The Best Bikepacking Stove
If you’re like me, when you’re out bikepacking you’re most likely going to be looking forward to cooking a meal while at camp, and hot coffee in the morning, so you’ll want to bring a stove along. But with so many options on the market how do you decide on which is the best bikepacking stove for you?
What you take along on your rides depends on a few things: How lightweight do you need it to be? Do you need it to simply boil water as fast as possible or do you want one that will simmer? How versatile does it need to be? How many people will you be cooking for? Are you going to be going international and what types of fuel will be available in those places?
When deciding how to choose the best bikepacking stove for you, the following points will help you choose:
- Stove type: Bikepacking stoves are categorized by the type of fuel they use and how the fuel is stored.
- Stove specs and features: Average boil time, burn time, convenience features, and weight will help you narrow your choices down.
- Stove usage tips: Understanding some of the distinctions on how particular stoves work will ensure that you’re making a more informed decision and also getting the best out of it when you’re in the field.
Types of Bikepacking Stoves
There are three main categories of stoves:
- Canister: These are the most easy-to-use, low-maintenance stoves that typically screw onto the threaded tops of self-sealing fuel canisters that contain two pre-pressurized gases: isobutane and propane.
- Liquid fuel: These are very versatile stoves that connect to refillable fuel bottles. Most liquid-fuel stoves run on white gas; however you do have other options available, which can be a great benefit if you’re going to be traveling internationally.
- Alternative-fuel: This is a growing category that includes stoves that run on fuel pellets or wood.
Canister stoves are the easiest to use and are relatively low maintenance. They screw onto the threaded top of closed fuel canisters that contain two pre-pressurized gases: isobutane and propane. Some of these stoves are extremely small, weigh just a few ounces, and fold up to be very compact. They may be usable in some international destinations that cater to American riders but always be sure to see if canister isobutane fuel is available at your destination.
- Small and lightweight.
- Quick to light. No priming is needed before lighting a canister stove. Just turn the valve and light it.
- On most, the flame adjusts easily and simmers well.
- Canisters self themselves when you unscrew the stove.
- A few canister stoves have a built-in pressure regulator to give you consistent heat no matter the amount of fuel left in the canister. This makes them great candidates for cold weather and high elevations.
- The short arms may not be long enough to balance large pots effectively.
- It’s tough to know how much gas is left inside the closed canister.
- A windscreen should not be used with an on-canister stove because it can trap heat and cause the fuel canister to explode.
- In cold weather and at high altitude, canisters can lose pressure and produce a weak flame (unless the stove has a pressure regulator).
- Canister stove fuel is slightly more expensive than other options.
Empty canisters need to be disposed of properly; research recycling options near you.
There are two types of canister stoves:
Integrated canister systems: Like the one pictured above, these are tall cooking systems that have a burner that screws onto the fuel canister. A great choice if you’re going to be using a French press for coffee making. The smaller 4-ounce fuel canisters can usually fit inside most cooking pots.
They’re designed to boil water quickly, not cook or simmer foods. However, some let you use a different pot from the one that comes with the set, newer versions are shorter and wider and easier to eat from. They boil water fast and efficiently, largely in part to the built-in windscreen. Some stoves also have a built-in pressure regulator that gives you consistent performance in low temperatures and high elevations. But compared to standard canister stoves, the integrated system is heavier and top heavy which can lead to tip-overs if not balanced carefully.
Remote canister stoves: Pictured above, this stove sits on its own base and has a flexible fuel hose that runs to the canister. They usually pack down small and are lightweight. But compared to a standard canister stove they’re just a few ounces more in weight.
These stoves usually have wider support arms for pot stability. A windscreen can be used without worrying about the fuel canister getting hot with off-canister stoves.
All liquid-fuel stoves burn white gas, it’s highly refined so it has few or no impurities. It burns hot and clean, performs well in freezing temperatures and compared to the per-ounce cost of canister fuel, is much less expensive.
Most multi-fuel stoves can also burn some or all of the following: unleaded gas, kerosene, diesel, and even jet fuel.
Versatility makes multi-fuel stoves an excellent choice for global bikepackers who face limited fuel choices outside of the U.S. (Note: Some gasoline additives can damage your stove.)
