If your outdoor camping trip lasts more than a few hours, you’ll obviously be firing up the burner to cook. The classic image of outdoor cooking involves a campfire with a blackened kettle and skillet perched over the flames, but that usually isn’t your best option.
A fire takes time to get going properly, and it can be a struggle to light it at all in bad weather. You need to be careful to put it out safely when you’re done. Then the smell of smoke can spook wildlife over a large area, and at night the flames are very conspicuous too. In many places you’re not even allowed to light fire. This all adds up to saying that finding the best camping stove is an essential piece of gear on any outdoor camping trip.
Camp stoves come in all sizes and fuel types, from tiny folding hexamine or alcohol gel burners to things you wouldn’t mind having in the kitchen at home. Not all of them suit every purpose, though. Solid fuel or gel stoves have some of the same drawbacks as a fire and they’re also best as emergency equipment or for making a quick hot drink – you’d struggle to cook much of a meal on one.
Top Selection for Base Camps: Coleman Classic Propane Stove
Top Lightweight Selection for Hiking/Backpacking: Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System
Top Lightweight Wood Burning Stove: Solo Stove Lite Compact Stove
- Backpacking & Camp Stove Buyer’s Guide:
- Five Awesome Propane Gas Stoves for Camping in a Base Camp:
- Six Fantastic Ultralight Hiking & Backpacking Stoves:
- Two Great Ultralight Camping/Hiking Wood Burning Stoves:
- Wrapping Up & Parting Thoughts:
Backpacking & Camp Stove Buyer’s Guide:
Probably the biggest decision when you’re buying a stove is what fuel to go with. Pressure stoves, like a Primus or the classic Coleman Peak, run on liquid fuel like gasoline or kerosene. They’re the most powerful, and the fuel is cheap and easy to find.
They do need some skill to use safely though, and a bottle of gasoline isn’t the best thing to have in your gear. Propane/butane gas or wood are better options for most people. Propane is not too expensive, the canisters are safe to carry around, and there’s a huge range of stoves available. Wood obviously makes life a lot easier, but you’ll need some matches or a fire starter to fire them up. Next you need to decide what size of stove you want.
Your Two Primary Options:
Backpacking Stoves: These are compact and lightweight. Often the actual stove is just a burner unit that screws on top of the gas canister. Others have a folding stand, and a hose to connect the gas to. These are more stable, but take more time to set up.
Larger Camping Stoves: Larger camping stoves are designed for setting up a larger base camp. They’re larger and heavier, but usually sturdier and offer more cooking space. Many of the most popular models have twin burners, which lets you cook more elaborate meals.
What’s Best for You?
Which style is best will largely depend what sort of trips you’re planning. If you’re going out alone or with a friend you’re probably better off with a backpacking stove. It doesn’t take up a lot of space and will be plenty for making drinks and warming up MRE-type meals or a tin of chilli. If there’s two of you, even carrying one each will save you weight over a two-burner model and give you a lot of the same benefits – plus you still have a working stove if one of them goes wrong on you. Backpacking stoves are best used with camp cookware, like a GI mess kit or lightweight pans; if you put that old cast iron skillet on one the chances are it’s going to be pretty unstable.
For larger groups, especially if you don’t plan on carrying your gear very far, a larger stove is usually better. The burners are often more powerful and the design is more stable; these are large, usually flat units that sit securely on the ground or any level surface. It’s easier to control the heat and the wider surfaces mean you can fit bigger, heavier pans on them safely. If you can’t face the morning without a couple of fried eggs inside you this is definitely the way to go.
There are a few things to remember about gas stoves. You can get spare canisters at most hardware stores and just about anywhere that sells camping equipment, but unless you’re in an area that has a lot of campers you’re not so likely to find them in gas stations or convenience stores. Make sure you take enough fuel to last your whole trip, which means work out what you think you’ll need then add 50%.
If you’re traveling abroad check the rules before you turn up at the airport. If you can’t take fuel with you, do some research to make sure you can get it at your destination. If not you’re probably better getting whatever stoves are available when you arrive. Domestic flights aren’t such an issue. You still might not be able to take fuel, but you can get more anywhere in the USA, so that won’t be a problem.
If the stove you decide on doesn’t have a full windshield consider buying one. These are light and usually fold up flat, but they can make a big difference to a stove’s efficiency. If the weather’s breezy a lot of heat can get snatched away before reaching your cookware, so a shield will save you fuel and get the water boiling faster. You can also save fuel by using a lid on your pots. Even some aluminum foil will keep heat in so things cook more quickly, and again that means less gas used. As long as you remember those basics, gas stoves are pretty easy to use. As with any cooking system, nothing is fool proof and you’ll want to make sure you have a good watch on your wrist in order to properly time how long some food items should cook.
