Portable stoves for backpackers and hikers have a dominant design feature of being light weight and highly compact. They also need to be safe and robust while being carried over a rough terrain or bumpy roads. Portable stoves for backpacking and hiking are typically different for the equipment that is used for outdoor food services, catering and field hospitals.
Portable stove list can be loosely broken down into several broad categories according to their fuel types.
- Liquid Fuel Stoves (Unpressurized)
- Canister Stoves
- Volatile Liquid Fuel Stoves (Alcohol or Gasoline)
- Solid Fuels Stoves (Unpressurized)
- Wood Fuel Stoves
Liquid Fuel Stoves
Liquid fuel stoves are suitable for heavy duty cooking (or for melting snow). They are less attractive than other backpacking stoves types because they are a bit more cumbersome and bulky. But they are good for long trips. They are less popular as portable stoves because they require more maintenance over time than other stoves. Conversely, due to their prolonged burning time they still a preferable option for long winter trips, international trekking and hiking events and large group outings.
Liquid fuel stoves work well in weather with below freezing temperatures and their fuel which usually is white gas is also very cheap. Keeping them at hand during winter trekking and backpacking trips, in snowy regions, can be very useful when you need to melt lots of snow for drinking water. It will save you a lot of space to carry water that may freeze anyway during the trip. Some liquid fuel stoves come with kerosene and leaded auto fuel which is easily available in many countries while isobutene canisters and white gas may be rear to find in your international expeditions.
In short, Liquid fuel stoves because of their long burning times, stable bases and cost effective fuel are best portable stoves for hikers who plan large group meals and long outdoor trips in your hiking and backpacking arrangements.
Although, liquid fuel stoves with backpacking and hiking trips can be an attractive choice for winter outings all three other seasons they may not be a good option. They may have less expensive fuel but are much heavier, relatively costly and complicated to use compared to other lightweight stoves. Some of these stoves are noisy and require high maintenance.
The MSR Whisperlite as the name suggests that it is a stove with shallow sound as compared to many other noisy liquid Fuel Stoves. It is one the most popular liquid fuel stoves ever made. It’s a very inexpensive, light weight and compact stove. The most notable downside of it is not being maintenance free if you want it to last long and it is also worth mentioning that it does not have any gauge for simmer control. If you intend to backpack internationally Whisperlite International or Whisperlite Universal may be the right choices.
It is a liquid fuel stove that is highly convenient to use with superb functionalities. This is one the best portable stoves for hikers in terms of quality when it comes to excellent simmer control. It can pump out heat which is useful for rapid heating in situations like melting snow to obtain drinking water. It has a wide stable base ideal for making hot one pot meals to feed large groups. The biggest down turn with this stove comes when you consider its roaring sound that may annoy some people. It is also a bit heavy for a stove.
Canister stoves are the perhaps the best portable stoves for hikers who enjoy outdoor cooking and heating. No matter if it is summer, spring or autumn season and you plan to get out and enjoy your recreational trip, the canister stove will prove to be your best companion. Their light weight, easy usability, and fast action make them the best choice. With these stoves, you can only easily assemble your stove and light it up for a quick outdoor meal or a hot beverage. You do not need accessories like pot stands or windscreen in windy weather. They carry fuel that is more efficient than alcohol.
The main downside with Canister stoves is that you need to have a compatible canister with isobutene fuel which is a slightly expensive form of fuel. However, it is quite easy to find these Canisters in online and offline stores. But when you backpack internationally they may be hard to find in some countries that are attractive tourist destinations. Of course, same goes for remote areas. One good piece of advice is that if you intend to backpack in cold weather where the temperature is below 20-degree F, don’t use them; they do not work in freezing weather.
Canister stoves are the best choice for 3-season outdoor adventure. Their convenience, burn speed, light weight and ease of use are traits that are hard to beat in designs of portable stoves. Having to carry a crunch tool for recycling the Canister can be very handy also.
The MSR WindBurner is an extremely well designed stove that has an integrated design to fight windy weather. This is one of the best portable stoves for hikers who get annoyed by wind resistance to boil water for a hot beverage or a decently cooked meal that is desperately wanted after a long and tiresome journey. But, this stove does come with some disadvantages. It does not come with a simmer control, lacks push button igniter, and its handles are not sturdy. If you like to backpack in locations that open and windy than this stove is your best choice.
Snow Peak LiteMax
The Snow Peak LiteMax is durable and extremely ultralight and can be a perfect fit if you have a small backpack. The lightweight of this stove comes from its titanium body; this is also is the reason of its durability. It has a highly compact design which makes it easily pack away in a small space. It also has an excellent simmer control and fast heating features. It does an excellent job in windy conditions, but it’s not comparable to stoves that have integrated canister design when it comes to fight a windy weather. The price a little bit out of the way if money is a concern for you.