Two main downsides to liquid-fuel stoves:
Most require priming, this involves igniting a few drips of fuel in a cup below the burner, this creates a small flame that preheats the fuel line. It enables the stove to convert liquid fuel into vapor. To increase the pressure in the fuel bottle you will need to pump it up, all fuel bottles come with a built-in pump.
They also require more maintenance, you’ll need to clean the fuel hose or replace the O-rings in the stove and on fuel bottles. There also might be a few small parts to keep track of.
- Liquid-fuel stoves are low-profile and offer better stability on rough terrain.
- It’s easier to tell how much fuel you have left by peeking into the fuel bottle.
- There’s no canister to recycle, but you do have to buy a refillable fuel bottle.
- They perform better than others at higher elevations and in cold temperatures.
- Priming and more maintenance.
- Fuel spills are possible if you’re not careful.
- Tend to be a little heavier than canister stoves.
- A bit more expensive.
- Gases other than white gas have more impurities that can clog up the stove parts like the fuel hose.
Stoves like these can be a nice option for long-distance bikepacking. Some are ultralight though others can be a little heavier. Here are a few different types:
Since these use sticks and leaves you collect while in the backcountry, there is no need to carry fuel.
- Simple and lightweight, such as a titanium base and windscreen/pot support setup that folds down flat.
- Some can produce enough energy while burning to charge a phone or other small device with the built in USB connection.
- A few models can be utilized with an optional grill.
- Locating dry fuel in wet weather can be difficult.
- Usage can be forbidden during a burn ban or in some places at high elevation.
Denatured Alcohol Stoves
These stoves are ultralight, so these are a great option for those looking for the lightest bikepacking stove since they weigh only an ounce or two. You only need to carry enough alcohol to meet your trip demands.
- Denatured alcohol stoves have very few components that may need any upkeep.
- Denatured alcohol is cheap and fairly easy to find throughout the U.S.
- The fuel burns silently.
- Alcohol doesn’t burn as hot as canister fuel or white gas, so it’s much slower to boil water and requires more fuel.
- A windscreen is a necessity.
- Denatured alcohol can be difficult to find outside of the U.S.
Solid-fuel Tablet Stoves
Also a popular choice among ultralight bikepackers. Some are so small when folded up they can fit in your pocket.
- Lightweight: a pocket-size version can weigh as little as 3.25 ounces; a stove/pot combo can be just 7 ounces.
- Tablets light easily and can be extinguished to be reused later.
- Slow to boil water
- Tablets have an odor
- Leaves a greasy residue on the pot
Bikepacking Stove Specs and Features
- Below are a couple of the other key points to consider that will factor into your pick for the best bikepacking stove for you.
Weight: If you’re counting ounces for a round the world trip your choice will be different from someone who’s mainly enjoying weekend bikepacking rides.
Burn time: When exploring your options, you can compare how long a stove burns using a certain amount of fuel.
Boil time: This spec will help you decide between models, especially if efficiency is a main concern for you. Here are some general boiling and simmering explanations:
- Integrated canister systems boils water the quickest while using a minimal amount of fuel. Simmering is possible.
- Canister stoves boils water quickly, some are for simmering
- Liquid-fuel stoves can boil water quickly, even in colder weather. Simmering capability differs among brands.
- Alternate-fuel stoves meant mainly for boiling, although they are slower, sometimes by minutes.
Piezo-igniter: This is a push-button spark producer on certain canister-fuel stoves. It’s a useful feature, specifically if your matches get lost or wet.
Stabilizers: Usually sold separately, stabilizers are connected to the base of fuel canisters to decrease the chance of upright styles from knocking over.
In short, here are my top 10 picks for the best bikepacking stoves.
- MSR PocketRocket 2
- Jetboil Flash
- BRS 3000T
- Jetboil MiniMo
- MSR WindBurner
- Solo Stove Lite
- MSR WhisperLite
- Snow Peak Gigapower
- Soto Amicus
- Snow Peak LiteMax
Top 10 Picks for the Best Bikepacking Stove
MSR PocketRocket 2
Not only is the PocketRocket 2 travel stove convenient and super easy to use, but it works very fast. It can boil one liter of water in under four minutes. It can also adjust from a simmer to a huge blue flame blaze. Best of all, you don’t have to prime, preheat, or pressurize to cook up a masterpiece. Its 2” x 2” x 3” size means it won’t take up a lot of room in your pack. This in my opinion is the best overall bikepacking stove.