Five Awesome Propane Gas Stoves for Camping in a Base Camp:
1. Coleman Classic Camping Stove:
There’s no bigger name in camping stoves than Coleman – that’s what the company was based on, and they still make an excellent range today. The Classic propane stove is a two-burner model that’s typical of this style of cooker. It’s also affordable, at $49.99. For this price you don’t expect the bells and whistles that some more modern stoves have, but what you get is a light and compact piece of gear that makes it easy to do real cooking wherever you are.
The stove is built into a slim metal case with a hinged lid that clips shut for travel. When it’s raised you’ll find two folding windbreaks inside that open out to protect the cooking area; wire stays hold them open, and they can be adjusted to fit larger pans. There’s enough space for a twelve-inch and a ten-inch pot at the same time, but if you want to cook with something larger you can fold the lid flat.
Unlike more expensive stoves this one doesn’t have a built-in igniter, so you’ll need a lighter or matches, but once you get it going it puts out a lot of heat – a total of 20,000 BTU with both burners running. That’s plenty for anything you’ll want to cook. The tray is steel with an aluminum coating for easy cleaning, and your pots sit on a chromed grille that can be easily removed. With both burners on high a 16.4 ounce can of propane lasted just under an hour. If you plan on doing a lot of cooking you can also get an extension hose that lets you use larger, refillable gas bottles.
This is a cheap and simple stove, but it’s also powerful and reliable. Its light weight is a bonus too. If you want a good, workmanlike cooker for your camping trips the Coleman Classic is hard to beat.
2. Coleman Triton Series 2-Burner:
In concept the Triton stove is very like the Classic, but it’s a more modern design. The main differences you’ll notice apart from the color are the updated look of the case and the fact the temperature knobs are now located under the burners they control, instead of both being off to one side as on the older model. That’s a small detail but it does make the Triton a bit more intuitive to use. Coleman have also added a carrying handle cutout in the base, which is another nice touch. The windshield system is basically the same as the Classic’s, and just as effective.
The Triton is slightly heavier than the Classic, but not enough that you couldn’t carry it a fair distance. It does seem a bit sturdier, which is definitely a bonus. The main improvement, however, is the increased power. This model puts out 12,000 BTU from each burner, compared to the older stove’s 20,000. That will get your water boiling faster but the more modern design means fuel economy is just as good – there was no difference in running time off a 16.4 ounce gas canister.
Like the Classic you can also run the Triton from a refillable gas container if you get an adapter cable. If you buy Coleman’s Triton griddle (which is definitely recommended)) you can store it inside the lid when the stove is packed away.
3. Camp Chef Explorer:
The Camp Chef Explorer is a heavy duty free-standing stove with all the power you could ever want. Planning a trip with a large group? This is what you need to keep everyone supplied with hot meals.
The Explorer is a functional piece of kit. The base of the system is a solid iron frame with a pair of leg stubs at each end and two big burners slung underneath. You can sit it on a table – the stubs will raise the burners clear of the surface – or just fit the legs, then slot in the three-sided windshield and you’re ready to go. There are plenty accessories and upgrades available, including igniters (you’ll need one for each burner) but even straight out of the box it’s excellent.
Unlike the smaller models the Explorer runs on refillable bulk propane bottles, making it ideal for longer trips. A 20 pound bottle will give you 15 hours of use with both burners on high – and high with this stove is serious heat. Each burner can put out 30,000 BTU, and the 14×32-inch cooking area gives you more than enough workspace.
This is a big, solid stove that weighs in at over 40 pounds, but for a good-sized base camp the extra capability will make a huge difference. It’s an excellent value for the price.
4. Camp Chef Camping Outdoor Oven:
The big problem with a camp stove, whatever kind it is, is that you’re pretty much restricted to what you can cook in a pot or skillet. Many of them will take a griddle, and some let you grill over them (although that gets messy) but you can’t broil. If you like to camp in comfort when you’re out camping, though, there is a solution – the Camp Chef Outdoor Oven.
The name says it all, really. This is a small gas oven with a two-burner stove on top, and it runs off a one-pound disposable canister. And that means you can take it anywhere. It’s compact, and doesn’t have as much space as your oven at home, but if you want to broil a duck or even make a loaf there’s space to do that. Of course you also have a pair of 7,500 BTU burners on top, with a lid and folding windscreens to protect it.
At 35 pounds this isn’t something you’d want to carry too far but it’s quite compact at 21x18x13 inches, and has a sturdy carrying handle at each end. With the lid down it’s easy to move it – just make sure the oven door stays shut.
The oven will take a 9×13 pan and has two shelves for convenience. Maximum temperature is 400°F (there’s a gauge on the front to show how hot it is) and great insulation means one canister of gas will run it at this temperature for close to five hours, which is impressive. You can also get a hose and adapter to run it from larger refillable bottles.
