The Best Backpacking Stoves of 2021

There’s nothing quite like the simple luxury of a hot meal after a grueling day on trail. It’s one of those things that make us fall in love with thru-hiking despite the aches and pains, relentless weather, and occasional soul-crushing loneliness. Carrying a backpacking stove also provides a measure of insurance against unexpected weather, as hot food and water can provide a much-needed dose of heat when the mercury drops. The best backpacking stoves weigh little, burn fuel efficiently, and boil water so quickly you’ll be sipping your morning brew before your campmates even roll out of bed. In this article, we share our top picks for thru-hiking stoves and tips on how to choose.

Best Backpacking Stoves: Quick Navigation

Jetboil Flash | Fastest Boil
MSR PocketRocket | AT Hikers’ Favorite
SnowPeak LiteMax | Best Ultralight
Soto Amicus | Most Stable
Jetboil Stash | Most Efficient
BRS 3000T | Most Affordable
Esbit Pocket Stove | Best Solid Fuel Stove
Solo Stove Lite | Best Woodburning Stove

How to choose the best backpacking stoves:
Types of Backpacking Stoves
How to Maximize Fuel Efficiency
How much backpacking fuel should I bring?
Features of the Best Backpacking Stoves

How to Choose the Best Backpacking Stoves: FAQs

Types of Backpacking Stoves

Canister

Most backpacking stoves burn pressurized gas—usually a blend of isobutane and propane—from a canister. Standard canister stoves, like the MSR PocketRocket, are incredibly compact and lightweight.

Three or four foldable metal arms sit atop a threaded mechanism that connects to the fuel canister. The stove screws directly onto the fuel canister with a valve to control the amount of fuel that flows through, and the metal arms unfold to create a platform to set a cooking pot.

Isobutane-propane fuel blends combine the superior cold-weather performance of propane with the higher energy density of isobutane, resulting in a reasonably lightweight fuel that performs well across a range of conditions.

Integrated Canister

Same fuel, different setup as a traditional canister stove. The integrated canister stove screws onto the fuel canister same as a conventional setup, but the cooking pot connects to the burner with a built-in windscreen.

These setups are more fuel-efficient and heat food and water more quickly than traditional canister stoves, but they’re also bulky and weigh more. They have a tall profile that can make them somewhat unstable, though most come with a platform to stabilize the fuel canister, and the integrated setup eliminates the risk of knocking the pot off the burner.

Remote Canister

In a traditional or integrated canister stove, the fuel canister forms the base of the stove setup, with the stove screwing in directly atop the canister and the pot resting above the burner. In a remote configuration, the burner sits on the ground and a flexible hose connects it to the fuel line. These stoves are much lower-profile than either of the alternatives and are the most stable setup.

Some remote setups also allow you to invert the canister, increasing fuel efficiency in cold conditions. Because of their stability, they’re ideal for large groups. You can set a large pot of food or water on a remote canister stove without it feeling like a precarious balancing act. They are heavier than traditional canister stoves.

Alternative Fuel

Although canister stoves are the most common, some stoves burn denatured alcohol, white gas, solid fuel Esbit tablets, or wood. These stoves are typically inexpensive and simple in design*. They bypass the need for heavy fuel canisters, which is why a slim minority of hikers choose them over more common propane/isobutane setups.

Alternative fuel stoves have significant limitations, such as a lack of readily available fuel in stores, restrictions on their use in fire-prone environments, and significantly lower efficiency and longer cook times than canister stoves.

*Alcohol stoves, for instance, are so simple that you can even make your own out of an old soda can.

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How much backpacking fuel should I carry?

In most situations, thru-hikers only need a small (4 oz/100g) canister to get from one resupply to the next (in our experience, a 4 oz canister lasts 10-14 days boiling water for one breakfast and one dinner per day, plus an occasional hot drink). However, it depends on how long you’ll be going between resupplies, how often you plan to cook, the efficiency of your stove, and environmental conditions such as temperature, altitude, and wind. If you’re unsure how much fuel to bring, start out carrying an extra canister. After a few weeks on trail, you’ll be able to gauge how much you need.

