Best liquid fuel stoves for backpacking and camping in 2021

Best liquid fuel stoves

A cooking stove is probably one of the most important gear to carry for a multi-day hiking trip. And if you are an expert backpacker and love long hiking trips, then you need a stove which works well in all weather conditions and uses a fuel that is easy to carry and is readily available.

As we saw in our article on canister stoves, such stoves provide a reliable, clean and easy to use mechanism to cook your food for short 3-season domestic trips in the US or Canada. However, when it comes to cold weathers, larger groups, longer trips or international travel, canister stoves are not the best option. Enter the liquid fuel stoves to the scene.

But which are the best liquid fuel stoves in the market?

In this article, we will look at some of the best liquid fuel stoves for backpacking and camping available in the market. We will primarily look at standard single-burner backpacking stoves that support multiple fuels such as white gas, kerosene or unleaded gasoline. We will also list out the major factors to consider while picking the best liquid fuel stoves for your needs and share our top picks.

Best liquid fuel stove list

Some of the best liquid fuel stoves and multi-fuel stoves available in the market are listed below:

Optimus Polaris Optifuel Stove17 oz.- The latest multi-fuel stove (2015 release) with an innovative design, which uses a unique Single Jet Technology that allows support for multiple fuels without the need of changing the nozzle.
- Multi-fuel: Canister Isobutane fuel, white gas, diesel, kerosene and unleaded gasoline. No need to change nozzles.
- Comes with a self-cleaning Flipstop technology and a cleaning needle to manage the flow while cooking.
- Offers full flame control using a simmer regulator.
- Comes with a fuel bottle, wrench, heat reflector, a windscreen, and a storage sack. Also has a canister stand for Isobutane fuel canisters.
- Backed by limited lifetime warranty.

MSR WhisperLite Universal14.9 oz.- A popular, made in the USA multi-fuel stove which can support canister fuel along with multiple liquid fuels.
- Multi-fuel: Canister Isobutane fuel, white gas, kerosene and unleaded gasoline (no diesel). Nozzle change required for canisters. Canister stand also included.
- Features a unique patent-pending technology that delivers great performance with all compatible fuels.
- Comes with a windscreen, heat reflector, small-parts kit, and a stuff sack for easy transportation.
- Cheaper Whisperlite option is also available that uses only liquid fuels.
- Backed by limited lifetime warranty.

MSR XGK EX Multi-Fuel Stove17.2 oz.- The best extreme-weather and mountaineering liquid fuel stove. Made in the US.
- Multi-Fuel: White gas, kerosene, unleaded gasoline, diesel and aviation gas.Two jet valves included to support multiple fuels.
- Equipped with MSR-proprietary Self-Cleaning Shaker Jet technology for easy maintenance
- Comes with a spare fuel pump, windscreen, heat reflector, small-parts kit, instructions, and stuff sack.
- Backed by a lifetime warranty.

MSR Dragonfly Stove14.1 oz.- A great, made in the USA liquid fuel stove that combines performance with convenience.
- Multi-Fuel: white gas, kerosene, unleaded auto fuel and even diesel. No canister Isobutane. Nozzle change required.
- Can support extra wide pots up to 10” in diameter.
- Features superior simmer control dual-valve and the MSR-proprietary Self-Cleaning Shaker Jet technology for easy maintenance
- Backed by limited lifetime warranty.

