By definition, camping entails a return to basics: everything you need to survive is either contained in your backpack or the trunk of your car. Now, even though you can live off a diet of Cliff bars and trail mix, that doesn’t mean you should. Here, we walk you through the best camping stoves of 2021, so you can enjoy the luxury of a warm meal even in the midst of a rugged adventure.
Best Single-Burner Camping Stove
If you’re thru-hiking or just love to travel light, the MSR Pocket Rocket 2 Stove is the perfect companion for your mountain meals. Compact and lightweight at just 4.2 oz, it takes up the space of a hot dog when packed into its hard-shell carrying case.
With WindClip wind resistance and even heat distribution, the Pocket Rocket 2 can boil 1L of water in just 3.5 minutes. The adjustable burner allows you to turn a roaring flame into a soft simmer and back again. Compatible with isobutane-propane canisters with a burn-time of roughly 60 minutes per 8 oz.
- Adjustable flame
- Not ideal for groups
Best Car Camping Stove
Looking for a traditional home grill with a camping twist? Look no further than the Coleman Perfect Flow Fold N Go Stove, where home cooking meets wilderness living. Two independently adjustable burners give you precise control for two temperature zones to cook multiple meals at once.
The RoadTrip Stand-Up features up to 20,000 BTU, which offers even heat distribution and excellent wind resistance. Simply fire up the grill with the Instastart ignition and you’re good to go. For the price, Coleman offers some of the best car camping stoves on the market.
- Separate burners
- Easy to stow
- Perfect for groups
- Not for backpacking
Best Backcountry Stove
If you’re going to spend a lot of time in the backcountry, you can’t underestimate the restorative power of a good meal. Our top choice for backcountry camping is the JetBoil Sumo Cooking System.
This cooking system includes a 1.8 Liter FluxRing cooking cup with an insulating cozy and pot support. Meanwhile, the bottom lid doubles as a bowl and measuring cup. The system is compatible with a wide array of other JetBoil accessories, including their Grande Coffee Press and skillet.
Thanks to the JetBoil Sumo Cooking System’s versatility and durability, it fares well in most conditions—from beachside to mountainside. It’s a great choice for individuals or small groups. Works with Jetpower Fuel.
- Many features
- Highly versatile
- Burner not included
Best Winter Camping Stove
When it comes to winter camping, most people opt for a stove with high output and good wind resistance—not something compact and lightweight. Well, what if you could have both?
The MSR XGK EX Stove stove includes a windscreen and heat reflector for easier use in cold temperatures. Boiling one litre of water in just 2.8 minutes and weighing 374g, this stove is a perfect addition to your winter camping gear.
- High output
- Not as ultralight for summer
Best Camping Stove/Grill Combo
For the eco-conscious grill-masters on the trail, the BioLite CampStove Portable Grill is a dream come true. Nature offers an endless supply of free fuel in the form of twigs and branches for this wood-burning unit.
The CampStove can be used as a simple stove, while the addition of this uniquely designed grill top transforms it into a lightweight backcountry grill. The one drawback is if you’re stuck making dinner in a downpour! Nevertheless, the awesome, compact, and ingenious design makes it worthwhile. You can purchase the actual BioLite CampStove 2+ here.
- Large grill surface
- BioLite CampStove sold separately
Remember our top pick for a two-burner camping stove? The Genesis Basecamp 2 Burner Stove System really is an awesome choice for group trips. But what if you already own the cookware? Luckily, you can save some money by purchasing the Genesis 2 burner stove separately.
What to Look for When Buying a Camping Stove
As we’ve seen, the best camping stoves come in all shapes and sizes. But if you know what to look for, the process becomes exceptionally simple. Let’s see what to consider when buying a camping stove.
Let’s review the three most common types of camping stoves.
Big, bulky, and plenty of room to cook up a storm. A campground stove is your run-of-the-mill portable grill. It’s spacious and powerful and usually transported in the trunk of your car. These are usually the best camping stoves for big groups going front-country/car camping/glamping.
Examples of canister stoves include the MSR PocketRocket 2 and the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle 4 Season. Thanks to their compact design, they’re considered the best camping stoves for backpacking—especially when flying solo or in pairs. They’re affordable and usually nest within a larger system of cookware. Fuel comes in disposable canisters.
Liquid Gas Stoves:
Arguably a better option for winter camping trips and long-distance hikes when compared to canister stoves. Additionally, liquid gas is more widely available than canister gas, so check the accessibility of your preferred fuel type before setting off. Since bottles are reusable, it also makes for an eco-friendly alternative.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG): A general moniker for the gas mixes found in pressurized canisters (think MSR’s IsoPro or Optimus’ Energy). LPGs are usually a combination of two or three gases such as propane, butane, and isobutane.
White Gas: Affordable and clean-burning, white gas is derived from natural gas. It’s often used in conjunction with a liquid gas stove.
