Maria Savenko / Shutterstock
Maria Savenko / Shutterstock
Maria Savenko / Shutterstock
By Lisa Tanner, OnRamp
On a cold morning, a hot breakfast can help make your camping experience more enjoyable. And while you might be able to pull out the firewood and start a fire in a fire pit to cook on, it's much easier to open your camping stove and start cooking. What's more, camping stoves are often approved for use in campgrounds with burn bans in effect. To help make hot food a consistent part of your camping fun, here are a few of our favorite camping stoves in terms of reliability, safety, and price.
Best Overall: You'll hardly notice that you're carrying this lightweight camping stove, but when you're ready to use it, you'll be impressed by how well it works.
You’ll find this camping stove very durable, so it’ll be reliable even if you don’t always handle it with the utmost care. The base is made from a strong aluminum alloy, and the body is made from a rust-resistant refined aluminum alloy so you don’t have to worry about it rusting out on you.
But durability isn’t the only reason this camping stove is our favorite. It’s also extremely efficient. You can easily adjust the flame to give you control over the heat output. With a mixed fuel canister attached, it’ll heat quickly to help fill your belly in no time. And when you’re done, you can pack it back into its plastic box and put it back into your bag until your next meal.
Heats quickly to get you back to fun in no time
Lightweight and portable so it can go anywhere
Budget-friendly addition to your camping gear
Durable enough to get plenty of use out of it
It can be hard to balance pots on top, so make sure you take the time to set up the extender arms and make sure it’s level before use so your food doesn’t tip over.
Best for Backpacking: This camping stove only weighs 2.6 ounces, so it's perfect for backpackers, thru-hikers, and survivalists alike.
When you’re backpacking, every ounce matters. You need a camping stove that you can add to your bag without weighing you down. The ultralight (and ultra-popular) MSR PocketRocket is a great solution. It’s very compact, taking up only 2″ x 2″ x 3″ in your bag when it’s folded up. You’ll hardly notice it’s there, but when you’re ready to eat, you’ll sure be glad it is.
For a little stove, this one truly is powerful. It can boil a liter of water in under four minutes, and since you can adjust the flame, you can decide if you want your food to simmer slowly or roll to a boil. It’s super simple to set up, so you’ll be eating and back to trail before you know it.
No preheating or priming necessary, making it simple to use
Comes with a protective case to make sure it stays safe among your other gear
Ultralight (only 2.6 ounces) and easy to carry
It can be a little tricky to fold the arms perfectly to get this back into the box after use. You’ll need to practice a bit until you can do it quickly.
Best Foldable: Since you can burn twigs or leaves in this camping stove, you'll never have to worry about running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere.
Most camping stoves require you to use a specific type of fuel. That means in addition to the stove, you’ve also got to bring along fuel canisters. But, much to your benefit, dear reader, this one is different. You can burn solid alcohol fuel if you’d like, or you can flip around the base plate and use twigs, leaves, and other organic material. With this flexibility, you never have to worry about running out of fuel in the middle of an adventure.
Its sturdy design makes it simple to use this camping stove. The cross stand is serrated, to help make pots and small cups balance more easily on top. After you’re done cooking, you can collapse it down and put it back in its mesh storage bag. Easy peasy.
Wide opening to insert twigs and small chunks of wood for fuel
Anti-slip cross stands to keep your food upright even if it’s windy
Folds down for storage and transport
Comes with a grill you can attach for more cooking versatility
The fuel holder is small, so you’ll have to feed it a lot of twigs and sticks to keep it burning hot. It’s best to gather a pile of fuel before you start cooking.
Weighs 1 pound, so if you’re counting ounces, you’ll feel this one more than an ultralight model.
Best Two Burner: The two burners on this camping stove can help you cook up a lot of food quickly.
Small camping stoves are perfect for bringing along on backpacking adventures, but they have a limited cooking capacity. If you’re the designated camp chef for your family or friends at your next car-camping excursion, you’ll appreciate the two burners that this Outbound camping stove provides. Each burner is large enough for a 10-inch pot or pan and has its own control valve. You’ll be able to cook just about anything on this.
Even though it’s larger, you won’t have a problem bringing this camping stove to your campsite. It folds compactly into an easy-to-carry case complete with a handle. With that said, it does weigh over ten pounds, so this isn’t a lightweight model. Once you get it situated, the sides act as windbreakers to keep your food cooking well even on windy days.
Dual burners allow you to cook more food
Includes propane attachment for easy fuel connection
Sets up in minutes so that you can get started cooking right away
Can control the temperature of each burner individually
The wind guards aren’t removable, so you can’t fit larger pots and pans on top.
Higher price point compared to tiny, ultralight models
Best Freestanding: The easy-to-adjust legs make it possible to keep the cooking surface level, even if the ground isn't.
You won’t always have a picnic table or other smooth surface to set your camping stove on, but with this one, uneven terrain isn’t a problem. It sits on four legs, each of which you can adjust individually to achieve a perfectly even cooking surface. If you prefer, you can even take the legs off completely, making this a versatile camping stove for any campsite.
Once you purchase the stove, you can pick up some add-ons that really make this stove a winner. You can get a bag to keep it in for easy storage, or a cover to go on top if you want to leave it set up for longer periods of time. There’s also a griddle that slides perfectly over one of the burners and gives you a great place for cooking pancakes or frying eggs. But even without the accessories, you’ll get plenty of use out of this large camping stove.
Adjustable and removable legs for use just about anywhere
Freestanding option so you don’t have to take up your table space for cooking
Three-sided wind protection to keep your flame going strong
Large cooking surface
You might want all of the accessories, and those can add up quickly in cost.
Weighs 36 pounds, so this isn’t exactly a portable camping stove.
What kind of fuel do I need for my camping stove?
Before using your camping stove, you’ll need to supply a fuel source. To see what kind of fuel yours takes, make sure you read the owner’s manual. Many camping stoves take small bottles of a propane/butane mix, but there are others that run on alcohol, straight propane, or straight butane. If you use the wrong type of fuel, you risk damaging your unit or even injuring yourself, so always buy the right type.
What containers do I need to cook on my camping stove?
You can’t stick just any container on top of a camping stove and start cooking. You need one that can withstand the higher heat of cooking over an open flame. If you’re backpacking, you also want to make sure your pot doesn’t weigh a ton. Titanium pots are a good option for many. You can find them in a variety of sizes. For larger camping stoves, cast iron and stainless steel are good options. When purchasing a pot, make sure it’s the right size for your stove.
Lisa is a freelance writer covering the latest in parenting and business.
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