When you’re out on the trail hiking and camping, a deliciously hot meal can be a literal lifesaver. To make that hot meal you’re going to need a backpacking stove, but you don’t want to carry around a cumbersome, heavy gas stove.
The solution is packable, ultralight backpacking stove. The best backpacking stoves 2021 are so light you barely notice them and most pack down smaller than a water bottle.
Choosing an ultralight backpacking stove can be a bit of a challenge because there are so many options. You’ve got different materials to think of, different fuels, and different accessories.
That’s where I come in! I’ve done the hard work and found the 10 best lightweight backpacking stoves available right now. You just need to check out my reviews, check my buyer’s guide, and read through the FAQs!
The flame control handle on the Pocket Rocket is long enough to reduce the risk of burning yourself when you turn it down to simmer. Speaking of simmering, this backpacking stove simmer control is great and works at a very low levels which is great for cooking meals like pasta.
You get good fuel efficiency with the MSR PocketRocket 2 but it is no even close to the Jetboil in that department.
The Piezo ignition system works well and is a great addition when it was upgraded a couple of years ago.
Overall, there is a reason why the MSR Pocket Rocket 2 is the most popular ultralight backpacking stove on the market right now. There is nothing bad to report about this hiking canister stove. Great quality mixed with outstanding performance at a reasonable price.
There is an awful lot to love about this budget backpacking stove.
Firstly, it is a fraction of the price of name brand stoves making the AOTU Portable Camping Canister Stove the best budget stove for backpacking.
Secondly, it has some premium features despite the low price tag. The Piezo ignition system is great because it means we don’t need to fumble around with matches or lighters, however, I always bring a small lighter with me anyway just incase.
It has a flame control valve with a nice long handle. This means you don’t need to stick your hand near the flames or underneath the pot.
In its plastic storage box, this stove weighs about 4 oz which is great considering the budget price. Sure there are lighter weight backpacking stoves but nothing is close at this price.
The boil time is respectable, between 3 and 6 minutes for a liter of water. For the price, this is rather good.
The main complaint with this stove is the build quality. The pot stand is uneven making the whole thing a bit unstable. This problem can be fixed by bending them slightly to ensure the pot sits perfectly flat and even.
Overall, this is the best budget backpacking stove.
Jetboils have a bit of a cult following. There are plenty of people who refuse to use anything else.
What’s great about these stoves is that they are a complete canister stove system. They include the burner, pot supports, the cooking pot, and a measuring cup which also works as a bowl.
The reason Jetboil provides all this is that their stoves aren’t really compatible with any other kit. This is frustrating if you lose or damage the cooking pot.
At 12oz it is one of the heavier stoves on our list however it does include the cookware, so the weight makes a lot of sense. All you need is the isobutane/propane gas canister and away you go.
This stove packs a fair bit of power. It can boil half a liter in about 2.5 minutes. That’s more than enough for most freeze-dried meals!
On the downside, there is no ignition system, so you better remember your matches! It also doesn’t have a flame regulation system, so everything gets, well, jet boiled!
Overall, I love Jetboil. I love the fuel efficiency, the quick boil times, the quality and the fact that they are a complete canister stove system. Jetboil Zip is the best complete backpacking cook system on the market right now.
This is similar to the Jetboil in design at a fraction of the price. You get a burner that attaches to the top of a fuel canister, pot supports and a cup that attaches to the burner, an all in one canister stove system.
The base of the cup is designed to take the heat of the flame and transfer it effectively to the water.
Putting out about 11000BTU, this little stove is incredibly powerful. It can boil half a liter of water in around 2.5 seconds which is incredible!
The pot is 1.4 liters which is larger than the other stoves and pots in this review. The larger pot means everything, including the gas canister fits inside the pot, making it super easy to pack and carry.
In terms of weight, you’re looking at 15 oz all up. That’s quite heavy when you compare it to all the other stoves in this review.
Compared to the Jetboil Zip it is heavier but with a similar design and boil time. But unlike the Jetboil Zip it includes a simmer control burner and a Piezo ignition system.
Overall, this is a great budget alternative to the Jetboil Zip and which has better features at a lower price..
This kit is a full cook set. It has everything you need to make delicious meals at the end of a long day of hiking, including a washcloth and spork!
At half the price of some burner only stoves, this complete backpacking cookware set is excellent value for money. As well as the burner, you get two pots, a washcloth, spork, and a storage bag. What’s also great is the gas canisters can easily fit inside the pots.
Despite its low price, this stove competes well with its more expensive stoves in this review. It has an average boil time of about 3 minutes for two cups of water which is pretty good.
One wish is that the set would clip together for transport. The smaller pot does rest on top of the larger pot, but it doesn’t stay there unless it’s in the bag. If you lose the bag, you’re a bit stuffed.
Overall, the quality of the pots and burner is excellent for the price. A great alternative to Jetboil and Bluu Mont.
The ability to burn almost any type of fuel makes this the go to stove for expedition style trips. It can use Kerosene, white gas or unleaded fuel.
Where this stove really shines is the boil and burn times. Depending on whether you use white gas or kerosene, you can boil a liter of water in 3.5 or 4.5 minutes!
As for burn times and fuel efficiency, the MSR Whisperlite will get around 110 minutes from 20oz of white gas and 150 minutes out of 20oz of kerosene. That’s enough time to boil about 31.5 liters of water!
The liquid fuel stove comes with windshields to keep your flame protected, but it does not come with cookware. You’ll need to factor in the weight of your cookware and fuel on top of the weight of the stove. This can make it feel a bit heavier than other stoves.
This stove is fully maintainable with a spares kit for any issues that may occur in the backcountry.
The only thing I don’t like about this stove is the smell. When using some types of fuel the smell can penetrate through the stove to the staff sac and into everything inside the backpack. Having said that.
When I head into remote areas and wants to carry weeks worth of fuel, the MSR Whisperlite is the only stove I consider. The fuel efficiency and ability to maintain the stove in the field makes it supreme. This is the stove for you if spending a very long time away from resupply.
Overall, this is the MSR Whisperlite is best stove for extended travels in remote areas.
This is the first of two Redcamp stoves we’ve included. This one is one of the canister stoves with a bit of a twist.
Unlike most of the canister stoves we’ve seen so far, this one has a fuel hose which means that the stove doesn’t have to sit directly on top of the canister. This is great if you’ve got an oversized fuel canister because it gives the stove more stability.
At 8.5oz this stove is not quite in the ultralight category but is a great choice when using larger gas canisters.
It includes a Piezo ignition button, a flame control valve, and built-in windshields around the flame. These work together well to give you a boil time of around 2 and a half minutes for two cups of water!
Overall, this is another great budget option which is great for hikers wanting to use the larger gas canisters.
Alcohol backpacking stoves don’t come much lighter than this! At only 5oz you won’t notice this thing in your pack.
It is simple in design, just a stand, an alcohol burner, a fire cap, and a windshield. With no moving parts it is one of the toughest alcohol stoves in this review.
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You do need to buy your own cooking pot but considering this comes in at under $20 you’ll have plenty of spare cash to do that!
It comes with an included windshield and the pot stand can be used to provide additional wind protection. This definitely contributes to the decent boil time.
The burner has great simmer control and can be adjusted to get a smaller flame which is great for simmering pasta or other meals that require a low simmer heat.
The big downside of alcohol burners is the poor cooking time. At 6 minutes for 2 cups of water it is at the lower end compared to others in this review but OK for an alcohol stove.
The stove comes with a sealing lid that can be used to carry the alcohol fuel inside the stove. Despite the rubber o ring I like to empty all the fuel into a seperate container when I carry it in my pack. I’d hate to have alcohol fuel leak into everything.
This is a full cook system including the alcohol burner, two pots, a solid fuel burner, and a stand. This means that you can choose whether to use solid fuel or alcohol in your stove making it incredibly flexible.
Many years ago this was the ultralight stove of choice for thru hikers but things have changed over the years.
The full weight of this set comes in at 14oz which is a decent weight for everything that is included.
They achieve this low weight by using lightweight, anodized aluminum for the pots and stand.
The two pots also save space by packing together as a lid and a pot. Everything else will comfortably sit inside the pots. It’s a neat construction that will save space in your pack.
This is a multi fuel stove which can also burn the solid Espit fuel tablets. I always carry some of these fuel tablets with me when heading into very remote areas an an emergency fuel source to make fire for warmth or cooking.
The fuel can be stored inside the brass alcohol burner but this is not a good idea, a seperate fuel bottle is the best way to carry the fuel.
The boil time isn’t great when compared to some other stoves. It comes in at about 10 minutes for two cups of water. That being said, once it’s at a rolling boil, the burner keeps its heat very well.
Overall, this is a great cheap alcohol stove that can burn both Esbit solid fuel tablets and alcohol. But burn times are not good enough for most people.
