Last Updated on 27/08/2023
Are Non-Gas Camping Stoves Better Than Gas Stoves?
In this guide to the best non-gas camping stoves, we share the reasons why they are better than gas-powered stoves and also the downsides. You will learn which stoves are best for different fuels and which can burn multiple fuels as opposed to just one. We also recommend 9 of the best stoves that don’t use gas fuel.
There are many reasons to prefer a non-gas camping stove or a stove that uses gas, along with other options for fuel. They can range from reducing the weight of gas canisters on a longer expedition to requiring a larger heating element for bigger groups or winter and high-elevation adventures where gas can be an issue.
We have reviewed a wide range of camping stoves. Some of them use many different fuels, including gas, and are aimed to be flexible and allow you to use whatever you have available, like wood, kerosene, or gasoline. Others are larger and fuel-specific, which will allow cooking for a larger group much easier, while some are designed for ultra-lightweight trekking.
While researching non-gas stoves for camping, we looked at things like how hot the stove can get, how long the fuels last, how they perform in the wind, and what types of food can be cooked. Finally, we will answer some frequently asked questions and take an in-depth look at what’s important when purchasing a non-gas-burning camping stove to take all the guesswork out.
The 9 Best Non-Gas Camping Stoves
MSR XGK-EX Multi-Fuel Mountaineering Expedition Stove
- WEIGHT: 375 g / 13.2 oz
- MATERIAL: Aluminum
- FUEL TYPE: White gas, kerosene, unleaded auto fuel, diesel, and jet fuel
The MSR XGK-EX Multi-Fuel Mountaineering Expedition Stove is a little beast of a cooking stove and has been trusted by expeditions all over the world as a stove that will perform under the most extreme conditions. It has been designed to be easy to use, very reliable in almost any weather, and can cook a range of foods.
The MSR XGK-EX uses liquid fuels such as aviation gas, kerosene, or gasoline that you are required to fill into the bottle supplied. Once the bottle is connected to the stove, you can fire it up and get cooking. It has retractable legs, so it’s very stable on the ground and can hold quite large pots or cooking containers. It burns hot and fast when turned on, and even the strongest wind won’t affect it too much, but it works best in a sheltered location.
VERDICT: This is probably the best non-gas cooking stove for extreme conditions. You can purchase it anywhere, and it has been proven time and again on expeditions all over the globe. It does run hot, so it’s not the best for simmering foods or slow-cooking a stew for a group. It’s great at getting water very hot very fast and therefore is best for beverages, dehydrated food, or instant noodles.
Trangia 27 Cookset
- WEIGHT: 825 g / 1.82 lbs
- MATERIAL: Aluminum alloy
- FUEL TYPE: Methylated Spirits or denatured alcohol
The Trangia 27 Cookset uses alcohol as its fuel and is hands down the best alcohol camping stove on the market. It is made in Sweden and has been around for decades now without seeing any design changes at all. You can get it in a non-stick version as well as hard-anodized aluminum, which is even more lightweight.
It comes with a stove, two saucepans, one frying pan/lid, a kettle for boiling water, and the windbreak that also holds the burner. The saucepans have been designed so that they can stack on top of each other to have two pans cooking at once, allowing you to cook pasta and its sauce separately but simultaneously.
You fill the small stove with either methylated spirits or denatured alcohol, which will burn for around 25-30 minutes. So one small bottle of fuel lasts for a long time, and the best thing is you can measure it out on the bottle using a marker pen and see how much is left.
VERDICT: The 27 Cookset from Trangia is ideal for camping without gas canisters and is very cheap and reliable to run in all conditions. You get a nice hot burn that will boil water in under 10 minutes, and the base is very sturdy, even on uneven ground. If you want a non-gas camping stove that runs on alcohol and meth spirits, then this is the number one set we recommend.
