Camping Gear

Stove Systems Guide: Choosing the Right One for Your Camping Adventure

Portable camping stove
close up of the burner in a portable camping stove
What camp stove is right for you? Size, fuel type, and weight all play a part in your decision. This is the info you need for selecting the right stove for you.

Whether you are heading out on a backpacking adventure through the wilderness or are taking a large group of family or friends out to the campground for the week, you’re going to be taking a camp stove with you as relying on a campfire to do all of your cooking just isn’t ideal. Now when it comes to actually choosing which camp stove you want to take with you, there are plenty of variables that need to be factored in like: what type of fuel do you want to work with, what will your climate be like, do you need to simmer or boil and how long will your trip be? Typically, you are going to come across two main categories of stoves: liquid fuel and canister fuel options. There are alternative options out there, but for the majority of campers, going with either liquid or canister will be the easiest and the most efficient. We’re going to be highlighting which type of stove is best used in what conditions and we will be comparing some models to give you a better idea of what to look for when you’re out shopping for a camping stove. Please note that the models listed won’t encompass all that are available, but will have a great variety to get the best idea of what you are looking at/for.

Liquid Stoves: A Clean Fuel Option for the Environmentally Conscious

If you are looking for a fuel source that doesn’t release impurities into the air as you cook, then buying a liquid stove that uses white gas (naphtha) is a must. What makes liquid stoves so great is that they are fabulous for those who are travelling long distances who may not have access to one single type of fuel. In most cases, you will be able to choose whether you want a liquid fuel stove that only uses white gas, or a multi-fuel stove that can operate on other gases such as kerosene, diesel and jet fuel. However, the white gas is purely refined, burns the hottest and is the purest. Keep in mind that if you do use other types of gas, you’re more likely to clog the stove parts up quicker than if only using white gas.

The advantages to going with a liquid stove is that they perform well with large groups, can be used for international travel and are a must if you are doing winter camping or know that you will be camping at high elevations. The fuel is rather inexpensive, they have low-profile designs, you don’t need to discard anything from them and you can easily tell if you’re running out of fuel or not. The disadvantages to them is that you need to prime them (pre-heat), fuel spills are possible, they are heavier in weight and you will need to purchase a fuel bottle to go with them. They also require cleaning maintenance as you use them, otherwise they get clogged up which means the fuel won’t burn nearly as well as it should.

The Best Liquid Stoves: Features and Fuels

The comparison chart below will list the features of top stoves, how much they cost in United States Dollars and what types of fuels that they are able to use.

Brand Stove Weight Fuel(s) Features Simmer Boil Time Nozzles Price
Primus Omni fuel II 16 oz. White, unleaded, kerosene, diesel Burns all fuel types effectively Yes 3.0 mins 3 $145
MSR Whisperlite International 16 oz. White, unleaded, kerosene Shakerjet cleaner* No 3.5 mins 2 $100
MSR Dragonfly 18 0z. White, unleaded, kerosene Shakerjet cleaner* Yes 3.5 mins 1 $140
Soto Muka 12 oz. White, unleaded No priming needed Some 3.0 mins 1 $165
Optimus Nova + 16 0z. White, unleaded, kerosene, diesel Magnet cleaner Yes 3.5 mins 1 $132
Kovea Hydra 15 oz. White Low noise No 3.5 mins 1 $183
Coleman Sportster II 31 oz. White, unleaded All-in-one stove No 4.0 mins 1 4.0 mins

*Shakerjet Cleaner: the stove comes with a weighted pin inside and a jet pushes soot and debris out with a quick shake. Makes maintenance very easy and helps reduce any clog ups.
What to Consider with Liquid Stoves?

  • Most stoves do need priming done (pre-heating) which can be dangerous for beginners,
  • Make sure the fuel top is screwed on tightly, as spilling will result in fire hazards,
  • Heavier stoves may perform better in windier conditions,
  • A windscreen can be used with fuel stoves,
  • Get a wind base if you’re cooking for large groups to handle larger pots easier.
  • Don’t fill the tank completely to the brim.
  • Use a heat exchanger in extreme cold or during extended trips as this saves fuel.
  • Fuel spilled on bare skin during winter can cause frostbite.

Canister Stoves: Efficient and Easy to Use

Canister Stoves (gas) are extremely easy to use and they are perfect for anyone who is looking for a lightweight option. A canister stove uses pre-pressurized gases, usually a mixture of isobutane and propane and self-seals when it is detached from the stove. The fuel canisters are extremely easy to use and connect to the stove in one of two ways. Either it will screw into the bottom of the stove, or it will connect through a hose. If you go with the first option, the stove will sit rather tall which does make it prone to tip overs and cannot hold larger pots very well. If you go with the second option, your stove will be bulkier and heavier but it will be able to handle more wind and larger pots. It’s important to note that canister stoves don’t work well in cold weather as they depressurize.Advantages to using a canister stove is that there is no fuel spill risk, you don’t need to prime them, you can simmer with them (fancier meal options), it is compact and lightweight and does have fast heat output. They also burn cleanly but their fuel levels are hard to gauge and the heat output will drop off drastically as the canister empties out. If you are planning on traveling outside of the United States, these are hard to find and the fuel for them is more expensive.

Canister Stoves: Features and Comparison

The comparison chart below will list the features of top stoves, how much they cost in United States Dollars and what types of fuels that they are able to use.

Brand Stove Weight Fuel(s) Features Simmer Boil Time Price
MSR Windpro II 6.6 oz. Gas Canisters *No igniter Can be used with bake ovens. Windscreen can be used. Lightweight. Consistent Output. Yes 3.6 mins $99.95
Jetboil Flash Cooking System 14 oz. Gas Canisters *Piezo Igniter Flash color-change heat indicator. Adjustable stainless steel burner with push-button through-cup igniter. Drink through lid/insulated bottom. Yes 2 mins $99.95
Primus Express Stove 3.3 oz. Gas Canisters *Piezo Igniter Can handle really large pots. Low weight. Summer time use only. Yes 3.5 mins $49.95
Optimus Vega 6.2 oz. Gas Canisters *Does not come with an igniter. Windshield with two setting positions. Rotatable valve housing. Integrated 4 season mode, low center of gravity for stability. Yes – with precise flame control 4.5 mins $94.95
Soto Windmaster 2.4 oz. Gas Canisters *Piezo Igniter Consistent output even in cold weather. 3-pronged pot support, shock resistant. Wide Range of flame control options 4 mins $74.95
MSR Superfly w/Auto Ignition 4.6 oz. Gas Canisters Has multi-mount technology. Auto-start matchless starter. Exceptional flame stability in wind. Some capabilities. 3 mins $74.95

What to Consider with Canister Stoves?

  • They are lightweight and inexpensive but the fuel does cost more per ounce.
  • They may be prone to tipping over and only some can be used with windscreens.
  • Some are all-in-one systems whereas others you may need to buy other components separately.
  • They are mostly used in warm weather/summer time.
  • If you have a large group – find one that has stability for larger pots.
  • Carry stormproof matches with you.

Overall, both liquid and canister stoves are great for camping but in general if you are doing light backpacking, are going out during the summer months or only want to boil water then you should be choosing a canister gas stove. If you are going out during the winter months, heading up to high elevation or have large groups of people with you, you’re going to want a liquid fuel stove.

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