What Camping Stove Should I buy?

When we talk about camping stoves, we are most likely to think about something that is portable. It is designed to be lightweight and ideal for backpackers or people traveling by car, canoe, boat or horseback.  It is in almost always used for traveling or picnicking in remote locations where a portable way of cooking or heating is needed.

Also, when we think about camping stoves, we instantly think about how it is powered by propane, butane or white gas since it is naturally more convenient to use such to fuel your camping stove.  However, there is another option, and that is to use a wood camping stove.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of using a wood camping stove is that it eliminates the need to carry fuel canisters.  If you use fuel for your camping stove, you need to have a container to store this as well, and this would take up space in your already heavy pack.  A wood camping stove naturally uses wood instead of fuel so you won’t have to bring along those fuel canisters anymore. You also eliminate the risk of your canister leaking and causing a fire.

The features of a wood camping stove include a tube or cone-shaped metal bottom that has an opening around the bottom or near the top.  There is a matching pot on top of the base used to melt snow to use as drinking water and also used for heating food.  There is also a low risk for the fire to spread as it is contained, although keep watch to make sure that the stove doesn’t tip over.

The disadvantage of using a wood camping stove is that it takes a longer time to work unlike when you use gas.  You need to find fuel and a kindling, arrange them at the base and wait for the fire to heat up.  You also need to wait for the base to cool down before you can start.

If you are the kind of camper who wants to travel lighter, then a wood camping stove may be best for you and may be worth the effort of gathering wood.

What is a Wood Camping Stove?

The use of wood for heating can be traced back to the beginning of civilization.  Our ancient forefathers discovered the use of firewood to produce heat and later to cook their food.  This practice is still being used, especially by rustic campers, who make use of the things available in their surroundings.  It cannot be denied that wood is abundantly available in the forest.

However, problems arise when using wood for heating and cooking.  The fire produced is difficult to control, making camp food unpalatable to campers.  These fires may also proliferate causing forest fires.

The wood camping stove was then introduced to campers.  Camping stoves enclose burning wood and consequently, the fire.  They are designed to be portable and lightweight for easy transport to remote locations where heating and cooking are needed.  They are usually small in size for convenient carry and storage.

While there are gas and alcohol portable stoves available, a wood stove is more advisable to use.  The forest is often covered with branches, twigs, and dried leaves that easily burn.  When using gas, these might catch fire and cause widespread forest fires.  Gas is likewise unsafe to transport, while wood is readily available in the forest.  Campers can effortlessly find wood to fuel up their stove.  The wood has to be free from moist as they don’t light up when wet.  This is a downside when using wood stoves, but when convenience and safety are considered, a wood camping stove is a better alternative. Check out this portable camp oven and range combo where you can bring it to parks, lakes or on anywhere else you set up your camp.

What types of stoves can you use when camping?

Nobody wants to stand over a hot, smoky campfire for hours and eat smoky-tasting food that isn’t even done. Gathering around the campfire sounds impressive, but you don’t want to eat burnt food. Luckily for campers, many camp stoves will save time and energy to enjoy a nice hot meal when camping. Moreover, these camp stoves won’t make your clothes smelly nor cook your food only in some parts.

If you describe yourself as a dedicated camper, you will want to enjoy your camping to the fullest without burning your food. Details about the options you have for your camping stove come next.

What types of stoves can you use when camping

Standard Propane Campground Stoves

Campers widely use the standard propane stove because it’s durable, dependable, and excellent for campground use. If you camp with several friends and family, the traditional propane campground stove is one of the best options to consider.

Here are the benefits that this type of camping stove brings to campers:

  • All models use a standard 1Lb cartridge
  • The propane cartridges are widely available
  • You don’t need to worry about open campfires
  • You can use attachment hoses to attach large propane tanks
  • It typically has two burners and can include a grill
  • You can use it to boil and simmer water, and basic cooking

You cannot use the standard campground stove for backpacking because it’s rather cumbersome. Don’t consider packing the classic propane stove for float trips; take it only if the boat is large.

Some models are semi-portable as the stove is lighter, skinnier, and flatter than the regular propane campground stove. They also take a 1lb canister of propane fuel. They’re rather basic stoves, especially when compared to other types of camping stoves. Semi-portable propane stoves don’t make for a good choice for backpacking as they are big and bulky. However, you can use them for canoe camping, or group floats in large inflatable rafts.