Firebox Ultralight Titanium Nano Stove G2
- WEIGHT: 113 g / 4 oz
- MATERIAL: Titanium
- FUEL TYPE: Wood, alcohol, gas, hexamine, or liquid fuels and gel
The Firebox Ultralight titanium nano is the best multi fuel camping stove on the market. It is small and lightweight but can provide a great cooking hob for pots and pans to be used on. What makes it so good is the fact that it folds away so small and weighs practically nothing that you can take it everywhere you go.
Essentially the stove is a small fold-out stand made from titanium for durability that sits on its open carry case and can utilize a range of fuels, including wood, alcohol, gas, hexamine, or liquid fuel. While some fuels may require additional parts, like a metal tub for holding alcohol, you can quickly and easily use small pieces of wood, which are usually abundant.
VERDICT: While you won’t be cooking pasta and the sauce at the same time, the Firebox Ultralight is a perfect little stove for a one or two-person meal or to boil water. It’s so lightweight that it’s great to carry while hiking on long remote treks, and its fuel flexibility will allow you not to have to carry in a large supply of alcohol or gas either.
Esbit Medium Pocket Stove
- WEIGHT: 28 g / 1 oz
- MATERIAL: Steel alloy
- FUEL TYPE: Wood or hexamine fuel blocks
When it comes to a lightweight, easy-to-use stove that is also very budget-friendly, look no further than the Esbit Medium Pocket Stove. This is a slightly more refined version of the military pocket stoves used all over the world. It uses solid fuel (hexamine or other types) that can be stored inside the stove when not in use, it is quick and easy to use, and the fuel will light even when wet.
The flame is small and intense and will boil water quickly while being discrete and blue, smokeless, and not signaling to the world you are cooking or that you are even there.
It’s a simple fold-out design that raises the burner section off the ground while also providing a solid frame to place your pot, pan, or tin for cooking. It is the best-value non-gas stove for camping on the market and the lightest and easiest stove out there.
VERDICT: The Esbit Medium Pocket Stove can be used by anyone, whether hiking, car camping, or sitting by a river; this value-for-money stove will always work for you. Its best uses are boiling water in a small pan, heating tins of food, or simmering a stew all easily, quickly, and quietly.
Bushbox XL Titanium
- WEIGHT: 490 g / 17.28 oz
- MATERIAL: Titanium
- FUEL TYPE: Wood, alcohol burner, charcoal, or solid fuels
While there are times a small pocket stove will do the trick, there are others when you need something a little more substantial. The Bushbox XL Titanium is the best flat pack style of camping stove for larger groups as it will accommodate larger pans than almost any other stove.
The Bushbox comes in a pouch that is flat and easy to store out of the way. It is set up fairly quickly, with a few parts sliding into each other to produce a sturdy square stove to cook on. It has slots for a grill plate on top, along with non-stick integrated hinges, side trivet slots as well as grates for differing fuels. It can use wood, alcohol, charcoal, or solid fuels, and it is larger than other models too.
VERDICT: The Bushbox XL is very durable, made from titanium, and will last a long time. While it can be carried on a hike, its best use is at a stationary camp where grilling meat for a group or cooking up a large stir-fry on a frying pan can do easily. While not on the budget side of things, the Bushbox does a great job at being flexible and will allow you to cook for groups or families easily almost anywhere with a simple setup and flexible cooking options.
Marsh Kettles Flat Pack Mini Rocket Stove
- WEIGHT: 2.72 kg / 6 lbs
- MATERIAL: Alloy
- FUEL TYPE: Wood, charcoal
Rocket stoves and especially flat pack rocket stoves, are a great way to utilize a wood fire and concentrate the heat for cooking, and the Marsh Kettles Flat Pack Mini Rocket Stove is one of the best non-gas camping stoves on the market. Like the Nano and Bushbox, the Mini Rocket comes in a case that is flat with all parts for easy carriage and storage, but the setup before use is a little more complicated but will result in a larger, hotter flame.
The Marsh Kettles Mini Rocket does come with many more parts than the simple box design. However, it is also a larger camping stove and therefore can cook larger meals. The way the rocket stove is set up allows you to utilize wood found nearby, and it’s placed in a gravity-fed burner which is mixed with already heated and recycled air to create an intense heat capable of cooking small things fast or larger foods over time.
