A Simple Guide to Ultralight Stoves
Backpacking Essentials: A Simple Guide to Ultralight Stoves
Simple canister stoves like the Icetek Sport Ultralight or the Leegoal Ultralight are the cheapest, lightest, and easiest to use of backpacking stoves. They generally cost anywhere between 5 and 20 bucks (fuel and cooking pots sold separately) and weigh less than 4 oz. They fold up and/or come with handy carrying cases. You simply screw the gas canister to the bottom (in most cases) and fit your pot to the top. Most have a Piezo ignition, which means they generate an electric spark using a buildup of pressure, rather than a running an electrical current. The flame is adjustable allowing you to boil, or keep food at a gentle simmer.
A good choice for a first timer, a more veteran backpacker may struggle with the the limitations of a simple canister stove. First, because it relies on pressure to work, low temperatures, and low fuel supply will affect its performance. Second, you can only use pre-filled canisters so you need to carry all the canisters you will need. When you purchase the fuel you will want to make sure the thread count on the can and on your stove match up, or fuel will leak. The flame is open to the elements, so even a small breeze will displace some of the heat. Unlike other stoves, you cannot use a windshield or heat reflector on a canister stove or it could explode. So don’t do that! The number or size of canisters (the come 4, 6, or 8 oz) you need will depend on weather conditions, as cold or windy weather can affect the efficiency of the fuel, and also on the way you plan to use the stove (just boiling water or cooking food for longer periods of time at a simmer).
Here are some guide to help you figure out how much fuel to pack:
More expensive canister stove options like the Jetboil Flash or the MSR Windburner have built in wind screens and come with tight fitting pots to help capture and focus the heat better than the simple versions. However, these models are ten times more expensive, costing anywhere from $90 to $120 and weigh more (14 oz). You are limited to using the 1 liter pot that comes with it. However, the bonus -- both have lids that attach to the pot, allowing them to double as travel cups.
Liquid Gas Stoves like the MSR WhisperLite cost about $80 (not including fuel bottle and pot) and attach to a refillable fuel bottle. Meaning, you can carry only some of the fuel you will need if you anticipate being able to pick some up along the way (for long hauls). You can generally use any readily available fuel (white fuel, diesel, kerosene, etc.) which you can get at most gas stations. At almost 15 oz. it’s quite a bit heavier than the simple canister stoves and may take up more space in your bag. But as mentioned, you can get away with carrying less weight (and using up less bag space) in fuel if you are able to resupply. You can also purchase wind shields and heat reflectors to capture heat and make the stove more effective. The gas bottle does not sit directly under the burner so you don’t need to worry about an explosion if you put a reflector around the burner to capture heat. You can also control the flame to keep food simmering -- the same as a canister stove. The fuel bottle has a primer pump (which may be more work) but allows you to build up good pressure and have consistent performance when the weather is cold, or your fuel is running low. In backcountry situations or multi-week backpacking excursions a liquid gas stove may be your best bet as it tends to perform better in adverse weather conditions.