Although it is generally preferable to cook on an open fire, there are times when you will want, or indeed need, some form of bushcraft
Fast and reliable, they will get things cooking in minutes.
So what’s available?
Wood burning camp stoves
If you can’t have an open fire due to it not being practical, or perhaps they are prohibited at your location, then you may be able to use a wood-burning camping stove.
These are also sometimes known as Hobo Stoves.
If used with wood, these are as close to
Of course, the main benefit of a wood-fired stove is that you can operate them using free fuel.
This is presuming this is available at your location, or you have brought some in with you.
Most of these stoves are fairly compact, with some being foldable.
They pack down into a smaller carry bag, making them suitable for transportation.
These stoves are primarily designed to burn small twigs and sticks, but most will also run on a variety of other fuels if required.
This includes hexy blocks or meths/alcohol.
Some will even let you incorporate a gas burner.
There are various models and designs on the market, with some performing a lot better than others.
The main options are the foldable box type or the wood gas type.
The box type wood stoves feature a series of sections that slot together,
A popular choice is the Honey Stove which is made by Backpacking Light.
The Honey Stove consists of multiple pieces that can be constructed in a variety of fashions.
You can alter this depending on what you are cooking/boiling and what fuel you are using.
This stove allows for many fuel types including dry leaves, grass, wood, hexamine blocks, to name a few.
It can also incorporate a meths burner (Trangia type) and will even utilise an Optimus Nova burner if required.
All in all, it’s a very versatile choice for bushcraft activities.
These stoves fold down to a very compact size and are therefore ideal for transportation.
Similar alternatives to the Honey Stove include the Firebox or BushBox XL.
Wood gas stoves (Solostove)
These types of stoves are usually cylindrical in design and incorporate an external jacket.
How does a wood burning camp stove work?
This jacket funnels warm air (taken from the external vents below), upwards.
This warm air is then deposited into the top of the main fire compartment, via the internal vent holes, just above the flames.
The Solo Stove diagram below shows the process in more detail.
As you can see in the diagram, the airflow process effectively fans the flames, similar to when you blow on
This creates a hotter, cleaner burn, and also helps to reduce soot build-up.
The above process will begin to happen once the fire in the main compartment has warmed the stove up to operating temperature.
Wood stove round-up
Whether you opt for the box or wood gas type, these stoves are very popular and have very little to go wrong.
They are therefore a great choice if you are looking for a no-nonsense stove, that should last for many years.
The fact that most can also incorporate other fuels, such as meths or
The main consideration on which type to go for would be transportation.
If you want one that can fold away into a flat package, the box type is probably your best bet.
They take a little assembling, and they can be a
If portability isn’t your primary concern and you are happy with a fixed unit, the wood gas type is a great option.
These are already good to go, so are great from a time perspective, but do not fully pack down.
Your choice will ultimately boil down to space and your trip length.
What is a Solostove?
A Solostove is a type of wood gas stove that is cylindrical in design and incorporates a jacket, so that cold air can be drawn upwards from the bottom of the stove, warmed by the flames and then delivered to the top of the stove where it fans the flame and produces a hotter burn.
See the image above for a visual description.
What is a twig stove?
A twig stove is a type of camping/outdoor stove that uses natural materials, such as dry twigs, leaves, pine cones, pine needles etc.
These stoves are a great option if you have a reliable supply of fuel as they can be run on free to find materials.
Additionally, some models allow you to incorporate a basic burner, such as a Trangia or you can just use a basic hexy block. See above for more on these.
Sometimes known as an alcohol or spirit burner, this style of stove is another simple option for bushcraft activities.
They are generally known as Trangias, although this is a brand name and they are not all made by Trangia.
These stoves are small in design, lightweight and portable.
You will need some form of pot support as well, as these will not generally work with a pot placed directly on them.
However, there are many options available.
How does a Trangia work?
These burners all work on the same principle, in that you partially fill the main central chamber with fuel, then light it
The main chamber will slowly burn (sometimes it’s very hard to see) and heat up the stove and fuel.
Once it is up to operating temperature, the fuel that is in the outside chamber, starts to
This is often referred to as ‘blooming’ and means the burner is now ready to cook on.
Trangia spirit burner
The Trangia Spirit Burner pictured above is the best known and most widely used meth/alcohol burner out there.
Low cost, virtually indestructible and brilliantly simple in its design, this is a fantastic, relatively lightweight stove, with a multitude of applications.
