Best solid-fuel stoves for backpacking and survival

best solid fuel stoves for camping

Whether you are backpacking, hiking, bicycling or just prepping for an emergency, you have to ensure that you have a compact, lightweight and easy to use mechanism to cook food or make a cup of coffee. A solid-fuel stove is just the kind of pocket stove for these situations.

Just like the alcohol stoves, solid-fuel stoves are minimalist, ultralight stoves for rehydrating frozen food or boiling water in the wilderness. And because of the smaller, lighter fuel tablets, these stoves are a perfect one or two-person cooking solution for hiking, cycling or other outdoor activities.

But which are the best solid-fuel stoves available in the market?

In this article, we share our picks for the best solid-fuel stoves available in the market. We would primarily focus on the ultralight pocket stoves that are suitable for one or two person trips. We will also look at some of the factors to consider while picking the best solid-fuel stoves for your needs and some accessories that can be used to improve the efficiency of these pocket stoves.

Also make sure you check out our article on the best stoves for camping and backpacking which discusses some other types of camping and backpacking stoves and the situations in which they are useful.

Best Solid-Fuel Stoves comparison list

Some of the best solid-fuel stoves available in the market are listed below:
PictureProductWeight (oz.)Features 

Esbit Ultralight Folding Pocket Stove3.25 oz.- Best-selling, German-made solid-fuel pocket stove with a galvanized steel body.
- Durable, ultralight and extremely compact. Self-contained with the fuel tablets.
- Two cooking positions suitable for cups, pots and pans.
- One tablet is ideal, but can take multiple fuel tablets at once.
- Comes with six 14g. Esbit fuel tablets, each can last up to 12 min. (6.3 oz. with fuel).
- Backed by a two-year manufacturer warranty.
- A bigger 7 oz. Esbit Large Solid Fuel Stove is also available.

Esbit Titanium Pocket Stove0.5 oz.- Minimalist, ultralight solid fuel stove made from titanium. Made in Germany.
- Has a tablet tray that can hold one fuel tablet with three pot support arms.
- Foldable to an ultra-compact 3.3" x 1.1" along its fuel tray.
- Comes with a mesh storage bag for easy carry.
- Backed by a two-year manufacturer warranty.
Bushbox Ultralight Pocket Stove2.5 oz.- Ultralight, made in Germany, solid fuel stove with a 0.3 mm stainless steel body.
- Supports multiple-fuels - Esbit tablets, gel fuel cans and Trangia burner.
- Supports three-different cooking positions for different fuel types. Included trivet supports larger pots.
- Compact and collapses to a flat body. Comes with a cotton carry bag for easy storage.
Survival Frog Pocket Stove3.8 oz.- Ultralight and compact solid-fuel stove made with aircraft-grade aluminum
- Works well with hexamine tablets and can take multiple at a time in the fuel tray.
- Packs small and self-contained with up to 6 fuel tablets fitting inside it.
- Comes with a neoprene drawstring bag and 18 fuel tablets.
- Backed by a 3-year manufacturer warranty.
UST Packit Pocket Stove3.5 oz.- Uniquely-designed solid-fuel stove with an aluminum alloy construction.
- Can work with solid-fuel tablets and Sterno cans, charcoal and wood pellets.
- Three-plates with two setup options that allow support for small or large pots.
- Collapsible to a completely flat storage. Comes with a carabiner for easy carry.
- Backed by a two-year manufacturer warranty.
Docooler Folding Solid Fuel Stove3.5 oz.- Lightweight, solid-fuel stove made of high-quality stainless steel.
- Four side-plates provide a natural windscreen to the fuel.
- Works well with fuel tablets or Trangia Spirit burners.
- Comes with an oxford carry bag for easy storage.
Sterno Solid Fuel Stove Kit12 oz.- Traditional multi-fuel stove kit from the 100-year old CA-based cooking stoves and supplies manufacturer.
- The kit has a stove frame, windscreen panels, cup and a metal spork. Heat-resistant paint coated, steel body. Total weight of around 2lbs.
- Supports multiple fuels - fuel tablets, Sterno Cans, Trangia burners, wood etc.
- Packs compact and self-contained.
- Competitively priced.
Coghlan's Folding Pocket Stove10 oz.- Budget solid-fuel stove that works well with Hexamine, Trioxane and Sterno cans.
- Compact, self-contained design with two cooking options to support small and large pots.
- 24-fuel tablets included with the stove.
- Also available in a Folding design for solid alcohol fuel.
- Backed by a one-year manufacturer warranty.

