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Backpacking Gear for Beginners: Camp Stove

This post is part of the Backpacking Gear for Beginners course.

Why do you need a stove?

There are 2 ‘camps’ when it comes to bringing a stove or not hiking. Some like hot meals that a stove can make, others prefer the simplicity of cold-soaked or cold food without a stove. I personally love hot food after a long day hiking and hot coffee to get moving in the morning so I always bring one. 

In the stove camp there are 2 parties. The water-boilers and the gourmet chefs. Water-boilers just boil up water for bag meals and oatmeal with a coffee. You don’t have to have exactly these things but it’s quick and easy. 

The gourmet chefs like to simmer their food and prepare more complicated recipes with the 1 pot they have. This requires more time preparing and cleaning. I recommend starting with boiling water for quick bag meals and moving up to gourmet after a few trips if you want to.

Boiling water is also important in case your water filter breaks. You can still make water safe to drink by boiling it. Filter the water with some clean fabric to get the chunks out. Then a rolling boil for 1 minute can make it safe to drink.

Canister or liquid fuel stove?

Stoves are separated into 2 broad categories: canister and liquid fuel. 

Canister stoves screw onto a small iso-butane caster (like propane). They are easy to light. Just turn it on and light like a bbq. They boil water well, are inexpensive and can be very small and light. We recommend getting a small and light canister stove to start backpacking. 

Canister stoves won’t hold large pots well and don’t work well in the cold but we can work around those. 

A remote canister stove is a slightly different type. It has a fuel tube from the canister to the stove so the pot can sit on a lower, wider base. These are good for bigger pots. 

Liquid fuel fuel stoves are good for the cold or refilling with different kinds of fuel like kerosene or diesel. These are larger, heavier and harder to light. We don’t recommend these to start unless you know you need it.

Get multiple lighters

Getting your stove going for food or boiling water is important. Always have 2 ways to light your stove. A BIC lighter is the most convenient but can fail if it gets wet. I usually bring a lighter and a metal ferro rod (makes sparks) to use if the lighters fail.

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