Backpacking stoves have come a long way. The advent on technology has made it possible for us to carry lightweight stoves that can generate huge amount of heat. These ‘survival stoves’ are now much smaller, making it much easier for you to carry them around.
This makes it necessary for you to consider getting a ‘stove’ before going outdoors or facing any survival situations. Since starting a fire is a rather difficult survival skill, you will not be able to hack your way through it like how you do with finding clean water or getting clean food. Instead, learning how to build a fire by burning wood requires time and skill. Or, you can purchase a backpack stove while you are sharpening this fundamental survival skill.
Benefits of building a campfire or having a backpack stove
The benefits of getting a survival fire is highly interrelated with the different aspects which we will compare for a campfire and a backpack stove. For example, one of the benefits of a survival fire is cooking food. How fast or how easy you can cook food with a campfire or a backpack stove would be an excellent aspect to compare.
With that said, I would like to lay out some benefits of getting a survival fire so that you can see ‘WHY’ it is important, before getting to the ‘HOW’.
1) Getting light when it’s dark – The most practical way of getting light would be to use headlamps or torchlights. However, I am talking about getting light when SHTF. When disaster strikes, electricity supply would be cut, and you need to rely on primitive survival skills to survive.
Getting light during dawn is important so that you are able to carry out your survival duties smoothly during the night. If you can’t see what is in front of you, you can’t do much of your survival chores right? Of course, I am not disregarding the significance of torch lights or head lamps. It would be great to have them, but a survival fire would be perfect to ensure that you are prepared for most survival situations.
2) Cooking food and water – A survival fire is needed for cooking and boiling water in the wilderness, which is necessary if you want to ensure that your food and water is clean. If you are building a campfire, the ‘Teepee Fire Lay’ would be excellent for boiling water because it focuses heat to one area.
Backpack stoves are excellent for this too, but you need to make sure that your stove is capable of producing sufficient heat for boiling water. Most stoves, especially solid fuel stove produces heat slowly. Hence, you need to know how different type of backpack stoves work, which I will explain below.
3) Keep yourself warm – Based on the survival rule of three, you can survive three weeks without food, three days without water, three hours without shelter and three minutes without air. Getting sufficient warmth falls into the category of ‘shelter’. Generally, if you expose yourself to extreme weather conditions for three hours, your body can’t stand it and you may die.
This makes getting a survival fire important because your body need warmth to survive! Especially when it’s raining, and your body is exposed to water, get out of the rain immediately! You have to build a survival fire to keep yourself warm and dry, making sure that your body is kept in optimum temperature.
General idea for building campfires
When I talk about wood-burning, two things come to mind: (1) the Primitive way of starting fire or (2) how we can use wood burners. In this post, I would like to talk about the former. I will not delve into how to make a survival fire with different fire lays. Instead, I have covered this topic in another post.
To start a fire, you need three main ingredients: Oxygen, heat and fuel. Setting up a fire on wet-ground is difficult because it robs you of precious heat, making it much harder to get a fire.
Of course, you can rely on modern equipment to start the fire, but you need certain basics too. Usually, we will start with building a sustainable fire platform which acts as the foundation for your survival fire. This ensures that the fire is kept suspended on top of the ground so that the cold ground will not affect your fire.
You can explore different types of fire lays too, where each of them are great for different reasons. If you are a beginner, you can start out with the Teepee Fire lay, which is one of the easiest to build. All you need to do is to build a cone-shaped tent using wooden sticks so that you the wood can hold each other well.
The Log-cabin fire lay can give you a campfire feel, while the Dakota fire hole is great if you want to hide your location.
5 Types of Backpacking stoves
In this section, I would like to lay out the 5 types of backpacking stoves available in the market. After having a general picture of how each stove work, you can easily weigh whether wood-burning or a backpack stove is better.
Solid Fuel Stoves
These kind of backpacking stoves uses little tablets which light on the fire. Although they are really easy to use, you will not be able to control the flame. By using this kind of stove, you will only be able to get a small flame which heats up things slowly. For example, if you want to boil water using the Solid Fuel Stoves, it may take forever!
These kinds of stoves are really easy to use, cost really low and are lightweight. Basically, you just dig a little pit and place the fuel tab, and light it up. You just place the thing you want to burn on top of the stove and ensure that maximum heat is given to the object.
These stoves will leave residue on your pots, so you may want to cover your pots with soap to ensure that the residue is easily removed. Since there is no way to control the flame, you can only enjoy the ‘small flame’ that is available.
If you are interested in getting a free pocket-sized Solid Fuel Stove, you can click on the link here.
To have an idea of how a solid fuel Stove work, here’s a video on how you can light’em up.
Gas Cartridge Stoves
This kind of stove is really cheap too, and the gas cartridges (the fuel for the fire) does not cost much too! Basically, you can find gas cartridges in many places, so you do not have to worry about the stock running out.
Usually, they are made up of three parts: the portable gas-cartridge, the burner and regulator.
Gas cartridge stoves are fairly easy to use too, and it helps you boil water very quickly.
