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Kerosene Stove: Choosing the Best Stove for the Outdoors

Kerosene stoves
Sean Nelson
Written by Sean Nelson

When the power goes out or there is a need for outdoor cooking, sometimes a kerosene stove is the best solution. As is the case with so many other outdoor products, there is a wide variety of cook stoves to choose from and it is best to have a good idea what solution you are trying to provide and then select the stove that best matches those requirements.

These stoves are generally used in outdoor cooking due to the nature of the fumes given off by the burning of kerosene. In fact, one of the most popular uses, besides an emergency backup stove, is for outdoor canning. If you have ever seen the damage done by an indoor canning accident you’ll understand why some people choose this option.

Advantages to using kerosene stoves

As stated earlier, there are many options for cooking outdoors so what would be the benefit of kerosene stoves? Let’s try to understand what possible advantages there are to choosing kerosene stoves over perhaps propane, butane or other pressurized fuel stoves.

Storage

Most pressurized fuel stoves require heavy, bulky storage tanks. Of course there are compact canisters that are much smaller than their large patio counterparts, but most stoves go through this type of fuel very quick. In order to prepare ahead of time it is necessary for these canisters to consume a great deal of shelf space.

Multi fuel camping stove

Over time these containers can begin to rust, depending upon the climate, and there very well could be safety issues in using them. Kerosene is a liquid fuel that does not require bulky, pressurized containers. Instead a much greater amount of kerosene can be stored in considerably less space.

Price

Because the storing of fuels such as propane require strong, pressurized containers, a considerable amount of the purchase price is in the metal of these typically one-use, disposable bottles. Kerosene comes out well ahead when comparing the price per volume stored.

Volatility

Because kerosene is essentially an oil rather than a vaporous fuel like gasoline, it is considered far less risky to store large amounts of kerosene.

Versatility

When you purchase a propane or butane stove, there is an increased chance that your stove will only work with that particular fuel. There are some models that are designed for multiple fuels, but not all of them are. Of course there are also kerosene stoves that are designed solely for that particular fuel.

Multi fuel stove

Others though have been proven to work just as well with diesel fuel. When times are tough, which fuel might be easier to access when the tank runs dry, propane, butane, kerosene or diesel? The latter two are probably the most likely bet.

Types of kerosene stoves

Once you have weighed these differences and have chosen to move forward with purchasing a kerosene stove, there are essentially two types to consider.

Pressurized

Although kerosene does not need to be stored in pressurized containers, some stoves are designed to burn pressurized kerosene. The good news is that the pressurization takes place in the stove’s own liquid storage tank. These stoves typically have a small hand pump built into the side of the tank that is used to build up pressure.

Pressurized kerosene stove

The only potential drawback to this kind of stove is that many of them require you to also have a small amount of liquid alcohol on hand. This is because there is an area to pour and then ignite the alcohol which in turn pre-heats the piping for the vaporized kerosene to ignite.

Once lit though, the heat from the burning kerosene keeps the process going until the stove is turned off.

Wick Stoves

These stoves usually employ some sort of fabric wick. One end sits inside the tank and the other end is exposed at the cooking surface. The fuel soaks up the wick and can be ignited.

If properly designed, these wicks can last a long time, but with poor design or improper use the lifespan of a wick can be greatly reduced. In addition, some stoves use very specialized wicks that can sometimes be expensive or difficult to replace.

Wick kerosene stove

In either case, one additional factor to consider, which may or may not be important to your particular application, is whether or not the heat generated by the stove is adjustable. Some people don’t mind having a single temperature to cook on, but others prefer the ability to control the temperature depending upon what it is they are cooking.

Top Kerosene Stoves You Can Buy

Choosing a kerosene stove is not exactly the easiest, considering the number of features and options in the market. In order to help sort out some of the various options and designs, here is a list of the top kerosene cook stoves. It’s safe to say that you can’t go wrong with these models for outdoor use.

Kerosene Brass Pressure Stove 2412

Weight: 2.7 poundsButterfly #2412 Kerosene Brass Pressure Stove

Dimensions: 8.25” H x 7.9” W

Features: Maximum 9000 BTU output, 0.9 liter (30.4 ounces) fuel capacity, 3 removable stove supports, 3 cleaning pick tools, wrench, and a brass cap for the tank.

