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Camping Stove Buyers Guide 2016


Get the most out of your portable stove: Wild camp site in an alpine meadow

Wild-camping site in an Alpine meadow: perfect!

If you’re going out wild camping for a few days away from the creature comforts of home, then there are some things you’ll probably want to have nailed before you leave. Amongst these, few can be more important than a good portable stove so you can wake up to a nice hot beverage, and go to sleep with a satisfying meal in your belly.

Of course, “wild” means different things to different folk and outdoor camping stoves have been designed according to most of these interpretations. So here’s the distilled wisdom of Outside’s 30 years of wilderness know-how to help you find the right stove for your needs.

We won’t be discussing anything with more than one burner, though, or anything that requires more than one person to carry it. For the purposes of this article the twin burner camp stove or large solid fuel stoves that replicate your wood-burning stove at home are just too difficult to get anywhere sufficiently wild to be considered.

Here, we’ll be looking at 4 categories of portable stove and their respective strengths and weaknesses:

Gas Cartridge StovesCooking SystemsMulti-Fuel StovesSolid Fuel Stoves

A screw-in stove head attaches to a gas canister, either directly or via hose, with a separate cook set

An all-in-one gas cartridge stove with integrated burner and cook set

Stoves that use liquid fuels such as paraffin, alcohol or petrol with a separate cook set. Some stoves also run on canister gas

Stoves that burn wood or chemical agents

MSR PocketRocket

Optimus Crux

Primus Express

Jetboil MiniMo

MSR Windburner

Primus Lite+

Primus Omnifuel

MSR Whisperlite International

Solo Stoves

What’s the Right Stove for Me?

The key to finding the right stove for your outdoor adventures is having a good idea of how and where it’s going to be used, bringing in your personal food preferences, what fuel will be available, environmental factors such as temperature and altitude and the workload you’ll be placing on your stove – how often and how much you’ll be using it.

It might sound daft, but “will I be cooking on this stove?” is probably the most important question. “What else would I be using it for?” you might ask, but for many applications what you really need is a stove that will boil water quickly and efficiently in almost any conditions. The boiled water is used to rehydrate freeze-dried food or for hot drinks, and the stove will almost never be used to cook a meal in the traditional sense.

If, on the other hand, you’ll be taking “real food”, frying bacon and eggs for breakfast and making meals from scratch then the stove will need to have a little more control and finesse to simmer or boil.

To help you make your decision easier, we’ve scored the four main types of stove against some common factors, with the highest score (out of five) being the most desirable:

  • Fuel Efficiency: How much fuel will you need?
  • Boil time: How fast will the stove boil water?
  • Versatility: How easy it is to cook a range of dishes?
  • Fuel Availability: How easy is it to source fuel?
  • Environmental factors: How much is stove performance affected by temperature and altitude?
  • Durability and Maintenance: How long will a stove last, and can it be maintained and mended?
  • Weight & Pack Size: Is it easy to carry?
  • Cost: How big a hole will it make in your savings?

Summary

Scores are given out of five, with five being the best.

"Hmmm... is this the right stove for me?"

Factors/Stove Type

Gas Cartridge

Cooking System

Multi-Fuel

Solid Fuel

Fuel Efficiency

3

5

4

1

Boil Time

3

5

4

1

Versatility

4

2

5

1

Fuel Availability

3

2

5

2

Environment

3

3

5

1

Durability

4

3

5

5

Weight & Size

5

4

3

4

Cost

5

3

2

5

As you can see, no one type of stove excels across the board and within these product categories different stoves will have different strengths and weaknesses. Your choice of stove is really down to how you're going to be using it, making compromises between the features you really need and those which would be nice to have.

Gas Cartridge Stoves:

  • Perfect for – Lightweight backpackers and occasional stove users without specialist requirements
  • Pros - Cheap, simple and very light (although you’ll need a separate cook set). You will be able to adjust the flame to cook a range of dishes, but check the head size and how focused the flame is.
  • Cons – Lack of protection for the flame impacts on fuel efficiency and boil times in windy conditions, and accessing replacement fuel can be difficult as you need a source of new canisters. They are also more affected by pressure variation caused by high altitude and low temperatures.
MSR PocketRocketOptimus CruxPrimus Spider Stove SetPrimus Gravity III

Cooking Systems:

  • Perfect for - Backpackers and adventurers who want hot water fast, but no/little actual cooking, alpinists and big-wall climbers.
  • Pros – Excellent fuel efficiency and great boil times are the main strengths of these stoves. They are also lightweight and packable with a high degree of integration and easy to hang up if you can’t cook on the ground.
  • Cons – Not very versatile when it comes to cooking, and you may need very specific replacement fuel cartridges. They are not easy to maintain, and the integrated nature of the stove means that if one thing breaks performance will be hugely affected. Also affected by environmental factors.
MSR ReactorJetboil MinimoPrimus Lite+MSR Windburner

Multi-Fuel Stoves:

  • Perfect for - Long-term users who value durability and often get well off the beaten path, high-altitude mountaineers and polar explorers.
  • Pros - Durable and easily maintained, with good versatility and pretty much universal fuel availability. The high calorific value of the fuel means good boil times, and they are efficient when used with a wind-shield.
  • Cons – Generally the most expensive class of stove, they can be heavy and difficult to pack because of the range of parts and accessories. They are also the least intuitive to use because of the need to prime the stove before use, and tweak the set-up depending on what fuel you use.
Primus OmniLite Ti MSR Whisperlite InternationalPrimus OmniFuelMSR DragonFly

Solid Fuel Stoves:

  • Perfect for – Romantics and campfire enthusiasts in sylvan locations.
  • Pros – Durable, and great if you’re in a dry woodland environment, there’s no moving parts to go wrong and pack size can be good, but…
  • Cons – Useless in anything but dry woodland environments, slow boil times, inefficient fuel consumption and difficult to control the heat output. Expensive for what you get.

‚Äč

Solo Stove LiteEsbit Solid Fuel StoveSolo Stove TitanSolo Stove Alcohol Burner

 

We hope this article gives you a flavour of the stoves available on the market, and their main strengths and weaknesses. If you need to know more we have a whole team of knowledgeable outdoor enthusiasts who will be happy to help with your questions. You can contact us by phone or email by using the details here or use the Zendesk Chat on this page.

Thanks, and happy camping.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2016

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