Whether it is the opportunity to get as close to nature as possible, the pleasure of a family trip, or the raw experience of not being able to rely on home comforts, there are lots of reasons why cooking outdoors is a joy for many. At one end of the scale this might be tailgating on a day trip, and at the other a full-on camping trip in the wilds, but whichever it is, a camping stove will be required to cook breakfast, lunch or dinner, and possibly all three.
In this article, we are going to assess seven of the very best camping stoves, and highlight what we believe are their good and, in some cases, their not-so-good features. We’ve also included a comprehensive buying guide so that you know exactly what to look for when choosing a camping stove.
Best Camping Stove Reviews
While there are many camping stoves which are very basic and merely used to boil water, one look at this portable gas grill from Colemantells you that this is something in a whole different league. But, as we say with any product type, ‘looks aren’t everything,’ so let’s see how well it performs.
First, let’s look at its design. At 48 lbs. this is no lightweight grill, and if you had to move it simply by lifting it, you might find this too much. However, the manufacturer has cleverly designed it so that it can fold down, similar to how an ironing board folds flat. It can then be pulled along thanks to the large handle at one end and two wheels at the other, and thus taken to wherever you plan to use it.
The grill is fueled using a standard 1-lb. propane cylinder and the appropriate adapter for this is included. If you wish to use a larger tank, such as a 20-lb. one you will need to purchase a suitable hose and adapter in order to use it.
The grill has two burners, which each produce 10,000 BTUs, and this should be more than enough to cook any meal you wish when camping, on a picnic or tailgating. Starting and controlling these burners is very easy. First, in order to light them, you use push-button ignition, which negates the need for using a lighter or matches.
Second, when either or both burners are lit, you can easily control their output using the appropriate dial on the front of the grill. To further help you when cooking there is a side tray on either side of the grill which can be used to help serve up the food you have cooked, or to place your cooking utensils so they are handy for you.
When cooking, the job is made easier thanks to the two cast-iron grill grates which are coated with porcelain. This means any drips or spills fall through into the drip tray, and that they are easier to clean when you have finished cooking. The grates are suitable for use other on other cooktops so if you have a suitable BBQ grill, they can be used with it.
- Wheels and handle make it portable
- Twin 10,000 BTUs
- Porcelain-coated grill grates
- Convenient side trays
- Push-button ignition
- Very heavy at 48 lbs.
- Hot and cold spots on grill
If we start with what it can’t do, then obviously this is not going to be something you can fry sausages with when you want to make yourself and your fellow campers a hearty breakfast. However, if on the menu you have anything that requires boiling water, and you want it to be ready in as little time as possible, then this is where you will see the MiniMo excel. It can boil water in around 2 minutes, which given its size, is more than impressive.
With boiling water, you have some obvious options for what you can use it for, such as coffee, tea, soup, hot chocolate, and other warm drinks. If you have freeze-dried meals or anything that requires boiling water such as noodles or even for vegetables for sautéing, then it can also be used for these too.
The practicalities of the Jetboil MiniMo, mean for carrying purposes, everything can be contained within the larger pot, including a small fuel man. This means it will fit easily into a rucksack or backpack, and as it meighs just over 1 lb., it is lighter than many other stoves will be.
Once the fuel is connected, there’s no need to mess about with matches or a lighter. This has push-button ignition which will be music to the ears of any of you who have tried to light a camping stove on a very windy day. There is also heat control as part of its ‘Fluxring Technology’ meaning you can adjust it to either be heating on full blast or you can turn it down to simmer or keep its contents warm.
The main pot can hold up to 1 liter, and it has insulating fabric on the outside so you can hold it when eating without burning your hands. The bottom cup has two uses. The first is as a measuring cup for adding the correct amount to the main cup, and it also can be used as a small bowl. A metal handle also allows you to carry it or suspend it from a tree so you can use it at eye level, rather than it sitting on the ground.
- Push button ignition
- Boils water in just 2 minutes
- Insulating fabric
- Temperature control
- Takes up little room in backpacks
- Fabric is not easy to clean
- Small cup is fragile
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this looks more like some kind of customized kettle, than anything that you could use to cook with. This observation hints at both the best of this camp stove’s features and its limitations.
If we start with the latter, it will soon be obvious that this camping stove is not one you are going to be able to cook roast chicken or steak with all the accompanying vegetables. It is not designed for those types of meals. Instead, its compact shape and size make it ideal for hot drinks, soups and other meals which require cooking in water or other liquids such as noodles or pasta.
One major benefit of this camping stove being so compact is that it can be easily stored into a rucksack and the way all its parts nest together it can even be carried by hand thanks to the carry strap on the side. This also makes it easy to store away after use.
When you are ready to use the MSR Windburner you will find that it is modular, meaning all the parts fit together easily. These include the canister stand, stove burner, a 1-liter pot, 16-oz. bowl and there is even a cloth to protect the burner head when in transit. A fuel canister can also be stored in the pot when not in use; however, this is sold separately, so you will need purchase one in order to use the stove.
To use, you simply light the burner and then screw the pot onto the fuel canister. This type of burner should be more resistant to wind than traditional burners although very strong winds can cause the odd issue. Once you add your ingredients to the pot, you can then adjust the heat level using the regulator on the burner unit. The pot has a heat resistant cover around it, so you should be able to hold it safely while drinking or eating from it when your food or drink is ready.
The cooking system for this camping stove is based on the ‘Reactor’ stoves which are manufactured by the same company, MSR. This system is regarded as one of the fastest and most fuel efficient used for camping stoves and should mean that whenever you this stove, your water or whatever else you are cooking with reaches boiling point quickly.
- Lightweight and compact
- Very easy to set up and pack away
- Fuel efficient
- Heats contents of pot very quickly
- Pot shielded with heat-resistant fabric
- Cooking options are limited
- Cup can be difficult to remove
For those of you who want a camp stove that mimics the cooking capacity and versatility of the BBQ grill that you may have in your back yard, you might just have found the one that does so.
We’ll talk about its size first, and the fact that the cooking area is no less than 32 inches across, and it is 14 inches deep. That gives you whopping 448 square inches of cooking area and should allow you to use some of the big pots and pans that would normally be too big to consider for cooking on a camping stove.
This means you can use large skillets and frying pans for steaks, burgers or fried chicken, and big, deep pots for curries or lots of boiled vegetables. Cooking accessories can be purchased for this camp stove which include a griddle, roaster and a Dutch oven to extend the list of meals that are possible with it even further.
We mentioned BBQ grills and this camp stove looks very similar to those, and we dare say at a push could even be used as one. The main grill sits on four legs, and these legs can be adjusted so that the main unit is at a height which is most comfortable for whoever is tasked with the cooking. The legs are removable so if you want to use it on a tailgate you can.
There are two burners, and here again, we are talking big. Each has a capacity of 30,000 BTUs which is one of the highest we have seen for a camp stove and even beats many BBQ grills. The burners are fueled using a propane tank, and for this purpose, a 3-ft. hose and regulator are included. One point of note is that you can either use the burner to cook individually, or there is an adapter you can purchase to make them operate as a double burner.
To start the Camp Chef Explorer, you do need matches or lighter as it does not have push button ignition. Controlling the heat output is very easy using the control dials which are situated at the front of the grill. If the wind should try to spoil your cooking efforts, the flames have protection thanks to the wind shielding on three sides of the grill.
- Several options for cooking
- Two adjustable burners
- 30,000 BTU per burner output
- The cooking area is large
- Height is adjustable
- Not the easiest to clean
- Controllers have no shielding from heat
There are many camping stoves that limit you in terms of what kind of fuel you can use, and this can often lead to issues if you run out of fuel and the only ones available to buy from nearby, are not suitable. With the Optimus Polaris camp stove that should never be a problem.
The reason is that this is what Optimus call an ‘Optifuel’ stove, which is just a fancy way of describing a stove which can use several different fuels. The list of fuels is impressive and includes, gasoline, kerosene, diesel, white gas, LP gas, and believe it or not, jet fuel … although we do not suggest this is a reason to go camping next to the nearest airport!
This stove has a very distinctive design, and this is especially so in respect of the pot-holder legs. Their serrated edges make it look something that could be used to kill your dinner, rather than cook it. The pot holder and the rest of the stove are made from durable steel so there should be no issues with regards to the durability of this stove.
Operating the stove is very easy, albeit, in order to light it, you may be required to use slightly different procedures depending on the type of fuel you are using. Once you have attached your fuel source it will be a case of lighting it using a match or lighter, however, how the fuel flow is initially started may differ.