Here is a list of stoves that are not on the main list but worthy of a look, most are on this list as I have not been able to review them as yet:
Snow Peak Litemax – The Snow Peak Litemax is just that, light. Made with titanium the stove is quite efficient but not as good as most of this on this list when it is windy.
Jetboil Flash – The Jetboil Flash is also a great integrated canister stove with great fuel efficiency.
Jetboil MiniMo – The Jetboil MiniMo like all the jetboils is an amazing integrated canister stove that not only has great fuel efficiency but has simmer control to vary the heat output.
Snow Peak Gigapower 2.0 – The Snow Peak Gigapower 2.0 is another strong performer but I think the Snow Peak Litemax would be the better option for canister stoves.
MSR Windburner – The MSR Windburner is a quite expensive canister stove and a couple of ounces heavier than the Jetboils.
BRS 3000t – BRS 3000t is one of the most ultralight backpacking stove on the market and should appeal to a lot of people for that reason alone. Made from titanium it is a worthy choice.
Lightweight Backpacking Stoves Buyer’s Guide
There are three things you really want to focus on when looking for a lightweight backpacking stove.
You want to look at the fuel type, the weight, and the system.
What Types Backpacking Stove Fuels are there?
There are 5 different kinds of commonly used fuels for backpacking stoves. They are:
Liquid Fuel Stoves
Canister Fuel Stoves
Solid Fuel Stoves
Liquid Fuel Stoves
The liquid fuel stoves burn liquid fuel which often goes by the name of Coleman fuel, White Gas or Bencina Blanca. They tend to be a bit bulkier than other stoves, but they work well for extremely cold weather, high altitude, group cooking or extended periods in remote areas.
Liquid fuel stoves do not have the best simmer controls but they can be turned down to simmer meals if needed, it just isn’t the best.
I love liquid fuel stoves for long term travel in remote areas. Looking to cycle across Africa or hike for months through the remote areas of the Himalaya? Then the liquid fuel stove would be best suited and when spending a very long time away from resupplies they are more fuel efficient.
Alcohol Stoves are a great and I’ve used them for hundreds of night of camping. These stoves use denatured alcohol which you can pick pretty much everywhere in the world.
The fuel is found in drugstores, marinas, hardware stores, as well as outdoor stores. They’re easy to use and light as anything.
They are the most simple of all these stoves with no moving parts.
Canister Stoves are by far the most popular kind of stoves with backpackers. Canister stoves are lightweight and usually folds down to a small size. They burn a fuel mix of isobutane propane.
The canister stoves are also compact and offer much better simmer control than any other type of stove which is better for cooking food rather than simply boiling water.
These things can put out a decent amount of heat but most don’t offer you huge amounts of control. They’re more about boiling things than simmering.
It could be said that they are not so good for traveling overseas but gas for canister stoves are becoming more and more available. Thinking of hiking the remote mountains in Peru, should be no problem to buy gas for canister stoves in the large towns where trekkers base themselves.
Wood Burning Stoves burn twigs and sticks which is super handy if you’re in a forest or similar environment.
I have used a combination alcohol stove and wood stove for multiple years and love it, however, it is not so good as a wood stove.
There are several downsides of wood stoves.
They are banned in a lot of places due to the risk of causing forest fires.
They are very inefficient and with slow cook times
Not easy to always find small sticks in the high mountains
Worst of all, the pots end up covered in black soot!
Solid Fuel Stoves
These stoves burn blocks of fuel. Solid Fuel Stoves are super lightweight, but the fuel can be difficult to find outside of camping or outdoor stores.
They are not as popular as they once were but I always carry a small block of solid stove fuel for emergencies. They are lightweight, easy to light and burn for quite a while.
On the downside these fuels are very inefficient resulting in very low cook times. Overall, there are better options for most people.
When it comes to the weight, there’s a lot of variation because it depends on the fuel and what else you carry as part of your stove system.
The aim is to keep the stove as light as possible so that you have more room for fuel and food. Most stoves are simply small guards that sit over the fuel tank.
When it comes to fuel, you need to strike a balance between size and use. You could get a tiny gas canister but that won’t last you long. Equally, a large bottle of denatured alcohol will often be more than you need.
Another thing to consider is how much extra fuel will the stove burn when it is windy. Efficient stoves with a wind shield will always use less fuel than a stove without one.
Gas fuels are lighter, but you have to factor in the weight of the canister as well as the shape. Liquid fuels weigh more oz for oz, but they don’t tend to have large canisters.
