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Types | Sample listing | Fuels | Hydrocarbon Fuels | Manufacturers | General Information | Operating tips | evaluation and choosing tips

Butane, Propane or Isobutane Blend Canisters
Pros: Convenient, clean burning
Can be adjusted easily for simmering
Can't spill.
Cons: Canisters may be hard to find and are non-recyclable.
More expensive
Performance may decrease in temperatures below freezing.

White Gas/Camp Stove fuel:
Pros: Very inexpensive, easy to find throughout the world.
Cons: jamming, clogging and pump failures.

Pro: Alcohol, unlike white gas, butane and propane, is not a petroleum by-product and is less damaging to the environment.
safest stove fuel for use in confined areas. Alcohol vapor is relatively light compared to the vapor of petroleum fuels, and is less likely to concentrate and create a hazard. Alcohol stoves don't flare up as often as white gas stoves.
Faster setup time.

Cons: The fuel cup is open, so if the stove is knocked over, burning alcohol can spill out. Alcohol stoves have blue flames that can be difficult to see in direct sun light.
They only produce about half the heat output of other stoves, so boiling time for 2 cups (1/2 l) is 5-8 min vs 3-4 min.

1/2 oz of alcohol will burn for about 10 min.

Solid Fuel - Stoves that run on:
twigs, small pieces of wood, or charcoals
Sterno® (Canned Heat™) Sample of Stoves 2013
Model Wgt. Capacity Boil Time Water Boiled/fuel Fuel $/oz or g $ to boil 1-Liter MSR Liquid Fuel DragonFly WhisperLite WhisperLite International Chittenden Vermont just outside of Rutland Source: EMS Store Sample of Stoves 2008
Mfg./Model $ BTU/hr Boil Time (min) Burn time hrs.
wg ker LPG wg ker LPG
Primus Multi Fuel 110         2.5 3.3
Primus OmniFuel Titanium 305 8-10,000 4.5   3.5    
MSR XGK EX Stove     5 3.5   1:12 1:17
MSR WhisperLite 80 10,500 4 4.5   1:20 1:50
Optimus Nova Multi-Fuel 140   4 4   1.5 1
Primus EtaPower EF 110 7,150     3    
MSR Reactor 150 10,000     3    
Jetboil xx       2:42    
SnowPeak GigaPower Auto (GS-100A) 50 10,000     4.25   1/2
Brasslite Alcohol $30 4,800     5-6    
Soda Can Alcohol $6 4,800     5-6    
Car Camping Stoves
Coleman Dual-fuel 2-burner $72 11,5001          
Cabella Blind 2-burner 2 $120 17,000          
* Boil times came from independent tests. Mfg. Ratings are lower.

1. Coleman Dual-fuel - Camp stove fuel or unleaded gasoline.
Coleman 2 burner duel-fuel Camp Stove: Main burner supplies 21,000 BTU; with auxiliary burner lit, main supplies 11,500 BTU, auxiliary supplies 9,500 BTU

2. Cabela is a propane stove.

New Designs:
Integrated systems with pots with heat exchangers were the fad in 2007:
Examples are: Primus EtaPower EF, JetBoil and MSR Reactor.
Primus Eta is a little more bulky and heavier but is more stable, simmers better and accepts a larger variety of pots.

Multifuel stoves
The year the Primus Multifuel stove was introduced it made a huge splash at the Outdoor Retail Expo (the convention where all sorts of gear-store employees and gear junkies beg and borrow to get into each year) when Primus ran it for several days straight on 151-proof rum. A few other stoves could briefly burn "Bacardi 151", but they would usually clog and need cleaning after just a few hours. In addition to burning on bad fuel and boiling a quart of water really fast, this stove can trim the flame down to a low simmer without sputtering out.

What was even more impressive was that Primus had the foresight to make the stove compatible with both liquid-fuel bottles and compressed gas cartridges. I know most backpackers spending more than a week in the backcountry or out in the winter prefer liquid fuel, but canisters are cheaper if you don't go camping that often and always easier & safer for new campers to use.

The newest multifuel stoves (e.g. MSR XGK and Primus Omnifuel) add the ability to run on vegetable oil (aka: biodiesel) but the original Primus Multifuel is still a fast-cooking, durable stove worth a look.
Source: HikerDeals.com/camp-tips/

Burns gas canisters/cartridges with a butane-propane mix, white gas, auto petrol/auto gas, diesel, kerosene/ paraffin and jet fuel.