Best Use: Kitchen Back-Up, outdoor cooking

Kerosene Brass Pressure Stove 2412 is generally considered the most portable “old-style” kerosene stove. At nearly 3 pounds, it isn’t as packable as some stoves designed specifically for backpacking, but this little unit can travel well. In fact, many military units in the not-too-distant past utilized this model stove because of its small, but versatile design.

Its tank is just short of 1 liter, but it can burn for up to 3 hours on a single filling. It has a very attractive, retro design that if handled properly can be handed down from generation to generation.

Check the price on Amazon

Chinatera 8 Wicks Kerosene Burner

Weight: 1.5 poundsChinatera Handy Portable Outdoor 8 Wicks Kerosene Burner

Dimensions: 7” H x 6.5” W

Features: 1 liter (34 ounces) fuel capacity, fuel consumption is 0.15 liters per hour

Best Use: Kitchen Back-Up, outdoor use

Although Chinatera 8 Wicks Kerosene Burner is exceptionally light, it isn’t considered to be a suitable solution for hikers or backpackers. The main reason is that the lighter weight is achieved through the use of very thin metal in its construction. This makes the stove rather susceptible to damage if tossed around.

A second reason for not packing this stove on the trail is that the fuel tank is not very well sealed and has the tendency to spill if it is tipped. Many users of this stove also claim that it can be very vulnerable to wind and drafts.

If, on the other hand, you plan to use this stove as an emergency backup, it works well under controlled conditions. As with any wick style stove, be sure to line the wicks up close together to avoid hot spots. For heavier pots it would be a good idea to utilize a separate, stronger support over the stove to prevent damage.

Related: For lighter cooking duties, consider the Chinatera Ultra-Light Alcohol Stove. Definitely a good option for backpackers to consider.

Check the price on Amazon

Alpaca Kerosene Cook Stove

Weight: 15 poundsAlpaca Kerosene Cook Stove

Dimensions: 14” H x 13″ D

Features: 8500 BTU Output, Large 3.5 liter (3.7 qt.) fuel tank , Fuel gauge, 3.5 liter (3.7 qt.) fuel tank, 0.22 liter/hour fuel consumption

Best Use: Kitchen Back-Up

At 15 pounds, the Alpaca Kerosene Cook Stove is definitely not a pack stove and near the upper limits of being a portable unit. Portability aside, this stove is incredibly well built and very durable for bigger, heavier tasks. It burns exceptionally clean and with an 8500 BTU output it cranks out enough heat for just about any cooking job. The Alpaca does utilize multiple wicks, but the design of this stove makes lighting it much easier than other multi-wick stoves. In addition, because of the heat shield installed between the burner and the tank, the fuel stays cooler. This is a safety feature most noticeable when it is used for long periods of time. The special fiberglass wick does take some time to get used to and improper use can result in heat failure due to the build-up of tar balls on the end of the wick. Because of this it would be important to become familiar with operating it well before it is needed in an emergency scenario.

Related: Kerosene stoves are not suitable for providing heat indoors, but the Alpaca TS-77 Oil Heater can heat up nearly 200 square feet.

Check the price on Amazon

Coleman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove

Weight: 21.6 OuncesColeman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove

Dimensions: 5.2 x 5.2 x 7.5 inches

Features: Sturdy fold-out legs, compact design, reliable performance, multi-fuel versatility, precision flame control.

Best Use: Camping stove, hiking

Coleman brand stoves have been one of the most popular go-to stoves for hikers and backpackers for decades. The Exponent Multi-Fuel is one of the reasons Coleman is so trusted in the outdoor product market. Most people who have spent any amount of time cooking on the trail have been exposed to the quality Peak stoves that Coleman manufactures, but this stove is somewhat unique in this particular category.

Users of this stove are not limited to a single fuel source because Coleman has designed in the ability to easily change out the generator portion of the stove. This allows for the accommodation of burning Coleman fuel (naphtha), unleaded gasoline or kerosene. The sturdy fold-out legs keep the stove stable.

The burner bowl and pot supports help protect the flame even in windy conditions, but lighting in wind can be an issue since the evaporator tube has to heat up.  Burn time on a single tank is not specified, but Coleman claims a tank of fuel can last an entire weekend.