Primus OmniFuel Stove16 oz.- The original multi-liquid fuel stove made in Estonia, Europe.
- Multi-fuel: Canister Isobutane fuel, white gas, kerosene and unleaded gasoline. Nozzle change required for different fuels.
- The package includes a 0.6 L Primus fuel bottle and stove pump.
- Also comes with a foldable windscreen, heat reflector, storage pouch, and a small multi-tool for minor tuning.
- A costlier, lighter titanium model – Omnilite TI model is also available.
- Backed by limited lifetime warranty.
Trangia X2 Multifuel Burner24 oz.- The heaviest yet most versatile multi-fuel burner kit that uses standard Trangia stove with a burner kit.
- Multi-fuel: Canister Isobutane fuel, white gas, kerosene and unleaded gasoline and even Alcohol. Nozzle change required for different fuels.
- Comes with a 0.6L fuel bottle along with a windscreen, carrying sack, nozzles and a small toolkit.
Monoprice Outdoor Universal Backpacking Stove11.3 oz.The cheapest, lightest multi-fuel liquid fuel stove made with stainless steel and aluminum.
- Multi-fuel: auto fuel, white gas, low-grade kerosene, Stoddard solvent, aviation gas, diesel, and naphtha. Requires change of nozzle for different fuel types.
- Comes with a decent, easy-to-operate simmer valve for flame control.
- Backed by one-year replacement warranty.
Optimus Nova+ Stove15 oz.- A lighter version of the popular Nova stove, which supports all liquid fuels through a single nozzle.
- Multi-Fuel: white gas, kerosene and unleaded auto fuel. Does not support Canisters. No nozzle change required.
- Offers smart simmer control using a fine-tuned regulator.
- Comes with a stuff bag, windshield, multi- tool, O-rings, fuel filter & lubricant
Kovea Booster+1 Stove18 oz.- A well-designed, made in Korea multi-fuel stove that supports Isobutane canisters and White gas as fuels.
- Multi-fuel: White gas, Canisters. Does not support kerosene or unleaded auto-fuel. No nozzle change required.
- Comes with pump, extra O-rings, a multi-tool and storage sack.
- Can be shipped to selected countries outside the US.
Coleman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove21.6 oz. with the fuel container- A traditional, previous generation dual fuel stove which consists of a stove mounted on a fuel canister, so no need for a fuel bottle.
- Multi-fuel: White gas (Coleman fuel), kerosene or unleaded auto-fuel
- Simple design with a built-in burner bowl and windshield arms.
- Offers decent simmer control valve that can manage the flame well.

What is a liquid fuel stove and what are its major benefits?

Liquid fuel stoves are probably one of the oldest types of fuel-based stoves(well barring the wood burners).

A liquid fuel stove is a relatively small, lightweight single burner stove that can use a variety of liquid fuels – White gas, unleaded gasoline, kerosene (jet fuel) or diesel to create a steady flame to cook food or boil water. Liquid fuel stoves are generally more versatile and have a higher thermal output – more than 9,000 BTU/h, than the canister stoves that we discussed in an earlier article.

Till the emergence of canister stoves, the liquid fuel stoves were the most popular category for fuel-based stoves. Even now, for aforementioned scenarios – long trips, international travel, and extreme weather, you still need to rely on such liquid multi-fuel stoves for your cooking needs.

Over the past few years, liquid fuel stoves have seen a lot of advancements and improvements and some stoves even support Isobutane canisters. Because of their support for multiple types of fuels, liquid fuel stoves are many times also referred at multi-fuel stoves.

The major benefits and disadvantages of the liquid multi-fuel stoves are summarized below:

  • Extremely versatile. Can support multiple fuels – white gas, kerosene, diesel, unleaded gasoline etc., which are readily available worldwide.
  • Offer superior flame control and support multiple pots and pans.
  • More fuel efficient than the canister stoves; average consumption of 1.5 oz. per day per person as opposed to 2.0 oz. for canister stoves.
  • Higher thermal output – in excess of 9,000 BTU/h, and better performance in cold weather.
  • Weight saving for long trips or large groups as you can use the same refillable fuel bottle.
  • The liquid fuel used in such stoves is cheaper than the Isobutane canisters. So economical over time.
  • Require priming for a couple of minutes and some prior training/experience before using comfortably.
  • Require regular maintenance.
  • Not all fuel types burn clean. Also, fuel bottles need to be handled carefully to avoid hazardous situations.
  • Higher initial investment because of costlier stoves.

How to pick the best liquid fuel stove for camping and backpacking?

With so many popular models in the market, picking the best multi-fuel camping stove can be a challenging task. After all, liquid fuel stoves are costly, have wide variations in the fuels they support and the features they offer. In this section, we list out some of the major considerations to keep in mind while picking the best liquid fuel tent stove for your needs. These major factors are summarized below:

  • Purpose of the stove
  • Building material of the stove
  • Design of the stove
  • Size and Weight of the stove
  • Additional Features and Considerations

Purpose of the stove

The purpose for which you are seeking a liquid fuel (or any type of stove for that matter) is an important consideration. Liquid fuel stoves are generally meant for longer trips or large group cooking, though nothing is stopping you from using them on your next backpacking trip if you do not mind the additional weight of such stoves.

