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Backpacking Stove Fuel 101

Backpacking stoves can use a variety of fuels. We dig into the most common kinds: gas canisters and liquid fuel.

Published Oct. 27, 2021.

If you’re new to the world of backpacking stoves, fuel can be confusing—it’s a bit more complicated than hooking up propane to a backyard gas grill! 

There are two types of backpacking stoves: ones that use gas canisters and ones that use liquid fuel.

Stoves that use gas canisters are often very small and simply screw onto the gas canister. 

Stoves that use liquid fuel are usually much larger and have a fuel line that attaches to a bottle filled with the liquid fuel of your choice (gasoline, kerosene, white gas, jet fuel, or even diesel).

There are pros and cons to each of these fuel types, which can help you decide which stove is best for your needs.

Gas Canister

Liquid Fuel


Gas canisters for backpacking stoves are filled with a lightweight, energy-efficient blend of isobutane and propane gases. This mixture combines each gas’s best properties: Propane works well in adverse conditions, be it high altitude or cold temperatures, while isobutane has lots of energy packed in per volume and is superlight. 


The bottle is refillable, which is a bonus if you’re traveling to your hiking destination by air and want to bring your stove setup with you. Plus, you can use a variety of liquid fuels, which makes it easy to source fuel wherever you go.



Gas canisters are single-use only, whereas you can reuse and refill the bottle on a liquid fuel stove. You also can’t bring full gas canisters onto an airplane.


Liquid fuels are heavy and less energy efficient than gas canisters. The stoves that use them are also harder to set up than stoves that use gas canisters. 



Great for beginner backpackers and for local trips where weight and simplicity are of utmost importance


Great for international trips because the empty fuel bottle can be brought onto an airplane and filled with fuel at your destination


Backpacking Stoves

Lightweight and easy to assemble, backpacking stoves are designed to make trailside cooking stress-free. We found two that perform well and are easy to use.  
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