For example, with liquid gas it is simply a case of switching it on and lighting the stove. If you are outdoors in very cold climates turning the gas canister upside down can help with the fuel flow. For other liquid fuel, you may need to turn the nozzle to the ‘on’ position, prime the stove, and then light the wick.
If you are a camping novice you might think that having different fuels, and different ways to light the stove are unnecessary complications, however, Optimus haven’t done so to make it difficult to use this stove. Instead, it is for convenience and in the knowledge that campers often have preferences as to which fuel they use to cook with.
As for cooking, you can obviously only have one pot or pan being heated at any one time. Despite its small size, this stove still manages to boil water relatively quickly. One point to note is that this is not the quietest stove. The flame can be adjusted, and as an added convenience the stove comes with a magnetic cleaning needle to keep the jets clean.
- Small and compact
- Can use multiple fuel types
- Robust steel construction
- Easy to use
- Comes with magnetic cleaning needle
- Extremely noisy
- Heavier than it looks
One thing which applies to camping stoves, that may not be the case with every product you might consider, is there is such a large diversity across them with regards to many of their features. This applies to their size, weight, number of burners, how they heat, the level of control, the fuel they use and even how they can be transported, to name but a few.
It is for this reason that many people thinking about buying a camp stove sometimes struggle to choose one, especially if this is the first time, they have considered purchasing one. In the buying guide which follows we hope to help you make your choice of camp stove easier by explaining the differences between the various features and give you some assistance in assessing them prior to making your decision.
Please note that we have not listed these in any specific order of given that each of them will have a varying degree of importance to each individual.
Size and Weight
As we are talking about camp stoves it is highly likely that whichever one you choose is going to be carried by you in a rucksack or backpack. Obviously, if you plan to use it for tailgating then this doesn’t apply.
If you are going to be carrying it then some thought must be given to the weight of the camp stove and how easily, or not, it will fit in a rucksack. The last two stoves we reviewed weigh considerably more than the others, and their shapes don’t make them any easier to carry either. We suggest that these are more suited to being transported in a vehicle.
As for the others, there is still some diversity of sizes and weight but all of them should be lightweight enough to be carried on your back, and some are even small enough that you could take two with you.
We will continue with the emphasis on size for a moment because this has a large bearing on what your options are in terms of what you are able to cook with your camp stove.
At one end of the scale, you have those which are most suited to boiling water and other liquids. While they do this quickly and efficiently, it is fair to say that the scope of meal types you can make with them is limited somewhat to mostly hot drinks, soups, and broths. If you want to be able to cook full meals with a camp stove then these types are not for you.
Instead, you should be looking at those that enable you to place a pot or pan on top and as such, you can basically cook anything that you could on your cooktop at home. Admittedly, it may take longer than those with just one burner, but for the one’s with two burners you should be able to make just about any meal you desire.
For those stoves where heat output is specified this will normally be measured in BTUs, which is an abbreviation for British Thermal Unit. The irony is that in Britain they don’t measure heat output in BTUs; they use kilowatts.
For the larger camp grills with 1 or 2 burners you can expect to find heat output of between 10,000 and 30,000 BTUs per burner which is a lot of heat, and in some cases as good as any decent barbecue grill. This lets you cook quicker and increases the ability of the grill to cook in certain ways which require high heat, such as searing or frying.
Smaller grills and those designed to boil water there may not even be a heat output given. These will tend to offer boiling times a measure of how quickly they can work.
This might not be at the top of the list of important features for many of you, but the next time you try to cook outdoors with a strong wind blowing all around, and your camp stove doesn’t have a windshield, it will soon be up there. The burner flame getting blown out is one of the primary reasons why you’d want a windshield, and it also helps stop anything getting blown over with the cooking area.
These shields tend to be found on the larger stoves, and are normally on three sides, although some just use the lid on the back of the grill. Some shields are more effective than others and bear in mind that none will give you 100% shielding against extremely strong winds … some homes don’t even do that!
This will simply be a case of whether the camp stove you are considering has a push-button ignition or whether you need to use a naked flame. The better ones with a push button will tend to have what is known as a Piezo ignitor which creates a spark to ignite the fuel burners.
