Gabby's Guide to Camp Stoves


 

CHOOSING YOUR BACKPACKING STOVE

Written by Gabby Tachis, Staffer at Novato
 
Summer is almost here, which means that camping season is right around the corner. And gear like stoves will be essential for your next adventure, but with so many options out there, it can be tough to find the perfect one for you. Whether you are planning a backpacking trip or just cooking at the campground, this is your complete guide to camping stoves. Don't forget - we rent 'em too!
 

FUEL TYPES

Before choosing your ideal backpacking stove, there are a few things to consider. Let’s first go over the two main stove types. If you have already started your hunt for a new stove, you may have noticed that there are two main types of backpacking stoves on the market – canister stoves and liquid fuel stoves.
 
Canister stoves are preferred by many backpackers because of how easy they are to use. When you are ready to cook, all you have to do is screw the pre-filled canister onto the stove and light it. Since the canister is sealed, you also do not have to worry about leaks. Unfortunately, this also means that it can be hard to tell how much fuel is left, and you must buy a new canister every time you run out of fuel rather than reusing them.
 
Liquid fuel stoves work by attaching a bottle of fuel (usually white gas) to the stove rather than a canister. They are not as convenient as canister stoves because they usually have to be primed and are much harder to light. With that being said, they are more environmentally friendly because the bottles can be refilled as many times as you’d like – Sports Basement refills your propane canisters for free if you're a Basementeer!
 

WEATHER

Now that we know the main difference between these two types, let’s go into how these stoves actually work and why some are better suited for different conditions. Canister stoves rely on the vapor pressure in the canister to force fuel out. This means that the more fuel you have used up in the canister, the less pressure there is, resulting in reduced output and efficiency. The fuel also condenses in cold weather and high altitudes, decreasing performance. Liquid fuel stoves do not have this issue, so they are ideal for cold weather trips or trips through high altitudes. With that being said, some canister stoves have a built-in regulator to feed constant fuel to the stove. It does add a little bit of weight to the stove, but it is definitely worth it if you plan on backpacking during multiple seasons.
 
Wind is another important issue to think about. Backpacking stoves can be burned out by the wind and may need to be reignited. This is inconvenient and could waste fuel. MSR has come up with a couple of great fixes for this. One is the Windburner Personal Stove System, which is a compact stove system that is completely windproof. The only downside to this one is that it is quite a bit heavier than its rivals. Luckily, MSR’s PocketRocket 2 and PocketRocket Deluxe include a windscreen to help add wind proofing to the stove. This is a feature that many other brands on the market are lacking.
 

WHAT ARE YOU COOKING?

Another important consideration before buying a stove is what you plan on cooking with it. Some stoves have something called simmer control, allowing you to control and change the height of the flame. Stoves without simmer control have a set flame height that cannot be adjusted, resulting in full output at all times.
 
Some backpackers only bring dehydrated meals for cooking. All you need to prepare these meals is boiling water. This means that you do not need a stove with simmer control. Getting a stove without simmer control can save precious weight on a long trip. The Jetboil Stash is a great option for this, weighing in at only 7.1 ounces with the included heating pot and measuring cup.
 

If you plan on sautéing veggies, searing meat, or simmering rice, you will need to adjust the size of your flame to avoid burning the food. Simmer control is important to be able to do this. Jetboil stoves tend to have the best flame control when compared to other brands because it takes four turns of the valve to get from the lowest to highest flame level, whereas most brands only take one turn. This gives you more room to adjust depending on what you are cooking. The Jetboil MightyMo is a compact stove with great simmer control.
 

DO I NEED A STOVE SYSTEM?

If you have decided that you want a canister stove, your next question will be whether you want a whole stove system, or just a stove. Stove systems come with a cooking pot that attaches to the stove, usually a lid for straining/drinking and a measuring cup.
 
Stove systems are great because they are usually a bit more efficient and all of your equipment will pack into a small area. They tend to boil quicker and save fuel. Stove systems usually have built in wind proofing, as well.
 
The cooking pot in a stove system is meant for boiling. This combined with the quicker boiling time makes it great for someone who is bringing dehydrated foods. Someone wanting more versatility in their cooking should opt for a stove without the system and bring their own pots and pans. Lastly, stove systems are usually pretty heavy for someone who is conscious of the weight on their back.
 

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

A couple of other factors to consider before picking your stove are weight, burn time, and boil time. Weight is important for backpackers counting ounces for their trip. Remember that features like regulators can add weight to a stove but may be necessary for some trips. If weight is important to you, try to get the lightest stove while still getting the features you need out of it.
  
Burn time should be considered, as well. You will want to look at how quickly your stove will run through fuel. Finding an efficient stove can eliminate the need for extra canisters and drop the weight of your pack. Lastly, you may want to know how quickly your stove will boil water and in what conditions it will perform at that level.
 

BEST STOVE FOR BASECAMP

When your cooking will be done at a campsite close to your car, weight is not as important. For this reason, camping stoves are much bigger than backpacking stoves. The output for camp stoves is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs for short). This will determine how much power your camp stove has. The Primus Profile Propane 2 Burner Stove has a 12,000 BTU flame and will boil a liter of water in only three minutes. Added power can cook food faster and will work better for larger groups of people, but they will burn through fuel much faster.

A feature that is important in both backpacking stoves and camping stoves is simmer control. Again, if you are mainly using the stove for boiling water, simmer control is not as important. If you want to go a bit more gourmet with your meal, be sure to have some good simmer control on the stove (especially if it is high output). The Eureka Sprk Butane Camp Stove has great simmer control and is also very lightweight.
 
 
Before buying a camping stove, be sure to think about how windy your local campsite gets. Some stoves have windscreens on the side to keep the stove going when conditions get worse. The lid and windscreens on the GSI Outdoors Selkirk provide ample protection and are a good choice if you are going somewhere with high winds.

Lastly, you will need to decide the number of burners you want. Camp stoves usually have one or two burners – it is all a matter of personal preference and how many friends you will be bringing along on your trip.

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