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Hot tenting is unlike any other outdoor activity out there. Some folks agonize all through the colder months for the warmth of a summer day, waiting anxiously by the ice-covered window for temperatures that'll make them sweat. Others gather the right gear and head for the hills, determined to make their own heat. Whether you're outfitting a hot tent for hunting elk or you prefer a few days of snowy silence to the bustle of holiday madness, procuring a well-made tent stove is one of the most important equipment considerations you'll make during the colder months. Whether you're new to tent stoves or you're just looking for a fresh model, we've got you covered. Here's what you should keep in mind when shopping for the best tent stoves.
What's The Right Tent Stove For You?
There are a lot of considerations to make within the world of tent stoves, but when you get clear on the basics of these camping heaters, the smoke clears faster than you might think. Supply store Canvas Camp helps us clue in on some of the particulars of these units. There are several common materials that tent stoves are made from, and among those metals, there are different design styles for each. We'll cover those classifications in a moment, but it's important to know what qualities we're looking for within each.
Obviously, the primary point of your tent stove is to keep you warm against the bitter chill. Chemistry 101 teaches us that combustion needs oxygen, so airflow (draft) and oxygen intake are crucial things to evaluate in your stove, no matter the make. The big question to ask: How easily can you modify the amount of air streaming into a unit? With that in mind, the material is the second deliberation. Suppose you have a stove that offers excellent airflow management and combustion efficiency but lacks significant heat retention and distribution capacity. In that case, one of two things is in your future. You're either going to stay up all night dumping wood into the fireplace, or you're going to be really cold.
The Different Styles of Tent Stoves
Tent heaters primarily come in four materials: aluminum, titanium, steel, and cast iron. For this guide, we've avoided anything made from aluminum. Although it's ultralight, aluminum lacks integrity, and it is one of the worst materials for actually keeping yourself warm. Instead, we recommend titanium for backpacker for its strength and its lightness. But while the material is good in these aspects, it can be expensive, and it often has thin walls, meaning titanium can be middling in the field of heat retention. Then, there is cast iron: it's incredibly heavy and takes a long time to heat up. But once it gets to temperature, no tent stove material holds and disseminates heat better. However, this material is finicky. If cast iron has not been crafted with integrity, it can crack, and if it meets moisture, it may rust. Finally, we have stainless steel. From our perspective, this is the ideal material in terms of cost, weight, strength, and heat retention. Steel is denser than titanium or aluminum, making it better for holding and distributing heat while being lighter than cast iron.
Regarding the shape that your stove will take, there are only two main categories to look out for: cylindrical units, which often look more like U's thanks to the flat-top cooking surface, and box shapes. The latter is the form that collapsible models most often take. They're also a bit more aesthetically pleasing as they can have glass doors where you can observe your fire. We kept these components in mind when considering camp stoves:
- The Door: Look for a tight, flush fit. Sealed gaskets should limit airflow to designated vents and controls while keeping smoke directed upwards. The door should be securable and easy to feed material into. In some instances, ultralight stoves leverage gaps in the door as a point of oxygen intake.
- The Flue Pipe or Chimney: This should have a secure attachment to the firebox and a compressed nesting within itself. The material will help determine how heat is transferred into your tent.
- The Stand: The stove's legs should be durable and sturdy. Often, they won't be tall enough to keep your tent floor from melting. Always bring a heat mat or tile, or find a flat stone.
- Spark Arrestor: This is a mesh screen at the end of the flue pipe which allows smoke to escape. Ideally, it keeps an optimal amount of burning material such as wood, ash, and embers within the flue, allowing for a second burn that increases the burn efficiency of your unit.
Top Tent Stoves of 2022
1. The Best Titanium Stove Option
Winnerwell's line of backcountry camp stoves was inspired by travel through Scandinavia, a region where having a high-grade heater is among the highest of priorities. Of all the options on this list, the Fastfold tent stove may be one of the most costly, but if you're searching for the benefits a titanium unit can deliver, this one is a winner. The whole of this tent heater comes in at four pounds — and in addition to its featherweight quality, the Fastfold has 900 cubic inches of capacity within the firebox. While not a full hearth's worth of room, this is plenty of space to keep the tent toasty. Additionally, since quick and easy collapsibility is a reason to purchase a titanium tent stove, this one is our top pick for that reason. Without any hardware connections, this one breaks down in several smooth movements: Two dampers are built into the unit to facilitate heat retention, one in the metal door and the other at the base of the 108" flue (the top is also outfitted with a spark arrestor). The recommended fuel type for feeding the Fastfold is dry and seasoned wood.