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Tips for Maximizing Fuel Efficiency of a Backpacking Stove

Running out of fuel halfway through dinner sucks. Maximizing your fuel efficiency will ensure that you have plenty of gas to last until your next resupply and will save you money and weight over time. Here are some tips:

  • Warm your canister fuel on cold days before using it. Tuck it into your sleeping bag on freezing nights or leave it in the sun while setting up camp.
  • Don’t run it on full blast. Running it on full blast will boil your water faster but also wastes a lot of fuel. A medium flame will do the trick with less waste heat.
  • Use a windscreen. Wind can kill a fuel canister faster than just about anything else. If your flame is flickering, you’re wasting energy. A windshield will protect the flame from wind and will also channel heat up into your pot rather than dissipating into the air around the stove.
  • Cook in a protected area. Enhance the effectiveness of your windscreen by adding a chocolate thing. There will never be a better opportunity.
  • Presoak your food. Even partially rehydrating your food before you fire up the stove will reduce cooking time.
  • Keep the lid on. Trap heat inside the pot while waiting for water to boil.
  • Don’t rely on boiling to purify your water. It’s practical, but it takes a long time and uses a tremendous amount of fuel. Use a water filter like the Sawyer Squeeze or purifying droplets like Aqua Mira.
  • Carry spare fuel. Particularly if you’re hiking in a remote area and/or in cold weather, a small can of backup gas can be a literal lifesaver.

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Features of the Best Backpacking Stoves

Weight: Between one and four ounces for a standard canister stove (stove only); between 7 and 14 for an integrated canister stove (includes built-in pot).

Number of boils: The more cooks you can get out of one fuel can, the better. Fuel is heavy, expensive, and sometimes a pain to source. Life is more manageable if you don’t have to re-up on cooking fuel too often.

Boil time:  Whether you’re trying to break camp efficiently in the morning or you’re ravenous for dinner after a long day of hiking, having a rapid-boil stove is a nice feature. The best rapid-boil backpacking stoves can boil a liter of water in under three minutes (in ideal conditions), but anything under five minutes is competitive.

Valve for fuel control: Canister stoves have valves to control the level of the flame or turn it off quickly. A well-made stove will have a sensitive valve that gives you excellent control over the flame size. Stoves that lack a quick shutoff valve may not be allowed in fire-prone areas.

Piezoelectric Igniter: A built-in igniter makes backcountry cooking very convenient, igniting the flame with just the push of a button—no fussing with matches or lighters required. Note that piezoelectric igniters are notoriously finicky, so even if you have one, you’ll want to carry a backup lighter or some matches in case it craps out.

Windscreen: Does the stove come with a windscreen, either as an add-on accessory or as a built-in feature? Windscreens dramatically improve fuel efficiency and boil time. It’s easy to make a DIY windscreen from aluminum foil, but note that there’s technically a chance that a simple wrap-around windscreen can cause pressurized fuel canisters to overheat and explode. Some manufacturers make special windscreens that are safe to use with canister stoves.

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Best Backpacking Stoves of 2021

Jetboil Flash | Fastest-Boiling Backpacking Stove
MSRP: $110
Weight: 13.1 oz

Best backpacking stoves

Best backpacking stoves: Jetboil Flash.

The Jetboil Flash is expensive. However, don’t forget that the price includes a 1L insulated cookpot and windscreen in addition to the burner. The Flash is an excellent choice if patience isn’t your strong suit since it can boil two cups of water in a blistering 100 seconds.

Details

  • Time to boil 1L: 3 min. 20 sec.
  • Liters boiled per oz fuel:  2.8
  • Built-in igniter? Yes

The Flash is a fully integrated, all-in-one cook system. The 1L FluxRing cooking pot screws onto the burner, making it impossible to dislodge and shielding the flame from drafts. The folded metal gills of the FluxRing setup increase the surface area of the cookpot bottom, increasing the stove’s thermal efficiency. We love that the insulated cozy that comes with the pot has temperature-sensitive strips that change colors to indicate when the water inside is boiling. Jetboil also offers several accessories to go with the Flash, including a fuel stand, a frying pan, and a French press for coffee.

The pot itself is larger than most single thru-hikers will need, adding excessive weight and bulk. Similarly, the bottom pot cover that doubles as a cup is redundant since you can eat out of the pot. If you’re cooking for two, though, these features are significant wins. You can use your own pot with the Jetboil, but you’ll lose most of the benefits of having an integrated system.

