The Ultimate Guide to Stoves

Portable stove

Our mission is to get people outdoors, not sell gear. That's why our guide starts with the core function that needs to be addressed, then helps you evaluate your options holistically, since sometimes you may not need any gear & can use what you have at home. We want you to think critically about what you need, which is personal to you with no right answer (some people go venture outside naked without any gear, survive & have a great time).

Core function: It's the end of a long day hiking in the sun. Sometimes hot food or even a hot chocolate can be super comforting. Will you cook right on the campfire? Does the campsite have a grill? Will you bring a stove? You may want to read our companion guide on cookware.

Is either the core function or the outdoor-specific gear made for it an essential?

Food is essential, but there are many ways to plan food that don't require this (e.g., energy bars or non-perishable foods) .

For rationale, read our 'what you really need' protip

What to use & how to choose

Key factors

Cool zippers, new waterproofing, etc... sometimes it's easy to get lost in all the hype (over-spending happens on features). Our guide focuses on the fundamental factors you should always keep in mind (thus, this short list is similar across all items). Then only at the end do we have some questions to get you thinking about other minor features.

We highly recommend reviewing Type or Style first, where we review what you can use to address the Core function--a regular item you have at home may work! The other factors are secondary & depend strongly on the Type or Style you've picked.

While we encourage you to use regular items wherever possible, as an outdoor gear shop, we only carry outdoor-specific products

Type or Style

We've organized the most commonly used items people use to address the Core function below, with example images, characteristics, features, etc.

Cooking technique Using hot coals or a campfire Using a grill (standalone only)* Using a portable stove
Regular stove (like a portable kitchen stove) Wood burning stove Solar stove Liquid fuel stove Canister stove Alcohol stove Tablet stove
Example images Campfire Portable grill Portable stove Wood burning stove Solar stove Liquid fuel stove Canister stove Alcohol stove Tablet stove

Can you use multiple pieces of cookware at once?

How many burners do you get?

N/A

Maybe

Could have a layout that allows multiple cookware to be used (e.g., double burner)

Do you have to bring it yourself? Some campsites have a grill

General fuel sources

Check manufacturer's instructions for your model, important consideration that affects total price, weight & size, and availability

Wood or coals Coals or gas (propane) Gas** Wood Sunlight (may work when overcast) White gas (actually a liquid), kerosene Gas** Alcohol Solid fuel tablets (hexamine)
Will this need specific cookware? And why?

Ideal cookware has to tolerate directly sitting on hot coals or in a flame

N/A

Cookware is integrated with the stove

Cookware needs to be smaller since the stove top surface is smaller (a heavy, hot pot can tip over!). Some models may have integrated cookware

Is this primarily used for individuals or small parties?

Cookware is available at standard kitchen capacities. Have a cookout!

Depends

Depends on integrated cookware capacity

Is there a steep learning curve to use?

Somewhat

Need to light & maintain fire

Somewhat

Need to light & maintain coals

Somewhat

Some fire starting & maintenance still needed

Somewhat

May require you to follow the sun's angles

Stove needs 'priming'

Can you control the temperature?

With wood or coal, you could just let the fire die down, but here we're referring to an actual knob

If gas-powered

Is this best used to boil water?

With the right cookware, you can do a lot!

The flame can go out quite readily in wind & isn't very powerful

Once lit, does it heat quickly?

Including average time to boil water

10+ min

1-2 min

5 min

20-30 min

1-2 min

6-8 min, in good conditions, see above

Any other considerations? May not be permissible; check fire regulations N/A Butane (if that's what the model requires) doesn't work in cold temperatures May not be permissible; check fire regulations Cooks more like an oven (put it in & leave it) Best performer at high altitudes*** N/A N/A Leaves residue on cookware & creates noxious fumes so you should cook with a lid

Effect on secondary factors

Excludes fuel

Price N/A $50-200 $80-200 $10-50

Weight & Size

Large variation; data from models without integrated cookware & also excluded fuel weight

10-40lbs

(5-18kg)

5-12lbs

(2.3-5.4kg)

~2lbs

(~0.9kg)

2-7lbs

(0.9-3.2kg)

10-12oz

(283-340g)

0.9-3.2oz

(26-91g)

0.7-3.5oz

(20-99g)

3.3oz

(92g)