Canister Backpacking Stove

Many campers prefer using canister backpacking stoves as they’re lightweight and easy to carry. Additionally, these stoves are easy to use if you want a stove to boil water when kayak camping and backpacking; the canister backpacking stove is a fantastic choice.

The best part about the canister backpacking stove is that you don’t have to worry about the liquid fuel leaking all over the place. The canisters are readily available and affordable. The fuel inside is pressurized to last until the end of time. The fuel will not go bad and you don’t have to worry about how to store it properly.

Many canister backpacking stoves have a compact shape and various attachments for cooking.

Liquid Fuel Backpacking Stove

The liquid fuel backpacking stove is the genuine backpacking stove that many still use. Backpackers prefer other types of stoves over the liquid fuel model because liquid fuel stoves are bulky and heavy. If you plan a camping trip in cold weather, the liquid fuel stove remains the most dependable option.

The fuel problems remain the main downside with the liquid fuel backpacking stove. The fuel will dribble out or leak if the seal isn’t tight. Also, you cannot leave liquid fuel in the canisters for several months or years. You will have to remove any leftover fuel when you come back from your camping. The white gas that fuel stoves typically use doesn’t last forever because the oxygen in the fuel container will eventually break down the gas. It will become less efficient to burn and you could discover it doesn’t burn at all.

Biolite Camp Stoves

Don’t mind the technical name that these stoves have; they are, in fact, excellent for camping. They run off wood, leaves, and twigs. You only need to pack the stove with some leaves and twigs, hold a match to the bottom and get a cooking stove (almost smoke-free). You can use these stoves to produce electricity, which is impressive when camping.

The BioLite stoves look rather too elegant to take out camping. You will find them bulkier and heavier than the regular canister stoves. You can use them for camping, but not necessarily for backpacking.

Wood/Charcoal Ovens and Pizza Stones

We’ve already talked about the woodstove. It’s the best option when you cook large amounts of food.

The stoves run off wood or charcoal and you cannot place them on top of a fire. They work just as grills and you can have your pizza in the woods with such stoves. It’s more than evident that you cannot take these stoves backpacking as they’re way too cumbersome and hefty. Additionally, they get very dirty after use. If you go camping with your RV, you will be able to carry one and everything else you need to have a lovely fire at the end of the day.

Solar Stoves

Solar stoves, also known as solar ovens, cook food with the sun’s power. They’re a reliable option for simmering and slow baking. They don’t have an open flame nor get too hot (not above 300F degrees).

As you suspect, you can only use a solar stove on hot sunny days. Even if you’ve camped in a bright spot, don’t forget that the tall trees will impede the sun’s warmth and rays from reaching your solar stove. The blocking, even though partial, will significantly reduce the efficiency of the stove.

Alcohol stoves

Using an alcohol stove is straightforward and you only need to pour denatured alcohol into the burner cup, light it, and do your cooking. The stove is also simple as it only includes a burner cup and several ventilation holes. The alcohol stove is an excellent stove to pack if you go backpacking and thru-hiking.

This type of stove is compact, lightweight, and affordable. It burns silently and it’s easy to procure denatured alcohol. On the other side, the boil time is long and the stove doesn’t perform well in windy and cold conditions. You will also have difficulty seeing the flames, which makes the risk of self-burning high. Additionally, you can’t literarily turn off the stove nor adjust the flame level. You simply have to wait until all the alcohol in the stove has burned off.

White gas and multi-fuel stoves

White gas and multi-fuel stoves have an external fuel bottle attached to a folding stove. Some models allow you to simmer because they have an adjustable flame. You will have to pump up the fuel bottle to obtain some pressure. You also have to ignite a trickle of fuel in the burner to prime the stove before you start cooking.

This type of stove uses white gas, a refined fuel that burns clean and hot. You may know it under the name of camp fuel, Coleman fuel, or naptha. Some models will use other fuels, such as diesel and kerosene, jet fuel, or unleaded automobile gas. They are excellent when you travel abroad and cannot find white gas at your destination.

