hikers with packs on a trail

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Outdoor adventures call for gear that can help you enjoy the wilderness and keep you safe. Included in your pack must be water, a first-aid kit, apparel appropriate for any conditions you may face, and some food to fuel you along. This is the baseline even for a day hike, trail run, paddling trip, or any outing that will have you outside the range of immediate assistance. When your mountaineering expedition or backpacking trip will last more than a day, your gear needs evolve notably. Now shelter and sleeping gear become essential, your stores of food and water (or at least a reliable way to purify water you collect) must expand, and, unless you want to exist on energy bars and go without hot coffee — which is not advised at any time and is an even worse idea in the backwoods — you need a way to cook food, too.

Fortunately, campsite cooking is easier than ever these days, even when you’re carrying all of your gear on your back, as so many brands now offer great backpacking stoves. There are compact, lightweight stoves suitable for use on multi-day treks or even when you’re climbing, and every ounce counts. There are larger, highly capable stoves with BTU (British Thermal Unit) outputs that will make your home’s range jealous yet are still portable. And, of course, there are backpacking stoves to fit every outdoorsman’s and outdoorswoman’s budget, too. We’ll trek our way through all sorts of stoves today!

How we selected these backpacking stoves

coffee pot heating outside

First off, let it be known that we’re a pretty experienced hand at camping, climbing, backpacking, and generally getting around out there. We’ve hiked scores of miles across the rolling hills of Spain, we’ve trekked through Colombian jungles and up South American mountains, we’ve bagged 14ers aplenty stateside, we’ve run a marathon in the Alps, and we’ve taken the kids camping more times than we can count. Also, we’re kind of (completely) a gearhead who collects (okay, hoards) outdoor gear as a hobby. Long story short, we know outdoor hardware well. But we also know there is so much great gear out there we have not tested firsthand, which is why in assembling this list we have also leaned heavily into reviews from other experts, customer ratings, and write-ups. We’ve also researched how long brands have been in the backpacking-stove business, making sure to weigh a company’s years of experience and innovation as we considered inclusions.

In other words, you can trust us when we say this is not a list we just threw together — that would be the wrong approach for any round-up, of course, but when it comes to outdoor gear that may well play a role in safety and even survival, we take things seriously. "A backpacking stove? Survival?" you might ask. Well, yes. Your camp stove can boil water, making it safe for consumption, it cooks the food you need to keep on keeping on, and, again … coffee.

Best Backpacking Stove Overall: Jetboil Flash Cooking System

a camping stove

The Jetboil Flash Cooking System is one of the best-known, most widely trusted camping stoves out there and for myriad good reasons. First, as the name suggests, it really will bring water to a boil fast. Maybe not in a literal flash, but how’s a minute and a half for two cups of water? Second, it really is a system: The same vessel you use to boil water can become a vessel from which you sip your coffee, spoon your oatmeal, or slurp your soup. Third, unlike with many otherwise excellent portable outdoor stoves, this one has a built-in ignition system, so there’s no need for a lighter, matches, or sparking device to light the stove. (That said, you really should have reliable fire-making tools with you out there!) And, of course, as you’d fairly demand of any good stove for backpacking, this system is very lightweight, coming in at 13.1 ounces, not counting the fuel canister.

And hey, want a cool tie-in? The amazing Geyser Systems portable shower — which can also be used to do dishes at the campsite — was designed with a Jetboil system in mind. Dump two pots worth of cold water and one boiling pot of water into your Geyser, and boom, you have a hot shower that can flow for well over 10 minutes. Yeah, it’s an upgrade worth your close consideration.

As of November 2022, the Jetboil Flash Cooking System sells for $114.95 at REI.

Best Lightweight Backpacking Stove: Snow Peak LiteMax

a very small camping stove

This is the backpacking stove we carried up Mt. Rainier, up the Grand Teton, and up Mt. Whitney on multiple occasions, and it’s one of the stoves we always bring on family camping trips, too. In the case of the latter, we bring our Snow Peak LiteMax Stove because it can heat enough water for a single cup of coffee in less than a minute. In the case of the former, we always make this our mountaineering stove because the thing is almost laughably small. It weighs in at less than 2 ounces. It folds down smaller than a pack of playing cards. You can literally tuck this stove into a pocket and hit the trail, provided you have its (also pretty small and lightweight) canister of fuel along with you, too.

