When you come to choose your next backpacking stove, be it your first one or an upgrade, you will quickly realize that it can be quite difficult to tell which is the best. This is because different types of stoves have different good things and bad things about them, and no one single model has no ‘bad things.’ In order to choose one, you have to be able to compare them all and work out which one suits you.
Today, we are going to be comparing the different fuel sources that certain stoves use, rather than focusing on really specific models. This should give you a broad enough overview so that you can make your final decision.
Different backpacking stoves are known to run off of different types of fuel, depending on what they have been designed to do. That certain types of fuel are better than others is a statement that you hear a lot in the backpacking world. But, the reality of that statement is that just because one type of fuel is the best thing for one backpacker does not mean that it will also be the best for another backpacker in the same area.
Some of the different fuel sources that you will see include:
A built-in canister will generally contain a mixture of both isobutene and propane. This is the most popular type of fuel that we see because it is built-in to a backpacking stove that is lightweight, compact and perfect for beginners. Fuel like this is really useful because it is known to burn clear, rather than producing a lot of smoke like a wood-burning stove would.
This type of fuel is also really good at performing in mild weather conditions and at lower elevations, but it can struggle at higher elevations and when the weather starts to turn cold. One of the few things that you do need to be aware of is the fact that while these do have a universal screw, the fuel itself is not always available in some countries. This can become a real problem if you are backpacking abroad.
A liquid fuel source will generally be found in a separate re-fillable bottle that is not attached to the actual backpacking stove. Most of the stoves that operate this way are run off of white gas, but some can run on multiple fuel sources. These are much better than a built-in canister would be when it comes to performing at high altitudes and when the weather decides to take a turn for the worse.
Unfortunately, these types of backpacking stoves also take a lot longer to set up. Liquid fuel is quite heavy and you will need to make sure that you are taking enough to last for your entire trip. You will not be able to find a compact stove that can be run in this way because the nature of having to carry extra fuel would just ridicule that. But, these stoves are great for trips to other countries because of their multi-fuel capability.
Backpacking stoves that run off of natural fuel sources like wood are wonderful because of how inexpensive wood is. When you purchase any other type of stove you also have to take into consideration the amount of money that fuel will cost you, whereas with this type of stove you just have to decide which twigs you want to snap off of a tree or pick up off of the ground.
The reality is that, while natural fuel sources are amazing, they still come with a few problems. For example, burning wood is something that creates a lot of smoke. That can be problematic if you are in a ‘no fire zone.’ You also have to consider the fact that wood burns quickly so you will have to be constantly feeding the fire to keep it alight.
No one can really tell you which fuel source is the right one for you because it is a decision that you have to make. Take a close look at the pros and cons that come with each and then decide which one would be best for you. For example, if you are an avid mountaineer, then you would benefit from a backpacking stove comparison that runs off of a liquid fuel source because they are known to handle altitudes better.