By Andrew Marshall, Ryan Jordan, and Chase Jordan
This gear guide features lightweight upright canister stoves for backpacking (i.e., a canister stove that weighs less than 4 oz (113 g) that sits on top of a canister of fuel).
We evaluated the following criteria:
- Power, efficiency, and fuel economy in control, large water volume, cold temperature, and wind tests
- Piezo ignitor durability
- Pot stability
- Simmering Ability
Among 17 models of stoves that were subjected to rigorous performance testing, the following stoves were the highest rated stoves in our review:
- MSR PocketRocket Deluxe – Highly Recommended
- Soto Windmaster 4Flex – Highly Recommended
- MSR PocketRocket 2 – Recommended
- Soto Amicus – Recommended
Learn more about our review ratings here.
The MSR PocketRocket Deluxe exhibited the best overall performance across all categories, including the best StoveBench performance in control, wind, cold temperature, large water volume, and stress tests.
- Purchase the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe from REI today.
Gear Guide Scope
Herein are the results of a months-long effort to evaluate the detailed performance of the market’s most prominent upright canister stove products. The three of us spent several hundred hours of research, testing, analysis, and writing this 15,000-word report. It is our hope that it would provide a standard of reference that will be useful to backpackers as they consider their options in what has become a very crowded product market.
Upright canister stoves are a subset of a broader product category of canister stoves that also includes integrated canister stoves and remote canister stoves. Stoves from these latter two categories are not included in this gear guide – we’ll save those for another one!
Where do Canister Stoves Come From?
The vast majority of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts and assemblies for backpacking stoves originate from factories in Russia, China, and Korea. One can generally distinguish products in the upright canister stove market into two categories:
- Exclusive stove designs that are designed and marketed under relatively well-known brand names, consisting of unique assemblies of burners, wind blades, stacks, pot supports, valves, and regulators. These brands include MSR, Jetboil, Snow Peak, Soto, Primus, Kovea, Fire Maple, and Optimus. Although you may see some parts of these stoves found in other products, all of the stoves from these brands include either an exclusive combination of parts or custom parts not found in other products. OEM prices for these stoves to the brands are generally $10 to $30, with MSRPs ranging from about $25 to more than $90, with an average in the $40 to $70 range.
- Nonexclusive stove designs manufactured by an OEM supplier and sold as OEM units under a variety of different brand names. These represent the vast majority of stoves sold under a variety of odd brand names via the online mega-retailers Amazon and Alibaba. Examples of these brands include BRS, Etekcity, Joyard, Housweety, Redcamp, Etopsell, Monoprice, Hikevalley, TopOne, Icetek, Desert Walker, and Chenbo. OEM prices for these stoves to the brands are generally $1 to $6 per unit, with MSRPs being less than $15.
There is some confusion abounds in the backpacking stove market. For example, while Fire Maple manufactures its own stoves, it also licenses nearly identical designs for distribution under the Olicamp brand. The design of current-model MSR stoves can’t be found anywhere else, but Kovea is one of their OEM suppliers. And Kovea makes their own line of stoves, and they don’t look like MSR stoves. Further adding to the confusion is that OEM suppliers of finished stoves often purchase their parts from other factories, who are also OEM suppliers of finished stoves. Globalization at its chaotic best, perhaps!
Although not a hard-and-fast rule, we found that the exclusive stove designs in category #1 (which are generally more expensive) feature a higher level of manufacturing quality and durability, and offer marginally-to-significantly better performance than the nonexclusive stove designs found in category #2. Of the brands presented in this review, it’s clear to us that MSR and Soto are the market leaders in terms of design and engineering with an eye towards maximizing performance.
Discarding cheap OEM knockoffs (defined in category #2 above), we surveyed a total of 35 stoves marketed specifically to the backpacking community from MSR, Jetboil, Snow Peak, Soto, Mons Peak IX, Primus, Kovea, GSI, Optimus, and Fire Maple. We did include two more popular white-labeled brands, BRS and Etekcity. We eliminated any stove that weighed in excess of 8.0 oz (227 g) from this initial survey, as this represents the approximate weight at which significantly more function and performance can be realized by a different stove design (e.g., remote canister, integrated canister or liquid fuel stove).
The average weight of this initial group was 3.3 oz (94 g), with a range of less than 1.0 oz (28 g) to more than 6.0 oz (170 g).
Of the initial group of 35 stoves, we selected 17 stoves (with the heaviest stove being 3.44 oz / 101 g) for a more detailed examination and inclusion in this gear guide. A few are heavier than average, most are lighter than average, and a few are in the truly “ultralight” category (less than 2.0 oz / 57 g).
Summary of Products Featured in this Review
The following chart details feature and specifications for the stoves featured in this review, and provides our Overall Rating. See the Performance Analysis section below for a detailed performance assessment.
|Stove||Overall Rating*||MSRP (USD)||Weight (oz)||Regulated||Piezo Ignition||Burner Diameter (mm)||# of Supports||Support Radius (mm)|
|MSR Pocket Rocket 2||Recommended||$45||2.6||no||no||25||3||61|
|MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe||Highly Recommended||$70||2.9||yes||yes||37||3||61|
|Soto Windmaster 4Flex||Highly Recommended||$65||3.08||yes||yes||39||4||72|
|Soto Micro Regulator||Average||$70||2.5||yes||yes||38||3||55|
|GSI Pinnacle||Above Average||$50||2.43||no||no||28||3||70|
|Optimus Crux Lite||Average||$40||2.61||no||no||46||3||55|
|Fire Maple FMS-300T||Above Average||$30||1.59||no||no||17||3||45|
|Snow Peak GigaPower 2.0||Below Average||$50||3.05||no||yes||25||4||53|
|Snow Peak LiteMax||Below Average||$60||1.99||no||no||28||3||62|
|BRS 3000t||Below Average||$17||0.89||no||no||17||3||41|
|Kovea Supalite Titanium||Below Average||$50||2.12||no||n/a||29||3||62|
|Kovea Titanium||Below Average||$60||3.25||no||yes||29||3||62|
|Jetboil MightyMo||Above Average||$50||3.44||yes||yes||37||3||60|
|Fire Maple FMS-116t||Above Average||$40||3.55||no||no||45||3||55|
|Primus Micron Trail||Below Average||$45||3.25||no||yes||32||3||68|
Presented in order from highest to lowest overall grade.