What is a backpacking stove? Backpacking stoves are also known as lightweight or portable stoves, which is specifically designed to be portable and light so that you can easily bring it around for outdoor activities. Portable stoves were invented in the 1900’s, and the advent of technology has encouraged innovation. Now, these portable stoves come in many sizes, shapes and colors.
A backpacking or survival stove generally comes in 5 types: (1) Solid Fuel Stoves; (2) Gas Cartridge Stoves; (3) Alcohol Stoves; (4) Pressurized burner stoves and (5) Wooden stoves. These stoves are mainly used for cooking and boiling water while you are doing different recreational activities such as hunting of hiking!
Why should you consider buying a backpacking stove?
First, the law in most countries does not allow people to set up open fire for cooking in the forest due to risk of igniting a forest fire. Therefore, outdoor enthusiasts have to use backpacking stove if they plan to stay outdoors overnight.
Second, backpacking stoves are highly portable, because they are small equipment which requires very little space. However, I do admit that some most stoves like the Gar Cartridge stoves require constant maintenance, such as cleaning the equipment after use.
Of course, even if you use a campfire to cook your food, it would be wise to clean up the place too!
Third, for survival situations you may need to get fire quick to keep yourself warm. Having a backpacking stove is a great way to ensure that you get the warmth you need, not to forget getting the proper clothing too of course!
Do bear in mind that ‘shelter’ is imperative for survival, especially maintaining constant body heat temperature. Hence, a backpacking stove is a necessary survival equipment so that you can get the required warmth.
After looking into the ‘Why’, let us delve into what considerations we need to take before purchasing a backpacking stove. I have framed these considerations into questions so that you can easily recall these considerations when you want to purchase a backpacking stove.
Do bear in mind that these questions are fundamental questions which you must consider, but they are not an exhaustive list of what you need to think about.
Considerations you need to know while buying a backpacking stove
1. What is the purpose of buying that stove?
The cardinal rule before you purchase anything is to consider what is the purpose of buying that item. It is really important to think through this before you buy a backpacking stove too.
Why do you need the backpacking stove? What is it that you primarily want to use it for? All of these are fundamental questions to consider.
If you are using the stove on high elevation where you want to cook food after hiking a long-trail up the hill, you may want a stove which can produce a huge fire so that the cold temperature will not hinder your fire from starting.
If you are getting the stove for your personal need such as getting one for your own bug-out bag, you have more choices because the fire produced just needs to be sufficient to cook food and water. But if you are buying one to support your family members in a bug-out situation or you are bringing them for a camping trip, it would be wise to get one which can produce huge flames fast.
2. How portable do you want the stove to be?
Here, there are 2 further considerations:
Weight – This is an extremely important factor to consider if you are required to carry your gear around.
If you are carrying the stove for a backpacking trip, it would be wise to get lightweight stoves. Especially if you are planning to carry the stove for bugging-out on foot, get one which is extremely light! This includes hiking, hunting or camping. You do not want to exhaust yourself carrying heavy items.
But, if you are carrying your stuff to a camping trip using your four-wheeler, then you can get a stove which is loaded with fuel. If you travel around often with a vehicle, weight would not be a significant factor to consider.
Size – You must still take into account the size of your stove despite travelling on a vehicle because the amount of space you have is limited.
Having two or even four burners may be necessary depending on the amount of people you want to cater for. If you have to cook for a huge number of people, you need to bring more burners. This means you need to provide some space in your everyday carry bag for them.
If you are only cooking for yourself, it is ideal to get two burners to make sure that you have enough fuel for the trip. Also, it acts as a precautionary measure. If one stove doesn’t work, you have another for backup to make sure that you do not starve!
3. What kind of stove do you prefer?
Do you prefer liquid-fuel stoves, or would you rather have them in gas bottles? I have explained about the 5 types of backpacking stoves here.
To consider this point properly, you need to have deep knowledge on how different type of stoves work. Trust me, it is really beneficial to understand how various backpacking stoves work so that you can get the best gear for you.
If you are often clumsy with things, it would be better to get solid fuel stoves because they are extremely safe. Unlike gas cartridge stoves, they are susceptible to ‘gas leaking’ if certain parts became loose.
For people who like to have a larger flame, which is essential for boiling water or cooking meat, you may want to get a gas cartridge stove or a pressurized burner stoves because they are capable of producing huge amount of heat.
Also, it would be better to get large gas bottles rather than a limited amount of liquid-fuel if you are staying outdoors for a long period of time. Alternatively, you can consider getting more spare fuel.
4. Do you want to ignite the stove yourself?
From how I see it, there are mainly 3 aspects involved here.
First, are you scared of igniting the stove yourself? If you have the fear of getting burned, getting a self-igniting stove would be ideal for you. Stoves that can ignite themselves are often more fuel-efficient and wastes less gas. This is because the gas will not leak out while you light match after match, trying to produce a decent amount of heat to ignite the fire.
Second, concerning the cost, where stoves with auto-ignition may cost more because they have to include it in the manufacturing process.
Third, auto-ignition stoves require practice to maneuver. Sometimes, you will only get a small flame which flickers but the stove does not light up.
You may need to turn the burner to ‘high’ so that you can ignite the fire. If the channels in your burner are tilted in the wrong way and they are not leveled properly, you will face problems lighting the fire.
