Comparing Bicycle Camping Stove Systems

The Following was Boiled Down from the Video:

Howdy bike campers! I’m Josh with Campfire Cycling. I’m out on a overnighter bikepacking trip out near Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.

I brought with me the most commonly used styles of lightweight camping stoves that you would commonly use while bikepacking. Hopefully I can help get you started on making a good choice of stove for your bicycle camping adventures.

Liquid Fuel

I’ve brought along my my trusty 25-year-old MSR WhisperLite. I call this the champion of stoves. The liquid fuel that it burns is the most readily available throughout the world. It’s great in cold weather. It also has really high heat output enabling cooking for a small group. Some downsides to multi-fuel stoves are that it’s got the most moving parts, it’s somewhat complicated to use and it’s the heaviest of the stove systems. That said, for the most versatility it’s a great way to go.


What I’ve been using lately for my US based bicycle camping is a MSR Windburner propane stove. I’ve enjoyed using this complete setup because it includes the pot, the heat transfer, the stove, a lid and a cup all built in. Everything all fits together and packs up nicely and it is really easy to set up and use.

Alcohol, Fuel Tabs & Twigs

For an even lighter weight propane stove system there are simple burners you can screw onto the top of the propane can such as the MSR Pocket Rocket. For these systems, you’ll just need to bring a separate cook pot of your choosing. Some of its downsides are that its not going to do as well in cold temperatures and it’s gonna be difficult to find propane fuel in parts of the world.

This stove system by Vargo actually represents three styles of fuel. This compact stove known as the Vargo Converter will burn alcohol fuel. Flip it over and it’s a fuel tab burning stove. Pop out the converters holder from its windscreen which doubles as a twig burning stove, AKA the Vargo Hexagon Wood Stove. The stove holder pops out and the windscreen folds down into a very compact unit. For an even lighter weight setup, but without the twig burning option, you can opt for a more compact windscreen. The alcohol fuel is going to be somewhat readily available throughout the world. So overall if you’re looking for a lightweight system that also works around the world, this is a smart way to go.

Some of the downsides are that alcohol stoves doesn’t burn very well in cold temperatures and they’ve got a low heat output so it’s going to take a while to warm up your water or your food especially if there are multiple people involved. With the Vargo Converter, the fuel tabs are an option when it gets cold. A downside of relying on the fuel tabs is they’re not going to be as readily available around the world.

Overall, I consider this Vargo setup to be a multi-fuel system based around the alcohol but using fuel tabs when it’s cold and then as another option using twigs when they’re readily available.

*See Video for Demo of Lighting the 5 Stoves-4:05 to 10:36

In Summary

To wrap things up, if you’re looking for a minimalist bikepacking cooking setup for here in the US and warmer conditions generally, a propane fuel system is the easiest way to go as its quick to setup and use and relatively lightweight.

If you are looking for something ultra lightweight and minimalist oriented for use both in the US and throughout the world, something like the Vargo alcohol fuel system is an excellent option. Between its capability to burn alcohol, fuel tabs and twigs, it gives you plenty of fuel options all within a very lightweight system.

Finally, for around-the-world accessible fuel, cold weather capability and high heat output for cooking for larger groups of people, the champion do-it-all stove is a liquid fuel stove like this MSR WhisperLite. Though its going to be the heaviest of the options and the most complicated to use. That is the price of it being capable in the most situations.

Thanks again for watching our first trailside bike camping presentation. Have fun out there you crazy bike campers.

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