Volatile Liquid Fuel Stoves
Volatile Liquid Fuel Stoves are very lightweight and straightforward in design. A few years back these stoves were popular with thru-hikers because of their unbeatable light weight and portability. These types of stoves and their fuel are very inexpensive and easily available in small towns along with their fuel. However, the Canister burners are becoming more and more popular over the past few years among people seeking outdoor activities. The isobutene fuel used in these stoves have also become easily available in small trail towns.
The volatile liquid fuel stoves are very cheap and easy to buy and manufacture and they are almost weightless. Any antifreeze agent is commonly used to prevent solidification of fuel if you use alcohol in these types of stoves. The antifreeze is readily available everywhere where there is a fuel station, auto workshops or auto spare part stores.
The downsides of this type of stoves are that they are not swift to heat or cook rather they can be used to heat food. Their performance is poor is gusty winds, the fuel is less efficient, and you cannot expect them to work well in cold weather. Windscreens can be used to speed up cooking to some extent, but cooking on these stoves requires a lot of patience.
These stoves are simple enough to be self-made, but you need to be very careful when you use alcohol stoves because it burns a blue flame which is very hard to see. Make sure to use the fuel completely before refueling. Never use these types of stoves in an area where there is a restriction on burning fire. A small amount of volatile liquid like gasoline or alcohol spilled can ignite a fire that can turn into an out of control forest fire causing unnecessary damage to wildlife.
Trail Designs Caldra Cone
The Trail Designs Caldra Cone has a distinct design that signifies efficient energy use. This system blocks wind without choking the fire inside it keeping all the heat in the cooking pot. It is especially effective when alcohol is being used as a fuel because it has a low energy output compared to gasoline giving a slow cooking time. This cooking set comes with a cone shaped main body, a plastic bottle for containing fuel and an alcohol stove burner. One big negative point of this stove model is that some cooking pots may not fit on this stove.
White Box Alcohol Stove
The is an extremely durable and robust breed of portable stoves that are bound to stand firm in rugged hiking trips. It is a green product that has been built out of recycled aluminum bottles. This stove is made in the United States, so good design quality is guaranteed. An excellent windscreen is included with this stove. Pot stand is not needed with because of its simple design. The sleek design gives a beautiful flame. However, if your cooking pot is of a smaller diameter, it may not fit in this stove.
Solid Fuels Stoves
Solid Fuel Stoves are very light weight and have simplistic designs. They can quickly burn for a few minutes. The solid fuel is in the form of solid tablets. You have a stand built in the stove, and you light up the solid fuel tablet and place it inside the frame and put your pot on top of it to boil water for a refreshing hot beverage in a cold weather. They have slow cooking time, so patience is required. The fire can be affected by brisk winds, and use of windscreen is recommended. The fuel tablets are comparatively expensive to other fuel types. They give a bad odor as they burn and can leave a sticky residual under your pot. These fuel tablets are also hard to find in small trail town which makes them a tough choice for thru-hikers. The biggest advantage of solid fuel stoves is that they are comparatively safe.
Esbit Titanium Stove
Esbit Titanium Cooking Stove has a very fancy three leg design that can fold in for easy packing to conserve space. It becomes a stand for your cooking pot when its legs are unfolded. The design is great with a metallic center to put tabs for burning into a steady fire. Good to heat food and make hot beverages. The design severely lacks functional capability in strong wind and bad weather so if this is the situation you expect; you need to have a windscreen like a cone system to protect the flame from harsh winds.
Wood Fuel Stoves
Wood fuel Stoves are a desirable option for hikers and backpackers that do not want the inconvenience of carrying fuel with them. The wood fuel stove is similar to have a camp fire with an advantage of being quicker and more efficient. You will be able to cook for a longer time and enjoy the comfort of fire on almost every night.
Wood Fuel Stoves also have serious disadvantages namely, they require much more time, effort and practice to master compared to other types of stoves. It can be very inconvenient and frustrating for a hiker who is tired after a long day of hiking. The fuel will also be hard to find on a rainy day because of the unavailability of dry wood after a heavy rain. If you are planning to hike above the tree line like on mountains or terrain that lacks wood will render these stoves useless so, it is a good idea to carry an alternative stove and fuel. The wood stoves turn the bottom of pots with black soot and are very susceptible to windy weather.
Solo Stove Lite
If you are looking for an efficient wood stove, then this is one of the best portable stoves for hikers who like to cook on wood fire. The upper and lower body contains holes that support the wood fire inside the stove. The stove does not require a windscreen and gives a smoky burn. The stove is a bit dull companion but carrying no fuel does compensate for its weight. This stove is a good size for 1-2 people and does have a lighter version that is a lot more expensive.
No matter what kind of portable stove you chose for your hiking and backpacking and other outdoor recreation, a stove plays a significant role to make your outing more enjoyable and delightful where you can enjoy good warm food and comfort of fire for a good night sleep under the stars and in open space with fresh air.
Trekking Poles are great hiking accessory especially if you will be going to hilly areas with rocky surfaces. These poles make traveling through undulated surfaces safer; not just for the senior citizens but everyone.