How to Choose a Wild Camping Stove
The Summer’s here, well sort of, so you may be thinking of your first wild camp. Unless you’re going to live off the land or a bagful of sausage rolls (you know who you are!), you’ll need a camping stove of some description in order to heat your food and drinks. Here’s the Mud and Routes guide to choosing the right camping stove for your wild camp – starting with the things you need to think about before buying the right wild camping stove.
What kind of camping do you do? We’re obviously talking wild camping here, so while those cheap single ring hobs with long canisters may be perfect for car camping, you won’t want to carry them up the hill. Are you looking at the minimum weight, or do you mind a bit more weight and functionality. For wild camping, you’ll need the lightest possible camping stove – so long as it meets your needs. Some of the lightest stoves we’ve found are the Pepsi Can meths stoves and the Esbit Ti Stoves – which weigh next to nothing including fuel, but a heavier gas stove may still be reasonably light and be much easier and more reliable in use.
What cookware do you have? You may want to opt for the simplest option of an all in one stove such as the Primus ETA or Jetboils on gas, or the classic Trangia camping stoves on meths. If you’ve got a large pan you need to use, then a canister top stove won’t be of much use as they tend to cover a small area and might be unstable and warm up only a small area of the pan. A remote stove, that lays flat, is a better option in that case. However, if you’ve only got one simple pot, then something like a Pocket Rocket is perfect. If you’ve not yet got your cookware, read our article on choosing camping cookware.
What do you cook? If you’re looking at cooking anything remotely complex, you’ll need a controllable stove. If you’re just boiling water, you may want something that heats it up quickly. Gas is one of the quickest ways to heat your water, but something like meths is slower and can be ideal for warming up food. That said, not all gas stoves are particularly controllable either!
Do you want to bake*? You’ll need an external stove that’ll fit inside a backpacking oven. This is a real bit of kit that’ll allow you to produce baked goods in the wilds. We use ours with an MSR whisperlite stove running gas and have successfully made fresh pizza and cooked a Fray Bentos pie on the mountain (yes, just because we can doesn’t mean we should. But we did, so there.)
How many people do you want to cater for? If you’re cooking for more than one then some of the smaller stoves are just not practical due to the size of the pot you can fit on them. You may be able to cook three batches of food on one stove at a pinch, rather than taking multiple stoves and pots, but will take three times longer. Doubling up on the stoves and using suitably sized pots would be a much better option if you’re often cooking for a large group.
Do you camp in winter? Gas can be a bit less efficient in winter, and unusable at lower temperatures. In that case you’ll need to consider using petrol, colemans, meths or solid fuels. An ideal choice would be a multi-fuel stove – such as the MSR Whisperlite International that works with gas, petrol or white fuel/coleman. Trangias are again suitable, but rather basic, but with little to go wrong. We’ll go into more detail on fuel types in a later article.
Are you a Ray Mears wannabe? Or just a cheapskate? In that case you’ve got a couple of options. One is to make your own pepsi can stove, as you’ll only need to buy meths. On the other hand, you can make your own hobo wood burning stove from a coffee tin or an Ikea cutlery drainer and then even the fuel is free! You can also buy wood burning stoves and take wooden pellets (aka kitty litter) as fuel (more ideas for alternative fuels)
Of course, there’s a wide selection of alternative stoves out there in our Alternative Camping Stoves article looking at some of these weird and wonderful options in detail.
Do you need a piezo-electric ignition? This is a nice bonus, but always take some alternative way to light the fuel!
Canister Top /Tall stove or close to the ground?
Often a personal choice more than anything – with canister top (gas) stoves tending to be lighter than the ‘remote’ style where the gas is fed along a pipe. Canister top stoves may be unstable with tall pots, but we’ve never had a problem. The remote stoves allow you to warm the canister in winter and with a lower profile are less risky to use in a tent porch**. There are also similar choices to be made with liquid fuel stoves, with all in one stoves and those with a separate fuel bottle.
Hopefully that provides some food for thought. We’ve only just touched on fuel, but as it’s such a crucial factor, we’re planning to go into it in more detail in a future post.
*not in the illegal sense
**never use a stove in a tent or tent porch!