6 Best Ultralight Backpacking Stove TEST

Best Backpacking Stove

Are you using one of the best ultralight backpacking stove options out there?  Are you in the market for backpacking stoves but not sure what features are most important?  We put a bunch of them to the test to help you decide.  We pulled together a handful of some of the most popular (and not so popular) stoves we could find and tested them all in various conditions to find the most fuel-efficient, lightest weight, fastest boiling, and most feature-rich backpacking stove.

Finding the Best Ultralight Backpacking Stove:

The Testing

Optimus fuel canister

We set out to find the best ultralight backpacking stove on the market so you can be confident in what you purchase and know that it will perform when you need that warm backcountry meal (Check out our 51 Meal blind backpacking food taste test here) or are making that much needed cup of morning coffee. (Check out our backcountry coffee review here) We put these to the test in various conditions. Here are the tests we ran on each of these stoves:

  • Freezing temp boiling time
  • Windy boiling time
  • Room temp boiling time
  • Most fuel efficient

What Makes Up the Best Ultralight Backpacking Stove

There are a ton of aspects to consider when finding the best ultralight backpacking stove for your needs. At the end of the day, you are likely going to give up features and performance to obtain a lighter weight stove. So, here’s a rundown of our testing and the features of each of these stoves to help you find the best backpacking stove for your individual needs.

Fastest Boiling Ultralight Backpacking Stove

best ultralight backpacking stove

For this test, we took 12oz of room temperature water and timed how long it took each stove to come to a full rolling boil. All stoves were tested with a brand new fuel canister to make it equal for all. Here are the unbiased, unfiltered results:

Fasted Boiling Ultralight Backpacking Stove in Freezing Temperatures

Optimus Vega

To find the best ultralight backpacking stove in freezing conditions, we stuck all stoves and fuel canisters in the freezer, then started them up right out of the freezer to see how long it would take for the water to come to a rolling boil.  This test had some surprising results.

Fastest Boiling Ultralight Backpacking Stove in Windy Conditions

Optimus Crux with Wind shield - best ultralight backpacking stove

For this test, we didn’t have any wind, so we grabbed the biggest box fan we had and set it on full blast about 18 inches away.  Identifying the best backpacking stove in these windy conditions got a little interesting.

Most Fuel-Efficient Ultralight Backpacking Stove

Optimus Vega stove - best backpacking stove

To find the best ultralight backpacking stoves in the efficiency department, or the most fuel efficient ultralight backpacking stove, we took a brand new small (40z) fuel canister and simply turned the stove on full blast and saw how long before it burned all the fuel.  Here are the results:

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Note: Number of boils per canister was derived by dividing the total run time by the boil time for each category. As the fuel canister becomes more empty, the stoves generally take longer to boil, so the actual number of boils per 4oz canister would be less than the chart shows. The above chart is meant to give you an idea of the efficiency of each stove based on the boil time with a full fuel canister.

View and/or download the full chart we compiled in this test by becoming a Backwoods Pursuit Insider (TOTALLY FREE!) and get access to this and much more in my Backcountry Library. IT’S FREE!!

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Finding the Best Ultralight Backpacking Stove:

MSR Windburner Ultralight Backpacking Stove Review

MSR Windburner - best backpacking stove

The MSR Windburner is a favorite in the backpacking community and for good reason.  It performed well in most categories, especially the wind.  Other categories it lagged behind a bit, but you know you’ll get solid performance from this stove all the way around.  Coming in at just 15.3 ounces, this stove keeps things light weight, but is not the lightest in the group.

The MSR Windburner is a tried and true, solid performing and considered by many to be one of the best ultralight backpacking stove options that does exceptionally well in the wind. The Windburner saw only a slight decrease in performance in windy and frozen conditions. The price point is high, but you get a dependable stove that will last you a long time.

MSR Windburner Backpacking Stove

The Windburner is among the most expensive stoves we tested.  At a price point of $130, this thing had better perform well!  Given its price tag, I was not a fan of the fact that it does not have a built-in igniter, so a lighter is needed.  Additionally, the insulating sleeve and handle didn’t insulate very well.  It got very hot to the touch after boiling water, much more so than the two Jetboils we tested.

