Packing a camp stove on your next backpacking adventure can make cooking a wholesome, simple meal at the end of the day much quicker and easier than a traditional campfire.
We've collated a list of the 9 best camp stoves for backpacking to help you choose the one that's right for you. We've included a mix of portable gas, wood and alcohol stoves with our criteria focused on portability, lightweight, heat output and affordability. Ready? Let’s dig into our recommendations.
The MSR PocketRocket 2 picks up where the original PocketRocket left off. It’s super light, compact and comes with improved flame control. MSR has used the 10 years of learning from the success of the original PocketRocket to design what is perhaps the most popular of all backpacking stoves.
Simmering control was one of the key areas the PocketRocket 2 improved over its predecessor. You no longer need to watch your food like a hawk when it’s simmering as the flame control is now more consistent and precise.
They’ve also managed to get the weight down to a measly 2.6 oz. This is so light the biggest risk is you’ll forget that you’re carrying it.
It compacts to an incredibly small 2 x 2 x 3 inches. You either pop it into the supplied carrying case for a total weight of 4.2 oz, or you can chuck it into an insulated mug to save some weight.
However, you will need to ensure you’ve got some matches or another lighter with you as the standard model does not come with a Piezo ignition. You can opt for the deluxe version which does include a Piezo ignition, but this costs another $20 or so.
Setup and use are nice n breezy. Simply screw the gas canister (not supplied) into the stove and you’re basically ready. No preheating, priming or pressurizing required here.
As the PocketRocket canister is attached to the burner, you’ll find the best stability if you can slightly screw the gas canister into the ground to find the level. Using it on flat surfaces like a table or even rocks is possible, but it won’t be as stable.
Overall this is our choice if you need to pack light, but need the reliability and durability that comes from a proven crowd-pleaser like the PocketRocket 2. Just don’t forget to pack your lighter as there is no Piezo ignition.
Fancy yourself as more of a Gordon Ramsey type? The Jetboil MightyMo delivers an exceptional cooking experience packed into a tiny 3.3 oz.
If you’re just after a quick boil for your morning coffee, then the MightyMo can deliver 1 liter of boiled water in just 3 minutes. Which is great when you just. need. coffee.
But where this backpacking camp stove excels is cooking proper meals thanks to its 4-turn regulator. This takes all the guesswork out of temperature control and allows you to provide a steady simmer.
So now you can finally cook poached eggs like you’ve always wanted! Your camping buddies will love you.
If required, the MightyMo can deliver a very high output of 10,000 BTU. This is the same output as much bigger camping stoves, so you’re not missing out on any performance by going for this ultra-portable unit.
You can certainly pair the MightyMo with JetBoil’s range of FluxRing pots and pans (and they recommend you do), but it’s not needed as you can use any flat-based pots and pans. There might be some heating efficiency benefits by using their range, but we’d expect minimal impact on performance.
Overall we recommend this backpacking stove for budding camp chefs that want the option of cooking real meals thanks to the reliable simmer control functionality. You can still blast water at 10,000 BTUs to quickly heat up your dehydrated meals too.
The Terra Hiker camping stove features a gas hose that connects the gas canister to the burner. We love this design as it prevents food from cooking directly above the gas canister which can result in poor stability and our precious food spilling all over the place.
The intuitive design also performs very well in windy conditions because the lower height makes it much easier to shield the wind. Even without a windshield, the flame from the Terra Hiker is consistent and the heat can easily be controlled with the built-in flame adjusting knob.
With the strength of the stainless steel foldable supports, this stove is able to hold heavier objects than stackable burners. The serrated edges of the 3 stands increases the cohesion between the burner and the pot. The capacity to support pots and pans up to 10L opens up the opportunity to cook for small groups.
Another handy feature is the one-touch piezo ignition system so you aren’t floundering around looking for a match or lighter when you need it most.
The Terra Hiker has impressive heating efficiency with the ability to boil 1 liter of water within 3 minutes. It is compatible with most gas canisters, but you’ll need to purchase these separately as they aren’t included - which is not surprising given the low price of the stove.
The trade-off for having such a structurally sound camping stove is the weight. At 8.5 oz it’s not as light as some of the other portable backpacking stoves. But, we think the stability and enhanced wind protection more than makes up for the slightly heavier weight.
Overall, the Terra Hiker backpacking stove is ideal for campers that value one-touch ignition, a stable design that can support 10L pots and allows for great wind-resistance. Oh, and it’s super affordable with similar units going for 2-3 times the price of the Terra Hiker model.
On a super-tight budget, but still want the luxury and convenience of a gas cooker? The Reehut portable backpacking stove is about as cheap as you’re going to get. They even sell them in two-packs that are cheaper than most other stoves in this list.
I’m honestly surprised they can make these for so cheap. Now, you aren’t going to get a recognized brand like REI or JetBoil for this price. So, if you need the reliability generated from brand value alone, then this is not the right unit for you.
But, the reviews for this little camping stove are full of buyers that are happy they took a little chance on this unit.
