Head to Head: Cooking With Gas
Pack small and still eat large.
[BRACKET “1”] Brunton Optimus Crux $70; 800-443-4871; brunton.com
At a mere 3.1 ounces, the brilliantly designed and finely machined Crux is the most compact and packable stove of the bunch. It burns plenty hot but can simmer slowly enough to saut¿¿ garlic. Best Features: You get no food-charring hot spots, as the wide burner disperses the flame for even heating. When not in use, the stove head folds flat on a ball-and-socket joint and disappears inside a small neoprene pouch that hugs your isobutane canister, hiding the stove in the concavity beneath.** Points to Ponder:** Diminutive supports can create some wobble with larger pots. Boil time is comparatively slow.
** [BRACKET “2”] MSR PocketRocket $40; 800-531-9531; msrgear.com**
True to its name, this 3-ounce stove folds down and packs into a pocket-friendly plastic case. And you don’t have to lighten your wallet much to make room for it.** Best Features:** Value: You get an ultralight stove with very fast boil times and good flame control for a price that’s easy to swallow. Points to Ponder: The tight, blowtorchlike flame can scorch your pasta if you’re not careful. The stove is also a tad tipsy.
[BRACKET “3”] Jetboil Personal Cooking System $80; 603-863-7700; jetboil.com
The hottest new canister-style stove on the market today, the Jetboil ingeniously integrates a wind-protected matchless burner, a heat exchanger, and a 1-liter insulated cooking cup that doubles as a mug-all in one fuel-saving, 12-ounce package. Best Features: **Radical innovation. With this unique system, there’s no need to buy or carry separate pots. The exchanger harnesses 80 percent of the flame’s heat for lightning-fast boil times and off-the-charts efficiency. And for easy packing, the burner and canister fit inside the cooking cup. Points to Ponder:** You’re limited to one-pot meals that can be cooked within a tall, narrow container, so think oatmeal for breakfast, not flapjacks and bacon.
[BRACKET “4”] Primus Omnifuel $140; 800-426-4840; rei.com
A fire-breathing beast that burns in almost any conditions and consumes almost any fuel you feed it, the Omnifuel is the perfect companion for sportsmen who push the limits. Hunting elk on a wind-bitten, frosty slope? Fishing far off where the only fuel is kerosene or diesel? This is your stove. Best Features: It does it all. The Omnifuel is the only model that combines the ease of use of a canister stove and the extreme performance and versatility of a liquid fuel stove-because it accepts either source. Points to Ponder: Though it’s much more stable than the canister-only stoves, this one is bulky and pricey.