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7 Different Types of Camp Stoves

A woman boiling water on a portable camping stove.

Types Of Camp Stoves

Imagine yourself camping – a roaring fire on the go, a rack of prime rib waiting for the glowing coals to form, and it starts raining! “I need a Camp Stove!” you shout – and wisely so. No self-respecting camper should be without one.

They beat foul weather, sidestep fire-bans and sort the blood-sugar blues. So, let’s light up the spectrum of camp stove types and discover which is best for you.

Seven Types Of Camp Stove
# Camp Stove Type Fuel Source Size  Price*
1 Canister Stove Butane/Isobutane/Propane S $17+
2 Liquid Fuel Stove Propane/Gas/Kerosene/Alcohol S $70+
3 Propane Stove Propane/Butane S/M/L $24+
4 Biomass Stove Twigs/Leaves/Wood Pellets S/M $10+
5 Solid Fuel Stove Solidified Alcohol S $7+
6 Wood Burning Stove Wood S/M/L $20+
7 Solar Oven Sunlight M/L $100+
* Average Entry Price As Listed On Amazon.com

There’s certainly no shortage of product options across the camp stove spectrum, with each model offering a distinct benefit for the camp chef.

A thorough investigation of each type of camp stove, assessing its cooking capacity, its fuel source and its portability will make it easy for you to choose the camp stove best suited to your camping lifestyle. But first, some planning is necessary.

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How Many Mouths are you Feeding?

Before you buy: The type of camp stove you purchase should be sufficiently equipped and proportioned to service the number of people you feed when you go camping.

If you’re a solo hiker camping under a tarp, you’ll need a lightweight and compact camp stove. If you’re feeding family and friends, you’ll need sufficient multi-burner camp stove cooking capacity to keep your guests from going hungry and you from losing your camp-cred.

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At the risk of stating the obvious, you’ll be surprised how many campers buy the wrong type of camp stove simply due to pre-purchase oversights.

They haven’t analyzed the full gamut of their camping lifestyle, which invariably includes the potential for a greater-than-normal number of mouths to feed, and the weather they choose to go camping in and, their vehicle’s camping gear carrying capacity.   

Remember: Camping is not only about socializing and getting out into nature – but it’s also an exercise in logistics.

You need equipment that allows you to comfortably host extra campers, possibly in cold, wet, and windy conditions, without compromising your transportation efficiency and general mobility at the campsite.

If you’re not hampered by portability considerations (as hikers are), it’s always better to allow for extra cooking capacity.

  • Think MODULAR VERSATILITY AND FLEXIBILITY! If you’re catering to a big group of campers, instead of buying a large three-burner camp stove to meet demand, buy a good quality two-burner camp stove and a couple of single burner camp stoves.
Best Camp Stove ‘Person/Burner’ Ratios
Number of People Number of Burners
1 1
2-4 2
5-7 3
8+  4+

Choosing a camp stove that will faithfully serve you for many years and always satisfy your culinary and catering requirements requires a good understanding of what’s on offer from reputable manufacturers of camp stoves worldwide.

Let’s unpack the seven camp stove types first, followed by fuel types, then focus on top-selling examples of each type of camp stove and what it brings to the table.

Where Do You Camp & How Do You Get There?

A night camping at Banff National Park.

As is the case with all tools, camping stoves are designed to work optimally in specific applications. A small canister camp stove is best for thru-hiking, while a large wood-burning stove with a chimney is suitable for backcountry tent camping in very cold weather.

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All About The laws Of Camping

Having a thorough understanding of your camping destinations is crucial in deciding what type of camp stove to take with you.

Restricting factors, be they laws of nature or laws of man, must be taken into account when choosing the optimal camp for your trip:

  • Harsh weather conditions, be it rain, snow or wind, will reduce your ability to camp and cook effectively.
  • Area-specific environmental laws and restrictions could limit your ability to cut wood and make a fire.
  • Certain flammable substances may be illegal in specific locations.
  • Know your camping weather.
  • Know your area-specific campfire regulations.

All About Mobility

Camp cooking, whether done while hiking or static camping, is all about portability. Your mode of mobility will determine your camp stove size and type:

  • Hikers should opt for lightweight, ultra-compact stoves with a reliable fuel source such as butane.
  • Car campers should use carefully selected camp stoves based on their ability to co-travel with other types of camping equipment.

Which Camp Stove Is Best For You?

Now you’re armed with the power of knowledge regarding your camping locations, their bylaws and their weather patterns, as well as what your vehicle is capable of carrying comfortably and safely, let’s get to the business end of things:

1. The Canister Camp Stove

A blue canister camping stove.

For solo campers and thru-hike backpackers, the canister camp stove is the go-to option. An ultra-lightweight, compact cooker-top (burner) screws into a small, highly pressurized fuel canister containing butane or isobutane.