Summary: See Hydrocarbon Fuels in chemistry for more information.
  • Butane and Propane - Fuel in canister must vaporize to work, so performance belowe freezing is reduced.
  • Alcohol (methanol)- In the US, there is a cult following of ultralight hikers who use homemade (e.g. Soda Can) alcohol stoves.
    No explosion hazard. There is the risk of burning one's self since alcohol flames are difficult to see. Testing to see if a stove is on fire with one's finger is a bad idea. Alcohol fires can generally be extinguished with a little water.
    Sterno is an alcohol fuel. Methanol is poisonous and can cause blindness if consumed or poured in ones eyes, neither of which is recommended. Some may find the fumes a little irritating.
    Dont use untreated aluminum bottles like those sold by MSR. Nalgene, Sigg and Optimus fuel bottles are OK.
    Commercial Alcohol Stoves:
    Trangia See links below.
  • Gasoline
    Extremely explosive, is very caustic, releases a terrible odor that lingers, and its additives and high octane components release deadly vapors when burned. It may also prematurely clog your stove when compared to white gas.
  • White Gas - Unleded gassoline without additives.
    In many places today you will see camp stove (e.g. Coleman) fuel and white gasoline used synonymously. They are not the same. Coleman Fuel was developed in the early 50's as a replacement for "white gas". Coleman fuel contains components (such as naphtha) that are much less volatile than gasoline .

    Caution: Never use oxygenated gasoline in your backpacking stove. Sold in many parts of the US in the winter months, it's additives can destroy rubber stove parts and seals.

  • Camp stove fuel - Mainly naphtha, a purified mixture of hydrocarbons similar to gasoline, but with a lower vapor pressure and slightly lower flash point.
  • Gashol - gasoline containing up to 10% ethanol or grain alcohol
  • Kerosene - This is almost as hot as naphtha once it gets burning and can be easier to find than naphtha. It may prematurely clog your jets, has a very strong odor, leaves an oil residue on everything it comes in contact with and may flavor your food if you don't use a tight lid on your cookware.
  • Diesel - Diesel fuel quality varies depending on the manufacture, what time of the year it is and what part of the world you find it. And depending on composition, it may smoke a lot and clog your stove much faster than with kerosene.
    See Hydrocarbon Fuels for different types.
  • Liquefied Petroleum (LPG) Gas - Several commercial stoves are able to burn liquefied gas fuels such as butane, isobutane, propane, etc with the addition of an adapter. This fuel burns clean but may not work well at subfreezing temperatures. Butane alone, without some propane, burns cooler and produces a smaller flame below 45°F, limiting its usefulness in the backcountry.
    See Hydrocarbon Fuels for different types.
  • Biodiesel (veggie diesel) - (Not Recommended) A slow burning fuel similar to lamp oil. Releases a French Fry, peanut, fish and chips, etc smell when burned. Biodiesel fuel is one of the safest fuels around as it is relatively nontoxic and not very flammable. Depending on the makeup of the fuel and the stove you are using, it may not work well and produce a lot of smoke and soot.
  • Solid Fuel - Stoves that run on:
    twigs, small pieces of wood, or charcoals
    Sterno® (Canned Heat™) - alcohol with amphoteric oxide gelling agent
    Heat tablets - Esbit - hexamine tablets.
Source: ZenStoves.net, CampfireDude.com and others.
Portable stove Fuel Comparison- Wikipedia,

In many places today you will see camp stove (e.g. Coleman) fuel and white gasoline used synonymously. They are not the same. Coleman Fuel was developed in the early 50's as a replacement for "white gas". Coleman fuel contains components (such as naphtha) that are much less volatile than gasoline .

See Also: Hydrocarbon Fuels

Carbon Chain - Carbon atoms in each molecule.
MJ/l - megajoules per liter - Energy Content

Source: The GO Outdoors Guide To Fuel and Gas

Basically, there are two common modern gas canisters suitable for backpackers, Camping Gaz (non-threaded) and 7/16ths UNEF threaded (Lindal Valve) canisters. Generally, stoves built for one type will not work with the other, but there are exceptions such as the relatively heavy MSR Superfly. There are also much lighter DIY exceptions such as the "Super Gnat" that you can assemble in the matter of a few minutes.

In most of the developed world, the standard for gas canisters for backpacking is a threaded canister with a 7/16ths UNEF thread.
Source: Adventures In Stoving: Backpacking Gas Canisters 101

MSR (Mountain Safety Research)
Coleman GAZ (Most of the links are to SuuntoUSA.com, but they don't have GAZ now)

General Information:
Zen Backpacking Stoves - Canister Stoves at ZenStoves.net
Stoves for Camping
Zen Canister Stoves - Liquefied Gas Stoves
Nov. 2001 issue of Boots and Blisters

Operating tips:
Cold Weather Operation at ZenStoves.net
Operation in the Wind
Camp Tips at HikerDeals.com
Choosing a stove:
How to choose a stove at REI
Comparing Stoves and Fuel at Mtn. Equip. Co-op Canada
Stove Reviews at TheBackPacker.com
Stoves Compared at ArtOfTravel.com
A guide to Camp Stoves at the AMC
Stoves Comparison (pdf) at Wilds of Manitoba
Hydrocarbon Fuels

Soda Can Stoves:
Soda Can Stoves in Recreation

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last updated 20 June 2008