- A reliable camp stove is a great way to enjoy a warm meal and a hot cup of coffee when you’re out in the field. It can also be must-have for purifying water and safely cooking food.
- The MSR PocketRocket Deluxe is our top pick because it’s compact, easy to use, and has a built-in igniter.
There really is nothing like a hot cup of coffee on a cold mountain morning, except maybe a hot meal on a cold mountain evening. Or some fresh fish cooked up minutes after it was pulled from the stream. Or a mug of hot cocoa sipped by the campfire as snowflakes dance beneath the winter stars. (You get the picture.)
With a good camp stove, you can enjoy a bit of creature comfort even when you’re a multi-day hike away from the comforts of home. In our woodland wanderings, we’ve used three or four stoves of our own and cooked and/or boiled water using easily a dozen stoves owned by fellow mountaineers. We’ve used camp stoves to cook up multiple course meals during leisurely afternoons at well-established campsites and we’ve used them to melt snow and ice just so we had enough water to drink in order to rehydrate after an exhausting climb. Mostly, though, like all campers, we’ve used them to boil water.
In fact, it’s worth noting that, more than any other use, a camp stove will be used to boil water, not for actual cooking. This is so both for purifying water and because so many ready-made camp meals simply require the addition of heated H2O. So along with that camp stove, make sure you also get a decent pot for boiling.
Any decent stove will produce plenty of heat and will resist the elements, but beyond that, there are all sorts of differences between various brands and models that make a given unit ideal for one user but a poor choice for others. In discussing the six camp stoves on this list, we’ll cover not only each option’s inherent qualities but will also talk through why each model is well suited to specific activities, as well as why a given stove may be a poor choice for other scenarios.
Each of these camp stoves is unique in several ways, but a few factors must be universally considered with backpacking stoves. These are weight, fuel source, and boil time, which is tantamount to considering BTU output. Beyond that, go ahead and let personal preference help inform your choice of the best camp stove. After all, you’re the chef who’ll be using it out there in the field.
Note: These camping stoves do not include fuel tanks, as they are shown in the photos.
Here are the best camp stoves you can buy:
- Best camp stove overall: MSR PocketRocket Deluxe
- Best budget camp stove: Coleman Bottle Top Propane Stove
- Best high-powered camp stove: Mr. Steak 1-Burner Infrared Portable Grill
- Best high-tech camp stove: BioLite CampStove 2
- Best stove for fast boiling: Jetboil Flash
- Best stove for world travel: MSR Whisperlite International
Updated on 09/03/2019 by Les Shu: Updated prices, links, and formatting. Added MSR PocketRocket Deluxe, Jetboil Flash, and MSR Whisperlite International.
The best camp stove overall
- James Stout/Business Insider
The MSR PocketRocket Deluxe is a compact and lightweight stove that fits inside a coffee mug but has a convenient auto igniter and simmering capability.
You shouldn’t need to carry an extra piece of gear to make a spark, yet, many camping stoves still rely on matches or a lighter to light the flame. Not with the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe, which has a built-in automatic piezo igniter that’s cased in steel for reliability.
Despite its small size and weight, the PocketRocket Deluxe is no slouch. It can boil a liter of water in less than four minutes. The burner is adjustable, so you can lower the heat for a simmer – something that’s hard to achieve with a one-setting burner. There’s also a built-in pressure regulator to ensure you get reliable and fast cooking until the gas canister is depleted.
As long as you place the stove (with gas canister attached) on a level surface, it will support anything from a frying pan to a small cup. Like all lightweight backpacking stoves, the PocketRocket Deluxe will only run on self-sealing isobutane fuel canisters. If you’re flying to a destination, simply do what I do: Since you can’t bring a gas canister onto a plane or have it shipped, I stop by a local outdoors retailer after I’ve arrived, to pick one up (you can also get advice on where to camp, hike, and climb, if you aren’t familiar with an area).
I’ve used this stove extensively, as well as other PocketRocket variants. I like the simplicity of the design, and with the deluxe version, I now have the convenience of a push-start igniter; the igniter adds an extra 10 grams when compared to the standard PocketRocket, but it’s totally worth it. What I also like is MSR’s warranty: Even after years of abuse, MSR stands by its products and offers extremely economical repair or replacement options.
Compared to our previous overall pick, the Snow Peak LiteMax Titanium, the PocketRocket Deluxe is heavier. But the LiteMax Titanium is pricier, isn’t as stable, and lacks MSR’s warranty.
Whether I’m camping in my car or on a complicated thru-hiking trip, the PocketRocket Deluxe’s excellent durability and the convenience of the built-in igniter make it one item I now bring along. Outdoor Gear Lab gave the stove its Editors’ Choice award, although it thought the igniter was not reliable. – James Stout
Pros: Lightweight and compact, self-igniting, simmers well
Cons: Not the best in high-wind without a screen
The best budget camp stove
The Coleman Bottle Top Propane Stove acts like a standard stovetop burner, and it’s powerful, rugged, and well priced.
You know how the razor companies get you by selling the handles cheap but then pricing the blade cartridges at astronomical rates? It can be like that with camp stove fuel, too. But the best field stove in the world is just a paperweight without fuel, so buy it you will, regardless of the price. With the Coleman Bottle Top Propane Stove, those canisters of propane fuel are surprisingly low-priced – you can often get a two-pack of the 16-ounce fuel cylinder for less than 10 bucks. One such tank will burn for two hours at full blast and as long as eight or nine hours on a low setting. So if you want to make campsite risotto, go for it. Oh, and the stove itself is affordable, too.
Flame control is remarkably easy with this stove, just twist that large plastic knob all the way open for a roaring 10,000-BTU output or dial it back for hours of simmering. And thanks to the deep bowl shape and generous wind baffles, this stove will maintain a consistent burn in all but the most powerful gusts of wind. The burner is large and stable enough to accommodate an 8-inch pan or pot, so you really can almost treat it like a standard stovetop.
I used one of these stoves for several years and still keep one on hand in case the stove in my house ever has a problem or for some sort of apocalyptic nightmare during which I still wanted to cook pasta. But you’ll probably never see me bringing this stove along for another hike or climb. Why? Weight and size. This stove weighs more than two pounds, with the canister adding another three pounds or more when filled. That’s heavier than some tents and sleeping pads combined. So while I highly recommend this stove for car campers or emergency preparedness, it’s a poor choice for climbers or trekkers.
That said, the Coleman Bottle Top Propane Stove currently enjoys a 4.6 out of 5-star rating on Amazon. If there’s one thing many people singled out about their Coleman stove, it’s reliability. One customer who bought her stove years before Amazon even existed, wrote, “I purchased this [stove] in 1992 and use it regularly while camping today.” Anne’s Travels blog says the Coleman stove is “great for a large pot” and “fuel efficient.” – Steven John
Pros: Low price point, long burn time, easy flame output adjustment
Cons: Very heavy and bulky
The best high-powered camp stove
- Mr. Steak
The Mr. Steak 1-Burner Infrared Portable Grill cranks out 14,000 BTUs and can heat up to an astounding 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’re pushing for the mountain summit of Denali or the Eiger, then it’s probably best to leave the Mr. Steak 1-Burner Infrared Portable Grill back at base camp. At around 30 pounds and measuring 25 by 16 by 16 inches, this is most definitely a car camping grill. But with that size comes 165 square inches of cooking space, below which an immensely powerful ceramic infrared burner can heat up to as much as 1,000 degrees. Not that you will need that much heat most of the time, but hey, it’s there for you.
The Mr. Steak 1-Burner Infrared Portable Grill works with a standard one-pound propane cylinder (the squat green ones, like the ones the Coleman stove uses) and has an electronic ignition system. When you’re not using the grill, you can fold its legs up for easier storage or transport, and when you are using it, you’ll appreciate the cool-to-the-touch silicone cover on the handle and a latch that can hold the cover open while you’re flipping burgers.
An Amazon customer who owns a Mr. Steak grill says he “never would have thought [he] could personally grill steakhouse-quality steak on a lightweight, portable grill like this one,” adding that it is “super easy to transport” (unless you’re scaling Everest). Another customer calls the grill “the best of the best.”
And having owned one, I can attest to both customers’ comments. – Steven John
Pros: Amazing heat output, large cook surface, electric ignition system
Cons: Expensive, not suitable for hauling on foot
The best high-tech camp stove
The BioLite CampStove 2 can cook your meal and charge your phone and GoPro camera at the same time thanks to an ingenious built-in generator fueled by heat.
When you’re out there in the wilderness, you shouldn’t be staring at your phone; you should be looking at the stars, the mountains, or the valleys and such. That said, keeping a charged phone is important for safety – and for selfies. Keeping a rechargeable flashlight fully powered is always a good idea, and those GoPro camera batteries always seem to need recharging, don’t they?
Maintaining battery life in all those devices when in the field means carrying battery packs, using a solar charger, or firing up something you’re probably traveling with: your stove.
The BioLite CampStove 2 is a wood-burning stove that has a built-in generator capable of producing 3 watts of electricity while the fire is hot. That’s enough power to charge small devices, illuminate a Biolite lamp, or to charge the unit’s internal battery for later use when the fire isn’t burning.
Besides providing power, it’s also a damn good stove. With a decent fire built up, the BioLite CampStove 2 can bring a liter of water to boil in less than five minutes and produces plentiful heat for cooking. In fact, there are compact fans inside the burn chamber that you can set at four different speeds to increase or decrease the intensity of the heat.
That’s right: This is a wood-burning, electricity-producing stove that effectively has adjustable heat settings. How badass is that?
A reviewer from GearChase put the BioLite CampStove 2 through the motions and found it easy to cook “with fuel found easily around a campsite” thanks to the high heat output. He also found the “build quality very durable.”
The Insider Picks team is a fan of BioLite’s gear, having tested a few of the products and visited its design studio. Check out our review of the BioLite FirePit. – Steven John
Pros: Charges small devices, built-in fans regulate heat, works with myriad accessories
Cons: Getting initial fire burning can be frustrating
The best stove for fast boiling
The Jetboil Flash gets a lot of water really hot, really fast. If you primarily rely on your stove to make hot drinks and rehydrate meals, this is the stove for you.
When I get back from a long day on the trail, I want the most food in the shortest amount of time. This means pouring hot water onto couscous or a dehydrated meal. If it’s the mornings, then it’s coffee posthaste. For these moments, I rely on the Jetboil Flash. Using a cleverly-designed pot that’s attached to a large burner – it looks (and sound) like a jet engine – the Flash can boil 16 ounces of water in less than two minutes. It is so fast that the first time I used it, it began boiling over while I was still prepping my meal.
This is a product designed with backpackers in mind. The whole thing packs down into the provided pot and even has space for a small fuel canister. Not only does this mean it takes up very little space, it also makes it hard to lose or forget a part of the stove.
If you want to sear, sauté, and simmer, the Jetboil Flash isn’t for you. Although there are accessories that will let you use a frying pan, this is really a stove for heating your water fast, which is all most backpackers need. – James Stout
Pros: Boils water quickly, contains all the parts inside the pot, push-button ignition
Cons: Can be hard to clean, can’t be used with other pots or pans easily
The best stove for world travel
The Whisperlite International from MSR can go anywhere and burn almost anything. If you’re traveling to remote locations, this is the reliable and rebuildable stove to take with you.
Isobutane is great for cooking fast with a steady flame and comes packaged in convenient canisters. Unfortunately, you can’t fly with it, which could be an issue if you’re going to some remote area where there isn’t a camping store nearby. In this type of situation, the MSR Whisperlite International is a better alternative. Not only can the stove burn white gas, kerosene, or unleaded gas, it is also incredibly robust.
I own a Whisperlite that I’ve entirely rebuilt (under the supervision of a qualified technician, so don’t worry if you come camping with me) and could easily fix in the field, even on long expeditions. MSR not only offers refurbishment of their stoves, they also include many of the tools and spare parts in the package, meaning that you could be taking the Whisperlite International on adventures for years to come.
This reliability combines with MSR’s clever “shaker jet” design, which prevents the fuel jet from getting clogged by using a needle inside the jet – cleaning it out when the stove is shaken. All of this makes the Whisperlite International the go-to choice for big expeditions.
With some practice, you’ll be able to quickly light the Whisperlite International (you do need to bring a lighter). Advanced users can regulate the flame enough to simmer water if required. I’ll admit that most of my uses have been limited to heating water and making oatmeal and coffee, but more adventurous cooks will be happy with the Whisperlite, especially when the alternative is going stove-less or using a wood or alcohol stove with pitiful heat output. – James Stout
Pros: Compatible with various types of fuel, excellent longevity
Cons: Not the lightest stove
Check out our other great camping gear guides
- Julian Bialowas/Unsplash
With a good tent, you can always feel at home, even when you’re actually miles from civilization and a few thousand feet up in the mountains. The Mountainsmith Morrison EVO 2 Person tent is our top choice for best tent, thanks to its great price, ease of setup, and ability to keep you warm and dry even in bad weather.
You should also consider the Flytop Outdoor Backpacking 2 Person Tent, the ALPS Mountaineering Tasmanian 3 Person Tent, and the Coleman Evanston Screened 6 Person Tent. One of these options will surely suit you and your fellow outdoor enthusiasts.
A great set of camping cookware brings the comfort of the kitchen to the campsite. The Gear4U Camping Cookware Mess Kit is our top pick because it contains 13 useful items that tuck together into one compact package weighing just 1.3 pounds. Here are all of our favorites:
- Best overall: GSI Bugaboo Camper Cookset
- Best low-cost set: MalloMe 10-Piece Cookware Mess Kit
- Best for the solo camper: Stansport 360 Stainless Steel Mess Kit
- Best for boiling water: Terra Hiker Camping Cookware Set
Sacrificing weight while backpacking is common, but you don’t have to sacrifice comfort, too.
Ultimately, the type of tent you pick to join you on the long haul depends on the type of trip you intend to take. Short trips can err on the side of a heavier tent while longer, multi-day trips may call for an ultralight option. No matter the scenario, tent makers like Big Agnes, MSR, and even REI have a sea of available options designed specifically to keep you cozy while catching some shut-eye.
Here are our top picks for the best backpacking tents:
- Best tent overall: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2
- Best tent for ultralight backpacking: Nemo Hornet 2
- Best tent for couples: MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2
- Best tent for 4-season backpackers: The North Face Mountain 25
- Best budget-friendly tent: REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus
A sleeping bag is more than a matter of comfort. In extreme circumstances, having the right sleeping bag can be a matter of life and death. But that’s no reason not to find one that’s nice and cozy, too.
Here are the best sleeping bags you can buy: