Why Is My Camping Stove Not Lighting?

By: Derek Vitiello | Last Updated on December 22, 2023

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Few things dampen the spirit of a camping trip like a stove that refuses to light. Picture this: You’ve hiked miles to your dream backcountry spot, the sun is setting, and all you want is a hot meal to cap off a day of adventure. You set out your ingredients, get your utensils ready, and […]

Few things dampen the spirit of a camping trip like a stove that refuses to light. Picture this: You’ve hiked miles to your dream backcountry spot, the sun is setting, and all you want is a hot meal to cap off a day of adventure. You set out your ingredients, get your utensils ready, and then… nothing. Your trusty camping stove decides it’s on strike. It’s an all-too-common scenario that has perplexed many an outdoor enthusiast. But don’t despair! More often than not, the issue can be diagnosed and fixed on the spot. This guide will walk you through the most common reasons why your camping stove might be giving you the cold shoulder, and how to get it up and running again. From fuel issues to igniter quirks, we’ll cover it all so you can get back to the best part of camping—eating!

Possible Reasons Why Your Camping Stove Won’t Light

Before we delve into the details of troubleshooting, it’s helpful to familiarize ourselves with the usual issues that can arise when using a camping stove. Understanding what can go wrong is the foundation for figuring out how to correct it.

From issues related to fuel to general wear and tear, here’s a comprehensive list of common problems that might be affecting your stove’s performance. Keep these potential culprits in mind as you assess your situation; it’ll make diagnosing and resolving the issue much easier.

  1. Fuel Issues: Low fuel, expired fuel, or incorrect fuel type can all affect the stove’s ability to light.
  2. Igniter Problems: If your stove has a built-in igniter, it could malfunction or wear out over time.
  3. Blocked Burner: Debris or soot can clog the burner holes, affecting the stove’s efficiency and ability to light.
  4. Air Pressure Imbalance: In some stoves, especially liquid fuel types, incorrect pressure can make ignition difficult.
  5. Improper Assembly: Missing or incorrectly installed components can prevent the stove from functioning as intended.
  6. Damaged Seals: Worn-out O-rings or gaskets can lead to fuel leaks, which are not only dangerous but can also inhibit ignition.
  7. Altitude and Temperature: High altitudes and cold temperatures can affect stove performance and may require special adjustments for proper ignition.
  8. Moisture: Any water or dampness in the fuel line, burner, or igniter can prevent the stove from lighting.
  9. Wear and Tear: General deterioration from extended use, such as rust or corrosion, can impair stove functionality.

Understanding these issues can give you a good starting point for troubleshooting and can save you a lot of hassle when you’re out in the wilderness.

Troubleshooting Your Camping Stove

While it’s tempting to immediately jump to worst-case scenarios, many problems can be resolved with some basic troubleshooting steps. Here’s a more in-depth guide to help you diagnose why your stove isn’t lighting and how to get it back in working order.

Check the Fuel Source

The first thing to inspect is your fuel. Ensure you have enough fuel in the canister or liquid fuel bottle. In case you’re not sure, try shaking it; if it feels too light, you may be running low. With liquid fuel stoves, make sure the fuel is fresh, as old or contaminated fuel can have trouble igniting.

Verify Proper Assembly

Often, a stove that won’t light is simply not put together correctly. Double-check to make sure all components are securely connected. For canister stoves, ensure the canister is correctly threaded and tightly attached to the stove. For liquid fuel stoves, make sure all hoses, pumps, and attachments are secure and correctly connected.

Examine the Igniter

Many modern stoves come with a built-in igniter. Over time, these can wear out or malfunction. Try manually lighting the stove using waterproof matches or a reliable lighter to see if the igniter is the issue. If manual lighting works, you’ll know the igniter needs replacing.

Inspect the Burner

Debris, food particles, or soot can clog the burner holes, preventing proper fuel flow and ignition. A simple clean can often resolve this problem. Use a pin or specialized tool to clear out any obstructions.

Review O-Rings and Gaskets

Fuel leaks can be another reason why your stove isn’t lighting. Examine all O-rings, gaskets, and seals for signs of wear, tear, or damage. Even small imperfections can lead to fuel leaks, making ignition difficult and potentially dangerous.

Test the Air Pressure

For liquid fuel stoves, incorrect air pressure can lead to ignition issues. Ensure the fuel bottle is appropriately pressurized by giving the pump a few smooth strokes.

Consider Environmental Factors

Remember, high altitudes and cold temperatures can affect the performance of your stove. Liquid fuel stoves may require additional priming in such conditions, while canister stoves may struggle to maintain pressure. Some stoves come with a pressure regulator to help with this.

Try a Test Run

After you’ve checked and possibly corrected these issues, try lighting the stove again. Sometimes, even seemingly insignificant adjustments can solve the problem.

Know When to Seek Professional Help

If you’ve tried all the troubleshooting steps and your stove still refuses to light, it may be time for professional intervention. It’s possible there could be an internal issue that requires more technical expertise to fix.

By going through these troubleshooting steps methodically, you’ll either resolve the issue yourself or gain valuable information that can help a professional diagnose the problem more quickly. Remember, safety first—always follow manufacturer guidelines and take appropriate precautions when dealing with flammable materials and open flames.

