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Matt Johnson

What Camping Stove Should I Buy?

MattGlamperGear
Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: Dec 23, 2020Updated: Jan 3, 2024

Everyone needs to eat, and if you enjoy cooked meals then deciding what camping stove to buy probably falls onto your to-do list at some point.

Since how and where we camp varies from glamper to glamper, we won’t tell you which camping stove to buy, but instead provide you some things to consider.

There are hundreds (possibly thousands?) of different camping stoves on the market and they’re all designed with different purposes in mind.

From liquid fuel stoves to wood burning stoves, there’s something for every situation you can imagine.

They serve different types of campers. These campers range from the backpacking tourist to the more established glamper with an RV. Whether you want a small backpacking stove or a robust car camping stove, there’s something for you.

What you’ll notice is that the camping stoves come in a wide variety just as glampers do.

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Not all camp stoves are created equally.

There are several different types of camp stoves that have their own sets of pros and cons. After we discuss the different types, we’ll dive into the various considerations to help you make a decision.

Canister stoves for on-the-go campers and backpackers.

ProsCons
Portability: Canister stoves are lightweight and compact, making them ideal for backpacking and on-the-go camping.Fuel Availability: Spent fuel canisters can be difficult to recycle, and in some markets, they are harder to find.
Convenience: Easy to pack with a few canisters of fuel for the entire trip, suitable for both propane and isobutane canisters.Environmental Impact: Disposal of spent canisters can be an environmental concern.
Precise Flame Control: Offers increased control over the flame, allowing for more precise cooking.Weather Sensitivity: Performance can decrease in cold weather.
Quick Ignition: Canister stoves ignite quickly and reach cooking temperatures fast.Stability: Can be less stable than liquid fuel stoves, especially with larger pots.
Low Maintenance: Generally require less maintenance than liquid fuel stoves.Cost of Canisters: Ongoing cost of fuel canisters, which may be more expensive over time.
Pros and cons of canister camping stoves.

One of the most popular types of camping stoves, rightfully so, is the canister-fueled camp stove. These canister stoves typically provide an hour or two of cooking time and are extremely portable.

This makes them a great backpacking stove since they’re lightweight and compact.

These are extremely convenient as you can pack in a few canisters of fuel to keep you going for your entire trip. Whether your packing propane canisters or isobutane canisters, both are portable and great for ultralight backpackers.

Camper Igniting a Canister Stove

The downside is that the spent fuel canisters are more difficult to recycle and in some markets they’re more difficult to come by.

When we looked at reviews for several of the most popular brands of canister stoves, we find that most campers and backpackers are fairly happy with their canister stove purchase.

The increased precise flame control and the portability seem to be the standout features of these compact stoves.

Liquid fuel stoves to cook meals for the whole family.

ProsCons
Versatile Fuel Options: Can use various types of fuel like gasoline, propane, butane, etc.Bulkier Design: Tends to be larger due to the stove, fuel container, and fuel storage.
Relatively Compact: Good option for heating meals, with some portability.Additional Weight: Not ideal for backpackers due to extra weight and space requirements.
Range of Sizes and Functions: Available from two-burner stoves for complete meals to freestanding stoves for assembly/disassembly as needed.Fuel Management: Requires handling and storing liquid fuel, which can be messy and inconvenient.
Suitable for Various Cooking Needs: Can accommodate different cooking styles and requirements.
Pros and cons of liquid fuel camping stoves.

Another popular option is the liquid-fueled camping stoves which are relatively compact and serve as an excellent option for heating your meals.

The key benefit is that you can choose which type of fuel you want to use (i.e. gasoline, propane, butane, etc) which makes finding fuel very easy.

The downside is they tend to be a bit bulkier because you have the stove itself, the fuel container for the stove, and the container you keep your fuel in.

Propane Tabletop Camping Stove

The additional weight and space is not much and would only be a consideration for backpackers.

Liquid fiel stoves can range greatly in size and functionality. You can find a two burner stove for quick but complete meals, or you can use a freestanding stove that is easily assembled and disassembled as needed. There are many options.

This video from REI has an awesome breakdown and comparison of canister and liquid fueled camping stoves.

Unfortunately, REI didn’t include a comparison of the last type of camping stove and that is the alternative-fueled stove.

Solid fuel stoves for the camp chef.

ProsCons
Compact and Portable: Solid fuel stoves are generally more compact, making them ideal for backpacking and hiking.Limited Fuel Source: Requires carrying solid fuel tablets or finding wood, which can be inconvenient or unreliable.
Simple Design: These stoves have fewer parts and are typically easier to set up and use.Limited Temperature Control: Offers less control over the flame and temperature compared to liquid or gas stoves.
Eco-Friendly: Using wood or biomass can be more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels.Slow Cooking Time: Tend to take longer to boil water or cook food compared to other types of stoves.
No Need to Carry Fuel Canisters: Can use natural materials like wood, reducing the need to carry extra fuel.Can Be Messy: Burning wood or solid fuel can create soot and ash, requiring more cleanup.
Authentic Outdoor Experience: Cooking over wood can add a natural flavor to food and enhance the camping experience.Weather Dependent: Efficiency can be affected by wet conditions or lack of available dry wood.
Pros and cons of solid fuel camping stoves.

