Food tastes deliciously different when cooked over an open flame, and using fire to prepare a meal when you’re eating outside feels exciting. It’s not always possible, practical or safe to have a campfire, however, and even when you can light one, it takes some time to build the blaze, prepare the embers and get a grill, tripod or camp oven arranged over them. The best wood-burning stoves are designed so you can start cooking quickly, while retaining all the good bits about using natural materials as free fuel.
The best wood-burning stoves offer a very effective alternative to more traditional gas canister and liquid-fuel camping stove models. They are typically simpler in design, with just a few pieces to assemble, so there’s less to go wrong. You can cook meals at the campsite without worrying about running out of fuel, or a suffering a feast-ruining glitch with a stove rendered inoperable because of a broken fuel pump or lost gasket.
The following are some of the best wood-burning stoves in the world, with designs that that have originated from all around the planet – including the USA, Japan, India and Ireland. Some are intended for backpackers, travelling light, while others are for car camping adventures, but all are powered by the original fuel humans used to cook with: wood.
Patagonia Untethered wood-burning stove
Elegant design delivers heat for hungry backpackers
RRP: $99 (US) / £90 (UK) | Weight: 9.2oz /261g | Height (packed): 4.2in/10.5cm | Materials: Stainless steel | Extras: Stuff Sack
Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder, asked his team to create a simple, minimalist wood-burning stove. They responded with the Untethered: a three-piece stove that meets Patagonia’s self-imposed design instructions to ‘go simple and go deep’.
Untethered from gas canisters or liquid-fuel requirements, the stove functions efficiently with small pieces of wood, sticks and biomass. In terms of performance, it boils 1 liter of water in an average of 16 minutes.
Intuitive assembly is as simple as stacking together three components: a base with a raised wire grate for the fuel, a cone to contain the flames and a cap that holds a pot in place securely. Constructed of stainless steel, heat will discolor the metal over time and add a patina that inspires storytelling. It is a little tricky to keep the stove fuelled while cooking, as the space between the pot and the stove to wedge more pieces of wood into. This is a simple system, with no bells and whistles or features for doing things like simmering, but this will suit some people perfectly.
TOAKS Titanium Backpacking Wood Burning Stove
Simple, lightweight, award-winning design
RRP: Small $55 (US) / £45 (UK); Large $65 (US) / £55 (UK) | Weight: Small 5.2/150g; Large 7.9oz/225g | Dimensions (packed): Small height 3.75in/9.4cm, diameter 3.75in/9.4cm; Large height 4.2in/10.7cm , diameter 4.2in/10.7cm | Materials: Titanium | Extras: Stuff sack
This featherweight three-piece wood-burning stove assembles to create a layered inferno of efficient heat. Two air intakes at the top and bottom of the stove enhance combustion efficiency. Stacking sticks and twigs vertically in the stove delivers heat to boil water for early morning coffee or an end of the day meal in a few minutes.
The gray matte surface reinforces a message of quality and durability. The rolled edge on the top section of the stove that helps to support a small pot shows the designers attention to the smallest details. Offered in two sizes, both models can be nested together in pots and stored in sturdy stuff sacks. For a minimalist backpacker, this rugged stove will last a lifetime.
Solo Stove Campfire
An efficient stove, with a unique double wall design that enhances combustion
RRP: $150 (US) / £145 (UK) | Weight: 2.2lb /1kg | Dimensions (packed): height 6.7in/17cm, diameter 7in/17.5cm | Materials: Stainless steel, with nichrome wire grate | Extras: Integrated heat shield
In addition to burning wood, this smart stove removes the smoke that brings tears to your eyes with most campfires. Pulling air from the bottom of the stove and through double wall channels, before feeding the air back into the firebox for a second round of combustion, reduces smoke and burns fuel very effectively. The campfire will boil a liter of water in 2 to 4 minutes.
An integrated heat shield separates the stove’s heat from the ground below, preventing burned or scorched grass and earth. While heavier than other wood-burning stoves designed for one to two people, the Solo Campfire is definitely well-suited for car campers who may not be as weight conscious.
