Everyone should have some form of backup stove to meet their needs during an emergency or SHTF situation.
Having a source of heat for cooking can make a significant difference in how well you get through. Not only that, a survival stove can help you stay cleaner and can even be used to sanitize water when there is no filter.
When choosing a stove, everyone has their circumstances and limitations to consider.
For example, if you are housebound and live in a city, then your best option might be one that uses gas like the Whisperlite. If you don’t have good use of your hands, then wood-fueled stoves may be too much for you.
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Best For Camping, Bugging Out Or Traveling
For a stove that is guaranteed to work with whatever you can find to burn, the Solo Stove is best. During a survival situation, you are more likely to find something organic you can burn rather than a processed fuel.
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Best For Bugging In Or Base Camp
The Camp Chef Alpine Stove with water heater is my choice for those bugging in or setting up a long-term camp that they can get some gear to. If you have a bug out location, it can take care of some heat, cooking, and hot water.
In the hotter months, you can quickly move it to an outdoor covered space. I like the versatility that this stove offers anyone that wants to be more prepared.
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Things To Consider
Before making your choice consider the following factors:
How many people is it for?
You can get away with a smaller unit if you have fewer people. If you are in a group and want to travel light, you can always plan to pack a few lightweight stoves to make it easier.
Cooking, cleaning, or heating?
Is it just for cooking, or will you be heating water for cleaning and other uses?
For a long-term emergency, having a stove capable of addressing needs like warmth and hot water is essential.
Of course, size and portability are significant too!
A small stove can provide cooking and hot water when bugging out or on the trail if it is just you and one other person.
For groups and families, there is a need for multiple units or a larger model. If a family is bugging out, then they need to plan for multiple stoves for sure.
What type of fuel do you prefer?
Wood is easy to find in some areas, but you create smoke that can give away your location.
If you are in an urban area, one that uses fuel tablets or liquid fuel might be a better option if you plan on staying in the area.
A stove that can operate on wood or multiple fuel types has significant advantages in a major survival situation. Man-made and refined fuels can become hard or impossible to find after any event that causes supply disruptions.
In a world where even a hurricane can knock out a fuel line and lead to fuel shortages, it pays to be prepared for all eventualities.
Short-term or extended emergency?
Long-term needs are different from short-term. Cooking a few one-pot meals for a family on a tiny rocket stove is one thing, but doing that for a month may not be practical.
The Esbit discussed below is small and negates the need to find wood or carry liquid fuel. For a short-term emergency, this could serve you well.
For a long-term emergency, you need a stove that you can easily store fuel for or that can run on wood fuel.
What is your budget?
There are great options in a wide price range. A survival stove is essential so having something is better than having nothing.
On the other hand, you don’t want to pay for extra features that you will not use.
For example, I like the Biolite Stove idea because it offers some power and neat accessories, but the truth is I am not the type of person who would use them much, so for me, it is not a good buy. An MSR Whisperlite costs far less and does everything I need.
Solo Stove Lite – Compact Wood Burning Backpacking Stove
This is a fantastic product. It might cost more than many rocket stoves in this size range, but the quality is plain to see.
Using this stove is easy; it uses very small pieces of wood you can scavenge off the ground.
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The unique design makes it draw well, so you get the maximum amount of heat from your fire. A full 34 oz of water will reach boiling point in 8-10 minutes on average.
Although it doesn’t break down flat, it still takes up just a small space.
This is an excellent choice for those with a lot of woodland debris in their area or those that like to hit the trail sometimes for a bit of camping.
During an emergency, this stove is capable of cooking basic one-pot meals for a family. The rations found in a lot of survival food buckets only require 10-25 minutes of cooking time, and this is sturdy enough to support a large pot.
- Heats water fast
- Made in the USA from quality materials
- Perfect for 1-3 people camping or 1-2 in a more prolonged survival situation
- Great for areas where there is a lot of small windfall wood
- Fairly pricey
- Cannot be folded flat
Emberlit Stainless Steel Survival Stove
This little wood-burning cooker has a lot to offer those that like the idea of a stove that can use a variety of fuels.
Although wood is the primary fuel, you could also use fuel tablets or canned fuel like Sterno or even a large candle.
One thing that stands out a lot about this particular model is the sturdy top burner capable of holding a lot of weight.
Many small wood-burning stoves do not have the criss-cross top burner support, so they cannot support larger pots and pans.