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

As the name suggests, a solid-fuel stove is a simple pocket stove which uses one or more types of solid tablets as fuel. These stoves are sometimes also known as multi-fuel pocket stoves, tablet stoves or ESBIT stoves (a name made famous by the global best-selling solid-fuel stove).

Just like the alcohol stoves, solid-fuel stoves are minimalist and ultralight – there are no fuel lines, valves or fancy burners. A solid fuel stove weighs around 3.5 ounces and with the pot and windscreen, the whole setup can be around 12-15 ounces for one or two persons.

Solid-fuel stoves were originally made popular by the armed forces around the world. French, British and US military are some of the first ones to commercialize this type of stove. Such stoves typically use Hexamine or Trioxane fuel tablets, though most of them also work with wood pellets, charcoal blocks and even Sterno alcohol cans and Trangia Spirit Burners.

Because of its ultralight weight and the relative abundance of the solid fuel tablets in the past couple of years, the solid-fuel stoves have become the new favorites of thru-hikers and ultralight backpackers. They are also suitable for cyclists and bug-out bags. for emergency preparedness.

Solid-fuel stoves have their fair share of limitations. Because of the fuel-type and design, these pocket stoves are suitable only for basic cooking – boiling water for rehydrating food. Moreover, irrespective of what the manufacturers say, solid fuel tablets do produce some smoke and a somewhat unpleasant odor. Furthermore, lack of air-flow can cause the soot to be deposited on the stove and pan and you would have to clean it up regularly or use an aluminum foil. Finally, they may not work at very high elevations.

Despite all these limitations, because of their compact design and light weight, solid-fuel stoves are quite popular among backpackers, thru-hikers, and cyclists. They also make an excellent backup cooking option for camping and emergency preparedness.

To summarize, the major pros and cons of solid-fuel stoves are listed below:

Pros
  • Ultralight stoves, simple design and easy to use.
  • Extremely compact and portable. Essentially pocket stoves.
  • Compact solid tablet fuel that lights up easily. No spilling of fuel.
  • The fuel tablets can be snuffed out and re-used again.
  • Unlike some other stoves, these stoves have a quiet operation with a clear blue flame.
  • Relatively inexpensive when compared to other stove types.
Cons
  • No flame control and slow cooking time.
  • Do not work too well in inclement weather conditions.
  • Most fuel tablets have an unpleasant odor and do produce some smoke.
  • Fuel-burning can produce residue (soot) on the pot and stove.
  • Fuel Tablets are costlier than other fuel types in long run.

As is evident from the discussion above, solid-fuel stoves are a decent option to consider for ultralight outdoor trips and bug-out bags. In the next sections, we will look at some of the factors to consider while picking the best solid-fuel stove and share our top picks.

How to pick the best solid-fuel stove for backpacking and survival?

Considering the fact that the solid-fuel stoves are one of the simplest and easy-to-use pocket stoves, picking the best solid-fuel for your needs is not that difficult a task. After all, there are only a handful of good-quality solid-fuel pocket stoves in the market.

Still, some of the major considerations to keep in mind while picking the best solid-fuel pocket stoves for your requirements are summarized below:

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

Building material of the stove

The building material of the stove is an important consideration while picking the best stove as it governs the durability and overall weight of the stove.

As discussed above, solid-fuel pocket stoves are popular because of their lighter weight and compact designs. In order to ensure safe operation without increasing the weight, most solid-fuel stoves are made from stainless or galvanized steel, anodized aluminum or ultralight titanium. Aluminum stoves vary considerably in weight depending upon the density of metal, but they are also reasonably durable, though not as much as steel or titanium stoves.

Steel and Aluminum stoves such as the Esbit Folding Pocket Stove are generally about 3 to 3.5 ounces, while the ultralight titanium stoves such as Esbit Titanium Pocket Stove weigh well under an ounce. Now that is truly ultralight! And with the windscreen, pot and cooking kit the whole setup can weigh under a pound.

If you are extremely weight conscious then pick the titanium stove. However, if you backpack only occasionally or are looking for a stove for your bug-out bag then pick a steel or aluminum, pocket stove because it is generally cheaper than the titanium ones.

Check the building material of the stove to determine the most suitable choice for your needs.

Design of the stove

One of the primary reasons that solid-fuel stoves are popular is the fact that they have a very simple and compact design. Still, some variations have emerged over the years to provide more versatility to such stoves.

Most of the design adaptations have been driven by the armed forces around the world. The most popular design is the box-type design as in the Esbit Folding Pocket Stove, which keeps the stove and fuel self-contained in itself. This design also supports multiple cooking positions from small cups to larger pots and pans and allows you to burn more than one fuel tablet at a time.

