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When it comes to purchasing gear for a backpacking trip, you’re definitely going to want to put some thought into how you’re going to be cooking. Alcohol stoves, lightweight and portable, are a classic go-to for lots of campers and hikers, and for good reason: Add the fuel (the best is ethanol; methanol also works), light it up and wait for the flames to come out of the jets around the rim of the stove. As soon as that happens, you’re good to get cooking. The downside is that there’s no way to adjust the temperature, so you’re going to want to stick with easy-to-cook foods — think things that involve boiling (leave the gourmet recipes at home).
Of course, some DIY their stoves — soda and beer cans are common vessels — but the last thing you want to do is mess around with a potentially precarious stove situation when you’re just trying to eat dinner after a long day of exploring. So whatever your plans for heading to the great outdoors are — whether it’s camping, hunting, or backpacking — we’ve put together the best alcohol stoves to make sure you have the energy you need for your outdoor adventures.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Trangia Spirit Burner with Screwcap
Scandinavians are among the best when it comes to designing for the outdoors, and this alcohol stove is no exception. Made in Sweden, it’s consistently received top marks as one of the best alcohol stoves money can buy — though it’s not going to put you too much out of pocket. It takes about eight minutes to boil one liter of water, with an output of 1,000 watts. Uniquely for an alcohol stove, the included simmer ring lets you adjust the output from full, to simmer, to totally shut off. It also comes with a twist-on cap with an O-right that seals a burner, meaning you don’t have to empty out unused fuel each time you’re done with cooking. The cap is part of what accounts for its 3.8-ounce weight, but it makes toting this on the trail a lot more convenient. As an added bonus, this little stove is super-versatile: You can use this stove with a gas, multifuel or gel burner, too. Infrequent campers, don’t worry: The metal more than holds its own over time, even with leftover alcohol still stored in it.
Best Budget: Lowpricenice Alcohol Stove Set
The name really says it all: Lowpricenice’s alcohol stove is one of the best-value alcohol stoves on the market. The entry-level price makes it great for those who are just starting their explorations into alcohol-stove camping, though be warned, if weight’s an extreme consideration, this might not be the model for you: It weighs 4.59 ounces, an ounce (or four) heavier than some on this list. You can expect about 45 minutes of burn time per 3.3 ounces of alcohol. Keep in mind it’s not the most sturdy, so you’ll want to make sure that whatever you’re setting this on is super-stable. On the plus side, it has an O-ring top, like other models, that seals the stove completely, so you don’t have to empty out the fuel before you pack up (the O-ring is also made out of strong material, so there’s no fear of over-tightening it as there is with softer gaskets). It’s made out of thinner alloy versus straight-up brass, making it fine for regular use, but for those for whom durability is a priority, they might do well to spend more on something a little more robust.
Best Lightweight: White Box Alcohol Stove
When we talk about lightweight with alcohol stoves, it’s pretty hard to narrow down the field — after all, one of the perks of an alcohol stove is that it is light. White Box’s take on the popular backpacking stove, however, is practically featherweight, weighing less than one ounce — and it comes with a windscreen. With a side-burner design, the pot or pan you’re using to cook will sit directly on top of the stove — there’s no need for a separate burner or attachment of any sort. (Another bonus is the design that purposefully allows for wide-burning flames, so you can use up to a fairly large-size pot with this stove — long as the ground is solid and it’s not very massive.) Bloom time with this stove is about 45 to 60 seconds, depending on the temperature and how much fuel you use. It will take about two ounces of methanol to get water boiling in freezing temperatures. With the fuel at capacity, however, the stove can burn for close to 20 minutes from the lateral holes (where it’s supposed to), though it will burn more quickly from the center hole. Just keep in mind you’ll need a flat surface — like rocks — to put it on; it won’t be stable enough if the ground is too soft.