Portable one likely won't fit in a backpack, but may have carry handle Depending on number of burners, could fit in a regular or hiking backpack Could fit in a regular backpack Could fit in backpack side pockets Could literally fit in pants pocket
Rationale More material Less material

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent

= we sell

N/A Not as versatile for multiple use cases

Standard for most outdoor uses for car camping

On our Catalog, this is indicated with "Portable stove"

Not as versatile for multiple use cases

For sale because some consider it a "classic". Not for rent because it requires more set-up & is heavier compared to the stoves at right

Versatile for most outdoor uses, therefore more worth the money

On our Catalog, this is indicated with "Pocket stove"

Not as versatile for multiple use cases

*We're not referring to grill attachments, which may be available for the other stove options (e.g., kitchen stove, wood burning stove, or solar stove)

**Gas varies depending on stove. For example, Regular stoves usually take propane or butane, while Canister stoves usually take an isobutane-propane mix

***Since cooking at altitude isn't a concern for many, we have only highlighted the best performer, rather than going into detail about all the stoves (i.e., it doesn't mean that only liquid fuel stoves work at altitude)


Price

One of life's certainties is the trade-off between price & quality. This creates an inherently unfair situation. If you save money today by buying something lower end, you'll end up replacing it more frequently, spending money & time each instance so that at the end, you probably haven't actually saved anything. On the other hand, if you decide to invest in something higher end, you'll need a lot more upfront money, and you need to be able to use the item frequently enough to make it worthwhile.

We developed our rental program to address this unfairness. We don't sell lower end items. But for our higher end items, we offer them for rent at up to 90% off retail price, generally well below the cost of buying even the cheaper option. That's a win-win!

It may seem like the price & quality trade-off is disappearing, because you can find a cheap version of almost anything for tens of dollars that still has good reviews (assuming the reviews are real). Remember 2 things:

  • Many reviews are written after only a trial use, first use, or infrequent use: We've seen entire review videos of gear done at home, which is very different than actually being outdoors!
  • The point of gear is to give you a good experience because you've already spent money to be on vacation from work! Don't let quality issues affect your relaxation

For gear specifically, the quality issues center around performance & durability.

Performance

  • The stove wasn't very powerful: we don't discuss it here as a major choice factor, but the amount of heat (measured by BTUs) may matter to some cooks, and lower priced stoves may not output a lot of heat
  • The stove wasn't very durable: Stoves have lots of mechanical parts that may break

Durability

Maybe you are the average person that goes 1-2 times per year, you don't mind the hassle of replacing gear that doesn't last, and you also don't care about the performance differences. Then use our borrow program & get free gear where available! Or for a little more, use our rental program.

Methodology notes on prices shown on this page

Capacity (size)

The quantity of food you're able to cook at any one time is a function of form factor (see Type or Style section) or the stove that you choose, since that impacts the size of cookware you're able to use. We recommend careful planning, especially if you have a large number of people. For example, if you can only cook for 2 at once, everyone's eating time will be staggered.

Weight & Size (Compactness) for Backpacking

If you're thru-hiking 20+ miles (32+km) per day, every advantage counts! In this case, size refers to compactness. You can carry more gear in the same size backpack if all of it is very compact, or for more weight savings, you can get a smaller size pack.

There isn't a separate comparison table, because weight & size are functions of form factor (see Type or Style section) & within each form factor, the industry doesn't then offer 'Superlight' or 'Ultralight' models. Generally the rightmost 4 stoves in the table above are best suited for backpacking in terms of being lightweight & small.


Minor features that may be important

Here, we give you a list of questions to start thinking about minor features. We hope our approach of savings these features for last gets you to more critically think about what you need & not get caught up in the hype of what's cool and over-spend your budget.

  • How does it turn on? (Do you need a match or does it include a spark?)
  • Does it have a wind shield?
  • How easy is it to clean?

What we carry

General Notes

  • We choose what we carry based on extensive research on what's the best value to our customers (e.g., price given performance & durability features) across all the top brands. We specifically do not carry every brand & model; for details on why we do/don't carry certain items in the How To Choose section
  • Buy prices are MSRP with tax, i.e., what you see is what you pay. Prices may differ in-store due to change in models or discounts, but this is rare. If we don't sell what we rent, we list MSRP value with tax
  • Rent prices are the starting pricess; enter trip dates on our Catalog to get exact prices (based on total trip length, not per day!). We also don't charge sales tax, an automatic savings of almost 10%!