  • If you are looking for a stove that you can use for international travel as well then you are better off by opting for a multi-fuel stove that supports a wide variety of fuels – gasoline, diesel, and kerosene, along with white gas. You do not necessarily need to seek a stove that supports Isobutane canisters, as getting compatible Lindal valve canisters may be a challenge in most places.
  • Secondly, if you are looking a stove specifically for boiling water or melting ice high altitude, you should look for a stove with a high thermal output and not necessarily provide full flame control. MSR Whisperlite series stoves would fit the bill perfectly.
  • Finally, if you are an experienced backpacker and handled all types of stoves, even dismantled and put them back together, played with the nozzles and all, then you can pick almost any stove from the list. However, if you are more of an I-just-want-it-to-work, then you can consider an easy to use Coleman Exponent Multi-Fuel or MSR Dragonfly Stove.

Keep the primary purpose in mind before picking the best liquid fuel stove option for your needs.

Helpful tip: Always try out any new liquid fuel stove at home with all the accessories and nozzles (if there). Such stoves need some getting used to and you are better off checking them out in the comfort of your home rather than in the field.

Building material of the stove

Most liquid stoves are made from stainless-steel or Titanium with brass regulators and aluminum supporting arms and body parts. As an example, the Primus Omnilite Omnifuel TI stove which is made from lighter Titanium alloy.

Another closely related item with the stove is the building material of the fuel pump. Fuel pumps in most stoves such as the MSR stoves are made of plastic to keep the overall weight of the stove kit down. However, models such as the Optimus Polaris Optifuel Stove have an aluminum fuel pump which is more sturdy and reliable.

Check the building material of the stove and stove parts especially the fuel pump before picking the best multi-fuel stove for your needs.

Design of the stove

There are a bunch of design considerations which you should keep in mind while picking the best multi-fuel camping stove for your outdoor trip.

First of all is the different types of nozzles that you need to use with different fuel types. This is necessary because different fuel types need a different jet size hole to burn efficiently. Cleaner fuels such as Isobutane have the widest gauge, while the not-so-clean kerosene fuel nozzles have the smallest jet hole.

Most stoves such as the Primus Omnifuel stoves and MSR Whisperlite and Dragonfly stoves require you to switch between the three nozzles for each different fuel category, while the newer Optimus Polaris and Kovea Booster+1 do not require a nozzle change at all – they use what is called a Single Jet technology that allows using the same nozzle for all fuel types. Off course this means you would have a thinner fuel line, something that does not have a serious downside anyway.

Another closely related design consideration is the level of simmer/flame control that a stove provides. The MSR Whisperlite series of stoves do not have second flow valve and hence provide only a basic flame control – from a slow simmer to the maximum. The Optimus Polaris and Nova+ stoves, on the other hand, provide an excellent all-round precision simmer control.

The third important design consideration is the self-cleaning option. As discussed above, liquid fuel stoves require frequent maintenance and cleanup. To simplify that, manufacturers have come up with smart mechanisms. For example, MSR liquid stoves provide what they call the “Shaker Jet” technology for easy cleanup. Similarly, Optimus Polaris Optifuel Stove features a “Flipstop” technology and come with even a cleaning needle to keep the flame consistent and clean while the stove is in use.

Finally, most modern day liquid multi-fuel stoves use a separate unmounted fuel bottle. This helps in keeping the advertised weight down and also gives the flexibility of getting a fuel bottle of a specific size. An exception to this is the ever popular Coleman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove, which has the traditionally mounted design and does not require a separate fuel bottle.

Check out all these design considerations while picking the best liquid fuel stove for your requirements.

Size and weight of the stove

The dimensions of stove – the clearance from the ground and the spread of the pan support arms generally govern the size of pot or pan a stove can support. The MSR DragonFly stove scores big in this category as its unique arms can support a pan with up to 10 inches in diameter. Most other liquid fuel stoves support anywhere between 7-inch to 9-inch diameter pots and pans.

The liquid fuel stoves, because of the nozzles, pumps, fuel lines, and stove unit are generally heavier than other stove types such as wood burning or canister stoves. Also, you have to account for the additional weight of the fuel bottle when considering the overall weight that you have to carry. If you add up all this weight, you would find that a liquid fuel stove kit weighs more than 20 ounces for sure. And considering even the Coleman Exponent stove, which does not require a fuel canister, you can safely presume that the liquid fuel stove is not the best fit for an ultralight solo backpacker. However, if you can distribute the weight among a bigger group, you would find that the liquid fuel stove is actually lighter when compared to other stove types because of the lighter weight of the fuel ( typically around 1.5 to 2 ounces per person per day) you have to carry.

In summary, check the supported dimensions and weight of your stove before picking the best multi-fuel stove for your next outdoor excursion.

