The primary advantage to liquid fuel stoves is their ability to function in adverse conditions. Despite advancements in inverted gas canisters and four-season canister gas mixes, the worry-free reputation and fuel efficiency of this category tend to win out when it comes to choosing a stove for hardcore adventures.
What to Consider
Shoppers needing a liquid fuel backpacking stove will want to consider characteristics like weight, maintenance, fuel types, flame control and durability. Boil times aren’t necessarily a consideration with these stoves given their purpose as snow-melting, stew simmering backcountry stove-tops.
Ease of use is critical with these stoves, even though they function similarly across the category. Unlike gas canister backpacking stoves that use pre-pressurized canisters that release liquid fuel as gas, liquid fuel stoves require priming to produce enough heat to vaporize the fuel.
How it Works
Lighting a small amount of fuel under the burner creates a flame around the generator tube through which the fuel passes. After about a minute of priming, the tube becomes hot enough to convert from liquid to gas and sustain an even bloom. Stoves in this category don’t prime with equal efficiency. Some are more “finicky” than others, and a failed attempt at priming leads to waiting a few minutes before you can start again.
Some in this category can burn multiple fuel types beyond white gas, including, kerosene, unleaded, diesel, and even jet fuel. Keep in mind those fuel types range in how clean and efficient they burn.
Pros and Cons
Liquid fuel stoves are generally heavier as they require carrying an aluminum fuel bottle, a stove pump and often a windscreen. The heft and bulk of these stoves varies quite a bit in this category. Fuel lines also vary in rigidity, which becomes important in packing and setup.
Pump design and quality are important factors for liquid fuel backpacking stoves. Is it brass and aluminum, or primarily plastic? Some products have more precise systems for fuel flow control, varying pot support designs and fuel bottle attachment methods.
Tests in this category discuss priming, efficiency, ease-of-use, durability and other factors that make a liquid fuel stove worth having. Like our canister gas backpacking stove test, we took these products into the field and tested them in the office under circumstances designed to be as authentically “wilderness” as possible.
We should add that some liquid fuel backpacking stoves have been around a very long time and proof of their performance and reliability is widespread. As much as we aim to be your authority, we’re far from the first group of gearheads to put some of these products through the wringer. Thus, we shoot to offer value through comparison, industry insight and unbiased results reporting.
Stay tuned to new stoves being regularly added to this test category.