BioLite Fire Pit
Grill first, campfire second, energy generator third. Invite your friends for a flaming good evening with this high-tech set up
RRP: $250 (US) / £270 (UK) | Weight: 19.8lb/9kg | Dimensions in use (LxWxH): 27 x 13 x 15.8in/68.5 x 33 x 40cm | Height (packed): 10.5in/26.7cm | Materials: X-ray mesh | Extras: Free Bluetooth app
The recipe for a campfire hasn’t changed in thousands of years. Mix fuel, spark and oxygen, then sit back and relax. BioLite’s Fire Pit adds modern technology to make that process more efficient. A manual or Bluetooth enabled app controls a four-speed fan that pushes oxygen through 51 air jets to promote combustion. Push a button to bring the fan speed back down. In addition, as energy is created, the USB unit/cable can be used to charge electronic gadgets, including your phone.
Better suited as a hibachi style grill, the mesh sides offer a glimpse of the fires glow, but the view isn’t as mesmerizing as an open fire. Boasting that the Fire Pit removes campfire smoke is a bit optimistic. The type and size of the wood used, placement in the pit and size of the coal bed all influence the presence of smoke.
Primus Kamoto Open Fire Pit
A portable design that takes just a minute to unfold and put into use to cook up a storm
RRP: Small $150 (US) / £155 (UK); Large $160 (US) / £177 (UK) | Weight: small 13.9lb/6.3kg; large 15.4lb/7kg | Dimensions (L x W): small 20.8 x 15.3 / 53 x 39; large 25.5 x 18.5in/65 x 47cm | Height (folded): 2.4in/6cm | Height (assembled): 12.8in/32.5cm | Materials: Powder-coated steel
Primus has been building stoves since 1892. Early models accompanied famed explorers to the South Pole and Mount Everest base camp. The Kamoto is designed for more modern adventures. Part portable campfire, part mobile cooking platform, this stove serves both purposes well. Transported flat, the legs scissor open above an ashtray. Once started, lightweight wind panels on the sides protect the flames. Supported by the sturdy legs, a grill at the top provides a convenient cooking surface to serve up a proper feed to your friends.
Available in two sizes, neither or which are suitable for backpacking, the Kamoto is best for canoe trips, car camping, garden cooking or a celebration at the beach. Constructed of stainless steel and powder coated steel, this is a rugged, durable, easy to use, modern portable campfire.
Snow Peak Takibi Fire & Grill
This classy grill design turns you into a campfire gourmet chef
RRP: $320 (US) / £343 (UK) | Weight: 31.5lb /10.6kg | Materials: Stainless steel | Dimensions in use (L x W x H): 17.75 x 17.75 x 13in /45 x 45 x 33cm | Dimensions folded (L x W x H): 22 x 25 x 6in/56 x 63.5 x 15cm | Extras: Grill net, grill bridge, baseplate and carrying case
Although the Takibi (which means bonfire in Japanese) is the heaviest of the wood-burning firepits in our guide, any concerns about weight disappear quickly once you start to use this lovely looking wood-burning cooking system. When pulled out of its rugged canvas bag, the folded unit is a collection of stainless steel curved rods and flat panels. Like a piece of stainless steel origami, however, the Takibi unfolds simply and is ready to go in seconds.
The rugged unit is sturdy, balanced and the pit holds enough wood to last a long conversation. Holes cut into the flat panels add oxygen for rapid combustion. The included grill bridge has three height settings, to help you match grill heat to your camp menu. Adding more fuel is as easy as lifting the grill and inserting more wood, and the whole thing sits on a black tray to catch ash from above. Be careful, though, surfaces get very hot.
Kelly Kettle Scout Kettle (1.2L) & Hobo Stove
Ingenious lightweight water-heating and cooking set-up that you can use almost anywhere using just free, readily available natural fuel
RRP: $76 (Stainless steel kettle); $68 (aluminium kettle) + $15 Hobo stove (US) / £54 (Stainless steel kettle); £52.50 (aluminium kettle) + £10.50 Hobo stove (UK); | Weight: 1kg/35.3oz (Stainless steel kettle); 700g/25oz (aluminium kettle) + 160g/5.6oz (stove) | Capacity: kettle boils 1.2L/41 fl oz liquids | Packed dimensions (H x W): 26.5 x 15.5cm/10.4 x 7.3in | Materials: Stainless steel/ Anodised aluminium | Extras: Whistle, fire base & drawstring carrying bag
This water-heating and cooking system is made and shipped worldwide by a family run company, born and based on the west coast of Ireland, where it is very popular with campers, amblers and anglers. The beauty of the system lies in its stripped-back simplicity: grab some kindle (twigs, sticks pinecones, even dried animal dung) light a blaze in the well-aerated stainless-steel fire base, stick the kettle or stove on top and feed the flames through the hole in the middle. In just a few minutes you will have boiling water or embers fit for frying food on, and the kettle/stove acts as a windbreak. Available in anodised aluminium or stainless steel versions, the kettle is cylindrical in design (with the fire in the middle), so it’s large for the payload delivered (1.2L water), but the nifty set packs into itself, Russian Doll style, and fits tidily into a carry bag. It’s also available in smaller (Trekker, 0.6L capacity) and larger (Base Camp, 1.6L capacity) iterations. Note: in older versions, the kettle has an orange stopper instead of a green whistle, and if you have this version it’s imperative you remove the plug before placing on the heat.
