Winter camping.. which Stove should I take?

I think that as long as there are guys like me there will be debates on which is the best type of stove to take on backpacking trips.  And as long as there are guys like me.. we will have each type of stove.. so we can meet our needs in the backcountry.
So the current debate is which stove is best in a Cold weather environment.  And the answer is not so simple.
Here is what I know.
For absolute best performance in the cold.. Liquid fuel stoves like the MSR Whisperlite is a proven stove.  Typically you will always get peak performance from a liquid fuel (white gas).  This type of fuel and stove works extremely well in freezing and sub freezing temperatures.  They are very reliable.
The disadvantage is that they are a bit messy at times, bulky, and require more maintenance.
Liquified Gas or Canister Stove are the next in class.  They are very simple to use and require very little maintenance.  Stoves like the Snow Peak Giga power  and the Jet Boil are very simple and efficient.  But not as efficient as a Whisperlite.  Using a canister stove in the winter requires special care and considerations to work at it’s peak (which you will not get absolute peak performance from a canister stove in extreme cold temps).  There are ways to increase the performance however.. keeping your canister of fuel warm is one must.  Keep your canister in a wool sock, make sure you are cooking on an insulated surface (cook on a closed cell pad) and always use a wind screen.
Alcohol stoves would be another choice.  They work, but require priming and preheating.  They have slower cook times, so if you are wanting something hot quickly.. that won’t happen with an alcohol stove.  They are real clean and require no maintenance.  The alcohol stove does not perform well in sub freezing temperatures.. but they are light, cheap, and easy to use.
Solid fuel stove like the Esbit stove are yet another option.  Much like the alcohol stove, you are not going to get fast cooking times, but the solid fuel is reliable and works in the extreme cold.  A great advantage of the Esbit stove is they are light, compact, cheap, and easy to use.  Really the only disadvantage is the cooking time and you have no ability to simmer if you need to.
So did I answer the debate?  No.. What you need to do is find what works best for you.  Get out and test these stoves for yourself and see what works best in your kit.  I personally have a Whisper Lite, a Jet boil, a Giga Power, a couple alcohol stoves, and an Esbit stove.  I find that the Giga Power is pretty much my favorite.. it does everything I want it to do.  I like the Whisper lite in the winter and I like the alcohol and Esbit for toying around in the summer.  The Jet boil is a super efficient stove and I really like it.. but pound for pound and inch for inch I prefer the Giga power canister stove, but that’s just me.
So the answer is up to you.  The debate will rage on forever and ever.. and at the end of the day, it is what you pull out of your pack that you like and are comfortable with that will win.
Have a Great Scouting Day!


  1. The best winter stove is a Coleman stove that uses a PowerMax cartridge. Those are liquid feed, so they work below zero, and they are canisters, so they are easy to start. You light it, wait 30 seconds for the generator to heat up, and you are ready for anything from a gentle simmer to a 12K BTU blowtorch.Unfortunately, Coleman stopped making them.Instead, get a canister stove that mounts the canister upside down, so it is a liquid feed.More info on the discontinued stoves here (sigh):


  2. Members of have used numerous cooking options – using a fire for simple meals, white gas stoves, canister stoves and alcohol has a great article entitled “How to Choose a Backpacking Stove”. The article addresses factors such as fuel types used, fuel availability, weight and fuel efficiency, speed of cooking, cooking needs, starting and long term costs, cold weather performance, ease of use, safety and health concerns, personal preference, environmental/eco concerns, and ability to build stove at home or on the trail.A comprehensive list of stoves is covered including:-Petroleum Stoves (White Gas, Kerosene)-Liquefied Gas Stoves (Butane, Isobutane, Propane)-Alcohol Stoves (Alky, Meth, Spirit)-Chemical Solid Fuel Stoves (Hexy, Hexamine, Esbit, Triox, Fuel Tab)-Wood Stoves-Candle Stoves-Solar Stoves-Flame-less Stoves (MRE Heater)-Electric Stoves and Immersion Coils (Heating Coils, Heating Elements, Beverage Heater, Heating Rod, Coffee/Drink Heater)-Calcium Carbide Stoves and Lanterns (Acetylene Stove/Lamp)A discussion of fuel types, fuel availability, and table providing a fuel comparison and weight/efficiency ratings follow. It is a long article (>8,500 words) and worth reading if you are considering stove options for winter camping.


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