Ultimate Camping Stove Shootout - ITS Tactical
 

Ultimate Camping Stove Shootout

By The ITS Crew

We’ve teamed up with The Survival Podcast to bring you the Ultimate Camping Stove Shootout!

We compared seven different camping stoves in a head-to-head competition to see which would boil water faster.

Each stove held an enameled steel cup with approximately 16 oz. of 55 degree Fahrenheit water, which was the same  temperature as the air outside.

There was also a five MPH wind blowing out of the NorthEast.

Here are the seven stoves used:

MSR WhisperLite International

Camping Stove Shootout 03Featuring self-cleaning Shaker-Jet technology, the WhisperLite International burns white gas, kerosene, and unleaded gas. For the shootout we used unleaded gas.

It’s also relatively lightweight, weighing in at 11.5 ounces, but that weight is of course without the separate fuel canister.

The WhisperLite is a great stove if weight and bulk is not an issue for you, as the option to use different fuels is a great feature. It would make a great stove to keep in a vehicle, as you could just use your gasoline in an emergency and not have to carry around fuel. That’s of course provided that the emergency isn’t that you ran out of gas!

When using the WhisperLite it can sometimes get unwieldy when it comes to priming.  If you don’t start with just a small turn to open the valve, it’s easy to waste a lot of fuel (and cause a blazing inferno) before the stove even gets going.

It’s also prone to becoming covered in soot when priming, but if this is an issue for you, just use a small amount of denatured alcohol to prime it.

Brunton Optimus Crux

Camping Stove Shootout 07While not the lightest stove in the test, the Optimus Crux does fold down quite nicely to fit in the beveled underside of a butane fuel canister. At 3.1 oz. it’s still a good option for lightweight camping.

The burner has a unique design which allows it to swivel on its stem so the stove can lie flat. A spring-loaded collar slides on to the burner, locking it into place.

There’s also a wire loop handle for the flame control that works quite nicely with gloved hands. The bright green color of the wire loop stands out nicely for fast acquisition and folds tight against the stem.

Snow Peak LiteMax

Camping Stove Shootout 05Made from Titanium and Aluminum, the Snow Peak LiteMax lives up to its name by weighing in at 1.9 oz. The Lite Max features three arm-supports designed for additional protection against the wind.

The LiteMax is an exceptionally compact stove, and can also fit in the hollow of a full-sized butane fuel canister. We ran the stove on the small size Isobutane/Propane Mixture fuel canister for the shootout, but are curious if the pressure of the larger canister would have an effect on the results.

An added bonus is the awesome color pattern that Titanium receives when heated.

MSR SuperFly

Camping Stove Shootout 04This particular MSR SuperFly is around 8-years old and still preforms wonderfully. One of the great features of the SuperFly is it’s universal Multi-Mount interface that fits most self-sealing domestic and international fuel canisters.

We had it running on a traditional Butane/Propane mix (70/30) fuel canister for the shootout, but we’ve used it with other fuel without an issue.

Weighing in at 4.6 oz., the SuperFly is still a viable lightweight camping option.

Coleman Max

Camping Stove Shootout 06Running on a Butane/Propane mix fuel canister, the Coleman Max isn’t the heaviest stove out of the shootout group, but is fairly bulky.

Weighing in at 6.7 oz., it’s probably not as handy for a backpacking stove as some of the others, but performed well overall.

It was the most inexpensive out of all the stoves in the shootout, and surprisingly seemed very well built.

We couldn’t find a good link for the purchase of this stove, but they’re readily available at Wal-Mart.

Vargo Triad XE

Camping Stove Shootout 08The Vargo Triad XE Titanium is an interesting take on an alcohol stove that provides multiple options for cooking. The inner section of the stove, which is filled with denatured alcohol, can be removed and used on its own.

The outer section can also be used independently with an Esbit Fuel Tab. Combined, the two pieces weigh 1.5 oz. making the Triad XE a true ultralight camping stove.

Denatured alcohol does not burn as well in high altitude, cold temperatures or windy conditions. We found the 5 MPH wind during our test to be an issue.

Trangia Alcohol Stove

Camping Stove Shootout 09The Trangia Alcohol Stove is a fairly compact alcohol burner. Combined with the flame adjustment piece is weighs around 4 oz.

It wasn’t the lightest stove in our shootout, but still a good option for lightweight camping.

We realize that we should of used some kind of pot stand with this stove, and it failing was most likely caused by not enough oxygen getting to the fuel.

The shootout was an out of the box test, and the Trangia didn’t come with a pot stand. This was why we wanted to try it without one.

Results

Yes, windscreens should have been used on the Alcohol Stoves, but then it could be argued that the shootout was unfair since the other stoves weren’t using windscreens.