I also wasn’t a fan of the fuel canister stand or handle on the MSR Windburner. They had a more fragile plastic feel to them when compared side by side with the Jetboil and Optimus stove systems. The profile of the Windburner is the tallest of the stoves we tested, so it’s more likely to tip during use if you aren’t careful.

MSR Windburner Specs

  • 15.3 ounces
  • 1 liter capacity
  • No built-in igniter

What I liked

  • All around good performance
  • Best lid-locking ability
  • No fuel leaked out when screwing on the canister
  • Decent fuel efficiency

What I Didn’t Like

  • Price point
  • No built-in igniter
  • Highest price point
  • Insulating sleeve didn’t insulate very well
  • Plastic canister and handle stand feels like cheap plastic
  • Very tall (potentially tipsy)
Buy the Windburner On Amazon

Jetboil Minimo Backpacking Stove Review

Jetboil Minimo - best backpacking stove

The Jetboil Minimo is another one of the best ultralight backpacking stove options that performed very well in most tests we threw at it.  The Jetboil was the highest priced stove we tested, coming in at a price point of $140.  That’s steep for a backpacking stove, but the Minimo is packed with features.  You get a fuel regulator that allows you to simmer if needed, a built-in Petzo igniter, fuel canister stand, good insulating cover, great all-around performance, and a large 1L capacity pot.  If you are out with multiple people, this might be one to consider.

Freezing temps had almost no affect on the Minimo, but the wind really brought out its flaw. Boil times tripled for the Minimo in the wind, making the Minimo the second to worse performer in windy conditions. If you don’t find yourself in windy conditions often, or, have a way to protect the Minimo from the, this one has some of the best backpacking stove features out there.

Jetboil Minimo Specs

  • 14 ounces
  • 1 liter capacity
  • Built-in igniter
  • Fuel regulator

What I liked

  • Fuel efficiency
  • Sturdy canister stand
  • Built in igniter
  • Fast boil times
  • Shorter, more stable

What I didn’t Like

  • Slightly wobbly at the base of the burner
  • Lid doesn’t lock into place as well as others
  • Larger (wider) pot – takes up more room in pack
Buy Jetboil Minimo on Amazon

Buy Jetboil Minimo at Cabelas

Jetboil Zip Ultralight Backpacking Stove Review

Jetboil Zip stove

The Jetboil Zip is a bit more budget friendly, but you also loose some of the features and performance.  If you are looking for one of the best ultralight backpacking stove options at a more affordable price point of $80, this one still hung in there with some of the others, but there was definitely a performance difference in some categories. 

The Jetboil Zip’s boil times were seriously affected by both cold and wind. If you need a stove that performs well in adverse conditions, the Zip might not be the best fit for you. The Jetboil Zip doesn’t have a built-in igniter or burner regulator like the Minimo, but actually out-performed the Minimo in both the room temp and windy boiling efficiency. This was surprising given the cost of the Zip being about half that of the Minimo. If you want top performance and features, the Jetboil Zip probably isn’t the best backpacking stove for you.

Jetboil Zip Specs

  • 11.75 ounces
  • 0.8 liter capacity
  • No built-in igniter
  • No fuel regulator

What I Liked

  • Fuel efficiency
  • Sturdy canister stand
  • Shorter, more sturdy
  • Price point

What I Didn’t Like

  • No built-in igniter
  • Lid doesn’t lock into place as well as others
  • Slower boil times
  • No fuel regulator
Buy Jetboil Zip on Amazon

Buy Jetboil Zip at Cabelas

Optimus Crux Ultralight Backpacking Stove Review

Optimus Crux backpacking stove

The Optimus Crux stove was among the top all-around performers in our testing to find the best ultralight backpacking stove.  While it is different than both the Jetboil and MSR Windburner in that the pot does not attach to the burner, it is still a fully contained system with the stove and pot nestling inside the pot. 

With a great price point of just $60, this one (along with the Optimus Crux Lite – 9.6 oz) is worth a serious look.  The Optimus Crux’s performance was incrementally affected by both freezing temps and windy conditions vs the room temp calm condition performance.

This stove system allows you to add things like the wind shield, igniter, and fuel canister stand as they do not come with the base stove kit. I did notice that the Optimus Crux allowed more fuel to escape while screwing the burner on than the others we tested. Take extra care to do this quickly so you don’t waste fuel. The Optimus Crux also takes a few extra seconds to set up vs the Jetboil and MSR Windburner as the stove is stored in a pouch.

