I'm looking for a backpacking stove for a two-person, ten-day trip, so weight and fuel are the big issues. We will have only one stove and will use it to boil water only for oatmeal and dehydrated foods. Can you help? Brady Pleasant Grove, Utah
Group Cooking System
Two tradeoffs. One, it's really designed to supply hot water for one person, so you might need to boil up a second batch in the smallish one-liter receptacle. It's less efficient to boil two batches than it is one, so you start to lose some of the system's benefits. Two, it isn't by any stretch a cookstove. It's a boilstove. Scrambled eggs? Simmer soup? Even use an Outback Oven? No dice.
So what to do? Well, if you wait until later this spring, Jetboil is bringing out a "group" cooking system that's much more traditional in use while carrying forward some of the groundbreaking Jetboil's fuel-efficient design. Price will be around $100. Or, look into one of several other lightweight stoves, such as the MSR WindPro ($80; www.msrcorp.com). It's a non-charring, stable little stove that, like the Jetboil, requires butane/propane cartridges for ease of use. Not as efficient as the Jetboil, but a fine stove that can be used with most any cookware out there. It also has an extremely wide adjustment range, so is great for serious outdoor cooks.
Snow Peak's Giga Power with Piezo ($50; www.snowpeak.com) is another versatile stove. It's a very light (3.75 ounces), compact stove that will fit in any cookpot (or its own plastic box) and is very popular with all sorts of campers.
I like canister stoves for their ease of use. But liquid fuel has its advantages, too; you might find it lighter for longer trips, for instance. MSR's WhisperLite Shaker ($70) remains the stove against which all others are measured. Easy to use, efficient, hot-burning, and durable.
Either way, you'll need to do some calculating to determine your fuel needs. For a liquid-fuel stove, around 50 ounces of fuel (about 1.5 liters) should be adequate for a summer trip (you'll need more, of course, for cold weather or if melting snow). For cartridge stoves, four 113-gram canisters ought to give you a cushion. If you can do some test trips first, over three or four days, and measure your fuel consumption under forgiving circumstances, that will be a big help.
For more a full lineup of the best backcountry burners, check out Outside Online's Camp Stoves Buying Guide.