In true backpacker fashion, the stove lid serves two purposes: a cooktop for your meals and a firepan to be used in sensitive areas. And while titanium may not be your best option for retaining heat, it does come to and distribute crucial warmth quickly.
2. The Best Cast Iron Tent Stove
If you know that cast iron is what you need, then you should know that we've picked the Guide Gear for many different reasons (and weight is actually one of them). At 42.4 lbs, finding a heavier cast iron stove isn't going to be a problem. Other models can come in at a less-than-cool 100 lbs. or more, so if you are looking for the even heating cast iron provides, the sheer portability of Guide Gear's unit is enough to outrank similar makes.
That said, there are a few things to know about this unit. While the cast iron door is outfitted with dampers to moderate temperature, the firebox is made from galvanized steel and finished with a fireproof coating. This is important to be aware of, as it means the unit is not out-of-the-box ready. Instead, it requires several pre-burns to make it safe for usage in a confined space. When that process is completed, however, reports have been made that measure the unit's broad top heating at close to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. It's safe to say that your Gear Guide will have both you and your food sweating.
3. The Best Steel Option
The Dweller stove has a lot going for it. Sure, it's not as light as similarly-sized titanium stoves (22.7 lbs without the chimney and dimensions of 12.4"x 12.6"x 88.6"). But, if you have the room, 304 stainless steel and heat-refractory glass kindle the embers of a few other handy tricks. What differentiates this stainless steel tent stove from others on the market is Pomoly's proprietary Air Curtain technology. What this curtain does is akin to developing a second combustion chamber within the firebox, doubling your burning materials' efficiency. Rather than embers and smoke particles flowing through the flue, the Curtain causes them to re-burn, ensuring you get the most heat out of anything you've fed into the glass doors.
The winning aspects of the Dweller don't stop there. Multiple points of air intake provide a healthy flow of oxygen to your fire, and you have full management over how you want it to burn. Low and slow, or fast and fiery? Pomoly ensures precision when crafting its wood stoves, limiting the amount of space (thus, airflow) between any given component. Along with an ash catcher at the bottom and a spark arrestor on top, this steel tent stove is accompanied by a baffle. It's the final piece you need to concentrate the temperature of your burning material. Steel is well regarded as having an even, regulated distribution of heat, so while the price is greater than other models, the efficiency makes it well worth the cost.
4. The Best Tent Stove for Backpackers
Stainless steel lights up the competition when it comes to even heat distribution and durability. Still, titanium has the edge in terms of packability, as the 3W tent stove proves. The design of the 3W could be described as minimal. A single German-made 5" glass door adheres tightly to the body, constructed from Korean grade 1 titanium (known to be of the highest purity and well-suited for thermal conductivity). You can fit a full foot of dry burning material into the firebox (695 cubic inches), and the total package weight of 4 lbs.
When rolled up, the chimney collapses to 11.8" x 1.5" and the stove to a slim and slender 11.4" x 16.5". On top of that — or should we say, underneath it — the unit features 5" leg stands that give high and stable clearance over uneven ground. A rectangular shape leaves plenty of flat space that serves as a cooking surface as well. Backpackers, we can already see the spark of love in your eyes for this tent stove.
5. A Quality Option for Large Tents
When Camp Chef says its Apline stove is heavy-duty, the company means it. This barrel-shaped, high-strength alloy steel unit is 74 lbs, which we can all agree is not the type of thing you want to be lugging around the backcountry for a casual weekend trip. That said, this stove is ideal for those of us who have to heat full-sized shelters for the family. And while it may be up there in size, the Alpine is also fully collapsible, so transportation isn't a headache — it just requires some heavy lifting.
The chimney pipe has a mega-wide 5" diameter and measures up to over 10 feet tall. It has a 5" damper included and a bottom grate that limits the base from overheating. Along with some standard cook space on the unit's top, there are attachable drying racks for snow-soaked clothes and the potential to add a heated water tank as another upgrade. Everywhere you look, Camp Chef has utilized 30 years of outdoor provisioning to add extra value to this stove kit.