Pros: Push-button igniter; excellent fuel efficiency; rapid boil; high-volume pot.
Cons:
Expensive; heavy; bulky; better-suited to couples than individual hikers.

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MSR PocketRocket 2 | AT Hikers’ Favorite Backpacking Stove
MSRP: $45
Weight: 2.6 oz

best backpacking stoves

Best backpacking stoves: MSR PocketRocket 2.

The MSR PocketRocket 2 is the quintessential backpacking stove. It’s the first model that comes to mind when it comes to traditional canister stoves. And according to our surveys, it’s been the most popular stove on the Appalachian Trail for three years running.

Details

  • Time to boil 1L: 3 min. 30 sec.
  • Liters boiled per oz fuel: 2
  • Built-in igniter? No

MSR’s PocketRocket 2 stove can boil a liter of water just 10 seconds slower than the fully integrated Jetboil Flash. But it costs and weighs significantly less than the Flash, even when you factor in a cookpot (unlike the fully integrated Jetboil, you’ll need to purchase your pot separately for the PocketRocket). Incidentally, we recommend the 550 mL Toaks titanium pot for individual thru-hikers: it’s just large enough for most backpacking meals, weighs just 2.6 oz, and only costs $30.

The Pocket Rocket 2 has decent simmer control and is deliciously compact and ultralight. However, it doesn’t have a push-button igniter, and MSR doesn’t manufacture a windscreen for this stove. You can make your own out of foil, but you’ll need to monitor the canister to ensure it doesn’t overheat and explode.

Pros: Ultralight; fuel-efficient; fast boil; serrated pot supports prevent slippage.
Cons:
No built-in igniter; no purpose-built windscreen.

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Snow Peak LiteMax | Best Ultralight Backpacking Stove
MSRP: $60
Weight: 1.9

best backpacking stoves

Best backpacking stoves: Snow Peak LiteMax.

Designed with the ultralight enthusiast in mind, the 1.9-ounce Snow Peak LiteMax favors a minimalist design that doesn’t take up much space. It’s not the most fuel-efficient stove on this list, but it’s ideal for weight-conscious hikers who only cook once per day or less or just want a stove for emergencies.

Details

  • Time to boil 1L: 4 min. 25 sec.
  • Liters boiled per oz fuel: 1.25
  • Built-in igniter? No

The LiteMax’s titanium pot support arms fold up when not in use, making this stove stunningly compact. When unfolded, serrated pot supports are wide and stable enough to accommodate most sub-1L cookpots. Snow Peak chose to forego most bells and whistles—no piezoelectric igniter here, folks—in favor of a lighter, more streamlined design. We wish it were a little more efficient—it can only boil about half as much water as the Jetboil Flash on a single canister of fuel—but hey, you can’t have everything in life.

Pros: Ultralight; dedicated windscreen available; compact; folding serrated pot supports.
Cons:
Inefficient; no push-button igniter.

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Soto Amicus | Most Stable Canister Stove
MSRP: $45
Weight: 2.9 oz

best backpacking stoves

Best backpacking stoves: Soto Amicus.

The Soto Amicus stove and cook set combo is a great value: it costs just $45 and includes both the stove and a two-piece cook pot. Add in the fact that it’s still reasonably lightweight, foldable, and has a push-button igniter, and you start to understand why this stove is so popular among thru-hikers.

Details

  • Time to boil 1L: Not available
  • Liters boiled per oz fuel: Not available
  • Built-in igniter? Yes

It’s incredible how little the Amicus weighs (just 2.9 ounces), considering it has a built-in piezoelectric igniter and features four (rather than the standard three) pot supports. The supports are on the small side but are plenty stable for most cookware. They’re spring-loaded and fold down around the stem when not in use. The two-piece aluminum pot that comes with the stove is heavy and not very high quality. You can buy just the stove sans pot from Soto directly, but it costs the same as the pot-stove combo.

Pros: Affordable; reasonable weight; piezo igniter; four pot-support arms.
Cons:
Pot is cheap; not the lightest.

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Jetboil Stash | Most Fuel Efficient Backpacking Stove
MSRP: $129
Weight: 7.1 oz

best backpacking stoves

Best backpacking stoves: Jetboil Stash.

