Outdoor Cooking Stove Options: Choosing What Works for You

Enjoy cooking outside!

Outdoor cooking stoves are an essential component to the camping experience. Other than basic survival and camping gear, cooking stoves are perhaps the most important piece of equipment you can purchase. A good stove should be reliable, mobile, efficient and easy to use.

Primus Classic Trail Stove

The Primus Classic Trail Stove is a basic, affordable and lightweight (8 ounces) camping stove that is ideal for a couple days of backcountry adventuring solo or with a few friends. Simply screw in the fuel canister, turn the nob to start the flow of gas and light the stove with a barbecue lighter.

You will be restricted in terms of what you can cook, and it will require traveling with additional gear beyond the stove itself, such as a small butane or propane canister and a single pot or pan. However, this stove can quickly and efficiently heat one-pot meals like chili, beans, oatmeal and other camping staples.

The Primus is a top-seller and well-rated option available from REI. Just be aware that as a consequence of its affordability, it won't function well at sub-zero temperatures or in windy conditions since it doesn't have a wind guard.

  • Best for: Backpacking trips for singles and small groups
  • Average price: $20.00

Jetboil MiniMo

Jetboil MiniMo Personal Cooking System
Jetboil MiniMo

If you're the type of camper who usually packs dehydrated meals or is serious about a caffeine injection first thing in the morning, the Jetboil MiniMo could be a great choice. This versatile and portable stove weighs 14 ounces and measures 5 x 6 inches when packed. It comes with a push-button ignitor for easy use, and it can use multiple types of fuel.

This camp stove comes with an integrated pot that will quickly heat water for dehydrated meals or hot drinks. If you choose to carry additional cookware, you can use it to make slightly more complicated meals.

This camp stove is the Winner of Backpacker magazine's 2015 Editor's Choice Award, and has also received top nods from Gear Patrol and The Independent.

  • Best for: Solo adventuring (and coffee addicts!)
  • Average price: $104 to $140 depending on the model chosen

MSR Dragonfly

MSR Dragonfly stove
MSR Dragonfly

If you are the kind of adventurer that likes to eat well while out on the trails, this stable-but-compactible MSR Dragonfly stove is a solid option. Rated as a top pick from Outdoor Gear Lab, it has the best simmer control of any liquid fuel burning stove on the market, so you can quickly heat food without burning. Its stable base allows you to use larger pots than most backpacking stoves.

As a consequence of its 14-ounce size and versatility, it's a bit heavier than some camp stoves, so consider if the ability to cook more creative meals is worth the extra few ounces. The $90 MSR WhisperLite is another popular option if you are willing to sacrifice cooking surface and better simmer control for a lighter, quieter model. Both will burn multiple fuels.

  • Best for: Serious adventurers
  • Average price: $140

Everest High-Output 2-Burner Stove by Camp Chef

The Everest High-Output 2-Burner Stove can be a good choice if you're heading somewhere for a weekend away and can afford to have a car full of gear that's a bit heavier. This stove, which also received a high rating from Gear Patrol, weighs about 10 pounds, but it's a great option because it has two high-pressure burners which pump out 20,000 BTUs.

This camp stove also has a sturdy steel cooking grate which can hold any cooking utensils necessary, plus the lid locks for easy transportation and compact storage. A matchless ignition lets you light the propane stove quickly without matches, so all you need to do is attach the fuel canister and press to ignite.

  • Best for: Car camping
  • Average price: $110

Coleman Triton Series 2-Burner Stove

Coleman Triton Series 2-Burner Stove
Coleman Triton Series 2-Burner Stove

If you are looking for a more affordable option that would mimic the same sort of cooking experience you could expect with the Everest, try the Coleman Triton Series. The biggest difference between the two stoves is that this model of the Coleman has a manual ignition instead of an auto ignition, and while it still has two separate burners, they are slightly less powerful at 11,000 BTU instead of 20,000.

This Triton still has heavy duty cooking grates, full wind shields, and independently adjustable burners. It's also easy to transport, so it's a good option if you are focused on affordability over performance. The stove has consistently received five-star reviews from customers at REI.

  • Best for: Budget car camping
  • Average price: $70

Points to Consider

Choosing the right camp stove can be a little difficult with so many options available. Your first consideration is how many people the stove will need to serve, but there are other points to consider which will help you decide which unit you want to purchase.

Fuel Type

There are many types of fuel used modern camping stoves, including butane, propane, kerosene and white gas, so it's a good idea to scout stove models that will take a few different kinds of fuel. This will be more common among lightweight backpacking models.

Size and Weight

When it comes to size and weight, you will also want to consider whether multiple burners or transportability is more important. If you make mostly dehydrated or one-pot meals, there's no need to buy a multi-burner system since it will be bulkier and provide no added value. Pay special attention to the weight if you plan on taking a stove on a backcountry trip. You can typically get top-of-the-line models that cap out around 15 ounces.

Tips for Using Outdoor Camping Stoves

Familiarizing yourself with your stove before you hit the trail will make it easier to use when you set up camp. You really don't want any surprises or mishaps when you're depending on it for your food. Keep these tips additional tips in mind as well for safer, more efficient operation.

  • Never smoke around the camp stove. The only flame that you should ever have near the camp stove is the flame you are using to light the cooking device.
  • Never use the stove inside a tent or other shelter. Tent materials are often extremely flammable and the stove will consume all the oxygen in the tent.
  • Keep a lid on the pans and dishes you use on the stove to prevent accidental burns. Always carry a wilderness survival kit in your camping gear in case of a burn or other injury.
  • Never use the stove on snow or frozen ground. The stove will slowly begin to heat the snow or ice and this can lead to an accident. Just as you want to camp dry for tent protection, you want to cook dry for your own safety.
  • Try to keep fuel sources warm because warm fuel burns more efficiently.
  • Make sure the stove can work at altitudes above 10,000 feet if you'll be camping in the mountains.
  • Be sure to get a warranty for the stove when you purchase it because stove parts tend to break. Plan to carry replacement parts with you.
  • When purchasing a camping stove, always remember to consider any necessary accessories you intend to use while cooking. For instance, a stand and extra holders for pots and pans will come in handy if you plan on cooking a large amount of food.
  • Always carry matches so you can light the stove manually if you have to. Even if you can effortlessly light it with the simple touch of a button, it's always best to be prepared. The stove might get wet or require matches to light for some other reason.

The Right Camp Stove for Your Trip

Each camping trip is unique. Sometimes you want to be by yourself, and other times you want to camp with friends. This means you might need a small stove for some trips and a larger one for group camping. Prices are reasonable enough to own more than one style, so start out with a stove you feel comfortable operating, and explore other options when the need arises.

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Outdoor Cooking Stove Options: Choosing What Works for You