The canister camp stove heats a liter of water in less than five minutes. Making anything from coffee and oatmeal to noodles and soups is quick and easy. The cooker top can accommodate a small hiker’s frying pan to rustle up some bacon and eggs or fry a tortilla.

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Apart from its portability, the canister camp stove has additional advantages. The first is that it has two canister attachment options and an integrated version:  

  • The ‘integrated’ version has an aluminum mug/pot screwed directly into the burner with a ring of aluminum fins between the two, acting as a heat exchanger. This configuration is ideal for quick setup and rapid water boiling. The canister serves as the stove base and needs to be on a level, solid surface to prevent toppling over.
  • The ‘remote’ option has a hose connecting the burner to the fuel canister. The burner has a tripod base making it more stable than its ‘integrated’ sibling and, the canister can carry more fuel.

Butane-fueled canister camp stoves don’t require any priming and are therefore ready to cook in seconds. Many include an electronic Piezo Ignition switch, which saves carrying a lighter or matches.

Butane canisters are pressurized. There’s a lot of fuel in them and they last a long time. Empty canisters are disposable and generally replaced with new ones, which can be bought from camping stores and online.

Tip: The flame strength in a canister camp stove is weakened by gusts of wind. To ensure flame heat is at its strongest, protect the stove using a small windshield.

2. The Liquid Fuel Camp Stove

An orange liquid fuel campstove with white background.

Known in the trade as a ‘hobo stove’, liquid fuel camp stoves have been around for a very long time and, although canister camp stoves now outsell them in the solo camper and hiking markets, they remain a trusted cooker, particularly for extremely cold weather camping where butane and isobutane stoves are less effective.

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The big selling point of the liquid fuel camp stove is its ability to burn with practically any type of liquid fuel, including white gas, kerosene, methylated spirits, diesel, and unleaded gas.

Designs of liquid fuel camp stoves vary – from the DIY soda can type to production models that resemble the remote canister camp stove configuration of hose, fuel tank, and burner on a tripod base.

Their multi-fuel capability makes liquid fuel camp stoves a popular choice for remote camping in locations where butane canisters and propane are not readily available. In these situations, gas, kerosene, and other common alcohol-based fuels are used to fuel the stove. 

Liquid fuel camp stoves need to be primed and can leak after prolonged use, with the danger of a fire spreading beyond the burner.

To their credit, small liquid fuel camp stoves perform well in cold weather and high altitude locations, whereas canister camp stoves do not.

3. The Propane Camp Stove

A close up shot of portable stove with cooking pot.

This is probably the biggest camp stove market segment, defined by single burner, two-burner or three-burner stoves hooked up to a propane or butane tank.

Camp stoves in this category include rugged and rudimentary industrial-style models to compact and highly stylized ‘suitcase’ or fold-up designs.

There’s no shortage of choice in this category – from the standard single burner/cooker-top screwed into the propane cylinder, to table-top Coleman-style twin burner camping stoves with windscreens, to three-burner ‘chuckwagons’, complete with legs, grills, and multifarious accessories for the gourmet camper.

Due to their size, propane camp stoves are used most often for front or backcountry camping setups where portability isn’t a primary consideration. They’re reliable with highly adjustable heat settings and are easy to clean.

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Most modern table-top propane camp stoves are equipped with a Piezo ignition system and have fold-up windscreens.

Propane cylinders in the camping world range in size from 1lbs to 100lbs when empty. A gallon of propane weighs 4.2lbs. The 5lbs propane cylinder is the most common in camp kitchens, weighing a modest 13lbs when full.

Its popularity is due to its portability and ease of transport for most weekend and holiday campers.

Another advantage of propane camp stoves is their ability to ‘daisy-chain’, to link via hoses to each other. This configuration brings flexibility to the cooker-top fitment, ensuring menu plans are realized.

The big plus factor here is, that you can install a hose-splitter/adapter and supply propane to all your daisy-chained burners using just one cylinder!

4. The Solid Fuel Camp Stove

A camp stove with solid fuels.

Used by hikers and survivalists, the solid fuel camp stove dates back over 70 years, issued to soldiers and emergency relief personnel.

The modern solid fuel camp stove is made of various types of steel and is essentially a small fire box into which non-gaseous fuel pellets made of flammable formulations such as hexamine are placed.

The solid fuel camp stove (made using steel or titanium) is rudimentary and easy to use. Just fold it open or assemble its floor and walls, add the pellets, ignite them and place a pot onto the fire box.

Solo campers and hikers swear by them. A solid fuel camp stove plus its fuel supply can fit into a leg pocket of a pair of cargo pants – that’s how compact they are.

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Hexamine tablets take longer than other fuel sources to heat a pot of sustenance, but they do get there, eventually. The hexamine flame is also susceptible to wind disturbance, making some form of windscreen a necessary accessory.