The Emberlit is made of strong stainless steel, so it can hold its own under harsh conditions and corrosive environments such as near bodies of saltwater.
- Burns wood or fuel tablets
- Compact size – folds completely flat
- Can be used in areas where open fires are not allowed
- Takes small twigs and sticks that are easier to find than bigger logs
- Only suitable for 1-2 people
- Must be able to find fuel on the ground or carry fuel tablets with you
- Not so practical for a long term emergency
Esbit Ultralight Folding Pocket Stove with Solid Fuel Tablets
The Esbit stove uses convenient fuel tablets. Once you light the tablet, a single tablet will bring 500 mL of water to a boil in about 8 minutes. A single tablet burns for about 12 minutes total at 1300 degrees F.
You can choose between two different cooking positions, so various pots, pans, and cups can be used.
It is made in Germany and has a two-year warranty.
This is a good stove for those who want something basic and compact to provide quick and easy meals.
It also allows for smokeless cooking, which could be an advantage if you are trying to be discreet while camping or bugging out.
- Easy to use in a short term emergency
- Can be used where wood and other fuel is scarce
- Compact size allows it to fit into a very small pocket
- Relies on fuel tablets that have to be purchased and carried in your pack or stored
- Only practical for 1-2 people in a short emergency
MSR WhisperLite International
When my husband and I were in college, we had a Whisperlite that went on some long backpacking trips. We hiked the entire Art Loeb Trail in North Carolina, more than 40 miles when it was all said and done.
This stove performed like a champ.
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Those were some great trips, and when we were in places where we couldn’t have a wood fire or wanted a quick meal, the Whisperlite was there.
It will burn a long time on a fuel bottle. I think we took a 20 oz fuel bottle and used it solidly for a week and still came back with some fuel.
I highly recommend this for those comfortable keeping some fuel around and packing a pint of it with them.
If you are hiking in a group, it can take care of food needs for 4 people if needed.
- Strong enough to support a large stockpot
- Can be used to cook group meals
- Very lightweight
- Runs on white fuel. Coleman fuel will work and is widely available
- Made by a well-known outfitter
- Requires fuel, extra fuel bottles=extra weight
- Seals sometimes need replacing
Camp Chef BaseCamp With Hot Water Heater
Note: you need to buy the stove and water tank separately. It is still a fantastic deal for a unit that can provide heat, cooking, and hot water all in one.
This stove deserves consideration because it offers an all-purpose solution for those off grid.
If you are getting started on a homestead and want something portable and easy to use, this is for you.
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The luxury of having some hot water on tap is something one truly doesn’t appreciate until it is not available.
Back when my husband and I were building our house, we would use the gas stove for small amounts of heating water and 55-gallon barrels for heating larger amounts.
Something like this is a lot better because it offers an option for some heating.
- Can be used to heat living spaces
- Wire racks on each side provide a handy place to sit pots and pans or tea kettles
- Can be used with a water jacket to have hot water on tap in an off grid situation
- Pipe, damper, legs, and more, store comfortably in the body when not in use
- Very affordable cooking, heating, and hot water solution
- Makes use of downed wood if you are in the right area
- Cost. With the water heater jacket, it can get expensive
- Size and set up; clearly not as portable as a simple little survival cooking stove
- Requires a steady supply of wood
BioLite CampStove 2 Wood Burning and USB Charging Camping Stove
The Biolite is a very modern and feature-intensive product. It can charge small devices and lights by burning wood. The typical power output is 3 W.
There are a lot of aftermarket accessories you can get to increase the versatility of this stove.
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The Biolite 2 has a battery bank that holds 50% more power than the previous model. This is important because some sellers are still stocking the original Biolite.
Buying the Biolite 2 in a bundle is a better value if you want the matching kettle and grill. Trust me in saying that you are going to want these.
For those that enjoy coffee out in the bush, you can get a french press that works with the Kettlepot.
- Extremely efficient use of small twigs
- Lots of accessories
- Suitable for groups of campers
- Charges small electronics and lights
- Cost. This item is pricey before you buy any accessories. To make it more functional for a group, you will want at least a few of the accessories, and that can add up quickly
There is no one perfect stove for every situation, so it is essential to carefully consider your situation and emergency plan before buying.
You may want to have multiple options. For example, everyone may wish to have a fold-up rocket stove like the Emberlit in their bug out bag, but for a bug in situation, having a larger and more useful one like the Camp Chef Alpine.
For safe indoor cooking options, see this post on the best indoor emergency stoves.