CONCLUSION: The Mini Rocket by Marsh Kettles is on the smaller side of rockets stoves. However, compared to other stoves on this list – it comes in much heavier and bulkier. You can carry this stove while hiking as it is very capable of feeding a group. However, its best use would be when driving right to the campsite.
Due to its high heat, you can cook a lot of food quite quickly, or you can use a larger pot to create a mega camp stew for everyone. This is a great stove for group cooking or heating water for everyone’s morning coffee.
Lixada Titanium Alcohol Stove
- WEIGHT: 45 g / 1.6 oz
- MATERIAL: Titanium
- FUEL TYPE: Methylated Spirits or denatured alcohol
Sometimes simplicity is the best, and the Lixada Titanium Alcohol Stove and Rack Combo set is close to as simple as they come. This camping stove is simply a small round-tub container for holding alcohol fuel with a support cross-beam for holding pots and pans. It’s very affordable for a quality titanium camp stove, too, giving it some long-lasting durability.
Consisting of a burner and a cross stand, this little stove is lightweight and extremely quick to set up and while alcohol is the main fuel, it can also utilize hexamine or solid fuel tablets, making this one of the best lightweight non-gas camping stoves on the market. The design is very similar to the burner on the Trangia set, but it doesn’t come with any extras or even a stand.
VERDICT: This is a small non-gas camping stove that is designed for heating small things. It’s a great addition for any hiking adventures, and it’s great at heating some water for tea or coffee or a small pot for a couple cooking a stew. It’s not great for larger groups as a primary stove, but it’s small, lightweight, and reliable enough to carry with you almost anywhere.
Optimus Svea 8016279 White Gas Stove
- WEIGHT: 130 g / 4.6 oz
- MATERIAL: Brass / Aluminium
- FUEL TYPE: White Gas
The Optimus Svea 8016279 is a camping stove with a specific purpose – reliable cooking at high altitudes in any conditions whilst being extremely lightweight. The Optimus Svea is a slick-looking camping stove that utilizes liquid fuels such as gasoline or kerosene and, as such, can burn and cook in low-oxygen environments.
The Optimus Svea is a compact, solid brass stove with no loose parts or any need to assemble before use. It uses a self-pressurized tank, much like the MSR XGK-EX, to ensure the fuel system remains working regardless of where you are or how high up you are.
Much like the Trangia stove, this design has been around for decades and is tried and tested for ultimate reliability. It uses white gas, and the flame can be controlled so that you can cook things without burning them to the base of your pan.
VERDICT: The Optimus Svea 8016270 is the camping stove that you would then take onward to the summit. It’s small and compact, and its best use are boiling water for use in dehydrated foods at altitude. It’s a cool-looking little stove that is also useful in any camping situation, especially when you need a morning coffee quickly and reliably.
REDCAMP Mini Alcohol Stove
- WEIGHT: 145 g / 5 oz
- MATERIAL: Brass / Aluminum Alloy
- FUEL TYPE: Methylated Spirits or denatured alcohol
When it comes to simplicity, we have another non-gas camping stove vying for the top spot, and that’s the REDCAMP Mini Alcohol Stove. Like the Lixada, the REDCAMP is essentially a central burner that holds alcohol, surrounded by a stand for holding pots and pans.
The stands for holding your pot also double up as some limited wind protection and also comes with a foldable handle that you can use for temperature control – giving you a little more flexibility with your cooking options. It also has small holes around the base to increase airflow and assist with combustion and ensure you have regulated heat.
VERDICT: Like the Lixada, the REDCAMP is a small burner designed to heat water or cook smaller dishes. By itself, you won’t be able to feed more than two people at a time, but it works perfectly for small pots or heating water. It’s designed for hiking use but it can be used anywhere at any time you need a non-gas stove: on a mountain, by a beach, or sitting with a fishing rod watching a river flow by.
What Are the Different Types of Non-Gas Camping Stoves?