Again, each stove held an enameled steel cup with approximately 16 oz. of 55 degree Fahrenheit water, which was the same  temperature as the air outside.

There was also a five MPH wind blowing out of the NorthEast.

Here are the results in order of time, for detailed results of the shootout, please watch the embedded YouTube video below.

  1. 4:05 – MSR Whisperlite International
  2. 4:20 – Brunton Optimus Crux
  3. 4:47 – Snow Peak LiteMax
  4. 6:13 – MSR SuperFly
  5. 7:10 – Coleman Max
  6. FAIL – Vargo Triad XE
  7. FAIL – Trangia

Look for detailed independent reviews of these stoves in the future on ITS Tactical!

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Discussion

  • Thanks for the very informative article. After spending six years as an airborne infantryman in Alaska and living in Nepal for a year, I feel compelled to add some more information for your readers. Acknowledging your tactical and field experience, I’m in no way trying to insult your intelligence, or trying to tell you things you already know.

    First: compressed gas stoves are very convenient, but are inherently a pain in the ass, particularly in colder temperatures. Efficiency is reduced, which can lead to danger if people try to pack too light; additionally, when in the cold, as the gas decompresses the can itself becomes too cold to stay lit; it becomes necessary to heat them while being used. The easiest way to do this is the tape a hand warmer to the bottom of the can, or submerge the can halfway in warm water. On another note, the push-button starters found on some stoves are not to be trusted AT ALL in the cold, for the same reason that experienced soldiers keep lights on necklaces when in cold conditions.

    The Jetboil Solo cookset is probably the most convenient set-up, but some consider it too big. The Snowpeak Lite Max, combined with Snowpeak’s amazing titanium Mini Solo Cookset, which has a non-stick bottom and fits around a Nalgene wide-mouth bottle, can be used to store a fuel can and stove.

    The Whisperlite Internationale is a beast; I’ve personally used it in Alaska and Afghanistan with no complaints. It burns diesel and JP-8 (though they don’t advertise it) with no problem. The MSR XGK-EX, however, is the absolute best camp stove ever made. It is more easily stored, more dependable, and better and more quickly burns more fuels than even the Whisperlite Internationale; for this reason, it is the stove of choice for serious alpine expeditions worldwide.

    While bulkier, stoves that do not attach directly to the fuel cans, and burn non-compressed gas are the best all-around option. Considering when traveling abroad, compressed fuel cans cannot be brought on planes or conveniently purchased, the MSR Whisperlite Internationale or particularly the XGK-EX become no-brainers.

    Hope that can help.

    • Trent,

      Thank you for the excellent comments, those make a great addition to the article! Definitely second your comment on the push-button starter and carrying a backup lighter.

      We’ll be doing a review in the future on the Snow Peak Mini Solo Cookset. I have that set and love it for exactly the reasons you’ve described. We’ll definitely look into the XGK-EX and try to get ahold of a Jetboil.
      We’ve be hesitant to get one of those because of the bulk of the unit.

      Regards,
      Bryan

  • MSgtMattice

    Awsome Guys, Up next should be the timed shoot out for fuel. I would like to know which one would last the longest on a full fuel tank. I understand not all the fuel tanks are the same size, but hey life is not fair. What matters to me in the field is how fast it can cook and how long can I use it before I need to do a reload. Thanks again.

    • Mattice,

      We talked about just that thing when we were conducting the shootout, and will definitely be doing that in the future.

      Thanks for the comment!
      Bryan

  • Failure Drill

    Great timing on this one. I had been looking at camp stoves for the past few days.
    Thanks

  • I’ve used a generic stove that I got at K-Mart for some time till I decided to upgrade. I’d have to say though, for $20.00 that stove lasted me a decent amount of time and did the job that it needed to. Unfortunately, it was big, bulky, slow and just overall, not a very good pack stove. I ended up relying on the camp fire more often than not while on the trail, unless fires weren’t available. Not to mention, I relied on it more for an ’emergency’ situation stove while on the trail due to having to use the mini-propane cylinders. Not very efficient and honestly, it was hard to keep them lit and a little scary to get them started in windy weather.

    When I upgraded, I went with the JetBoil system and let me tell you, I was impressed. 2 cups of water boiled in about 90 seconds. Wind or no wind, easy to assemble, convenient, fast, reliable, used it in just about every environment within my state (wet, dry, cold, hot, swampy, forrest, barrens, it’s not Alaska, but it does make for some interesting packing trips) and it works great. One small canister lasted me at least a dozen meals so far along with hot drinks throughout the day and evening. Haven’t gotten to the bottom of one on a trip yet, but haven’t had the chance to go on anything longer than 4 days.
    I do agree with some of the previous comments on having backup fire sources, and I do agree that the JetBoil is a big bulky, but to be honest, I’d rather have the bulk as opposed to waiting even a few extra minutes for that hot cup o joe in the middle of nowhere on a COLD trail. To each their own though.
    Oh, and Trent, wanted to say, thanks for the service. I don’t think enough people say that.