Additional features and miscellaneous considerations

In addition to the four major factors discussed above, there are some other miscellaneous considerations that can make a particular stove a preferable choice over other multi-fuel stoves.

One such consideration is the fuel bottle. Most high-end stoves listed above – Optimus and Primus stoves come with a fuel bottle. The Primus stove comes with a 0.6L fuel bottle while the Optimus Polaris stove comes with a 0.4L fuel bottle. The MSR stoves lag in this category as they do not come with a fuel bottle and you will have to purchase a bottle as per your preference.

Secondly, almost all stoves listed above come with a set of accessories – fuel pumps, foldable windscreen, multi-tool kit, lubricant and storage sack for easy operation, maintenance and transportation. The Optimus Polaris stove scores slightly better here as it also comes with a small cleaning needle that you can use even while the stove is in operation.

Finally, one of the most important additional consideration is the warranty offered on the stoves by the manufacturer. The longer the warranty period, the better durability of the stove it would be. Most of the high-end stoves – MSR, Primus and Optimus are backed by excellent limited lifetime warranty. People have found that MSR and Optimus stoves offer best maintenance service support.

You can look at all these features to determine if they make a specific liquid fuel stove a better choice for your needs.

Which are the best liquid fuel stoves and what our picks are?

Optimus Polaris Optifuel Stove – Editor’s pick for the best liquid fuel stove

best liquid fuel stove
Released in 2015, the Optimus Polaris Optifuel stove has setup a new benchmark in multi-fuel stoves with its unique innovative design that allows the stove to use a single nozzle to support all fuels that the stove supports. This Single Jet technology is definitely a game changer in favor of this stove.

The Polaris supports almost all standard fuel types except alcohol – canister Isobutane, white gas, kerosene, unleaded gasoline or even diesel and has a small fuel pipe with a jet stream nozzle that manages the flow of all such fuels to the stove.

The Polaris Optifuel stove comes with a self-cleaning Flipstop technology that allows you to easily clean the stove and remove any built up soot by flipping and shaking the stove. It even comes with a cleaning needle to manage smooth flow while cooking.

The stove offers full flame control with an additional simmer control regulator – another major benefit over the MSR Whisperlite stove.

The Optimus Polaris stove has a wide base with a unique cylindrical design with the arms tightly coupled to form a compact cylinder when folded. The stove comes with all accessories included – a 0.4L (10 oz.) fuel bottle, wrench/multi-tool, heat reflector, windshield and a storage sack. Moreover, the pack includes a foldable canister stand to use with Isobutane canisters.

Like all Optimus stoves, the Polaris is backed by a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturing defect and a proactive sales and service support team.

The only issue you may have with this stove is its weight. At 17 oz. it is about 3 ounces heavier than the MSR Whisperlite and costs about 30 bucks more. But with the nozzle change free usage, superior flame control, efficient cooking and compact design, the Optimus Polaris Omnifuel stove is a true all-rounder.

For its excellent innovative design superior simmer control and decent performance, the Optimus Polaris Optifuel stove is our Editor’s choice for the best liquid fuel stove for backpacking. If you want a reliable versatile cooking system and are not too fussy about the additional weight, then you should definitely consider getting one for your next outdoor trip.
  • Can support all liquid fuels and Isobutane canisters without the need of changing the nozzle, thanks to the innovative Single Jet technology.
  • Best in class simmer control regulator for super-efficient flame control.
  • Easy to clean as it features a self-cleaning Flipstop technology and comes with a cleaning needle.
  • Comes with all accessories, including a fuel bottle and canister stand.
  • Backed by limited lifetime warranty.
  • Costlier than some other models, especially MSR Whisperlite.
  • Heavier by about 2.5 ounces when compared to other liquid fuel stoves.

MSR WhisperLite Universal – Best value pick for liquid fuel stove

best liquid fuel stove
The MSR WhisperLite is probably the most popular liquid fuel stove series in the market and the MSR WhisperLite Universal is the top model of the series, which offers an excellent value-for-money performance.

This most versatile and popular, made in the USA multi-fuel stove supports most types of fuels that the Optimus Polaris stove does, barring diesel. What that means is that the MSR Whisperlite Universal supports Isobutane canisters, white gas, kerosene and unleaded gasoline. If you do not really need the canister fuel support, you can easily opt for around 30 dollars cheaper MSR Whisperlite standard model. A canister stand is also included with the package to use with Isobutane canisters. But unlike the Optimus Polaris, you would have to change the nozzles with different fuel types (gas, liquid fuel or kerosene).