White gas/multi-fuel stoves are best for backcountry adventures in the winter and trip at high elevations. Thanks to the broad base sitting low to the ground, the stoves are stable. You get fast boil time and the stoves have reliable performance in cold weather, windy days (if you use a windscreen), and at high elevations. Fuel bottles are easy to refill and use several times, whereas white gas and alternate fuels are easy to find.

The multi-fuel stoves sit on the heavyweight side and are less compact. They’re pricier than canister stoves, and you might need to practice using such stoves. Regular maintenance is necessary and some models run loud. Also, you won’t rely on the fuel for a very long time since it has just a 1-year shelf-life.

What type of stove to get for your activity?

Various stoves will be better choices for some activities so keep reading about our suggestions:

Canister stove

You can rely on the canister stove for activities like:

  • Solo backpacking
  • Float camping
  • Kayak camping
  • Canoe camping when you want to go ultra-light.

The canister stove is an excellent choice for three-season use and doesn’t perform excellently in temperatures below freezing. It won’t do well in the winter.

Liquid Fuel Stove

Here’s when you should pack a liquid fuel stove:

  • Mountain climbing
  • Cold weather backpacking
  • Winter camping

Since this type of stove allows you to refuel the canister, you can rely on it when traveling abroad. If you plan a camping trip outside the country, we recommend not to take a liquid fuel stove that uses a fuel challenging to find, like white gas.

Campground Stove / Coleman Stove

The name sums it all up, and you should use the campground stove when you have enough space in your car/RV. You can always use a semi-portable model if your area is somewhat limited.

Solar Stoves

As long as you’re 100% sure that you will have a sunny camping spot, you can rely on the solar stove for your camping trip. You can also use the solar stove as a backup stove for emergencies at home. Do it only if you have enough sun in your area.

Biolite Stoves

These stoves also work fine as secondary stoves when camping. You won’t need synthetic fuel and you will not run out of fuel either because you only need some twigs and leaves. It won’t be the best choice if you travel lightly for regular use.

Charcoal and Wood Ovens

These are specialty campground stoves that you can also use at home.

How should you choose your camping stove?

Many factors come into play when selecting your camping stove. How big is your party when camping? Will you cook complex meals? How far will you need to carry the stove from the car to the campground? Since there are many aspects to consider, we recommend you go over our recommendations.

How should you choose your camping stove

Select the stove style

The first thing to decide when shopping for a camping stove is the style you think works for your trip: is it a freestanding model with legs or a portable tabletop model?

Freestanding stoves

Most freestanding stoves are rather cumbersome and hefty. They typically have two or three burners and have more BTUs than the tabletop models. If you go camping in a large group or need a lot of power and space when cooking, the freestanding stove is the proper model to buy. Additionally, you can set up such stoves almost everywhere. You won’t have to look for a flat surface at camp nor take up important food prep space with the stove.

Tabletop stoves

As the name suggests, you should place the tabletop stove on a picnic table/bench before you begin your cooking. Because they don’t have legs, tabletop stoves are more compact, portable, and smaller than the freestanding alternatives. With a tabletop stove, you only need a sturdy surface to cook. If you want to be sure that you can use your stove, you should also pack a camping table.

High-end tabletop stoves perform just as well as the freestanding stoves, even though the tabletop stoves typically have fewer burners. Their output is also inferior to the freestanding stoves and they offer less cooking space than the freestanding models.

How many burners do you need?

You also have to think about your cooking needs and the number of burners to meet those needs. Most freestanding and tabletop camping stoves come with two burners and it’s for an excellent reason. If you cook on a regular basis, you know that most of the time, you will only use two burners? Nine times out of ten, you will only need a two-burner stove for your camping trips.

Having said that, we need to highlight that a one-burner stove can be the best option at times. A single-burner stove is a dependable choice for one-pot or dehydrated meals on short trips of one to three people. Additionally, these stoves are lightweight and don’t take much space. Sure, the cooking space is somewhat limited and you cannot cook complex meals. Portability is also excellent and some models work when backpacking as well.

If cooking is an essential part of your camping trip and you expect to cook for large parties (seven people or more), you should invest in a reliable three-burner stove. Expect a large footprint and powerful burners—they are worth the extra buck! If you are interested in expanding the cooking space, you can opt for a stove system that allows linking. Some models can be daisy-chained to other stoves and connected to one propane bottle.