Another popular design in the three-plate design as followed in the Bushbox Ultralight Pocket Stove, which is also pretty versatile and allows support for multiple solid-fuel types and cooking positions.

Then we have the minimalist, triple-arm design with a fuel tray and three pot-support arms. This design is truly ultralight, though it does limit the number of fuel tablets that you can use at once to one or maximum two. Moreover, you have to be a little careful while using the stoves as this design is more prone to toppling.

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

Size and weight of the stove

Solid-fuel stoves are generally small and compact in size and small enough to fit in a pocket when not in use. Furthermore, as discussed above, most of the solid-fuel stoves are pretty lightweight. But because of light weight and smaller size, such stoves can support only smaller pots and pans – not more than 5-6 inch in diameter.

If weight is a big consideration for you than you can pick a Titanium stove such as the Esbit Titanium Pocket Stove, which weighs only 0.5 ounces.

In summary, check the stove size, supported cookware dimensions and weight of your stove before picking the best option.

Additional features and miscellaneous considerations

In addition to the major factors discussed above, there are some other miscellaneous considerations that can make a particular stove a preferable buy over other pocket stoves.

One such consideration is the accessories that come with the stove. Almost all the options that we listed include a set of solid-fuel tablets with them, the number of which varies from six to as many as eighteen. And because such stoves leave a sticky residue on the stove, having a carrying pouch or bag is also a great plus point.

Finally, one of the most important additional consideration is the warranty offered on the stoves by the manufacturer.  The longer the warranty period, the more durable the stove it would be.  Most of the Solid-fuel stoves that we listed are backed by some excellent multi-year warranties, so you can use such stoves for years without worrying about their durability.

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

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

Esbit Ultralight Folding Pocket Stove – Editor’s pick for the best solid-fuel stoveEsbit Ultralight Folding Pocket Stove with Six 14g Solid Fuel Tablets

ESBIT stove (short for Erich Schumm Brennstoff In Tabletten – Erich Schumm fuel in tablets) is the same for solid-fuel stoves as Trangia Brass Spirit Burner is for alcohol stoves. With a tradition older than 75 years (from 1936), German-made Esbit Solid-Fuel Stoves have been the best-selling solid fuel stoves in the market. Why else do you think, solid-fuel stoves are also sometimes referred to as ESBIT stoves?

The Esbit Folding pocket stove is a best-selling pocket fuel stove. It features an electrolytic galvanized steel body that is durable and rust-resistant. The box-type design allows the stove to be folded to a compact 3.9″ x 3″ x 0.9″ with the capacity to hold 12 fuel tablets within the box. The stove weighs a decent 3.25 oz. and with fuel tablets, the overall weight is around 6.3 oz.

The Esbit pocket stove offers two cooking positions – the semi-folded A-position for smaller cups and the open H-position for larger pots and pans. It is designed to take one 14g. Esbit tablet at one time (there are markings in the stove for placing the tablet), though you can also add a couple of additional tablets to the stove.

When it comes to cooking efficiency, the Esbit stove works like standard solid-fuel stoves. It can boil about half-liter of water in 8-10 minutes.  Cleaning is easy and you can wipe off the stove after use to remove any soot deposited on the fuel tray.

The only complaint you may have with this stove is that it does not come with a windscreen or carry bag so you would have to invest in these items if you want them.

The Esbit stove also offers a popular cookset combo with a pot, pot-stand, fuel tablets and mesh bag. And if you are looking for a bigger stove, you can consider getting the 7-ounce Esbit Large Solid Fuel Stove. And like other Esbit products, the Esbit pocket stove is backed by a two-year manufacturer warranty, so you can be sure of its quality and reliability in the field.

For its excellent design, superior quality and tradition the Esbit Solid Fuel Stove is our Editor’s pick for the best solid-fuel stove. If you are looking for a durable and reliable solid-fuel pocket stove, look no further than the Esbit stove.
Pros
  • Lightweight, German-made efficient solid fuel stove made with galvanized steel.
  • Compact and self-contained into a small box to carry in the pocket.
  • Two-cooking positions suitable for use with cups, pots and pans.
  • Comes with 6 fuel tablets. Combo and larger models also available.
  • Backed by a two-year manufacturer warranty.
Cons
  • Does not come with a windscreen or carry bag.
  • Heavier than other Aluminum or Titanium pocket stoves.

Esbit Titanium Pocket Stove – Editor’s pick for the best ultralight solid-fuel stoveEsbit 11.5g (0.4 Ounce) Ultralight Folding Titanium Stove for Use with Solid Fuel Tablets

If you are a thru-hiker, cyclist or an ultralight backpacker and looking for a featherweight solid-fuel stove then simply pick the popular Esbit Titanium Pocket Stove. This German-made ultralight stove looks really minimalist but does pack a punch.