The all-new Stash is Jetboil’s lightest stove ever, but it still retains the company’s signature rapid boil time and fuel efficiency. The system includes a titanium burner, a 27-ounce FluxRing cookpot with handle and lid, and a fuel-stabilizing tripod.

Read our review of the Jetboil Stash.

Details

  • Time to boil 1L: 5 minutes
  • Liters boiled per oz fuel: 3.3
  • Built-in igniter? No

The Stash is a traditional (not integrated) canister stove, unlike the Flash and MiniMo. It’s lighter as a result but also struggles more in windy conditions. The cook system still uses a FluxRing pot with folded metal gills to increase the surface area of the pot bottom, transferring heat into the pot very efficiently. According to specs, the Stash is more efficient than the Flash, capable of boiling two more liters off a 100g canister.

The cookpot doesn’t have an auto igniter, bottom plastic cover, or insulated cozy like the Flash and MiniMo. However, we’re OK with these minor sacrifices in the name of significant weight savings. Besides, the Stash has other clever features that more than make up for it, including a pot handle and spot to snap a 100g (roughly 4oz) fuel canister into the lid so it won’t rattle in your pack.

Pros: Lightweight; extremely efficient; includes fuel tripod; fuel snaps into pot lid; compatible with Jetboil accessories.
Cons:
Expensive; no purpose-built windscreen; no igniter; relatively slow boil.

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BRS 3000T | Best Budget Backpacking Stove
MSRP: $17
Weight: 0.9 oz

Best backpacking stoves: BRS Outdoor 3000T.

The BRS-3000T isn’t the most robust or efficient stove on the market. On the other hand, it’s both ultralight and shockingly affordable. It should do the trick for weekend warriors or thru-hikers who only cook occasionally. Also an excellent option for hikers just looking to carry a stove as backup.

Details

  • Time to boil 1L: Not available
  • Liters boiled per oz fuel: 1.5
  • Built-in igniter? No

The titanium alloy BRS 3000T is insanely lightweight but not very fuel-efficient. If you plan to use your stove frequently and/or will be out a long time between resupplies, it’s probably not the best choice. That said, if you’ll be in town every few days and don’t mind restocking on fuel frequently, it’s hard to argue with a functioning 0.9-ounce stove that costs less than $20 (just remember that the cost of more frequent refueling may offset the savings over a long period).

Worth noting: the Amazon page for this stove says “suitable for butane gas,” but it works well with standard isobutane-propane canister blends that are available in most trail towns and outfitters.

Pros: Ultralight; affordable; compatible with standard fuel canisters.
Cons:
Poor wind performance; inefficient; questionable durability; no igniter.

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Esbit Pocket Stove | Best Solid Fuel Stove
MSRP: $13
Weight: 3.25

best backpacking stoves

Best backpacking stoves: Esbit Pocket Stove.

Unlike the other stoves on our list, the German-made Esbit Pocket Stove burns solid fuel tablets rather than pressurized gas from a canister. The stove itself is only so-so in the weight department, but eliminating heavy fuel canisters from the equation results in substantial weight savings. Because the design is simple with few moving parts, it’s unlikely to break or require lengthy repairs.

Details

  • Time to boil 1L: 16 minutes
  • Liters boiled per oz fuel: 1.5
  • Built-in igniter? No

Solid fuel stoves aren’t fuel-efficient, but they’re great for ultralight hikers since the fuel itself is very lightweight. One Esbit tablet weighs half an ounce and burns for about 12 minutes, enough to boil about 750mL. Place the tablet on the bottom of the stove, rest your pot on the stove’s upright arms (these can set up at a 45˚ or 90˚ angle depending on how much wind protection you want), and ignite the tablet. Be aware that the cubes don’t smell awesome while burning and can leave a greasy residue on the bottom of your pot.

The Esbit Pocket Stove doesn’t have a flame control valve. Not only does this mean you can’t simmer your food, but because you can’t shut the flame off instantly, it may be banned on some fire-prone trails (such as the desert section of the PCT).

Pros: Simple design; very inexpensive; ultralight fuel.
Cons:
Slow boil; inefficient; sticky residue on cooking pot; odor when cooking; no flame control; could be banned on fire-prone trails; tablets not always available in stores.

