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How do I know what type I should use when I'm planning a camping trip?

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It would be better if you made this question more specific - choose a weather condition, that way there can actually be one right answer. –  Ryley Jan 24 '12 at 20:51
Good point ... changed to be the difference between fuels rather than which is best. –  Reverend Gonzo Jan 24 '12 at 20:54
butane and propane/butane mixtures might also be good to discuss. –  Sirex Mar 14 '12 at 13:45

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I personally highly recommend using an alcohol stove (pepsi-can stove, or some other variant), especially when hiking solo. In my opinion, the weight benefits far exceed the disadvantages.

The benefits of Alcohol*:

  • An alcohol stove is usually much lighter than a comparable white gas/propage/kerosene/gasoline.
  • An alcohol stove also has no moving parts that can malfunction. Quite reliable.
  • Can be easily made even in the field, using two soda cans and a sharp knife.


  • Usually takes longer to boil water than more traditional stoves.
  • In higher altitudes/colder weather it takes longer to prime the stove and get it going.
  • In such conditions it will also take longer to boil the water/meal.

(*We are talking about stove fuel here, not about drinking the stuff...)

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one more disadvantage, its hard / impossible to see the flame. Be careful ! –  Sirex Mar 14 '12 at 13:46

I'd try and be more specific towards the kind of the fuel we are talking about:

  1. White Gas

    • Burns clean without any smell and/or effect on food taste.
    • Accidental Spilling of the fuel is not much to be worried about. Evaporates very quickly, without leaving an odor.
    • White gas is safer to store and transport than probably most of the other products.
    • If spilled, evaporates quickly, that said, make a note that the spilled fuel is very flammable

  1. Propane Gas

    • A Propane gas stove would most likely be a Canister type? So, pressurized fuel?
    • Most of the products that are available are the ones that work on Propane and Primarily Isobutane. They burn hot and clean.
    • Pressurized fuel = No Pumping, preheating required.
    • No spill play at all as the canister holding the pressurized gas, self-seals when the stove is detached.
    • As you don't pour the fuel into the canister, its difficult to gauge remaining fuel level.
    • Performance degrades as the fuel is consumed since the pressure is released. So, when nearly emptied, the remaining fuel is apparently useless.
    • Fuel is more expensive.

  1. Kerosene Stove

    • function really well in extremely cold temperatures.
    • Burns hot, better than Alcohol stoves.
    • Relatively inexpensive fuel.
    • Needs proper storing, since it evaporates slowly if spilled.
    • Prone to spills during the pouring process. But, spilled fuel won't ignite easily.
    • Not Odorless.
    • Many of the Kerosene based stoves need pumping and pre-heating.
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