How to find the right camping stove.

Woman holding two gas canisters

There is nothing quite like a hot meal at the end of a long day hiking. Coffee in the morning? Yes please!

A stove can come in handy for a variety of things when you’re in the outdoors. Whether you’re boiling to make clean drinking water, heating up cold hands, or using it to pick up spirts with a warm drink. You’ll need a stove that can perform.

The first thing to look at is what kind of environment you’ll need your stove to function as this will determine what type of fuel you need.

Liquid fuel
If you’re looking at heading out into the snow or the freezing cold, you’ll want to consider a stove that takes liquid fuel. Having a stove that uses liquid fuel with a lower boiling point means that you are less likely to struggle to light and run your stove in colder temperatures. You are able to pressurize the fuel bottle yourself as you cook, ensuring a smooth and efficient boil time on your stove.

The MSR Whisperlite International or the Primus Omnifuel 2 are great choices for alpine adventures. Both stoves are multifuel systems, which can run on a variety of liquid fuel types.

While fuel versatility makes sourcing fuel while traveling easier, most people choose to run their systems on white fuel - which runs clean with less impurities, so it won’t clog up the systems and the flame doesn't blacken or smoke.
Liquid fuel systems require a bit of research and practice but, in the end are easy to use and efficient systems.

The Pros of a Liquid Fuel System
· Liquid fuel systems are low profile and provide a good base support for stability
· A bit more ecofriendly with a refillable bottle
· Function better in colder temperatures and at higher elevation
· Easy to tailor how much fuel you bring and to check how much you have left

The Cons of a Liquid Fuel System
· Tend to be a bit heaver
· Regular maintenance is needed
· Will need to prime before use


Two different types of gas canisters
Which one works best for you?

Canister fuel
Heading out hiking where it might get cold in the early mornings but otherwise not too extreme? A canister fuel-based stove should work well for you!
Canister fuel stoves tend to be lighter weight and take up less pack space which is great for your multi day hikes. They’re super quick and easy to set up with a screw on base and no priming needed, just light and go. This is essential when you’re looking for fast food or camping out with someone who’s not a morning person.

Canister fuels with higher levels of propane and isobutane will ensure your stove runs even on colder mornings and nights. Fuels such as MSR ISOPRO canisters are a great choice. Canisters with higher levels of butane will only function well in warmer conditions as the gas will struggle to vaporize in colder temperatures.

The Optimus Crux lite is a great lightweight option for a canister stove, its small enough to fit in most pots and only weighs 72 grams, which makes it a great option for someone who is looking to keep their pack as light as possible.

The Primus Essential Trail Stove is another great option if you’re cooking for more than one on the trail. The wider profile makes for a stable support for slightly bigger pots and you’re able to regulate the heat as you need.

Pros of a Canister Fuel System
· Often super small and lightweight
· Quick and easy to set up and light
· Doesn’t require as much
· No worry about fuel spills

Cons of a Canister Fuel System
· Often have a small base support and is better for smaller pots
· Canisters don’t function as well in colder weather
· Its tricky to know how much fuel you have left
· You waste a canister bottle when its finished

Jetboil next to a coffee
Nothing like a Jetboil coffee on a morning hike.

Regulated vs Non-regulated
The next thing to toss-up between is a regulated and a non-regulated system. A regulated system means you are able to control your heat levels, simmer food and cook -which is perfect if you’re heating up your own meals or want to heat food all the way through without burning.

A non-regulated system is made to boil now, with no simmer settings. This type of stove is ideal for people who regularly eat dehydrated meals such as Fire Pot or Radix or are looking for frequent coffee and tea stops. These systems have lightning quick boil times but are just made to hold water.
You can see these types of systems throughout the Jetboil range. Jetboil have an integrated pot system (all in one) that feature both the regulated and non-regulated systems. The MiniMo and the Flash are two great ones to compare. The stoves have two different shaped pots indicating that the flash (Tall and skinny) is a non- regulated system, tall to follow the heat and get the fastest boil time. The MiniMo (short and wide) is a regulated system and is wider so you can stir food throughout and allow for a simmer.

Image of a gas cooking stive connection
Stable surface for bigger pots.

Another factor is stability. Keep in mind how many people you’re cooking for and how big your pot size will be. Often small, light systems that screw onto a gas canisters have little support arms for your pot and a little burner. If you put a bigger pot on this it might get a bit unstable, and the small burner makes for a centralised heat (hot spot). Systems that use a hose connector have their own base support legs and generally a larger burner which makes these ideal for larger pots and are a stable cooking surface.

In summary:

5 things to consider when choosing a camping stove:

1. What weather conditions will you be in? If it's snowy or freezing some types of fuel will struggle more than others. 

2. Is weight important? There are both light-weight and heavier options when it comes to both stoves and fuel sources. 

3. Are you just boiling water to rehydrate meals and make hot drinks? Or do you plan on actually cooking food over the heat? This will determine if you need a regulated or non-regulated system. 

4. How stable do you need your camping stove to be? Are you using big pots that need a wider base? 

5. Is having a refillable fuel source important? Liquid fuel containers can be refilled, not just thrown away (Making it more eco-friendly too!)


Written by Further Faster's own Lana, who you can regularly find in the mountains, exploring NZ - and when she's not adventuring you can find her in store to answer all your stove related questions (or any other adventure questions!)

If you enjoyed this blog, here's another one you may find useful: How to choose the best hiking boots. 

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