The first thing you notice when you start researching backpacking stoves is there are 2 main categories. You have canister stoves on one side that are small and light and burn an iso-butane mix from a metal canister. The canisters can’t be refilled and often burn slower and slower as the canister empties. Often they don’t work well in cold temperatures.
On the other hand there are the liquid fuel stoves that use refillable fuel bottles and a liquid fuel of some sort, usually white gas (aka naptha or coleman fuel). These stoves burn hot and loud and are good for cold conditions or melting a lot of snow. They tend to be larger and heavier than their little canister cousins.
There are always trade-offs.
What if you could get the advantages of both without buying 2 stoves? You could get the simplicity of a canister stove (screw the stove on and light) when you want it and the cold weather performance and refillable fuel bottle of a liquid fuel stove. Now you can.
Some new stoves allow you to connect a liquid fuel bottle to the stove, then swap a couple parts and connect an iso-butane canister. You probably wouldn’t be taking both on one trip unless it was it was long enough but it still gives you the option to choose for each trip, without having to go buy another stove. One stove, 2 fuel options.
What stoves do this?
MSR Whisperlite Universal
A modification on the old classic WhisperLite, the Universal has been updated to connect to iso-butane canisters as well. A quick change of the jets for each fuel and the fuel bottle attachment and then you’re using a different fuel. Uses MSR Shaker-Jet jet cleaning technology (shake it to clean it).
Weighs 329 grams.
Uses any type of fuel. Just change the bottle connection and jets. You can use diesel, kerosene or gas canisters in liquid feed mode for cold temperatures. Comes with a maintenance tool with a cleaning needle for cleaning the jet.
Weighs 350 grams.
Same as the OmniFuel but smaller and lighter. Burns the same things.
Weighs 239 grams.
The problem with most of the multi-fuel stoves is that you have to change the jet. Each fuel requires a different part in the stove to work properly. The Polaris Optifuel has changed all that. No more changing jets and possibly losing or breaking parts. Just hook up a different fuel and away you go. Use the gas canister upright for efficiency mode. Turn it upside down for liquid feed mode in cold temperatures.
Weighs 475 grams.
Burn white gas or butane gas canister without changing canister.
Weighs 530 grams.
Burns white gas and butane canisters, but not any of the other liquid fuels. Less expensive than some of the other brands.
Weighs 340 grams.
With the Hydra you can burn white gas and butane canisters. Save time and fiddling without needing to switch nozzles.
Weighs 422 grams.
Know of another stove that can do iso-butane canisters as well as liquid gas? Let us know!
Last updated August 27, 2022. Original article published August 13, 2015.