Over the last 11 years, we've tested over 30 unique backpacking stoves in our quest to find the best, with 19 in our current review. We've surveyed the stove market, purchased the best burners, and tested them side-by-side. We measured performance specs in controlled conditions then took the stoves out into the real world. We brought these stoves on all sorts of trips, everything from deserts to high altitude peaks and warm weekend getaways to chilly glacier expeditions. Below you'll find the information to help you figure out which stove is right for the backpacking you do.Related: Best Camping Stove of 2021
Best Backpacking Stove of 2021
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|$16.95 at Amazon||$114.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Compact, lightweight, fairly efficient||Tiny, light, cheap||Fuel efficient, superior stove/burner mating, hanging system included||Easy to use, inexpensive, fuel efficient||Good at simmering, simple operation|
|Cons||No piezo igniter, tiny valve knob||Small burner head, poor wind performance||Heavy for its volume, frustrating control knob||Heavy, bulky||No piezoelectric igniter, slow to boil|
|Bottom Line||This basic integrated canister stove gets the job done for those on a budget||A shockingly small and lightweight inexpensive model||The combination of innovative and old features on this stove has an overall average result||This big stove does everything an integrated canister stove is supposed to do, and does it well||This standard small canister stove is good for simmering but bulky in your pack|
|Rating Categories||JetBoil Zip||BRS-3000T||Primus Lite+||Camp Chef Stryker M...||Primus Essential Trail|
|Fuel Efficiency (25%)|
|Simmering Ability (20%)|
|Ease Of Use (20%)|
|Boil Time (10%)|
|Specs||JetBoil Zip||BRS-3000T||Primus Lite+||Camp Chef Stryker M...||Primus Essential Trail|
|Category||Integrated Canister||Small Canister||Integrated Canister||Integrated Canister||Small Canister|
|Trail Weight||10.6 oz||0.9 oz||14.1 oz||18.5 oz||3.9 oz|
|Wind Boil Time (1 L, 2-4mph)||3:50 min:sec (0.5.liters only)||15 min||4:37 min:sec (0.5.liters only)||7:14 min:sec||15 min|
|Boil Time (1 liter)||3:12 min:sec (0.5 liters only)||4:43 min:sec||3:31 min:sec (0.5.liters only)||5:38 min:sec||6:00 min:sec|
|Packed Weight||12.3 oz||1 oz||15.2 oz||27.2 oz||3.9 oz|
|Dimensions (inches)||4.1 x 6.5 in||1.97 x 1.2 x 1.3 in||6 x 3 in||4.25 x 8 in||4.3 x 2.4 in|
|Fuel Type||Isobutane||Isobutane||Isobutane||Isobutane, propane||Isobutane|
|Additional items included||0.75L pot, canister stand, lid||Stuff sack||0.75L pot, canister stand, hanging cord, pot adapter plugs||1.5L pot, 2 canister stands, stuff sack, propane adapter||None|
Best Overall Backpacking Stove
When we first fired up the Soto Windmaster, we expected standard small canister stove performance. However, since we first pressed the piezoelectric button, we've been pleasantly surprised. The igniter works almost every time, something that can't be assumed about all auto-igniters. The 4-flex pot supports are also really generous — 2-liter pots won't threaten this stove's stability. A 3-armed pot support is also available. However, what makes the Windmaster a standout is its wind resistance. In an 8-10 mph breeze, this thing not only stays lit, but it can even boil water.
We had a few small problems with this stove. It isn't the fastest we reviewed, nor is it as fuel-efficient as some of the gas-sipping competition. Packing the generous pot supports, burner, and a fuel can into our small tester pot was also challenging. That being said, we found this a small price to pay for the pot supports. We think this is the best stove for most backpackers most of the time.
Read review: Soto Windmaster
Best on a Tight Budget
Our initial expectations of this stove were calibrated to its low price. Out of the box, we were shocked by its size. It is so small! It can fit comfortably in any ultra-light 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. The pot supports are more sturdy than they appear — they held a 1.5-L 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 this issue, but high-end quality control can't be expected when a product is significantly less expensive than the competition. Despite the good flame control when turned down, the burner head of the BRS is tiny, making it easy to scorch rice or refried beans if you get lazy while stirring. This stove also lacks a piezo igniter. For ultralight solo weekend (or long weekend) backpacking trips, this little stove can save weight, space, and cash.
