Press "Enter" to skip to content

All about Survival Stoves: Fuel

The choice of survival stove for your bug out bag is a very personal one that often depends on your particular situation, environment, and personal tastes. Are you a gear-head that wants the latest and greatest ultra lightweight backpacking stove? Do you have the DIY skills to create your own stove? What kind of fuel will you have available? Do you want to carry your own fuel? So many choices are available, and we’re here to list as many options as we can possibly find.

Fuel Supply

The first step in deciding on your go-to survival stove is determining your fuel supply needs. Some of that depends on location (is your survival location wooded?), some depends on your situation (will the smell of a traditional fire give away your location?), and some depends on your capacity to carry (can I sustain the weight of the required fuel in addition to the stove?).

Propane Stoves

Propane stoves are the typical backpacker choice, particularly if you’re in a location without a standard combustible source for fuel. Typically designed to be ultra lightweight, the stoves weigh in at about 4-6 oz (without fuel) and usually pack well since they’re intended for hikers and backpackers. Fuel canisters typically last about 2-3 hours depending on size and you get the benefit of instant flame without needing to resort to fire starting. Propane also burns very clean and does not give off the smell of burning wood which could give away your location.

The drawback, however, is fuel. Weighing in at about 2 lbs per canister, carrying multiple fuel cans ultimately weigh down your pack. With instant heat and only being used for heating water or other cooking, your need for additional fuel will only depend on the intended length of your survival situation.

Solid Fuel

Solid fuel tablets, made out of a fuel called Hexamine, and are sold in tablet packs that are small, lightweight, and easy to put in your go bag. At around 14 grams per cube, a 12-pack box will weigh in at just under 6 oz per box. Depending on the size of the cube and manufacturer, these individual cubes last anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes per cube. It may take multiple cubes burning at the same time to reach your desired heat level.

Like Propane, solid fuel tablets burn without scent and provide little flame to expose your location. Unlike the propane burners, you don’t need to carry around the extra burner as just about anything can become your new grill. Many survivalists purchase metal stoves as a way to put a pot over the flame, though makeshift supports such as surrounding the tablet with flat rocks make for an easy disposable stove without the need to carry other equipment.

Denatured Alcohol

Alcohol stoves use a liquid alcohol fuel that is poured into the stove container which evaporates into flammable gas which is lit. This is the same type of fuel which is often used by catering companies and hotels to keep food warm in large buffet serving containers. Though the buffet style alcohol fuel can is typically left to produce an open candle-like flame, professional hiking and DIY backpacker alcohol stoves are designed with small holes that allow flame to escape in a patter more similar to a propane style burner.

These stoves are also light weight, though it varies of course by material. Titanium stoves, such as the one pictured here, weigh in at about 0.5 oz, though stainless steel varieties can be about 8 oz or more. Burn time varies dependent on fuel source and design, and thus we don’t have an accurate number, though anecdotal evidence suggests about 5-6 minutes per ounce of alcohol.

Drawbacks here include fuel weight, fuel combustibility depending on how it’s carried, and its general lower temperature and lack of temperature control.


Probably the most versatile of the survival stoves, wood and multi-fuel stoves offer the convenience of using wood and other burnable organic matter around you, or the option to use solid fuel and/or alcohol. Check the specs of your individual stove choice to see exactly what options it accepts, however most wood stoves will have an optional tray to place your fuel tablets or an alcohol can.

Weight on these stoves vary by material, titanium being the lightest but most expensive, and range from 5-12 ounces. Most stoves of this type are meant to be taken apart or folded down nearly flat to fit nicely in your pack. Generally this will fit nicer than any propane burner would.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *