Camping in Montana
Backpacking Stoves

Backpacking Stoves

There are few worse ways to ruin an otherwise good day on the trail then having to spend an hour or two scavenging around for firewood just so that you can cook your dinner. While campfires are great for recreation and relaxation, a campfire is no way to cook your meals - especially when backpacking.

Why are campfires so bad for cooking? Well, let's see. First, you have to find the wood, often times no easy or enjoyable task. Secondly, campfires don't cook very hot until you get coals - something which at times can take far longer than any hungry person would like. And lastly, the smoke from a campfire is smelly and dirty and will make a mess of your camp cookware - always a problem when water is not abundant. Oh, and I hope you remembered to bring your ax or hatchet so that you can cut up that wood too.

By contrast, a backpacking stove can be set up within less than 5 minutes and be boiling water in 10. There is no mess. The stoves are lightweight and ultra-portable. In short, for anyone who will be cooking in the backcountry, make sure you bring a backpacking stove. While you may wish to cook over a campfire if time and conditions allow, NEVER, EVER be totally dependant on cooking your food over a campfire.

Browse Backpacking Stoves (both Canister & Liquid Fuel)

The Two Types of Backpacking Stoves

There are basically two types of backpacking stoves available, the more traditional "Liquid Fuel Stove" and the "Canister Stove." Each of these stoves have their goods and bads. Which one you choose will really depend upon how you rate each good and bad thing.

A Canister Fuel Stove

Both of these types of stoves are similar in function - they cook your meals quickly and easily. Where they differ is in design - a Canister Stove runs off of pre-filled canisters of either propane or butane. By contrast, a Liquid Fuel stove runs off of various liquid fuels, such as white gas, coleman fuel and often unleaded gas. MSR backpacking stoves are the most commonly found type.

The advantage of canister stoves is that they are easier to use and quicker to assemble. The bad side is that once the fuel canister has been expended, they can't be refilled - so you're stuck with them on the trail. Additionally, you will only get limited cooking time off a fuel canister - usually no more than 10 cooking cycles from a 4 ounce bottle. And that is being rather "generous."

Liquid Fuel Stove

In contrast, a Liquid Fuel Stove allows for significantly more cooking - especially since MSR models of stoves allow for variable size fuel bottles to be attached. The downside, however, is that liquid fuel stoves need to be "primed" - which is pumping a small handle in order to pressurize the stove. This can take a few minutes and, for newbies, makes things a bit awkward when you first use it.

What Type of Stove to Get?

Well, if you want my advice, here it is. If you will be doing lots of backpacking, then absolutely, postively get a liquid fuel backpacking stove. True, they are a bit more cumbersome to use.

However, their significantly greater cooking time (due to the ability to get differing size fuel bottles) more than makes up for it. Moreover, liquid fuel stoves are easily field maintainable. And last but not least, these stoves are far more "flexible." You can fill up the fuel bottles pretty much anywhere (coleman fuel and unleaded gas are available just about anywhere). With a canister stove, well, good luck finding replacement canisters in most small towns of the US. Oh, almost forgot, the cost of ownership over time is far less with a liquid fuel stove too since you don't have to constantly buy overpriced fuel canisters.

Canister stoves, however, do have their place. If you will be doing primarily car camping and yet want to have a stove that will work well for a night or two in the backcountry, then, by all means, consider getting a canister stove. The easier use of canister stoves will make "car camping" more enjoyable - and you'll still have the flexibility to head out into the woods for a night or two.

Browse Backpacking Stoves (both liquid fuel and canister stoves)

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