A LiteMax stove puts out an astonishing 11,000 BTUs, so you can bring water to a boil, heat stews, cook pasta, or do whatever else you need out there in minimal time. Being as light and small as it is, this stove does require a bit more care as you set it and its fuel can up — a flat, solid surface is key. And it doesn’t offer as much support for pots or pans as a larger stove, so balance and handle them with care, but overall it’s a sensationally good piece of hardware, and just so small.

Best Rugged Backpacking Stove: Coleman Gas Stove

someone cooking on a stove burner

This Coleman Gas Stove is pretty heavy, and in fact it might be too heavy for many backpackers. If you’ll be trekking up any notable elevation, logging many miles over many days, or seeing your gear weight already adding up to near your safe and comfortable capacity, then it’s not the right pick for you. This Coleman Gas Stove weighs 2 pounds, and it’s made largely from solid steel — compare that to the titanium and alloy composition of the 2-ounce Snow Peak LiteMax. Also, at over 7 inches across and about 6 inches in height, it’s a larger burner, too. Plus the fuel can is heavier. So why are we recommending this as a good stove for camping or backpacking? Because this is one rugged, reliable beast of a burner.

We have had one of these stoves for more than a decade, having carried it up several mountains and on many long trails, so it can be done. And we’ve used it at countless campsites, often to cook meals in full-sized pots and pans — the same cookware we use in the kitchen at home. This stove creates excellent heat and can be precisely controlled, so a rolling boil or gentle simmer are both easy to manage. It can withstand years of regular use, even with drops, spills and dings. And it’s pretty cheap, too, in the scheme of things.

As of November 2022, this Coleman Gas Stove costs $39.99 at Amazon.

Best Backpacking Stove for Windy Conditions: Soto WindMaster Stove

a camping stove

If you do a lot of cooking on gusty mountain summits, along windswept plateaus, or in breezy woodland hollows, first of all, that’s awesome — we commend your life choices and encourage you to keep on getting after it out there. You also, then, are likely familiar with the very real struggle of keeping a camp stove burning in adverse, windy weather. We’ve certainly experienced that problem — trying to boil water at one in the morning at 12,000 feet on Ingraham Glacier, we’re looking at you — and certainly wish we had this stove along, for, indeed, the purpose of the Soto WindMaster Stove is to keep the burn going even when the wind is blowing.

The stove helps prevent blowouts in two ways: First, the burner is set down into a concave little cup, creating a 360º windscreen — most backpacking stoves have the burner element almost completely exposed. And second, the 4Flex Pot Support system that comes with the stove lets pots, pans or mugs rest quite low over the burner, and the minimal gap created further reduces the chance for wind to extinguish the flames. It also means even more efficient heating, as the flame is produced so near to the bottom of your pot or pan. And at just a hair over 3 ounces (not counting fuel, as usual) this is yet another very lightweight backpacking stove.

Best Wood-Burning Backpacking Stove: Solo Stove Lite

a small wood burning stove

This Solo Stove Lite will take you a good deal longer to heat up than any other unit on our list because it requires you to kindle, grow, and feed an actual fire in order to use it. Is that as easy and efficient as twisting a knob and either pushing an ignition button or flicking a lighter? No, it’s not. But on the other hand, those oh-so-easy-to-light-up portable backpacking stoves require a fuel source you can’t readily gather from nature unless you know how to do some backwoods crude oil refining and can separate out the butane. To heat up a Solo Stove Lite, all you need is some wood, some kindling, and a source of fire or spark.

This plucky little wood-burning camping and backpacking stove weighs 9 ounces and stands a mere 4.2 inches wide and 5.7 inches tall, so it won’t weigh you down or take up too much pack space, either. It features a cleverly designed airflow system wherein air is drawn in from the top and bottom of the stove and is pre-heated before it’s fed to the fire, the result being quicker combustion and a hotter, steadier flame with less smoke produced than you’d get with a compact fire pit of the same size. Also, it throws off decent heat, so you can warm your hands and toes, too.

As of November 2022, the Solo Stove Lite is $69.99 at Amazon.

