A nice warm mug of coffee or a steamy hot cup of tea paired with the quiet serenity of the wilderness may be the perfect start to anyone’s day, while a hot and substantial meal after a long trek gives the experience a whole new meaning. In this way, a backpacking stove is essential in improving the camping or hiking experience for those with a penchant for adventure, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything else that can rival it. Hence, the dilemma on how to choose a backpacking stove.
As the popularity of backpackers continues to rise, so too does the need for lighter and more portable stoves. To this end, manufacturers relentless try to come up with better products to not just supply the ever-growing demand, but also make the backpacking stoves even more efficient. The bad news, in this case, is the multitude of options to choose from. There isn’t a stove that has it all. You can be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed when trying to find the right stove to acquire, as it is certainly not an easy task to do.
How to Choose a Backpacking Stove
Despite how difficult or tedious it may be, there are ways to narrow down your options to a select few. Choosing the right stove can make the trip easier and more enjoyable.
Here are some critical elements to consider when choosing the ideal backpacking stove for a trip planned ahead.
Types of Backpacking Stoves
This is where the confusion usually starts. Not only are there a multitude of models and variations, but there are also certain types of common backpacking stoves that you’ll need to be aware of. Below are the aforementioned types as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each.
- Canister Stoves. Lightweight and compact, it comes as no surprise as to why they’ve become the front-runners for the 3-season kind of backpacking. Not only are they very compact, but they’re pretty easy to use as well. They are ready to use, and no priming is necessary. Just turn the valve and light with a lighter or a match. There’s little to no maintenance needed to keep them functioning the way that they were intended. There is also no need to worry about leaks or spills because a canister stove self-seals when it is unscrewed. This is great for boiling water and excellent in simmering soups.
The most significant downside of this kind of stoves is that they require the right isobutene fuel compatible canisters. While they may certainly be easy to find online, it can be difficult to procure them if the backpacking trip is international or takes place in very remote and isolated locations. Using a windscreen is also not recommended for this type of stove for it can explode due to the excessive heat trapped. The empty canisters should also be disposed of properly. This is also not the right type for those who are trekking in cold locations.
- Liquid Fuel Stoves. While essentially heavier when compared to the canister type, liquid fuel stoves are easily the best option for those who may be planning a lot of cooking to be done. They work well even under cold temperature and the fuel that they require, which is white gas, is inexpensive as well. They are the most versatile when it comes to cooking. This is the choice for backpackers who like their food cooked fast and hot.
Unfortunately, due to their weight as well as the difficulty and complexity of their use, and the maintenance they typically require, they aren’t as popular with backpackers. They can also be quite dangerous to use due to fuel spillage that may occur during its priming stages resulting to a smell of fuel on hands which can make one nauseous. They also tend to be on the heavier side and are not recommended for backpackers who like to travel light.
- Alcohol Stoves. A common go-to stove for many backpackers. Alcohol stoves are extremely light and simple to use. They’re inexpensive when compared to others in their class, and with the high availability of fuel it requires, it’s not difficult to see why they’re so popular.
But for all the advantages alcohol stoves have, they come with their fair share of flaws. For starters, the cook times can be slow. They don’t perform as well as liquid fuel and canister stoves in the wind, and they can be incredibly inefficient with the way they burn fuel. However, a windscreen can be helpful to keep the air from killing the fire.
It’s not hard to see why weather plays a crucial role in choosing the right backpacking stove. More often than not, camping and hiking trips usually entail outdoor activities. Before deciding on which kind of stove to purchase, make sure that you consider the time when the trip will take place as well as the location. Some areas may be just a little colder and windier than others, and having a backpacking stove that can perform in spite of the elements can go a long way.
It goes without saying that weight is another element that requires careful thought and consideration when choosing a backpacking stove. Lugging around something heavy isn’t exactly ideal for long treks while it may not be efficient to travel with a lighter but ineffective stove when a vehicle is available for the camping trip.
Efficiency does not really go with weight. The lightweight stoves are usually the less efficient ones. A longer trip requires a more efficient stove. One can save weight by bringing less fuel which means using smaller canisters or bottles.
Like any other tool, having the ideal backpacking stove depends on the conditions of the planned trip. Doing a little research on how to choose a backpacking stove can be a great help when looking for the right one. Each variant works well in certain situations and can be disadvantageous in others. In this manner, it’s good common practice to base your acquisition on when and where the outdoor trip will take place.