  • Jay Kerr

    First off, I was thrilled to see you team up with Jack! Two extremely informative sites combined.

    Second, I have the lite version of the Brunton Optimus and it sells for much cheaper and still does a darn good job. As far as bang for the $ it is the way to go. Ranked quite high in tests by backpacker mag. and in a reasonable price range. Campmore has it priced out at $34: http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___82406

  • With regards to the Trangia, you normally buy it as part of a kit which includes the stand and a nest of pots to use with it.

    While it doesn’t boil water that quickly, for reheating some beans or something it works more than adequately.

    Also, have you thought of looking at the Jetboil? I’ve used one of those and they’re awesome.

  • VooDoo3

    I have several Trangia alcohol stoves and I’m pretty sure you can’t place a cup or pot directly on top of it. You usually have to use a stand so the flame can reach the pot without snuffing out the flame.

  • Storm1

    Thanks for the info and review, I almost bought a Coleman Max. Now I’m more interested in the Brunton.

  • The WhisperLite International is great.

    Interesting note, do not exceed the recommended amount of pumps, on several occasions my tiny whisperlite has had a plume of flames reaching up to three feet high.

  • Anachronist

    Ohkay, I’ve done a “fair” amount of cooking both with Trangia stoves and their Swedish army military counterpart. What you have in the picture is a spirit burner, around here that’d be sold as a spare part, not as a complete stove. (if you want a compact stove they sell a “mini” trangia stove, which is basically that burner, a small pot-stand, a small pot and a lid) That burner needs some offset to work right just like you suspected.

    That being said, they’re not fast stoves (doubly so in the winter) nor are they really all that convenient.

    Depending on the fuel, they soot the pot mightily, and those vomiting agents they put in the fuel to make it even more unfit for drinking does nothing at all to improve the taste of a dinner. It’s better to let it burn out before stowing it in the pot. Ask me how I know this.

    What they have going for them is that they have a 2lt-proof number of moving parts. 🙂

  • frater mus

    I’d argue that these are backpacking stoves, not camping stoves. Otherwise you’d have more liquid fuel stoves from Svea/Optimus, Coleman, etc gear in there.

  • Joe “Grunt Doc”

    For the past 27 years I’ve been in love with my Svea 123. I received it as a farewell gift from friends when I left a duty station. At the time the price was probably around $25 with the brass windscreen/pot support. It came with a small pot which served as a cover for the stove when packed. I purchased a stackable Optimus cookset (base, windscreen, 2 pots and lid) the whole thing packed into a nice, though admittedly heavy, package. The stove can be tempermental to light but with the right technique and holding your mouth right, it lights every time. Boils a quart of water in a respectable 3-4 minutes and a half pint of fuel (coleman or white gas) lasts for a weekend of backpacking. Whenever I hear that sputtering roar, I know supper won’t be far off. Some sources still sell this stove for a healthy outlay of around $100. I wouldn’t pay that much for one today but as long as mine continues to serve me, I see no need to replace it with some new-fangled technology.

  • Joe

    Nice article. I have few comments about the review.

    1) Thanks for sharing the ambient temperature and wind. What was the altitude though?

    2) I was surprised to not see some temperature probes used. It would have been more interesting to see which stoves reached 212F/100C first. Cheap electric kitchen thermometers have audible alarms that can beep when a specified temperature is reached.

    3) I’ve found that using a windscreen and reflector is almost always necessary to obtain the fastest cooking times. Some stove manuals highly recommend this practice. Based on my own experience, I’d venture to guess that the boil times would have been very different had a windscreen and reflector had been used.

    4) Is it possible that you snuffed out the alcohol stoves by not placing the pots on a stand?

    Thanks for posting the article. Looking forward to an update, if there is interest.

  • Dave

    I tried out an Alcohol stove a few years ago and never looked back. I can cook everything from simple soup dishes to multi course meals. Might take a bit ( 2-3 minutes max) longer, but in the outdoors, are ya really in a hurry anyways?

    For the simplicity in operation, extreme durability, lack of moving parts, nothing to clog and in most cases a savings in space and weight … Alcohol stoves = A+.

    Conducting a comparison lacking the knowledge to properly use the tested equipment ( setting a pot directly on the Alcohol stove thereby extinguishing the thing … face palm) shows the reviewers level of credibility … lol. READ THE MANUAL FELLA’S …geez

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