But, if you are lighting the stove manually, you need to be sure that the fire produced is huge enough to get the stove going.
5. How ‘HOT’ do you want the fire to be?
Two main things will affect how ‘hot’ your fire can be.
Number one would be the type of stove you purchased. If you want to get huge amount of heat really fast, the best type of stove to get is the pressurized burner stove or alcohol stoves. These stoves will allow you to have greater manipulation over the fire. Remember to avoid solid fuel stove because there is often a limit to how hot the fire produced can go.
Number two would be the British Thermal Unit Rating (BTU Rating).
What is a BTU rating? It is a kind of measurement for heat output. The geeky definition for this is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water, by 1-degree Fahrenheit.
If your stove has a higher BTU, the larger the flame can be produced and the faster your meal can be cooked. However, stoves with high BTUs often are more expensive and they tend to consume a greater amount of gas.
A 10,000 BTU burner equipped with wind breaks should be able to get your water boiled and food cooked. For most people, a burner with 12,000 BTU or higher is more than enough for getting food cooked.
But, if you are cooking a large amount of food to cater for a large crowd, you need an even higher BTU rating burner or else cooking will take forever. If your fire is hot enough, it can cut down a lot of time needed for cooking and you can satisfy your growling stomach quick.
6. How long do you need the fire to last?
One option you can take is to purchase a stove which has alternative fuel sources. This is usually more prevalent amongst modern-style stoves, where they can burn wood as fuel, while using alcohol or gas to promote combustion.
While considering this question, there are 2 things you can look at.
Type of fuel – The type of fuel can affect how long your burner can go, and how big the fire can be produced.
The type of fuel includes alcohol, fuel tabs (for solid fuel), liquid-gas etcetera. Wood can be used either for stoves which can take alternative fuel sources or wood-burning camp stoves.
If you use pressurized-burner stoves, the liquid gas used would often last longer than most stoves. Solid fuel stoves tend not to last very long but they are really cost-effective.
Capacity to store fuel – The capacity to store fuel depends on the size of the canister, and the volume of fuel stated in the canister. Finding one which has sufficient capacity is vital if you want to ensure that you have access to fire using the survival stove while you are outdoors. Of course, you can build a camp fire too if you run out of fuel, but it does take time.
Remember to get supplementary fuel to ensure that you have enough fire to get around. For liquid-gas stoves, this includes preparing extra canisters.
7. How will you operate it?
I look at this query in two ways, which is basically where you will operate the stove and what do you operate it with (usually food and water)
Surrounding climate – if you know that your surroundings would likely be windy, please avoid canister stoves because you can’t use a wind screen. This is with the exception that the model you are using attaches the stove with the canister by using a fuel line, where both the stove and canister are placed remotely.
If you are in a cold and windy environment, it’s better to use a liquid-fuel stove. They are often easier to light, and they can last long. Since the fuel bottle connects with the stove separately, you can use a wind screen to prevent the fire to lose heat to its surroundings.
Petroleum fueled stoves are great for cold environments as compared to canister stoves because they perform poorly at subfreezing points.
If you are on a summer trip to a forested campsite, solid fuel stoves or wooden stoves may be ideal because they cost less.
Type of food cooked – if you are cooking tough meat in high volume, you need a large fire which can do the job. One consideration you can look into is the area which you want the fire to burn.
If you want to cook large number of things, you may want to heat up a larger area and a large fire is needed to compensate.
Some stoves are excellent for boiling water, while others are excellent for cooking meat. If you are in a cold environment, you may need to avoid solid food.
8. What kind of fuel would you rather use?
This consideration would depend on how environmental-friendly you are, and it is highly interrelated with the issue of what you are going to use the stove for. I know that I addressed this concern in the section of ‘how long do you need the fire to last?’, but I think that this is really important, and you should consider this independently too.
Liquid gas stoves – These stoves often run on white gas and they can burn up to high temperature. This allows you to cook solid food with ease because of the amount of heat these stoves are capable of producing.
Remember to leave an air space when you are refueling your liquid-gas stoves because as gas will expand when temperature rises. The excess pressure may create a hazardous situation for yourself and your loved ones.
Canister Stoves – They often use gas with a blend of propane and butane. Since Butane is more stable than propane, it is more suitable for use in different temperature conditions and they can be safely stored in lightweight canisters.
However, butane will not vaporize if you are at a place below-freezing point. This is why you should avoid using canister stoves in cold places.
Wood Burning Stoves – They are great only if you are sure that you can find such twigs or combustible materials around you.
If you consider these 8 questions properly before getting a backpacking stove, there is a high possibility that you will get the right stove!
Remember to apply common tips for creating a sustainable fire for a survival stove. This includes getting a windbreak for your stove (or get a stove that comes with a windbreak). This ensures that your flame does not get diminished or blown out by surrounding wind. This helps ensure that your gas supply do not go to waste too.
Of course, you can consider learning how to make an open campfire too! Be warned that learning how to make a campfire is pretty difficult, and you need some time to learn up the skill. Also, there are different kinds of fire lays such as the Teepee Fire, the Lean-To Fire lay, or the log cabin-style fire lay which can bring different benefits.
If you have any comments or ideas about choosing the best backpacking stove, feel free to comment below!