Over the years, I’ve used all kinds of backpacking stoves for my kayaking and canoe trips. Those stoves have burned a variety of fuels, including white gas, alcohol, wood, propane, isobutane and esbit — I’m probably missing a few. I’ve used different configurations of stoves from systems designed specifically to work with one stove and one pot, such as Jetboil’s stove to systems that I pieced together to systems that I built myself. After spending a weekend using a stove that just wouldn’t work, I decided it was time to stop messing around with my stove systems and just pick one variety and stick with it. Life is too short to mess around with stoves, life is too short to try and figure out what the heck you need to buy, and, for me, a camping trip shouldn’t involve dicking around with a stove trying to baby it to even get the thing to light during a rainstorm under an undersized tarp that I was reviewing.
With that in mind, I’m going to rank the stove types that I’ve used based on ease of use. Here’s a handy chart for you visual learners.
As you can see from my chart, Isobutane/propane stoves rank as the easiest to use for me and wood-burning stoves rank as the hardest for me to use. Between those are, ranked from the easiest to hardest are white gas, alcohol, campfire and esbit. I should make just a note about Isobutane/propane: they work great when the temps are warmer and degrade in performance as the temps drop.
When I don’t want a hassle, this is what I’m going to pack to cook simple one-pot meals for two people from now on:
- MSR Pocket Rocket Stove
- Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cookset (just the big lid and pot)
- Snow Peak Titanium Bowl
- Light My Fire Spork x2
Here’s the total weight of the system for two people:
- 5.8 oz. – Snow Peak 34-fl.oz. Titanium Pot and lid
- 1.6 oz. – Snow Peak Titanium Bowl
- 3.1 oz. – MSR Pocket Rocket
- 0.4 oz. – Light My Fire Sporks (0.2 oz. each)
- 3.2 oz. – Empty Jetboil fuel canister (3.2 oz. each)
- 14.1 oz. – Total without fuel
- 3.5 oz. – Jetboil propane/isobutane four-season blend
- 17.6 oz. – Total with fuel (8.8 ounce each)
If it’s going to be cold out, from now on I’m carrying something I know works when you wake up with ice in the pots and pans:
If I’m feeling like I need to go light and need to go solo, I’m using:
- The Snow Peak gear listed above
- Homemade Redbull Photon Power Stove made using a pressurized jet system
- Homemade windscreen/support
Here’s the total weight of the Redbull Photon Power Stove system for solo trips only (don’t know why I’d use this):
- 5.8 oz. – Snow Peak 34-fl.oz. Titanium Pot and lid (can save weight by leaving the lid behind and using aluminum foil)
- .1 oz. – Redbull Stove
- 0.2 oz. – Light My Fire Spork
- 0.5 oz. – 8 oz Fuel Bottle (water bottle)
- 1 oz — Homemade windscreen/support
- 7.6 oz. – Total without fuel
- 8 oz. – Denatured alcohol (HEET)
- 15.6 oz. – Total with fuel (it’s actually heavier than a solo Pocket Rocket System, eh?)
If I’m feeling really geeky and I want to smell stinky burning things while cooking, I’ll carry:
- The Snow Peak gear listed above
- Esbit Solid Fuel Tablets
- The homemade windscreen listed above
- The bottom of a popcan as a burner plate
If I’m going to cook by fire, I’m going to use a campfire.
Bears around? They why not a ZPack Bear Bagging Kit for 3 ounces.
What do you use and how much does it weigh?