Campstoves – If you’re gonna cook while camping (yes that is a choice as there are some that adhere to a no-cook camping lifestyle) you’re gonna need something to cook with and the choices are plentiful. There are some who stick with the tailgater style propane grills, the old-school Coleman propane stove, butane canister stoves, isobutane stoves, integrated stoves and the liquid fuel bottle stove. Since we are talking about car camping here I’m gonna stick with the most popular ones. First up is the OG camping stove, the Coleman propane stove. We used one for years and then gave it away and got another one and gave that one away too, each time thinking that we have graduated from the classic propane stove. But it’s a classic for a reason, easy to use, inexpensive and readily available fuel and great cold weather performance makes this a great stove for any car camper.
One option that we have seen and we have tried it ourselves is the butane stove. Most of our Asian friends out there will be familiar with this type of single burner butane stove (hot pot or Korean BBQ anyone??). It burns very efficiently and provides great heat, it’s light and inexpensive but the canisters are not as readily found and it suffers in altitude or colder climates. This is our current option when we go group camping and need to prepare or heat up larger amounts of food. It doesn’t take up as much space as the Coleman and the burner seems to work better for simmering and keeping food warm.
For us, we find that the big propane stove is often overkill since many times there is only the two of us and we have simplified our camp cooking to a lot of dehydrated meals which only require boiling water. So we first started with a Primus Gravity (discontinued) backpacking stove that uses blended isobutane and propane fuel canisters. This worked great on our first couple of trips and the low and wide style of the stove is very stable and because of the huge burner this is a great stove for larger pots and pans. The remote canister style stove also allows for a windscreen to be used in windy conditions. This stove is still used in our kit for cooking and heating up food and is perfect for small groups. We have noticed that the built-in starter does not always work and boiling water at higher altitudes or in very cold weather takes a long time, so this motivated us to try another type of stove…
Integrated stoves like the JetBoil have gained popularity for its ease of use and its ability to very quickly and efficiently bring water to a boil. These are great at what they are designed for but most of these systems are not designed for cooking or heating up food. After researching a bit we decided on the JetBoil Group Cooking System, which is no longer being made. This system uses a 1.5L pot with a finned bottom that concentrates the heat into the pot. This works fairly well and you can boil a large pot of water in less than 5 minutes. This system also allows you to heat up a pot of stew or cook pasta which makes it very versatile. However, the drawbacks of this system are much like all of the blended fuel stoves in that they suffer in the high altitude and very cold weather. Plus the tall design of the stove is a little unstable and windscreen use is somewhat risky as there is a danger of overheating the canister. But overall we like this stove and it almost always travels with us.
If you are really camping in high altitudes or very cold conditions then a liquid fuel stove is the way to go but those stoves are not as easy to use, as they require priming before each use. They are also prone to leakage and spills if not closed properly and we have heard a number of stories of near tragedy due to fuel spills or leakage. Because of the style camping we do and my personal preference for ease of use, we have stayed away from the liquid fuel stoves although I can see its value in its versatility and flexibility and in the future we may have to give one a try.
Ultimately you must choose your stove based on your personal preferences and circumstances but for car camping you really can’t go wrong with a propane camp stove like the Coleman mentioned earlier. If you really want to step it up though, the Camp Chef Everest stove is very highly rated. At a steep $120 for full retail it is about twice the cost of the Coleman but with two 20,000 BTU rated burners and all stainless steel construction, you’ll be passing this stove along to your grandchildren and it’ll still be a solid choice for a car camping stove!
That’s it for Part One, next time we’ll cover Mess Kits, Utensils and Cleaning. Thanks for reading and remember to find your adventure where ever you may wander!