Thousands of years ago, man discovered fire, but for today’s campers, a simple fire is not always the best method to cook your next meal. Sometimes the weather will not cooperate. Sometimes dry wood is nowhere to be found. And sometimes open fires are just outright banned. When this happens, that means it is time to take out the camping stove. Whether deep in the back woods or in the comfort of a campground, there is a camp stove that will fit your every need.
Types of Camping Stoves
When camping, you have essentially two options—camping from your car or camping from a backpack. These two different methods will necessitate two completely different types of stoves. While car camping, the weight of your stove is not an issue. One-burner stoves will get the job done, but a two-burner stove will expand your dining options while in a campground.
For those who carry a backpack into remote wilderness, weight is of supreme importance. You will want to shave every last ounce off of your gear, thus making the traditional one and two burner stoves unusable. You will need to find a stove with fuel that is efficient but also low in weight and easy to maintain.
Here is a guide to help you find the best camping stove for your situation.
Two Burner Stoves
More often than not, a two-burner camping stove is ideal for most car camping situations because it cuts cook times in half. Having two burners is also ideal for a larger griddle to make pancakes or other large meals. Because the cook surface on a dual burner stove is larger, pots and pans will be much sturdier making for safer cooking. Most of these stoves also feature a three-sided shield from the wind that folds up over the stove for easy storage.
Coleman makes the old standard dual burner car camping stove. If you have ever used one, chances are it is about thirty years old and runs just as good now as on the day you purchased it. Sure, the stove might be a little dirty but that is not what matters when you are camping. Most other car camping stoves will operate very similarly, and with proper care, it should be around for a long time.
One Burner Stoves
One-burner stoves are also available as a somewhat but not significantly cheaper option than a two-burner stove. Stoves with one burner generally do not offer as much stability while cooking, and they make for slower cook times. If space is tight in your car, a single burner stove may be a good option, but they are usually too large to bring backpacking.
The most common types of car camping stoves will run on propane, unleaded gas, or white gas. Each of these fuel types has their own merits and faults. With the proper care, any type of stove should last for a long time. You must, however, make sure that your stove’s fuel type is readily available at local outdoor sport stores, otherwise you may need to purchase an entirely new stove.
Stoves for Backpacking
When traveling on a multi-day backpacking trip, a good camp stove is absolutely essential. The elements may not allow you to construct a fire so you must turn to a much more stable method of cooking your food. Obviously, your main considerations when purchasing a backpacking stove should be weight, size, and durability. Even if you are superhuman, you will want to take off as many extra pounds off of your back as possible. Most backpacking stoves weigh less than one pound (not including fuel) and some smaller models weigh in at a mere three ounces! These small, compact stoves should easily pack into your bag. Stoves with awkward sizes and shapes take up more room and will have a higher probability of breaking—not good while you are in the wilderness.
Unlike two-burner and even single-burner stoves, the typical backpacking stove presents a much more precarious cooking surface for campers. Usually, cook surface of a backpack stove spreads out to between four to six inches across, and more often than not, that cook surface is elevated a few inches from the ground to provide space for the heating element and fuel. There is really no way around this unstable surface, but some stoves are better than others. This, however, is not usually an issue if you ensure you are cooking on flat ground and use a good set of backpacking cookware.
Liquid Gas Stoves
Backpacking stoves that are run on liquid gas will need to be primed (a pump action that gets gas flowing) and then lit with a match. Oftentimes, liquid gas stoves take longer to start a flame, but these are usually more powerful than alternative propane fuel. Liquid gas stoves generally have more moving parts than a propane stove, but because these stoves can usually run on white gas, unleaded fuel, and kerosene, you can be sure you will find more fuel no matter where you are in the world. Fuel is usually stored in a metal canister that lies next to the stove while cooking. Generally, the cook surface on liquid fuels stoves is a little larger than on propane stoves since the fuel canister sits away from the stove itself.
Propane Camp Stoves
Most propane stoves simply attach to the top of propane canister. A dial can then be turned to begin the flow of the gas. With the light of a match, your stove should be ready to use. Some propane stove even have “quick-strike” feature that will create a spark to light your stove. This means that you may not even need a match to begin cooking.
Propane stoves generally sit higher and have smaller cook surfaces than liquid gas stoves, but they make up for it with their simplicity. Backpacking propane stoves are quick and easy to use since they have so few moving parts.
The major drawback with a propane-fueled stove is the availability of propane. Usually, this is not a problem in the United States, but if you plan to travel anywhere and backpack, this will present an issue (especially since you cannot transport gas in airplanes). If you purchase a propane powered stove, be sure that fuel is readily available at a local outdoor shop.
Also be sure to read other helpful articles to help you get ready for your next backpacking adventure:
- Propane Stoves
- Liquid Fuel Stoves
- Backpacking Cookware
- Backpacking Backpacks
- Tents for Backpackers
- Camp Gear List (Part 1 - Shelter, Packing, and Food Prep)
- Camp Gear List (Part 2 - Clothing, Guides, First Aide, and Toiletries)
- Cameras for Hiking