MSR Reactor
MSR Reactor

Best camping stove.

If portability and efficiency are your main concerns, reviewers say it's hard to beat the MSR Reactor. This integrated canister stove uses a radiant burner and heat exchanger to improve efficiency and wind resistance, and tests confirm that it can boil a liter of water in less than three minutes -- even in windy conditions. The MSR Reactor stove includes a 1.7-liter pot and burner, and the fuel canister (sold separately) and burner pack away into the pot for easy portability. Overall, reviewers rave about the fast boiling times and solid reliability, although there are a few drawbacks. The Reactor weighs 19 ounces, which is on the heavy side for a backpacking stove, and it can be hard to control the heat output for simmering soups or sauces. The Reactor only works with the included pot, so it's not the best choice for groups. Still, for solo campers or groups of two, reviewers say the MSR Reactor is a top canister stove.
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Snow Peak LiteMax
Snow Peak LiteMax

Lightweight, budget camping stove.

For backpackers who want a simple, inexpensive camping stove, the Snow Peak LiteMax earns a number of recommendations. The LiteMax weighs less than 2 ounces, not including a pot or isobutane-propane fuel canister, and it has a heat output of 11,200 British thermal units (Btu). The small stove folds to stow in a pack, and the pot supports are said to be sturdy enough for large pots. It won't boil water as fast as the MSR Reactor, but the Snow Peak LiteMax boils a liter of water in around five or six minutes in the tests we saw. (Reviews indicate that windy conditions may increase these boiling times, since there is no windscreen.) Do not use this stove in your tent to protect it from the wind -- a test at BackpackingLight.com shows that the LiteMax has pretty high carbon monoxide emissions. While a little heavier at 3.75 ounces, the Snow Peak GigaPower Stove (*Est. $50) also gets good reviews.
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*Est. $60 Estimated Price
Jetboil Helios
Jetboil Helios

Camping stove for groups.

When you have to cook for more than one or two people, the Jetboil Helios is a top pick. This inverted isobutane-propane camping stove comes with a wide, 2-liter pot large enough for groups of two to four people. The Jetboil Helios is on the heavy side at 28 ounces, but the stove and burner supports can be packed into the pot for reasonable portability. Reviewers say the Jetboil Helios is highly efficient, and the stove boiled water in less than three minutes in most tests. An included plastic windscreen helps increase efficiency. The Helios has an automatic piezo igniter, but several reviewers note that it takes several attempts before it will light. If you have to cook for a large group, Jetboil offers an optional 3-liter pot (*Est. $50). The Jetboil Helios Guide (*Est. $160) is a better deal than buying the 3-liter pot separately -- you get the same stove, plus the 2- and 3-liter pots.
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MSR XGK EX
MSR XGK EX

Camping stove for winter and high altitudes.

Canister stoves typically perform poorly at freezing temperatures or high altitudes, and experts recommend multi-fuel stoves for these situations. The MSR XGK EX can burn a number of fuels, including white gas, kerosene, unleaded gasoline, jet fuel and diesel. Reviewers say the MSR XGK EX is stable and boils water quickly, and Outside magazine calls it "the most reliable stove we've used." There are some downsides to multi-fuel stoves like the MSR XGK EX. For example, they require priming, so there is a longer setup time, and it's hard to control their heat output. Reviewers also note that the MSR XGK EX is incredibly noisy when burning, but most say it is a great stove for camping in cold temperatures or at high altitudes.
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*Est. $140 Estimated Price
Brunton Wind River Range
Brunton Wind River Range

Best campground stove.

Campground stoves are the best bet for car-camping trips when you need to cook for large groups. The Brunton Wind River Range is expensive, but the high cost appears to be worth it; cheaper campground stoves are pretty poor, according to most of the reviews we found. On the other hand, reviewers say the propane Brunton Wind River Range is sturdy, durable and a top performer among campground stoves. It includes dual 15,000-Btu burners, a storage compartment, plastic cutting board, windscreens and a removable stainless-steel grate. Reviewers especially like the heat adjustability, saying it's easy to adjust the flames for simmering sauces or stews. The Brunton Wind River Range weighs 23 pounds, so it's limited to car-camping trips.
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COMPARE PRODUCTS
See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

Camping Stoves Runners Up:

MSR Pocket Rocket *Est. $40

3 picks including: Backcountry.com, Backpacker.com…

Snow Peak GigaPower Stove *Est. $50

3 picks including: GORP, Backcountry.com…

Optimus Nova/Nova+ *Est. $135

2 picks by top review sites.

Brunton Profile Duo *Est. $85

2 picks by top review sites.

Optimus Crux Lite *Est. $40

2 picks by top review sites.

Primus Atle BBQ *Est. $90

2 picks by top review sites.

MSR Whisperlite Internationale *Est. $80

2 picks by top review sites.

Brunton Vapor AF *Est. $110

2 picks by top review sites.

Camping stoves balance weight, convenience

Camping stoves vary in size from big three-burner propane stoves, useful for car camping, to pocket-sized backpacking stoves that weigh 3 ounces or less. Backpacking stoves are recommended for hiking trips and whenever you need to carry your stove with you. The bigger stoves are obviously limited to the campground, since you won't want to add 20 pounds to your pack load. The most credible and detailed reviews we found evaluate lightweight backpacking stoves. In fact, we found no in-depth testing of large camping stoves -- just a handful of subjective reviews. Since large stoves remain popular for family and group outings, we focused on user reviews to evaluate these models. Unfortunately, most of the user reviews we saw for campground stoves were pretty poor, indicating quality may be a concern for these stoves.

There are many reviews of smaller backpacking stoves, but we found BackpackingLight.com to have the best objective reviews; editors conduct incredibly detailed tests that are thoroughly documented and full of analysis. While it's not quite as technical, we also found good testing in TGO (The Great Outdoors) magazine. The magazine conducts tests on multi-fuel and canister stoves, and each stove receives an overall rating; the best earn Recommended or Best Buy tags. Backpacker magazine, Backcountry.com and Rock and Ice magazine also conduct tests on backpacking stoves. Some user-review sites are helpful for evaluating camping stoves, including BackpackGearTest.org, Trailspace.com and Buzzillions.com.  

The Jetboil Personal Cooking System (PCS) has been very popular for a number of years, but it was subject to a recall by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in February 2009. The Jetboil PCS was the first integrated canister stove, meaning it comes with a pot and attachments (sold separately) designed to snap onto the stove frame. Upon its introduction in 2003, the Jetboil PCS was considered quite innovative, and it received several accolades from Backpacker and Time magazines. However, the CPSC received a number of reports of gas leaks and fires from a faulty fuel valve on the Jetboil PCS. As a result, the CPSC recalled 15,000 of these stoves. Also in February, the CPSC recalled 6,700 Field & Stream Dual Burner Camp Stoves sold by Dick's Sporting Goods. See our Useful Links section for a full list of affected models.

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