If backpack space and weight is a pivotal part of your back country and hiking experiences, you’re no doubt familiar with the absolute necessity of an ultralight camp stove. Effectively cooking meals and having access to both clean and hot water while in the field is hands down the most important factor (along with getting a good night’s sleep) to having a good time in the back country. The nourishment you give your body has everything to do with the energy and the fun you have.
Packing your meals, cooking system, mess kit, sleeping bag and other essential items into a compact backpack is no easy task. Saving space and shaving weight on backpacking treks is almost an art form, fortunately finding an ultralight, highly packable camp stove has never been easier. There’s certain gear that’s worth purchasing at top quality, and a packable camp stove is no doubt one of those items.
Check out our top five list for the best available backpacking stove options and create some much needed space on your next big trip. While you’re at it don’t forget to check out our top lists of the best compact mess kits, and backpacking sleeping bags for all your back country essentials — they’ve been written with a focus on weight and packability.
Happy hiking and bon appetit from all of us here at Heavy!
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1. Best Ultralight Backpacking Stove: MSR PocketRocket 2 Ultralight Backpacking StovePros:
- Exceptionally lightweight (2.6 ounces) and compact when collapsed (2 by 2 by 3 inches)
- Can effectively adjust flame level from simmer to full heat — this unit packs a punch and contends in cooking ability with even much larger camp stoves
- Very reasonably priced considering the capabilities of this stove
- Quite fuel efficient
- Although the pot supports can accommodate a wide variety of mess kits, it's not ideal for particularly large pots/pans
- No ignitor
- The high-performance isobutane-propane fuel canisters can be hard to find depending on where you are
Here’s a seriously impressive portable camp stove from MSR. The PocketRocket 2 is almost comically tiny, but it packs a serious punch that make’s it just as effective for cooking as many larger sized, more cumbersome units. It’s total weight is only 2.6 ounces — yes you read that correctly. When collapsed, the PocketRocket 2 is two by two by three inches, it’s designed to be amazingly compact and be able to fit essentially anywhere.
This purchase includes a tiny little carry case that brings the total weight to 4.2 ounces — still laughable considering what this unit can do. This stove is they stove for those who need to maximize pack space and minimize weight but still want a stove that can really crank.
This unit will boil a liter of water in as little as three and a half minutes, so it’s not messing around despite its adorable appearance. You can effectively adjust the flame to a simmer for certain dishes or blast the heat when you want to saute some veggies or meat. It’s just as versatile as any portable camp stove except it can fit in your back pocket!
The PocketRocket 2 runs on isobutane-propane fuel canisters and is quite fuel efficient. The canisters are self sealing, safe to operate and widely available in most countries. You’ll get a lot of cooking time out of one fuel canister with this unit and they pack small as it is, so this stove/canister combo really is a truly ultralight option.
Although it’s exceptionally small, the folding pot supports can fit a fairly wide array of pots and pans. Chances are if you’re interested in a unit this small you’re not cooking with big pots and pans anyway, but it’s nice to know you could cook for larger groups with this stove when you’re doing some casual camping rather than backpacking.
Operation and maintenance of the PocketRocket is just as simple as it’s inherent design — there’s no priming, preheating or pressurizing involved with using this stove, just fire it up and get cooking!
For the minimalist camp cooker who’s looking for an ultralight stove that still packs a punch, look no further, the PocketRocket 2 is up for the challenge. At less than $50 this unit from MSR is quite honestly super reasonably priced, it’s a high quality product offered at a mid-quality price — you gotta love that!
There’s no reason to break the bank or your back with the PocketRocket 2, absolutely a killer buy from MSR you’ll be recommending to everyone you encounter on the trail! Check out this video for a more in depth run through of this wonder stove’s traits and capabilities, you’ll be particularly impressed with its size!
Bottom Line: This is an exceptionally compact and lightweight camp stove for backpackers who need the most packable cook system possible. It’s highly affordable for the quality and built to last through years of heavy use.
