Holding a pan over the campfire is the old way of doing things.
You can, but do you really want to?
Camping stoves bring the glory of indoor cooking outside, within reason. These stoves we’ve chosen for you today share attributes such as being lightweight, portable, and viable in just about every wilderness and survival-based situation.
From classic camp stoves to the best single burner propane camping stoves, there’s a lot you need to know before diving in.
We need to discuss fuel types, BTU output (and what it means), maintenance and local law compliance, among other things.
Your questions are about to be answered, and you’ll be packing for your next camping trip before you know it.
Before we get started with individual camping stove reviews, let’s look at our comparison table to give you the quick version of what the best camping stove has to offer.
Based on the power and the weight, it’s recommended to bring this along with larger parties in a group camp setting, so you can have someone help you out.
You’ll find this more useful at campsites with direct vehicle parking nearby, and not dispersed camping for a few miles off the trails.
So it’s less portable, but it boasts an excellent amount of space. 448 square inches of grilling surface is more than many backyard grills have (and they usually charge triple what Camp Chef is asking for).
The unit itself isn’t the most corrosion resistant.
It has a light coating that needs to be carefully maintained, and when you’re roughing it in the wilderness, that’s not always an easy case. Altogether, this should last you for well over a decade with proper care.
Altogether, this should last you for well over a decade with proper care.
Massive power for high volume cooking
448 square inches of cooking space for a grilling experience
Less portable than other units
Unit is not as corrosion-resistant as it should be
Coleman’s going to be your wingman. This simple two-burner unit folds down to an extremely compact size, not only making it good for storing in your backpack, but also ensuring a lightweight design.
You’ll be lugging along a total of eleven pounds, and for the convenience and power, we have to tip our hats to Coleman.
Each burner boasts 10,000 BTUs of power, mimicking your home range. This strictly uses propane, and comes with a handy spot to mount your canister safely.
Nobody should have their propane tank rolling around on the ground during use. You fold up this grill like a laptop, extend the slanted sides, and pin them into place. It cuts down on wind resistance, but could be improved.
Even though you’re not closing the hood like a grill, the material is so thin that all heat absorbs into it and gets lost on the other side.
There’s plenty of conductivity, but almost zero retention.
The grate is removable for fast and easy cleanup, giving you access to the depressed burner platform to wipe up any drippings or grease.
The only major functional issue is that you’re not controlling the flame, it’s controlling you. You basically have on or off, with very little management over the power of the flame.
The good news is you can decide to only use one side of the stove at a time, so if you alternate between group and solo camping, this will be perfect for both occasions.
Extremely lightweight and portable when closed
Separate burner control preserves propane use
Little to no propane output control
Hood is very thin, making heat retention difficult
Butane is the name of the game, and MSR is the biggest player.
This super simple budget-friendly option simply hooks onto the top of a butane canister, and releases flames from three heads to create a fast solution to boil a liter of water in just under four minutes.
It’s designed for minimalists, and weighs a whopping 2.6 ounces.
You quite literally can’t find a viable solution that’s built lighter than this. Speaking of “lighter,” you may want to bring one, because MSR doesn’t include an ignition option with this snap-on stove.
The good news is you’ll have butane nearby to refill your lighter.
Design wise, the only other flaw is that since it’s so lightweight, it’s easy to bend the supports. Store this somewhere strategically in your backpack, and ensure it’s under as little pressure as possible.
Even if those spots get bent, the finish is corrosion-resistant, so even if the conditions get a bit choppy, you won’t have to worry about damage.
Unbeatable carry weight and compact size for minimalist campers
Etekcity came close to securing third place in front of MSR, but there are a few issues we need to discuss to show you why it’s a notch below.
First and foremost, we praise the highly durable all stainless steel construction, providing corrosion resistance and abrasion resistance.
The only problem with this is that the unit tends to arrive very clearly being mishandled.
The fold-out legs are often bent, and that steel construction makes it difficult to bend them back without tools.
That’s a little buyer beware information for you, but the only other major issue is that the heat centralizes (based on the size of the unit), so you’ll need to constantly be stirring your food to prevent burning it.
Heat centralization can be a good thing when it comes to boiling water, but not for frying pan dishes.
But the good news is that your flames aren’t going out anytime soon.
The head on this unit is tempered with alloy and molded in a honeycomb design, which helps fend off harsh wind, and keeps your unit perfectly lit regardless of the conditions.
It’s a great, inexpensive unit, and you get two to a pack.
Corrosion-resistant stainless steel construction
High temp alloy combustion head is wind resistant
Heat centralizes, requiring more attention to prevent burning food
Can’t decide between cooking your food or grilling it?
You’re not the only one. Coleman made this two-in-one hybrid model with you in mind.
There’s two separate burners, one going to the stove side on the left, and the other fueling the 130 square inch grilling surface on the right.
You’ll get a plate included in your box that lets you turn it into a flat top griddle, so you can make pancakes and eggs without needing a pan.
Coleman got one thing right on this grill/stove combo: controllable flames. Many of their other outdoor units either turn on or off, but you get more control with this.
Rubber feet on the bottom of the grill prevent it from moving, which can come in handy when you’re stirring a pot while scraping bacon off the griddle pan.
All grills/griddles need a grease tray, and this has one, but beware: it’s small.
If you’re cooking for a party size of four to six people, the tray might overflow from cooking camp favorites like bacon and hash.
The overall weight of this unit is agreeable at just under fifteen pounds. That’s partially due to the wind resistance panels on the back and sides, which do an excellent job of keeping the flames alive and well.
Highly wind resistant thanks to the durable hood
Rubber feet let you use this without skidding it off the table
Only 130 square inches of cooking space
Removable grease tray is small and tends to overflow
Type: Folding camping grill
Weight: 14.7 lbs
Burner Quantity: Two
How To Choose The Best Camp Stove?
reviewed the best, but you shouldn’t solely take our word for it: look at the
products individually and rate them based on a number of factors, including but
not limited to the following.
British Thermal Units, or BTUs, are the measure of how much power your camping stove has, in a simplified sense.
A standard home range has between 7,000 and 12,000 BTUs, so base your decision off of how much power you want outdoors, and how much you want it to feel like cooking at home.
Camping stoves can either be compact and designed for minimalist campers, or they can be like our first model with a designated tray design and aluminum legs.
Because nobody wants to literally drag a unit from their truck to the campsite, even larger units are still fairly lightweight, but may not fit in your backpack.
This all depends on your party size, and what you’re going to be cooking.
Everyone is different: some of us like to take electric coolers with ten pounds of steak, others prefer a minimalist approach and more survival-related experience in the wild.
It’s up to you, but keep in mind you need more burners for a larger party.
Single-burner units are good for one to two people, two-burner units for up to four, and three-burner units for up to twelve.
Look for aluminum or steel burners, thick legs (for standing units), and as little plastic/rubber use as possible.
If you’re looking for something lightweight, aluminum is the way to go. If you’re looking for something compact, you’ll have to stick with a single-unit burner.
Ease of Use
If you’re finding it difficult to use this simple piece of technology, then you aren’t using the right stove.
Complicated camping stoves became outdated in the 1980’s when manufacturing practices were optimized, so don’t get stuck with an inferior model. It should be a simple setup, and even simpler use.
Types of Camping Stoves
To get the best camping stove for your specific needs, you need a camping stove comparison of different types to narrow your options.
From lightweight and portable stoves to high-volume, high BTU stoves, there’s pros and cons for each. Let’s look over each type now.
Classic Camping Stoves
These single-burner units are the epitome of classic camp stoves. They’re designed for single-person use, or light meals for up to two people, but no more.
Classic units make the best portable camping stoves you could find, and take up minimal space in your backpack.
The only downside is that you’ll find a lot of propane camp stove reviews from people who don’t know what they got themselves into, assuming they could save money and feed a large party.
Get the amount of burners and BTU power that you need, not just what’s cheapest. You might also find these models that fold in half for compact storage, but still feature the same style.