Other Common Issues with Camping Stoves (And How to Fix Them)

camping stoves are generally reliable, but they can develop a variety of issues. Here’s a rundown of some common problems you might encounter and quick tips on how to address them:

  • Uneven Flame: If your stove is producing an uneven flame, this often means there’s a blockage in the fuel line or burner. Cleaning these parts usually resolves the problem. Use a thin wire or a specialized tool to clear out any debris.
  • Flame Goes Out Frequently: If the flame extinguishes easily, check for strong winds or drafts that could be blowing it out. Using a windscreen or changing the stove’s position might solve the issue.
  • Yellow or Sooty Flame: A yellow or sooty flame indicates incomplete combustion. This could be due to low-quality fuel or a clogged burner. Again, cleaning the burner and ensuring you’re using recommended fuel often resolves this issue.
  • Stove Makes Popping Noises: Popping noises usually come from liquid fuel stoves and often mean the stove is over-pressurized. Releasing some air from the fuel bottle should mitigate this issue. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to safely do this.
  • Fuel Leaks: Fuel leaks are often due to damaged O-rings or gaskets. Replace these as necessary, and always check for leaks before lighting the stove.
  • Difficulty in Adjusting Flame: If the stove’s flame is hard to adjust, you might have a problem with the fuel valve. Sometimes lubricating the valve with a suitable lubricant can make it easier to turn.
  • Poor Performance in Cold Weather: Canister stoves can struggle in cold conditions because the fuel doesn’t vaporize well. Using a canister stand to invert the canister, or opting for a liquid fuel stove, can be a workaround.
  • Poor Performance at High Altitude: Liquid fuel stoves often perform better at high altitudes than canister stoves. However, if you’re committed to your canister stove, consider one with a built-in pressure regulator.
  • Igniter Failure: As mentioned before, igniters can wear out. Manual lighting with a lighter or match is a quick solution, but you may need to replace the igniter for a more permanent fix.
  • Stove Won’t Fold or Unfold Easily: Sometimes grit and grime can make it hard to fold or unfold your stove. A thorough cleaning and light lubrication can often solve this issue.

Remember, for more complicated issues or if you’re in doubt, it’s always safest to consult the manufacturer or seek professional repair services. Always prioritize safety when dealing with any sort of camping equipment, especially stoves.

Maintenance and Prevention

A well-maintained camping stove is not only more reliable, it’s also safer to use. One of the best ways to minimize issues with your stove is to keep it clean. Residue build-up can affect the flow of fuel and even alter flame behavior. Most stoves can be disassembled to some degree, making it easier to clean each part thoroughly. When you’re back home after your trip, give your stove a deep cleaning, following the manufacturer’s guidelines for disassembly and cleaning.

Your fuel quality also plays a significant role. Always use fuel that is recommended by the manufacturer. Low-quality fuel can contain impurities that clog the fuel line and burner, causing a variety of issues, including difficulty lighting the stove. Store your fuel properly and check for any expiration dates—yes, some fuels do expire and lose effectiveness over time!

Lastly, let’s talk about regular inspection. Before and after every trip, take a few moments to inspect your stove for any wear and tear, especially on essential components like O-rings, fuel lines, and valves. Check for cracks, dents, or other signs of damage. Replace any worn parts promptly to prevent future issues. Even a quick inspection before setting out can save you from unwelcome surprises when you’re already deep in the wilderness, counting on that warm meal.

By incorporating these maintenance and prevention steps into your routine, you’re not only prolonging the life of your camping stove but also ensuring that it remains reliable and safe to use. After all, when you’re out in the backcountry, a fully-functioning stove can be more than just a convenience—it can be a game-changer.


There you have it—your go-to guide for troubleshooting a camping stove that won’t light, along with some other common issues you might encounter. While camping stoves are generally dependable, knowing how to tackle common problems will not only extend the life of your gear but also make your outdoor adventures more enjoyable.

Remember, the key to a worry-free camping experience often lies in regular maintenance, inspections, and using high-quality fuel. So, the next time your camping stove decides to be a little temperamental, you’ll be well-equipped to get it back on track and keep those camp meals coming.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is my camping stove not working?

A: There could be several reasons why your camping stove is not working. It could be due to a lack of proper fuel, a clogged fuel line, a faulty ignition system, or a malfunctioning regulator. Make sure to check these factors and troubleshoot accordingly.

Q: How can I fix a camping gas stove that won’t light?

A: If your camping gas stove won’t light, the most common reason is a blocked burner or a faulty ignition system. Clean the burner holes and check if the igniter is sparking properly. You may also need to replace the igniter or ensure there is enough fuel in the canister.

Q: Why does my camping stove have a weak flame?

A: A weak flame on a camping stove can be caused by low fuel pressure or a partially clogged fuel line. Check if the fuel canister is properly pressurized and make sure there are no obstructions in the fuel line. Additionally, cleaning the stove’s burner and ensuring proper airflow can improve the flame quality.

Q: What should I do if my camping stove won’t stay lit?

A: If your camping stove won’t stay lit, it may be due to a faulty regulator or a damaged seal. Inspect the regulator for any signs of wear or damage and replace it if necessary. Also, check if the stove’s connections are secure and ensure there are no leaks.

Q: Why is my camping stove flame yellow instead of blue?

A: A yellow flame on a camping stove indicates an incomplete combustion process. This could be caused by dirt or debris in the burner, a clogged fuel line, or improper airflow. Clean the burner thoroughly, check and clean the fuel line, and ensure the stove’s vents are not blocked to ensure a blue flame.

Why Trust Know Nothing Nomads?

Since 2017, Know Nothing Nomads has cemented itself as the “approachable experts” in everything camping, hiking, climbing, and adventuring in the Great Outdoors.

With over 60 years of experience in the outdoors, we don’t just talk about outdoor gear or recommend a good hiking trail.

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About The Author

Derek, Co-Founder at Know Nothing Nomads

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers.

Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me.

When I'm not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

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