Fires aren’t always practical, safe, or allowed at campsites or on the trail. Yet all that fresh air and exercise can spark an appetite much bigger than energy bars and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Choosing the right camping stove is about finding a balance between your cravings and your pack size. Rustle up pancakes for your whole family if you’ve pitched a tent not far from your car, or enjoy a solitary hot can of chili on a rocky outcropping as the evening temperature drops. Here are our favorites.
If you are hiking just a mile or two to your campsite, carrying this stove along is totally doable. The stove and case together weigh just five pounds, and the stove itself is 13 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 5 inches high. It works with butane or propane fuel, and features a single burner for cooking. The piezoelectric ignition doesn’t require a match or lighter to spark a flame, though you might want to carry one just in case. You’ll also want to consider a wind guard so you don’t have to postpone your meal when mother nature decides to stir up a strong breeze. The flame is adjustable to give you more control over your meal preparation.
If you want to treat your fellow campers to pasta with a delicious béchamel sauce, this two-burner propane stove gives you room to transform quick grub into fine cuisine. At a weight of 8.5 pounds, it’s best for campsites close to your car, though it folds up for easy portability. One 16.4 ounce propane cylinder lasts over an hour with both burners on high, and you can control the flames on each burner separately. It can accommodate two 10-inch pans, and the aluminized-steel cooktop is designed to resist rusting in damp conditions.
This tiny gas-powered stove is about 3 inches tall, 2 inches wide, and weighs less than five ounces when packed up. If you often find yourself camping in an open, windy area, this model is designed to still boil two cups of water in less than 2.5 minutes in gusty weather. Larger pots are supported with a flexible system that attaches to the stove, and the built-in igniter allows you to get a flame with less risk of burning your fingers. Just be sure to pack fuel.
With this tiny stove and pan kit, you’ll have most of the equipment you’ll need for a hearty meal in the mountains or countryside while adding less than two pounds to your backpack. It’s powered by denatured alcohol and comes with a windshield to protect against less-than-optimal conditions. The customized 7.25-inch frying pan and two 4-cup saucepans fit easily together with the stove to leave you more room to pack tasty provisions. The tradeoff is a considerably longer heating time, but if it’s just the moonlight and you, what’s the rush?