Kevin Callan
Credit: Kevin Callan

What's the big deal about stick stoves?

They’re simple, dependable, environmentally friendly and, above all, genuine. These seven are the best of the lot:

Littlbug Stove 

LittlbugLittlbug

This is a stick stove that continually receives great reviews. It’s compact, but strong and stable enough to support large pots—even my cast-iron Dutch oven. (Perfect for kayak trips or winter hot-tenting excursions.) It is made of durable stainless steel and it’s of a very simple design. It forms a half-moon shape when stored away and fits around a sleeping bag stored in my pack. 

There’s no powered blower, but vent holes in the windscreen allow enough air circulation to keep the flames going strong. As an added bonus, much like other newer stick stoves, a Trangia alcohol stove nests perfectly inside the windscreen. Adding a second heat source takes away worries about a dearth of dry tinder. 

There’s a Senior Littlbug (538 grams) and Junior (141 grams). The Junior is for the lightweight backpacking crowd or solo paddler. The only downfall is its assembly process. It’s simple once you figure it out—but the initial setup is like figuring out a Rubik’s Cube for the first time. 

Firebox 

FireboxFirebox

I’m impressed with the amount of heat this stove puts out. The Firebox has good airflow and a pot of water reaches a boil just as quick, or even quicker, than on a regular gas stove. It packs away nicely and the size and design allows for various dimensions of pots to sit on top—it even comes with a grill so you can cook a juicy steak. A Trangia alcohol stove fits snug inside as well. 

There are a few disadvantages. The weight is a hefty 907 grams. This is fine for a canoe or kayak trip, but nearly one kilogram of stainless steel is a burden when backpacking. However, Firebox has just introduced a smaller and lighter version, weighing only about 170 grams. 

Emberlit FireAnt Stove

EmberlitEmberlit

If you’re looking for the lightest and most compact stick stove out there, this is it. Made of titanium, it comes in at only 80 grams. The entire stove packs flat, to the thickness of a piece of newsprint. Amazing! When put together, it measures just 9 x 13 cm. Surprisingly, it’s also steady. It consists of four walls and two accessories: a base plate and a small shelf. The shelf attaches to the upper portion of the stove and holds Esbit solid fuel tablets (esbit.de). The stove also comes equipped with slots that hold a Trangia alcohol stove. 

Kelly Kettle & Hobo Stove

Kelly KettleKelly Kettle

What sets the Kelly Kettle apart from all other stick stoves is its ingenious double-wall chimney. After lighting your debris (or any other combustible material) in the base plate, the flames are drawn upward through a fire chamber, reacting like a chimney draft. The H2O is stored in a water jacket that surrounds the chimney, which enables the stove to rapidly boil water, even in wet and windy weather conditions.

The Kelly Kettle has one disadvantage—it’s bulky (590 to 770 grams or more). An aluminum model can replace the standard stainless steel unit, to lighten things up. I pack the smaller Trekker model on most canoe trips and use the Base Camp model for trips when there will be less need for packing and portaging. The company released an addition last season—the Hobo Stove. With this model, a potholder is stored in the kettle’s base plate, adding versatility to this cook system.

VitalGrill Survival Stove

VitalgrillVitalgrill

This stove hit the market a dozen years ago or so. The original intent was to sell it to doomsday preppers, not to backwoods campers. However, campers gravitated more towards this stove than did Armageddon worshippers… and that’s a good thing.

The VitalGrill works on the same principle as most stick stoves. It burns any material found around the forest floor and uses that heat to cook a meal or boil a pot of water. It does separate itself from the crowd, however, with its battery-operated blower. 

Having a fan constantly feed the flames allows this stove to produce as much as 20,000 BTU, reaching 650 degrees Celsius. A mechanical shutter can adjust the airflow as well, making it hotter or cooler, just like a flu on a woodstove. The VitalGrill is heavy—weighing 740 grams—and if you run out of batteries you’ll end up carrying an ineffective and bulky fire box.

BioLite

BioliteBiolite

Like many of the stick stove designs out there, crowd-sourcing created the BioLite. And buyers loved it. The BioLite has all the advantages of a stick stove, plus an electric blower fan that is powered by the heat generated from burning fuel. Brilliant! It can even use (and store) excess energy to charge electronics, like your iPhone. 

The BioLite rang true to all the hype when it was introduced a few years back. It burns well, gets water boiling as fast as a gas stove and it creates its own energy. It’s not the lightest or smallest stove, however, at 972 grams and the size of a Nalgene waterbottle. Charging an iPhone also takes a lot of burn time. I boiled two litres of water and only gained a 10 per cent charge. 

180 Stove

180 Stove180 Stove

This is another robust stick stove. It’s a bit heavy, weighing 294 grams, but is still very compact. There are no moving parts, hinges or rivets. The large cooking surface (15 x 17 cm) is a real bonus. However, the biggest advantage over all the other designs is that the three sidewalls act as a windscreen and allow ample room to feed in fuel. 

 

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