There are many types of stove available to those planning to cook outdoors. All of which have their merits and drawbacks depending on your planned activity so finding out more about the options available and the benefits will be time well spent. Wether your a making a cuppa at a campsite or cooking your dinner on top of a mountain, the right camping stove will make the difference.
Highlander's camping stove guide will show you the pros and cons of different stoves and which is most suitable for your adventure.
Wood and Twig Burners
This stove is designed to utilise twigs, cones, paper etc as fuel and generally use a twin walled design which acts as a windshield and aids efficient burning, (just like a wood burner in a home in miniature). Small units like the Cabar Wood Burning Stove are compact and lightweight, larger units often have built in kettle vessels which can boil water very efficiently.
Pros: Free fuel, reasonably efficient, compact (smaller units)
Cons – Finding dry fuel, larger units are bulky
Traditionally how everyone cooked of course but not always practical when camping as in many areas fuel can be a problem or fire building inappropriate or illegal. Bushcrafting is an activity where life centres around the fire but it is not really a practical option for wild camping. The potential environmental impact of a fire or the risk of fire spreading must always be considered.
Pros – No stove or fuel to carry, fire gives heat and light
Cons – Environmental impact of irresponsible fires is huge. Can be difficult to start fires in bad weather or find fuel, messy and smoky
Solid Fuel Stoves and Gel Stoves
Long a favourite of the forces, solid fuel stoves are simple frames which utilise flammable tablets made of Hexamine (a carbon based compound) which is highly flammable and burns with a very hot flame. In windless conditions a fuel tablet will boil a mug of water in about 6-8 minutes. Gel stoves utilise either a petroleum based or plant based gel which burns with similar properties to solid fuel.
Pros – Very compact, light, easy to light
Cons – Not very efficient or controllable, dirty, only good for small pots or mugs
Meths/Spirit Burner Stoves
Spirit burning stoves are very popular with educational groups, Duke of Edinburgh Award teams, Scouts and the like as they are simple to operate and often come as a compact set with pots, pans and windshield included. The brass burner is twin walled and wicks the spirit up from the reservoir to burn through a series of holes around the rim. The burner can also be used alone and is very compact and light.
Pros – Reasonably compact as a set or burner alone, Meths or similar fuel is readily available, Easy to use, no moving parts on burner
Cons – Not hugely efficient
Liquid Fuel Stoves
Traditionally, liquid fuel stoves were fuelled by paraffin and required preheating using a small amount of meths to start. These brass pressurised stoves were universally used well into the late 20th century and are still popular with aficionados today as they have a temperamental charm all of their own and are still extremely efficient.
Modern liquid fuel stoves tend to use white gas (Coleman Fuel) or petrol although many will also burn diesel, paraffin, avgas etc. Some are true multifuel stoves which will convert easily from liquid fuel to gas.
These stoves use a pump to pressurise the fuel and tend to be self priming. Care should be taken with any stove to prevent the flame flaring but with practice these stoves are excellent and very controllable.
Pros – Efficient and controllable, fuel readily available, robust
Cons – Require occasional cleaning and maintenance, care required in use
Gas is the most popular type of stove used for camping and come in a range of styles:
Campsite Cookers: Larger cookers with twin burners and occasionally a grill (Folding Double Burner/Grill) Tend to work from a separate gas cylinder or cartridge linked to the cooker by a flexible hose. Some have windshields fitted. Easy to use, clean and often with a self ignition system. Not for backpacking however as they are heavy and bulky.
- Portable Gas Stove: Relatively lightweight compact cooker normally in a carry case, designed for campsite use. Gas cartridge is housed inside the cooker body and the pot is placed on the raised stand over the burner. Easy to use but do require care and familiarity with the instructions to avoid overheating.
Cartridge stoves for backpacking
Gas cartridge stoves are the most popular form of backpacking stove as they are lightweight, compact and generally work efficiently. Gas stoves are clean to use and are very controllable. Cartridge gas is pressurised and the performance of a cartridge can drop off as the gas runs out. Gas can also be affected by cold temperatures and you may want to keep your cartridge insulated when not in use. Some stoves may also benefit from a windshield to improve boiling times.
|Fastboil type stoves – These stoves come as an integrated system where the boiling cup clips directly onto the burner head. These stoves are excellent for quickly boiling water for drinks or for rehydrating expedition food but are less good for cooking as the cup is narrow and the food can burn if left unstirred. Many manufacturers include a burner ring into their fastboil system which allows use of a wider conventional pot on the burner.||Compact stoves – Lightweight and compact and very controllable. These stoves are widely used and very practical. Some screw directly onto the cartridge (Hpx100 Compact Stove and Hpx200 Compact Stove) and others (Triplex Compact Stove) use a flexible hose to keep the gas separate and give the stove a lower centre of gravity. Different stoves will give different heat outputs and are suitable for different pot sizes depending on your use.|
Cartridge stove pros – Gas easy to get from outdoor retailers, shops in popular areas etc, clean, controllable.
Cartridge stove cons – Fuel can be expensive, slightly less efficient in cold weather.
Gas stoves are in many ways the most practical form of cooking for backpacking and wild camping as they are robust, lightweight and easy to use. Here are a few final points to consider:
- Consider using a cartridge stabiliser, these are lightweight and compact tripods which fit onto the base of the cartridge in use and can reduce the risk of the stove being knocked over and making a mess.
- A lightweight windshield is also useful as this will increase efficiency and reduce boiling times.
- Take great care if you are tempted to cook in the doorway of the tent. Unexpected flare ups, spills, flapping tent doors etc can all be hazards and are best avoided.
- Always test screw on gas cartridges prior to a trip. Make sure you have the correct fitting as Camping Gaz cartridges will not fit on any other stove. Also - some gas cartridges randomly do not work on some stoves due to inconsistences in the valve assembly of the cartridges. A quick test at home will prevent disappointment when you can’t cook your dinner or make a brew after a long days walk
- Always carry a spare way of lighting your stove, even if it has a self igniter on it.
- Most outdoor people will inevitably end up with a range of stoves for different jobs. It’s all part of the fun.
Lastly – Take care, have fun and enjoy cooking in a kitchen with a view.
Check out the range of stoves and find the right one for you here.