If you're only going to buy one stove for camping and backpacking, especially if your adventures often take you overseas, make it the MSR WhisperLite Universal stove ($140).
The best part is its versatility. The WhisperLite Universal is the only stove on the market that can burn both isobutane and liquid gas fuel. This means that you while ideally you can classic canisters found at REI, in a pinch it will even burn unleaded gasoline.
I tested the stove on a six-month adventure to Hawaii and Puerto Rico. I used it nearly every day to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I lived out of my backpack and abused this stove to no end. It handled everything without mistake.
When traveling, I found it incredibly freeing to be able to buy whatever fuel was available to me—finding canister fuel in the remote mountains of Puerto Rico wasn't really an option. The ability to roll up to a gas station and fill up my tiny fuel bottle made this stove ideal for remote locations. With the easy to use adapter, it's a simple to switch between fuel sources.
The one thing this stove isn't ideal for is for quick cooking, like making coffee or boiling water for pasta. Although it will certainly get the job done, compared to other models, the WhisperLite Universal can be a little burly to unpack just for a cup of joe. It also takes much longer to boil water with than the MSR WindBurner or similar Jetboil models.
I do recommend investing in the yearly maintenance plan and the WhisperLite service kit. If you want to own this stove for over 25 years—I know people who have—regular maintenance is crucial. But even if you do neglect it, nearly every part is replaceable either through the maintenance kit or through MSR directly.
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