Gas stoves are quite big, which means you need to make some space to fit your Gas Cartridge Stoves. You can choose those stoves that cost more to avoid problems such as ‘gas leaking’. These cartridges usually have screw-top canisters which are usually only used for the specific brand.
Bear in mind that gas cartridges can freeze when the temperature is low. If you are backpacking in cold areas, you may want to consider another type of stove. Also, make sure that the Gas Cartridges are not exposed to hot weather because it may explode!
Alcohol Stoves uses liquid fuel to help get the fire running. This stove is really popular for backpackers who love long-distance adventures. The main reason is because they are really cheap, where you can make your own ‘fuel’ by burning grain alcohol or Heet Gasoline, and you can even make your own alcohol stove using available cans!
Ideally, you can prepare a base to put your cooking pot on top. You can either get a metal base or you can make one by using wood. Putting rocks which are even can act as a base as well.
Why use Alcohol stoves? You have the option of making your own ‘stove’ and fuel for free! Also, they require minimal maintenance since these stoves do not have hoses that need to be cleaned or moving parts.
However, do consider that carrying liquid in your everyday carry bag makes it susceptible to spills. Also, it is possible to control the fire, but you need some time to learn how to do it. Also, the flame is quite small, and it would take quite a long time for your water to boil.
Pressurized burner stoves
These are also known as pressurized liquid multi-fuel stoves. Pressurized stoves have a high learning curve, requiring more time and effort to get used to.
These liquid fuel stoves work on white gas, which conducts clean-burning which will not eventually clog your stove. However, this gas is expensive.
These liquid stoves are often filled with diesel, kerosene or other highly flammable liquid. Pressurized backpack stoves are really lasting, where you can be sure that there will be sufficient ‘flame’ for use even for long-distance travel.
These stoves are awesome because it has multiple fuel options which you can choose from, and you can easily control the heat. Your food and water will cook quickly too. Since it runs on fuel, you can get it in most parts of the world.
However, pressurized burner stoves require high-maintenance, and you need some time to get used to operating it. Also, these stoves are quite bulky, making it more difficult to carry as compared to other stoves.
There are wood-burning camp stoves available in the market for sale. These stoves usually contain metal containers so that you can burn wood inside, with the water you want to boil or the food you want to cook directly on top.
These stoves will ensure that your wood is efficiently consumed, where maximum heat is produced to cook your food. Some wooden stoves come with fan to promote airflow, making sure that the fuel is completely burned. Also, you can place a pan underneath the wooden stove to collect ashes that may result from the burning.
Comparison between campfire and Backpack Stoves
To effectively compare between a campfire and backpack stoves, I will lay down several aspects for comparison. I will first talk about how a campfire would do in that scenario, then consider a cooking stove.
For a campfire, depending on your surroundings, it can restrict how large your fire can grow. Furthermore, you need to tend to the fire when it is still burning.
Maintaining a fire requires a large amount of tinder, which is especially true for bigger fire. This means you need to either find a large bulk of tinder or prepare them before the trip.
Camping Stoves only require you to make sure that there is sufficient ‘fuel’ to light up the fire throughout your trip. The only downside is spending more money on the materials, but it does save you a lot of work to start a fire!
For an open campfire, the advantages would include the need for less equipment, making it much easier for you to travel long-distance. But, you are still able to get the warmth you need by building a campfire.
Also, with an open fire, you have the option of roasting, steaming, baking or even grilling your food and water on it. For example, if you want to bake food, you can wrap them with tin foil and heat them up.
Finally, it always feels awesome to have things cooked over fire!
However, campfires need a longer time to set up, since you need to gather wood and tinder. Furthermore, campfires can make your pots go black. This means that you need to invest more time cleaning your pots if you use a campfire to cook.
Campfires are more difficult to control too, which means that you are susceptible to getting burnt by a campfire rather than fire from a gas stove.
Cooking on a stove has some obvious advantages, including it being quick to set-up. Since these cooking stoves are similar to the stoves you have in the kitchen, it should be easier for you to control the heat.
But, you need to carry more things with you if you want to cook with a gas stove. You need to store the stove and fuel in your camping bag.
Also, you are limited to what you can do with the stove because stoves such as solid fuel stoves and alcohol stoves are only capable of producing small flame. This will limit what you can do with the fire.
I placed this as an aspect to compare because I thought it is important to consider what situations would be best to have an open fire or a stove.
For an open campfire, we need to consider many factors to determine whether the conditions are right to build a campfire. If it has been raining, you will not be able to find dry wood to burn. Also, you need to consider whether there is quality wood for you to burn.
Cooking with an open fire can also help with cooking meat and it tastes awesome! If you have large amount of dry wood around you, making an open campfire may be a better option.
A Cooking Stove is less dependent on how your environment is. The number of things you can cook with a stove is limited to only easily-cooked food.
Using a Cooking Stove is more environmentally friendly. There would be less smoke produced and practically no ‘footprint’ would be left if you utilize a cooking stove.
Also, this is more reliable as compared to an open fire because you can be very sure that you will have fire.
I have done my best to introduce what are camp fires and camping stoves, while comparing them in light of different aspects. I hope that this guide can help you decide on which of the two you need for your next camping trip! Feel free to share your comments below too!