Choosing A Backpacking Stove
As backpack hunters, there are not many things that surpass waking to a crisp morning after a long cold night under the stars. We sometimes forget how blessed we are, as this comes part and parcel with hunting in the backcountry.
I don’t know about you, but on those cold mornings when it’s hard to break out of the warm and cozy sleeping bag. I love being able to fire up the backpacking stove and start the day with a hot coffee before hitting the trail or heading out for a hunt.
The same can be said for returning to camp at the end of a long day with that hard earned trophy. Cranking up the Jetboil, boiling water and tucking into a hot meal before sharing a whiskey or two around the campfire with your buddies.
Now that’s hard to beat!
What Is The Best Fuel For A Backpacking Stove?
This topic was once hotly debated by through hikers and hunters but nowadays it’s widely accepted that for 3 and 4 season backpacking, a canister stove outperforms by a long way, all other fuel types of backpacking stoves.
They are lighter, more compact, simple to use and incredibly efficient at heating things fast.
There is a caveat to this though, like all cookers, canister stoves lose a lot of heat in windy conditions.
If your a 4 season hunter or hiker then in temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit or at high altitudes you will notice a drop in performance if you are using an unregulated canister stove.
In these conditions a regulated canister stove is essential or a liquid stove like the MSR XGK EX Extreme may justify the extra weight especially if you’re relying on your stove to melt snow for water.
The advances in the technology and design of backpacking stoves mean you’ll spend a lot less time waiting for water to boil and they are less bulky and more fuel efficient and lighter.
The downside to these advances is the number of choices now available to backpackers which makes it incredibly hard to know how to choose the right one.
How To Choose A Canister Stove
Your first consideration needs to be what type of cooking you intend to use your cooker for.
For example, are your mainstay meals, frying rib eye fillets in a pan and cooking pasta dishes that requires good heat control and an even distribution of heat?
Do you simply need a backpacking stove that brings water to the boil fast for those hot drinks, packet soups, and rehydrating meals?
As much as I love freshly sliced deer heart and onions fried in butter I’m mostly in the second group.
Because on all my multi-day hunts or scouting trips, I’m looking to keep my pack weight ultralight and the most efficient way to do this is with re-hydrated meals.
To help you choose the best stove, we have thoughtfully created the list below so you can find the best backpacking stove for your next adventure.
We will kick it off with the integrated stove systems followed by the stand-alone stoves that can be incorporated into your existing setup.
Then to finish off we will share with you our ultralight backpacking stove set up.
Best Integrated Canister Stove
A lot of money has been spent by the likes of MSR and Jetboil on the research and development of integrated stoves. This is clearly evident by the simplicity and usability of their designs for each respective system.
These are by no means the lightest stoves on the market, however, they are incredibly popular in backpacking and hunting circles for good reason.
They pack away securely so there’s no chance for things to roll loose in your pack and they work very well in most 3 season conditions. In addition to this, integrated backpack stoves are some of the fastest at boiling water. Their design demands maximum heat from their flame.
The Jetboil Flash
BOIL TIME:110sec per .5 liter (16 oz)
While it’s not the lightest cooker available, it is has been my go-to backpack stove for the past 8 years and I love it.
The handle is a little floppy for my liking, but the neoprene cosey works well and everything packs down perfectly inside the cup.
The FluxRing technology provides maximum efficiency and rapid boiling for 3-season performance.
It doesn’t have simmer control so any attempt to cook anything other than water will result in food being cooked to the bottom. This won’t be a problem if your the kinda chief that doesn’t mind bits of pasta floating in your coffee.
After learning this lesson the hard way I stick to what this is designed to do, boil water fast.
The flash hasn’t missed a beat in all that time and it has tirelessly boiled water for hot drinks and dehydrated meals for me and my buddies including the one (Jock) who always “forgot theirs” to cut down on their pack weight.
If you’re looking for a fast, solid backcountry stove, the Flash is an excellent option and good budget buy.
WEIGHT: 15.5 oz (stove + pot)
BOIL TIME: 135 sec per .5 liter (16 oz)
The MSR WindBurner is another awesome backcountry cooking system and like the Jetboil flash is designed to boil water fast.
It doesn’t have a push-button igniter or a sturdy handle and it’s a bit tricky to get it to simmer.
But the WindBurner does offer superior performance in those sub-alpine and Alpine environments where you often find yourself more exposed to the wind.
Unlike other integrated backpack stoves, the WindBurner has a windproof radiant burner with a pressure regulator to maintain stove performance in windy and cold conditions and allows for rapid boiling times.
This sets the Windburner apart in blustery conditions, where wind disrupts the flame and increases boiling times and fuel consumption of other stoves.
Having a pressure regulator also give it the edge over unregulated systems like the Jetboil Flash that suffer where temperatures drop below freezing making the WindBurner a formidable 4 season backcountry cooking system.
WEIGHT:12 oz (stove + pot)
BOIL TIME: 135 sec per .5 liter (16 oz)
This is Jetboils lightest regulated cooking system and despite its size, boils water at the same speed as the MSR WindBurner and it comes with the convenience of a push button ignition.
The MicroMo is regulated for consistent performance down to 20°F (-6°C) and has the best-simmering control of the Jetboil systems we tried.
Like all Jetboil integrated systems though, it has an open flux ring that is susceptible to the wind increasing boil times.
Unlike the MSR WindBurner which is a closed system, you will need to find a sheltered spot or create a windbreak in blustery conditions to get the best results from your MicroMo.
WEIGHT: 14.7 oz (stove + pot)
BOIL TIME: 110 sec per .5 liter (16 oz)
The MSR Reactor is a state-of-the-art stove that has unparalleled wind protection making it MSR’s top of the line integrated cooking system.