Related: If you go through all this information and decide that a kerosene stove may not be a suitable solution, the Coleman Sportster II Dual Fuel Stove utilizes Coleman Fuel and Unleaded Gasoline.

Check the price on Amazon

Butterfly A822 22-wick Kerosene Stove

Weight: 11 poundsButterfly A822 14k BTU 22-Wick Kerosene Cook Stove

Dimensions: 12.25” H x 14” W

Features: 14,000 BTU Output, 3.1 liter fuel capacity,

Best Use: Outdoor kitchen

If high heat is what you are after in a kerosene stove, the Butterfly A822 22-Wick Kerosene Stove is rated at 14,000 BTUs, an output not matched by most similar units. The high output is due to the use of 22 wicks in the burning area.

Thankfully the design of this stove takes the higher fuel consumption into consideration and the tank capacity is larger than all the other stoves on this list. The resulting 3.1 liter tank provides for up to 6.2 hours of cooking time. It is a very large and sturdy stove capable of holding the weight of larger pots safely.

Related: The A822 is designed for cooking and doesn’t take many design cues from other stoves on this list. If a more colorful design is important to you, the 16-wick #2487 stove sacrifices a little bit of heat output for better aesthetics.

Check the price on Amazon

Butterfly 22-wick 14000 BTU Canning Stove

Weight: 14 poundsButterfly 2698 Kerosene Cook

Dimensions: At 12.5″ high and 14″ wide

Features: 5 quarts fuel capacity, integrated fuel gauge, adjustable heat.

Best Use: Outdoor kitchen

Where the A822 lacks in aesthetics, the Butterfly #2698 fills that role without sacrificing any heat. With the same number of wicks, this stove has a similar output rating of 14,000 BTUs. The heat is adjustable through a large control knob on the front of the unit.

The 5 quart capacity puts this unit at the top of the list for burn time and heat output combined. Interestingly, even though this stove has such a large fuel capacity, the tank incorporates a visible fuel gauge to let you know when it is time to refill.

Check the price on Amazon

Fueling Your Imagination

Whether you’ve been actively considering a kerosene stove or are just mildly curious, hopefully this list of product choices will help you determine whether or not it is the right choice for you.

If you’ve never considered kerosene stoves before, you might do well to think about adding one to your emergency equipment list. The advantages of storing and safely using affordable and readily available kerosene make it a very sensible choice in disaster readiness planning.

It makes a lot of sense to incorporate these products for any level of outdoor cooking. The added benefit of using these units in the outdoors for potentially hazardous chores such as pressure canning also add to the attractiveness of kerosene stoves.

MSR Kerosene stove

The only challenge now is picking out the right model that will best suit your practical purposes. Chances are you may even want to consider acquiring a couple versions in order to solve multiple potentialities.

Have you used a kerosene cook stove while camping or backpacking? What are your experiences with it? Let us know the comments!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sean Nelson
Sean Nelson

Sean was backpacking since he was 7. He was born close to the RMNP and his father was a ranger, so life surrounded by mountains and wildlife is a norm for Colorado. He likes to explore, but prefers to stay in USA. In his opinion, there are too many trails and options in US to go abroad.

  • April Bevan

    I’ve used the Chinatera 8 Wicks Kerosene Burner stove before. It works well (and is simple to operate), it’s lightweight, and wicking is widely available for it. I think this stove really makes the most sense as being a base camp stove for your trek.

  • Sean Nelson

    We have used this stove as a back-up stove, as well and yes, it performed well as expected. I’m glad that you were able to see for yourself that this stove rocks! Thanks again for dropping by April, and I appreciate your thoughts.

  • Charlie Biers

    The Butterfly 22-Wick 14000 BTU Canning Stove is the first kerosene stove I ever bought. Don’t let the size fool you: This little guy puts out a lot of heat! Setting up the stove and getting the wicks ready to use is really easy and the flame is very uniform. If you’re in the market for one, I can’t recommend the Butterfly enough!

  • Sean Nelson

    Glad to know this Charlie. Most of us started with the Butterfly 22-Wick 14000 BTU Canning Stove since it so simple to use, affordable and gets the job done. It’s a great camping companion and won’t let you down.

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