Lastly, and honestly one of the ones I see the least, alternatively-fueled camping stoves, which includes wood-burning and pellet-burning stoves. These solid fuel stoves tend to be more compact as the fuel source can be anything from pellets to wood you find on your hike.

While there’s no propane tanks to lug around, you will have to bring a bag of charcoal or find some wood. This is where you can develop some real authentic tastes if that’s what you’re after.

Typical Charcoal Grill is a Solid Fuel Stove
Alternative fueled camping stoves use fuel such as charcoal, pellets, or wood.

They’re naturally compact, but they do have some main downsides: the fuel itself can be difficult to work with and they lack simmer control and temperature control.

Whereas a canister or liquid fuel stove ignites quickly and gets up to cooking temperatures quickly, you need to find your fuel then go through the process of igniting it with a wood-burning stove. Once you get the fire going, managing the flame and thus the temperature and BTU output is a bit more challenging than most liquid fuel stoves.

How do I choose a camping stove?

When you’re looking for the perfect camp stove there are several things you should consider before pulling the trigger.

  • Portability. Decide between compact or larger stoves, considering size, weight, and fuel needs.
  • Convenience. Assess fuel availability and ease of use, from canister stoves to wood-burning options.
  • Budget. Consider your price range, with options from budget-friendly to higher-end stoves.
  • Features. Think about specific features like simmer control, burner count, fuel efficiency, and built-in wind protection.

Portability.

If you’re a glamper on the go then you may consider portability being one of the primary purchasing factors. Maybe you’re looking for a car camping stove or perhaps a backpacking stove.

Does the stove fold up nicely or have a case designed for it? Is it lightweight? What about fuel? Do you need to carry a bag of charcoal or wood with you?

Ultra Portable Wood Burning Camping Stove
Wood burning camping stoves are well known for their portability.

These are all questions you need to ask yourself and they’re all based on how you define portability. The AOTU portable camping stove can fit in your hand, which is about as portable as you can get; however, the Coleman gas stove is somewhat portable but also provides 2 burners.

Typically campers can trade off portability for functionality and vice versa.

Exactly how portable are you trying to get? That’s up to you to decide, but keep in mind that there are challenges with these tiny burners. The best camping stove for you is the one that meets the most of your needs.

Convenience.

Slightly different – but also slightly related to portability – is the convenience of the stove. In addition to being able to pack it up, you might want to consider the fuel source and how much you have on hand. Better yet, how difficult is it to get fuel when you’re already somewhat isolated?

With a canister stove you can pack in a few of the 16oz canisters and you’re good to go for your trip. However, a 20lb tank might last you longer, but you may run into issues finding places to refill them. Lastly, while the fuel is always available but typically takes longer to get going is a wood-burning camping stove.

Most camping stoves, regardless of size, can achieve similar results. Whether you just want to cook food or even boiling water. They all offer a variance of convenience as well, other wise they wouldn’t be camp stoves.

Budget.

Unless money is completely immaterial to you, most of us campers need to consider our budget when making this decision. There is a wide range when it comes to price of camping stoves from as little as $20 to as much as $500, or sometimes even more.

If have a more permanent glampspot then you might consider a higher-end, less portable, but high quality camping stove such as the Camp Chef Tahoe Camping Stove which is gas, has 3 burners, and tons of accessories you can get for it. If you’re more on the go, a backpacker perhaps, then a portable budget stove might be for you.

Features.

Of course, what features do you need to consider in a camping stove.

While there are plenty of features to choose from, here are a few to consider when making a purchase.

  • Simmer control
  • One burner, two burners
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Built in windscreen or wind block
  • Ignition switch type

What is the most reliable brand of stoves?

There are so many different brands of camp stoves on the market, it can be difficult to determine which is the most reliable.

BrandReputation for QualityProduct Range DiversityTypical Use CasesPrice Range
ColemanHighWideGeneral camping, family$ – $$
MSRVery HighModerateBackpacking, mountaineering$$ – $$$
JetboilHighFocusedFast boiling, backpacking$$ – $$$
PrimusHighWideVaried, from backpacking to group camping$$ – $$$
Camp ChefHighModerateFamily camping, large groups$$ – $$$

For a compact stove, we’ve seen great reliability from Coleman. Specifically, we’ve used the Coleman Fold N Go 2 Burner Stove for dozens of camping and backpacking trips and it has performed flawlessly. Being one of the premier camping gear companies in the world, it’s not a surprise. This also tops our list of reliability for backpacking stoves as well.

If you’re looking for a reliable lightweight stove, we recommend the Camp Chef Everest 2X. It’s a two burner stove that’s small and portable, but not small enough for lugging around when you’re backpacking. Camp chef is know for their quality and reliability.


Are you ready to cook meals on your outdoor stove?

You now have an understanding of what to consider when deciding what camping stove to buy.

From backpacking stoves to car camping stoves and everything in between, there are literally thousands of options.

Whether you’re cooking large meals, gourmet meals, one pot meals, or simply boiling water, there is a stove that is perfect for the task.

What is the best camping stove?

There are various factors such as portability, convenience, features, and even budget. All have their advantages and disadvantages, but the real determination is how do you camp? The best camping stoves for one type of camper won’t be the best for another type.

So how do you camp? What are you looking for when determining which camping stove is best for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts on what stove you use.

MattGlamperGear

Matt Johnson


Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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