The Whisperlite Universal stove offers great performance with all fuel types. The secret is a unique patent-pending technology developed by MSR that delivers great performance with all compatible fuels. Moreover, like all other MSR liquid fuel stoves, it features a “Shaker Jet” technology for fast cleanup after use.
Each MSR Whisperlite Universal stove comes with a windscreen, heat reflector, small-parts kit, and a stuff sack for easy transportation. It also has a canister stand to support Isobutane canisters.

Each MSR Whisperlite Universal stove is backed by limited lifetime warranty.

The major drawback you would find with this stove is the limited flame control that the stove offers. You largely get either a low simmer flame or a super-hot full power flame. This is a bummer if you are looking to use this stove for preparing exotic dishes, but for boiling water, melting ice or cooking standard meals, this should not be much of a problem.

For its great value-for-money, great design and reasonable performance the MSR WhisperLite Universal is our value pick for the best liquid fuel stove for backpacking and camping. If you are looking a reasonably economical option, you can consider getting one for your trip.
  • Cheaper, lighter multi-fuel supporting stove with great performance. Even has a cheaper Whisperlite version that supports only liquid fuels but costs 30 dollars less.
  • Features a unique patent-pending technology that delivers great performance with all compatible fuels.
  • In additions features Shaker Jet technology to reduce soot build up and simplify stove maintenance.
  • Comes with a windscreen, heat reflector, small-parts kit, and a stuff sack for easy transportation.
  • Backed by limited lifetime warranty
  • Very limited flame control.
  • Does not come with a fuel bottle, so you have to invest in one.

Accessories for liquid fuel stoves

MSR Annual Maintenance Kit for Liquid Fuel Camping Stoves

One of the primary accessories you have to look for a multi-fuel liquid stove is a safe, efficient fuel bottle which you can use to carry the liquid fuel safely and securely. Thankfully, most models listed above have their own branded refillable fuel bottles available in the market. These special fuel bottles provide a safer, secure way to carry your fuel and even have child locking systems. You can use these bottles interchangeably with stoves of other brands.

Since liquid stoves require clean up and maintenance, you would be best served by getting a maintenance kit for your stove. The standard maintenance kits for some specific liquid-fuel stove models are listed below:

Stove cookware

Stanley Adventure Camp Cook Set 24oz Stainless Steel

In addition to the accessories discussed above, you would need to get a cooking pot and pan set. As discussed in safety considerations below, it is advisable to use only recommended cookware for cooking on the stove. Most manufacturers have their own cookware pots and pans available. If you are looking for generic cookware, you can consider the following options:

Safety Considerations while using multi-fuel stoves

You should follow the following basic safety precautions while using a liquid-fuel stove:

  • Always ensure that you place the stove on concrete or rock or a cleaned up, stable ground surface. This will ensure that the stove is properly balanced while cooking.
  • Before lighting up, ensure that the fuel bottle is properly fitted to the pump, the valve is in proper position and there are no visible signs of leaks and damages to the stove, fuel line or the fuel bottle.
  • Always use recommended pots and pans of the correct size with the stoves. Overloading can lead to collapsing of the stove.
  • Always use recommended fuel types (Coleman Fuel or other recommended fuel types). Do not look at improvising and using non-standard fuel as that may be hazardous and also damage your stove.
  • Avoid using the stove in enclosed areas such as in your tent.
  • Do not touch the stove while it is in operation. Use heat resistant gloves if required. You can consider the following options, if required:
  • Always keep the fuel away from the reach of the children and dispose-off any discarded fuel bottles responsibly.

Final thoughts on best liquid-fuel stoves to buy in 2017

In this article, we looked at some of the best liquid fuel stoves for backpacking and camping that you can use for cooking your meal or boiling water. We looked at some most popular, well-designed, lightweight yet durable models available in the market. Liquid fuel stoves though have higher initial investment and require some experience before using properly, offer a versatile mechanism to cook food for long multi-day or large group trips. Moreover, the liquid-fuel is cheaper to use and lighter to carry around for a long trip.

In the article, we also looked at some of the factors to consider while picking the best multi-fuel stove for your needs. Finally, we looked at some standard accessories – fuel bottles, maintenance kits, and cookware etc. to consider for your cooking needs along with the stove.

We hope you found this article useful and it would help you in picking the best liquid fuel stove for your next outdoor trip. Do let us know how you found the article and if you would want us to consider anything else by commenting below. Until next time, have a great time during your camping or backpacking cookout!

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