The best backpacking stoves of 2018 outdoorgearlab electricity use


No piezo ignitionWhen the original Pocket Rocket first came out over 15 years ago, it was a game changer, and backpackers were happy to ditch the liquid fuel and bulkier stoves for this lightweight option. The second generation is now out, and we love it just as much, if not more. The MSR Pocket Rocket 2 is even lighter and slimmer than its predecessor, making it an ideal choice for backpackers. Its simmering capabilities are also superior, allowing you to cook and enjoy more authentic meals (and less Ramen) in the backcountry. Even better is its price; at $45 it is a fraction of the cost of many other models in this review but performed the best overall.

The only thing we missed on this model was an auto-ignition lighter, which is a handy feature on many other backpacking stoves, such as the GigaPower 2.0 and Primus ETA Lite+. Its fuel efficiency is only average as well, so if you need to maximize your consumption, look to the Camp Chef Stryker instead. But for top performance at a reasonable price, the Pocket Rocket 2 dominated the field and earned our Editors’ Choice award.

Difficult to simmerThe Whisperlite is the original gangster of the liquid fuel stove world. This workhorse is near and dear to many adventurers’ hearts. This same model has been on the market for more than 30 years with few modifications because it works so well. We love that it is simple, reliable, and easy to repair in the field. It is also much quieter than other liquid fuel stoves — hence its name — so conversations in the kitchen are still possible.

Its boil time and fuel efficiency are average, and it’s a challenge to get it to simmer — we’ve all done the simmer/sputter out/relight shuffle, but cooking delicate meals is still do-able with some patience. While it’s not as light or small as a canister stove, we always reach for the Whisperlite for any multi-day adventure that involves melting snow for a group and feel confident that it will work in harsh conditions. If traveling internationally, check out the MSR Whisperlite Universal compatibility with various liquid fuels and canister gas.

Only so-so at simmeringThe MiniMo is an improved integrated canister stove from the company that invented the category. Like its predecessors, the burner head and pot mate solidly, allowing backpackers to pick up or pour with no concerns about the hot burner falling off unexpectedly. Early Jetboil piezoelectric lighters were notorious for failing, so our testers made a point of using it a lot and had no problems. The other significant improvement over early Jetboils is the burner head. The MiniMo’s burner was a top performer in fuel efficiency and boil time. It also simmers better than other integrated canister stoves. This, combined with the short and wide cup shape, open up new possibilities for actual cooking.

This setup is designed to boil water as fast as possible, not simmer a pot of rice for 20 minutes. Though it can simmer better than its predecessors, the Pocket Rocket 2 does it much better. As with other Jetboil brand stoves, the wind is the Achilles heel of the MiniMo. Though it stayed lit in our 8 – 10 mph wind test, we know from experience that higher gusts will extinguish the flame. The MSR Reactor and Windburner, once on, stay lit in any winds a human being can survive. For backpackers who also want to take their stove on an alpine climb or big wall (and can protect it from the wind), we think the MiniMo is an excellent choice.

We tested all of the products in this review with a combination of field use and in the "lab". After months on the trail, using them daily for all of our needs, along with some specific tests to determine performance under consistent wind speeds, we scored all the backpacking stoves on five criteria: fuel efficiency, weight, simmering, time to boil, and ease of use. The chart above shows the cumulative overall performance score of each model in our review. The MSR Pocket Rocket 2 came out on top, followed by the Jetboil MiniMo and the Snow Peak GigaPower 2.0. However, if you’re looking for performance in a specific area, say something that simmers well or is particularly fuel efficient, you can check out the scores under each metric below.

We tested a variety of different types of stoves in this review, including small canister stoves, integrated canister stoves, and liquid fuel stoves. We have recommendations for each, and we also have an in-depth Buying Advice article that explains in detail the difference between them. What you’ll need depends on your adventure; there is a stove out there for everyone’s needs, but you should decide what your priorities are first: weight and bulk, fuel efficiency, cooking ability, or all of the above?