What is the best backpacking stove for the mountains?

5:07 a.m. on July 5, 2019 (EDT)
Randall Purrett @Boulder Strider
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49 forum posts

Yeah, maybe that's a little like asking what is the best car, but let's narrow the focus a little.  It has to be light and compact.  It has to be easy to use, maybe with gloves on.  It has to have a fast boil time, even in wind.  It has to be steady.

Sounds like an ad for Jetboil.  But hold on.  Not all of us are sold on the Jetboil system.  Pretty expensive.  Kind of gimmicky.  Can't use just any pot you want.  Good as Jetboil may be, lots of other stoves sell well.  My hiking partner, a through hiker who is very finnicky about weight and not afraid to spend money on the very best, just bought a new stove and it isn't a Jetboil.  So what other choices look good?

I recently purchased a Soto Windmaster.  Efficiency in wind is built into the stove, not added on with do dads.  A similar design is the MSR Pocketrocket Deluxe.  If you've ever had to cook dinner at 10,000 ft. in a strong wind, you understand my focus on wind performance.  Yes, I bought a fold up wind screen too.  I'm not saying these are the best stoves.  There may be some I haven't looked at.  But these two look pretty good if you aren't sold on the Jetboil or similar designs.

7:45 p.m. on July 5, 2019 (EDT)
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If you are cooking a strong wind you will need a lot more protection than what the Windmaster and its optional screen provides.  The wind screen is cute but basically not of much use by itself.  There is nothing preventing a gust from sweeping between the pot and flame; I have seen stoves blown out like a candle because they lacked full size  wind screen that goes nearly to the ground, and well up the side of the pot.  Back in the day I owned one of the first canister stoves to hit the US: the Buet (Later Garcia) butane stove.  It also had an optional windscreen, similar to the Windmaster.  OK for a breeze, but it was impossible to get a full boil in winds above 10mph.

The good news is you can fashion a wind screen from heavy gauge aluminum foil - cut up one of those foil party trays they sell at the grocery store.  You can fully encircle your stove and pot, and adjust the screen for a close fit, using a paper clamp to hold the ends together.  But do also bring the OEM wind screen, as the foils screen wind screen may allow the fuel canister to overheat, but the OEM screen can greatly reduce this occurrence, shielding the can from the heat of the burner.  In any case if you are using a full coverage windscreen on a over-canister stove, you should monitor its temperature to prevent excess pressure in the canister - if it is hot to the touch you need to let it cool.

As for best mountain stove: it depend on your priorities.  I like to simmer and saute so prefer a large burner head to distribute the heat.  I use the MSR WindPro for this purpose.  But is only water boiling I go with the MSR Pocket Rocket of other similar UL stove.  If snow camping I prefer using a white gas stove.


10:47 p.m. on July 5, 2019 (EDT)
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499 forum posts

I recommend this website:  https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/topics/camping-and-hiking/best-backpacking-stove

What mountains are we prepping for, and in which season?  I have used a Pocket Rocket satisfactorily for nearly twenty years, but they don't do well in extreme cold, while liquid fuel stoves perform much better.

For fairly normal conditions, just use a canister stove.

11:25 a.m. on July 15, 2019 (EDT)
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197 forum posts

A remote canister stove that is made to allow the canister to be inverted can be nice at low temperatures/high altitude because the butane doesn't vaporize well at low temperatures.  The canisters usually have a little of something else like propane that vaporizes more easily, but when the canister is upright that just burns off first, leaving the butane.  When the canister is upside down, it stays in the can, pushing out the butane.  (But the stove has to be made for the canister to be inverted because then the fuel is still liquid when it gets to the burner - there will be a preheat tube like on a white gas stove otherwise it will flare up.) 

And then some of the newer canister stoves are regulated to deal with altitude, so they don't run rich i.e. otherwise the lower pressure at altitude pushes out more fuel which mixes with air that contains less oxygen. 

2:23 p.m. on July 15, 2019 (EDT)
andrew f. @leadbelly2550
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2,383 forum posts

depends. in the winter, you need something that will fire up in the cold. as Dr. Phun pointed out, that means a burner with a remote, inverted canister or white case. You also need high, efficient heat to melt snow.  I have had the best luck with the MSR XGK and the optimus nova+. they work well in the winter, you can burn pretty much any liquid fuel you can find (remember to bring the alternate gas jets if you plan to burn a dirty fuel like kerosene), they're super hot, and you can re-use the fuel bottles.  

1:27 p.m. on July 16, 2019 (EDT)
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336 forum posts

We have been using a Kovea Spider remote canister stove for about a year now. Since you can use a tight windscreen, that can be made with heavy crafting foil, with this stove it is very wind proof and very efficient. It folds up into a tiny package. You can also invert the canister if you need to in cold weather.

We have used a bunch of different stoves over time, several liquid white gas thousands of times, alcohol stoves including Caldera Cone tri ti thousands of times, several canister stoves thousands of times and this one is our favorite. It is quick to deploy, efficient, clean and easy to recycle the canister after empty and punching it with a chisel. I can get a minimum of 20 liters brought to the boil with a half pound canister of fuel. The canister actually becomes cold as the tightly enclosed stove works. The heat control is excellent from super low simmer to very high blasting heat. I use a lower setting and it boiled fast with the tight windscreen and saves on fuel.

I have not used Jetboil but hear they are pretty nice though only propriety pots can be used. Pretty much any pot can be used with the Kovea Spider. In my experience with sit on top canister stoves this remote canister stove is far more efficient letting one carry less fuel and therefore offsetting the weight difference of the stove. Of all the remote canister stoves I researched, this one was he lightest weight and the smallest footprint when folded up.

11:00 p.m. on July 17, 2019 (EDT)
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158 forum posts

Ditto the optimus nova+ for winter.  Don't have an XGK but imagine it much the same.  Reliable in any conditions and able to melt snow.

Beyond that, since my cooking is limited to needing only boiling water, a caldera cone handles everything else I need.  

I also have a jet boil, a superfly, and a whisperlite but in actual use am down to these.  

July 10, 2020
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