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Thru-Hiking 101: How Much Stove Fuel Should You Carry

The best way to determine how much fuel you will need while hiking is to test your stove at home before your hike.

Paul Bodnar      Educational       8/06/2020
Paul Bodnar
Educational
8/06/2020

I recommend cooking at least one representative day of food at home and then use the amount of fuel consumed to estimate how much fuel you will need on the trail. For example, if you plan on boiling just 2 cups of water a day then I would recommend boiling 2 cups of water at home using your stove. Then use the amount of fuel you consumed to calculate how long a full tank of fuel would last while hiking. Below is a step by step procedure on how to estimate how long your fuel will last while backpacking.

Step 1: Follow the stove recommendations for the safe operation of your stove.

A backpacking fuel canister attached to a stove.

Step 2: Weigh the fuel canister before using the stove.

A backpacking fuel canister being weighed on a scale.

Step 3: Use the stove for cooking each representative meal for the day. This might be three meals or just one.  For a crude estimate you can just boil the amount of water you need for each meal.

A backpacking stove boiling a pot of water.

Step 4: Weigh the fuel canister after cooking a representative full day of meals.

A backpacking fuel canister being weighed on a scale.

Step 5: Take the weight of the canister before cooking and subtract the weight of the canister after cooking. This is the approximate amount of fuel you will use in a day of cooking.

Step 6: Look at the weight of fuel marked on the side of the canister. Then divide this number by the amount of fuel you used to cook a day of food. The result equals the approximate days a fuel canister will last while hiking.

A Snow Peak Giga Power Stove

marked fuel canister weight / (initial fuel canister weight – fuel canister weight after a day of cooking)  = estimated days of fuel from a full canister of fuel

Here’s an example of how many days a 220 gram fuel canister will last:


Fuel Tip: Have a partial canister and want to know how much fuel is left?

Weigh a full canister of the same brand and size. Then weigh the partially full canister. The difference in the weight between the full canister and the partial canister is equal to the amount of fuel consumed in the partially full canister. Subtract the difference from the marked weight of the full canister.  This is the amount of fuel that remains in the partial canister.

fuel weight marked on side of canister – (weight of full canister – weight of partially used canister) = amount of fuel remaining


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Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association

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About the Author
A man wearing an Arizona Trail baseball cap stands in a field in front of a mountain.

Paul Bodnar

Paul has always liked hiking and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 1997 after college. After years of working in chemistry, he wanted to create a career involving the outdoors, so he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail again in 2010 to do research for his guide book Pocket PCT. He realized that creating a smartphone app for navigating the outdoors would make it easier to keep the data current and provide a better way to navigate. While hiking with Ryan (aka Guthook) in 2010, they decided to work together to create the first comprehensive smartphone guide for the Pacific Crest Trail. Now with the help of a team of great people they have created over 50 guides for trails around the world.