2. Most Versatile Backpacking Stove: MSR Whisperlite Universal StovePros:
- Compatible with a wide variety of fuels making it incredibly versatile as a backpacking stove suitable for any part of the world
- Included wind screen and reflective heat shield greatly enhance the Whisperlite’s ability to effectively cook in challenging conditions
- Includes the necessary parts and instructions to be effectively maintained at home and in the field
- Is compatible with a wide variety of cooking ware and also employs a highly adjustable burner for finding that perfect flame strength
- For what this stove can do and the heat it puts out, it’s still quite compact and lightweight at just 15 ounces
- Fairly expensive, but super capable as a cooking unit and also crafted with some serious ingenuity in order to be able burn so many different fuels
- The Whisperlite is not for beginners unless you’re willing to spend some time learning how to effectively operate this unit, there’s a bit of a learning curve with this one that’s to be expected with top quality gear
- Fuel bottle is not included and must be purchased separately
Here’s a really neat camp stove concept from MSR. The Whisperlite Universal Stove changes the game for backpackers of all kinds. This unit is compatible with all sorts of fuel including white gas, canister fuel, kerosene and even unleaded gasoline. You can cook with just about anything with this bad boy!
If you’re an international backpacker who finds themselves in various corners of the world looking to cook a back country meal, this is the stove for you. You’ll never be without fuel with the Whisperlite, and it’s pretty dam compact and light weight as well.
There’s definitely more portable and light weight options available if packability is the one and only factor you’re shopping for (see the Jetboil Flash and PocketRocket 2), but as far as portability goes this unit is still quite capable as a backpacking or travel stove. The aluminum mixer tube, stainless steel support legs and inherent design of the Whisperlite keep it highly packable at just 15 ounces.
MSR includes all the necessary adapters for operating this stove with various fuel types. There’s three different “jets” for use with white gas and auto gas, kerosene and for canister fuel. Along with the stove itself MSR includes the required fuel pump, a small parts kit, stuff sack and also a windscreen and heat reflector for use in the field.
This is a more intensive camp stove than the others listed here — it’s no toy. There’s a bit more involved with operating and maintaining the Whisperlite than with other simpler units, but it’s crafted with precision and durability in mind in order to be a stove you’ll use for years and years of backpacking use. Good news is that although there’s many moving parts and mechanical components to this stove, it comes with a parts kit and instruction manual so you can maintenance this unit at home or in the field.
Once you learn the ins and outs of the Whisperlite you’ll feel empowered and ready to take on the role of camp chef anywhere, anytime. The self-cleaning “Shaker Jet” technology makes this stove easy to clean in the back country and the assembly and breakdown is a breeze with a little practice. This is a camp stove for the big boys and girls so be prepared to learn if you’re not already experienced with this type of gear.
MSR has designed this stove to be exceptionally fuel efficient on top of being able to operate on various fuel types. 20 ounces of white gas will keep this bad boy burning for up to 155 minutes. Considering you can boil a liter of water in three and a half minutes, (using white gas) that’s a lot of camp meals and coffee off of one fuel bottle.
MSR does NOT include the required fuel bottle for this stove — you’ll have to buy the specially crafted unit separately if you want to utilize the Whisperlite’s ability to burn multiple fuel types. It might seem a bit frustrating at first, but upon further consideration MSR’s fuel bottles are airtight and crafted from a single piece of tough as nails aluminum. The fuel bottle design is meant to keep any potential air leaks out so the life of your fuel is extended.
It’s a really neat system that gives you the freedom to fill up on whatever kind of juice is available and on hand.
High quality parts and construction, a brilliant and versatile design, the ability to be effectively maintained in the field while all the while retaining a low weight and profile, the Whisperlite by MSR is one bad ass stove. If you’re a serious backpacker or camp cook of any kind, you won’t want to miss out on this unit — make sure to check out this video for a run through of the Whisperlite’s and other MSR stove’s operation protocols and capabilities.
Bottom Line: A highly versatile stove that can cook with just about any type of fuel — perfect for backpackers who travel the world and might benefit from a unit that can cook with an array of different fuel types. A bit more complicated to operate than most camp stoves, but with a little practice you can do everything from simmer to saute with this one.
3. Best Cooking System for Fast Meals: Jetboil Flash Cooking SystemPros:
- Can boil 16 ounces of water in as little as 100 seconds!
- Self contained cooking system that’s built to be exceptionally FAST and fuel efficient
- There’s an awesome array of specially built attachments like the built in camp french press and FluxRing Frying Pan from Jetboil that can be paired with this unit
- Engineered to be dam tough - this stove and cooking cup can take a beating
- Six different color options
- If you want to cook with a different pot or pan you’ll need to purchase the pot support from Jetboil
- A bit on the expensive side, but this is a versatile, high quality product you should own for years of backpacking
- Doesn't pack quite as tight as some other ultralight options
Here’s a super compact, super fast system of meal making in the back country. The Jetboil Flash is a fan favorite among backpackers and campers alike — it’s a highly effective unit that’s renowned for its rapid water boiling capabilities. You’re gonna want to check out the attached video below and see this bad boy in action. This unit can boil 16 ounces of water in as little as 100 seconds — that’s dam fast!
