Stoves come in various fuel formats. You can use canisters that contain Isobutane and Propane, the most popular fuel for trekking and backpacking. These are simple to use, burn clean and perform well in milder weather and lower elevations. They are ideal for summer trekking. They tend to perform less well in colder weather, and canisters must be disposed of safely and are not reusable. Stoves tend to sit on top of the fuel canister.
Canister stoves come in two varieties. Canister stoves such as the Snow Peak sit on top of the fuel canister. A pot or cup is then placed on top of the stove. This is the lightest type of stove available, although they tend to not work well in windier weather.
All-in-one canister stoves consist of a burner, heat exchanger, and pot that all secure to the top of a fuel canister. These are used primarily to heat water for dehydrated food. Their integrated design make them fuel efficient.
The next version to consider are liquid fuel stoves. They have a fuel line that connects the stove to a separate refillable bottle, which usually contains white gas. These perform better in cold weather, burn hotter than canister stoves, and the fuel bottle can be refilled. These will take up more room than canister stoves.
The final version to consider is bio-fuel stoves such as the BioLite, which burn wood. These types of stove create less waste (no empty canisters), provide a natural flame that some people prefer, but heat water and food much more slowly than the canister alternatives.
The MSR Pocket Rocket 2 is the follow-up to the beloved Pocket Rocket. The original Pocket Rocket was noted for its incredibly light weight, and its successor is even lighter (2.6oz compared with the 3.1oz of the original). The Rocket 2’s promotion mentions that it comes with redesigned supports that allow you to use a wider range of pans and take up less space when folded, but we found that the supports were still on the small side. This successor also has better simmering capabilities than its predecessor, which allows you to eat a wider range of food.
The one area we would have liked to see an improvement was in fuel efficiency. The original Pocket Rocket tended to burn through fuel, and Rocket 2, although not as bad, tends to burn fuel a bit more quickly than we would like. The fuel canister can be a bit unstable and works best on level ground, but given its small size, it should not be difficult to find a patch of flat earth on which to place the stove.
For overall value-for-money the Pocket Rocket is a great buy.
The Snow Peak Giga Power 2.0’s predecessor offered a number of innovative features, such as its low weight and free piezo lighter, that set the standard for canister stoves. The Giga Power 2.0 keeps this features but improves on its predecessor’s shortcomings, such as its fuel efficiency and boil time. The attention to detail in this stove is something that won us over.
The stove is extremely light, and is only 0.6 heavier than the Pocket Rocket 2. Its dimensions are slightly smaller than the Pocket Rocket however, and this lent the Giga Power a greater stability. The Giga Power offers one of the best simmering capability we have seen. The stove’s control valve allows precise control at the lower levels and greatly increases the range of food you can take with you when trekking. The control valve is also noticeably longer than those on its rivals. We found that reaching in and turning down the temperature when water was boiling was much easier than with other stoves. It’s a small detail, but it encapsulates what we like about this stove. Another small feature that we greatly appreciated was that the Snow Peak is also equipped with a reliable piezo lighter, which makes lighting the stove extremely easy.
Like the Pocket Rocket, the Snow Peak’s performance suffers when exposed to the wind. If you are trekking above the tree-line, you will need to take a windbreaker or wind shield with you if you want to use this stove in windy weather.
The MiniMo has been around for a number of years and established a reputation as a reliable integrated canister stove. Unlike, for example, the Snow Peak Giga Power and the Pocket Rocket 2, where a canister stove screws onto and sits atop a gas canister, the MiniMo consists of a burner, heat exchanger, and pot that all secure to the top of a fuel canister. The MiniMo, and other integrated all-in-one systems, offer efficient heating: everything is tightly connected, and heat is applied faster and less fuel is used.
Integrated systems such as the MiniMo have traditionally served better as water boilers, but the MiniMo’s redesigned valve gives it excellent simmer control. At just under 15oz the weight is acceptable for its class, but an integrated system is not one for the weight-conscious trekker.
The Piezo push-button igniter is great for lighting the stove, and saves from the frustration of multiple attempts to light the stove in bad weather using a lighter.
Integrated systems have traditionally been better than their canister stove cousins thanks to their sleeve wrappings on the container, but we were slightly disappointed with the MiniMo’s performance in this area. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a reliable integrated system, the MiniMo is a great choice.
The MSR Windburner is a solid, dependable all-in-one stove. The quality of dehydrated backpacking meals is now of a high-enough level that a water boiling stove is all you need for an extended backpacking trip. The Windburner fits the bill perfectly. This unit offers excellent fuel efficiency and performed extremely well in windy conditions – a key differentiator between it and the Jetboil MiniMo.
The boil time on the Windburner was particularly impressive – we got a full liter to the boil in 5 and a half minutes.
Unlike the Jetboil Minimo, the Windburner does not come with a Piezo ignitor, which was a shame. An ignitor would have made the Windburner completely windproof, and saved wasting fuel from unsuccessful lighting attempts. At 15oz the Windburner is heavier than the Minimo, a factor in favour of the latter. Unlike the MiniMo, the Windburner does not even pretend to offer any simmering capability; it is a tried and tested water boiler.
If you are looking for a high quality, efficient all-in-one stove that can function well in the wind, the Windburner is an excellent choice.