What they have in their favor is low-cost hardware. The fuel tablets are relatively expensive and not as widely available as rival fuel sources like butane and propane.

If hexamine can’t be sourced, a solid fuel camp stove will accommodate small wood pieces, twigs and dung as alternative fuel sources.

5. The Wood Burning Camp Stove

A photo of wood burning camp stove.

Nothing beats a good wood campfire, but they do take a long time to prepare, especially if you have to gather and chop firewood. If you want to cook on the hot coals, you’ll have to wait patiently for the flames to subside.

Not any more! Camp stove designers are constantly finding better ways to burn wood, making the latest wood-fired camp stoves a lot more effective than their predecessors.

Small

Very much like the solid fuel camp stove, a small wood-burning camp stove is compact and lightweight and uses small pieces of wood and other forms of biomass (twigs, pinecones, leaves) as its fuel source.

Entry-level wood-burning camp stoves are essentially steel fireboxes in which small pieces of wood burn beneath a pot or grill resting on the top of the box.

Recent innovations leveraging camp stove air convection have brought the small wood-burning camp stove into the tech age. New smokeless solid wood camp stoves and rocket stoves of varying sizes are gaining popularity at a rapid rate.

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These small wood-burning camp stoves get a pot of water to boiling point in less than five minutes and can effortlessly heat a frying pan or grill. Their compact, lightweight construction makes them ideal for solo hikers and camping couples.

Medium

A little bigger, a little heavier than its small sibling, the medium-size wood-burning camp stove allows you to make a hotter fire and cook for more people. These stoves can also be used as fire pits to help campers keep warm and create an authentic campfire ambiance.

There are many new medium-size wood-burning camp stoves designed using convection technology. Gas from burning wood in the combustion chamber is regulated to flow, via a separate chamber (channel) in the stove body, back into the combustion chamber.

In essence, the recirculating air creates hotter flames and a fire that is smoke-free.

These hi-tech wood-burning camp stoves can boil a liter of water in less than five minutes and, using the right pots and pans, can produce almost any kind of cuisine.

Large

These variants date back to the days of the wild frontier – the good ol’ wood-burnin’ stove, made of cast iron, that headed west with the early pioneers. They were used to warm tents, wagons, and cabins and also to cook food.

Today, these large (although they pack small and compact models are also available) wood-burning stoves are fabricated using lightweight materials such as stainless steel and titanium.

They’re commonly referred to as ‘tent stoves’ because they’re used to heat a tent in winter. They are equipped with chimneys and are clean-burning, virtually smokeless, and, boast excellent fuel efficiency.

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The top of the burning chamber acts as the stove’s cooking surface allowing several cooking vessels (depending on their dimensions) to cook away simultaneously.

This type of wood-burning camp stove also accommodates (and heats) a separate camp oven for baking and roasting, as well as a demountable water tank/geyser that attaches to the chimney.

Special Mention – The Rocket Stove

This ingenious wood-burning stove, invented by Dr. Larry Winiarsky in 1980, uses an ancient Roman technique of stove-making where a tall combustion chamber creates a strong draught, mixing fuel particles, volatile gases, and air to create extremely hot flames.

The internal walls of the rocket stove are insulated and reflect the heat from the flames back into the combustion chamber, creating a super-hot, clean-burning fire.

Camp rocket stoves come in different sizes, from compact hiker-friendly models to large car-camping variants. Pots, grills, and frying pans can be safely placed on top of a wide chimney, which distributes heat evenly for effective cooking.

6. The Biomass Camp Stove

A photo of biomass camping stove in a white background.

The beauty of biomass camp stoves is their simplicity. They burn natural materials like twigs, pinecones, leaves, grasses, bark, and any other type of foliage you can imagine.

They come in various shapes and sizes, from ultra-compact to large models, big enough for a bonfire.

Most biomass camp stoves are of steel, designed along the same lines as other types of camp stoves – notably, the solid fuel camp stove, the wood-burning camp stove, and the rocket stove.

The latest innovations in biomass camp stoves include turbocharging systems (using a fan) that compress the air before it enters the combustion chamber, resulting in much higher burn temperatures that are low in carbon emissions and smoke-free.

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Hi-tech biomass camp stoves include electronic USB charging units attached to them that convert heat energy into electrical energy, allowing campers to charge electronic devices such as cellphones, cameras, and lights.

7. The Solar Camp Cooker

A photo of a solar camp stove.

For eco-conscious camp chefs, a solar cooker adds a dash of virtue and no small amount of wonder to camp meals. Apart from their carbon-neutral status, solar cookers have the benefit of not requiring any conventional fuel. Sunlight is their fuel and, it doesn’t cost a penny.

There are four types of solar cookers/ovens (they’re not stoves, by definition):

The Parabolic Solar Cooker  

A dish-shaped reflective surface concentrates solar energy into a cooking vessel at the center for quick, very hot meals – roast, bake, boil and fry.

