Lightweight Backpacking Cookers. An Essential Guide. Usage & Weight Comparison. Pros & Cons.

Backpacking Stoves -

Lightweight Backpacking Cookers. An Essential Guide. Usage & Weight Comparison. Pros & Cons.

We've touched on lightweight backing cookers before. But this time we have survey results on what folks actually prefer to use. We table out the comparable weights of different cooking systems, including fuel and a pot. And we have a pros and cons of each different system. All in all, this is a comprehensive look at lightweight backpacking cookers.

Lightweight Backpacking Stove Usage Survey.

Let's start with the usage survey.

This was conducted with folks that hike, car camp with lightweight kit, wild campers, canoeists, and cycle tourers. We had 564 replies, and folks were allowed to tick as many of the options that they wished. All we asked was which system do they have and use. Like most, a lot of the respondents have and use more than one system, depending on the circumstances, time of year, etc.

The table below is the result of that survey.

I don't think I need to explain the results above as it should be quite clear what the runaway winner is. But what is surprising, (well maybe not!), is that gas as a fuel is by far the most popular fuel to use, with spirit / meths type cookers next and then solid fuel stoves. Gel burners haven't made any real impact on the market yet.

From the results above it would appear that we like the convenience of gas. It's clean, often controllable in terms of how much heat we need, ready to use in seconds and does a pretty decent job of doing what we need it to do with no fuss.

 From the comments that were left, twig stoves were liked because it forced folks to slow down, was more 'natural', and they prefer the sound and look of a twig fire compared to the roar of a gas cooker. Each to their own of course.

Out of curiosity, I'd thought that I'd put together a technical comparison of these different types of cookers. Plenty is talked about online about these cookers, but very little in the way of a table of weight comparisons. So I did one. I selected some popular types from the categories above (though maybe not the lightest example available), eg. the MSR Pocket Rocket 2. For those cookers with no pan or pot, I selected a titanium 750ml pot. Obviously, if you use a stainless steel pot, the weights will come out significantly higher.

Lightweight Backpacking Stoves Weight Comparison.

Surprisingly the most popular stove here is also one of the heaviest. Which would suggest that folks put convenience and ease of use above weight as a priority. Or it could be that JetBoil types are more readily and easily available.

Some folks use a combination of cookers. For instance, Using a twig stove in combination with a spirit burner or gel burner. Or using twigs on a Hexi stove. By doing this, they keep the overall weight low but have added flexibility.

 Pros & Cons.

I'll cover some of the pros and cons below of each of the types of cookers listed above. Together with the tables above I hope this will enable you to select the best system for you.

Jet Boil Type.

Jet Boil Type Stove

Pros.

  • Quick to set up
  • All components fit inside the pot, inc. the gas canister
  • Heat control
  • Wind protection
  • Fast boiling
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Great for boil in the bag, dehydrated meals and boiling water.
  • Stealthy

Cons.

  • Expensive
  • Heavy
  • Cannot 'cook' easily
  • Can be unstable, even with the tripod attached

Stacked Gas Burner Type.

MSR Pocket Rocket 2

Pros.

  • Small and compact
  • Lightweight (some of this type can weigh as little as 25gr)
  • Heat control
  • Can be inexpensive
  • Fast boiling

Cons.

  • Badly affected by wind
  • Not as efficient as enclosed burners
  • Lack of stability

Tripod Style Gas.

Tripod Style Gas Stove

Pros.

  • Very stable
  • Lightweight
  • Relatively small
  • Can be inexpensive
  • Fast boiling

Cons.

  • Badly affected by wind
  • Not as efficient as enclosed type burners

Trangia Type.

Trangia Type Stove

Pros.

  • Versatility because of the variety of pots and pans
  • Able to cook 'proper' meals
  • Packs into itself
  • Stealthy
  • Stability

Cons.

  • Heavy
  • Bulky
  • Expensive (but you do get a lot for the money)
  • Tricky to know how much fuel to use
  • Should not refill whilst using

Basic Twig Stove.

Basic Twig Stove

Pros.

  • Lightweight
  • Very small pack size
  • Can use multiple fuels (twigs, solid fuel tablets, gel burner)
  • Inexpensive

Cons.

  • Can take a while to get going
  • Much slower boil times
  • Can be messy from the black soot
  • Not very stealthy

Spirit Cooker.

Spirit Burner

Pros.

  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Small size

Cons.

  • Tricky to know how much fuel to use
  • Affected by wind
  • Should not refill whilst using

Gasifier Twig Stove

Gasifier Twig Stove

Pros.

  • Depending on the material used can be very lightweight
  • No need to carry fuel
  • Packs into itself
  • Can be packed into a pot or pan
  • Can be a bit pricier depending on the material (Titanium or Stainless Steel)
  • Can be used with a spirit burner or gel burner
  • Can refuel whilst using
  • Much more efficient than a basic twig stove

Cons.

  • Can be messy with black soot
  • Can take a while to get going
  • Longer boil times
  • Little heat control
  • Availability of fuel (not many twigs in a sandy desert)
  • Not very stealthy
  • Boil time if not working properly
  • Stability

Liquid Fuel Burner.

Liquid Fuel Burner

Pros.

  • Great for very cold weather use
  • Heat control

Cons.

  • Need to learn the priming process
  • Can be a bit bulky
  • Heavier
  • Can be affected by wind
  • Costly

Hexi Burner.

Hexi Burner

Pros.

  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Simple
  • Can refuel whilst using

Cons.

  • Not very stealthy
  • Smelly solid fuel tablets
  • Blackened pots or pans
  • No heat control
  • Boil time

Gel Burner.

Gel Burner

Pros.

  • Very lightweight
  • Very small pack size
  • Inexpensive
  • Can be used with other stoves (twig and hexi)
  • Quick and easy to use

Cons.

  • Uses more fuel than the manufacturers say
  • Difficult to judge how much fuel to use
  • Leaves a residue in the burner
  • Should not refill whilst using
  • Boil time

In Conclusion.

If you want fast, then a Jet Boil type will suit you.

If you want to cook more than boil in the bag etc, then the Trangia type or stacked gas/tripod gas type. Depending on the pots and pans you take.

If you want stealthy, then an enclosed flame is better, ie. Jet Boil type.

If you want light, then a twig stove or gasifier stove is for you.

If you want simple and easy then a hexi burner, gel burner or solid fuel stove.

If you want inexpensive and no ongoing fuel cost, then a basic twig stove will do.

If you want to use a stove in very cold weather then a liquid stove like the WhisperLite will be suitable.

The above is just a guide and a summary but is by no means exclusive.

But ultimately the choice is yours.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this.

I hope that this guide has been useful and informative. Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts and experiences in the comments box below.


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