How to Choose & Use a Camp Stove
by Krista Karlson
sharpen your dinner duty skills with this easy guide
When I first started camping and backpacking, I’d strategically avoid dinner duty. I’d offer to set up the tent or get water, but I never helped cook because I didn’t know how to use a stove. I felt embarrassed, like I wasn’t “outdoorsy” enough. I didn’t want to ask how to use a stove because it would reveal what I thought was a gaping incompetency, and I didn’t want to be mansplained about how to use one. So I’d peek over my friends’ shoulders, trying to figure out how it worked.
When I finally learned how to use my first camp stove, I felt relieved. Finally I could help make dinner. I went on to teach student trip leaders how to operate and clean stoves, always assuring them it was ok that they were still learning.
This guide will help you choose and operate various types of stoves so you can confidently approach dinner duty. It might take a while to get the hang of it, and that’s ok. Practice makes perfect.
Two-burner propane stove
This stove is great for car camping. The double burner allows you to cook two things at once, and the built-in windscreen keeps the flame from going out. The downside is that it’s heavy (around 10 pounds).
Liquid fuel stove
This stove is great for cold alpine trips because unlike gas, liquid fuel can be manually pressurized in cold or high altitude conditions. It usually weighs about 1 pound, and the refillable fuel bottle cuts down on waste.
Integrated canister stove
This stove is great for backpacking. It’s lightweight (less than 1 pound) and packable, but can be hard to repair. If you’re prone to knocking things over, this is the stove for you: the whole thing fits together so your pot doesn’t slide off the burner.
Traditional canister stove
This stove is also great for backpacking. It’s just about as light as it gets (3 ounces) and it packs down small. Similar to other gas-powered stoves, though, the fuel canisters can be a pain to recycle and aren’t great in cold temperatures.
This stove is neat because it uses scavenged wood instead of petroleum-based fuel. But while it might be more environmentally friendly, it’s hard to use if the wood is wet or you’re in an area without wood at all.
Before you go camping, practice using your stove at home. This will help work out the kinks and get your system down. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s this: don’t forget a lighter.