Stoves

Type or Style Regular, kitchen-like stove Canister stove Liquid fuel stove

S

T

O

V

E

S

Model CampChef Summit portable stove MSR Pocket Rocket canister stove Liquid fuel stove
CampChef Summit MSR Pocket Rocket MSR WhisperLite Universal

Buy

MSRP with tax

$174 $50 $110
Rent $10+ $6+
Online rental Catalog name

Portable stove

Portable stove propane

Pocket stove

Pocket stove propane

Weight

12lbs

5.4kg

2.6oz

70g

14.9oz

420g

Carry size & notes Hiking backpacks at least 50L (also has built-in handle) Fits in a pocket Fits in a fanny pack or purse

F

U

E

L

Model Propane Isobutane-propane Liquid fuel can
Little Kampers brand propane MSR brand isobutane-propane mix

MSR brand bottle

Fuel bottle only, we don't sell fuel

Pricing & weight

$4* + $10 deposit for 16oz/ 473mL

Return to get your deposit back

$5 for 4oz/ 118mL*

$6 for 8oz/ 237mL*

You can keep or return

$22 for 20oz/ 591mL

Fuel bottle only, we don't sell fuel

How it attaches Via a regulator arm or hose into the stove Stove screws directly on top Via a hose into the stove
Portable stove set-up Pocket stove set-up Portable stove set-up Portable stove set-up
How long does 1 fuel last It depends on elevation, how high the flame is turned up, and whether or not you're using both burners (for regular stoves). Below are guidelines only!

1lb size = ~1 hour

For 2-3 day camping trip making 1 easy breakfast (boil water for oatmeal or coffee) & 1 dinner per day

8oz size ~40-60min

Mostly used to boil water for drinks or backpacking meals. Roughly good for 2 people for 4 days (20-25 boils of water)

8oz size = ~60-75min

20oz size = ~100-150min

Depends on fuel type: white gas on lower end, kerosene on higher end

*We also offer a 50% discount or refund if you decide to take partially used cans (when available). You can write-in this request on the Options page when you order, or contact us afterwards or during pick-up. For example:

  • For Portable stove propane, you can rent a regular 1lb canister for the $4+$10 price above, OR you can take 2-3 bottles that are each partially filled but have at least 1lb gas in total (usually we give you a little more) for only $2+$10.
  • For Pocket stove propane, you can buy a regular 8oz canister for $6, OR you can take 2 bottles that are each partially filled but have at least 8oz gas in total (usually we give a little bit more), for only $3

When you rent online, we will pick a model for you. You can change the model if you pick-up in-store, subject to availability. On the Options page of our online order process, you can also select options or write-in any preferences. This section describes the majority of our models & options, but sometimes we carry others. We will only pick something else if it doesn't conflict with your choices indicated on the Options page; moreover, if there's a major functional difference (e.g., capacity), we will attempt to contact you first

Usage tips

Stoves

  • Bring a firestarter. Even if your stove has a sparker included, as a back-up
  • Ensure gas control is turned off before you connect the gas. For safety reasons & to not waste gas
  • Ensure all connections are tight before turning on the gas. For safety reasons
  • Never use if you hear or smell a gas leak. Disconnect immediately
  • Always use in a ventilated area. For example, never inside a tent

Fires

Always check fire regulations for where you are going. Sometimes campfires or stoves that use organic biofuel (e.g., wood), alcohol, or tablets may be restricted. As well there may be restrictions on gathering wood. If you are able to make wood-based fires, be sure to brush up on your firestarting skills!

Maintenance tips

Repairing

This is wholly dependent on what kind of stove you are using. Of course, generally anything that feels loose should probably be tightened (e.g., the arm of a stove that supports the pot!). Some parts may be sold separately by the manufacturer (e.g., knobs).

Storing

Wait for the stove to cool, and always ensure any control knobs are completely turned off before putting away.

We have a general protip on how to store & maintain gear that we highly recommend reviewing as well. If you send us video or a good photo series, we may be able to help you evaluate your repair needs.

The exact numbers (e.g., weights, dimensions, prices, etc.) used were updated as of September 2019 . That said, there usually isn't dramatic change; we update & review the market roughly biennially.


Thoughts, ideas, questions? Let us know in the comments below! We're Last Minute Gear, the only outdoor gear shop where you can buy, rent, or borrow gear!