Two-Burner Camping Stoves
For mid-sized parties of two to four people, the best 2 burner camp stove is going to fulfill everything you need.
These aren’t the most lightweight, but they can sport up to 30,000 BTUs of power per burner, letting you cook higher volume meals for a medium-sized camping party.
They can also support larger propane tanks, letting you camp out for a week with three square meals a day, and not worry about running out of fuel or carrying an excess of tanks with you.
Three-Burner Camp Stoves
The best 3 burner camp stove models are designed with large party volumes and high efficiency in mind.
You’ll see burners with over 20,000 BTUs of power in tow, giving you a faster way to feed a family or a ton of friends. Three-burner stoves are generally the dominant propane camping stove models that you’ll see on the market, thanks to their efficiency.
Ultralight Camp Stoves
Ultralight camping stoves are designed to mitigate your overall carry weight, and are traditionally revered among minimalist campers.
You’ll usually see lower BTU outputs, as these are designed for solo or two-person camping at best. If you’re all about keeping that backpack lightweight as a feather, then this is exactly what you need.
Some ultralight camping stoves are also just add-ons to the top of a propane or butane tank, and can weigh as little as 2.6 ounces, which is great for minimalist campers.
Hybrid Charging Stoves
These are exactly what they sound like: you can charge your phone, and use the unit as a stove as well.
While these aren’t the most popular picks for diehard campers, they’re popular among millennial campers who utilize their phone in place of a survival watch.
There’s no discredit to the power of these stoves, either. They boast plenty of BTUs and ferocity, they’re just not hte first choice of seasoned campers.
Camping Stoves – FAQ
We picked some questions from outdoor enthusiasts around the web.
How Many BTUs Should My Camping Stove Have?
Some burners provide an overkill amount of BTU power. While BTUs are related to the fuel line width, they are also partially defined by the effectivity of the stove itself.
On average, your home stove sports about 7,000 – 12,000 BTUs per burner (taking into account that some ranges have larger burners than others for specific use).
But that leaves us wondering how much a camping stove should have.
If you have 10,000 or more, you’ll be good to go.
A single-burner 10,000 BTU camping stove is designed for personal, one-man use, whereas a unit with two burners and 30,000 BTUs are going to be good for larger parties, and high volume cooking.
For instance, searing fish or freshly caught game.
Restaurants will use 30,000 – 50,000 BTU burners to quickly sear meats and boil water in high-pace environments, and while you’re not going to be dueling Bobby Flay on the campsite for the best fish, you also don’t want to spend all day huddling over a tiny burner to effectively cook your food.
More BTUs generally mean that you can create higher quality meals with less effort.
How to Effectively Use a Camping Stove
We can’t tell you what recipes to try (everyone is different), but we can tell you the most efficient ways to use your camp stove to get the maximum benefit for extended stays.
Some parks may have a limit on how many portable propane tanks you can bring in at a time, so you’ll need to plan efficiently. Let’s look at some ways on how to do that.
Some conditions aren’t going to allow for maximum efficiency.
One example is strongwind, because it can either put the flame on your burner out if it’s wild enough, or it can cool the top of your food while it’s cooking, forcing it to take longer.
Do your best to find a strategic location where wind won’t be an issue, that way you aren’t burning through more propane than necessary.
Another thing to keep in mind is the conductivity of your camping cookware.
Steel pots may stay hotter, but anodized aluminum pans will heat up faster. You don’t have to look through a bunch of scientific research to test this out.
Simple use your camp stove at home before the trip, and use a thermometer to test how long steel versus aluminum (and other materials) take to heat up.
Test the pan temperatures after one minute or use, and stick with whatever heats up faster.
Also understand that maximum output isn’t maximum efficiency.
When you’re boiling water, the higher BTU output, the faster the water will boil, but for most food you can stick with a lower flame.
Just because you average two hours of use out of a 16oz propane tank doesn’t mean you can’t stretch that by thirty minutes by being efficient when cooking.
