Backpacking stoves have made remarkable progress over the past several years. In almost every respect, there have been giant leaps made in the use of materials, technology and the efficiency of today's stoves. With the use of newer lightweight materials as well as more durable and reliable systems, the stoves available to backpackers today allow for a wide range of cooking that was almost unheard of previously. When choosing a stove, you can go light, technical or versatile and all around. Each type of stove has strengths and weaknesses and will, in the long run, be most desirable, depending on the type of packing and conditions to be encountered.
Weight is a consideration for almost every backpacker. However, there are those who may seek out a particularly lightweight stove for a variety of reasons, including hiking great distances or preferring that most of their gear be ultralight in design. For this purpose, an excellent stove choice is the Mountain Safety Research (MSR) Pocket Rocket. This stove weighs in at about 3 oz. and folds into a very compact 2 by 4 inches. Utilizing a separate fuel canister, this stove is an ultralight packer's dream come true. There are no frills associated with this stove, and the major downside is the performance of fuel canisters at low temperatures. However, for a reliable means of preparing dinner, the compact and lightweight MSR fills the bill.
Another stove from MSR, the Whisper Light, is the go-anywhere and do-anything stove you may be searching for. These stoves feature the ability to burn a variety of fuels, including white gas, kerosene and even gasoline. This is a favorite among packers who find themselves venturing into areas around the world with less-than-reliable sources of fuel. The fuel canister features a pressure pump and is connected to the stove by means of a fuel line. This setup proves to be more reliable in extreme temperatures from cold to hot. At a weight of around 16 oz. when the tank is full, this is still a very practical weight for all but the most discriminating ultralighters on the trail.
The Stealth of Stoves
The Jet Boil stove at first sight looks like a spin-off from an Air Force project. While this is not the case, what is true is that this modern marvel has racked up numerous design and choice awards since its introduction. What makes this stove so appealing is the canister that sits atop the stove and is ideal for boiling water for meal packs. The design of the stove greatly decreases the boiling time---which we all know is appreciated at the end of a long day---as well as provides a solution to the problem of wind. Weighing in at about 16 oz., the stove is lightweight, functional, technologically advanced and just plain cool.