It’s a little more expensive, but the value it brings your campsite is worth a lot more than that.
5. Stansport 2 Burner Propane Stove:
Stansport Outfitters has come up with this high-powered interpretation of the two-burner design. It’s similar overall to the Coleman Classic or Triton, but has some features that make it worth paying for a slightly higher price tag.
Firstly, if little conveniences mean a lot to you, the Stansport has a piezo igniter. Just turn on the gas to one or both burners then twist the red knob, and the stove will come to life. Using a match or lighter isn’t a big deal but it can be tricky on a windy day, and this option avoids any problems.
Once it’s lit the two control knobs let you adjust heat output precisely, all the way up to a massive 25,000 BTU per burner. This stove will get your water boiled faster than anything except the Camp Chef Explorer.
The stove itself is ruggedly built from steel; the top and windscreens are stainless for easy cleaning and the grate is extra heavy duty. You can easily use heavy cookware on here without bending anything.
The windscreens work well, but they work differently from Coleman’s design. On a Coleman the screens are hinged to the lid, so you can angle them outwards if you want to use oversize pans. Stansport have hinged them to the top of the stove; they fold flat for storage, then flip up and hook on to the sides of the lid. It’s strong and reliable, but a bit awkward if you want to use a large skillet.
Overall though, this is a great stove that’s about as powerful as it gets in this style.
Six Fantastic Ultralight Hiking & Backpacking Stoves:
These are your top choices in our opinion if you are out in the wilderness and expect to be on the move for more than a day. You’ll want something that can get dropped into your backpack that’s lightweight and doesn’t set you back by overloading the amount of weight you are carrying.
These stoves can definitely be used by hardcore campers and hunters. Ideally they are more for the serious hiker than they are for the casual camper or hunter that will be stationed at a base camp. If you are set up at a nice base camp, there’s no reason you shouldn’t consider jumping into a two tank burner set and running with the ease of setup and flexibility they offer.
If you are a hardcore backpacker or hiker, read on and enjoy.
1. Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System:
This neat little stove from Jetboil is a completely different beast. Aimed squarely at backpackers, and popular with soldiers, it weighs less than a pound and isn’t much larger than a can of beer. If you’re going out on your own, or want a second stove to quickly make hot drinks while you’re in a hide, this is fantastic.
Like most Jetboil stoves the Flash is a highly integrated system. The stove itself is a fairly standard burner that screws on to a gas canister. Jetboil recommend you use their own Jetpower ones, but they would, wouldn’t they? In fact any standard canister should fit fine. That said, Jetpower fuel is a high-performance mix that’s excellent in cold weather, so for winter trips it could be worth tracking some down.
The burner is fully adjustable for power output and has an igniter, although some people have reported problems with that so take a lighter anyway. It also comes with a plastic stabilizer that fits to the base of the gas canister, and a support ring between the burner and canister. So far it’s a standard, although very good, backpacking stove. What makes it different is it all comes packed into a one-liter steel cup that clips to the top of the burner to make a completely stable cooking system. The cup is large enough to cook most camp meals, it has a neoprene insulation sleeve with handle, there’s a snap-on cap with drinking hole and a color-change temperature indicator lets you see when the contents are hot.
You can find the Flash for up to $20 off the $99.99 list price, which is more than either of the Colemans, but if you want a compact but really practical stove this is perfect. You can also get loads of accessories, including a support for standard pots, larger Jetboil pots and even a coffee press that fits inside the cup.
2. Coleman Classic Single Burner Stove:
The Coleman Classic camp stove works and functions just like it’s supposed to. The burner unit screws on top of a gas canister and that’s you ready to go. It’s a simple, effective design and this is a good quality example of it.
Coleman don’t sit around, so despite being simple the 10642 – let’s shorten it a bit – includes some of the same technology as their larger models. PerfectFlow helps ensure a consistent supply of gas, which makes it more reliable in high winds and helps avoid unexpected fireballs. The PerfectHeat burner design improves efficiency, so you use less fuel for the same results.
This is actually a three-part stove; as well as the burner and gas canister (which is sold separately) there’s a snap-on plastic base that fits Coleman’s own canisters and makes the stove more stable. Combined with a wide pot stand that lets you cook safely with up to 8-inch pans.
Performance-wise this is impressive; the burner can put out 10,000 BTU at full power, and it’s also easy to adjust the output. The control knob has a convenient extended shaft. It’s not as compact as a folding burner but the design gives good wind protection.
3. Coleman PowerPack:
A completely different design of single burner stove, the PowerPack is very simple to set up. The stove itself is fully assembled, so you just have to screw a propane canister to the end of the gas tube and that’s it ready to go. For a small party or solo hunter this has a lot to offer.
