Choosing a Stove

3:44 p.m. on July 24, 2010 (EDT)
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I am new to this site and just got into backpacking. I am looking for some advice on choosing a backpacking stove. While I am doing my research I am confronted with a lot of options. I live in Illinois and most of my camping will be done in spring, summer and fall. I was looking for something entry level, not too expensive, light and durable/reliable. I would like it to be easy to use and lightweight to carry.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

8:08 p.m. on July 24, 2010 (EDT)
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Easiest stove to use for a backpacking newbie is a canister-type compressed gas stove (butane/isobutane/propane mix). Get the type that has a burner that screws on the top of one of the canisters with the industry standard threaded coupling. Primus, MSR, Markill, Brunton, Vaude, Snowpeak, Coleman, and others make them, many with piezo-electric igniters (but take "strike-anywhere" matches in a waterproof container anyway). A lot of people like the tiny 4-ounce fuel canisters. These are small and light, but the fuel cost per ounce is horrendously high. Stick with the 8 and 16 ounce canisters.

The MSR Pocket Rocket (first picture) is small, light, dependable, not too expensive, and a favorite of many here on Trailspace. But there are plenty of others. Primus is second picture, Coleman is third. The Pocket Rocket is on a 4 ounce canisters, the other on 8 ounce canisters.

8:31 p.m. on July 24, 2010 (EDT)
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Make one that burns alcohol from a couple of pop cans.

9:00 p.m. on July 24, 2010 (EDT)
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i agree - for ease of use and three-season use, isopropyl or butane cannister stoves are the least expensive and closest to foolproof solution available.

if, for some reason, you prefer using white gas or no-lead from a gas station, coleman makes a stove with an integrated tank that's pretty easy to use. used to be called the 'peak one,' now called the 'exponent.' i used the ancestor of this stove when i was a kid and never had a problem firing it up.

2:26 a.m. on July 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Welcome Seper,

I use white gas & alcohol stoves the most myself, but the stoves Bill mention are the easiest to learn with. I've used the MSR Pocket Rocket and the Snow Peak Gigapower, they both worked fine.

Sit on top canister stoves are the best bet for someone just getting started, especially for three season use as you intend.

These are relatively inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to use the very first time out.

You will have plenty of time to learn about different stoves and how to use them later, I don't see the point in making things too complicated starting off. That's not to say you can't learn how to fill, prime, light, and operate a white gas or alcohol stove fairly easy, but there's more to it than that, they also can have a steeper learning curve when it comes to cooking as well.

With white gas stoves you have to maintain the fuel pressure by keeping the fuel bottle pumped up, and you have to be mindful of not having any fuel spills during filing or carrying. That's not too hard really but I don't recommend carrying the fuel bottle in your pack the way you can with a canister, many smaller canisters fit inside your cooking pot and that saves space.

Most alcohol stoves are single batch stoves meaning you have to learn how much fuel to use each time. Too little alcohol and you have to stop and refuel the stove, too much and you have to pour it back in the fuel bottle. At least one alcohol stove, the Trangia, lets you screw a lid on the stove after it cools so you can store the remaining alcohol in the stove. They are super cheap & simple to make, ultralight, and have no moving parts. However some can be unstable (tippy) if not used properly, and alcohol stoves are more susceptible to wind and cold temps than gas stoves.

The canister stove is just so simple to use, screw the stove on top of the canister, open the valve, and light. The heat output is easily controlled, and the canister provides a stable base if the stove is placed on a firm surface.

Since you stated you would like the stove to be lightweight & easy to use, and that you just got into backpacking I would recommend you start with a sit on top canister stove. The only thing you really have to be careful with is using a windscreen in such a way that you overheat the canister by trapping too much heat between the wind screen & the canister. You can leave the windscreen 1/4th of the way open on the downwind side of the stove and align the stove valve with that opening for ease of use. If you can touch & hold your fingers on the canister during use without much discomfort the canister is not too hot. Personally I've never had this to be a problem, it's just something to be aware of.

Happy camping.

9:45 a.m. on July 25, 2010 (EDT)
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I use the Trangia stove. Like trouthunter says, light weight, easy to use, and fuel is easy to get. I use a wind screen, and set the burner and screen inside the fry pan. I get 30 minute burn off one fill. I have used mine for over a year, bought it for $11.

12:09 p.m. on July 25, 2010 (EDT)
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My very first stove was an MSR Whisperlite, which is a whitegas stove. I had never had any previous experience with stoves yet I found this one pretty easy to use and setup. I personally went with the whitegas, because I wanted the ability to re-use the fuel bottle and not create excess waste (though I hear the canisters can be recycled?) I personally do not consider it heavy, but compared to the likes of the canisters, I guess it is.

If you have the time or are at least interested, check out some of the articles on here about the home-made alcohol stoves. I made one, it was kinda fun and it works pretty well. I can burn for about 15 minutes on just over 1.5oz of alcohol.

8:47 p.m. on July 25, 2010 (EDT)
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I'll second what Bill said, it is good advice for someone new to the concept. Canister stoves are very easy to use. I have a Snow Peak Giga, which I like a lot better than the MSR Pocket Rocket. I also have an MSR Windpro (freestanding rather than on top of the canister) and it can be used with the canister turned upside down to extend usefulness into winter; it is also much more stable than the canister-top models.

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