A wide variety of fuels available either to buy or to forage allows for a wide variety of cooker and stove designs. Many stove fuels and designs are for certain conditions – like altitude, for small uses – like boiling water for coffee, or for being a campsite workhorse – keeping a whole campsite fed every meal. There are always pros and cons to each design or fuel usage that we will look into in a little more detail:
Alcohol or White Spirit Burners
Alcohol or white burner stoves are simple stoves that utilize a small tub that holds the liquid fuel with a stand on top for holding a cooking pot. While the Lixada and REDCAMP models are designed with simplicity in mind, the Trangia set uses the same fuel setup for more complex cooking. These stoves are great in any conditions from summer to winter and are very easy to use and cook with.
Wood Burning Camping Stoves
These wood-burning stoves are usually designed completely differently from an alcohol stove, and they tend to be either a fold-out box with a fire in the middle like the Firebox Nano or the Bushbox XL, or they can be a ‘rocket’ style with a separate combustion chamber (that’s subsequently bulkier). Wood stoves tend to allow longer, slower cooking of larger pots and grilling of meats – so they are great for group meals or more comprehensive recipes.
Multi-Fuel Camping Stoves
Multi-fuel stoves are designed and used on long hikes, expeditions, or when you are moving through different climatic zones regularly. They can use a range of fuels from wood to solid tablets and even gasoline. Some, like the MSR XGK-EX or the Optimus Svea, are specifically designed to be used at altitude with a range of fuels that are placed inside a pressurized canister.
Others, like the Firebox Nano, can also utilize wood alongside these other fuels. These stoves are the most flexible for fuel, but with the exception of the Firebox Nano, they usually are designed to specifically heat water, so they are not always the best cooking platform for a complex meal.
Guide to the Best Non-Gas Stoves for Camping
Here are some of the most important features to look for in a camping stove that doesn’t just run on butane gas:
Wood Fueled Stoves
Wood can be found all over our planet, wherever there are trees. Old dryer wood is often already on the ground, so it can be quite easy to collect for fuel. Wood is the fuel of our ancestors and has allowed our societies to grow over time. Wood is renewable and generally free to use.
Some of the benefits of wood, apart from being readily available, is that when using wood, you can very easily control the temperature of your stove by limiting the amount of fuel being used. This allows more complex foods to be cooked up and eaten.
Wood is also great for from very small stoves to ranging campfires – so it has a flexibility that is hard to match. Different woods create different-smelling smoke, so if you are grilling or smoking meats, you are able to impart additional flavor through the use of wood.
There are some downsides with wood; not all trees are equal, and as such, burning times and temperatures can range quite a lot with wood. Conifer trees are soft and burn quickly with a lower heat compared to eucalyptus, which burns slowly and is very hot. Carrying wood can be an issue if it’s heavy and it is not available nearby.
Likewise, wood is not instant, it takes a little time to get it started and burned down to the level you want it for cooking. Overall, wood is a great resource for stoves and a great fuel for larger, more complex meals or group cooking.
Alcohol Fueled Stoves
Alcohol or white spirits are readily available cheaply in most supermarkets and stores. Alcohol lights easily and burns steadily, so you can have an instant flame ready to be cooking on within seconds. It doesn’t take a lot of fuel to heat a cup of water, so it’s quite efficient too.
You will have to carry spare alcohol fuel in a container, which is just fine if you are car camping, but if you are on a long extended hike, this could be an issue. Leaking fuel bottles are a rare occurrence, but it can happen and will certainly wreck your day if your backpack becomes fuel soaked. Overall, alcohol is a great instant style of fuel that is great for small stoves and small dishes and is very easy to use.
Aviation Gas, Gasoline, Kerosene Stoves
Multi-fuel expedition-type stoves are primarily designed to heat water at altitude or use a range of fuels on an expedition. Different fuels are placed in a pressurized container, hooked to the stove, and then used.
