Spending a week or a weekend living off-grid like a caveman doesn’t mean you also need to eat like a caveman. While technology can be a distraction in the backcountry, portable cooking technology is one area where hikers needn’t — and shouldn’t — cut corners. Pack one of these lightweight camp stoves on your next backcountry excursion, and you’ll be eating like a king, even when you’re miles from a proper kitchen.
MSR’s PocketRocket is a backcountry classic, well-known for its blend of portability, reliability, and affordability. At just 0.3 ounces heavier, the upgraded, 2.9-ounce PocketRocket Deluxe adds must-have features like a push-button Piezo ignitor, a broader, recessed burner head for better wind-resistance, and a pressure regulator for improved ignition in high-altitude, extreme-cold conditions. At less than $70 retail, it’s the best all-around backcountry camp stove on the market.
Soto specializes in outdoor stoves and cookware. Though the brand isn’t as widely known as the likes of MSR, its products are often comparable and less expensive. The Amicus Stove Cookset Combo is Soto’s answer to the PocketRocket with many of the same features, including a push-button start and a recessed burner head. The four spring-loaded legs also add convenience and additional support for larger pots. Plus, the combo set adds a large, 1,000-ml pot and a small, 500-ml pot to the mix. With a retail price tag under $45, it’s practically a steal.
Camp stoves have evolved little in the last few decades, but BioLite has proven to be an exception. The company’s now-famous CampStove 2 adds two key features that few other stoves on the market can claim. First, it relies on burning wood, rather than isobutane canisters, for fuel. It readily burns wood scraps, sticks, or pellets with equal efficiency. Depending on the surrounding landscape, it has the potential to burn almost indefinitely. Plus, it includes a built-in backup battery pack and generates more than three watts of power to charge smartphones, camp lights, and more. At just over two pounds, it’s not as lightweight as the competitors on this list, but it packs down to about the size of a 32-ounce wide-mouth water bottle.
If money is no object, the Primus OmniFuel Stove is one of the best, most versatile camp stoves. With almost two decades on the market, the brand’s most award-winning stove has proven to be extremely robust and capable of surviving the harshest conditions. It handles high altitudes and extreme temperatures with aplomb. Plus, it can run on almost any commercially available fuel, including isobutane, petrol/gasoline, kerosene, and even aviation fuel. The consistently high output make it an ideal choice when cooking for up to four people. With the included multi-tool, it can also be completely disassembled and reassembled for easy cleaning and maintenance in the field.
If price is your main concern when shopping for outdoor gear, Etekcity’s Ultralight Camp Stove is among the cheapest camp stoves on the market. Unlike its competitors, the company sells an eclectic range of “practical living products” (everything from bathroom scales to outdoor lamps), and not just camp products. So, don’t expect the same reliability and craftsmanship as MSR, for example. For entry-level backpackers looking to start exploring the backcountry on a budget, however, Etekcity’s catalog is a great place to start. The Etekcity Ultralight Camp Stove is a solid option with a steel and aluminum build, an adjustable control valve for more precise flame and temperature control, and four stable pot legs for maximum stability. The best part? You can get a two-pack from Amazon for less than $25.
To get started with gourmet backcountry cooking, check out our guide to five easy camping meals.
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