Open Air Camp Kitchen: Quick Guide To Camping Stoves & Fuel Options

Text by Jonathan; images by Angus Whitby

Need help choosing a camping stove? Yesterday we brought you an in-depth look at gas stoves. Today, as part of our series on all things camp kitchen, we’ve put together a handy guide to the alternative camping stoves and fuels you could choose.

Most stoves only work with a single type of fuel, and different fuels have different strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll first need to consider which type you want to use. If you want to be able to use your stove anywhere and in any conditions, a multi-fuel stove is more versatile, but can be heavier and more expensive. Otherwise, you’ll need to pick which is the most suited to your needs.

The classic MSR Whisperlite International. This multi-fuel stove will operate off white gas, petrol, kerosene and diesel. Image: Angus Whitby

Canister Gas Stoves

Fuel types include Propane, Butane and IsoButane.

Best for: Ease and range of use

AdvantagesDrawbacks
Easy to useNot widely available in remote places, including southern and eastern Europe
Very quickDifferent types of canister valve are not cross-compatible
Requires little maintenancePerformance diminishes in cold weather (winter-specific gas mixes are available)
Easy to find gas in the UKDifficult to recycle empty canisters
Flames can be easily regulated
Stoves are usually light and compact in design
A JetBoil, integrated canister gas stove.
Image: Angus Whitby

Liquid Fuel Stoves

Fuel types include Petrol, White Gas, Kerosene and Diesel

Best for: Cold weather and/or remote destinations.

AdvantagesDrawbacks
Widely available in many countriesStoves tend to be heavier
Some stoves can work with different types of liquid fuelMore complicated than gas
Works comparatively well at low temperatures and high altitude Stoves need to be well-maintained
Fuel is cheaper than gasInitial cost for stove and fuel bottle may be higher
MSR Whisperlite: a classic liquid-fuel backpacking stove. Image: Angus Whitby

Alcohol (Methylated Spirits) Stoves

Fuel types include methylated spirits (in the UK) or pure ethanol (e.g. in the USA). The classic alcohol stove in the UK is the Trangia, but they can be made out of aluminium cans!

Best for: Lightweight enthusiasts.

AdvantagesDrawbacks
Fuel widely availableSlow cooking time
Stoves can be extremely light and compactStruggle in windy or cold weather
Stoves can be very cheapHarder to simmer/regulate flames
Home-made “Coke can” stoves are simple to makeHard to judge the exact amount of fuel needed, or to refill the stove if it goes out too soon
A simple ultralight Spirit Stove made out of a Coke Can.
Image: Angus Whitby

Solid Fuel Stoves

Fuel types include Hexamine or Esbit tablets.

Best for: Simplicity.

AdvantagesDrawbacks
Stoves are compact and lightSlow to cook
Easy to useNot great in wind or rain
Cheap stovesFuel tablets can be expensive and not always widely stocked
Can’t control the flames
Can produce a slightly unpleasant smell and leave a sticky residue on the bottom of pans
A simple Army-surplus ‘Hexi’ stove.
Image: Angus Whitby

Wood Stoves

Best for: Cost and ambiance.

AdvantagesDrawbacks
No need to carry fuelRelies on fuel being available – don’t cut down live wood; fallen/dead branches can be important wildlife habitats
Fuel is free (if you can find it)Takes effort to gather enough fuel
Potentially less impact than other fuelsWet kindling is hard to light
Nice ambience and aroma from wood fireSlow cooking times
Fire provides some heat to youCan’t use in areas with a risk of fire
A modern wood-fired camping stove by SoloStove.
Image: Angus Whitby

There you have it! We hope you’ve enjoyed our quick guide to the different types of camping stove and fuel commonly available. If you have any more questions, we’d be only too happy to provide assistance. You’ll hopefully soon be able to visit us again in person at our store on Green Street, Cambridge; in the meantime you can contact us by calling, emailing or using LiveChat.

Thanks for reading!

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