You can leave your dehydrated, salty, and unsatisfying meals at home—today’s camping stoves bring a whole new level of gourmet to your car camping and base camping adventures. Unlike for backpacking, there’s no need to scour Pinterest for workarounds to compensate for subpar stoves, as you can expect consistent fuel output, strong flames, and superior simmer controls from the top offerings. Camping stove sizes vary from small tabletop models to freestanding behemoths for large groups. For first-timers or those desiring some background information, it’s worth checking out our comparison table and buying advice while narrowing your search. Below, you’ll find our favorite camping stoves for 2020. If you are looking for lighter and smaller options more in-line with backpacking, see our article on the best backpacking stoves.
Burners: 2 @ 20,000 BTUs
Weight: 12 lbs.
What we like: Quality build and solid all-around performance.
What we don’t: A bit pricey for occasional use.
Our top choice, the Camp Chef Everest 2X, is not the most powerful camping stove nor is it the most compact. But it offers a ton of cooking power, convenience, and superior reliability to make it a standout in the market. You get two large burners that pump out plenty of heat (20,000 BTUs each) but also have excellent simmer control for cooking diverse meals. And with their latest update (to the “2X” model), Camp Chef gave the design a nice upgrade with locking metal latches at each side and easy-to-use temperature controls. Combined with a reasonable 12-pound weight and integrated handle, and the Everest is hard to beat.
The biggest knock against the Camp Chef Everest 2X is its $130 price tag. We think it justifies the cost given the quality of the materials and cooking performance, but there are plenty of smaller, less powerful, and far cheaper alternatives that can do the trick for occasional campers. In addition, the new model is a little larger than the prior generation, although it’s still reasonably compact and easy to haul around. Overall, unless you need a large freestanding design or a third burner for cooking for a large group, we think the Everest is the best all-around option for 2020.
See the Camp Chef Everest 2X
Best Budget Camping Stove
Burners: 2 @ 10,000 BTUs
Weight: 12 lbs.
What we like: Cheap and gets the job done.
What we don’t: Cheaply made, limited flame control.
For years, campers have turned to Coleman stoves for simple, reliable performance. Toward the bottom of their camping stove lineup is the Classic Propane, which is consistently on sale for under $50. In hand, it’s clear the Classic is the cheaper option compared to the more expensive Coleman Triton below. Neither are really solid or durable—and at this price point they really can’t be—but the Triton is the better investment for the camper that gets out more than a couple of times a year.
Cooking performance reflects the initial impressions: the Classic has slightly less power than the Triton, but lacks in flame performance across the range, despite the PerfectFlow designation. But look at these results with some perspective. At $43 at the time of publishing, it’s still plenty of stove for the casual outdoors person that needs to cook for a few people. It may not have the deft controls of a high-end unit but remains plenty capable of boiling water, cooking up steaks, or grilling veggies.
See the Coleman Classic Propane
Best Freestanding Stove for Large Groups
Burners: 2 @ 30,000 BTUs
Weight: 36 lbs.
What we like: Great value for the output.
What we don’t: Pretty barebones on features and bulky.
In terms of burner performance, you'll be hard-pressed to find more quality output for your dollar than the Camp Chef Explorer. 60,000 total BTUs from the two burners are a great pairing for large-group camp cookouts or even emergency use at home. The stove sets up quickly, and its sturdy legs are individually adjustable to adapt to uneven ground. In keeping the price down, however, the Explorer is pretty low on features: there is no push-button ignition and the burners are less protected than premium offerings.
The upside of the simplistic design is the Explorer is ripe for the various accessories from Camp Chef, including a barbeque box, griddle, or pizza oven. Large dials are easy to use and function in the same way as your cooktop at home, but unfortunately it’s not a whole lot lighter than that home stove: the powder-coated assembly hits the scales at 36 pounds. Leaving behind the legs will trim some of that weight, but the Explorer remains overkill for less serious campers. Bigger groups should also check out Camp Chef’s Tahoe below, which has an additional burner but is over double the price and even heavier than the Explorer.
See the Camp Chef Explorer
Best Hybrid Camping and Backpacking Stove
Weight: 1 lb. 13 oz.
What we like: Versatile backpacking and camping option.
What we don’t: Output and performance fall short of propane two-burners.