The Jetboil Flash cooking system is compact yet very powerful. It comes with a stabilizer for the fuel canister and includes a 1-liter FluxRing cooking cup designed to both boil water and keep it warm afterward. The bottom cup doubles as a measuring cup and a bowl. It also comes with a one-year warranty. The Jetboil system is also compatible with other Jetboil products to make your trip more productive, including skillets, cooking pots, and utensils. The push-button igniter is very reliable and it even comes in four different color themes. The thermo-chromatic color-changing heat indicator will tell you exactly when the water is hot and ready.
At just under one ounce, this is likely the lightest cooking stove on the market today. It is compact and easy to carry around, and you’ll end up using only around 140 grams of gas per hour. Simple to use and made out of sturdy titanium alloy, this cooking stove is reliable and boils water super fast. It’s perfect for those on a budget, but don’t let the low price fool you. This is still a stove that is very reliable and won’t disappoint, as well as one you can use for a very long time.
The Jetboil MiniMo is a very versatile all-purpose cooking stove. It boils water quickly and accommodates numerous cooking methods, bringing you from a simmer all the way up to a boil in no time. It comes with a cooking cup that doubles as a bowl, and the push-button igniter switch makes starting the stove a breeze. Since it is so lightweight and compact, it won’t take up too much space in frame bag. It also comes in your choice of three different color themes. Its efficiency allows you to use it year after year and the cooking cup even accommodates a low-spoon angle.
Lightweight and compact, the MSR WindBurner cooking stove is great for bikepackers. The all-in-one system means that as soon as you take it out of the package, it is ready to be used. It is made to work with a variety of compatible cookware, and it can even be operated efficiently when it’s windy outside, thanks to its 100% primary air combustion, enclosed design, and internal pressure regulator. The fuel canister sits perfectly inside of the 1-liter pot, and the full-sized bowl snaps easily onto the outside of the pot, taking up little space.
Solo Stove Lite
The double wall of the stove means more efficient combustion and it allows the stove to operate while emitting less smoke. Its compact design means it won’t take up much room in your pack, and the wood-burning feature means no more spending money on expensive butane gas. This is a practical, easy-to-operate stove, and it is made out of stainless steel. It is also a very reliable system that comes with a storage bag, and its height of 5.7” is a convenient size.
The package includes everything you need to get started, except for the fuel bottle, and it is designed very efficiently. The stove is super easy to clean and maintain while you’re out on your adventure. The stainless steel legs are super steady and the fact that it can accommodate several types of fuel means you have options when you’re considering how you want to operate it. Users also love the fact that it even works with cheap gasoline, and its well-engineered design and overall look.
Snow Peak Gigapower
This is an inexpensive but very powerful cooking stove. You can start it quickly without an igniter, and the flame spreads extremely well, resulting in more efficient cooking. The case is a hard-shell that protects the stove from abuse, and it cools off very quickly after using it, which is definitely a safety feature. You’ll find this stove to work just as well as many other more-expensive stoves. Its lightweight folding design makes storing it in your pack super-easy, and you can boil 1 liter of water in just under 5 minutes.
Sold either with or without the igniter, the Soto Amicus stove is one of my top choices for the budget friendly crowd. Even in windy conditions you can rely on this stove to work efficiently, and the four pot supports mean your pots will sit steadily on the stove and won’t tip over as you’re cooking. It’s also great for minimalist trips because it is small, doesn’t waste gas, and works with the efficiency that only higher-priced products used to offer.
Snow Peak LiteMax
This is a sturdy stove with foldable legs to make it very compact, and the built-in windscreen protects the stove from going out if it’s windy outside. One big advantage offered by this stove is its compact, lightweight design, and it is made out of sturdy titanium via a process using intricate welds for extra hardness. The attention to detail when manufacturing this stove makes it very useful, and it comes with a great warranty. It is also durable and perfect for minimalist outings.