze. Pot supports are a bit behind some competitors, who used bigger pot supports without adding much weight. MSR finally added a piezoelectric lighter to the stove, but it wasn't all that reliable. Despite these shortcomings, this is still the best stove on the market for most backpackers.
Read review: MSR PocketRocket Deluxe
Best On A Tight Budget
The low price of the Etekcity Ultralight prompted low expectations. But while it's not impressive in any metric it does do the main reason to have a small canister stove: it makes things hot. Boil times aren't bad and in friendly conditions (no wind, low altitude, moderate temperatures) its performance is close to the competition.
In less than friendly conditions (unpleasant weather, colder temperatures, higher altitudes) we bumped into limits. Boil times slowed noticeably, the flame level was inconsistent, and overall performance was disappointing. This stove works for backpackers who seldom camp or want something just in case and will only be out in fair weather. However, even infrequent backpackers are better off if they save their duckets for a slightly more expensive but better-performing model.
Read review: Etekcity Ultralight
Top Pick For Expeditions
The MSR Whisperlite is the original gangster of liquid fuel stoves. MSR has been making some version of this stove for years and years. And no wonder — its simple, effective design makes it easy to repair in the field. That's one reason it has a home on most any expedition. It's also quite versatile; you can crank it up into a snow melting blowtorch, or turn it down for sauteing and simmering. Like most liquid-fuel stoves, it will run on multiple types of fuel.Boil times of the Whisperlite are unimpressive, nor is it particularly fuel efficient. Simmering is possible, but this requires patience and a good understanding of the stove's mechanics. Canister stoves have supplanted liquid fuel models for most backpackers but the Whisperlite is still our go-to for extended trips, group outings, and any expedition that involves melting snow. International travelers should check out the "Universal" version, which works with a selection of liquid fuels and with gas canisters.
Read review: MSR Whisperlite
Top Pick Integrated Canister Stove
The Jetboil MiniMo is our favorite integrated canister model. The Mo is the latest in a line of integrated canister burners from Jetboil, scoring well in boil times and fuel efficiency. It's the best canister stove for simmering. This coupled with a wider pot shape makes actual cooking much easier. As is usual, the pot to burner attachment is a winner. Some companies still struggle to make a piezo lighter that works, but Jetboil seems to have figured it out with the Mo.
Despite the Mo's cooking prowess, many other small canister models are better at tricky meals. It's the best Jetboil model in the wind, high wind speeds will still blow it out — granted that at those speeds you might want to seek shelter yourself. For hikers and backpackers who also have alpine and big wall climbing plans, the MiniMo is a worthy option.
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 depends 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
Related: The Best Camping Stoves of 2019
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 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.
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 8 - 10 mph, as measured with a 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. 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.
- 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 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.
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 effected 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 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 and are the only small canister stoves our testers have ever used that can boil water in our fan test.
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 are also sold separately. The weight (a few ounces) and cost are 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 Snow Peak LiteMax owned this metric, at a featherweight 2.1 oz trail weight. 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. 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.
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 several sizes starting with 0.75L, 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 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 Deluxe 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, which is about as good as your stove at home. Well, almost.
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. 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.
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 PocketRocket Deluxe dominated this metric with a time of 3 minutes and 22 seconds. The JetBoil Flash and MSR Reactor were close behind, 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 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). Some models were unable to boil water in these conditions, while others continued to perform almost as well.
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. For the first time ever, our test featured small canister stoves that worked in the wind. Both the Soto Windmaster and the PocketRocket Deluxe were able to boil water in our fan test. Both took a bit over twice as long to do so.
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. It should be noted, that they are difficult to light in the wind. 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.
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 fairly intuitive and easy to operate.
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. The tiny knobs on the Primus Classic and Lite+ seem dated.
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.
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.
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.
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