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Six stoves to heat up your campout menus

CAMP STOVES ARE a caveman’s dream: Instant fire from a portable source, controllable heat and flame, and cooked food or hot water ready in minutes. For today’s primitive adventures, namely camping or backpacking deep in the woods, a reliable camp stove can still be a dream—turn on the gas, touch a match to the burner, and a blue flame pops to life, a torrent of channeled energy ready to do your culinary deed.

Hot soup, coffee, and even warmed desserts are doable anywhere outdoors with a stove and a pot. Over the years, I’ve ignited a dozen types of stoves on picnic tables in state parks or the frozen flanks of Mount Rainier. Each fire-maker is distinguished by its size, weight, fuel type, and flame output for its intended task.

This spread of stoves represents categories and types intended for varying weight, transport, and climates; fuel sold separately unless noted. Strike a match and give life to a flame. Your inner caveman will thank you.

MSR Pocket Rocket
I’ve used this basic backpacking stove for years. Screw the inverted tripod onto the top of a butane canister and twist a control arm to flood the burner with vaporized gas. A match ignites the stove. Caveats: The little arms only balance small pots, and the stove’s unshielded design keeps its flame exposed to wind. Don’t forget: Freezing temps reduce the performance of pressurized canister fuels.

Esbit Pocket Stove
$10 (includes six fuel cubes),
Hexamethylenetetramine: It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. But the chemical compound is the basis for the tiny fuel cubes that power this stove. The decades-old design includes a foldable shell of galvanized steel that hinges open to create a platform for a pot. Put a cube inside and light it up for an approximate burn time of 13 minutes. A pot goes on top, and now you’re cooking over an open flame. One cube will bring a pint of water to boil in about eight minutes.

Backcountry Boiler
Sticks, grass, and kindling you find in the woods are the fuel for the Backcountry Boiler, a stove designed for the single purpose of heating water with no fuss. Made in Pittsburgh by a former Scout, the unit combines the function of a stove and a boiling pot into one. To heat water, put the aforementioned sticks and grass inside, fill the top reservoir with water, and ignite. The Backcountry Boiler forces flames to roar out through the top, fire licking the inside metal surface area with water on the other side of a thin wall. Hot water comes quick. The boiler weighs about 8 ounces and is a bit bigger than a 1-liter Nalgene bottle.

Primus OmniLite Ti
Titanium parts keep its weight down to 8.5 ounces. A liquid-gas burner jets flames stout enough to melt snow into water on mountain climbs. Made for “the most demanding conditions,” as Primus puts it, this new expedition-ready stove will be seen at extreme altitudes and high latitudes this year. Primus says it can boil a liter of water in a speedy 2 minutes, 40 seconds.

Jetboil Zip 
Convenient. Fast. Fuel-efficient. This all-in-one unit includes an integrated pot, push-button flame ignition (via a small electric spark), and a heat-directing design that promises “one-cup-per-minute” boil time. The Zip has a 0.8-liter integrated pot that doubles as a mug with a heat-blocking neoprene wrap and a hand strap, letting you drink a hot brew right from its source.

Coleman InstaStart Table Top Grill
Fold open the lid, flick a sparker switch to ignite, and you can be grilling veggies and meat in minutes. This portable grilling unit, fueled by a propane canister, is a car-camping-only cooker—it weighs 18 pounds!—that offers “open-flame, drip-through grilling” in a fold-up case. The InstaStart includes a porcelain-coated steel grill for durability and easy cleaning. With a purported 11,000-BTU burner output and 200-square inches of on-the-grill space, this Coleman can cook enough burgers to fully feed your hungry troop, and then some.