The Jetboil Flash incorporates the one liter flux ring cooking cup (with insulating coozie) into the design which is why this is referred to as a “cooking system” rather than just a camp stove. The attached pot/mug unit is the perfect volume for boiling water for coffee or for adding to dehydrated meals for dinner. I am a personal fan of meals from Mountain House when trekking in the back country, and the Jetboil Flash is the perfect unit for preparing those kinds of dinners in a matter of minutes.
The included cooking cup even has a strainer and drink through lid so you can use it as a serving vessel as well. It’s highly insulated and performs just as well as plenty of mess kit options when it comes to both cooking and serving camp cuisine. If you want to do more than just boil water for coffee and dehydrated meals with this unit, you can absolutely use it with other camp cooking ware.
You’ll need to purchase the pot support attachment from Jetboil and then you’re ready to cook with your favorite mess kit. Another option in cooking a more diverse variety of meals is to purchase Jetboil’s FluxRing Frying Pan that’s specially built to operate super efficiently with the Flash. There’s even a highly reviewed coffee press attachment that can be paired with this unit for all you camp coffee fanatics out there!
This is a lightening fast stove that’s quite versatile when you consider all the possible cooking and heating applications, but it excels best at being a minimalist camp cooker for the space conscious backpacker.
Jetboil has built this unit to be seriously rugged. The flash has been designed knowing you’re going to beat the hell out of it on your outdoor adventures. If you’re going to spend this kind of money on a quality camp stove, then you want to ensure it will be around for years of heavy use.
Although the technology employed here is advanced, the design overall is quite simple. There’s minimal components that have the potential to malfunction with this one, and even more minimal maintenance required over the life of the stove.
Make sure to check out the attached video below for a closer look at the Flash’s features.
This is a high quality option that’s easy to understand and operate. There’s even a unique color changing heat indicator built into the mug so you can know exactly how hot its contents are. It’s a neat feature that allows you to keep a close eye on your food and your fuel. This is an impressively efficient camp stove — you can boil 10 liters of water on just one 100 gram Jetboil fuel canister. If packing light is critical then this system of cooking is definitely one you should consider.
There’s a reliable push button igniter also built into the design of the Flash for simplifying stove ignition. It’s not a cheapo igniter like you see built into some units and should hold up for the life of the stove.
Furthermore, this stove puts out a whopping 9,000 BTUs of power so you can really cook with this bad boy. It’s not only the sheer power of this unit that makes it so effective and rapid at boiling water, but the efficiency of the “FluxRing” design that’s built into the incorporated mug.
If you use the pot support attachment and cook with your own mess kit, you’ll still no doubt be impressed with the power and control you have while cooking with the Flash It’s a self contained cooking system that’s reliable, fast as as hell, super packable and built to last — what more could you want out of a backpacking stove?
Bottom Line: Perhaps the fastest camp cooking system around for rapidly boiling water — this unit is a scorcher! Super lightweight, packable and resilient to damage. It’s designed for use with the included cooking cup but can be paired with an array of awesome attachments.
4. Best Budget Backpacking Stove: Etekcity Ultralight Backpacking/Camping Stove with Piezo IgnitionPros:
- Super affordable
- Push button igniter is super convenient when temps are low or when conditions are windy
- This is a simple stove to operate with minimal set-up making it great for beginners
- Super compact and lightweight at under 5 ounces!
- The construction is certainly higher quality than the price tag suggests, but this campstove will have a shorter lifespan than higher quality brands
- Issues with the ignitor after heavy use
- Flme control not terribly precise
This tiny little unit by Etekcity is a great stove for the backpacker on a tight budget. For an ultralight, collapsible stove in the $10 range, this unit is pretty kick-ass. It certainly is not built to last forever, but for a season or two of backpacking or use as a backup or emergency unit the Etekcity Ultralight Stove is an excellent option.
At less than five ounces, this stove is impressively lightweight for the cost. It simply screws into any butane or butane/propane mix 7/16 thread fuel canister and is ready to ignite. The fuel that this unit is compatible with burns very hot, so you can really control your heat output by using the flame adjustment. Some fuel options for this stove include small canisters made by MSR, Coleman, Jetboil, or Primus. It’s a super budget option that behaves like a high quality camp stove, there’s even a built in igniter!
