Lightweight Stoves: Rated for Ease of Use and Weight

lightweight backpacking stove

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.

stoves ranked by ease of use


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:

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?

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  • I was very excited when years ago MSR brought out the Pocket Rocket stove.
    I was however very disappointed with it after using it a few times with my titanium cookware as it warped the bottom of the pots! I find the flame too concentrated to a small area and titanium not transferring heat too well ends up warping. I now use Brunton Crux (much wider burner, lighter and much more stable) or my new Olicamp Excelerator titanium stove allowing me to have the stove on the ground and make the cooking business much safer (less of a chance of tipping the thing over as it has a much wider base than a gas canister). I still use titanium pots but no warping and no scorching of my dinners.

    • The Olicamp Excelerator looks pretty interesting. At a claimed 3.5 ounces, it’s pretty light for remote propane stove. Have you checked the weight on a scale to see if reality matches the claimed weight?

      • OK, I had to check… and my scale it says 96 gr. ; would that be 3.3 oz? I am “new school” :-)
        After a month of continuous use (breakfast and dinner for two) the only drama I had was that the stove stoped working. Then I discovered a grub crawled inside the jet opening and clogged the flow. The stove was easily pulled apart (no tools needed ) and once the grub was dislodged it performed again perfectly. I have some reservations on the thin hose mesh shielding; I will have to see how it holds up after years of frequent use but for now it’s making my other stoves jealous :-)

        • Yep, that’s 3.4 ounce after rounding. That’s about the same as my Pocket Rocket weighs. That stove looks like one I’d like to try. Can you use the canister upside down in colder weather?

          • I would love to see this stove work in cold weather but at the moment temps in my part of the world are rather balmy ( I live DownUnder).
            The coldest I cooked with the Oli so far was around 40F. I have not tried to invert the canister to see if it runs OK that way. I might try it this w/e (at 60F) and see what happens. Will report…

            • I tested the Olicamp with canister inverted and it flares up; I guess it is not suitable for freezing temps then. Olicamp also makes a version with a preheating tube running over the burner that should work for cold conditions but it is not in titanium and weighs a bit more :-(

  • I was surprised not to see the SVEA 123 stove among your list. I have been using my SVEA 123 for over thirty years and it has never failed me. It has functioned in every environment and weather condition.

    • I’d put the SVEA 123 under white gas, but it’s just too heavy for me at 19 ounces plus the fuel bottle. The MSR Whisperlite International weighs about 11 ounces plus the fuel bottle plus the pot and I don’t use it often, because I think it’s heavy.

  • I also have tried different stoves. started with a cheap butane stove from Target. ad idea! Bought a $50 Markhill and two $20 Markhills for my sons. They all are working well after 15 years use! I tried a Jetboil Zip and is great for boiling water but not for cooking. I can’t get the flame low enough without it going out. Because we are planning to do the 740 mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail with 55 miles of portaging, we didn’t want to carry 2 months supply of fuel. I purchased a wood burning Solo Stove with stainless steel pot. With pot, it weighs 17 ounces. With the gas stove in cold weather, try putting a hand warmer under the canister!

    • The Solo Stove is the model that I had problems with. It was very difficult to get going in damp weather. I’d much rather cook over an open fire.

      • In dry weather I use birch bark from DOWNED trees. In damp weather I use Coleman Firestarters for tinder. I cut them in half to fit in the stove. You could also use alchohol tablets. Beats carrying fuel.

        • Even with dry birch bark, we found that the cold damp weather just seems to suck the fire out of the stove. I know lots of people like these portable wood burning stoves, but not I.

          • Have you tried the Kelly Kettle? HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

            • I haven’t, because they’re heavy compared to what I normally carry and they only boil water. I need a stove that does more than that. My current stove, pot, windscreen, spoon weighs 5 ounces and for 4 meals the fuel weighs 1.5 ounces.

  • […] which we only brought a Solo Stove wood burning stove and had a terrible time trying to cook on it, I vowed off experimenting with stoves, and I vowed to keep my backcountry kitchen simple by just using a MSR Pocket Rocket from now on. […]

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