Lastly, batch cook your food to minimize the amount of times you’ll need to cook.
This minimizes your propane use, so long as the food will be okay at room temperature, or you will eat it within four hours after it’s been cooked. If you’re planning on a long hike and require intermittent meals, this is a great method.
How do I Attach a Propane Tank to a Camping Stove?
Ensure everything on your camp stove is turned off before you begin. Lead the hose on the propane tank to the gauge on the camping stove, and turn clockwise to create a tight connection.
Gas doesn’t need much space to leak, so tighten this to the best of your ability. You can bring a monkey wrench to help you out if need be.
Turn the stove on and listen for the whistle of propane.
Make sure it isn’t coming from the line, but rather from the burner only. When you’re sure of this, ignite the burner and wait one to two minutes to ensure a stable connection.
How Much Propane Does a Camping Stove Use?
It depends on the millimeter size of the burner output. For instance, a 16oz propane tank with a 0.32mm burner output usually lasts for about two hours.
Fuel gauges on any propane tank are not reliable; they measure pressure, but temperatures can influence the readings.
Understanding the averages without relying on a fuel gauge is important.
What do You Place Your Camping Stove On?
Your camping stove needs to be on a completely flat surface. That can be difficult when you’re using the back of mother nature to set up shop.
Consider bringing an adjustable camping table along with you, where you can individually adjust each leg length to remain level despite the terrain.
How Do I Cook on a Small Camping Stove?
Much of the ease of using a camping stove comes down to using one-pot recipes.
Turn on the burner and ignite the flame, understanding how long your food will take to cook, the millimeter width of your propane burners, and the amount in your tank/depletion expectancy.
The easiest way to factor this in is to do the math in front of a calculator (how long your tank will last), and use a label to write it on the individual tank. Look for simple, short recipes that don’t require a long cooking time.
How do I Clean My Camping Stove?
Disconnect all fuel lines that lead to the propane tank entry point, and use a designated container to run water through the lines, and store for proper disposal at a later date.
You cannot clean these in streams or anywhere out in the wilderness, so maintenance should be done when you get home.
Other than that, ensure all burners have been freed from debris that may have fallen during cooking, and properly dry to avoid corrosion or rust.
How Long Does it Take to Boil Water on a Camping Stove?
You have to account for the temperature of the water from its starting point, your elevation above sea level, and the wind, but on average it will take you about ten minutes to boil one liter of water.
Depending on your party size, you may want to consider grabbing the best 2 burner camp stove or even the best 3 burner camp stove to maximize your output and minimize cooking times.
How do I Maintain My Camp Stove?
Camping stoves are actually extremely easy to keep clean and maintain.
Most of the legwork is being done by the propane tank that you attach, but you’ll need to clean and maintain the lines that run directly from your camping stove.
Just about all maintenance issues are resolved by properly cleaning your camping stove after every single use.
You can pick up a camping stove maintenance kit, and use it effectively with just about any Swiss Army Knife attachment to handle maintenance on-the-go.
Are There Any Laws Surrounding Camping Stove Use in National Parks?
You’ll have to check with individual National Park Service websites for absolute surety, but just about every national park in America is okay with you using a camping stove.
You’ll find that most laws and regulations are around lighting campfires, but where camping stoves are small and controlled, there should be no problem.
If you are uncertain or the NPS website doesn’t cover it, you can always call their helpline and ask for specific details.
You’ve seen the best camping stoves, but now it’s time to put them to use. From our camping stove reviews to our usage guide, you’ll have everything you need to master cooking in the great outdoors.
Whether two or three-burner is your style, whether you’re a minimalist camper or not, it’s time to eat like a king in survival and wilderness situations.
I’m an avid outdoor enthusiast who has gone on several excursions along the coasts and has visited 31 of the 50 United States. One of the most important things to me personally is making the most of each day. I'm firmly entrenched in the middle-class and don't mind at all. My freedom and ability to travel and spend time outdoors are more important to me than working at a desk and putting more money in the CEO’s pockets.If camping and active living is your priority, too, you’ve come to the right place.