Comparing Camp Stoves
Every stove has its advantages and disadvantages, and it's up to you to figure out what sort of cooking system best suits the purposes for your trip. The main classes of cooking systems include:
- open fire: Not really a stove at all, but the original way to cook one's food that requires nothing more than a campfire. Not suitable where campfires are not allowed or fuel is scarce.
- wood stove: A step up from an open fire—a smaller fire in a more controlled setting. Not suitable where fuel is scarce.
- canister stove: Perhaps the most common type of stove in use that uses a pressurized non-reusable fuel bottle. Great for large groups.
- liquid fuel stove: They'll always burn white gas, while many brands also burn gasoline, diesel, and kerosene. Great for large groups and winter camping.
- alcohol stove: A stove that burns denatured alcohol. Great for 1 or 2 people for 3-season use.
- solid fuel stove: Burns cubes of fuel made of hexamethylenetetramine. Frankly, I can't think of one reason why you'd want to use this type of stove rather than an alcohol stove—if you take a look at the chart below, the alcohol stove is on par or superior in every way.
|open fire||wood stove||canister stove||liquid fuel stove||alcohol stove||solid fuel stove|
|Ease of Use||poor||poor||good||fair||good||good|
$$ = stove is expensive, but fuel costs little
$$$ = stove is cheap, but fuel is expensive
$$$$ = both stove and fuel is expensive
Alcohol Stoves Compared
While there are probably about a million different designs for alcohol stoves, there are three I hear people talking about the most so those are the three I'll discuss here.
- Soda can stove: This is the work-horse of the alcohol stoves. Quick and easy to make and allows for the possibility of a simmer ring.
- Cat food can stove: You won't find a simmer ring attachment for this type of stove, but it's even lighter and easier to make than a soda can stove. If you only need to boil water, this stove is the stove to beat.
- Penny can stove: Allegedly, the penny can stove is supposed to burn more efficiently than the soda can stove, and while I haven't tested this theory myself, I have no reason to doubt it and I'll give it the benefit of a doubt. However, it's also a lot harder to fill, prime, and get started—and everyone I know who's tried one ultimately decided to use a different type of stove. Give it a try if you want, but most people seem to prefer the other two designs.