Designed back in 1951, at Trangia’s headquarters in Sweden, not much has changed.
It is made of brass, with a weight of 110g and consists of the main burner unit, screw-on lid and a simmer ring.
The simmer ring’s design allows the flame to be regulated and also allows you to extinguish the burner completely when finished.
The stove is designed to run on methylated spirits (denatured alcohol). This fuel can be obtained very cheaply from your local hardware store.
It is worth noting that this burner can be used on its own if it is placed in a sheltered depression and your cooking vessel suspended above.
In general, though, the spirit burner is designed to be used inside a cooking system.
Examples include Trangia’s popular 25-2 cooking set or other makes such as the Honey Stove mentioned above.
The meth (or alcohol burner) is an extremely simple and effective cooking system, that has stood the test of time.
Esbit alcohol burner stove
A good alternative to the Trangia is the Esbit Alcohol Burner.
It is based on the Trangia, however, the Esbit also incorporates a foldaway handle, that operates the simmer ring.
This lessens the possibility of you burning your fingers when adjusting the flame – making it more user friendly.
You can purchase the Esbit here: USA | UK | CAN
One of the most convenient and simple options out there is the gas stove.
As long as you have a ready supply of canisters, these stoves are a great choice for your cooking needs.
They provide a quick, clean heat-source, providing minimum hassle for the user. They are just as quick to dismantle and pack away.
Historically, gas canisters were 100% butane. This is the worst performing gas for stoves.
In the early days, 100% butane fueled gas stoves struggled to work at all in cold conditions.
This is due to the fact that butane’s boiling point is approximately -2 deg C.
Essentially, this means that below -2 deg C, butane gas reverts back into a liquid.
This doesn’t help matters if you are relying on it to ignite.
What gas do you use for a camping stove? The modern solution
In more recent years, nearly all gas canisters are a butane/propane mix, generally around 70% butane and 30% propane.
Propane has a much lower boiling point of around -42 deg C.
When combined with butane, the mixture provides good performance well into the minus figures.
Another gas commonly used in isobutane.
This shares the same chemical structure as butane but delivers higher pressure, which increases flame performance.
If you want to read more about gas stove fuel options see the MSR article here.
Modern gas stoves may struggle at extreme altitudes, but for most applications, they will operate absolutely fine.
Due to the above, these stoves are slowly becoming the choice of professional mountaineers.
This is due to their simplicity and the fact that they are generally more lightweight and safer in use than liquid fuel options.
One thing with gas stoves is that you do need to have the correct gas canister cartridge for your stove.
You also need to be able to find these fairly easily should you need to get replacements.
This is not usually a problem in more developed parts of the world, but may be an issue in more remote regions.,
Make sure to check this before setting off if you are likely to need more.
How does a camping stove work?
In general, most gas stoves simply require you to:
- attach the gas canister by screwing it onto the burner (clockwise)
- deploy the pan and stove supports (if any)
- turn on gas by opening the valve
Some stoves even feature an integrated piezo ignition, which ignites the gas for you when you turn on the gas.
This is a handy feature to have.
However, even if your stove has this, you should always carry an alternative form of ignition.
This could be a
Top-mounted canister stoves
This is the most common type (see picture above). The gas canister screws onto the bottom of the burner and acts as the stove’s base.
Because of this, top-mounted stoves require a very stable and level surface to place the complete unit on.
This style of stove set-up often becomes top-heavy.
This is especially true if you have a lot of liquid in the cooking vessel that might slosh from side to side.
This sloshing can then end up tipping the stove over, including
It is therefore important to site the stove correctly in the first place, on a flat, level surface.
Be vigilant of any gusts of wind that might have your pot toppling.
You also need to guard against you or your companions knocking into it.
Although the above is a bit of a drawback with this style, the fact that they are simple and generally cheaper than other designs, makes them a popular and solid choice for your bushcraft cooking needs.
Remote mounted canister stoves
This style of gas stove is by far the most stable, due to the burner being much lower to the ground and having a set of wide legs for stabilisation and support.
The gas canister is attached to a hose that allows the canister to sit to one side, adjacent to the burner.
However, due to the additional materials used, they are generally a little more expensive to buy than the top-mounted
Other than that, they generally operate in much the same way as
Liquid fuel portable stoves
Liquid fuel stoves generally cost more than their gas-fired cousins.