Also of note is that the pot does not lock into place like the Jetboil and Windburner style stove. This allows you to mix and match what pot, kettle or fry pan you want, making the Crux more versatile, but less stable. It’s easier to knock the pot off the stand. I also wish the lid locked into place when packing up the Crux. The mesh storage sack is what keeps the lid and pot together, making it necessary to pack up the Crux in the mesh sack after each use. Not a big deal, but it takes a little more time to unpack/pack the Crux than the JetBoil and Windburner style.

Optimus Crux Specs

What I Liked

  • Better than average fuel efficiency
  • Most sturdy canister stand of them all
  • Low price point
  • Fast boil times

What I Didn’t Like

  • No built-in igniter
  • Slightly tipsy (burner folds)
  • Pot doesn’t lock into place
  • Fuel escapes during assembly
  • Not as easy to pack up
Buy Optimus Cruz on Amazon

Buy Optimus Crux at Cabelas

Optimus Vega Ultralight Backpacking Stove Review

Optimus Vega backpacking stove

The Optimus Vega stove is a different stove than the rest in this test in that it is a four season stove.  It gives you the options of burning the fuel with the canister in the standard upright position, or in cold weather (or if you just want faster boil times), you can flip the canister over and get more performance out of it on those very cold days.  The Optimus Vega’s performance was nearly unaffected by wind or temperature, making this a great option when you know the weather may turn on you.

The Optimus Vega comes with a wind shield, which is awesome for those windy days.  You can tell when firing up the Vega that this thing can push some serious heat out.  The Optimus Vega doesn’t come with a pot, so you’ll need to purchase one separately. I’ve found the Optimus Terra Xpress HE cooking pot to work well with the super wide pot stand that the Vega features.  The Vega is also great with the Optimus Terra Kettle or the Optimus Terra HE Cook Set if you want multiple pots to cook with when you have a large group as it holds that large pot perfectly. 

One side note with the Vega, make sure to ignite it with the fuel canister in the standard (not upside down) position.  You might get more flame than you bargained for otherwise.

Optimus Vega Specs

  • 6.27 ounces
  • No built-in igniter
  • Pot sold separately
  • 4 season performance

What I Liked

  • Fuel efficiency????
  • Very sturdy, low center of gravity
  • 4 season performance
  • Fast boil times

What I Didn’t Like

  • No built-in igniter
  • Pot doesn’t lock into place
  • Fuel escapes during assembly
Buy the Vega at Cabelas

Buy Optimus Vega on Amazon

Icetek Sports Ultralight Backpacking Stove Review

IceTech backpacking stove

We included this ridiculously cheap Icetek Sports Ultralight backpacking stove just to see if there really is a performance difference between some of the higher end stoves and one that only runs $8.99 on Amazon. The Icetek Sports Ultralight Backpacking Canister Camp Stove with Petzo Ignition comes in at only 3.9oz and has a built in Petzo igniter to boot.  This thing had great reviews, so we tested it alongside the others.

This stove comes with literally just the stove, nothing else.  If you wanted a wind protector, you could certainly add the Optimus Wind Shield, which would work with this as well.  Featuring a built-in igniter, I was extremely skeptical, but it surprised us.  Light weight, functional, great performance (except in the wind) gives you a heck of a stove for a fraction of the cost of the others.  Again, no canister stand is included, but you could buy the Optimus canister stand for this unit. 

IceTech Sports Ultralight Backpacking Stove Specs

What I Liked

  • Fuel efficiency
  • Lowest price point
  • Fast boil times

What I Didn’t Like

  • No pot
  • VERY small burner stand – unstable
  • Terrible wind performance
  • No canister stand
Buy the IceTech Sports Stove

There you have it.  We tried to cover the primary performance scenarios we face in the backcountry, save for altitude.  What features are most important to you?  Maybe fastest boil time, maybe price point, maybe having a built-in igniter.  Whatever it is, there are some great stoves on the market at all different price points.

Again, to view and/or download the full chart we compiled in this test, become a Backwoods Pursuit Insider (TOTALLY FREE!) and get access to this and much more in my Backcountry Library. IT’S FREE!!

Become a BP Exclusive Member!

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