Decoding Stove Fuel Types: What Camping Stove Should I Buy?

Decoding Stove Fuel Types: What Camping Stove Should I Buy?

Decoding the various stove fuel types and figuring out which camping stove to purchase can feel like a daunting task, especially for beginners. There’s a range of options available on the market, each with its own pros and cons. To guide you through this process, we have put together this comprehensive review of camping stoves, highlighting the most common types of fuel they use.

Gas Stoves

Gas stoves are a popular camping choice, known for their ease of use and effective performance. The main types of fuel used in gas camping stoves are propane, butane, and a mix of propane and isobutane. The high performance and control offered make these stoves a great choice for those looking to cook a variety of meals outdoors.

  • Propane: Propane stoves are a common choice among campers due to their high heat output and consistent performance in most weather conditions. These stoves are generally easy to ignite and control the flame, making them a convenient choice.
  • Butane: Butane stoves are lightweight and inexpensive, making them a popular option for backpackers. However, they tend to underperform in cold climates, so they might not be the best choice for winter camping.
  • Isobutane-Propane Mix: These mixed fuel stoves merge the benefits of both propane and butane. They tend to be strong performers even in cooler conditions and offer a lightweight solution perfect for backpackers.

Liquid Fuel Stoves

Liquid fuel stoves use refined fuels like white gas, unleaded gasoline, or kerosene. These stoves can be more difficult to operate, but they can generate a lot of heat and perform well in colder environments.

  • White Gas: Camping stoves that use white gas are known for their high heat output and excellent performance in cold weather conditions. The fuel burns clean, reducing soot and residue build-up on the stove.
  • Unleaded Gasoline and Kerosene: Some camping stoves are designed to burn unleaded gasoline or kerosene. These fuels are easy to find and relatively inexpensive. However, they can produce a lot of soot and are not as environmentally friendly as other options.

Alcohol Stoves

Alcohol stoves are another popular choice for lightweight backpacking. They run off denatured alcohol, which is readily available and affordable. These stoves are light, compact, and have no moving parts, reducing the risk of malfunction. On the other hand, they tend to provide less heat output compared to gas or liquid fuel stoves, making them less suitable for cooking elaborate meals or catering for larger groups.

Wood Stoves

For a more traditional camping experience, a wood-burning stove is a good option. These stoves use sticks, pinecones, and other dry materials as fuel, reducing the need to carry extra weight. They offer the charm of a campfire and allow you to roast and grill directly over the flames. However, they can be time-consuming to set up and maintain, and their usage may be restricted in some areas due to fire regulations.

Solid Fuel Stoves

Solid fuel stoves are typically lightweight, compact, and easy to use – making them a good choice for hikers and backpackers. They use fuel tablets that ignite easily and burn steadily. However, they tend to take longer to boil water or cook food, and the tablets can leave a residue on cookware.

Choosing the Right Stove

To choose the right stove, consider your specific needs. What type of camping will you be doing – backpacking or car camping? Will you be cooking simple or elaborate meals? How many people will you be cooking for? Answering these questions will help you narrow down the choice.

If weight and space are your main concerns, a butane, alcohol, or solid fuel stove might be the best option. For cold-weather camping, a liquid fuel or isobutane-propane stove would be more suitable. If you are camping in a group or plan on cooking complex meals, a sturdy gas or liquid fuel stove would be ideal.


Choosing the right camping stove is about understanding your cooking needs and matching them with the appropriate stove fuel type. Whether it’s a lightweight alcohol stove for a solo trek, a reliable gas stove for a family camping trip, or a solid fuel stove for an adventure hike, you’re sure to find an option that fits your specific requirements.

By Kokoda Gear Uncategorized