Read review: BRS-3000T
Best Integrated Canister Stove
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. In the distant past, the piezoelectric igniters were a known failure point. On this model, however, our testers used the igniter hundreds of times with no issues. The big advancement with this model is the burner head. The "Mo" burner put out good boil times and fuel efficiency. Among the integrated canister stoves in our test, it's the best at simmering. Combine this with its unique short and squat pot and voila — 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 definitely blow the stove out. Nevertheless, hikers and backpackers who also have alpine climbing or big wall plans (and who have practice keeping the stove out of the wind) would do well to consider the MiniMo.
Read review: Jetboil MiniMo
Best for Liquid Fuel
MSR Whisperlite Universal
The MSR Whisperlite Universal takes the original gangster of the liquid fuel stove world and updates it for the modern wilderness traveler. Liquid fuel stoves are known for field repairability and longevity, and the Universal ticks those boxes. In addition to white gas, this rig can run on canisters and most other types of fuel. Most American backpackers are shifting to canister stoves, and rightly so. That makes multi-fuel versatility even more important for liquid fuel stoves.
Preparing anything more than simple meals still requires practice and savvy when running the Universal on liquid fuels. Fuel efficiency and boil times are nothing special for this stove. Still, for backcountry trips involving groups, serious snow melting, or crossing multiple international borders, this stove is our pick for liquid fuel stoves.
Read review: MSR Whisperlite Universal
Why You Should Trust Us
Jessica Haist and Ian McEleney are backcountry experts. Jessica holds a Master's Degree in Adventure Education. Originally from Canada, she now resides in Mammoth Lakes, CA, amidst the Sierra Nevada. Ian is an AMGA-certified Alpine Guide. He and his clients climb routes and peaks throughout the country. Together these two cook meals outside (both simple and complex) more than 150 nights per year.
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.
Related: How We Tested Backpacking Stoves
Analysis and Test Results
We tested small canister stoves, remote canister stoves, integrated canister stoves, and liquid fuel stoves. The type of stove that's best for you will depend on your specific needs. There's a stove for every backpacker, but first, you should decide on what you prioritize: weight and bulk, fuel efficiency, cooking ability, simple operation? Read on to learn which stoves excelled in each of these areas.
Related: Buying Advice for Backpacking Stoves
A common misconception is to assume that spending more will get you a better stove. The fact is that's often just not 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 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, but it's tricky to evaluate because it's influenced by many variables. Our testers know from experience that running out of fuel at the wrong time can ruin a trip. Backpackers should consider any fuel efficiency numbers as mere suggestions both in pre-trip planning and when out on the trail. 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 indoors. The first measurement was with zero wind using a full 4-ounce fuel canister (or an 11-ounce fuel bottle for the liquid fuel models). In the second test, we used 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. After each boil, we weighed the can to find out how much fuel was burned. We averaged these two numbers for the score. Readers should note that due to pot capacities, some stoves were tested with less than a full liter of water.
Fuel efficiency is important for several reasons, the main one being that you don't want to run out of fuel! Fuel efficiency is also a consideration for environmental reasons and weight savings. If you're an ounce counter — as prudent backcountry travelers should be — having an efficient stove can cut down on the weight of fuel that you 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 and save weight and pack space.
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 are the Primus Classic Trail and MSR Windpro 2. Like cars built for fast and furious street racing, these models have impressive power outputs but guzzle down the gas.
- 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 and warm it up before use.
- Let food soak. Put food and water in the pot 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 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.
- There are a lot more fuel saving tips out there if you want to achieve maximum efficiency.
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 could potentially heat the canister to a dangerous level and cause an explosion. The Windpro and GSI Pinnacle 4 Season are the exception to this. Their remote canister design separates the burner from the fuel like a liquid fuel stove, so it's okay to use a windscreen.
