On a backpacking trek, mainly an ultralight venture, every ounce counts. Sometimes we become hyper-focused on gear like packs, sleeping bags, and tents we forget about other essentials like stoves and headlamps. There are so many backpacking stoves to choose from on the market today that it can be a challenge to narrow down the best option for your hiking needs.
Depending on your experience level, choosing the best ultralight backpacking stove may come down to a little trial and error. Reviews like this one can help guide you in making your initial decision, but in the end, it will come down to personal choice, the climate of the area, and frequency of use.
If there is one thing that I have learned in my years of hitting the trail it is not to skimp on your stove. It can be tempting when you’re on a budget to try and cut corners for some of your outdoor gear, but remember, food becomes a priority on the trail. It is what fuels your adventure!
Now, you can get by on cold camp food, but sitting down for a hot meal after a long day or waking up to a warm cup of coffee can make all the difference in your morale and outlook for the next day. We’ve done some research to help you find the lightest stoves on the market. This list is broken down by fuel type so you can find the best fit for your personal needs…
The lightest backpacking stove in every fuel type:
1. Solo Stove Light – Wood Fuel Stove
Depending on the location of your backpacking trip, packing a wood fuel stove can be a great weight saving option. They allow you to cut out the weight of the fuel and use a free fuel source: wood. Many wood-burning camp stoves simply require small sticks and wood shavings to cook a meal, making it even easier than cooking on an open fire.
Weight: 9 ounces
Dimensions: 3.8” x 4.25”
Average Boil Time: 8-10 minutes
More info: solostove.com
The Solo Stove Lite is an ideal lightweight stove option for 1-2 people. This stove is recommended for backpackers that are hiking in areas where there is access to biomass such as sticks, pine cones, twigs, leaves, etc. You can also buy an add-on of an alcohol burner that sits perfectly inside the stove.
This is an excellent addition for backpackers that are unable to obtain a natural fuel source but still want the simple and compact design of the Solo Stove. The Solo Stove is a highly rated camping stove because of the ingenious design incorporating the use of wood-burning fire, airflow, wind protection, and insulation.
The use of biomass as the fuel source eliminates the need for carrying a fuel tank and gives you unlimited cooking time.
- No need to carry fuel
- The design allows for secondary combustion and added insulation to direct heat for a faster boil and cook time
- Saves money in the long run (never purchase fuel)
- Stainless steel materials make it durable and lightweight
- Lets off very little smoke compared to a traditional fire
- Non-collapsible design
- May not work as well in wet conditions
- You won’t be able to adjust the heat setting
2. Jetboil MiniMo – Canister Fuel Stove
If you are looking to go for the more conventional and versatile route of using gas for a fuel source, there are a ton of great options for stoves. Many top brands such as MSR and JetBoil have several pocket stoves available. Gas fueled backpacking stoves work in almost all conditions, especially if you invest in a windscreen.
Weight: 14 ounces
Dimensions: 5″ x 6″
Average Boil Time: 4 minutes 30 seconds
More info: jetboil.com
Jetboil stoves have long been used by backpackers and campers alike. They offer a quick and compact solution to wanting a hot meal or drink in the backcountry. A major selling point for a Jetboil versus other gas canister stoves is the quick boil time and the fact that you can pack the pieces it down into your pot.
Jetboil uses an Isobutane-Propane as a fuel source, making it very accessible to find fuel in most cities. This stove is more compact than some of their other designs, which makes it ideal for one person to use for every meal on the trail. Their integrated cooking design allows you to go from a rolling boil to a simmer to ensure you can cook gourmet meals on the go.
- Amazingly fast boil time
- Uses half the amount of fuel traditional systems do
- Push-button igniter for ease of use
- Works down to 20 degrees F (-6 degrees C)
- Comes equipped with a fuel canister stabilizer
- Limited food space in the MiniMo pot
- Fuel canisters will have to be replaced periodically
- Some consumers have difficulty igniting the cooking system at high altitudes or in extremely cold conditions
3. MSR WhisperLite – Liquid Fuel Stove
A liquid fuel (usually white gas, kerosene, or unleaded gasoline) stove can be a great compact stove option, depending on the design. Many outdoor adventure enthusiasts ranging from climbers, backpackers, and even bikers choose to use liquid fuel because it is an accessible fuel source, and it tends to be less expensive than gas canisters. It is also one of the best stove fuel options for sub-zero conditions.
While a liquid fuel stove may require a bit more upkeep and be heavier than other stove types, it is one of the most reliable camping stove types on the market.
Weight: 11.5 ounces
Dimensions: 6.5″ x 5″ x 4″
Average Boil Time: 5 minutes
More info: msrgear.com
MSR has long made the top of the line backpacking equipment, and this stove is no different. The MSR WhisperLite stove may very well be the best-selling liquid fuel stove ever made, and for a good reason. The WhisperLite only uses white gas for fuel, and it has a large cooking surface making it easy to diversify your backcountry meals.
All liquid fuel stoves will be more complicated than other backpacking stove designs. However, the WhisperLite is designed to be easy to use and durable. It is made from stainless steel and brass materials for a longer lifespan. The cooking system includes a fuel pump, windscreen, reflector, small parts kit, instructions, and stuff sack. The fuel canister is always sold separately.
