Wood burning camp stoves are some of the coolest camping gear that you can put in your backpack. These stoves have the best of both worlds: they’ve got the portability of a canister stove and the warmth of an actual campfire all in one package.
But here’s the kicker:
You don’t even have to buy and carry fuel with you when using wood burning camp stoves, because these bad boys are powered by Mother Nature herself.
In this article, we break down the advantages and pitfalls of wood-burning camp stoves, the things you should consider when buying one, and of course, a comprehensive take-down and rereview of five of the best camp stoves in the market today.
If you want to get your hands on the best portable wood burning camp stove out there, read on:
What Are The Advantages Of Portable Wood Burning Camp Stoves?
Using wood-burning camp stoves has a lot of benefits. Here are some of them:
They use natural materials
Unlike canister or rocket stoves, wood-burning camp stoves use natural materials like twigs, leaves, debris, and other biomass as fuel. These materials are considered renewable and carbon-neutral, so they’re friendlier to the environment compared to fossil fuels found in commercial gas canisters.
Using natural materials also saves you money, since you don’t have to spend a penny on gas. This also means freeing up a lot of space and weight in your backpack.
They’re light and portable
Unlike traditional rocket stoves, mini wood stoves are designed to be light and portable. This is especially important if you’re an ultralight backpacker who’s conscious of weight savings. Most camp stoves are made from stainless steel, making them extremely light but durable. Others are crafted from titanium, which cuts the weight of the stove in half.
Wood burning stoves can also be fully disassembled or compressed to a smaller size. Round wood stoves pack down to a third of their assembled size, while rectangular stoves can be packed flat. They also come with their own mesh bags or containers for easier storage.
Wood stoves are a convenient source of light and heat
Another advantage to using wood-burning camp stoves is that you don’t have to go through the hassle of making a huge campfire whenever you need to prepare meals or boil hot water. With a camp stove, all you need is a small, self-contained fire that you can easily put out when it’s time to go. Some designs can even be moved using a pair of sturdy pliers, in case you want to relocate to a better spot.
Camp stoves are efficient and versatile
Camp stoves are designed with efficiency in mind. Most, if not all setups, allow for excellent ventilation, so you don’t have to keep on tending it over long periods of time. They’re also pretty versatile; some models allow the use of various fuels like alcohol, charcoal, briquettes, and biomass.
They make for an authentic outdoor experience
Last but not least, nothing quite beats the smell and texture of wood-cooked food. That woodsy smell simply improves one’s overall camping experience.
Are There Any Disadvantages To Wood Burning Camp Stoves?
Of course, it ain’t always rainbows and butterflies when using these camp stoves (well, nothing ever is). Here are a few disadvantages to look out for when using a wood-burning stove:
They’re relatively slower
Since they’re powered by natural materials like twigs, leaves, and debris, cooking time with a wood-burning mini stove takes a tad bit more patience compared to their gas-guzzling counterparts. Depending on factors like the model and design of the stove, the weather, and your choice of fuel, you may also have to feed and tend the fire every now and then.
Good tinder can be hard to find
Next, you need to collect a lot of fuel beforehand. This is no problem if you can find a lot of dry twigs, leaves, and bark along the way, but it could be tricky if you’re in an area without these resources. Dry tinder will obviously be scarce as well if it’s raining or snowing. During these situations, you might want to be extra prepared by carrying backup fuel like biomass briquettes, pellets, or alcohol fuel.
You need to protect wood-burning stoves from the environment
Unlike their gas counterparts, wood-burning stoves need more protection from wind and inclement weather. Often, they come with accessories like windshields though to help keep the flame going.
Then there’s the soot and ash
Another downside is the messiness. Burning carbon-based materials means you’ll have to deal with soot and ash after. These cling on to the stove itself, and onto your utensils, clothes, and hands if you’re not careful.
What Are The Types Of Wood Burning Camp Stoves And How Do They Work?
There are two main types of wood-burning camp stoves: cylindrical and rectangular. Let’s take a closer look at these stove types:
Cylindrical Wood Burning Stoves
As the name suggests, a cylindrical burner has a round shape and is usually made up of two or more components like a cooking ring and an ash pan. To assemble, you just stack these parts on top of each other. The whole system usually collapses into itself like a nesting doll, making for easy storage and packability.
With this type of stove, you’ll often see a burn chamber where you can put the fuel in. You’ll also find vent holes that regulate the air flow by pulling in oxygen from the environment. A cylindrical stove’s closed design allows the hot air to be concentrated within the chamber, allowing the fuel to burn for longer. It’s also more protected against inclement weather and wind.
