The 5 Best Camping Stoves for Cooking Delicious Meals on the Trail

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Contrary to what your non-hiking friends may think, backpacking doesn’t mean you have to subsist on GORP. Backpacking stoves have come a long way from their bulky and inefficient origins and can boil water for delicious dehydrated meals in minutes or cook elaborate, sticky camp meals on their own. These five models are currently our favorite stoves on the market for a variety of budgets, culinary complexities, and backpacking conditions.

What to look for in a camping stove

The majority of camping stoves come in two varieties: canister and liquid fuel. Canister stoves are generally lighter, more compressible and less expensive, and use pressurized propane/isobutane tanks as a fuel source. Some canister stoves have built-in pots that help shield the flame from wind and store all components in a compact package. Liquid fuel stoves, although larger and heavier, are more fuel efficient and also tend to burn more consistently in colder temperatures and at higher altitudes. They use a separate fuel tank and a pump to build pressure. These stoves can sometimes burn multiple types of fuels, from white gas to kerosene to diesel.

Beyond fuel type, there are a variety of features to consider when purchasing your cooker. Stoves with sensitive fuel nozzles can adjust temperatures for cooking more complex meals, while set-and-forget models should primarily be used for boiling water. In both varieties, pans with smaller burner heads may be best for boiling water or feeding a hiker or two, while larger pans can accommodate a wider variety of cookware if you prepare meals for a group.

The best camping stoves on the market

(Photo: courtesy)

Best Value Camping Stove: GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp

Cheap gear isn’t always a good buy, but Glacier Camp cuts the right corners. Its 4.9-inch-wide arms support a 3-liter pot, and it maintained a steady flame at 10,600 feet in Colorado’s Tenmile Range. The design, however, is picky. “You have to twist and remove the arms from the burner head for storage, but that doesn’t help it being much smaller,” said one tester. Any other compromises for the price? The Glacier Camp doesn’t hold a flame well unless fully angled, and it lacks wind protection and a piezo. —Stasia Stockwell

MSR WindBurner Group Stove System
(Photo: courtesy)

Best Camping Stove for Bad Weather: MSR WindBurner Group Stove System

  • Price: $200
  • Weight: 1lb 5oz.
  • Buy now

Designed for hikers looking for a life beyond freeze-dried chili mac, the WindBurner Group Stove System is our go-to for real meals along the trail. The roomy 2.5 liter pot served peanut noodles for three on an overnight drop at Moab, UT, and even when 45 mph winds toppled our tent (yikes!), the windproof burner never faltered. Precise simmer control sautees vegetables to perfection, and the nonstick ceramic coating prevents gunk buildup, making cleanup a breeze. It may seem a little clunky at first, but the whole 1.3lb system fits together perfectly, with room for an 8oz fuel canister, utensils and a dishcloth – Lily Krass

Primus FireStick
(Photo: courtesy)

The lightest camping stove: Primus FireStick

Usually a stove at this weight is as simple as possible. Not the fire stick. Its unique design makes it a feature-rich product that remains the lightest stove in the test. Three fins fold into a small cylinder – slightly smaller than a toilet paper tube – to enclose the burner for storage. When released, the spring-loaded fins support pots up to 6 inches wide and double as a windscreen. Wind protection got mixed results: some testers reported excellent performance, while others extinguished the flame with a blow from a magazine. We reached a full boil in just under two minutes for 2 cups of water on a windless day at 6,000 feet. The Firestick’s responsive fuel knob allows for precise temperature control, which we found ideal for simmering chili mac after a long day of hiking in Colorado. Gore range. Miss: The non-integrated 0.4 ounce Piezo igniter is only slightly smaller than a standard lighter and far less useful. Bonus: the woolen storage sleeve doubles as a potholder. —Meg Atteberry

Eureka!  Ignite
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Best stove for car camping: Eureka! Ignite

  • Price: $115
  • Weight: 10 lbs.
  • Buy now

The affordable price market camping stoves is crowded, but the Ignite stands out. “It has the best simmer control I’ve used,” said one tester. “Turns out perfect pancakes and omelettes every time.” The keys are dials that turn two full turns, providing great sensitivity for flame control. Two 10-inch burners each fit a 3-quart pot and burn at an impressive 10,000 BTUs. BONUS: The retro-chic design is a nod to that old workhorse your family used to haul around, but it looks even cooler. —Heather Balogh Rochfort

MSR WhisperLite Universal
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Best Cold Weather Camping Stove: MSR WhisperLite Universal

  • Price: $150
  • Weight: 11.2 ounces.
  • Buy now

Want a stove that can do it all, that can handle cold temperatures as well as warmer ones? The MSR WhisperLite Universal is a liquid fuel stove that can also accommodate standard canisters. It’s extremely stable, which is a plus when cooking in the snow, and it can boil a liter of water in just under seven minutes in winter. It’s not particularly light at 11.2 ounces, but it’s reliable enough to shine in sub-zero conditions and at altitude. Bonus: In addition to standard white gas, it can burn kerosene or unleaded gasoline, making it a smart choice for trips to remote areas where gear stores can’t be found.

What Hiker The editor is looking for a camping stove

Eli Bernstein, Equipment Editor

Hiker in the Canyon
Equipment Editor Eli Bernstein (Photo: Courtesy of Eli Bernstein)

“I’m not much of a backcountry chef, so I’m looking for stoves with fast boil times and high energy efficiency, as well as compressibility. The faster a stove can allow me to rehydrate my boil-in-a-bag meal, the better. In the dead of winter (I live in the Tetons, where it’s very cold), I’ll make concessions on bulk and weight and bring a liquid-fuel model.

Adam Roy, Senior Digital Writer

Skier smiling at the camera
Digital Editor Adam Roy on a ski camping trip in central Colorado. (Photo: Adam Roy)

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: I’ve used the same no-name canister stove on most of my travels for the better part of a decade, usually paired with an MSR Titan titanium pot that serves also from my cup.I only pull out my liquid fuel stove, an MSR WhisperLite Universal, for freezing temperatures, high altitudes, or trips to places where I may not be able to find fuel canisters.

How to maintain a camping stove

To keep your stove working, perform basic maintenance on an annual basis (more frequently if you use it a lot). For a liquid fuel stove, check that the o-rings have not cracked and that the fuel line and pump are not clogged with residue. Also, make sure the fuel line and connection are not leaking. Use lubricant on o-rings or wherever needed. For canister stoves, ensure that the connection between the burner and the fuel canister has no bare threads and also remove any carbon or dirt buildup. You can use water and a toothbrush or other gentle cleaning tool to remove the residue.

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