Top Five Backpacking Stoves

Five Best Backpacking Stoves

When I started backpacking and trekking many years ago, I used to be a supporter of alcohol stoves. And I still have a strong emotional bias towards them. Despite of not being the most efficient kind of stove, they are cheap, safe, and easy to use tools. But then, I did some serious trekking in Patagonia, and after that, a little of mountaineering in the Andes. And I found to my dismay that my lovely little alcohol stove took years for cooking, not to mention melting snow. And let face it, when you stand freezing in the middle of the backcountry, you want your chocolate hot and fast, or at least I do! So, even I had to admit that people using fancier stoves perhaps were not so wrong.

Since then, I have tried many backpacking stoves (canisters and liquid fuel), some of them were great, some less so. To say the truth, it is impossible to find a stove that fulfills every criterion; each type and model has their pros and cons, it is best for one kind of travel and not for other; and even some models are right for a person but not for others (example, don’t lend or buy liquid fuel stoves to young teens, canisters could be ok, though.) But even though, you have to compromise at the hour of buying one. Clearly, some models in the market are better than others, and believe me, you want the best, most reliable backpacking stove to savor a proper hot chocolate during your trip.

So which stoves are the best for backpacking and trekking in my humble opinion?


MSR XGK EX backpacking stove: the best backpacking stove of my list.
MSR XGK EX backpacking stove: the best backpacking stove of my list.

1 - MSR XGK EX Backcountry Stove

Number one is the MSR XGK EX Backcountry Stove: this is my top backpacking stove for long trips and large parties (with the Primus omnifuel as an awfully close second.) It is ideal for hard trekking and mountaineering, especially in winter, never fails, even at high altitudes, and functions well with a number of fuels. But the thing I like the most about MSR stoves is that they are very easy to maintain during the travel. To clean the jet you only need to shake the stove a couple of times and that's all, really easy. The disadvantages? The same that every MSR has (don’t get me wrong, MSR stoves are great, each one of them a reliable piece of engineering, but hey, nobody is perfect.) First: the pump is made of vile plastic! Better carry a replacement, just in case; second: it is really really noisy! But for that: an excellent stove. As a final word of caution, we are talking about a big guy here: 470g with pump, wind screen, aluminum base, repair kit, and sac. So, if you are a Mark Twight wannabe, a fundamentalist of the light and fast trend, forget it! But if you are a more traditional (sensible) trekker or mountaineer, the XGK will cook all your meals at only US$ 149.9 last time I checked in Amazon, and with a lifetime warranty. What more can you ask for? (I know, I know… they should include the bottle in the bargain too, but nobody does.)


One of the best backpacking stoves of all time: MSR Whisperlite International
One of the best backpacking stoves of all time: MSR Whisperlite International

2 - MSR Whisperlite International Liquid-Fuel Stove

The second best backpacking stove in my list is the MSR Whisperlite International Liquid-Fuel Stove: you can’t go wrong with this one. It has been for many years one of the most reliable stoves out there. I am not going to reproduce all the specifications here, but this baby is fast, your chocolate will be hot in no time, it is a bit lighter and cheaper than the previous one too. So, What’s the catch? This one is not so multifuel as the XGK is. It burns only white gas, kerosene and unleaded auto fuel, not as many but you have your choice to pick from. How much then for this one? US$ 89.9 last time I checked in Amazon, a great choice.

Coleman one-burner dual fuel stove: another good backpacking stove
Coleman one-burner dual fuel stove: another good backpacking stove

3 - Coleman One-Burner Sporter II Dual Fuel Gas Stove

Another reliable sturdy stove, more for the every day backpacker than the previous ones, though. The thing I like the most about this one is that it is a stove to use during many years, the word solid doesn’t describe it enough. It could be a little heavy, though. So, take the weight into consideration, if you plan on buying one. It has also two setting of fire, that can be in handy to save fuel, but when you want to boil water fast, it does it without problem. List price US$ 69.99, but they sell it for only US$50 or cheaper nowadays.

Coleman ultralight exponent f1 backpacking stove
Coleman ultralight exponent f1 backpacking stove

4 - Coleman Exponent F1 Ultralight Backpacker Camp Stove

If your definition of backpacking encloses a lot less trekking and mountaineering than mine. Perhaps, you pass your vacation staying at cabins and camp sites and doing a hike for three or four days at the most at low altitude during summer, and your concept of trekking in winter is walking every Saturday in the mall. Then, don’t complicate your life with liquid fuel stoves and use a canister stove instead. The criterions to choose one? Light, easy to use, and the canister has to be easy to find. There are a lot of models to consider, and most of them do a good job. But I am going to pick the Coleman Exponent F1 Backpacker Camp Stove. A good compromise, it generates more heat than the average in its same weight range, it is light and not too expensive: the Amazon price? Only US$ 36.99


One of the best backpacking stoves for light trekking during summer, and excellent for travel alone: The Jetboil cooking system
One of the best backpacking stoves for light trekking during summer, and excellent for travel alone: The Jetboil cooking system

5 - Jetboil Personal Cooking System

I have only seen this system in action once and loved the idea. The union of the mug and the stove produce a more efficient way to cook that saves gas. And less gas consumption is less weight carried in the backpack in the long run. The other interesting feature of the Jetboil is that you can pack one thing into the other, like a Russian doll, and that saves space too. It could be tricky to separate the burner from the mug when the system is hot, so be patient or use a spoon! You can have it for just US$99.90 at Amazon. This is the minimalist set, but there are other options more complete if you are a more cook kind of guy or girl.