It achieves its status by using a heat exchanger that completely encloses around the radiant burner.
This may not sound like a big deal, but this feature almost eliminates any adverse effects of the wind.
Not only does this give the user an uninterrupted flame and fast boiling times, but it also makes the reactor one of the more fuel efficient integrated cooking systems available.
We think the reactor would make a perfect addition to the pack of any ultralight hunter, however, it’s not the cheapest integrated canister stove.
So if price point is your main consideration then the other systems may just tick the box.
So there you have it, our top 4 integrated canister backpacking stoves.
If you’re looking for a solid 3 season backpacking stove on its price point alone it’s hard to look past the Jetboil flash.
And if you’re setting your sights a little higher and plan to be hiking trails over the winter months or hunting alpine areas then the MSR WindBurner is our top pick.
It’s the middle of the range for price and performs very well in windy conditions. It’s also a regulated system which sets it apart from the Jetboil flash.
Best Canister Stoves
Maybe the integrated systems are heavier than you’d like and your after a burner unit that is going to take up less space in the pack.
For ultralight hunting and hiking, the following canister stoves are well worth a look.
These are noticeably lighter than the integrated systems as they don’t come with the bulk and additional weight of the integrated cook pots, stove stands, and windscreens
Their downside is, they are generally less efficient at boiling water especially in windy conditions with two notable exceptions.
We found there is a whopping 80 seconds difference between the worst performer of the integrated systems and the best of the canister stoves we have listed.
MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe.
BOIL TIME:105 sec per .5 liter (16 oz)
The MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe is an amazing piece of kit and is our favorite for through hiking and hunting ultralight.
This is the lightest of all the stoves in our review and we love it because of its recessed burner and pressure regulated burner allowing it to outperform all the integrated systems for boil time speed. (Just a smidge faster than the flash).
The only time we noticed a small drop in its performance was as the wind really got up and some of the closed systems had a clear advantage… but not by much.
The other thing that makes the MSR deluxe stand out against earlier models such as the MSR pocket rocket, MSR Pocket Rocket 2 and of course the rest of the competition.
Is it has amazing simmer control, which means you have a few more options up your sleeve on those longer trips where dehydrated meals do start to get a bit tiresome.
It’s not without fault though, as there have been some compromises in order to keep weight down that we think could have been given a little more consideration.
For example, the Piezoelectric lighter that MSR has incorporated is a great addition. It’s just a shame it’s not as reliable as other brands.
We don’t see this as a problem as most ultralight hunters and hikers carry a lighter anyway, so a backup is normally close at hand.
The other noticeable difference is its pot supports are a little shorter than the competition.
This is perfectly fine for smaller pots but you will need to take a bit more care with larger pots to ensure they are sitting stable to avoid your dinner falling to the ground.
We still believe it’s the best stove on the market for ultralight hunters and hikers despite these shortcomings which is why we love the MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe.
BRS Ultralight Stove
BOIL TIME: sec per .5 liter (16 oz)
The BRS is one of the cheapest ultralight stoves on the market. It’s nowhere near as sturdy or dependable as more expensive brands and it doesn’t come with any features like a push-button ignition or simmer control.
But despite all this, the BRS is tough to beat if you remember to take a little extra care when storing it in your pack. For its price and weight, this is a great option for through hikers and hunters plying their craft in 3 season conditions.
The BRS is unregulated stove so it will have limitations in alpine environments and in temperatures below freezing. If most of your hunting and hiking is in these environments (4 Season) there are more suitable regulated systems available like the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe.
MSR PocketRocket 2
WEIGHT: 2.6 oz
BOIL TIME: 135 sec per .5 liter (16 oz)
This is another great lightweight and very compact option from MSR.
This is the upgrade of MSR’s original PocketRocket stove that has been a popular option with backpackers and hunters for years now.
Not only is the PocketRocket 2, compact and very durable. It can boil water fast and if you’re looking at actually cooking your meals it has great simmer control.
There are a couple of things we presume are how they in an effort to keep the stove lightweight. For example, The pots supports are shorter than its predecessor and there is no ignition switch.
Despite these few things we think on its price point alone, this is an exceptional 3 season lightweight stove option.
BOIL TIME: 105sec per .5 liter (16 oz)
Soto may not be as recognizable as the brands of canister stoves on our list, however, after giving the Soto Windmaster a wearl we believe they are well worth a mention.
With its reliable piezo igniter and large pot supports coupled by its exceptional boiling times in both calm and breezy conditions the Soto Windmaster sits right among the top backpacking stoves available on the market today.
Its ability to boil water in both windy and calm conditions has it performing at almost identical levels as the more widely known MSR WindBurner deluxe and that’s pretty impressive.
There are a couple of small things that we felt let this stove down such as the detachable pot supports which we think could be easily misplaced or lost.
The other thing we noticed is the price point of the Soto WindBurner is set at only $5 below the MSR WindBurner Deluxe.
YAY!! Thanks for making it to the end 🙂
Today we have briefly covered off some great backpacking stoves and we hope it has narrowed down your options to the extent you can invest in your next backpacking stove with confidence.
Because of the alpine hunting, we do our current favorite is the MSR Windburner Delux coupled with a TOAKS LIGHT Titanium 550ml Pot.
This cool combo has a combined weight of 5.5 oz (not including canister) and is the perfect 4 season backpacking stove for the solo backpacker or ultralight hunter.
Make sure you leave a comment below and tell us your favorite backcountry cooking set up.
If its any good we will test it and add it to our list!
Hot Barrels 🙂