When you’re camping out in the bush or on the roadside, there’s almost nothing more important than having a stove that will light—every time. Hot food and drink go a long way when trying to stay warm and hydrated. You’ll undoubtedly be bound for an uncomfortable, hungry night if your stove doesn’t light when car camping. But that’s not the worst of it: If you’re hundreds of miles from the nearest road and your stove doesn’t work, you won’t get to eat—and if you’re on a glacier, you can’t melt snow for water to drink. It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of owning a quality camp stove in Alaska.
That’s why our team of Alaskan field testers took out the best camp stoves available—new and tried-and-true— and put them through the paces, from the back of their trucks, to climbing in the Wrangell and Alaska Ranges, and even kayaking in Kenai Fjords. These five came out on top.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: MSR WhisperLite Universal
The apex of stove reliability in the field, the WhisperLite Universal consistently lit in every weather condition—from high altitude mountain blizzards to temperate rainforest downpours. Compact and lightweight (1 lb. 3.4 oz.), this dual fuel stove easily switches between mixed canister fuel—allowing for easy lighting and simmering at lower altitudes and warmer temperatures—and liquid fuels for longer trips, colder temps, and harsher weather. Bonus: the fuel jet self-cleans with a simple shake. $140, cascadedesigns.com
Perfect for solo or two-person backpacking trips, the MiniMo’s compact and lightweight (14.6 oz.) design also sported an easy, button-push ignition and stayed operational down to 20° F. There’s no need to pack an extra pot—the MiniMo comes with an insulated one designed to accommodate the stove for easy packing. Bonus: It can be converted into a coffee press with a separately sold accessory. $130, jetboil.com
When below tree line, our testers appreciated the convenience and simplicity of the BioLite stove. Operating off good old-fashioned wood-burning technology with a new twist (read: hyper-efficient), the BioLite allowed our testers freedom from carrying fuel—and worrying about running out of it. They were also pleasantly surprised by the fact that they could actually get a liter of water boiling in less than five minutes with only a couple handfuls of twigs. Bonus: You can also charge your USB compatible electronic devices with it (seriously). $130, biolitestove.com
Coleman Classic 2-Burner
Classic for a reason, Coleman’s Classic 2-Burner stove is ideal for campers that don’t have to worry about the weight or size of their stove—say, if you’re car camping, or on a river trip. Operating on white gas, this simple yet effective base camp-style stove will light no matter how cold it is. Our testers also loved the fact it has two burners, allowing you cook two things at once. Bonus: The 2.5-pint fuel tank can operate the stove for 2.5 hours without needing to be refueled. $140, coleman.com
BEST BARGAIN: Primus ETA Express
Easy to start with a push of a button and extremely lightweight (15.8 oz.), the compact ETA Express offers all of the features you could possibly want in a 1-2 person backpacking stove, at price that’s simply hard to beat. It includes a minimalist one-liter pot that the stove is designed to fit inside for easy packing, and a magnetic metal windscreen to keep the stove lit and cooking, even in glacial katabatic winds. Bonus: The pot’s BPA-free plastic lid has a built in colander for straining, so you don’t have to worry about dumping your dinner in the dirt. $115, primuscamping.com