A key part of your camping gear is the stove that you cook your camping meals upon.
The first question you need to ask before deciding on a camp stove is, do you even need a stove? Many people choose to not cook at all when backpacking or camping, instead going with raw foods and power foods, simple high-calorie nutrition that requires no cooking at all and is ready when you are hungry.
This completely works and provides the energy you need for the adventure at hand and is a simple and easy approach to nutrition to fuel the camp trip.
I however, really enjoy cooking and preparing delicious, hot meals while camping, and this it’s a fun part of a well-planned campout for my crew. Hot food makes one feel civilized and satisfies the cravings of my camping group for a well-cooked meal.
With that said, there are so many different stoves to choose from it can be a confusing episode in knowing you have the right stove to meet your camp cooking needs. Here are some basic considerations in choosing a camping stove.
What you are going to be cooking?
If your need is for some hot soup or coffee while sitting in a hunting blind on a crisp and cool morning, you can go extremely minimal and get one of the smallest and simplest stoves that will fit in your vest pocket, will boil water in a jiffy and weighs in at just a handful of ounces.
There are some great choices on the market for this intended purpose. The MSR Pocket Rocket is an excellent example of a extremely small isobutane backpacking stove that will boil water in a hurry and is ready to fire up in a moment’s notice.
If you are like me and you like versatility with your small camping stove, a stove that can pack down small and is relatively light is ideal, but a stove that can also handle a black iron skillet gets added bonus points. Black or cast iron skillets are the best for cooking everything from frying up potatoes, wrestling up a mountain of scrambled eggs, to blackening a thick and juicy steak on a river bank after many miles of paddling down a wilderness river.
An iron skillet is my preferred cookware, but it can be very difficult to cook with one on a minimalist backpacking stove, which is why my preferred choice of stove for many, many years has always been the MSR Whisperlite stove.
It is lightweight and packs small, but it has a wide enough platform for stability on a level surface that it can handle a large pot of boiling potatoes or a cast iron skillet with no problem. It also is very efficient with fuel usage, utilizing the white gas, aka ‘camping fuel,’ that you can find at most any camping or outdoor retailer in the entire country. It’s a great choice and is my absolute top choice for a backpacking camping stove.
If you find yourself primarily camping with a group of people and utilizing a base camp for your camping spot, you may want to choose a double-burner stove that can handle an even larger cooking pot for group meals and one that can cook a couple of items simultaneously with two burners side by side. An excellent choice of stove in this circumstance is the Coleman Perfectflow 2-burner stove.
It packs down to the size of a small briefcase, is extremely efficient in its fuel usage, and is absolutely reliable for many years of cooking pleasure in the great outdoors.
What sort of fuel will you use?
The most available fuel in the United States is by far the classic, ‘Coleman’ fuel, aka white gas, also known as just plain ol’ camping fuel. It is inexpensive and very available nationwide at many retailers to even most gas stations in areas around state and national parks. My MSR Whisperlite is powered by white gas and it’s my fuel of choice for its inexpensive nature and its utter availability everywhere.
Many of your smallest packing and lightest weight stoves run on isobutane fuel, which comes in a small pressurized canister of ready to use juice. The advantage of using this fuel is that as soon as you connect it to your tiny backpacking stove it is ready to light and boil water for you. The canisters cost a bit more than the very inexpensive white gas stoves but the simplicity of the isobutane fuel stoves is definitely appealing.
A third choice of fuel are simple propane canisters. While the containers themselves are heavy and not geared toward backpacking due to their heavy and bulky nature, the fuel canisters themselves are very inexpensive and will power that single or double-burner propane stove for multiple meals after a long day of recreating wherever you find yourself camping.
Those stove choices are but a glimpse of the many different models available, but I can personally speak to the value of each of them and all they can add to your camping pleasure for your outdoor cooking needs.