We’ve used MSR stoves all over the world for backpacking, but most of their light and compact designs have limited appeal for car camping. Enter the WindBurner Stove Combo System. This complete set-up includes one of MSR’s highest-performing canister stoves, the WindBurner, along with a 2.5-liter pot and 8-inch skillet for groups. As with the backpacking model, the accessories connect directly to the stove for efficient cooking and consistent heat even in windy conditions.
To be clear, the WindBurner Stove Combo cannot come close to the output or overall cooking abilities of the traditional camping stoves above. The system only has one small burner, you can only use WindBurner-specific pots and pans, and total output and burn time falls well short of a propane-powered unit. What the WindBurner does succeed at is bridging the backpacking and car camping worlds—you can bring the compact 1-liter pot (sold separately) for keeping it light in the backcountry, and then break out the pots and pans for camping.
See the MSR WindBurner Stove Combo System
Best of the Rest
Burners: 2 @ 25,000 BTUs; 1 @ 10,000 BTUs
Weight: 16 lbs.
What we like: Powerful burners, great price.
What we don’t: Overall quality falls short of the Everest.
On paper, the Stansport 3-Burner looks to be a great contender to the top spot on our list. It includes two strong burners that put out 25,000 BTUs each and a piezo igniter. Additionally, the Stansport comes with a third 10,000 BTU burner for larger groups. In use, overall performance is very comparable to the Camp Chef Everest 2X above with great flame control that cooks a variety of food types well. And with a price that’s consistently around $100 on Amazon ($110 at the time of publishing), the Stansport is a solid value.
Where it does fall short of the Everest is build quality. The materials don’t feel as sturdy, and Stansport has a higher prevalence of fit and finish problems (although the Camp Chef doesn’t have a perfect track record either). The differences are relatively small, however, and the Stansport’s excellent cooking abilities and third burner makes it a really strong player in the $100 price range.
See the Stansport Outfitter Series 3-Burner
Burners: 2 @ 10,000 BTUs
Weight: 12 lbs.
What we like: Generously sized cooking surface and push-button ignition.
What we don’t: Pricier and less powerful than some of the competition.
Eureka’s Ignite Plus is one of the most well-rounded designs on the market with a solid build, good simmer control, and wide, 23-inch cooking area that can accommodate bigger pots and pans. Unlike much of its budget-friendly competition, the Ignite Plus includes push-button ignition, which keeps your hands safe from large bursts of flame and makes the prep process a bit quicker. It’s not a deal-breaker for many, but it’s a nice feature that we appreciate when setting up camp. Added up, the Eureka has all the ingredients of a high-end tabletop camping stove.
All that said, the Eureka Ignite Plus does fall short in one key area: value. For around $60 less, you can pick up the Coleman Triton below, which features more output per burner at 11,000 BTUs. However, the Triton forgoes push-button ignition, and the Ignite Plus has a more hardwearing build that will stand up better to regular use and abuse. Eureka also makes a cheaper version of the Ignite ($110), which sports a smaller cooking space and less simmer control but remains a solid all-around choice.
See the Eureka Ignite Plus
Burners: 3 @ 30,000 BTUs
Weight: 43 lbs.
What we like: Three excellent burners.
What we don’t: Really, really heavy and expensive
When cooking for a large group, you need serious power, extra cooking real estate, and more burners. The Camp Chef Tahoe features a grand total of three 30,000 BTU burners, which can heat up that 12-cup coffee percolator while cooking eggs and bacon at the same time. Beyond the cooking power, it features a push-button ignition, protected housing for the burners, and side wind rails. Each of the legs is individually adjustable, which is helpful should you be cooking on uneven ground.
What are the& shortcomings of the Tahoe? Weighing in at a whopping 43 pounds, it’s a pain to lug around if you won’t be hosting a large group, and don’t forget the 5-gallon propane tank. It's also over double the cost of the Explorer above. But if you’re the consummate camp host or have a large family, the Tahoe deserves your attention.
See the Camp Chef Tahoe
Burners: 2 @ 10,000 BTUs
Weight: 9 lbs. 5 oz.
What we like: An entire cook system for under 10 lbs.
What we don’t: Not the most powerful, and steep price.
Jetboil is best known for their lightweight backpacking stove systems, but they’re making a serious foray into the camping world with the Genesis System. The concept is the first of its kind: an all-in-one camping system. You get two burners, a pan and pot, and everything nests neatly together for compact storage. Total weight (other than a 16 oz. propane bottle) is less than 10 pounds, which is lighter than almost all stoves on this list by themselves.
