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Motorcycle Camping – Cooking Equipment

By Ryan William Cantrell
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, October 2010

When considering cooking options for motorcycle camping, you must weigh convenience, weight, bulk, durability and cost. Cooking options run from the super convenient Jetboil, to the super cheap penny stove… and everything in between. In this segment, we’ll review a few of the most commonly used cooking systems and explore their pros and cons.

We’ll start with the most convenient of the systems – the Jetboil. The basic Jetboil system costs around $100. It boils 2 cups of water in 2 minutes, and holds a total of 4 cups of fluid (though it’s only recommended that you boil two cups at a time). The boil time of 2 minutes is impressive, considering the relatively low output of 4500 BTU. The key is in the design of the Jetboil, which captures all the heat and directs it to the contents inside the Jetboil. The Jetboil utilizes a propane/isobutane four-season blend. The propane provides higher vapor pressure for better performance in cold weather while the isobutane provides more constant pressure as the fuel level gets low. Jetboil claims that the small 100g fuel bottle will boil 12L of water, and from my experience that is accurate. The Jetboil is very efficient. Phil Sauter purchased a large fuel bottle for his Alaska trip, and he has been using the same bottle for 3 summers! The Jetboil is also quite light, weighing in at only 14 oz.

The downside of the Jetboil is its cost and bulk. It’s also fragile and will bend/break if you land on it (if it’s in your saddlebag and you lay your bike over on it). Because the Jetboil gets so hot, you cannot cook in it (for example, you would not put soup directly into the Jetboil because it will literally burn the soup to the bottom of the Jetboil). There are ways around this such as cooking food in a ziplock bag or buying a simmer ring for your pot. In summary, the Jetboil is ideal for boiling water, but can fall short in trying to simmer your dinner or cook multiple foods at once. You’re almost certainly going to need to pack an extra pot or mug to eat more than one thing at a time.

The $60 dual fuel stove is a popular choice with long-distance dual sport riders, because the dual fuel stove can burn regular gasoline in a pinch, making it an ideal stove for those who travel far into the backcountry without coming out to re-supply. It’s also ideal for those who do not want to pack additional fuel for their stove. The dual fuel stove functions best on clean fuels like white gas that does not leave a residue on your pots or pans and burns cleanly from the stove. Gasoline will leave a black film on your pots, and the soot from gasoline can clog the stove over time (requiring the owner to clean it, or replace parts). O-rings need replacement on dual fuel stoves every year or two, which is simple and cheap maintenance. A $7 gallon of white gas will last the average camper an entire summer of clean burning. At 24oz, the dual fuel stove puts out 7,500 BTUs (pending the fuel source) and will boil 2 cups of water in under 4 minutes. A full tank (12 oz) of fuel will last the average camper all weekend due to the efficiency of the stove. If you run out, you’ve got plenty of gasoline in your bike to get you by. Downsides are few, but include pumping the stove each time you want to use it (the user must pump the air into the stove to pressurize the system).

The Pocket Rocket is a popular choice among riders, due to its simplicity and small size/weight. It’s hard to argue with the 3oz weight (excluding fuel) and shear durability of the $40 Pocket Rocket. Multiple fuels are compatible with it, and it’ll generally boil a liter of water in about 4 minutes, while still having the adjustability of simmer to boil.

Esbit Pocket Stoves are extremely light (a couple ounces or so), small (the size of a credit card) and inexpensive ($5 or so at your local Army/Navy store). Fuel for the Pocket Stove is also inexpensive. Down sides include extended cooking times due to the low BTU output of the tablets. Boiling water or cooking a meal often requires 2 or 3 tablets (each of which burn for roughly 7 minutes).

Propane burners are an inexpensive, simple and durable option for many. For $20, you can purchase a 1.5 lb burner (without the fuel) that’ll put out 10,000 BTU with a 16.4oz propane bottle. The cons include weight and bulk. It’s the heaviest and bulkiest of the options.

Heath converted me to using a penny stove two seasons ago. Upsides to the penny stove include being inexpensive, light, efficient and easy to replace. I used the same penny stove for all 14,500 miles of my 2010 season (roughly 50 nights outdoors). In that time, I only consumed about $5 of fuel. I burn denatured alcohol due to its high output of 12,700 BTU, and zero soot output. I’ve tested my penny stove next to my Jetboil, and found that I can boil 2 cups of water in equal time to my Jetboil if I put extra fuel into the primer pan, thus forcing far more fuel through the burners than average. I’ve also been able to burn 14 minutes on just one ounce of fuel (if your goal is to simmer a meal). Downsides to the penny stove include the fact that it takes some time to get used to operating it – familiarizing yourself with the flash pan/primer pan and learning how much fuel to use can take a while. On cold mornings (25 degrees), it takes more effort to get a penny stove lit. Exceptionally windy conditions will also require the user to create a wind-block for the stove to operate it correctly. My stove fits in my pot, and the pot, stove, stand and spork (combination spoon and fork) all together weigh less than a pound. Fuel is carried in something like an MSR bottle, and weight varies on the duration of your ride (12 oz can last me a weekend).


In summary, there are many stoves available to dual sport riders. The goal should be to find the smallest, lightest stove that will meet your cooking needs. Start simple, and whatever you purchase make sure you pack it in such a manner that a trail side drop will not crush your cooking equipment and leave you without a way to prepare your meals. When purchasing a cooking system, remember to balance weight, bulk, cost, durability and convenience….happy cooking while motorcycle camping!

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