Hikers, mountaineers, back-country skiers and other outdoor sportsmen pursue their activities in high-altitude environments. However, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the lower air pressure and reduced oxygen of the high-altitude environment affects cooking temperatures and times, with the result that cooking and boiling require either more heat or more time. Extreme weather conditions at high altitude can also negatively affect stove performance. For these reasons, anyone seeking outdoor adventure in a high-altitude environment needs to bring along a reliable stove rated for those conditions.
Primus Omni-Fuel Stove
The Swedish camping goods-maker Primus has a reputation for high-altitude camping stoves that dates back to Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's ascent of Mt. Everest in 1953. Their Omni-Fuel Stove is especially designed with use in high altitudes and extreme environments in mind, weighs 15.6 oz. with its fuel pump attached and runs on most of the camping stove fuels--LP gas, gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel and kerosene. It is rated to bring water to a boil in three minutes.
Optimus Crux Lite
The Optimus Crux Lite made "Outside" magazine's 2008 Gear List and was the only camping stove on that list meriting special mention for its high-altitude qualities. Sam Moulton described it in his "Outside" review as "tiny, but powerful." In his test, Moulton brought a liter of water at 9,500 feet in mild weather to full boil in under five minutes. Those results came from a stove weighing only 2.4 oz. The Optimus Crux is therefore a logical choice for high altitude cooking performance in the lightest possible package. However, the stove is a propane burner, and propane does not perform as well as liquid fuel in the cold weather often encountered at high altitude.
A heavier stove from Optimus, the Nova+ weighs 15 oz. The stove is a multi-fuel model and can run on Optimus' own Arctic Fuel, white gas, kerosene, diesel and aviation fuel. However, its 3.5-minute boiling time is slightly inferior to the Primus Omni-Stove. Where the Optimus Nova+ scores well is in its fuel efficiency and the control features that make it simple to prime and start. The original Nova, which did not have these control features, was rated highly by "Outside" for its high-altitude performance.
MSR Whisperlite International
The Whisperlite is a classic stove design with over 20 years of service to its name. It was the Reader's Choice stove for "Backpacker" magazine in 2005. Though it has a relatively slow boil time of 3.9 minutes, it weighs more than 4 oz. less than the Primus Omni-Stove or Optimus Nova+. As a liquid fuel stove, the Whisperlite sidesteps the finicky, cold-weather issues of propane. The bottom line on this stove is that it might not be as powerful as other high-altitude stoves and is not the lightest stove around, it is far from being the heaviest, it is fuel-efficient and uses a reliable fuel source.