These fuels are great at being instantly hot and burning at a very high temperature, so again, boiling water is done quickly and easily. They are not very good and simmering foods or creating recipes due to this high heat issue.s
Solid Fuel Tablet Stoves
Some small non-gas camping stoves, like the Esbit Pocket stove, use a solid fuel tablet-like hexamine. These stoves are also used by militaries worldwide. The fuel lights easily and burns consistently with a very little visible flame. One tablet is enough to boil a cup of water or heat a tin of food. The upside is the absolute simplicity and low profile this fuel provides.
The downside is you need to carry quite a lot of tablets if you are hiking. But overall cheap, lightweight, and as simple as they come as you can even this fuel without a stove.
Sizes of Non-Gas Stoves
Like any piece of camping equipment, non-gas camping stoves come in a range of sizes and uses. Regardless of fuel types, the stoves themselves are usually designed to be either a one-pot burner or something you can either cook multiple things are once on or can use larger pots and pans.
Small, pocket-sized burners like the Esbit Pocket, REDCAMP, or Firebox Nano are mostly designed to heat a cup of water, a small pot, or a tin of food and therefore are either for personal use or for use by a couple.
Larger stoves like the Bushbox XL, the Marsh Kettles Mini Rocket, or the Trangia 27 cook set are all designed with bigger things in mind. They are better at a central campsite as opposed to long hiking trips and can provide adequate controllable heat to cook complex food and group meals.
Lightweight, smaller stoves are designed for hiking expeditions or quick and easy use. You will hardly even notice the minimal extra weight these stoves will add. Heavier stoves are usually bigger and designed for more complex cooking. You can also hike with these if you don’t mind some extra weight, but the heavier stoves come more into their own when the car or stationary camping.
Any stove, BBQ, or burner requires base stability to ensure it stays where you want it and doesn’t move around while cooking. Some of the smaller stoves, like the Lixada, can only take small pots and pans whilst remaining stable.
Larger stoves are inherently more stable as they have a wide base on the ground and can take heavier pots and pans, which enables more flexible cooking options.
At the end of the day, it’s all about eating good food or having a nice hot cup of coffee, and all the stoves on this list provide an adequate surface, either a cross-section, a square or round top, or fold-out legs to allow a pot to sit on top of the flame for cooking. You do have to ensure your pots or pans are not too big for the size of your burner, but you should be able to cook easily on a stable platform.
Why Do Some People Prefer Non-Gas Stoves?
Let’s discuss gas itself first. Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) or natural gas is a fantastic cooking fuel, which is why so many homes have gas running right to them. It’s cheap, it burns efficiently, and it’s instant. So why isn’t it great for camping? Well, it can, and it’s often great. However, it comes with limitations.
Gas bottles are very heavy, and gas canisters or bottles are heavy, so carrying this type of fuel can create extra weight. The canisters are all pressurized, so you have to buy them new and then carry empty ones out again with you. There is no re-supply or refill in the forest. Because of its weight and lack of flexibility – many people prefer a stove they can use easily to deal with alcohol or solid fuel that doesn’t require a pressurized connection or wood that is free rather than be stuck with only gas.
The best non-gas camping stoves provide flexibility that a gas camping stove does not, and the more time you spend out camping, or on longer hiking and camping trips, this becomes more and more important.
Are Solid Fuel Camping Stoves Any Good?
The simple answer is yes, with limitations. Solid fuel for camping stoves uses a fuel tablet-like hexamine to burn. They are limited to a single cup, small pot, or a tin of food per tablet used, but they are very reliable as solid fuels and will combust even when wet. As previously mentioned, this is a small, simple type of stove used by militaries to heat and eat food in tactical environments. The weight of the solid fuel is its biggest drawback.
What Is the Safest Camping Stove?
Anything that burns or heats up is never completely safe, and all the non-gas camping stoves on this list get very hot. The safest is likely the solid fuel Esbit Medium Pocket stove as the stove itself doesn’t heat up, only the solid fuel, and you can pack it away a minute or so after cooking. So unless you place your finger directly on the flame, you should be able to cook without burning yourself.
We hope you found this guide to the best non-gas camping stoves answered all of your questions. Thanks for reading.