Camping Stoves: The Complete Beginner’s Guide
When you go camping, you don’t just need a tent and a sleeping bag. You need a camping stove too. You may get yourself a large dual-burner stove that can accommodate several pots so you can cook or heat meals for many people at once. But if you’re hiking to your camping site, you’re going to need something lightweight as your best stove for backpacking.
A camping stove is crucial if you want to heat or cook your meals in your camp. In fact, you’ll find this useful if you wish to enjoy tasty treats like coffee in the cold outdoors. It’s also essential for boiling water so you don’t get sick.
Just about everyone who’s gone camping knows that camping stoves are important. But not everyone knows how to pick the right one. This guide should help you make that decision, and it also provides useful tips for using that camping stove.
Kinds of Camping Stoves
We are mainly talking about the backpacking stoves here, since it’s easier to just pick a large stove when you’re driving to a campsite directly. You can just go for the best propane camping grill and you can cook hamburgers with no problem.
If you’re backpacking, you will need to choose between different types that offer their own sets of advantages.
These stoves are screwed on the threaded tops of self-sealing canisters. These canisters have 2 pre-pressurized gasses—propane and isobutene. These camping stoves are popular because they’re very easy to use and they don’t need a lot of maintenance.
- Lightweight and small
- Easy to light with no need for priming
- Easily adjustable flame that simmers nicely
- No leaks and spills, as the canister seals itself when you unscrew the stove
- Some models have a built-in pressure regulator that gives you consistent heat output as well as better performance in high elevation and cold weather.
- The canisters aren’t transparent, so you don’t really know how much gas you have left
- Windscreens are inadvisable as using one can trap excessive heat that leads to a fuel explosion
- It has short arms that may not hold large pots properly
- Without a pressure regulator, the canister can depressurize leading to a weak flame
- More expensive fuel, compared to liquid-fuel stoves
- You have to deal with proper disposal of the empty canisters
Subtypes of Canister Stoves
- Integrated canister system. This comes in a tall profile, with a fuel canister, on top of which is a burner, then a twist-on insulated cooking pot and finally a lid on to with a sip hole or a drain holes. You can use these with accessories like a French press for coffee. These can boil water quickly, but these integrated models are more likely to tip over than standard canister stoves.
- Remote canister stoves. This has its own base with a fuel hose connecting it to your canister. They’re generally lightweight and not bulky, though not as much compared to standard canister stoves. You can use a windscreen for these types.
Liquid Fuel Stoves
Instead of canisters with gases, this time the stove is attached to refillable fuel bottles. Most of the time, these stoves use white gas, but you have other options that will prove useful if you’re camping in other countries.
- They’re not too tall, so they’re stable even on uneven ground
- The transparent bottle lets you see how much fuel you have left
- Fuel bottles are easily disposed of
- In cold weather and higher elevation, this type of stove works better
- Maintenance and priming required
- Possible fuel spills
- Heavier than canister stoves
- They’re generally more expensive
- When you use other fuel than white gas, you may get impurities that clog some of your stove parts
These are stoves that you can fuel using only the twigs and even leaves you find while you hike to your campsite.
- It can have a simple design, like with a titanium backpacking stove
- Lightweight, especially if it’s a small wood burning stove
- With the best wood burning camp stove, you can even generate enough electricity to charge your smartphone
- A grill is an accessory option
- If it rains, then you may find it hard to find dry twigs and leaves even for the best wood burning backpacking stove
- Some places (like those in high elevations like Yosemite) may prohibit the use of a wood burning backpacking stove
Many ultralight backpackers go for this type of stove.
- Extremely lightweight with just an ounce or two in weight
- Only a few parts require any maintenance
- Denatured alcohol is cheap and easy to find in the US
- You only need to buy the right size of denatured alcohol bottle for your needs
- Silent burning
- The denatured alcohol doesn’t burn as hot, so it takes more time and alcohol to burn water
- You need a windscreen
- Outside the US, denatured alcohol may not be as easy to find
Solid-Fuel Tablet Stoves
This is also popular with backpackers who focus on traveling light.
- Lightweight, with a stove-pot combo model weighing just 7 ounces and some models way a lot less
- Compact, with some models folding to fit in your pocket
- Tablets can be lit easily, and then can be extinguished to be used later
- Takes a longer time to boil water
- Tablets may smell
- May leave greasy residue under the pot
Buying Factors to Consider
Here are some factors you need to focus on when you’re deciding on which type and model of camping stove to buy.
- You don’t want something bulky if you’re going on a long hike. Bigger ones can cost more too.
- Every ounce counts when you’re carrying your gear on a long hike.
- Boil time. This is the time it takes for the stove to boil water. If you’re a patient fellow, then a longer boiling time may not be all that important, but then you may end up wasting fuel.
- Burn time. This is about how long a certain amount of fuel will burn. If the burn time is too short, then you will have to bring along spare fuel containers.
- Ease of use. You should check how complicated it is to set up and use the stove to boil water and cook food. It’s great if it comes with a feature like a piezo-igniter, which produces sparks so you don’t need matches. A built-in pressure regulator is also a good idea.
- You obviously don’t want your stove to topple over, but you may want to check out stabilizer options that can be attached to stoves to help stabilize them.
Tips on Using Any Sort of Backpacking Camping Stove
- Before you light your stove, carefully check your connections, valves, and fuel lines for damage or leaks.
- Don’t even think about cooking inside closed spaces like your camping tent. This represents a very high risk of fire, plus there’s the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s like running your car while in an enclosed garage—it’s suicide.
- You may need to do some field repairs on your stove, so bring a multi-tool case with pliers.
- Find a level surface for your stove.
- Even if your stove has a piezo-igniter, it’s still a good idea to have backup matches.
- If you’re cooking on sand on the beach, you can use an old car license plate for your base.
Canister Stoves Tips
- If you have a new fuel canister, you need to weight for the small amount of air near the top to bleed off first before your fuel flows and ignites.
- If you’re hiking in cold temperatures, you need to keep the canister warm to maintain the fuel pressure. You can try to carry the stove in your jacket pocket or put it in your sleeping bag at night.
- Are you cooking on snow? Prevent ice from forming at the bottom of your canister by using a piece of foam under the canister for insulation.
- Most canisters in the US have a Lindal valve, which lets you use different brands of fuel canisters.
- You may want to look for local recycling centers that will accept your empty canisters.
Liquid-Fuel Stoves Tips
- Leave some room for air at the top of the fuel tank. This allows you to pump in the air to pressurize the tank. Also, the space allows for pressure buildup.
- Use alcohol for priming when possible so you keep soot off the stove.
- If you’re storing the stove for several months, empty the fuel tank.
- A windscreen is a must.
- Avoid spilling any of the fuel on your skin. If it gets cold enough, the spill can lead to frostbite.
- If you’re on an extended trip or going hiking in cold weather, try to bring along a heat exchanger. This will channel the heat to the pot so you boil water faster and you don’t waste fuel.
Don’t use old white gas as this substance degrades over time. You’ll know you need new white gas if it shows some bit of color. If you have no choice but this, use a filter to strain out any sediment that might clog your stove parts.