When you appreciate the packed size and portability more than anything else—and you’re willing to pay the extra buck—you should go with the add-on set-ups. All in all, the number of burners really depends on your preferences, needs, and the meals you plan to cook when camping. Needless to say, the number of people you need to cook for is also essential.

Cooking Space

People often skip thinking about the cooking space when choosing the camping stove. If your cooking footprint is generous, you will be able to set up two large-diameter items side-by-side—let’s say a cookpot for pasta and a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Compact models will allow you to use two 10-inch pans. We encourage you to examine in detail the stove’s specifications to make sure you have enough space for your cookware.

Fuel Type and Capacity

Most camping stoves run on propane because it ensures reliable performance in a wide range of temperatures. It lights instantly and you can find the green bottles at any outdoor/big-box retail store and gas stations near the campgrounds. If you plan a weekend camping trip, you will only need a 16-ounce bottle. Pack one or two bottles just to stay on the safe side.

Save yourself the trouble of buying propane every week and buy a classic 5-gallon tank (it’s also known as the 20-pound tank); you will no longer have to restock as often. You can secure the tank in the back of a pickup bed. Such tanks are more cost-effective than small bottles and you can refill them in every town. On top of everything else, you will be able to cook many meals with just one tank. You need to get an adapter and hose to connect to the stove to accommodate such a tank. They won’t cost you an arm and a leg and they’re a wise investment to make if you go camping regularly.

All things considered, we care to remind you that propane doesn’t perform excellently in temperatures below freezing. If you intend to camp at high elevation or winter, you should skip propane and opt for a liquid-fuel stove instead. You can find liquid fuel as unleaded gasoline at any gas station and clean white gas from kerosene, camping stores, jet fuel, and diesel.

When you camp in extreme conditions, white gas is one of the best options. Liquid-fuel stoves are more expensive than propane systems and don’t excel in mild conditions. However, if you only camp in the winter, you should buy a liquid-fuel stove and not one on propane.

Wood is the fuel you can find at any camping site. Wood-burning stoves have become popular amongst hikers because they’re efficient. Anyone can gather twigs and sticks at the camp and make a fire to cook. The drawback with wood is that the flame is limited and cannot control the heat. Plus, you won’t be able to use wood during fire bans, and you might not be able to find wood at all camping sites; the weather conditions impact the ability to use wood.

In the end, propane stands out as the go-to fuel for most camping experiences simply because it’s foolproof and dependable for most camping trips. Liquid-fuel and wood models are excellent choices when the temperatures and conditions restrict you from using propane.

How Many BTUs Will You Need?

BTUs (British Thermal Unit) measures the energy necessary to heat one pound of water by 1 F. The number is essential to understand how much power a stove can give. As long as all the other specifications are similar, a burner with more BTUs will produce more heat than one with only a few. We want to highlight that other factors will affect the stove’s performance, such as the burner size, overall design, wind resistance, etc. We can consider BTUs as a precise indicator of power and an excellent aspect to consider when differentiating various models.

But just how many BTUs will you need when camping? It all depends on what you plan to cook and the number of people you will be cooking for. Briefly put, a great power will help you cook a good amount of food pretty fast—it’s an important aspect when you camp with a large group or cook meals with several courses and parts. If this describes your type of camping, get a camping stove with a BTU output of more than 20,000 per burner. Groups of four people and less and groups who don’t need much power can have a lovely camping experience with stoves with 10,000 BTUs per burner and even less. Be aware that you will have to wait longer to cook and even boil water. On the other hand, the more BTUs you have, the faster the fuel will burn. As a result, you will have to pack an extra canister or even two—you don’t want to end up with no hot coffee in the middle of your camping trip!

Examine the main features

Whether you plan to camp, wind can completely ruin your cooking when camping. If you don’t protect your stove against the wind, even on a mildly windy day, it will be tricky to have consistent power to cook your food efficiently and evenly. Let’s not forget that strong gusts can turn off the flame completely. Therefore, you should look for a stove with a windshield along three sides to protect the burners.

