Can you rely on a budget camping stove?

woman camping and using stove
We consider whether a budget camping stove is reliable (Image credit: Getty Images)

If you plan to go camping, a stove is likely to be on your essential kit list. Camping stoves come in a range of sizes, including single and double burner, and also prices. Some stoves include integrated cooking pots, others screw on to a small gas canister, while further types of stoves are standalone and have a hose that fits to a gas canister. 

Many people will question how much you need to spend on a camping stove for cooking outdoors. Our guide to the best camping stoves incudes stoves from $65/£55 for a SOTO Windmaster to the most expensive, which are both double burner stoves, the Primus Tupike Portable Stove and Jetboil Genesis Base Camp Stove at $280/£250. 

We take a closer look at the cost of camping stoves and whether a budget camping stove is reliable. 

Double burner camping stove on beach

What type of camping stove will you use the most? (Image credit: Getty Images)

Types of camping stoves

First let’s consider the different types of stoves and why they might have different prices.

Screw-in or integrated upright canister camping stoves

Screw-in or integrated upright canister camping stoves usually comprise a lightweight burner head that screws on to the top of a gas canister filled with different fuels, such as propane, butane or isobutane.

These types of stoves are often lightweight, packable and very easy to use, although they do not have the most powerful cooking flames and they do not usually have a wind shield.

All-in-one cooking system

An all-in-one cooking system stove comprises a simple burner head with a screw-in fitting for a gas canister, along with an integrated cooking pot. Because they fit together in one system, they are easy to pack. This type of cooking stove usually offers a fast boil and good fuel efficiency. 

Liquid fuel and multi-fuel camping stoves

These cooking stoves work with white gas, kerosene (a type of paraffin) or petrol. There are also multi-fuel stoves, such as the the MSR Whisperlite, that can run on all of these fuels. 

The pros of the liquid fuel stoves is they are usually very reliable and work well even in tough weather conditions. The negatives are that they can be heavy, bulky and require to be cleaned and maintained.  

Wood-fuelled camping stoves

These camping stoves, such as Solo Stove Lite, are fuelled by natural items, like twigs, pine cones and other small pieces of wood. While you won’t need to carry fuel with you, it does mean you need to be able to forage for natural fuel when you are camping. 

Spider camping stoves

These stoves look very simple and take the form of a burner on tripod legs and with a hose that attaches to a gas canister. 

They are usually fairly compact and lightweight so very packable, although some spiders are bigger and bulkier. They sit close to the ground when in use, which means they very stable and are less affected by wind, compared to other camping stoves. 

A few negatives of the spider camping stove is you need to carry pots separately and they are not always as fast as other stoves to boil water and heat food.

Alcohol camping stoves

These types of camping stoves run off non-pressurised denatured alcohol, in other words, methylated spirits or “meths”. The plus points are they  are usually cheap and reliable, but they do not normally have a power control and they can be slow to cook food or boil water. Many people find they guzzle fuel quicker than other cooking stoves.

Solid-fuel camping stoves

This type of camping stove uses solid fuel, which has the advantage being smokeless and energy efficient although it is also highly toxic to they must be used in very ventilated places if not outdoors. Solid fuel stoves were originally developed for use by the military. The stoves are lightweight and simple to use so they are very packable for wild camping trips. 

flame of a stove

Price is not the only consideration when choosing a new camping stove (Image credit: Getty Images)

Double-burner camping stoves

Double-burner stoves are bigger and bulkier and usually fuelled by attachment, via a hose, to larger butane (or propane-butane) canisters or refillable gas bottles. 

The advantage of these stoves they are great for catering for more people on a campsite. Cooking is very similar to cooking on a hob at home, too. The disadvantage of these types of double burners is they are heavy and bulky so you would not want to carry them too far. 

Having take a closer look at different types of stoves, let’s consider why some stoves are more expensive than others and whether campers can rely on budget camping stoves.

couple on beach cooking on camping stove

There are different types, styles and features to consider as well as the price of a camping stove (Image credit: Getty Images)

Why are camping stoves to expensive?

As with most kit, there are some brands that command a higher price compared to others. These brands might be able to charge more because they have a reputation for reliability and quality, or because their kit includes more features.

Research and development could push up the cost of a lightweight single burner camping stove, compared to a more straightforward tried-and-tested double burner stove that is made of heavier and cheaper materials. The design and materials used may well affect the price of a camping stove, making it more expensive to purchase.

In this way, a simple stove that is lightweight and still does a good job of cooking food could cost as much as a heavier stove with two burners. 

A camping stove that includes a greater number of integrated elements for all-in-one cooking such as a burner,  pot and lid, may well be more expensive than a standalone burner and tripod that then requires you to buy cooking pots.

There are other  important details to consider when buying a new camping stove, such as built-in ignition (saving you the need to remember to take matches or a lighter); how easy it is to attach the stove to the gas; the number and size the of burners; and the intensity of heat and controllability. 

