Gear

The Best Small, Lightweight Backpacking Stoves

July 27, 2019 by

People often go backpacking to enjoy the wilderness, but that doesn’t mean you won’t miss a hot meal or two on the go. This is why you might have decided to bring along a backpacking stove so you don’t need to eat cold spaghetti for another night in a row.

There are a couple different types of stoves that require fuels ranging from natural gas to wood that you pick up on the go and burn right there in the forest. Naturally, each stove has a range of pros and cons that can determine which one you prefer.

To help make the decision easy for you, we’ve reviewed the five best backpacking stoves and taken an in-depth look at their pros and cons, main features, overall size and weight, and easiness to use while in the middle of nowhere. When making our selections, we chose from a broad range of sizes, weights, and prices. We also give a few basic tips and tricks on backpacking stove use to help you figure out how to use it on the go.

Ready? Let’s get cooking!

Best Backpacking Stoves Available Online

1)    Etekcity Ultralight Portable Backpacking Stove

The Etekcity Ultralight Portable Backpacking Stove is an easy to use, portable, and collapsible model designed to be taken on long trips. Its small dimensions come in as 1.81 x 2.36 x 3.15 in., meaning it takes as little room as possible in the average knapsack. This model requires natural gas for fuel and is compatible with any 7/16 thread single butane/butane-propane mixed fuel canisters. You can easily store this stove and a fuel tank with minimal effort.

This backpacking stove follows the “leave no trace” maxim because it produces no debris or soot and you don’t have to leave any part behind while backpacking. This makes the stove perfect for the environmentally conscious. You can also control the flames on this stove and cook with ease, which is great for someone who wants to prepare small, simple meals.

Pros:

  • The manufacturer offers a 1-year warranty
  • Ultralight
  • Burns clean
  • Includes carry case and user guide
  • Extremely fuel efficient
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Very small

Why it’s recommended: This backpacking stove is small and light while also being fuel efficient, making it great for longer trips.

2)    Odoland Camping Cookware Stove

The Odoland Camping Cookware Stove actually comes as part of an inexpensive kit that includes utensils like a pot, pan, and spatula to prepare meals on the go. The stove can be folded down to save space in any backpack and is made of stainless, durable material to prevent damage on the trail. A mesh bag is included with the stove and utensils so everything can be stored in a simple sack and carried with ease.

The Odoland weighs 14 oz. and is just large enough to heat 4 cups of water. It requires a Coleman® Butane/Propane Mix Liquid Fuel canister and similar models to function. The flame is adjustable and does not scorch the bottom of pots and pans even at the highest setting, making this great for people who want to eat fast.

Pros:

  • Cooking utensils and implements are included
  • Portable and compact
  • Burns clean
  • Inexpensive
  • Conducts heat quickly

Cons:

  • The cutlery rusts fast

Why it’s recommended:  This backpacking stove includes all of the necessary dishes to make a meal and heats fast in a pinch, perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to waste time heating water.

3)    Terra Hiker 3500 W Backpacking Stove

The Terra Hiker 3500 W Backpacking Stove weighs a low 8.5 oz. and is designed to be lightweight and compact. Unlike some other stoves, the Terra Hiker has a wide base meant to spread the weight of cooking dishes so the stove is unlikely to tip over in the wind. This can be folded and stored easily.

The product is also easy to ignite and heats quickly, allowing you to boil water in as little as 2 minutes. The stove supports most cookware as large as 18 L, making it great for little groups that want to prep a meal for everyone. It’s also easy to ignite and takes a traditional portable fuel canister. Flames are adjustable and placed wide so they heat multiple areas in a pot or pan, not just one place.

Pros:

  • Energy efficient
  • Durable
  • Stable support
  • Easy to ignite
  • Heats quickly

Cons:

  • The ignition button is close to the flames and can melt

Why it’s recommended: This stove is the best for people who want to eat as soon as possible but also worry about having a stable base for heavier meals.

4)    MSR PocketRocket 2 Ultralight Backpacking Stove

The MSR PocketRocket 2 Ultralight Backpacking Stove is perhaps the lightest option available, weighing in at a tiny 2.6 oz. and coming with its own fuel canister. This product is great for people who want to bring as little extra weight as possible and are only cooking for one or two people.

The MSR can be folded and stored just about anywhere, having full dimensions of only 2 x 2 x 3 in. when compacted. No priming, preheating, or pressurizing is necessary, so the stove can be used as soon as it’s unfolded. The product is also made in the United States and heats water in roughly 3.5 minutes.

This backpacking stove also produces a wind-resistant flame so it won’t blow out if a breeze comes by.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally small
  • Fuel efficient
  • Compact and portable
  • Includes fuel tank
  • Wind resistant
  • Made in the United States

Cons:

  • Exceptionally small and suited for only one person

Why it’s recommended: This is the smallest, lightest backpacking stove available, making it great for those who want to travel ultralight! It’s a rocket for your pocket; what more could you want?