- Compact enough even with the fuel line to fit into most MSR designed cooking pots
- Extremely long-lasting — many consumers have used their WhisperLite for 20+ years with minimal issue
- Most accessible and affordable fuel source
- Liquid fuel will be the easiest and most reliable in sub-zero conditions
- Large cooking surface and flame making it easier to cook for groups and hiking partners
- The refillable bottle allows for flexible fuel quantities
- One of the heaviest stove options as far as ultralight backpacking goes
- Requires fuel pumping to light the stove
- Has more parts that need cleaning and general fiddling
- Generally a more expensive option upfront
4. Esbit Pocket Stove – Solid Fuel Stove
Initially designed for military use, solid fuel Esbit stoves provide an instant heat source. If you can light a match, you can boil water using an Esbit. Two main stove designs utilize solid fuel cubes, and one is much more lightweight than the other. While these will be a reliable option in good weather conditions, they do have their limitations.
Weight: 3.26 ounces
Dimensions: 4” x 3” x 0.75”
Average Boil Time: 16 minutes
Burn Time Per Cube: 12 minutes
More info: industrialrev.com
Esbit is the leading producer of solid fuel stove options for backpacking use. They offer both solid fuel stove options and alcohol stoves. Our pick is their most compact stove option, the Esbit pocket stove. It is incredibly lightweight and is an excellent option for a backup cooking source when trekking or as a minimalist’s ultralight stove.
Esbit also sells a solid fuel camping cook set if you are looking for a more robust option. The Esbit Pocket Stove is small enough to fit in your pocket, and it is made from extremely durable galvanized steel. It is suitable for use with cups, pots, and pans. While solid fuel cubes can be lightweight and easy options, they only really work in good weather conditions.
They are a great addition to an emergency home or car kit and even a backpacking first aid kit.
- Very lightweight and compact design
- Very simple to use
- Recommended for use in summer months
- Made from durable materials
- Solid fuel cubes store in the collapsible stove
- Fuel cubes can also be used for fire starters in damp conditions
- Needs near to perfect weather conditions to work well (invest in a windscreen)
- Low heat output
- Only really capable of boiling water
- Challenging to clean after burning fuel cube
5. White Box Next Generation – Alcohol Fuel Stove
Alcohol camp stoves are most often seen as do-it-yourself stoves made from small tin cans (cat food, tuna fish, beer cans, etc.). Nowadays, many outdoor companies make these stoves as an excellent ultralight backpacking option. We mentioned a few alcohol fuel stoves earlier in the other sections, but we will break down the pros and cons of them here.
Weight: 1 ounce
Dimensions: 2.25” x 2.375”
Average Boil Time: 5 minutes
More info: whiteboxalcoholstoves.com
This stove is a true ultralight backpacking stove. Not only is it lightweight, but it does its job by heating water and cooking at a high temperature. The fuel used for this stove is denatured or methyl alcohol, we recommend HEET in the yellow bottle.
The flame itself can become quite wide and will manipulate its reach according to the pot or pan you place on the stove. While some backpackers will swear by this stove, it does have limitations. Another alcohol stove that we recommend is the Trangia. It has a tighter seal, which is desirable to some backpackers.
- Super lightweight option
- Very affordable
- Easily accessible fuel options
- Flame adjusts to the size of the pan
- Easy to light
- Can be messy when using alcohol and you will have to wipe out the stove after use
- Can be hard to put the flame out (you need to smother it)
- Only one heat setting
- Canister remains hot for a long period of time after use
- Requires a solid, flat surface to rest on when cooking
How do you light a backpacking stove?
The way that you ignite your stove will depend on the model and type. Some canister stoves, like the Jetboil MiniMo we mentioned above, will have an easy ignite system. Other canister stoves require you to start them by using a lighter or a match.
If you use solid fuel cubes, a wood stove, or an alcohol stove, you will also need to use a lighter or a match. Liquid fuel stoves require a pump action to start the fuel flow to the burner, but once that action is complete, you can start it using a lighter or a match.
How long does an Esbit tablet burn?
On average, a solid fuel tablet should last about 12 minutes. However, the weather conditions may impact the burning time. Keep in mind that you will rarely be using just one cube at a time. To reach a boiling point for even just a cup or two of water, you will likely need at least two cubes.
How much gas do I need for a backpacking stove?
The amount of fuel that you need will depend on the length of time you’re backpacking and how much you use your stove. If you use the stove for just dinner, you will need much less than if you plan to use it for multiple meals. Canister fuel sources will have fixed amounts ranging from 4-16 ounces.
Liquid fuel and alcohol stoves will be more adjustable according to your needs. The same will be true for solid fuel and wood stoves. If the amount of time using the stove is limited to once a day, an average amount is 4 ounces per week for one person. If you use your stove more often, then plan to bring more fuel. If you only bring 4 ounces for seven days, you will be limited to boiling 500ml of water once a day.
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From market farming to wilderness survival guide to forestry technician and climbing instructor, Meg has an eclectic work history. But there’s one common factor across all her pursuits: the outdoors. With a formal education in writing, Meg can translate her outdoor experiences into accessible and relatable content for any reader. Now pursuing freelance writing full-time, Meg has found a new base in Pheonix, AZ where she splits her time between writing and new desert adventures.