How to Use and Care for a Backpacking Stove

Going camping or backpacking? We'll tell you how to take care of your portable stove.

Published Oct. 27, 2021.

Proper use and care of your backpacking stove ensures that you'll get many trips out of it. Read on to learn some best practices.

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How to Safely Set Up and Light a Gas Canister Backpacking Stove 

You bought a gas canister backpacking stove and are ready to hit the trail. But before you go, it’s a good idea to set it up and light it to make sure that you know how it works. Here are step-by-step instructions for safely setting up and lighting your stove.

1. First, check to make sure that the fuel-adjuster knob is set to the closed position. This usually means turning it as far clockwise as you can.

2. Now, remove the tab on the gas canister. Screw the stove onto the fuel, making sure that it's tightly secured. You may hear some gas escape from the canister when you do this, but it should stop once the stove is fully attached.

3. To light the stove, first turn the fuel-adjuster knob counterclockwise, listening until you hear the sound of the fuel being released (it will sound like a whooshing noise).

4. If the stove has a built-in igniter, simply push it until the flame appears. If the stove doesn't have a built-in igniter, use a lighter to carefully ignite the fuel near the burner.

5. Turn the fuel-adjuster knob to adjust the heat level to your needs, and get cooking.

6. To shut it off, simply turn the fuel-adjuster knob fully clockwise until the flame extinguishes and the sound of gas stops. Wait before removing the stove from the gas canister, since it will be hot. To remove it, simply unscrew the stove from the canister and put the cap back on the canister.

A Few Safety PSAs

  • Don’t Light Up Inside: Never light your stove inside an enclosed space, since you could get carbon monoxide poisoning. If it looks like it will be rainy during your backpacking trip and you’re concerned about cooking outside, consider bringing an umbrella or a tarp or food that doesn’t need to be cooked (e.g., tuna pita pockets made with water-packed fish, packets of mayonnaise, salt, and pepper, all stuffed into a pita). 
  • Keep the Stove Away from Flammable Gear: Don’t light your stove near flammable materials such as sleeping bags, tents, or other fuel canisters. While a lot of camping gear is required to be fire-retardant, that doesn’t mean it won’t catch on fire or melt. It’s best to be safe and set up your stove a good distance away from other gear.

The One Thing That Will Make or Break Your Stove’s Performance

When it comes to gas canister backpacking stove maintenance, it’s important to keep an eye on the rubber O-ring, which is located in the stoves’ threaded attachment piece that screws onto the fuel canister. O-rings that are dirty, cracked, or damaged in any way can cause gas leaks, which can result in flare-ups and possible injury. Refer to your stove’s manual for instructions on how to examine and replace the O-ring. In general, O-rings should be replaced after one year.

Four Tips to Get the Most from Your Backpacking Stove

A windscreen (left) and fuel-can stabilizer (right)
  1. Get Yourself a Windscreen and Heat Reflector: These simple, bendable metal pieces keep heat in and wind out, cutting down the time it takes to boil water significantly, even against 8-mile-per-hour winds. We tested one stove against the wind with and without these pieces; they reduced the boiling time from 7 minutes to 2 minutes and 15 seconds, a huge reduction. 
  2. Find a Sheltered Area to Cook: While it might be tempting to cook dinner cliffside (the views! The sunset!), open areas tend to be more exposed to the elements such as wind and rain. Instead, set up your stove in a sheltered area, such as behind a large boulder or tree or at the base of a cliff. 
  3. Buy a Fuel-Can Stabilizer: Cheap and made to fit various canister sizes, fuel-can stabilizers help keep your stove setup steady on a variety of surfaces. 
  4. Be Careful About Storage: Backpacking stoves are somewhat delicate, and chucking one into a bin of camping supplies is probably not the best idea. We recommend storing your stove in the bag it came in and keeping it in a place where the temperature remains somewhat steady, since temperature fluctuations can hasten the deterioration of the stove’s O-ring.

Backpacking Stoves

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