5)    MSR WhisperLite International Multifuel Backpacking Stove

The MSR WhisperLite International Multifuel Backpacking Stove is the jack of all trades of this product type. It’s made of stainless steel and includes legs to help support the stove even when it’s windy outside. It comes with a fuel canister and was designed to be multi-fuel, meaning it runs on white gas, kerosene, and unleaded gasoline.

This backpacking stove is made in the United States and includes some fun additions like a windscreen, heat reflector, fuel pump, instructions, stuff sack, and small parts kit. It is designed to be cleaned and maintained on the go. The full product weighs about 10 oz., and the dimensions are 6 x 8 x 8 in.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Accepts multiple fuel types
  • Cooks for 3-4 people
  • Fuel efficient
  • Wind resistant

Cons:

  • Expensive

Why it’s recommended: This is the easiest to use backpacking stoves and one of the simplest to maintain. It’s highly durable and easy to carry, making it perfect for those who backpack often.

Key Considerations When Choosing a Backpacking Stove

Backpacking Stove Safety

Bringing a backpacking stove requires new safety concerns for any hiker or traveler. A basic rule of thumb is to remember your fire safety training, because many of those rules apply to your new stove.

The first tenet of backpacking stove safety is to never cook in or near your tents. Most backpacking and camping tents are flammable, and the last thing you want is a conflagration on your hands. If it’s raining heavily or snowing, don’t be tempted to use your stove inside. Bring food that can be eaten cold and save the fire for the outdoors.

Next, take care when using a stove that requires isobutene or another gas. If you release too much gas before lighting the stove, it will flare up and can toast your eyebrows to a crisp. Always read the instructions and exercise caution when fueling.

Do not store your stove fuel in direct sunlight. The warmth and heat will cause gases to expand and the container might explode from the pressure. Also do not keep cooked food in an easy to reach location, as wildlife will be attracted to the smells and might pay you a visit. Yogi Bear is fun until he’s in your camp and hungry.

Always inspect your stove and any attached hoses before turning it on. Never use damaged equipment because it has the potential for a fuel leak or minor explosion.

Finally, let the stove and any attached pieces cool before putting it away. This is common sense and can save you from many burns and heartache.

Fuel Efficiency vs. Weight

Every camper and backpacker knows that one element of a successful trip is the weight of the pack you take with you. Many people are wary about traveling with a backpacking stove, even if it provides hot and nutritious meals, because the stove and its fuel can add extra weight. But there is a way to make the stove easier to carry: Checking the fuel efficiency.

Each of the stove types requires a different fuel. Sometimes you have to carry it with you, and sometimes you can find it out in the wilderness. Whatever the case may be, the easiest way to keep your pack light is to choose a stove that uses less fuel for more time. It’s simple mathematics.

So, let’s say you have to choose between a stove that weighs 6 oz. and one that weighs 8 oz. Your brain will automatically pick the lighter one, right? But let’s say that 6 oz. stove will need to burn 1.2 oz. of fuel a day while the 8 oz. stove only uses 0.8 oz. Let’s do the math about which one is going to be heavier over the course of a single week:

6 + 7(1.2) = 14.4 oz.

8 + 7(0.8) = 13.6 oz.

You’re ultimately going to need to carry more weight with the 6 oz. stove just to have enough fuel to cook dinner for a week. So, in this case, the 8 oz. option is better.

Each stove is going to vary in weight and fuel efficiency, so be sure to find a unit that has a good balance between the two so you don’t wind up with a pack that’s heavier than you want. This will ultimately affect just how much fuel you should bring during your trip.

How Much Fuel Should You Bring?

It’s difficult to calculate the exact amount of fuel to bring because the efficiency of the backpacking stove will change based on how many people need to eat, the altitude, and the external temperature. If there’s just one of you and you’re eating a simple meal once a day, then you can usually get away with 1.5 oz. of fuel per day. If there’s two of you that needs to eat, that number jumps to 2.5 oz. to accommodate the need to prepare more food.

However, if you need to eat in a cold area, you need to consider how the temperature will affect your meal. In this case, the stove will need to fight the elements to warm up, causing it to burn through more fuel. A basic rule of thumb is that a single individual will need 2 oz. of fuel a day in these conditions, and 3 oz. will be required for two persons.

In short, know your environment before you pack. If you anticipate snow and high winds, bring as much fuel as possible, usually 2.5 oz. per person. It sounds like a lot, but it will be the difference between a hot meal and cold spaghetti once again.

Bottom Line

Backpacking is a great activity, and enjoying a hot meal on the go can make it even better. When you don’t want to carry a ton of extra weight, having a backpacking stove can make a difference between you struggling and actually enjoying yourself.

While backpacking with a stove, remember to find one that’s fuel efficient and safe to use while out in the open. Be careful about trying to cook near the tent or in cold environments, as both can be dangerous.

We hope our reviews and buying guide have been helpful. Since we chose several different styles of backpacking stove, we’re certain at least one of them will meet your needs. Even if you want to choose a different product, we hope our tips and tricks will be beneficial while you’re out in nature!