One thing the PowerPack isn’t is a backpacking stove. It’s a pressed steel base with the burner in the center and a grate on top, and it’s quite large – 14 inches across – and heavy, weighing in at around four pounds. On the other hand its flat profile makes it incredibly stable, and it can handle larger pans than most stoves. If you can’t live without your iron skillet the PowerPack will work just fine.
Operating this stove is simple. Once the gas canister is fitted to the tube – which is an aluminum pipe, not a hose – you just have to turn on the knob and light it with a match. The flame can then be adjusted – it’s slightly fiddly setting a low temperature, but a little practice will sort that – and you’re ready to cook. Heat output is a respectable 7,500 BTU, but it performs like a higher output because the large burner spreads heat more evenly across your pan. One point to note is that it’s not ideal for tiny backpacking pots, because they can be too small to sit stably on the grate.
The fact that this stove can be had usually for less than $50.00 makes it a dependable stove at a great value.
4. Etekcity Ultralight Portable Outdoor Backpacking Stove:
The Etekcity ultralight portable outdoor backpacking/camping stove is an extremely lightweight aluminum alloy & stainless steel stove that comes equipped with a Piezo ignition. It comes in an extremely small package and is very portable because of its light weight.
This happens to be one of our favorite models for hikers that will be trekking for long distances because of the fact it is so light and carries extremely well with anyone looking to really reduce their pack weight. It has a flame control for the propane tank that gets plugged into it and it complies with the “Leave No Trace” policies set forth by the US forest service.
The Etekcity hangs with the Coleman Single Burner and the Coleman PowerPack, and is one of the better lightweight options on the market if you decide to go outside the Coleman dominated domain. It also comes with a great price tag, usually under $20.00. It’s been noted that it may be slightly harder to light at higher elevations, but unless you are going north of 8,000 feet it shouldn’t be any concern at all.
Overall the Etekcity packs plenty of power in a little package and provides a great value at a cheaper price point.
Two Great Ultralight Camping/Hiking Wood Burning Stoves:
The wood burning stoves are great for green conscious individuals that prefer to keep waste to a minimum while also reducing their overall gear detail (especially while packing a big family tent or a sleeping bag). These little stoves are almost as effective (some people would argue more effective) than their propane powered counterparts.
While we can argue about the effectiveness all day, the one thing that cannot be ignored is the fact that these have less carry weight as they don’t require a tank. Fuel will never be a problem as long as you have matches or a lighter with you, making these a fantastic option for backpackers and hikers.
1. Solo Stove Lite Compact Stove:
The Solo Stove Lite is our top choice in the wood burning stove category. The Solo Stove also comes in a larger version called the “titan” which will cook larger pots. You can even purchase a combo that includes a lightweight stainless steel pot to specifically go with the stainless base.
The Solo Stove is an award winning wood burning stove at one point winning “gear winner of the year” by Backpacker magazine. The patented design ensures that smoke is at a minimum while providing a fast boil time. It can get 34 oz. of water boiling in under 10 minutes. The Solo Stove weight under 9 oz. making it absolutely perfect for someone that backpacks a lot and needs to watch their pack weight.
The biggest perk with the Solo Stove Lite is the fact that the fuel is completely free. Just add some tinder/wood, light it up and you should be good to go within a few minutes. Overall this is the best camping stove we’ve found on the market in the wood burning stove category.
2. Ohuhu Portable Stainless Steel Stove:
The Ohuhu Portable Stainless Steel Stove is similar to the Solo Stove Lite. It’s slightly heavier than the Solo at 14.2 ounces making it less ideal than the Solo for backpacking and hiking longer distances. Where it makes up for the weight is in the price point. It’s about half the cost of the Solo Stove Lite and is definitely a quality option.
The Ohuhu is made out of stainless steel and comes equipped with a 3 arm support that will work to balance your pot on top with ease. Wood, twigs, pinecones and just about anything that’s normal tinder will work for the fire in the Ohuhu as a heat supply.
There are no fuel canisters or chemical emissions, making this an environmentally friendly lightweight option for anyone that will be out and about hiking through the wilderness. Overall it’s a great option and a great choice for anyone on a budget.
Wrapping Up & Parting Thoughts:
Just remember that when you pick your camping stove, you need to make an informed decision on what you will be using it for the most. We’d stay away from any of the bigger dual propane stoves and stick with the single tank, portable versions if we were heading out to hike the Grand Canyon. If we were just sticking around a local lake and camping for the weekend, that’s a completely different use and requires a different approach to what you use to cook your food.
Overall, you won’t go wrong with any of the models we’ve listed here and think that all of them serve their purpose quite well when it comes to cooking grub outdoors.