Matching ultralight weight with efficiency, the Esbit Titanium stove is made with durable titanium and weighs only 0.5 ounces. Each stove has a tablet tray that can hold one 14g. fuel tablet with three pot support arms. The stove is foldable to an ultra-compact 3.3″ x 1.1″ along its fuel tray. A mesh carry bag is included with the stove for easy transportation.

The legs of the stove are designed to allow it to be used with various sizes of cups and pots; larger pots can rest on the top of the legs, and smaller cups can rest on the serrated edges.  Since the stove has an open, minimalist design, you would need to carry some type of windscreen for windy weathers.

The Esbit Titanium stove is backed by a two-year manufacturer warranty, though it is bound to last much longer.

For its weight, durability and efficient design, the Esbit Titanium Pocket Stove is our Editor’s pick for the best ultralight solid-fuel stove. This pocket stove is an excellent choice for survivalists and minimalist backpackers.
Pros
    Ultra-light, durable solid-fuel stove made with heat-resistant Titanium. Made in Germany.
  • Compact minimalist design that folds it down to 3.3″ x 1.1″ along its fuel tray.
  • Unique support arms can work with pots and pans of different sizes.
  • Comes with a mesh bag for storage.
  • Backed by a two-year manufacturer warranty.
Cons
  • Windscreen and fuel tablets are not included.

Solid-fuel stove Cookware

Esbit CS585HA 3-Piece Lightweight Camping Cook Set for Use with Solid Fuel Tablets

As discussed above, solid fuel stoves support all standard type of personal cups, pots and pans of the right size, which is generally lighter and smaller than standard camping stoves. Popular manufacturers such as Esbit offer their own line of stove cookware which works really well with their respective stoves. Still, you can check out the following options for pocket stove compatible cookware:

Solid-fuel stove Accessories

Esbit 1300-Degree Smokeless Solid 14g Fuel Tablets Backpacking, Camping Emergency Prep, 12 Pieces

The basic requirement for any stove is the fuel. Solid-fuel stoves use Hexamine or Trioxane tablets as their primary fuel. Some stoves even work well with wood pellets and Sterno cans. Solid-fuel tablets are not as readily available as other standard fuels such as denatured alcohol, so make sure you stock-up well before your trip. Some of the best solid-fuel tablets to use with these stoves are listed below:

Another commonly sought accessory with such pocket stoves is a lightweight, portable windscreen or windshield. These simple heat-resistant plates help in creating a barrier for wind and provide better fuel efficiency. As standard windscreen, you can look at Highrock Compact folding windscreen or Solo Aluminum Windscreen. However, if you are looking for a truly ultralight option, you can check out these paper-thin titanium windscreens. Just remember to be careful while using them as they have sharp edges:

Things to remember while using solid-fuel stoves

You should follow the following basic safety precautions while using a solid-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.
  • Though solid-fuel tablets are smokeless, avoid using such stoves in enclosed areas, unless you have proper ventilation. These tablets do produce a small amount of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Always use recommended fuel types for the stove. Do not look at improvising and using non-standard fuel as that may be hazardous and also damage your stove.
  • Always comply with local seasonal and permanent restrictions on such pocket stoves, if any. Some counties ban the use of such stoves in specific seasons. Avoid using the solid fuel stove around the bushes and dry leaves as even a small splinter can cause a brush-fire.
  • If you are using aluminum foil with your stove to minimize the soot-built up, make sure you dispose it off responsibly and carefully after use. Do not leave the foil out in the open as it is not good for the wildlife and the environment.
  • 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 containers responsibly.

Final thoughts on the best solid-fuel stoves for backpacking and survival

In this article, we looked at some of the best solid-fuel stoves available in the market for camping and backpacking.

Just like the alcohol stoves, these simple and compact pocket stoves are quite popular among ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers because of their light weight and small fuel size. They are also an excellent option for emergency preparedness and car and camping bug-out bags. Such stoves, are however suitable only for basic cooking such as boiling water and rehydrating packed food.

We also looked at some of the factors to consider while picking the best solid-fuel pocket stove for your needs and shared our top picks. Finally, we listed some of the best fuel tablets and cookware to go with these stoves.

We hope that you found this article useful and it would help you in picking the best pocket stove for your next outdoor trip. Do let us know your feedback by providing your comment through the form below. Until next time, enjoy your cookout in the wilderness!
 

Image credits:Amazon.com

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