Best for Fuel Efficiency: Toaks Titanium Siphon Alcohol Stove
Looks can be deceiving, and that’s certainly the case with Toaks’ Titanium Siphon Stove. Although it looks like a small drinking cup, this stove has a lot going for it. First and foremost, there’s its weight: At .7 ounces — yes, you read that correctly — this is pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to ultra-light stoves. Where it really shines, however, is with fuel efficiency. Tiny holes let the perfect amount of flames bloom, so energy is used as efficiently as it can be. One ounce of alcohol will burn for about 11 minutes and can get a pint of water heated in less than six. Another plus with this small-but-mighty stove is its durability: It takes a lot to knock around titanium, and this stove will last for the ages — barring you throw it off a cliff. The major drawback of this stove, however, is that it has a pretty small surface to perch on, so you’ll want to make sure whatever you’re cooking on is stable. Also, what you see is what you get: in this case, only the stove itself. You’ll need to purchase the windscreen and pan (included with some other models on this list) separately.
Best for Bonus Features: Out-D Stainless Steel Alcohol Stove
No, this stove isn’t going to win any awards when it comes to weight — it’s a relatively massive eight ounces — but when it comes to having it all on the trail, this stove delivers. Although it’s not a stove set, which inherently offers more versatility, this stainless steel stove brings a lot to the table on its own. We love the built-in support arm set, which you can put in a position to either make the stove more stable or to create a pot rest. With a 100-ml capacity (about 3.38 ounces), this can hold a lot of fuel for a longer burn time. However, you’ll still want to empty out the fuel — the lid seals tight enough to put out a fire once it’s going, but not tightly enough to ensure any leftover fuel won’t leak out. Most say that denatured alcohol works best on this stove, but you can use even cheap alcohol in it. Keep in mind that the case is slightly too big for the stove, so you might want to use a pair of socks or bandana if the rattling in your backpack drives you crazy.
Best for a Fast Boil: Solo Stove Alcohol Burner
The Solo Stove model has a simmer lid that has a fold-out handle, which allows campers and backpackers the still-rare ability to adjust the amount of fuel being burned, and, therefore the temperature food cooks at. Also, like some other models, it comes with a twist-on cap, which lets you leave unused fuel in the stove so you don’t have to empty out the canister each night, though some say that the cap isn’t as leak-proof as some comparables. Going full speed, this stove has a slightly faster boil time than others on this list, with a five to seven minutes for a liter of water. It also weighs slightly less, at 3.5 ounces. If you want more from it, pair it with the Solo Stove Lite wood-burning backpacking stove for even more nuanced cooking power.
Best Compact Stove Set: Esbit 5-Piece Lightweight Trekking Cook Set
This little set has a lot going for it. Namely, it comes with two pots: one large, with a handy volume indicator, that holds almost a full liter of water (it’s 985ml, or about 33.3 ounces), as well as a smaller, 470ml one that doubles as a lid. It also has a brass alcohol stove, stand, base for solid fuel should you choose to use it, and a mesh carry bag. The cook pots are made out of durable-but-light anodized aluminum, and the alcohol stove, in line with the best ones, has a fold-away handle that allows for a range of temperature control, and its screw-on top seals tightly enough to hold leftover alcohol after the cooking is wrapped up. All in all, it weighs about 15 ounces. At just under a pound, it’s not the lightest means to cook with, but for those who don’t want to go totally bare-bones, this is a great introduction to alcohol-stove cooking. Although it’s made for alcohol, keep in mind that you can also use methanol in it.
Best Luxury Stove Set: Trangia 27-8 Ultralight Hard Anodized Stove Set
Well, no one’s claiming this is going to come cheap, but for cooks-on-the-trail who don’t want to go without a good meal just because they’re roughing it, Trangia’s stove set is incredible. It comes with the Swedish company’s best-overall alcohol stove, plus two one-liter saucepans, a frypan with pot grip and a kettle — basically everything you need to make a meal for one to two people. The pans look small, but they cook a surprising amount of food — and quickly too. There’s also two wind shelters to keep the flame protected from breezes and keeps flames where they should be: focused on cooking your food, which helps maximize fuel efficiency. Just like the Trangia stove sold solo, the one included in this pack also allows you to store fuel in there, making this whole set a convenient, easily useable — if expensive — breeze. Thanks to the brass construction of the stove, as well as the anodized metal of the accouterments, the set isn’t only light but virtually indestructible and easy to cook on, meaning no harm, no foul if it gets banged around a bit on the trail.