The Happy Camper: What’s The Best Camp Stove?

Kevin Callan compares camp stoves—which one comes out on top?

“No man should touch another man’s camp stove.” That’s the rule my canoe buddy, Ashley McBride (a.k.a. Speedo Man), firmly stated to all of us last week while we weathered the rain and cold during an early-spring canoe trip.

The poor weather had us huddled under a tarp for most of the trip, brewing tea and cooking hot meals. The plan was to have one camp stove for everyone to use. However, that trip planning idea didn’t seem to sit well with the group. Everyone packed their own—each believing their stove far exceeded everyone else’s in the group.

Here’s a breakdown of the stoves packed along, and how they compared:

Tim Foley: Trangia Triangle

Tim always packs his alcohol-fuelled Trangia Stove. He much prefers it over any white gas or butane stove.

Trangia stoves seem rare in North America. They’re more of a UK thing. The stove kit comes equipped with a set of easy-to-clean nesting pots and a frying pan. And it runs on alcohol (methyl-hydrate) instead of a polluting petroleum product.

It’s a simple stove. There’s nothing much to it and nothing much can go wrong with it. It’s like a mini fondue set. And most of all, it’s unbelievably silent. No pressurized gas is needed.

The stove does have some disadvantages: one being too short a burn time to cook an entire meal without refuelling. It also has the added danger of having to reach into the stove, slide a metal disc over the burner and adjust a flame you can hardly see.

Alcohol burns clean and colourless. Tim seems to have mastered the art of lighting it, adjusting it, refuelling it and snuffing it out when he’s done—something none of us seem to do properly.

Kevin Callan: JetBoil Mighty Mo

It’s a canister stove that can simmer. This means you can slow-cook an elaborate meal or do a full-on boil for a quick cup of java—which is why I love packing it. All the other stoves take way too long to get the coffee going in the morning.

It’s a perfect fusion, especially if you’re trying to pack light. The stove (a 10,000 BTU burner) is a mere 95 grams. Boil time is three minutes 15 seconds per one litre of water. And it can boil 12 litres of water per 100-gram can of butane/propane fuel.

I also added the JetBoil JetGauge to my kit this year. Forget about guessing how much fuel you have left in your JetBoil canister (or any other isobutane/propane backpacking fuel canisters). JetBoil now has a nifty gadget that does it for you. The JetGauge is engineered to accurately measure the fuel level of your canister and give you a digital output.

The traditional “shake test” can only go so far, and I don’t know how many half-used canisters I have stored in my gear shed, wasting away. I constantly buy brand-new canisters prior to a trip, just to be on the safe side.

You can check each canister before your trip, or pack the gauge along. It’s lightweight and has three settings for weighing 100-, 230- and 450-gram canisters.

Mike Kipp: Firebox Stove

This is a stick stove. And it’s a good one. I’m impressed with the amount of heat this stove puts out. The Firebox has good airflow and a pot of water reaches a boil just as quick, or even quicker, than on a regular gas stove. It packs away nicely and the size and design allows for various dimensions of pots to sit on top—it even comes with a grill so you can cook a juicy steak. A Trangia alcohol stove fits snug inside as well.

There are a few disadvantages. The weight is a hefty 907 grams. But since Mike is carrying it, that’s not an issue for me. I own one as well, but a smaller and lighter version, weighing only about 170 grams.

Dalton Kipp: Kelly Kettle & Hobo Stove

Mike Kipp’s son, Dalton, has tripped with us for years. Once he reached beyond his pre-teen era, he was given the job of tea brewer and fish fryer. He is definitely in his happy place brewing up tea for everyone in his Kelly Kettle stick stove, and then frying the day’s catch of trout on his Kelly Kettle Hobo Stove. I’ve never seen a kid so content.

What sets the Kelly Kettle apart from all other stick stoves is its ingenious double-wall chimney. After lighting your debris (any combustible material) in the base plate, the flames are drawn upward through a fire chamber, reacting like a chimney draft. The water is stored in a water jacket that surrounds the chimney, which enables the stove to rapidly boil water, even in wet and windy weather conditions.

The Kelly Kettle has one disadvantage—it’s bulky (590 to 770 grams or more). An aluminum model can replace the standard stainless steel unit, to lighten things up. The Trekker model is smaller, but Dalton packs his Base Camp model for our trips. There’s usually half-a-dozen of us. (The Kelly Kettle Hobo Stove is an extra attachment for the stove base and is far better to cook a full meal just than the kettle—especially fried trout fillets.)

There’s also their new green whistle rather than their older orange or cork stopper. It lets you know when the water has boiled.

Ashley McBride: Campfire Cooking

Ashley doesn’t own a camp stove. That’s why it was so odd for him to lay down the “no man should touch another man’s stove” law.

He chooses to cook on the campfire. It’s a time consuming, smoky, inefficient way to cook a camp meal if you ask me. However, a campfire does have some advantages over a stove when it comes to baking, frying up bacon or grilling up a steak.

It’s best to start cooking after the embers have burned down and control the heat by piling up the coals to heat it up or spreading them apart to cool it down. A blanket of ash covering the coals as an insulator and controls the heat better for cooking, especially when cooking things like potatoes, corn or onions wrapped in tin foil—and especially a good-sized freshly caught trout.

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