Feature | Canister Stoves VS Liquid Fuel “Bottle” Stoves

By: Bill Szabo

My personal MSR Pocket Rocket on left MSR Whisper Lite International on right

So I have seen a lot of debate out there on which stove is best for backpacking. Well I’m going to throw my two cents in and explain why I use each. I own two different backpacking stoves, the MSR Whisper Lite International and the MSR Pocket Rocket. When I first started backpacking, the go-to stove was the Whisper Lite and I trusted the salesman helping me. The things I like about this stove are that it will burn a myriad of fuels from white gas (camp fuel) to kerosene to jet fuel. This stove will burn hot and is great if you are traveling and won’t have access to stores to buy canister fuel. The Whisper Lite will also burn in cold weather and the fuel bottles last longer. Another bonus is that you can refill the bottles with whatever fuel you have or come across. Now for the drawbacks, first is that it weighs a little more than a canister stove and second is that lighting it can be a little tricky until you get used to it.

So now let’s talk about canister stoves, in particular the MSR Pocket Rocket. I happened to have found it on clearance at Meijer so I jumped on it. I first saw this from a friend of mine and loved how easy it works. Having to try it out, I took mine for an overnight backpacking trip this past weekend and it worked great. Very light weight, easy to assemble, and easy to light. So here are the drawbacks to using this kind of stove in my opinion. First off, there are the canisters which aren’t found in every store and in some countries, if you are internationally traveling, don't even exist there. There is also the fact that once it’s empty, you have to carry the empty container until you can properly dispose of it. Speaking of disposing it, it would be nice if the manufacturers would refill them to lessen the impact on the landfill. The other problem that seems to plague these is that they do not work as well in cold weather as well as the bottle style.

In essence for short trips, these canister style ones work awesome! I’ll be using mine for day hikes if I want to have a warm meal or for a 1-2 night trip. If you are going to do a more extensive hike I personally would use a bottle style stove, especially if you are going international. For the winter campers, I have heard of people sleeping with a canister in their sleeping bag to keep it warm but I have not personally used one in the snow, just heard from fellow outdoorsmen about their headaches with them.