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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?
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.)
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.
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$50 or cheaper nowadays.
4 - Coleman Exponent F1 Ultralight Backpacker Camp Stove
If your definition of backpacking encloses a lot less trekking and mountaineering than mine. Perhaps, you pass your vacation staying at cabins and camp sites and doing a hike for three or four days at the most at low altitude during summer, and your concept of trekking in winter is walking every Saturday in the mall. Then, don’t complicate your life with liquid fuel stoves and use a canister stove instead. The criterions to choose one? Light, easy to use, and the canister has to be easy to find. There are a lot of models to consider, and most of them do a good job. But I am going to pick the Coleman Exponent F1 Backpacker Camp Stove. A good compromise, it generates more heat than the average in its same weight range, it is light and not too expensive: the Amazon price? Only US$ 36.99
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.
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.
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