Portable backpacking camp stoves can be an invaluable tool for preppers for many obvious reasons.
- Sometimes you don’t have the ability to build a campfire, and sometimes you don’t have the time.
- Some stoves use natural fuels more efficiently than a traditional campfire
- Sometimes it’s just nice to be able to whip out a small stove and make a quick hot drink or heat water for a freeze dried meal.
Whatever your reason, be it camping, long-distance hiking, bugging out, or a grid down emergency, or even something else, a small camping stove should be part of your survival kit. However, there are a great many different ones out there, all using different types of fuel. We are going to look at six, all of which can be easily tossed into a bugout bag, or stashed with your camping gear.
The Top Backpacking Stoves for fast cooking when you need it the most
DESERT & FOX Ultralight Mini Camping Stove
This lightweight little gem uses common 7/16” thread butane or butane/propane canisters that are widely available in camping and backpacking supply stores. While relying on stored fuel for SHTF is limiting, this fuel is easy to stockpile, and the reality of a camping stove in your emergency gear is more focused on the short term than long term use. In other words, this is the stove you use to heat your food when you are bugging out, or when the power goes out.
Because of the small burner size of this stove, you aren’t going to be whipping out your favorite cast iron skillet and frying up some bacon with it. It will work best with lightweight camping cookware or military mess kits. This further drives home the fact that this is a strictly short term or emergency stove. You are basically going to use it to heat water or reheat canned foods. You can do more complex cooking tasks with it, but you are sorely limited by the kind of cookware you can use on it.
Overall though, if you need a basic stove to toss in your BOB, or in the back of your car for an emergency, and have the kind of fast cooking foods in your cache that work best with this kind of stove, you will be just fine.
Canway Camping Stove
So-called “rocket stoves” have long been one of my favorite choices for an emergency stove. Capable of burning almost any dry organic matter (leaves, twigs, pinecones, etc… ), they allow a prepper to use fuel that would commonly be ignored, which increases the utility of such stoves.
The Canway stove is an inexpensive and easy to pack away stove. Because fuel can be readily scavenged in most places, you really only need to pack a way to start a fire (although it couldn’t hurt to pack a small amount of wood or such, so you are certain of having fuel).
Like any camping stove, you are somewhat restricted on the weight you can put on it. But again, our goal here is a portable emergency stove. One big disadvantage would be operating in very wet climates or deserts where fuel might be scarce. However, those are fringe situations, so for most folks under most circumstances, this is a great little stove. I’d prefer something with a different fuel source if I were certain of not being able to find fuel.
Coleman Bottle Top Propane Stove
A classic camping stove, the Coleman bottle top stove is a bit clunky for a BOB, but it fits in great with other emergency gear if you are already invested in equipment that uses one pound disposable propane bottles.
And therein lies the rub. If you are already using those bottles, great. If not, this is not the stove for you. It is a tad clunky, and while that is a benefit for rough handling, the stove and bottle take up precious room in a BOB that could be used for other things.
Honestly, this is a stove better suited to keep in your vehicle, at home, or in your rural cabin. The bulky nature of the propane canisters alone should be enough to keep it out of any emergency kit that doesn’t include a vehicle to haul it around in. On the other hand, it is a great stove using a common fuel supply. Just use it where it works best, and not where it will be an irritant.
Lixada Camping Stove
This combines two of my favorite stoves – a wood burner, and an alcohol stove. While not as efficient as a proper rocket stove, the wood burning option is just too good to pass up. Plus, it uses the kinds of small sticks and such that often get passed over for campfires.
But what is really great about the Lixada stove is the alcohol burner unit. Almost identical to the stoves issued by the Swedish Army during the height of the Cold War, these alcohol stoves burn common isopropyl or denatured alcohol, are indoor safe, and are more than suitable for common on the go cooking tasks.
Having used nearly identical stoves, I really enjoy the fact that a small bottle of fuel alcohol can last for a number of days, while still giving me the ability to have plenty of hot drinks and meals. In fact, I’ve used these kinds of stoves extensively in the sometimes unpleasant climate of the Puget Sound, and keep one for indoor use when the power goes out.
By combining an easy to transport stove that uses wood or alcohol, Lixada gives the prepper a lot of great options for an emergency or camping stove.
Esbit Folding Stove
Esbit and similar solid fuel tablet stoves have been used by military and campers around the world for decades. The ultimate in minimalist stove design, these pocket sized stoves can be tucked away almost anywhere, along with their fuel. This might be the ultimate bugout bag or small survival kit stove, but it of course will have some drawbacks.
The upside to a stove you can stick in your coat pocket is that well, it is a stove you can stick in your coat pocket. You aren’t likely to cook a gourmet meal over this thing, but you can make plenty of hot water, heat up canned foods, and the like, but as with every other stove we’ve looked at, your big limitation is on cookware, rather than the energy output of the stove.
That said, an Esbit also makes a great backup stove. Since a stove and enough fuel to cook with for several days takes up about the space of an AR-15 magazine, you would be well advised to at least pack one as a spare, or stick one in your glovebox. You never know when a stove will come in handy.
Bushcraft Essentials XL Outdoor Stove Bushbox
The Bushcraft Essentials XL stove is by far the most expensive one on the list, but what I like about it is it’s probably the easiest one to fit into a backpack or pocket. The German-made stove is quick and easy set up; you just unfold it and the stainless steel plates drop right into place.
The other great thing about this stove is you can use pretty much any organic matter as fuel so you don’t have to worry about carrying extra fuel. When your done cooking, just fold it up and slide it into your pack.
Choosing An Emergency Camp Stove
If you are looking for a stove for your bugout bag, all the stoves reviewed here, except for the Coleman are perfect for sticking in a bugout bag or small survival kit. Which one you choose is largely up to you.
There is a lot to be said for a stove that allows burning scraps of wood or other biomass, but that won’t always be an option. For instance, if you are keeping a stove for a grid down emergency, a biomass stove won’t work very well indoors. An alcohol stove on the other hand will.
Stoves using some sort of fuel source have the advantage of a reliable, packaged fuel that can generally be counted on to do the job. Of course, once that fuel is gone, your stove isn’t of much use, and fuel containers can take up valuable space in an emergency kit.
On the flip side, carrying enough fuel for several days or even a couple weeks generally won’t take up much room, and as it is a consumable, your pack will grow lighter with each use.
Your choice in an emergency stove boils (hehe get it, boils?) down to what kind of space you have set aside for a stove, and what your personal choices are in fuel, and these are only choices you can make.
Ultralight Backing Stoves: Are they part of your Bug Out Survival Gear?
Emergency camping stoves do not have to be expensive, or complicated. Many are made for military or backpacking markets, which lead to lightweight, easy to use and efficient products that do the primary job of heating water or prepared foods very well.
While you are somewhat limited by the small size of these stoves, you’ll find for emergency and grid down situations; they will be the difference between a hot meal or one that tastes like cold MRE’s and sadness.
The peace of mind a good stove in your emergency kit is invaluable, and just knowing that it is there if you ever need it can be a real relief. The morale boost of a hot meal in an emergency, or the life-saving ability to boil water cannot be measured in dollars, but rather measured in personal satisfaction.
If you don’t already have a stove in your emergency kit or BOB, you should. If you already do, then you are that much ahead of the game!