Using the same portable design as the PocketRocket and MightyMo, the Reehut stove screws directly onto most gas canisters.
We also like that it offers a solid output over 10,000 BTUs, and comes with surprisingly good simmer control at lower temperatures. As simmer control is an area where cheaper stoves tend to really struggle, it was great to see that you can use this stove for cooking a meal, not just blasting a flame at the water.
Oh, and did we mention that this tiny, cheap stove also comes with a Piezo ignition for easy starting? This is such a time saver and a fantastic inclusion.
The Reehut stove folds down into a super small carrying case (supplied) around the size of a packet of cigarettes (2.17 x 1.57 x 3.15 inches) and weighs a measly 4 oz.
The very low price of the Reehut stove does mean there are a few tradeoffs that you’ll need to be prepared to make.
This first is that ignition can be a little tricky. If you open the gas all the way as it can be too forceful for the little flame from the Piezo igniter.
The other tradeoff is that the support lets are a little short. We’d love it if they were a bit longer as this would increase stability.
Finally, the unknown risk that you’ll be taking with this unit is long-term durability. There is a different feel to this stove than you’ll find with the more expensive brands. Normally when this happens it’s reasonable to question the durability long-term. I can’t promise you this stove will be as durable as a bigger brand. At around ⅙ of the price, I wouldn’t expect it to. But, I also wouldn’t expect a PocketRocket to be 6x more durable than this stove, so I consider it a value buy.
Need some serious heat and a larger pan capacity for cooking in groups? The Bulin ultralight backpacking stove with 3 burners and rated to almost 20,000 BTUs will have you cooking up a storm.
Similar to the Terra Hiker stove, this very affordable stove from Bulin uses a gas hose to connect the burner to the gas source. This design allows for better stability as you are not trying to balance everything on top of the gas canister. It’s also very lightweight at only 10.4 oz.
Where this stove deviates from the Terra Hiker model is the larger output of 5800W (or 19790 BTUs), 3 burners instead of one, and a larger capacity. The main detractor is it doesn’t have a Piezo ignition system, so don’t forget your matches!
We think this stove really shines for group cooking. The output of this 3 burner stove is a very fiery 19790 BTUs with a large flame. This allows 1L of water to be boiled in 2.5 minutes. The 3 burners provide a larger cooking area and the 3 flames help provide more consistent heat and avoid heat spots that can accumulate in cheaper cooking gear.
The stainless steel supports provide an overall diameter of 6.3” to rest your pots and pan on with an impressive capacity of 25kgs. This is significantly more than I’d be willing to risk with some of the other lightweight stoves in this list.
Overall, grab this affordable 3 burner stove if you crave a high heat output with a larger surface area and capacity that makes it ideal for group cooking.
The Coleman propane camping stove is for those that don’t need an ultra-light setup and appreciate lower operating costs over the life of the stove.
The Coleman camping stove is the only in our list that natively supports the larger propane gas cylinders that are popular amongst slightly larger stoves. You see, the larger propane tanks supplied by Coleman use a different size thread than the smaller isobutane canisters used by the majority of lightweight backpacking stoves.
Some get around this by using an adaptor like this one that allows the large Coleman propane tanks to screw into their lightweight camping stoves. This is especially useful around the house or where weight is not an issue.
But, if you know that going for an ultralight setup is not for you, then saving yourself the $10-$15 for the adapter, and going straight for the Coleman propane camping stove makes sense. And, you can start saving on fuel costs straight away.
How much can Coleman’s propane save you over the life of the product? Great question. Let’s see.
1 pound of JetBoil fuel costs around $40. 1 pound of Coleman propane costs approx $10. The Coleman propane is 4x cheaper! Wow. Now, we’re not saying that the gases are going to perform exactly the same and we’d expect the JetBoil to be more efficient. But, we certainly are not expecting a 4x increase in efficiency.
Assume you go through 4 gas canisters each year, that is a saving of $120. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.
Back to the Coleman heater itself. It delivers a solid 10,000 BTU output over a relatively large area. It’s quite large compared to the others in this list measuring 7.75 x 7.81 x 6.62 inches.
With the ability to boil 1L of water in 4 minutes and a whopping 2.5 hours burn time on the highest setting, you can whip up some dishes that you just wouldn’t be able to make on some of the more portable stoves.
The burner and the regulator separate from the gas canister, but they don’t compact down any further. This is not ideal if you’re looking for the most portable unit possible, but we’ve already established this stove is not designed for that purpose.
Overall we see this as a family-friendly option where you know you’re not going to win any awards for the lightest backpack and prefer to save money on gas over the lifetime of the stove.
Cooking with gas is certainly the most convenient, but it’s pretty annoying having to constantly buy gas canisters that are just going to end up as landfill.
If you feel the same, then adding a Canway wood-burning stove to your backpack might be a great idea.
The main difference is obviously this stove burns wood not gas. It relies on it’s simple design that allows for secondary combustion of wood gas through air entering from the bottom. This design not only keeps the fire raging, but also gets the most heat from the wood, so you end up using less wood.