If your camp stove does not have an ignitor button then you will have to use good old fashioned matches or if you want to at least use a bit of modern technology, a lighter. There are two main advantages to ignition, the first being it is easier to light if there is wind blowing.
The second might seem obvious, but we must point out there has been many a camping trip ruined because someone forgot to bring matches to light the stove. The fact that you can light some without any need to remember to bring anything to do so, might make them more appealing.
We have spoken about how you ignite your camp stove, now it is time to discuss what it is you’ll be igniting, and that is the fuel. The first thing that you note with almost all stoves is that the fuel must be purchased separately. This is not necessarily a case of the manufacturers being less than generous, but more to do with the regulations with regards to how fuels are shipped domestically to customers.
The main fuel type used for camping stoves is propane, with many having the appropriate adapter for a standard 16-oz. propane canister to be either fitted directly or by means of a short hose, which is also normally supplied. We suggest you always check for these. If you want to use a larger tank, you can in most cases, but you will need to purchase the appropriate adapter for these.
There are some stoves which are classified as ‘multi-fuel’ and are capable of being fueled by alternatives to propane. These include gasoline and kerosene which may be useful to use when you have run out of propane or there is none available.
Whether you are cooking on an expensive cooker range at home, or on the simplest camp stove, one thing which will make cooking easier for you is the ability to control the amount of heat being generated.
On a very simple camp stove, you will have a small regulator, which is often no more than shaped wire metal which you turn to increase or decrease the flow of gas to the burner. In truth that is what all controllers do, but the difference is in how they are set up.
The larger and more advanced gas stoves won’t have wire metal but proper control dials, akin to the type you have on your cooker at home. One point to note is with one or two camp stove reviewers have said that the low setting doesn’t reduce the heat down as far as they’d like so if this is something which may be important for you, check for this.
Ease of Cleaning
We are going to assume you are going to want your camp stove to be in good working order for some time, and one of the best ways to do that is to make sure you clean it after use. This brings us to the matter that some stoves are going to require more cleaning than others, and that some will be easier to clean than others too.
The smaller stoves will obviously need less cleaning but nonetheless ensuring the fuel connections and burner are clear will help to maintain it. For larger grills, you are going to have the issue of spills and drips from pots and pans. Thankfully, these tend to have drip trays, and some of these are stainless steel which helps with both cleaning and longevity. Look for grill plates that have a special coating which makes cleaning them easier.
When we say extras, unfortunately, camp stoves seem to be a product that does not normally come with a lot of freebies or extras. What we mean by ‘extras’ are some features, which may be unique to a specific camp stove, and enhances it, or makes it easier to use.
Some of those you will see on the stoves we have featured include extra bowls, carry handles, insulating sleeve, adjustable height, side tables, portability wheels, and collapsible design. Obviously, these do not feature on every camp stove but one or more might.
While the price of a product might not be regarded by some as a feature, it is surely safe to say that getting value for money is something everyone wants. The problem is that everyone, including ourselves, has differing ideas about what constitutes value for money or a reasonable price for any specific product.
It would, therefore, be difficult for us to say what camp stove we believe is ‘good value’ compared to another, as that one may not even have the features you are looking for. Let us just say that we found all the camp stoves we have reviewed to do an excellent job within the expectation we had for them.
As for the prices, we will leave it to you to decide whether you are paying a fair price or not for any one of them, other than to say that the range is wide, with the lowest price being around $70, and the highest is $170.
We hope you found our comprehensive review of camp stoves and the buying guide useful and enlightening. Most of all we hope they have helped make your decision as to which one you want to purchase easier.
The range of stoves we looked at was very diverse, and therefore it gave us a chance to look at different types of stoves for camping of varying sizes and uses. This, therefore, makes it slightly more difficult for us to choose our No. 1 camp stove as we are comparing products which differ greatly.
Nevertheless, having considered all the features we have in our buying guide we have decided that our top camp stove is the Coleman Triton Series 2-Burner Stove. We believe this has the widest appeal to campers of all types plus those who go hiking or are looking for a camp stove for tailgating. It is lightweight enough to be carried and its size doesn’t make it too big to be transported or even carried in a large rucksack.
It’s cooking capacity allows you to cook with two pots or two pans, and heat output of 11,000 BTUs on each burner means it has no lack of output. Other features include being easy to clean, a three-sided windshield and push-button ignition make this an ideal camp stove for all.