Built from aluminum alloy and stainless steel, this is a pretty dam tough burner for the cost. It won’t hold up in the long run like the PocketRocket 2 or Jetboil Flash listed above, but as a budget stove this little cooker can still take quite a beating. It’s a simple design so there’s less moving parts and components to malfunction.
The Piezo ignitor might quit on you after some heavy use, but other than that this is a straight forward camp stove that should keep on cookin’. An adjustable control valve allows you to effectively cook with high or low heat — Etekcity boasts this stove can boil a liter of water in as little as three and a half minutes!
Outdoorsmen reviews insist this stove can really crank, it’s an impressive piece of camping equipment that comes at a steal of a price. This ultralight stove even comes with a carrying case, so you’re ready for the trail right out of the box.
Bottom Line: Super affordable yet reasonably high quality option for backpackers on a budget. It’s not built with the top notch materials and craftsmenship of the other stoves listed here so don’t expect to own this one for years and years of camp outs.
5. Best Wood Burning Backpacking Stove: Solo Stove & Pot 900 Combo: Ultralight Wood Burning Cook SystemPros:
- Source local twigs for fuel! Great for scenarios where you can expect conditions to be relatively dry
- This unit will save you money in the long run by saving big on fuel costs
- Stove fits within the pot for a compact fit in your backpack (4.5 by 4.7 inches)
- Works well with fuel tabs if you want to simplify getting an initial flame under the stove
- No moving parts or gas components to malfunction — this stove is simple and practically bomb proof it’s so tough
- Boils water in 8 to 10 minutes - quite slow compared to the other units listed here but also very impressive considering there’s no fuel involved, it’s a matter of preference
- Fairly high initial cost, but this unit will start to pay for itself right away by saving on fuel
- A bit bulkier than some ultralight options
Here’s a different, but highly effective approach to a backpacking stove. This is a packable stove and mess kit all in one, Solo Stove has provided you with everything you need to get cooking. If the wilderness you love to trek in is generally dry and provides an abundance of twigs and sticks, this could be a killer option for you.
By utilizing a wood burning stove that sources its fuel from the landscape rather than the canisters in your backpack, you can save on some serious weight and space. Besides, there’s a certain satisfaction of cooking with wood rather than fuel depending on who you are.
The Solo Stove & Pot 900 Combo is the ideal sized unit for solo backpacking use. It’s not the most compact option in terms of packable camp stoves, but considering that the stove component nests into the included pot you’ve got a mess kit and camp stove packed into one with this one. It definitely requires a little more attention than setting and forgetting a PocketRocket or Jetboil unit because you’re cooking with wood, but if you’re patient and have the time and concentration to cook with this method it’s both a pleasant and inexpensive way to prepare your camp meals.
For a little assistance getting things going, using a fuel tab or two can really simplify cooking with this unit, and they pack super tiny too. This unit will pay for itself after a few years of use (or weeks if you spend a lot of time in the back country) just through the money you save on fuel canisters.
You won’t have to be constantly purchasing and carrying your power source which is quite a liberating feeling. It’s like your own personal campfire that heats quickly, cools quickly, cleans easily and goes back into your backpack with ease once you’re finished cooking.
The stove is nine ounces, and the 900 pot is just under eight ounces. The stove nests into the pot and together they are only 4.5 by 4.7 inches, not too shabby. The pot has a maximum volume of 30 ounces, and when used with the stove can boil water in as little as 8 minutes.
This unit is crafted from 304 stainless steel — it looks sharp and is built super durably. There’s not really anything that could damage this stove or pot making it a cooking option you can count on functioning no matter what (weather depending of course). You gotta love the complete lack of moving parts and mechanisms, this stove is as simple as can be!
Get a closer look at the Solo Stove’s design and operation in this video!
This unit is perfect for backpackers, cyclists, and campers in general who want to save on space and weight and combine their camp stove and mess kit.
For a simple, durable and satisfying cooking option that allows you to ditch the fuel and really makes you feel like you’re camping, check out this indestructible, all inclusive unit from Solo Stove and get back to nature.
Bottom Line: This is an essentially indestructible minimalist stove for backpacking in not-so-wet scenarios where there’s an abundance of burnable materials. Cooks slower than most fuel powered ultralight stoves but saves money in the long run by avoiding fuel costs.
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