Best Multi-Fuel Backpacking Stove: MSR WhisperLite International Backpacking Stove

a backpacking stove

As its name implies, the MSR WhisperLite International Backpacking Stove is a great choice for the outdoor enthusiasts whose adventures may take them to various nations. Why? Because it can be hard to find all the same stuff in all sorts of different places, and if that hard-to-find stuff is the fuel that your camp stove requires, then you may find yourself left effectively carrying around a fancy paperweight once your fuel runs dry. This stove can burn white gas, kerosene, or even gasoline — yes, the same gas you use to fuel up a car that can be found just about anywhere on earth. So as long as you can find some manner of civilization with commerce, you’ll almost surely be able to find fuel for your portable stove.

Now, note that an MSR stove does require a bit more care and maintenance than most of the other units on our list. Most require little more than the occasional wipe down. You’ll need to disassemble and clean this stove from time to time lest the tubing and valves get gummed up, but with proper care, it may well be a lifelong purchase. Plenty of happy customers report having used an MSR WhisperLite stove for 25 or even 30 years or longer. So this backpacking stove is not just a traveler; it’s a survivor, too.

As of November 2022, the MSR WhisperLite International Backpacking Stove is $129.95 at REI.

Best Low-Cost Backpacking Stove: AOTU Portable Backpacking Stove

a small backpacking stove

To be honest, we were so shocked by the low price of this tiny little camping stove that we were skeptical at best that it could be any good. But after cross-referencing reviews, ratings, and write-ups all about the AOTU Portable Backpacking Stove, it seems that, for less than 15 bucks, it’s actually pretty great. Review after review from people who had actually used this stove in the field all went along the same basic lines of "way better than expected!" or "can’t beat the price!" or "I was wary of the price, but …"

The specs here are comparable to a much pricier portable stove like the Soto WindMaster; this stove weighs just a bit less than 4 ounces (so the Snow Peak LiteMax still reigns supreme there), and it will easily tuck away into the smallest pack. Its output is around 10,000 BTUs at its maximum heat setting. That is plenty for most camp cooking needs, and it can be easily adjusted to higher or lower heat settings. The AOTU stove does feature a push-button ignition system, but we noted several users calling it finicky, so have those matches or a lighter at the ready. And at this price point, don’t expect this stove to last forever — to that end, be sure to test it before each outing so you know it can still bring the heat.

As of November 2022, the AOTU Portable Backpacking Stove is $12.74 at Amazon.

Best Tablet-Burning Stove: Esbit Pocket Stove

a folding pocket stove

There are many words to describe the Esbit Pocket Stove, and we’re going to use four of them right now: It’s compact, simple, cheap, and reliable. And let’s add one more to make it five — unique — because this little stove is certainly that. To use it, you pop open the little box into a sort of platform with two walls. Onto that platform you place a solid fuel tablet (it comes with several, and additional tablets are cheap). You then light the tablet on fire. The tablet will burn for about 12 minutes, and you place your pot right above the flame, resting it on the stove’s walls. Each tablet produces enough heat to boil a pint of water in about six to eight minutes. So you can cook your meal or heat up your coffee, and then let the little fire burn out before you click the Esbit closed, tuck it away, and get on with your day.

While not the best choice for trekkers who highly value efficiency and control of their backpacking stoves, this little stove is a great price, it’s easy to use, and it makes a great backup unit should your primary cooking hardware ever give out on you. Also, in a pinch, those tablets are a great choice for starting a larger fire such as may be needed for warmth or signaling.

As of November 2022, the Esbit Pocket Stove is $12.95 at REI.

Best Large-Capacity Backpacking Stove: WADEO Windproof Camping Gas Stove

a large backpacking stove

This is a larger stove than most people will need to bring along on a backpacking trip. At nearly a pound, it’s the second heaviest unit on our list, and when fully unfolded and set up, it’s the largest and most cumbersome, too. But not only can the WADEO Windproof Camping Gas Stove handle large pots and pans with ease, it also puts out an amazing amount of heat. In fact, when blasting away at its full heat output setting, this portable stove can generate well over 13,000 BTUs of heat, and that’s more than most of the burners on a standard kitchen stove can do. So if you want to rapidly cook large meals while you’re trekking over the land out there, then this is a good option.

And it’s a pretty affordable option, too, at less than $25. Most reviewers are pleasantly surprised with its performance overall, though some did note issues with the ignition system. But at that price, that’s no surprise, and you can always spark up the burner directly. This is a multi-fuel stove, which is always a plus, but does, again, mean you need to take the time to clean it out and check it every now and then to make sure it stays in good working order.

As of November 2022, the WADEO Windproof Camping Stove is $17.99 at Amazon.