Hah! I have several stoves that probably are older than you. And I call them my new stoves."
Still, Im a little stumped by what sort of stove you have that no canisters will fit. Nearly all canisters todaywith the exception of Colemans X line of stovesuse a Lindal valve and will fit basically everything. And even Coleman makes an adapter for its stoves so you can use non-Coleman fuel.
Be that as it may, the choice always is between liquid fuel and canister (butane/propane) fuel. The tradeoff: Liquid-fuel stoves cost less to operate and usually work better in very cold temperatures, but they are more difficult to start and maintain. Canister-fuel stoves cost more to run, typically are best for mild weather (down to around freezing), and are super-easy to start and maintain.
In your case, Id suggest a canister stove. An excellent affordable stove is the no-frills Primus Yellowstone ($29; primusstoves.com). Simply turn it on and light it; you can have dinner cooking in seconds. The Yellowstone is also very stable and will take virtually any canister on the market. You may have to fashion a windscreen out of aluminum foil, but that can be part of your outdoor-cooking merit badge work.
Snow Peaks Giga Power Stove is a little more expensive ($50; snowpeak.com) and has the extra bell and whistle of an on-board Piezo igniter. Its also collapsible, which saves space in your pack. Like the Primus, it uses a Lindal valve for wide canister compatibility.
As I mentioned, liquid-fuel stoves have their meritslower fuel costs perhaps foremost among them. MSRs WhisperLite ($70; msrcorp.com) remains the gold standard for an affordable, reliable backpacking stove. It runs on white gas, self-cleans with a good shake, and is great in cold weather. It may sound expensive, but its really very reasonable for a stove that will last well into YOUR parenting years, when your own kid complains about the old" gear youre making him use.
Anyway, have fun with your camping. Im delighted to hear that youre taking up these activities.
The Gear Guy reports from 2007 Winter Outdoor Retailer, the bi-annual gearapalooza in Salt Lake City. Check out his top picks for gear to watch in 2007.