Liquid fuel stoves are generally more fuel-efficient because they come with flexible aluminum windscreens to shield breezes and focus the heat on the pot. These are also sold separately and can be found in titanium. The added weight (a few ounces) is well worth it.
In this test, we looked at weight in two different ways. To determine the "packed" weight, we weighed each stove with all of the things that came with it: stuff sacks or cases, accessory cups, and maintenance doodads. We also weighed each stove at its bare-bones "trail" weight. This excluded packaging or accessories and kept only the minimum of what was needed to cook or boil water. The BRS 3000T excelled in this metric, at an unreal 0.9-ounce trail weight and a tiny packed size.
Most canister stoves we tested weigh 4 ounces or less, lighter than your phone. We found weight to be less of a factor when deciding between them than with other stove types because they're all so close in weight. It's also worth considering whether the pot is included or not; all of the integrated canister stoves come with a pot and have a predictably higher trail and packed weight. If you are comparing an integrated canister stove with a small canister stove, remember that cookware should be included for the comparison.
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 can weighs around 7.4 ounces when full, an 8 ounce can weighs about 13.1 ounces.
Most of the 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 L; MSR makes them in 1 L and up. The Camp Chef Stryker is only available with the 1.5 L pot that it comes with. The Jetboil Zip comes with a 0.75-L 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 the stove, fuel, and a lighter inside your pot can help you squeeze into a smaller (and thus probably lighter) backpack. We looked at how little each burner got and how well it nested into a pot. Again, the BRS shined here; we could fit it and a 4-ounce fuel canister into our 500-mL pot.
Our testing team believes this is an important metric. When we're in a hurry, we'll shovel down whatever freeze-dried food is leftover from our last trip. However, much of the time, we want to eat actual food, and we think that doing so makes our time in the backcountry better. A stove that can simmer well can handle biscuits, a fresh-caught golden trout, or maybe even a 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 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. We also checked to see how low each stove could be turned down before sputtering out. The Soto WindMaster, PocketRocket Deluxe, Primus Classic Trail, and GigaPower 2.0 are champs here. Their control wires give just the right amount of resistance, which let us dial in the flame and not carbonize dinner.
Unless you want your dinner cajun style and are prepared to stir fast and continuously, don't get a rager of an integrated canister stove for 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. Our testers don't want to practice using their backpacking stove in their free time at home, will you? This is another reason why we think that most backpackers will prefer small canister stoves over liquid fuel stoves.
Ease Of Use
After a long day on the trail, the last thing anyone wants to do is struggle to make dinner. We think it's important that backpacking stoves are easy to operate. We like models that only require us to look at the manual the first time.
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 and MiniMo, are becoming the standard. The tiny knobs on other stoves seem dated in contrast.
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, you don't have to search for it 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 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. We were pleased 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 easy to knock 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 add weight 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 it's about 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 8000 feet (about 2430 meters), where the boiling point of water is 197 F (about 92 C). We tested the time it took for one liter of water to reach a rolling boil with each of the stoves. 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. So the specs you see on a product's website may not be very applicable to what you find on your backpacking trips.
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 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 them. Boil time after priming for the MSR Universal was 6 minutes 44 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 did 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 at just a hair over 4 minutes.
Wind plays a big part in boil times. Since it's not likely you'll have windless conditions on your next backpacking trip, we also tested these stoves in a 2-4 mph wind provided by a fan. Some models were unable to boil water in these conditions, but most continued to perform reasonably well. Models that weren't able to 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 to this are 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 a boil time increase in front of the fan. Several small canister stoves also worked in the wind. Both the WindMaster and the PocketRocket Deluxe were able to boil water in our fan test.
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, however, that they can be difficult to light in the wind. The MiniMo and Lite+ surprised us by also doing well in this moderate breeze (although these stoves struggle in stronger wind gusts that tend to extinguish their flames). If a speedy time to boil is essential for your backcountry experience, consider one of the higher scorers here. Though 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, to 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 needs that leads you to many happy, tasty meals in the backcountry.
— Ian McEleney & Jessica Haist