Wind Performance and Windscreens
Using a backpacking stove in strong wind is about as efficient as cooking food in an oven with the door open. All the heat just fails to stay in the places that they are needed.
Stoves that have some form of wind resistance, whether it is in the form of a windscreen or or an integrated stove that has built in wind protection will always perform better.
It is possible to purchase aluminum windscreens but I prefer to make my own with some thin sheets of aluminum such as baking trays from the local grocery store. I cut and bend them into whatever size and shape I need and fold them when not in use.
Beware of using windshields with canister stoves that have very high heat output. Ensure there is adequate ventilation as it is possible that the stove can get too hot. Yes, it is possible.
For alcohol stoves, liquid stoves and wood stoves and windshield is compulsory in all but the calmest of weather.
Ease of Use
When it comes to ease of use the integrated canister stove wins. It is the all in one stove system with pots burners, pot supports, ignitor and wind protection all in the one package. Just screw on the isobutane propane canister and away you go.
Integrated canister stoves like Jetboils are the clear winner here with liquid fuel stoves way down the list. Liquid fuels stoves need to be primed. This essentially means they need to be heated up before they work properly. Also, the jets need to be clean and matched to the correct fuel type.
When using poor quality alcohol fuel there have been many occasions that I have needed to prime the alcohol stove too. This involves pre heating the stove and alcohol before it can burn.
When in the high mountains of Mexico with low alcohol content fuel it can take a while for the stove to work properly. This happened to me a lot on cold temperatures.
Backpacking Cookware Sets need to be purchased separately for all stoves in this review except the integrated canister stoves such as the Jetboils and Bluu Mount. In most cases just buy the pot, a spork and a gas canister and head off into the backcountry.
Most airlines have a policy about carrying camping equipment and camping stoves.
I have traveled internationally with liquid fuel stoves, canister stoves and alcohol stoves and not had any issues. On several occasions airline staff have inspected my luggage when I declared that I was traveling with a backpacking stove.
I always cleaned my stoves multiple times with soapy water until not even the smallest amount of fuel smell was on the stove. By using normal dishwashing liquid and a sponge I clean, then rinse the stove more than once. This is not always easy with a liquid fuel stove that has used unleaded gas. Yes it stinks.
When I present my stove for inspection it is wrapped in a clean t shirt which I no longer want to wear. The t-shirt is super clean and smelling like a cross between roses and rainbow unicorns. I’ve never had a stove confiscated.
I’m sure I don’t need to mention that leave the gas from the canister stoves at home!
Any of these stoves will serve you well as a lightweight backpacking stove that uses denatured alcohol.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much fuel do I need for backpacking?
This depends on how long you’re going for and how many people are using the stove.
In general, for a solo weekend, your average 100g isobutane gas canister is more than enough. In fact, you can probably get 2 or 3 solo trips out of a 100g gas canister.
If you want to be a bit more precise you can do the math. This calculation assumes that the most you’re going to be doing is boiling water to heat up meals.
The first thing you’ll need to work out is how much water you’ll need to boil. The general rule is 1 liter per person per meal.
Next, you’ll need the boil time of your stove. This should be stated in the information but if not, you can test it by timing how long it takes to boil a liter of water.
With those two figures you can work out the boil time for your trip by multiplying the amount of water by the boil time of your stove.
Using that total boil time, you now need to work out how much of your stove’s total burn time you’re using. To do this, find the burn time in the information leaflet. This is how long your stove can burn for using a specified amount of fuel.
Divide the trip burn time by your stove’s burn time to get the percentage burn time.
Finally, to work out how much fuel you need to bring, multiply the percentage burn time by the amount of fuel specified in the stove burn time. For example, if your stove can burn for 60 minutes on 100g of fuel, you would multiply your percentage burn time by 100.
This gives you a final number that tells you how much fuel you are going to use.
Which is better: MSR or Jetboil?
It depends on which models you are comparing and what features are most important.
The Jetboil Zip has a quicker boil time and is more fuel efficient. The Jetboil can bring two cups of water to a boil in about 100 seconds while the MSR takes closer to 3 minutes.
If you’re looking at weight and versatility, then the MSR wins. The MSR Pocket Rocket 2 is only 2.4oz because it doesn’t come with a cooking pot. However, the lack of cooking pot is actually a good thing. You can pack yourself a pot that is half the weight of the Jetboil pot.
The system refers to the whole stove set up. In some cases, what you pay for is simply the stove top. In other cases, you get cookware and fuel included.
Some system parts to look out for include a windshield and a stand. These will save you oodles of time and fuel when you cook.