Hiking Report: Hiking Stove Review

Here is a quick comparison of my backpacking stoves.  I am not a fan of propane stoves because their performance suffers in cold weather and at altitude.  Prices are from Amazon online (See all Stoves at Amazon.com).

Super Cat Alcohol Stove:  (Cost: less than $1.00, assuming you have the tools) This is a simple home made stove and you can’t beat it for the price and weight.  For an in depth review CLICK HERE.  Use denatured alcohol for fuel.  You can burn other alcohols but this tends to burn hotter and cleaner.  The Super Cat holds around two fluid ounces of fuel and needs all of that to boil a liter of water, so it is definitely a fuel hog and you need to plan accordingly.  I prefer this stove for summer trips and overnights when I have minimum cooking requirements and just can’t justify the weight penalty of the larger stoves.  It’s also a great day hike companion for cooler days when you might want a hot cup of tea along the way.  Another advantage is that the fuel does not eat plastic like white gas and other petroleum fuels, so you can carry your fuel in plastic water bottles.  For comparison a 16.9 fluid ounce Dasani bottle weighs 17g or 5/8oz as compared to an 11 fluid ounce MSR fuel bottle which weighs in at 96g or 3 3/8oz.  That’s a significant difference for you ultralight fanatics.

Svea Optimus:  (Cost:  $85) After filming, I searched the net and found that they are actually making this stove once again.  Personally, I think either of the MSR stoves is a superior choice at far less weight, and I never did like the priming process.  It is too prone to fuel spillage and fire hazards.  Admittedly, the MSRs can generate quite the fireball while priming if you aren’t careful but that is easy to control after you’ve used it a couple of times.  That said, it is a good little stove and has served me well.  If you absolutely must have one for nostalgia purposes (this design has been in use for about 100 years) then go for it.  You could do worse.

MSR Dragonfly:  (Cost $110) I haven’t actually used this one much, because I was issued the XGK.  It packs a bit bigger than the XGK and is just under an ounce heavier, both factors that argue against it.  However, the stove has a good reputation and I especially like the multi-fuel capability.  Boil rates and fuel consumption between the two are virtually identical.  More than likely, I won’t take my Dragonfly unless I am outfitting a companion.

MSR XGK:  (Cost $149) I looked this stove up as well and was surprised to learn that the design has been in use for more than 30 years!  Makes me wish I hadn’t been lugging the Optimus around for all those years.  This is a great stove.  Compact, sturdy, and light weight.  Under normal conditions the Dragonfly and XGK will deliver near identical results, but the XGK’s generator tube preheats and pressurizes the fuel to provide far superior performance in very cold weather and at altitude.  If you are buying a stove and can afford the extra money then get the XGK.


Super Cat  6 g / 1/4 oz

Optimus  444 g / 15 3/8 oz

Dragonfly  333 g / 11 3/4 oz

XGK  305 g / 10 3/4 oz

Boil Time (1 cup & no windscreen):

Super Cat  7:50

Optimus  3:30 (This is 75% more than the MSRs.  That’s a lot more fuel to carry!)

Dragonfly  2:10

XGK  2:00

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Filed Under: FeaturedGearGear ReviewsStoves


About the Author: Tucson, AZ Realtor & Investor. My true passions however are hiking and whisky (although generally not at the same time). If you have a question about any of these just drop me a line!

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  2. Sage says:

    Nice review…

    I started off hiking in high school, nearly 35 years ago, with a butane stove. Nice in the summer and ok during winter, as long as you were in the South during, but when it got real cold, you had to sleep with the butane and then, if it was really cold, but a fire to have near the stove…

    Then I went to a kerosene stove. What was I thinking? Once it fired up, it burned hot, but kerosene spilled sticks around for a long time. And it smoked until it was really hot. A seam cracked and I had it welded and it held, but when I set out to do the Appalachian Trail 22 years ago, I upgraded to an MSR multi-fuel stove. It was great, I could buy gas at a filling station instead of wondering what to do with 3/4 of a gallon of Coleman fuel… This stove served me for nearly 20 years, on trips all over the US and Canada. The lighter was long gone and the metal was all soft, so even though I could still use it, I replaced it a few years ago with a MSR multi-fuel whisperlight… I’ve been happy with it, too. But I think I’m ready to try an alcohol stove.

    • Desert Dog says:

      I use propane/butane for car camping where space isn’t a big issue but in addition to the performance issues don’t like the waste of the spent cannisters.

      I don’t have a lot of miles with the alcohol stove yet but really like it. Can’t beat the size and weight but since they only burn 10-15 minutes it is probably a good idea to bring two if you are going to do extensive cooking. They are also very wind sensitive so a wind screen is a must!

      Might also want to check out the wood stoves like the Bushbuddy.

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