Yes, it’s more convenient to subsist on a diet of power bars and beef jerky when you’re slumming it with your backpack in the outdoors. After a couple days of the same packaged food, though, it’s hard not to hanker for some warm and freshly-cooked grub. To do that, you need to bring a proper stove along. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of small stoves that you can use to turn the outdoors into your own open-air kitchen.
In compiling this list, we considered two categories: backpacking stoves and survival stoves. Much as we appreciate the latter, however, we decided to leave them off, as they’re simply no match to the convenience of their gas-powered brethren. We’re not dismissing them, far from it. Instead, we think it will be best if they’re covered in their own category later on.
Here are six of our favorite gas-powered backpacking stoves.
MSR PocketRocket Deluxe
Arguably one of the most popular backpacking stove lines out there, MSR’s PocketRocket has built itself a solid reputation among many outdoor enthusiasts. For good reason, too, as it has always performed reliably through its various iterations over the years.
The new PocketRocket Deluxe is, quite possibly, the best version we’ve seen, with its 3oz-weight, fast boiling times, and ability to keep its fire burning in the face of strong winds. It has push-start ignition, making initial startup completely hassle-free most of the time (it occasionally glitches), as well as a wide burner head that’s able to distribute the heat evenly across most pots and pans. Granted, it doesn’t accommodate larger cookware very well, which, we guess, isn’t going to be an issue for anyone who’s traveling on foot and likely cooking for three people at most.
Arguably the most convenient option on the list, the MiniMo comes with an integrated cooking cup that you can use as both cookware and dishware. That means, you can cook and eat food from the same one-liter cup that you use to brew and sip your coffee, eliminating the need to bring additional accessories. Granted, this means you’ll have to be diligent in cleaning, since you probably don’t want to drink coffee from the same greasy cup you just finished scrambling some eggs on.
It performs very reliably on almost everything it sets out to do, whether it’s getting the igniter to light up every single time, boiling water fast (half a liter in way less than three minutes), and controlling temperature using the adjustable gauge, so you can simmer without burning the food. We particularly love the wide and short form factor of the cooking cup, which makes cooking easy, while the integrated cap allows you to drink your hot beverages while keeping it covered the whole time, so you can lock the heat in and sip at your pace.
With the JetBoil brand’s popularity and name recognition among outdoor enthusiasts, this is admittedly priced a bit too high. If you like the convenience of an integrated cooking cup that happens to be one of the best designs out there, however, it may very well be worth the high asking price.
Camp Chef Stryker
Another stove with an integrated cooking cup, the Stryker doesn’t have the excellent reputation that Jetboil brings, but it performs admirably all the same. It lights up reliably, uses fuel very efficiently (the outfit claims they’ve increased efficiency by 30 percent compared to previous iterations), and boils a half liter of water in just two minutes (give or take a few seconds, realistically). Wind will increase that boil time, too, although not as badly as some stoves we’ve seen (better than the MiniMo, for instance).
You know how we swooned over the MiniMo’s cooking cup? This one’s not as good, as it takes a more conventional design that’s taller and narrower, inheriting all the cooking challenges that the form factor brings along. It’s also much bigger at 1.3-liters, which is nice if you want to cook for a bigger group, although it’s likely too much size for the kind of backpackers interested in it, who will want the most size- and weight-efficient option. This is available in propane and isobutane versions, as well one that supports both fuel types.
As you can tell from the name, there’s one big selling point here: its ability to function at a high level even on windy days. It’s the first in the class to actually boast that capability, with the PocketRocket Deluxe coming later with a burner head design that’s, suspiciously, very similar to the Windmaster’s. With that said, don’t be surprised to see other brands copying the burner head design here, as it’s actually very effective for minimizing the effect of wind.
It’s neither as fuel-efficient nor as fast-boiling as many of the top backpacking stoves, but its lightweight build (2.9oz), reliable push-start ignition, and wind performance makes it an excellent product all the same. If you’re planning to cook big meals, by the way, you may want to choose this, as it’s got one of the better pot supports we’ve seen in the category, giving it the ability to accommodate even larger cookware.
Snow Peak LiteMax
No, the LiteMax isn’t the most feature-packed backpacking stove in the market. In fact, it’s very sparse. That, however, is the point, as it’s also the lightest we’ve seen in the category at just 1.9oz. It doesn’t have push-start ignition, no windproofing, and pot supports that are on the smaller side of the scale. Basically, they stripped it down to the basics, giving you a backpacking stove that’s ideal for solo adventurers, with its compact packing size (courtesy of a folding arm design), light weight, and generally functional design, but might be too sparse for those looking for a bit more.
We wanted to highlight this particular stove for one thing: its price. The darn thing is literally the cheapest we’ve seen in the category. Apart from that, it’s also very durable, collapsible, and even comes with push-start ignition. In terms of performance, it’s very middle of the road for this product category, so it can cook relatively well using smaller cookware, although you’ll have to make special arrangements during windy days, since it’s going to be hard to get a consistent enough flame to boil water. If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, though, and don’t foresee any camping in windy conditions, this may very well be all you need.