Single Wood-burning Prakti stove
Brilliant streetfood-style portable barbecue, which is reasonably priced, highly durable and easy to use
RRP: £85 (UK) | Weight: 176oz /5kg | Dimensions: 26 x 26 x 28cm / 10.2 x 10.2 x 11in | Extras: Heavy-duty cinder tray
In cities and towns all over India, where the Pratki stove was purposely developed to empower people to start streetfood businesses and to cut down on damaging levels of smoke from other less-efficient designs, these cool cooking cubes feed thousands of people every day. (With its origins as a social enterprise, Prakti has consulted with agencies such as the World Food Programme in countries around the developing world.) Now, via the Charcoal Burner Company, you too can use it as a grab-and-go option for barbecues and picnics at the campsite or beach, or even just in the garden. Obviously it’s too bulky for backpackers, but car campers, festival folk and beach/backyard barbecuers will love it. Operation is simple: light a fire in the belly of the beast, using any form of burnable biomass (grass, sticks, cones, animal dung), and within 4 minutes you can begin flame-grilling food or cooking in a pot. The stove claims to be virtually smokeless, but that depends on the fuel used. A heavy-duty cinder tray allows you to maintain airflow. Different size options of this stove are also available, including the lighter Rocket, the large Double Burner and the enormous Orca.
What to look for when buying the best wood-burning stove
Different people turn to alfresco cooking systems for different reasons – from boiling water and rehydrating lightweight food packages during wilderness backpacking adventures through to flame-grilling major meals on big family camping escapades. But once you've decided a wood-burning stove is what you want – check out our guide to choosing the right camping stove for you – here are a few important considerations to bear in mind.
What is a wood-burning stove? There are essentially two types. The first is designed for backpackers using a single stove to cook meals. Wood-burning backpacking stoves are usually constructed with featherweight titanium or rugged stainless steel and come with just a few parts to put together. Once a stash of small pieces of wood, sticks and twigs has been collected, boiling water in a small pot balanced on the top of the stove is a straightforward operation.
The second type of stove is much larger and more appropriate for small groups of people in a car camping or picnic scenario. Much heavier than backpacking models, these fire pits usually come with grills to support cooking a much wider variety of foods – they are basically portable barbecues. The portable fire pit style camping stoves burn much larger pieces of wood, requiring less foraging for sticks and twigs. Most fire pits also work with charcoal briquets as a fuel source. After cooking is finished, the fire pit style wood-burning camping stoves can serve as a portable campfire for sitting around chatting to friends deep into the night.
You can learn how to use a wood-burning stove with our handy guide.
For obvious reasons, the best wood-burning stoves for backpacking are usually very lightweight. Often sold in combination with a nested pot and stuff sack, these stoves can be much lighter than traditional canister and liquid fuel stoves, and of course you don’t need to carry fuel.
On the other hand, wood-burning fire pit style stoves are heavy and require larger, sturdier carrying bags. These are great for car camping escapades.
The best wood-burning stoves are generally constructed from titanium, stainless steel, chromed stainless steel or anodised aluminium.
Backpacking stoves focus on the lightest construction materials and use just a few pieces to create a cooking platform. Larger firepit models come with more complicated construction instructions, more pieces and a range of construction materials.
Under certain conditions it’s possible for some pieces of wood-burning camping stoves to discolor from high heat, and if left outside some parts can rust. Many of the best wood-burning stoves come with lifetime warranties.
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