The Vacuum Tube Solar Cooker 

A glass vacuum tube resting in reflective panels generates enough heat to steam or bake a semi-circular tray of food that slides into the glass vacuum tube. On a sunny day, temperatures inside the tube can exceed 500 degrees Fahrenheit!

The Box Solar Oven 

An insulated box surrounded by raised reflective panels can roast, bake and boil. Make roast chicken, bake bread, cook stews or bake cakes.

The Panel Solar Oven 

A pot wrapped in a clear glass (aka a plastic ‘hothouse’) surrounded by reflective panels can reach up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit – sufficient to heat food but not cook most meats or bake or fry.

Solar ovens vary in price and portability. The panel solar oven is cheap, starting at around $8, while the premium vacuum tube solar oven sells for over $500.

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They’re compact enough for car camping (not hiking) and add a touch of novelty and frugality to the camp kitchen. However, they do have glass components and reach extreme temperatures. Handle them with caution and attention, and hope for sunny days!

More About Camp Stove Fuel

Here’s a table of camp stove fuels showing their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Top Camp Stove Fuel Characteristics
Fuel Type Strengths Weaknesses
Wood ·         Cheap

·         Abundant

·         Clean

·         Safe

·         Smokey

·         Gets wet

·         Bulky

·         Fire Bans

Propane ·         Readily available

·         Cheap

·         Efficient

·         Clean

·         Immediate

·         Toxic

·         Hard to measure

·         Poor performance at       altitude & extreme cold

·         Invisible

Butane ·         Clean

·         Relatively cheap

·         Lightweight

·         Energy efficient

·         Ineffective in extreme cold

·         Canisters are heavy

·         Limited availability

Alcohol ·         Cheap

·         Good availability

·         Safe

·         Eco-friendly

·         Slow cook times

·         Wind affected

·         Poor performance in cold

·         Energy inefficient

A Note On Propane – Camp stove burners running on propane have an official measurement of heat delivery strength called a BTU (British Thermal Unit).

  • The average home propane stove has a BTU rating between 7 000 – 10 000 BTUs. Your propane camp cooker should start at 10 000 BTUs to ensure optimum cooking temperatures and speeds.
  • Running on medium heat, a full 20lbs propane tank connected to a 30 000 BTUs maximum-heat burner will give you around 20 hours of cooking time.

Now for the fun part! We look at a few movers and bakers:

What Camp Stoves Are Hot On Amazon?

 Canister Camp Stove

MSR PocketRocket 2 Ultralight Camping and Backpacking Stove

 Liquid Fuel Stove

Optimus Polaris Optifuel Stove, with 0.4L Fuel Bottle, multifuel Burner for Both Liquid & LPG Canister Fuel Types, for Camping, Backpacking and Emergency Preparedness

 Propane Stove

Coleman Gas Camping Stove | Classic Propane Stove, 2 Burner, 4.1 x 21.9 x 13.7 Inches

 Biomass Stove

Anbull Camping Stove Biomass Stoves, Compact Camp Stove Kit for Picnic, Backpacking, Camping, Survival, BBQ, Cooker, Portable & Lightweight Firepit Stoves with Blow Fire System & Carry Bag

 Solid Fuel Stove

Esbit Large Ultralight Folding Pocket Stove with 12/14gm Solid Fuel Tablets

 Wood Burning Stove

WINNERWELL Nomad View Large Tent Stove | Portable Wood Burning Stove for Tents, Shelters, and Camping | 1500 Cubic Inch Firebox | Precision Stainless Steel Construction | Includes Chimney Pipe

 

Which Camp Stoves Are YouTube Favorites?

It’s not the showroom – it’s better. Real people TESTING CAMP STOVES- in situ!

Don’t Forget These Camp Stove Accessories

You’ll find great camp stove accessories on Amazon. If that shop doesn’t have it, search another online shop or ask your favorite camping or hiking blogger for directions:

  • Camp Stove Windscreens.
  • Butane Cartridge Refill Ring.
  • Butane Refill Can.
  • Hexamine Tablets.
  • Small Pliers – to Handle Hot Stove Parts and bend out of shape components.
  • Toothpaste – to soothe burns/scalds and clean your camp stove.

Final Tips

  • To determine how much fuel you have in your canister, float it in water. If most of it is above the waterline, it’s almost empty.
  • Buy a butane refill adapter and a can of lighter fluid and refill your camp stove canisters: Butane Canister Refill Adapter
  • For large propane tanks, get one of these hand scales: Propane Tank Gauge

Conclusion

The key to happy camping is using the right gear right. Hot and hearty meals are as integral to the camping experience as the beautiful scenery. Choose a camp stove that cooks the way you like to cook, a stove that cooks what you like to eat! 

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