A good portable stove has become a necessity for heading into the backcountry. When fire restrictions are in effect or building a fire to cook with is difficult, a reliable camp stove can make a meal in minutes. Lightweight and compact freeze dried foods have come a long way in recent years and I will go so far as to say instant modern meals like jambalaya, pot roast and chicken teriyaki from Mountain House kitchens are delicious and a perfect way to refuel when hiking far from home. But, boiling water should be a super easy task at home or on a rock face at 10,000 feet.
Gas One Stoves offers a sleek dual fuel stove that uses 16 ounce propane bottles and 8 ounce butane canisters. At 15,000 BTU’s the Gas One 3900P is a great cooking platform offering piezo electric ignition so you won’t look like your dad pumping, priming, cursing and having the flame singe your nose hairs. It is big enough to handle an 11 inch skillet and has wind blockers on all four sides to prevent wind blowout. At around $60, it is a good compliment to your camp box, but adds a little unwanted weight to your backpack. Gas One’s lighter more compact GS800P delivers 7,000 BTU’s and has all the features of its larger cousin the 3900P and is easier on your wallet with a price tag of about $32. Though it is smaller at only 2.5 pounds the hose and fuel can make it weigh up to 6 pounds. For me, I would rather carry 6 pounds of wine so I want my stove to weigh as little as possible and take up a minimal amount of space. Though these stoves are perfect to have in the car or at home for emergencies, let’s look at better options for the backpack.
For many years and for the first decade of exploring Montana’s backcountry, I used horses. Packing panniers full of iron cooking grates, steaks, cans of beer and other comforts are foreign to backpacking. No matter how much money you spend on a great pack, you can’t carry as much as a horse. I was first introduced to the Jet Boil stove on a short day hike when my horse was ill and a friend of mine pulled one from his day pack. It boiled water at amazing speed and within minutes we were snacking on raspberry crumble, a delicious instant food item from Mountain House. I bought a Jet Boil the following week and since have used it when setting up spike camps during elk season when I didn’t want a fire, or at high elevations when collecting firewood was too much of a chore above the timber line and mostly during hot dry conditions when fire restrictions are in effect. Best of all, as more of us adopt leave no trace principles and wish to leave the sanctity of the wilderness as we found it, compact stoves are a more friendly alternative to building a fire and leaving our ashes behind.
The Solo Titan Stove is a compact canister style unit weighing about 16 ounces and only 5 inches in diameter and less than 8 inches tall. But, what is truly amazing about this gadget is that it uses no gas. The Titan burns twigs, pinecones, leaves and wood. It is designed to burn very clean limiting smoke. At about $90, the Titan is a great alternative to avoiding fuel cans no matter how compact they are.
The Jet Boil Flash is a personal cooking system that will deliver reliable results for years. The Flash has an external temperature indicator and is designed to capture heat better than traditional cooking systems. It can boil 2 cups of water in 2 minutes. It has a built in windscreen that works and easy to use electric lighter. Best of all, the entire system is stowed inside the cooking cup making the 15 ounce unit able to stow into a compact space about 4 x 7 inches. The Jet Boil Flash Cooking System sells for about $100.
A cheaper alternative to these higher priced compact stoves is the ultralight Etekcity camp stove. This unit simply screws onto any butane or butane/propane bottle with 7/16 threads. Its dimensions are less than 2.5 x 3.5 inches and it weighs an incredible 4.8 ounces. Foldable support arms and piezo ignition make it easy to get a flame and start cooking. Keep in mind you will still need a cooking cup or surface to prepare meals, but the Etekcity is an affordable lightweight solution at only $14 bucks.
Whether you are planning an overnight excursion or an extended expedition, I hope you find one of these alternatives to a traditional fire roasted meal a fun experience.