Other things to think about include availability of compatible gas canisters; the size and weight of the gas canister; how the stove operates in the wind or whether it includes a wind shield; and “packability" or how the stove packs away for carrying.  

The weight of a camping stove needs to be considered but so does sturdiness. If you are planning a wild camping trip that requires you to carry all your own gear then you will be looking for a lighter weight stove. Sometimes, lightweight materials cost more than heavier materials, such a titanium versus steel. 

Also think about how often you will be using a camping stove and where. If you only plan to do a few camping trips and they are more likely to be focused on a campsite where you can find shelter form poor weather then it’s likely a cheaper and less sophisticated stove will do a good job. 

Likewise, if you are keen to try a number of backpacking trips, where weight, reliability and wind protection are important details, then you may need to spend bit more on a campaign stove. 

All of these details and features can affect the price and make some camping stoves more expensive, while others will be in a more budget price range. 

Do you need an expensive stove?

Different activities will usually require different types of stoves. If, for example, you are heading to a campsite where you can easily carry your camping kit a short distance from the car to your camping spot, then a heavier double-burner style camping stove could be the perfect product.

A double burner camping stove is also a good idea if you will be catering for more than one or two people. Double burner stoves usually have the capacity for larger pots and, of course, you can cook on two burners at once rather than just one and with a similar  controllability to that of a home hob. Most double burners also have a large wind shield, which make sit easier to keep the flame alight in windier conditions. 

Meanwhile, if you are planning a backpacking and camping trip or going bikepacking with several overnight camping stops, the chances are you will be keen to pack a lighter and smaller camping stove. Few hikers will want to add excessive weight to their backpacking rucksack with a heavier camping stove. 

In this way, a single burner stove, especially one that is sold with an integrated pot or cooking system, will be the best product for you.

You can choose whether you want a stove that has an attachable gas stove, or one that is fuelled by natural items, such as twigs and pine cones, like the Solo Stove Lite. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to both because while gas is more convenient, using natural fuel makes your pack lighter because you can source the twigs etc when you find your camp spot.

It is worth reading about how to choose a camping stove and a range of camping stove reviews, such as the Vango Combi, to work out if a more expensive stove is the right one for you.

woman cooking over camping stove

Some budget camping stoves will be ideal, while others might lack features important to you (Image credit: Getty Images)

The best budget camping stove brands

In our round up of the best camping stoves in 2024, the three cheapest stoves include the Campingaz Twister Plus PZ with a recommended retail price of £30, the SOTO Windmaster with an RRP of £55 and Vango Atom and Ultralight Heat Exchange with a RRP of £65.

Looking at the Campingaz Twister Plus PZ camping stove, our reviewer noted the pros of being a compact size, easy to connect to a canister and with built-in ignition. However, Campingaz canisters offer a more limited choice compared to other fuel options. The RRP of £30 is very favourable, however, and overall this stove gains a rating of four out of five.

The SOTO Winmaster gained a score of 4.5 out of five from our reviewer with the plus-points that the stove is very lightweight, small when packed away, has integrated ignition and provides good wind resistance.  On the negative side, it is said to be fiddly set up with the four-prong pot support. Overall, this could be a good buy on a more limited budget at £55. 

The Vango Atom and Ultralight Heat Exchange comprises a cooking set that scores three out of a possible five points. There are only two stoves in the entire review that score just three points.  However, the cooking stove is said to be good value by our reviewer at a price of £65 for an all-in-one system that includes a sturdy cooking pot. 

Thins to consider that are less favourable are that the cooking stove is not deemed as sophisticated as its rivals, plus it is not very wind resistant and its pack size is quite bulky. 

Tips on buying a budget camping stove

Shop around for camping stoves. Sometimes you will find last year’s model at a discounted price. You could also look on second-hand websites or social media marketplaces for a cheaper, good quality camping stoves.

Make sure the fuel is readily available and the size of canister suits your planned activity.

Perhaps the purchase of two different types of camping stoves for different activities makes sense. Two cheaper camping stoves that serve a campsite type trip and a backpacking-wild camping style trip could be a good option.

Borrow a few camping stoves from different friends to give them a try to see if you like using the stove before you buy your own.

Check out reviews for different camping stoves. 

Is it worth buying a budget camping stoves

The question of whether it is worth buying budget camping stoves depends on what you will be using it for, where and how frequently. If camping is an occasional activity and you will only be making a coffee each morning, then a more budget price camping stove might be for you.

However, if it will frustrate you if the water takes a long time to boil, or you know you will often be faced with windy conditions, then you should look for a more expensive stove that includes better features.

For example, the Jetboil Flash costs £120 but it takes just 1 min 40 secs to boil 500 ml, while the cheaper SOTO Windmaster (£55) takes 2min 14secs to bring the same volume of water to the boil. 

Likewise, if you plan to use the camping stove for wild camping and backpacking trips it's better to look at weight and packability than price necessarily.

Our best camping stoves review includes many camping stoves with scores of four and 4.5 out of five and so this could be the starting point for deciding if the stove is for you. You can easily compare scores and pros and cons with prices.

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.