Conclusion:

If you are looking for a reliable backpacking stove, made to last, that cooks your meals fast, then you can’t go wrong choosing one of these excellent stoves.

 

MSR XGK EX

One of the few drawbacks of liquid fuel stoves: the noise! Here you can hear the noise of the MSR XGK EX. It is really annoying when you are trying to enjoy the peace of nature. However all liquid stoves do it in some degree.

Comments 20 comments

Camping Dan profile image

Camping Dan 7 years ago

I have used several MSR stoves over the years and they have never let me down. There has been times I have had to do a cleaning in the backcountry to keep the burning going strong but it is very simple to do.


David Ventura profile image

David Ventura 7 years ago Author

Yes, they are very reliable in the backcountry. Thanks for your comment.


optimus nova 7 years ago

Not sure I agree the XGK is the top MSR stove. No votes for the Optimus Nova?


David Ventura profile image

David Ventura 7 years ago Author

The Optimus Nova is another good one, but has the problem that the fuel filter easily clogs. So the maintenance is too bothersome.


Bret 7 years ago

I was surprised to see the coleman F1 over snow peaks gigapower stove. Why did the coleman rank higher?


David Ventura profile image

David Ventura 7 years ago Author

The Giga Power has several good points: it is lightweight, it is a little cheaper than the exponent F1, and the canister comes with the Lindel valve so it is universal enough. The Coleman on the other hand has a more powerful heat output. Surely, the Giga Power could be first in many lists of canister stoves. And if you want to choose one I don’t think that you are wrong. But I just prefer Coleman, LOL


Ren Chin profile image

Ren Chin 7 years ago

Great hub!. I love my whisperlight, and have used it for over 10 years. It conked out on me in the backcountry a few years back - which taught me the valuable lesson of maintaining your stove and stove pump every few years! Those MSR maintenance kits always seemed like an up-sell scam to me...now, i swear by them.


Camping Stuff profile image

Camping Stuff 7 years ago from Missouri

I don't do allot of serious backpacking, I am more of a day packer/camper. I am really fond of the Coleman One-Burner Sporter II Dual Fuel Gas Stove myself. Like you say it is very durable and dependable. Thanks for the great reviews!


The ultimit backpacking guy 7 years ago

Back in my days in the military we used to rip the heads off wild pigs and rosy there heads over the whisper light stove it is sensatinal


Rob Dee profile image

Rob Dee 7 years ago from Florida

i use an MSR Windpro. It performs great all around and i have yet to have any issues with it.


William Clair 6 years ago

I use a Zip Ztove which gives me all the hot water/meals I want and I carry no fuel. Why anyone carries gas into the backcountry is beyond me.


Boy scout 6 years ago

I have a peak stove it is sort of like the Colemon the reason i like it is cause you can save a lot of fuel and you dont have to screw any canisters on it holds the liquid fuel


martycraigs profile image

martycraigs 6 years ago

I have the MSR Backcountry and agree it's top notch. Easy cleaning really is a great quality, helps the stove last longer. This is an important attribute for people who camp and travel frequently.


Nit picker 6 years ago

Back in my wild piggy days we used to rip the heads off military types and rosy them over the whisper light stove. It was sensational.


Mark 6 years ago

What about the Optimus Nova?

I have seen two MSR stoves fail in the great outdoors. Who In their right mind would take the Coleman Sporter? The thing is a load.


Paul Beckett 6 years ago

So are MSR paying you to write this report or what?

Yes MSR are good, but their cheapo plastic pumps let them down. The best MSR Stoves are those produced 20 odd years ago when they had metal pumps.

Try the Optimus Nova - Beats the Dragonfly/xgk (all marks) hands down, or even better try the primus omnifueller.


chucksbaby profile image

chucksbaby 6 years ago

I love my Whisperlite international. I won't even consider a different stove unless this one fails on us, it's so light and it burns unleaded gas! Plus it fits perfectly in our snow peak 600 ml cup.


jpkl1021 profile image

jpkl1021 4 years ago

Love the article! I use the Pocket Rocket with a GSI Halulite Microdualist cook set. Very light and pretty cheap.


Triimarc profile image

Triimarc 4 years ago from Salisbury, MD

Nice review of camp stoves. I'm a sucker for camp stoves not only because of the simplicity, but also for the incredibly "happy" sound they make, and just because I happen to think they are the coolest piece of backpacking equipment around. Don't forget the Svea though. Just wish I hadn't given my Sigg Tourist Cook kit to my oldest son since they aren't manufactured anymore. If you get a chance would like you opinion on my blog. thanks

Jim


Daviotkern 20 months ago from Sterling Heights, Michigan

Recently I came upon a new one that I really liked called the bio lite camp stove no liquid fuels just wood sticks and twigs and such and maybe some fire starter cubes great idea.

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