They also usually weigh more and involve a bit more effort in their operation.
With this in mind, why would you choose to opt for liquid fuel over the more common gas cartridge type?
What are the advantages of a liquid fuel stove?
In most cases, it chiefly centers around the fuel that you can obtain.
If you are operating in remote locations, for extended periods, a liquid fuel stove may be the better option over gas or other types.
The reason for this is that gas canisters are not always readily available should you run out.
They are usually
However, if you are out of
You can obviously bring 1 or 2 in your pack when you are on shorter outings.
For extended trips though, such as expeditions etc, you need to be mindful of how much fuel you are likely to use.
It is likely that you will find that you do not have the room to be taking heaps of gas canisters with you.
Added to this, once used, empty gas canisters need to be brought out with you and disposed of responsibly.
This creates additional dead weight and space that you will have to carry out with you.
Here lies the advantage of liquid fuel stoves!
In most places around the world, you can find some form of fuel to use in your stove.
Most liquid fuel stoves burn a variety of fuels, that are readily available across the globe, so you should never (hopefully) find yourself without a fuel source.
These include – white gas (also known as Coleman Fuel), petrol (auto gasoline), kerosene, diesel and more.
Read more on this here.
If you are travelling by vehicle, an additional benefit is that the stove can share the same fuel as the vehicle.
This can simplify things by eliminating the need for additional fuel storage.
How much fuel should you carry for your trip? Check out this MSR article here.
Because they can run on standard unleaded petrol or in some cases diesel and other fuels, they tend to be more cost-effective, when compared to resealable gas canisters.
This is especially true if you are on an extended trip.
This needs to be balanced with the
However, over the lifetime of the stove, this difference is negligible.
Safety procedures for using a liquid fuel stove
There are safety considerations to take on board when using liquid fuel stoves.
You have a bottle of extremely flammable liquid, usually petrol or similar, a few inches away from a roaring burner.
This sounds worse than it actually is, as the stove is obviously designed to operate this way and is safe as long as you use it sensibly.
How to fill a liquid stove fuel bottle
One of the big things to remember is to wipe everything down after filling the fuel bottle, as you will no doubt spill a small amount whilst doing this.
Tip – It sounds obvious, but do not fill the bottle over its max fill line.
If you do, when you go to insert the pump, it will spurt out fuel all over your hands and the bottle, as the fuel pump takes up quite a bit of volume.
Only operate the stove once the stove is properly connected and you are sure there is no fuel residue left on the outside.
Can you use a camping stove inside a tent?
As with any stove, only use in a well-ventilated area. It’s not a great idea to use stoves inside of tents.
Apart from the obvious reason of potentially burning the tent down, you can get carbon monoxide poisoning too.
Follow the instructions and use some common sense and you won’t go too far wrong.
Remember, gas and other stoves are potentially hazardous too.
How to use a liquid fuel stove
One thing to note is that liquid fuel stoves require priming before they will work.
This means that a small amount of fuel is pumped into the stove and burnt off before it can be used properly.
The main purpose of priming is to heat up the section of metal tube that sits over the top of the burner.
This is known as the Generator Tube.
This is what fuel passes through before it reaches the burner. Once this is warm, it transfers heat to the fuel passing through it.
This, in turn, enables the now heated fuel to vapourise and combust correctly when it reaches the actual burner.
There are more moving parts on a liquid fuel stove as opposed to gas.
Due to this, although very reliable, it is essential to carry some form of field repair kit if you are relying on your stove to function effectively.
Most of the stoves mentioned below will come with a small parts kit included.
However, it is wise to bolster this with some extra parts such as those included in the MSR expedition service kit.
Periodic maintenance of the stove is required to ensure long term performance.
The MSR expedition service kits will cover most eventualities in the field and are a good item to carry with you.
If looked after, and properly maintained, these stoves should last a lifetime.
There are many options available when selecting a bushcraft stove.
If you have a good supply of small twigs
The fact that this fuel is usually free and readily available, further adds to their appeal.
However, if you want or need to go down the fuel route, meths, gas and liquid fuel stoves are all excellent in their own right.
Your choice will depend on the environment you will be in at the time, trip length and of course, personal preference.
Hopefully, this post has outlined the main bushcraft stove options available.
If you feel you would like anything else mentioned, please leave a comment below or use the contact us page and I will do my best to oblige.
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