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Solo Stove Lite | Best Woodburning Stove
MSRP: $70
Weight: 9 oz

Best backpacking stoves: Solo Stove Lite.

You won’t have to carry fuel at all with the stainless steel Solo Stove, which burns twigs you can pick up from the forest floor around your camp. That means no more heavy/expensive canisters, no more worrying about whether you’ll be able to find canisters in the next town, and no more running out of fuel halfway through preparing dinner. You can also purchase an alcohol burner add-on for the Solo Stove as a backup when wood isn’t available to burn.

Details

  • Time to boil 1L: 8-10 min.
  • Liters boiled per oz fuel: Not available
  • Built-in igniter? No

To use the Solo Stove, place twigs inside the firebox, set your pan on top, and fire up with a match or lighter. Vent holes above and below the firebox feed the flame and help produce a hot, low-smoke burn. Meanwhile, an ashtray beneath the grate catches loose ash for a mess-free cooking experience. The Solo Stove isn’t lightning fast when it comes to boiling water, but sidestepping the need to carry fuel may be worth the extra wait time for some hikers. Also, there’s just something profoundly satisfying about cooking over a wood fire.

Be aware that woodburning stoves and other stoves that lack a quick shutoff valve are often not allowed in fire-prone areas, such as the desert section of the PCT. Also, remember that building a fire—even a tiny one—requires significantly more work and patience than simply firing up a canister stove.

Pros: No need to carry/resupply fuel; alcohol burner add-on available; low-smoke flame.
Cons:
Slow boil; no flame control; could be banned in fire-prone areas; twigs not always available; more work than a canister stove.

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Related

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Why should you trust us?

Because we’re so incredibly intelligent, of course! Attractive, too. (Not to mention extremely humble).

But if that isn’t enough to impress you, there’s also the fact that everyone who contributed to this article is an experienced thru-hiker with thousands of on-trail miles under their belt. We’re gear nerds who love putting our equipment to the test on trails long and short, and we’ve tested dozens of stoves in pursuit of more delicious backcountry meals.

Moreover, we survey hundreds of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers every year to learn about their behaviors, demographics, and—you guessed it—gear preferences. That means our picks for the best backpacking stoves aren’t just our opinions: they’re based on years of feedback from the thru-hiking community.

Check out AT hikers’ favorite backpacking stoves from the 2016, 2018, and 2019 thru-hiker surveys.

Competence and backpacking proficiency personified.

Featured image: Graphic design by Chris Helm (@chris.helm).

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Comments 6

  • Broadwing : May 20th

    What about alcohol burning stoves? Any thoughts? I’ve used Esbit most of my hiking career and have had no problems.

    Reply
  • David and Moose : May 20th

    I have about 6 different stoves(including the Soto Amicus Stove Cookset Combo), I love stoves.
    As far as the Soto Amicus, I do love the fact that it has four legs, but they feel cheap. I feel like
    if I’m not careful, I could easily break them, and the cookset is decent enough for what I use it for.
    I love my MSR Superfly(now discontinued) although the legs don’t collapse. If I had to pick one from
    all the stoves I own, I would have to pick my Jetboil Mighty Mo. Only 3 legs, but very strong, has a
    push button ignitor and reportly will work down to 20 degrees. Cost is $60, comes a nice cloth storage
    bag and Jetboils fuel canister stabilizer.

    Reply
  • TBR : May 26th

    “Cook in a protected area. Enhance the effectiveness of your windscreen by adding a chocolate thing. There will never be a better opportunity.”

    Interesting … perhaps you could elaborate.

    Reply
  • Shannon : May 26th

    Very informative article! I’ve heard great things about several of the stoves you’ve listed. I’ve had the Soto WindMaster for a while now and absolutely love it. I think it’s got the best of everything and has held up well for many trips in many different conditions. Just another solid alternative to consider!

    Reply
  • Jim : Jun 1st

    The MSR PocketRocket 2 now comes in a “deluxe” version with an igniter.

    Reply
    • Jim : Jun 1st

      Correction: it’s the regular MSR PocketRocket that comes with an igniter, not the slightly lighter and less well-built MSR “2” — which is why I did not purchase the PR 2.

      Reply

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