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.
Published Oct. 27, 2021.
We tested a variety of backpacking stoves, examining their ability to not only boil water but also sauté and simmer backcountry fare. Our winners, the Soto WindMaster Stove with 4Flex and the Jetboil MightyMo, were incredibly lightweight and easy to assemble; both stoves allowed us to cook everything from boil-and-eat backpacking meals to scrambled eggs with precision and ease. If you want maximum stability and wind resistance, go for the stove from Soto. If you’re after precise heat control, opt for the model from Jetboil.
The sun is shining, the birds are twittering, and you’ve decided to go off the grid and take a backpacking trip in the great outdoors. While a good tent, backpack, and sleeping bag are essential, so is a lightweight stove to cook your meals (nobody’s hauling a heavy car camping stove on the Appalachian Trail!). Enter backpacking stoves, aka the tiniest, lightest stoves you’ve probably ever set eyes on.
This type of stove is most often used by backpackers to boil water to rehydrate shelf-stable, freeze-dried backpacking food. For our testing, we selected stoves that claimed to have precise heat control so that we could perform some simmering and gentle sautéing tasks (e.g., cooking items such as instant rice and beans or rehydrated chili) as well as boil water. Other important qualities on our list included having a stable cooking surface and performing well even in windy conditions.
Fuel compatibility is another important feature to consider when choosing a backpacking stove. There are two popular options: liquid fuel–compatible stoves and gas canister–compatible stoves. Liquid fuel stoves come with empty fuel bottles that can be filled with a variety of liquid fuels, including white gas, kerosene, and gasoline. Gas canister stoves rely on nonrefillable gas fuel canisters that contain a blend of isobutane and propane. We chose to limit this testing’s lineup to stoves that are compatible with gas fuel canisters, because these canisters weigh less than liquid fuel canisters (important when backpacking) and are easier to connect to the stove. The one exception was the MSR WhisperLite Universal stove, which is designed to use either fuel type, though we tested it with only an isobutane-propane gas canister.
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.