Alcohol: Denatured alcohols, like ethanol, are cheaper alternatives to traditional camp fuels. An alcohol burner can be purchased relatively cheaply and used with most camping cookware. Alcohol burns clean but tends to heat more slowly when compared with LPGs.
Kerosene: Also known as paraffin, kerosene is still sometimes used when lighting lamps, but rarely when it comes to modern camp stoves.
Solid Fuel: Affordable, safe, and ultralight, solid fuel tablets are an excellent alternative to more complicated stove systems. Though not as efficient as LPGs or alcohol, it’s easy to keep track of how many meals you can cook. While transportation is safe, cooking with solid fuel can leave residue on your burner and cookware, in addition to producing pretty gnarly smells.
Nature Herself: Out of fuel? Don’t fret! All you need is a lighter (or matches), a few twigs, and some dry leaves. This really is the O.G. of fuel sources. Throw in some cotton balls doused in Vaseline and you’ve got yourself a respectable blaze.
Most manufacturers produce and recommend their own canisters for their stoves. That said, you’ll often find off-brand canisters that are equally compatible. This means you won’t be stuck without fuel in the midst of a trip if a local retailer doesn’t stock yours.
Conversely, be careful which alternatives you buy; these are pressurized canisters loaded with flammable solvents. Best advice is to verify which alternatives fit your system and stick to trusted brands.
Size & Weight
Among the best camping stoves, you’ll find everything from hefty grills to featherweight pocket systems. The variety is seemingly endless. When it comes to size and weight, there are a few things to note.
First, the lighter a stove, the less stable it will be. Second, the smaller a stove, the less surface area you’ll have to cook on, limiting the size of your cookware. This is especially true of backpacking stoves. On the other hand, when it comes to car camping systems weight isn’t an issue. Just make sure it fits in your trunk!
FAQ for Camping Stoves
How long does camp stove fuel last?
The lifespan of a fuel canister can be measured in hours, days, or meals. Now, depending on the size of the canister, camping altitude, and how hot you run the flame, that number can range drastically.
Take Jetboil’s IsoPro canisters for example. These canisters come in 100g, 230g, and 450g. The 100g canister is good for roughly 10-14 meals or 3-5 days. The 230g is said to offer three hours of fuel under perfect conditions or about 7-10 days. Finally, the 450g will provide you with between two weeks and a month of use.
You can ask yourself a few questions to determine how far this will take you: Will you be using the stove to both cook and boil water? Will you be camping solo or with company? How many times per day will you cook? Remember, cook times vary depending on what you’re cooking; however, it takes approximately three minutes to bring 1L of water to a boil.
With a bit of experience and some rudimentary arithmetic, you can figure how long any given canister will last. As we all know, whatever could go wrong will go wrong—especially in the woods. It’s best to err on the side of caution and overestimate your fuel needs.
Which gas is best for camping stoves?
Not all gases are created equal: some gases burn hotter, while some burn cleaner. In general, the two most common fuel types for camping stoves are propane and butane. If you’re winter-camping, propane is hands-down the way to go, as butane doesn’t vaporize in cold temperatures.
That said, butane does burn more efficiently than propane, making it the superior choice in warmer weather. Unlike propane, butane needn’t be stored in high-pressure canisters to be used as fuel.
Both burn clean with minimal fumes.
Can you bring a camping stove on a plane?
Yes. That said, you cannot bring fuel canisters on a plane. Because they’re pressurized and flammable, you’ll have to purchase them from an outfitter upon arriving at your destination or opt to travel by land.
Can you use a camping stove in a tent?
Is it possible? Perhaps. Should you? Definitely not. While some may be tempted to risk it when outdoor conditions are subpar, the possibility of setting fire to your tent (usually quite flammable), or inhaling toxic fumes (think carbon monoxide) is fairly high. Because tents have limited ventilation, you’re putting yourself at risk.
If you expect windy conditions, make sure your stove has a built-in windscreen or you’ve purchased an after-market one to protect the flame. Otherwise, consider snacking until conditions improve.
How should you store camp stove fuel?
Always ensure your fuel canisters are tightly sealed when not in use. This way you avoid wasteful and potentially dangerous spills. At home, it’s best to store them in a cool, dark place standing upright.
It’s also crucial to keep them upright during transport and never leave them in a hot or closed vehicle. Always check for leaks and cracks on the container. If you find any, dispose of the canister immediately. You can then bring it to your local eco-centre or hardware store.
The Right Stove for Your Adventures
It’s time to bring this article to a boil (sorry—couldn’t resist). We hope our roundup of this year’s best camping stoves will help you rock those outdoor meals. There are many camping stoves on the market but, before choosing one, ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of camping will I be doing?
- How often?
- Alone or with others?
- In which climates?
- Is weight/ size important to me?
- Am I on a budget?
Answering these simple questions will narrow your search and help you pinpoint the perfect camping stove for your needs. Bon appétit!
Next, check out our top camping tents of 2021.