How to Choose a Camp Stove

Cooking in the great outdoors is an enjoyable and essential part of your camping and backpacking trips; and after a long day, there’s nothing like a nice hot, hearty meal. But in order to cook that meal, you’ll need a reliable camp stove.

Consider the following criteria when deciding which camping stove is best for your needs:

Stove Style

Camping vs. Backpacking Stoves. One of the most important considerations is the activities you will be participating in when you use your stove. If you will be camping a short distance from your car, the weight and size of your stove may not matter much. But if you’ll be hiking several miles before setting up camp for the night, you’ll want to opt for a lighter, more compact stove. Stoves specifically made for backpacking are just made to boil water in a small pot; while stoves marketed for camping come in a wide range of sizes and are more versatile.

Freestanding vs. Tabletop. Freestanding stoves are generally larger than tabletop stoves, and also have more burners and more BTUs (British Thermal Units). In most cases, they are the better options for large groups. Tabletop stoves are more compact and lighter; however, because they do not have legs, you will need to set them up on a flat surface.

Cooking Space

Once you have an idea of the style of stove you want, you’ll need to decide on the amount of cooking space you’ll need. That space will be determined by the number and size of the burners. Most stoves have two burners; however, you can find some on the market with one or three. Also, remember to note the size of the burners compared to the size of your cookware to make sure you’ll actually be able to place two to three items next to each other to cook at once.

Fuel Type

Most camp stoves run on propane, which is available at many stores. Butane is a lighter option for backpackers. However, both propane and butane do not work well when temperatures dip below freezing. If you camp in the winter, a liquid fuel stove may be a better option.

Wood-burning stoves have grown in popularity recently, however, they tend to have a limited flame and less heat control compared to gas stoves. Use of wood-burning stoves may also be restricted in areas prone to wildfires.


One of the most important specifications to consider when you are in the market for a camp stove is BTUs. This measurement tells you how much heat output the stove has—the higher the number, the faster the stove will heat up.

It should be noted that if you are looking at a multi-burner stove, each burner may have its own BTU number.

Special Features

Wind Shield. Protecting your stove from the wind is very important for cooking food quickly and evenly. Consider purchasing a stove with a built-in wind shield or purchasing a separate windscreen.

Push-Button Ignition. Most-entry level stoves have manual ignition, which means that you’ll need to turn on the gas and then light a match or lighter. However, some more expensive stoves come with push button ignition.

Hybrid Options & Accessory Tops. Some stoves offer specialty accessories like a griddle, pizza oven, or barbecue box.

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