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Updated November 14, 2022 at 3:48 p.m
No camping trip is fun if you have to eat energy bars the whole time. Whether you’re a recreational camper or doing some serious hiking, mealtime matters, and that means cooking on a camp stove. The organization of your camp kitchen will be determined by your style and the duration of the activity, as well as by your appetite and the size of the group; all of these things affect which camping stove is the best for you.
The basics around camp studs
The best camping stove is not a single category. There are propane camping stoves, electric camping stoves, wood-burning camping stoves — and that’s before you get to single-burner or multi-burner, in-ground or freestanding camping stoves.
But the search for the best camping stove doesn’t have to be exhausting, and once you break it down to a few essential considerations, the right one for you should be pretty clear. Before we jump into them, a few terms and features to keep in mind when it comes to these camping kitchen essentials:
- BTUs: British thermal unit, aka, the standard measurement of energy production. Read carefully, as this is often listed as the total number for all burners. To make the number less abstract, just compare it to a household stove, which averages 10,000 BTU/hr per burner. This “per hour” part is important: Mass is about how much food you can prepare and how quickly. Remember that climate and altitude will also affect this, as you are cooking in the open air.
- Fuel: Most camping stoves use propane, butane, isobutane – and/or a mixture of all three called Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). You’ll also see gasoline, alcohol, and wood stoves, too. Overall, propane and LPG win out. They are reliable in the cold and burn fairly cleanly and with good cost and energy efficiency from weight to burn. Of course, they require canisters to be carried everywhere you go, which can make a wood stove more attractive.
Now: On the questions you should ask when choosing a camping stove.
Best Camping Stoves: Our Picks
Need a lightweight camp stove?
Car vs. backpacking is an obvious consideration when choosing the best camp stove. But where will you store it, who will carry it, how much space do you have to cart it from place to place – and how easy or cumbersome is it to use, and therefore how likely you are to lug it around – are also essential factors. If you’re going to be backpacking, you’ll need a stove that weighs very little and can be placed almost anywhere.
Best for backpacking: Flash Jetboil cooking system
Weighing in at 13.1oz, this LPG powered camp stove holds a liter of water or pellets and the surface area to burner ratio means it gets hot QUICK. The Jetboil Flash accessory system also makes it something of a Swiss Army Knife of camp stoves, as it can easily convert into a coffee press or pan, as well as support a satellite burner or even be used as a pendant. BTU: 4500 to 9000. Combined with light backpacking meals, you will eat well anywhere.
Do you prefer a classic gas-powered camp stove?
If you like your camp stoves just like your wood—intact and the way they always were—a classic, metal, two-burner propane camping stove may be for you. (These have received several upgrades, such as unmatched flares and improved wind screens.)
A major advantage is that propane is cost effective and easily obtained. Most propane camping stoves can be connected to portable 1-pound cylinders or attached to a large 20-pound propane tank via an adapter. Another advantage is that these stoves can accommodate normal sized pots, pans and camping grills.
Best Propane: Coleman Triton+ Stove
This Coleman Triton camp stove is the ultimate propane camping stove. It has what you need and nothing you don’t in a simple package, like its metal wind shield parts that attach to the lid and its carrying case too. With 11,000 BTUs per burner, it’s a great choice for a small camping crew.
Want a camp stove that can use found fuel sources like sticks and twigs?
At the end of the day, you need to make sure your camping essentials don’t get in the way. Self-reliance, durability, convenience, and less to carry: All factors in favor of camp stoves that can use wood and other readily available fuel sources. If you’re already building a campfire—or want to feel like you have a campfire without all the work, smoke, and mess—camping wood stoves are a natural fit. You can buy small, food-safe lighters in the rain, but they also work on twigs, sticks, paper, cardboard and similar organic materials, providing extremely fast and effective cooking flames.
The best wood stove: BioLite CampStove 2+
The BioLite CampStove 2+ heats up quickly and completely smoke-free on any biomass and has a built-in fire powered USB charger for your flashlight, phone and other electronics. An integral fan gets and keeps that fire hot and smoke-free. This BioLite stove is also extremely lightweight with no additional fuel to factor into your weight calculations. Any pot or pan can sit on top, or you can get the BioLite lightweight kettle, coffee press and grill top. BTUs depend on the fuel used.
Will you be cooking for a whole team?
If you’re cooking for a crowd or want side dishes as well as griddle, more burners are needed on a cooktop—such as the ability to cook on both a grill and a griddle, along with a stove at a reasonable height for eliminated all this up and down and bending. You’ll also want to aim for the higher end of the BTU spectrum so you don’t spend the whole adventure waiting for the food to cook. You’ll also need more fuel, so make sure your camping stove accommodates a large propane tank, not just a canister.
With many of the best chilies: Camp Chef Large Gas Grill
The Camp Chef 38 by 16-inch grill rivals most home stoves and grills, and with three propane burners that deliver 30,000 BTUs of power each, you’ll cook hot and fast, making quick work of anything on the menu. The two-burner, cast-iron grate has a vented lid and the third side burner is for standard stove use. It has a convenient adjustable prep surface and the legs open and close for easy transport.
Shopping for Camping Essentials on a Budget?
Extend the same logic you’d use for home appliances and backyard grills when it comes to price and performance with camping stoves. Of course, you can absolutely find one for free, just don’t expect it to work as well or last as long. But depending on your needs and the reality of your bank account, it’s still better than a camping diet of cold canned vegetables and beef.
The best budget: CANWAY camping stove
If your jaunt into the woods is more like a casual night at a campsite than a full-on outdoor adventure, this lightweight and affordable wood-burning camping stove will do the job. It won’t get as hot as the BioLite above (it’s the fan system that really makes it work so well) or fuel stoves, but it makes a concentrated fire and weighs just a hair over a kilo.
Frequently asked questions
Is propane or butane better for camping?
If you are going to use your camping stove in cold weather, propane is the best option. Many camp stoves also use liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is a mixture of propane, butane and/or isobutane that balances the pros and cons of different fuels.
What is the best lightweight camping stove?
The best lightweight camping stove that runs on LPG is the Jetboil Flash Cooking System. The best lightweight camping stove that uses wood and other organic materials is the BioLite CampStove 2+.
How many BTUs do I need for my camping stove?
In general, look for 10,000+ BTUs per burner per hour, as this is equivalent to the power of one burner in an average household stove. You can find camping stoves that go well below and above that, but know that it’s how you use the stove that counts. Fewer BTUs are not inherently bad, and in some cases may be desired (eg, if you just want a low or slow simmer) and more BTUs are not always better (eg, if you’re not doing anything nice and want fuel to stay).
Takeaway at the best camping stoves
The best camping stove is the one you actually use, so when choosing, consider ease of setup and teardown, weight and portability, fuel needs, burner BTU output, and available cooking surface/compatible utensils. of cooking. Then pack it up and get out already.