The stainless steel Canway wood-burning stove breaks down into 3 separate parts for easy carrying and storing. The mesh bag is a great inclusion as it also stops any black ash from damaging anything else in your backpack.
Thanks to the efficient design, wood lasts for 20 minutes before it needs to be replaced. Clearly it’s a little harder to obtain perfect temperature and simmer control when you’re controlling the flame with the oldest of cooking methods. A wood fire. But, for us, part of the appeal of camping is getting back to simplicity without a lot of technology based aids.
A quick tip, if the fire is struggling to get going, use a metal straw to blow air directly into the wood. This will get it raging again, quickly.
Another tip is for those rainy days. You don’t want to be stuck foraging around for any dry twigs and other wood in the rain. There are occasions where it can be super difficult, to impossible, to find wood dry enough to burn properly.
For these occasions, we recommend buying some wood pellets and keeping a small bag with you. Heck, you can even go gourmet with something like these bourbon pellets to add to the flavor.
My mouth is now salivating at the thought of fresh fish, cooked over an open fire using bourbon pellets. Screw camping, I’m going to buy one for my backyard fire pit!
Overall, the Canway backpacking stove is ideal for those that want a break from constantly buying gas canisters and want to get back to basics. It would make a great second option if you’re camping in a group. One person could bring a canister-based cooker for when time and functionality is important, whilst the other can bring this wood-burning stove for when you want to take your time and really enjoy a basic cooking experience.
Our second wood burning stove, the kampMATE is our wood stove pick if you like to travel and cook in groups, or just enjoy sitting around a fire.
At 17.6 oz, it weighs the same as the Canway wood stove, but it’s a very different square-based design that packs flat and thin for easy transporting.
It also features a larger burning chamber than the Canway with a capacity of 7 x 6 x 4 inches. You can easily add more wood to the front of the stove. The sides have holes to allow for good airflow but are mostly closed to create solid wind protection.
We love how flat this stove becomes after disassembling. The 0.8mm thick 304 stainless steel panels break down into 5 smaller, flat components that fit neatly into a nylon carry pouch. The thin profile is an efficient use of space, allowing it to easily sneak into your backpack unnoticed.
The biggest drawback we see is also the most obvious. Wood fires get hot. The stainless steel stove is difficult to handle after use, so you’ll need to wait a little while for it to cool down before disassembling and moving on. Great for a slow brunch, not so great for those early morning dashes.
Tip: You can really load up the wood so it’s tempting to crank up the flame to 1 foot or more. Sure, this is fun, but you’ll be wasting a lot of fuel if you’re trying to cook food or boil water. For more efficient cooking, practice keeping your flames directed at the bottom half of your cookware.
With the proven ability to hold over 30 pounds and large wood chamber capacity, the kampMATE stove is ideal for small backpacking groups of 2-5 people. I can see this being used as the primary stove when time allows, with a small gas stove used as a backup (and carried by another person to share the load).
We’re also including a portable alcohol stove in this list because it’s lightweight, compact and affordable. Now, it’s an alcohol stove that naturally comes with some differences to gas or wood-based stoves.
The biggest differences are the lower BTU output and lack of temperature control in an alcohol-based stove. On the plus side, fuel is widely available as you can use different types in a pinch. That said, we recommend using denatured alcohol as this burns cleanly and won’t leave big soot marks everywhere.
The Redcamp mini alcohol backpacking stove is made from an aluminum alloy with a brass burner. The stove base measures 3.7” in diameter and 2.6" high. The burner sits inside the base, measuring 3.0” in diameter and 1.8" high. The combined weight is a tiny 5 oz, making it an incredibly compact and lightweight stove.
As there is only one temperature, we wouldn’t recommend this stove as your primary because you’ll find it difficult to cook anything other than simple meals. But, given how small, light, and cheap it is, we see this as a great backup option to either your wood or gas stove.
Your backpacking stove may feel a little naked without the following equipment:
You’re going to need something to cook your food and boil your water with. You’ll pay more depending on the material. We like this basic 10 piece cooking set if you’re after something affordable to go with your new stove.
Depending on your stove, you’re going to need either gas, wood or alcohol too. Gas and alcohol can be difficult to travel with, especially planes, so you may be better off checking out the local hardware or camping store upon arrival.
Not all tents were created equal. Depending on where and when you’re camping, you may need an extreme cold weather tent. Or if you need something more affordable, check out our favorite budget 4 season tents.
Gas canister based stoves have become the standard for backpackers because they are lightweight, portable, and efficient. We recommend the MightyMo if you’re after a reliable canister based stove that you’ll barely notice whilst on the trail.
For those that want something cheaper, our pick is the Terra Hiker because we really like the design of the gas hose being separated from the burner and think the additional weight is worth the extra stability.
The two options we’d recommend for group style camping are the 3 burner Bulin or the kampMATE stove if wood is more your style.
Do you own one of these stoves? We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.
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