Camping Stove Buying Guide
What is a Camping Stove
Camping stoves are important and real need for camping and it is portable too. When looking for a camp stove there are a number of decisions that must be made in order to find the right stove for your needs.
Things to Consider Before Buying
Where Will You Use the Stove. For cooking on the go you want to find a unit that is compact and portable along with giving you enough power to cook food quickly and efficiently. Tent camping, outdoor hikes and other outdoor trips may require you to carry the unit a distance before using, making the portability a key consideration. For cooking at home or tailgating, preserving counter space and having the ability to place the unit on the ground may be more important than having a compact size.
How Many People Will You Need to Feed? Each camp stove will have a cooking surface that will limit the amount of food that can be cooked at one time. If you need something compact that feeds more people it may be necessary to have two small stoves that give you both portability and feeding capacity. The surface cooking space will determine the number of pots or pans and what sizes can be used to cook with. Those with wind protective sides can often be lowered to fit larger pots, but the cooking surface may be uneven and that needs to be considered as you cook.
What Kind of Fuel Will You Use? Fuel is a very important factor as carrying fuel can create challenges of its own. The most common type of fuel for camp stoves is either charcoal or propane. Propane comes in a small tank and is compact and clean. The canisters do need to be disposed of properly so you will need to carry them in and out of your location. Charcoal is heavier and messier but can be burned with nothing to carry out. Charcoal cooking also does not provide the temperature control that a propane burner generally does. Gas, wood and other fuels are also available depending on the stove you choose. Wood can often be found on site.
What Storage Do You Need? Camping stoves are compact but will require storage in the form of where the stove will be kept when it is not in use along with how it will be carried to your site. Portability and storage are one of the key benefits of a camp stove and you should consider where it will be kept and how it will be transported before choosing the right stove for your family.
How Will the Stove Be Used? The most common use for a camp stove is camping. However, with the popularity of RVing and tailgating, there are expanded uses for a camp stove. No longer do they sit in the corner with the sleeping bag to be drug out once or twice a year. Another key reason to have a camping stove is for emergency preparedness. If a storm takes out your electricity a camp stove can provide heat and a way to cook meals outside while you wait for reprieve. This is an essential item to have should you ever lose your ability to cook on your home stove.
Features to consider
Types of Fuel. Fuels can generally not be interchanged among units and you need to get a camp stove that accommodates your preferred fuel. The most common types of fuel available include the following:
- Canister fuel such a propane is the most common. It is easy to store, easy to carry and very compact. While most do not have a fuel gauge so you need to bring more than you think you need, they are a clean, lightweight option. Propane comes in 1 pound tanks that can be packed with a small camp stove. Larger units can also be used on small stoves with an adapter.
- Liquid gas is a highly refined fuel that performs well even when the temperatures are very cold. It is flammable, heavier to carry and must be primed before using. Liquid gas is a white gas specifically used for camping, not vehicle gas.
- Charcoal can be purchased in bags and can be match lit which eliminates the need to carry starter fuel. The charcoal can be burned leaving nothing to carry out. It is messier than propane and does not offer the ability to control temperatures. However, many people are used to charcoal if you do any grilling at home.
- Wood is the ultimate lightweight fuel because you can generally find it at your location rather than having to carry it in. It burns easily and is easy to put out. It takes skill to start a wood fire, but with access to fire starters this can be a good option. For cooking it does limit your ability to control the temperature so cooking food with wood takes practice.
- Alcohol can be used as a fuel and is very versatile. Never use methane alcohol as it is toxic. Rather find a denatured alcohol that can be used for cooking and burning.
- Fuel tablets are made of hexamine. They are lightweight and compact and easy to start. They have a very short burn time and are better for emergency situations due to their high cost.
Temperature Control is an important element to cooking quality food. Propane does a great job because it is like cooking on a gas stove. While you may not get an exact temperature reading you can get close by controlling the size of the flame. Other methods of fuel like wood and charcoal do not have the ability to control the temperature only the ability to move food to hotter or cooler spots.
Wind Protection is an important feature when working with open flames. The wind could cause other items to catch fire so the fire should be watched closely and the shields should be up if available. Open flame burners that do not offer wind protection are harder to work with.
Legs or a stand may or may not be important depending on how you will be using the cook stove. Some come with short legs and are still used on a table where others are free standing. For cooking at home or tailgating a freestanding unit will have advantages over a table top unit. Camp stoves that are very small have a tendency to fall over making it more difficult to cook with.
Portability. How easy is it to carry and move? This can include features like a lock or latch that keep the stove closed or a handle to carry the unit.
Cooking Surface will limit what you can cook and how many people you can feed from one stove. The larger surface is not always better because it must be weighed against portability to determine which size is best for your needs.
When choosing a camping stove consider the many place you might use it. Do you tailgate at football games, camp in a tent or RV, or just enjoy having family over and need extra burners when company comes? Determine how the stove will get the most use and then match those needs to decide what features you require. There is a perfect camping stove for you and your family.