Choosing a Portable Stove
When you are choosing a stove you should consider exactly what you want it to do for you and what the cost of those features is going be. Size, weight, food preparation, water preparation, life-cycle, and fuel usage are all going to be major considerations; the type of stove you choose will determine these.
Types of Portable Stoves
Chafing Dish Stove
A chafing dish stove uses a combustible gel in a can (e.g. Sterno) that is often used by caterers to keep food warm. Outfitters often have a small folding version of this stove for backpackers and survivalists to use in the outdoors. The fuel cans are a self contained unit that are easy to carry and use in the field but they need something to hold a pot over them like the folding stove. These stoves will warm things up, and perhaps even bring water to a boil, but have a limited amount of heat they are capable of producing so they should not be depended on in extreme cold conditions. Once a fuel can is empty it is not reusable.
Stoves that use liquefied gases such as butane and propane offer convenience, efficiency, lightweight, and speed. In return they will require you to purchase your fuel by the canister. These stoves come in either single burner backpacker models or multi-burner camping models. These canisters must be kept at a certain temperature range to be safe and functional. If the fuel is too cold it will tend to remain a liquid, it will either be inefficient or simply not function at all. If the fuel is too hot, the canisters may become dangerous. Like alcohol gel cans when the fuel canister is empty it is meant to be discarded and not reused.
Gas Cartridge Stove Models
Common variants of the single burner gas cartridge stoves include:
- Snow Peak Stoves Giga Power Titanium
- Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System
- MSR Pocket Rocket Stove
- MSR Reactor Stove
- Optimus Crux Backpacking Stove
- Primus EtaPackLite Stove
Liquid Multi-Fuel Stoves
Liquid fuel stove provide the user with the same efficiency and speed as a liquefied gas stove, but are slightly heavier than and not quite as convenient. In return for the weight they offer unmatched versatility, many of them will burn almost any flammable liquid such as white gas (Coleman fuel), gasoline, kerosene, diesel, jet fuel, etc..
Multi-Fuel Stove Models
The following are typical single burner backpacking stoves:
- MSR DragonFly (pictured above)
- MSR Whisperlite
- Optimus Hiker
- Coleman Exponent
- Coleman Fyrestorm
Alcohol stoves can either be purchased or home made, they are simple, reliable, and lightweight. They use liquid alcohol rather than an infused gel that chafing dish stoves require.
Wood stoves are generally larger and heavier than other stoves, but can be reasonable lightweight and small for the benefits they offer. Long after man-made fuels are no longer available a wood stove will be functioning. They generally are extremely durable due to their simplicity. They are also useful for providing heat to a shelter well above and beyond any of the other stove types. In addition to wood other solid flammable materials such as coal, dried animal dung (e.g. cow chips), paper, etc. can be used as alternative fuels.
Dangers of using a Portable Stove
As with any heat source care must be used to see that it does not cause burn injuries or ignite nearby materials such as tents, bedding and clothing. Open flames also produce by-products such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide so proper ventilation must be used to prevent a health risk when used in any closed shelter.