9 best camping stoves that are portable, compact and perfect for backpacking

Cook up a storm (not literally, we hope) in the great outdoors with some trusty kit

Sian Lewis
Wednesday 29 July 2020 09:45
These options are lightweight, durable and English weather proof 
These options are lightweight, durable and English weather proof 

A reliable camping stove makes all the difference to food alfresco, allowing you to whip up a hearty stew in the evening then warm up in the morning with a hot cup of coffee.

Stoves vary in size from dinky little ultralight burners which fit into your pocket to big stove-top numbers complete with multiple hobs, grill, side wind protectors and a lid – these are pretty much like bringing your cooker from home along with you.

The great thing about all camping stoves is that they are essentially portable hobs, meaning that anything you can cook on your stove at home can be whipped up in the great outdoors by sticking a pot or frying pan on top.

Always ensure you buy the right fuel canister for your particular stove. The most common models use gas (propane and butane) or liquid fuel (paraffin, kerosene, etc), and different canisters are designed to clip or screw on to different stoves.

Turn the gas on and light with a match or with a built-in Piezo igniter – some will burn with a bright blue flame; others are hard to see alight but make a roaring noise. If it’s windy, watch carefully to make sure the flame hasn’t gone out.

Never cook inside your tent – you could poison yourself with carbon monoxide fumes. It’s a sensible idea to have a go at setting your stove up at home first – there’s little more frustrating than realising you brought the wrong fuel when you’re desperate for a cuppa.

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Campingaz 400 SG

This smart stove ticks all our boxes for camping holidays with family and friends. Two large, powerful hobs boil water double-quick and can both also be used as grills, with easy to clean, removable griddles. This model burns butane and has a piezo ignition for easy lighting, and we found it could put up with stiff winds when on test. Despite its generous size, it folds away easily for storage in your tent or car boot. It also offers great value for money at just under £100 for a reliable, versatile stove, perfect for longer camping or glamping holidays.

Primus tupike

It may be the most expensive stove on test, but for good reason – this is beautifully made, easy to use and ideal for ambitious campsite chefs. Two efficient burners run on gas and one can be converted into a grill, making it easy to whip up a meal for a family of four.

Then stove is reasonably lightweight at 4.5kg, portable and slim enough to be easily stored. Sturdy legs mean you can elevate it off the ground or pop it on a camping table, and there are good windshields for turbulent weather. Oak and brass fittings make it look rather swish – this is a stove that is built to last for years of camping holidays to come.

GoGas dynasty II multi-fuel stove

If you’re on a strict budget and are after a fuss-free, basic one-hob gas stove for camping weekenders, this affordable but still effective option is a pocket-friendly choice. Its light and slim shape and carry case makes it easy to pack and transport, and there’s a handy built-in piezo lighter. The flame isn’t as adjustable as other stoves, so while it’s great for boiling water and making simple meals, it isn’t controllable enough for complicated cooking.

Camingaz camping kitchen 2

This punches well above its modest £40 price tag. The two-hob stove doesn’t have any bells and whistles, but it’s perfect for a camping holiday if you’re cooking low-fuss meals. It’s lightweight and carriable at 3.5kg, boils water in a scant few minutes using butane or propane, and is very easy to keep clean – you can even pop the pan supports in the dishwasher. We found this stove wasn’t windproof on test, though, so wouldn’t be ideal for bad weather conditions.

The adventurer ghillie kettle

Okay, so it isn’t strictly a camping stove – but a “ghillie”-style kettle is a really fun way to boil water if you have a supply of wood to hand. Traditionally used by Irish fishermen and handmade in Britain, these steel kettles are easy to use – fill up the kettle with water and build a fire in the gap in the base. It works in the wettest and windiest of weathers, and you can also use the removeable base as a small fire pit to cook on, using the included grill and pot. A pleasingly retro way to make a cuppa or a simple meal in the great outdoors.

Vango UL heat exchanger cook kit

This clever new cooking system from Vango is ideal if space is at a premium on walking or wild camping trips. The "UL" in the name stands for “ultralight”, and it is certainly that at just 387g. Windproof and efficient, the stove boils water in a few minutes. The one-litre pot doubles up as storage for two bowls, two sets of cutlery and a stove stand, with space to spare for a small gas canister, making this a stress-free way to carry your stove and cooking kit if you’re backpacking.

MSR windburner

A totally windproof system for those who like to venture into the wild in changeable weather. The slick stove has an enclosed design, so there’s no need to desperately shield your precious flame with your jacket – instead, a glowing radiant burner does its thing, protected by outer casing and using Isopro fuel canisters. It takes around four minutes for this one to boil a litre of water, but it’ll do so reliably in heavy winds when other stoves just can’t. It all packs down into the included 1L pot for easy transport in a backpack. Best suited to one or two people on wild camping forays.

Vango roar stove

This is the most versatile smaller stove we tested. It folds down into a really compact size for easy carrying or hiking, but is big and sturdy enough once set up to take large pots, so you can cook for yourself or for a big group with no issues. It has a built-in ignition, uses screw-on butane gas canisters and boils a litre of water in three minutes. If you want a simple-to-use stove to serve most purposes and that is dinky enough to take backpacking or bikepacking but big enough for more traditional camping trips, this is the model to plump for.

Primus onja

The is surely the best-looking portable stove on the market. It’s popular for its hipster looks, but there’s substance as well as style here. The two efficient hobs are easy to use, with gas canisters screwed in underneath, and the stove can be propped open wide, making it sturdy on uneven ground. While it doesn’t have a dedicated grill, we also grilled fish on top of the stove on test and found it worked brilliantly. The wooden oak lid also doubles up as a handy chopping board. Despite sporting a shoulder strap, it isn’t very comfortable to carry, so is best used on car camping trips.

The verdict: Camping stoves

If you’re looking for a two-hob stove for camping holidays, pick the great campingaz 400 SG. Our top smaller stove is the Vango roar, and if you’re really getting off the beaten track, pack the MSR windburner, which works in any weather conditions.

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