One of the most important elements of any camping or backpacking experiences is your food preparation. A fun trip into the great outdoors can quickly turn into a nightmare without the right cooking equipment. Chewing on raw macaroni and eating cold beans is no way to end a day of vigorous hiking or a really long drive.
Although the idea of cooking a meal over a campfire has a sort of romantic appeal, you should never count on a campfire to make your dinner. Firstly, cooking anything other than hot dogs over a campfire is harder than it looks. More importantly, you can抰 always count on the availability of useable wood, and many state parks outlaw campfires altogether because of their inherent danger. A good camping stove is therefore a must for any overnight backpacking or camping trip.
The kind of camping stove you buy should depend on your needs. If you are 慶ar camping?and aren抰 planning on hiking with your equipment, you can buy whatever stove you want. I would recommend in that case that you get one that has two or more burners, so you can cook more than one thing simultaneously. You抮e going to want something easy to set up and take apart, something easy to clean, and something easy to light.
Most camping stoves today work with white gas. Some alternatives use propane, though I recommend using white gas if possible since propane comes in throw away canisters, whereas white gas containers you can refill and save on waste.
If you are planning on hiking with your equipment, the highest priority for your camping stove should be weight. If you are going for an especially long hike, or extended backpacking trip, you should consider getting a very small, single burner stove. Just make sure you keep in mind that you can only cook one thing at a time when you choose what food to bring with you. Some single burner stoves are extremely small, smaller even than the gas canisters that connect to them. These are ideal for 25+ mile trips.
Whatever your needs are, it抯 a good idea to go to a large retailer, like REI, with experienced campers on their staff. Describe your needs and ask for recommendations. Keep in mind that a more expensive camping stove doesn抰 mean a better camping stove. A cheap lightweight stove is going to be far better for your needs on a long backpacking trip than a heavy expensive one.