Sometimes there is nothing better than getting to camp and eating a hot meal. While some people prefer to go stoveless and eat cold meals, the majority will carry some type of stove to make hot food and drinks. There are several kinds of stoves out there so which one should you get? This post is all about stoves so hopefully you can get some idea of what sounds good for you to use.
What kind of stove do you want?
Here are some questions you should ask yourself when looking for a stove.
-How easy do you want your stove to be?
-How many people do you plan to cook for?
-Do you want something that boils quickly or one that can simmer?
-How lightweight do you want it to be?
These are just a few but you should also consider what environments you will be using your stove and how easily you can get fuel.
The four main types of stoves to look for are; canister, denatured alcohol, liquid fuel, and alternative stoves. The canister method is the most popular. The canisters screw onto the stove and it is really easy to light. Denatured alcohol is designed so you can light the alcohol and place your pot on the top. Liquid fuel stoves connect to refillable fuel bottles. While most liquid-fuel stoves run on white gas, you do have other options available, which can be a particular benefit if you’re traveling internationally. The alternative stoves can be used solely as wood burning stoves or fuel pellets.
Stoves designed for canisters are the most popular on the trail. They are the easiest to use and are still lightweight. The canister screws onto the stove, you turn on the gas and then light it with either you own lighter or some come with a lighting mechanism. They are designed to boil water quickly but can be harder to simmer. Most will also require a windscreen to protect the flame from going out when the weather is rough. The problem with canister stoves is the fuel will wind up costing more than regular white gas or denatured alcohol, and it is wasteful to throw away the canisters after use. It can also be difficult to determine how much fuel you have left and most people will end up carrying an extra canister just in case. But, for new backpackers, canister stoves will definitely be the easiest to use. Here are a few types of the canister stoves and our recommendations.
JetBoil Flash Cooking Systems – This is an integrated stove system that is easy to use and has a built in windscreen. It is designed to fit the stove and canister inside the pot. This stove boils water super fast and is great if you just need to add boiling water to a dehydrated meal. You can cook in them as well but it is difficult to turn down the flame to simmer. The JetBoil pots have an insulated sleeve with a fabric handle so they are easy to hold and eat out of. Without the canister, the stove and pot system weighs 14 oz for a 1 liter pot. Boil time for 16 oz of water is 2 minutes, 30 seconds. This stove is pricey, but I used mine for my entire thru hike and my time as a Ridge Runner and I still use it today.
MSR PocketRocket 2 – This is a newer version of the original PocketRocket. It is ultralight weighing only 2.6 oz, can boil water in 3 minutes, 30 seconds, can fold up into whatever cup or mug you carry, and has a wind protection and focused burner which pushes a persistent, solid flame. This does not come with a pot so you will need to find that separately and you may also look into a small windscreen. This stove is definitely one of the more popular stoves because it is versatile and can boil water fast, but also simmer. We just got a bunch here in the store so come by for a stove demo!
Denatured alcohol stoves
This type of stove appeals the most to ultralight backpackers. It usually weighs just one or two ounces and you can carry the appropriate amount of alcohol for your trip. You carry the alcohol in your own container and have it refilled along the way. The stoves can be tricky because you need to figure out how much fuel you will need to use and pour it in the stove each time you cook. It can also spill so it’s best to do it away from others. Once you pour the correct amount of fuel into the stove, you simply use a lighter to light the fuel and either let it burn out, or cover it to put out the flame when you are done.
Toaks Alcohol Stove – This titanium alcohol stove made by Toaks weighs in at only .7oz, can hold up to 2.7oz of fuel. One ounce of fuel boils two cups of water in about five and half minutes. This stove comes with a wire pot stand.
Etowah Alcohol Stove – The Etowah Stove is the first stove to use dual burner technology. By designing a stove with a burner inside a larger burner we created the ability to achieve the maximum boil time with extended burn time using the least amount of fuel possible. It doesn’t just boil water, you can actually cookup to 35 minutes using two ounces of denatured alcohol.
Liquid fuels stoves
All liquid-fuel stoves run on white gas, which is highly refined to have few or no impurities. It burns hot and clean, performs well in below-freezing temperatures and, compared to the per-ounce cost of canister fuel, is much less expensive. These stoves are becoming less popular because they are bulkier and heavier. They are better for larger groups of 4 or more people because the fuel can last longer and boil larger amounts of water in bigger pots. The problem with liquid fuel stoves is they require priming, which involves igniting a few drips of fuel in a cup below the burner, creating a small flame that preheats the fuel line. You will need to pump your fuel bottle, too, to increase pressure.They also require periodic maintenance, such as cleaning the fuel hose or replacing O-rings (in the stove and on fuel bottles). There may be many little parts and pieces to keep track of.
There are a few other types of stoves you can use. Wood burning stoves are for those who like doing their cooking in an old fashioned way. It’s like making a small fire in a smaller container. You just need to gather enough small sticks and make sure The fire keeps going. A popular one now is the BioLite CampStove. This wood burning stove also charges your electronics when it gets to a certain temperature. The stove is fairly heavy and you need to keep feeding the fire in order for it to charge your devices. It can be fun to use for shorter trips but is not practical for a thru hike.
Fuel pellets are another alternative stove method. All you do is light the pellet, then have a stand you either make yourself, or buy to set your pot over the pellet. The pellet will take longer for water to boil, but they are lightweight and cheaper because you can make the stand yourself.
Tips and tricks for stove cooking
The easiest cooking method is to boil water, and add it to a dehydrated meal such as a Mountain House, or even a homemade meal. That way, you don’t need to worry about cleanup and you can eat straight out of the bag. These meals can be expensive and I know you can get sick of them and want something different. Cooking in your pot is a good option too. Ramen or Knorr Sides are very popular and cook fairly quickly. I made my food in my pot and when I was done scraping the sides, I would add some clean water to the pot, clean around it with my finger, and then drink the leftover water. It didn’t always taste great, but I didn’t waste the water, and I was practicing the best Leave No Trace method for food cleanup.
Bring a small spice kit! Even just a little bit of salt or black pepper can make a difference for a bland meal. Garlic powder, onion powder, and curry powder are other spices I enjoyed on the trail. I even carried a small bottle of hot sauce at some times! Anything to make the food taste a little better is definitely worth the extra weight.
Do not cook in or near your sleeping area. Even if you are careful and don’t spill, food smells can linger and attract animals. If you have leftover food, pack it out. Burying it does not practice Leave No Trace and will attract animals.
In the winter, denatured alcohol will hold up the best but if you use a canister stove, be sure to throw the canister in your sleeping bag to keep it warm. This way, it will not take as long for the water to boil.
Hope this post helped answer any stove questions you had! Give us a call or stop by the store if you have any other questions!