The downside to these types of stoves is that they often don’t have feeding slots to put in additional fuel. You may have to take the pot or pan off the stove to do that.
Rectangular or Pyramid Wood Burning Stoves
Rectangular or pyramid type burners are arguably lighter and easier to pack than their cylindrical big brothers. These stoves have four collapsible walls, usually made from lightweight but durable material like stainless steel or titanium.
Depending on their capacity, these stoves can accommodate small to medium-sized fuel. Keeping the fire going is easy enough due to this type of stove’s feeding slots. However, since rectangular or pyramid type stoves have an open design, they need more protection from the wind.
Then there are the unicorns like the Biolite. This special type of burner comes with a built-in fan and is designed to convert heat into electric energy. We will discuss this type of burner in detail as we go further along the article.
Things To Consider When Buying A Portable Wood Burning Campstove
So you want to get your hands on a wood-burning stove for your next camping or backpacking trip. What are some factors that you need to consider before buying?
- Weight – the weight of your camp stove will heavily depend on the type of activities you’ll be doing and your mode of transport. Will you be embarking on a multi-day camping trip or a thru-hike? A foldable camp stove makes sense since it’s easy to pack and virtually weighs nothing. Bringing a bulky stove like the Biolite, on the other hand, is better if you’re car camping or going on an RV trip.
- Size and capacity – Are you going solo or camping with other folks? Most wood-burning camp stoves are great for about one to four persons only. This article will focus more on these types of stoves as well. Another thing to consider is the size of your pots and pans. Make sure that your stove can accommodate the size and weight of your camp cookware.
- Portability – Is the stove collapsible? How small does it pack down to? How much space does it occupy on your backpack?
- Ease of use – Packability, and portability are useless if the stove is a headache to use. Ask yourself: is it easy to assemble? Does it have a lot of moving parts that can get lost or damaged? Can you add more fuel without trouble? How about the cleanup? Does it have a collection pan for the ashes, or do they go directly to the ground?
- Efficiency – How hot and fast does the stove burn fuel? Does it have features that concentrate the heat for a more efficient combustion? How much fuel do you need to use to be able to cook food or boil water?
- Versatility – Can you use other fuel sources like alcohol or biomass briquettes?
- Price – Portable camp stoves can range from $15 to more than a hundred bucks. The price range will ultimately depend on you and your budget.
How We Did Our Review
Like all of our previous reviews, we took the time to research each and every product that went on this list. We looked at hundreds of customer reviews, scoured the internet for the top-rated products, and watched dozens of test videos before purchasing the gear ourselves. We considered getting both expensive and affordable versions for each type of stove, plus one innovative burner.
We put them to the test using the criteria we’ve noted above. We also observed how much fuel each unit consumed, and how long it took for each one to boil 400ml of water. Of course, we can’t draw enough findings just by testing them in a controlled environment, so we also took these buggers out camping to see how they would do in real life.
You’ll find the results of our rigorous testing process below:
How To Have A Good Time With Your Wood Burning Camp Stoves
If you’re using a wood-burning camp stove for the first time, you might find that they can take a bit of getting used to. Here are some tips and tricks to make your experience smoother:
Pick an excellent location
Just like any other aspect of camping, location is vital when using portable wood-burning stoves. Keep in mind that you can only use these stoves in campsites where open flames are allowed.
A flat, stable location is ideal for camp stoves. Make sure that the stove’s base is set firmly in place— you don’t want it to topple over. Your area of choice should also be protected from the wind. Wide tree trunks, rock faces, and boulders offer natural wind protection and help reflect the fire back to you. Lastly, stay away from extremely dry, grassy areas to avoid wildfires.
Gather enough fuel and make sure they’re the right size
If you’re hiking, don’t wait until you get to your campsite to collect fuel; gather enough sticks, twigs, and other tinder for your stove along the way. Keep them nice and dry in case the weather turns nasty.
Make sure your fuel is the right size for your stove. If your fuel is too thick, they might not fit into the stove, or they might smother the fire. If you don’t put enough fuel, or use too small ones you might not be able to maintain a flame.
Also keep an eye out for natural tinder and firestarters like fatwood, pine cones, and fungi.
Bring some homemade firestarters to make the job easier
This is especially useful if you encounter a heavy rainshower along the way. Firestarters like vaseline-dipped cotton balls, dryer lint, sawdust discs are extremely helpful in getting a fire going during inclement weather.
Protect your pots and pans
Coat the outside of your pots and pans with a thin layer of soap before cooking. This way, the soot won’t stick to the bottom and clean up would be easier.
Dispose of the ashes properly
Before leaving the campsite, make sure that there are no smoldering embers left. You don’t want to start a wildfire!