8 Classic Campstoves Reviewed


Hi, my name’s Darren, and I’m a camp stove geek.

Like many things pyrogenic, it all started when I was a Boy Scout. I purchased a Svea 123. Invented over 100 years ago by a Swedish engineer named Carl Nyberg and mass-produced since 1955, I will argue that the 123 is the most beautiful camp stove ever created. A little over a pound of solid brass with one moving part, it’s the stove most likely to survive a tumble down the side of a cliff and still start up. It’ll burn for an hour on 4 ounces of white gas.

Lest I am accused of being overly sentimental, the Svea has its limitations. It needs priming, which means one must take care to not create an epic conflagration during ignition. The Svea 123 should not be used near cemeteries, as it is likely to wake the dead. It is a blowtorch on steroids. The Svea 123 has two settings; off, and you really like the taste of burnt oatmeal, don’t you? If you want a stable place to put a large pot, try anywhere but the top of a 123. I’ve seen Jenga towers more stable.

Despite all its faults, I love my 123. Its lovely pbbbbbtttt sound is nostalgic for me, and it burns hot, boiling all the water I need, if all I need is boiling water.

Besides the Svea, I own….let me count….eleven stoves (see first sentence), not counting duplicates. They are all different, all fun, and all useful in different situations. They burn several different kinds of fuel. They’re all wonderful. Here’s an overview of eight of them. Your mileage may vary.


I decided to test all the stoves rather than using the manufacturer’s specs, since sometimes the specifications are under somewhat idealized conditions. I measured the noise produced using a decibel meter, placed exactly one foot from the center of the burner assembly. The baseline sound reading was 34-38 decibels.

For the boil test I used exactly 2 cups of water, measured at 55 degrees before starting the test. The time to boil was measured to a rolling boil, where the entire surface of the water was disturbed.

I used the same pot for all the stoves unless a pot was part of the stove as a complete system.

The oatmeal index is subjective and based on personal experience.

Click the links below to read about each stove:


One of the best stoves out there for frosty temps.

Coleman 502

They last forever with proper care.

MSR WindPro

The Windpro is a go-to for backcountry chefs because because of its exceptional flame control and pot stability.

Optimus Crux with Elektra Cookset

Simplicity and extremely effective, this is a very nice stove and an exceptional value.

Svea 123

Indestructible: if I dropped it off a 50-foot cliff, the Svea would light right up.

MSR Reactor

It has the fastest boil time in the bunch, saving fuel on an extended trip.

Kelly Kettle

Fueled by twigs, grasses, and driftwood, the Kelly Kettle made something out of nothing.

Emberlit Original Stove

It slides together easily, and the workmanship is excellent.

The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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