If you already have or plan to buy a stove without built-in wind protection, you should build a makeshift barrier. Even so, windscreens might not be enough as strong gusts can whip from all directions. However, if you have a nice camp set-up in a well-protected area, you will be able to have a stable flame even on a windy day.

The simmering ability is another essential aspect to examine when selecting your camping stove. When camping, it’s vital to boil water quickly and high heat. However, we all know that you cannot cook like this all the time. If you plan to cook a fine meal (soup or sauce), you need a stove with efficient simmer control. If it doesn’t have such ability, it should at least produce even heat and accurate flame control at a low setting. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to learn about a stove’s simmering performance from the spec sheet. Most of the time, high-end models will simply have a better performance than most stoves. You will pay over $100 for a stove with efficient simmer control and less than $50 for a stove struggling to give a similar performance.

We want to point you that having an effective windscreen will help the flame stay lit when you run the heat on low. At the end of the day, if you’re willing to pay the extra buck for your camping stove, you can expect it to perform as well as your stove in the kitchen.

Do weight and size matter?

If you plan a car camping /base camping trip, you shouldn’t care a lot if the camping stove is cumbersome and heavyweight. Even so, you should look for an easy-to-carry stove that meets your cooking needs and preferences. A 12-pounds stove that folds down quickly and performs just as well as large and heavy freestanding models is an excellent option for many campers. However, if you need more power for your cooking, you should opt for a freestanding stove with three burners of 30,000 BTUs. It’s a fantastic model for large groups. The performance and power come with a significant drawback: the stove will weigh over 40 pounds and will be challenging to carry from one place to another—consider a truck for transportation.

A 9pound stove that packs down to 1.4 inches will be a wise buy if your cooking needs are simple. Where you will camp, cooking space, and your cooking preferences are the main aspects to consider when selecting the size and weight of your camping stove.

The push-button ignition

The more factors you examine when selecting your camping stove, the more elements you discover to matter for performance. A push-button ignition (also known as piezo igniters) is a nitty-gritty feature that many campers skip buying.

Most entry-level stoves come with manual ignition, which means you have to turn on the gas and come close to the burner with a lighter/match to light the flame. Piezo igniters use pressure-based ignition so that you can light the stove with just one push of a button; some models have a knob to twist to light the stove. Even if such models seem ideal, piezo igniters will add around $20 to the price tag of the stove. Also, the risk for them to fail in time is significant. We advise you always to pack some matches and a lighter, just to be sure. At the end of the day, you know what budget you have for your camping stove. If you want to spend the extra buck for an easy-to-light stove, you should get one with push-button ignition, but the pack matches just in case.

Hybrids and Accessory Tops

Most campers will buy and use a traditional camping stove with two burners and a grate overtop. But if you plan to cook pizza, eggs, bacon, or barbecued meat, you should check the specialty cooktops available out there. You can find hybrid stoves with two burners, an aluminum grill, and a griddle all in one. Be aware that the grill will take around two-thirds of your cooking space. Some stoves will let you swap or add accessories like grills, pizza oven, or barbecue boxes. Cooking when camping will be similar to at home and most campers go with burners to cook their meals. You can always use a separate griddle plate to have access to two burners when you need them without sacrificing the ability to switch cooking surfaces.

Should you get camping or a backpacking stove?

If you already have a backpacking stove and think about switching to a stove for both camping and backpacking, you will need to examine many aspects. Unlike the camping stoves, the backpacking stoves are smaller, less stable, and come with just one burner. They also don’t simmer and are made for boiling water (often in a small pan or pot). On the other hand, Camping stoves are more stable and more reliable to cook meals; many allow you to simmer your food. Such performance comes with a price as these stoves are heavier, larger, and tricky to carry. You won’t find any significant differences when cooking between your stove at home and the camping stove. A backpacking stove will be enough for you and your partner for quick car camping trips. However, if you camp with your entire family, you will want something that doesn’t limit the cooking meals with the stove.


Robert Dwayne

Robert Dwayne

To say that I am an outdoors enthusiast is probably an understatement. I am hyper passionate about everything outdoors: hiking, survival, hunting. On this website I am sharing my stories and experiences, and I hope you'll find inspiration to take up your own adventures!