If you are a budget-conscious or weight-conscious trekker then the Etekcity Ultralight will be of interest to you. The stove is incredibly easy to set up and its 3.4oz weight makes it great for ultralight trekking. It even comes with a Piezo ignition system, so lighting the stove is easy. The stove also comes with a simmer lever, and boils a liter of water in a respectable 6 mins 15 seconds.
At this price point you will not be getting a stove designed for heavy use. The Ultralight’s build quality doesn’t match those of its more expensive rivals. The stove is incredibly small and compact, but be aware that it is suitable for heating small cups and small pots. Anything larger will not really receive enough heat. If you are looking for a gift for a beginner camper, or for a backup stove, then the Ultralight makes for the perfect purchase.
Unlike the other stoves in this review, which rely on canisters of various kinds, the Biolite runs off bio-fuel. By burning wood and twigs, heat is converted into electricity through a thermoelectric generator. This powers a fan that blows air into a burn chamber to provide combustion. The electricity powers a USB port that can charge your phone and excess power is stored in an internal battery. The Biolite comes with a 100 lumen USB LED lamp, which is useful for night-time cooking.
Although not included in the base price, you really unlock the power of the BioLite through its accessories: the kettle pot, the portable grill and the coffee press. The portable grill allows to grill up to four large burger patties. The food cooks quickly and cleanly. The kettle pot boils water quickly and we were impressed that very little soot was deposited on the bottom. The coffee press produced a great tasting cup is a must-have addition if you love your coffee.
The Biolite saves having to carry around fuel canisters. If you are trekking in wooded areas, you can simply forage for twigs. We did find that it took a long time to charge the battery however, so be prepared to spend some time collecting wood.
The Biolite is not really aimed at the single trekker. This is a product you take with you in your car or camper. It comes with all the bells and whistles and offers plenty of innovation.
The venerable MSR Whisper Lite has established a reputation as probably the most reliable liquid fuel stove on the market. Its stainless steel and brass design is durable and tried and tested. Liquid burners such as the Whisper Lite are not as light or as small as their canister stove rivals, but they are cheaper to run in the long-term. One bottle of liquid fuel is the equivalent to seven canisters, so if you are planning an extended trek then a liquid fuel alternative such as the Whisper Lite is worth considering. The Liquid fuel stoves also produce a much hotter flame and allow you to cook a far wider range of food. We found that the Whisper Lite produced excellent flame even in very cold weather. A wind screen is included with the stove, which helps you in windier weather.
Unlike the canister stoves such as the Pocket Rocket 2, the Whisper Lite (and other liquid gas stoves) does not sit on top of the fuel canister, but instead is connected to it via a tube. This allows the stove to be more stable and produces a better flame. Of course this does add bulk and weight, so you have to decide what is right for you.
The Primus Omnilite is a follow up to the company’s OmniFuel model. The Omnilite is a lot lighter than its predecessor, thanks to the use of titanium for the legs and the windshield around the burner. The legs are serrated, which helps stability and stops pots sliding off. Unlike the Whsiper Lite, the Omnilite offers a simmer function, which increases its versatility greatly.
The big advantage of the Omnilite over other liquid gas stoves is that it can use different fuel types. So whether you want to use gas (butane, propane) paraffin (kerosene) or gasoline, he Primus has you covered. If you are going to be trekking in colder weather, pack liquid gas, otherwise if you are out in the summer, you can take a gas supply. The Primus allows year-round usage thanks to its fuel versatility.
There are a few factors preventing this stove from being stellar rather than great. The build quality is generally very good but there was one exception: the leather pump cap is made of leather rather than rubber, which leaves it open to fraying. Another slight drawback we noticed with the Primus was that its burn, especially at full power, was particularly noisy, so be careful not to wake your companions if you need that early morning brew.
The Solo Stove Lite, like the Biolite, eschews traditional oil and gas-based fuels n favor of biofuel: in this case wood, twigs or cones. We loved the sleek design of its stainless steel body. There are air intake holes along the bottom of the stove that channel air into the bottom of the fire, and also channel warm air between the stove’s walls. This system provides a more complete burn that produces a minimum of smoke. The stove also has a heat shield between the ash pan and the bottom of the stove, which prevents ground burn. This stove provides an incredibly efficient burn.
Wood stoves like the Solo will not provide a boil time that can compete with liquid or canister stoves, but we loved the natural flame that the Solo provided, especially late at night. You will not really be able to camp above tree line with this stove, since you’ll have problems locating fuel, and we found that although smoke was at a minimum, you will still get soot on the bottom of your pans. A little maintenance however will keep them in top condition. We loved the Solo Stove’s design and natural flame. If you want something a bit warmer and romantic than canister stoves, the Solo Stove is ideal.
The Optimus Vega is a canister stove that is incredibly stable, thanks to its pump, which allows you to place the fuel canister upside down. The attachment for the fuel canister also includes two foldable feet that hold the canister in place. It’s lightweight, and provides a good flame control. The performance was a the higher end as well. We especially liked that, thanks to the included windshield, it worked well in windier conditions as well as in colder temperatures. At 6.2oz the Vega is heavier than the Snow Peak and Pocket Rocket, but we feel its performance offsets this slight disadvantage.
If you are cooking for more than two people, this lightweight stove is ideal. We would have liked to see a Piezo ignitor included, since the stove functions well in windier weather. We still had problems igniting the flame when the wind was up, and a built-in ignitor would have solved this problem.
If you are planning on winter trekking and are cooking for a 3 or 4 people, the Optimus Vega is an excellent choice.