Other than weight, the Genesis is all about cooking efficiency. By specifically creating burners to work with their pots and pans, there is less fuel waste and the 10,000 BTU burners exceed expectations. Moreover, the simmer control is a class leader. That said, the system’s $380 price tag is borderline astronomical, especially compared to an option like the Camp Chef Everest above that’s less than half the cost, has double the burner power, and is only about 2 pounds heavier (without cookware). But in the end, it’s hard to match the convenience of such an easily portable and comprehensive system.
See the Jetboil Genesis Base Camp System
Burners: 2 @ 11,000 BTUs
Weight: 11 lbs.
What we like: Excellent value and plenty of performance for most campers.
What we don’t: No auto ignition and fairly limited wind protection.
Colman’s Triton stove offers impressive cooking power and reliability at a very competitive $80 price. The tabletop design features two strong, highly adjustable 11,000 BTU burners that run on a standard 16-ounce propane canister (adapters are available to make it compatible with a larger 20-gallon tank). With decent simmer control and solid output at full tilt, the Coleman is one of only a few stoves in its price range that’s capable enough for cooking diverse meals. Last but not least, its 11-pound weight and manageable size make the Triton easy to transport in a car and store at home.
Where does the Coleman Triton fall short? True camp chefs may want to upgrade to a more refined unit that delivers more total power and precision, like the Camp Chef Everest above. Further, cooking space is a little on the small side compared with premium tabletops (the Everest included). That said, it's roomy enough for most meals and easily can accommodate two 10-inch pans side by side. Finally, you miss out on auto ignition in this model (there is an InstaStart version for $20 more), and the wind shields along the sides only provide moderate protection from gusts. These nitpicks aside, the Triton still offers a good mix of price and performance.
See the Coleman Triton Series
Burners: 2 @ 20,000 BTUs
Weight: 16 lbs.
What we like: Strong, rust-resistant aluminum construction.
What we don’t: Expensive without a big boost in performance.
For last year, Camp Chef has added the utilitarian Mountaineer two-burner stove to the top of their “Mountain Series” lineup. The big news with this model is its durable, all-aluminum construction, which is far more rust- and corrosion-resistant than the majority of the designs on the market. The stove has been specifically made for humid and coastal locations, but the strong build is great for general camping and canoe trips too. And the rest of the design is what we expect from Camp Chef: easy-to-use flame controls, a large cooking platform, and good performance at both high heat and simmer.
As with the Snow Peak below, you do pay a premium for high-end materials with the Camp Chef Mountaineer. The aluminum construction and substantial build add a little weight (16 pounds), and the 20,000 BTU output is good but not a standout on this list. For most camping trips, we prefer the Everest above, which matches the performance, although it does lack the bombproof feel of the Mountaineer. That strong, long-lasting construction is the big selling point of the Mountaineer and what earns it a spot on our list for 2020.
See the Camp Chef Mountaineer
Fuel: White gas / unleaded gas
Burners: 2 @ 7,000 BTUs
Weight: 12 lbs.
What we like: Multi-fuel design and reliable construction.
What we don’t: Lower overall performance compared with propane stoves.
As with the Coleman Classic above, the Guide Series 424 comes packed with nostalgia and reliable performance. What’s made it so popular over the years—and a favorite of ours—is its ability to run on either white gas or unleaded gasoline. The white gas makes it a stronger performer in cold temperatures than propane, and the unleaded gasoline option means you can track down fuel just about anywhere. For winter adventuring or overland 4x4 trips, the Coleman 424 is hard to beat.
What are the shortcomings of this stove? For one, the 424 shows its age with noticeably less power than modern propane stoves. Further, the two burners are connected so the secondary unit doesn’t put out as much heat when the first one is running at full tilt, which can slow down the cooking process. The stove also has a small cooking platform, with just enough space to fit two 10-inch pans (the Triton above, for example, can fit a 12-inch pan alongside a 10-inch pan). Overall, the 424 has its place among serious adventurers, but the average camper will be better off with one of the propane designs above.
See the Coleman Guide Series 424 Stove
Burners: 1 @ 15,000 BTUs
Weight: 24 lbs.
What we like: Large cooking surface and compatible with fun accessories.
What we don’t: Heavy and not as versatile as a traditional two-burner stove.
If your favorite meals are cooked on a griddle rather than in a pot or pan, the Camp Chef VersaTop is worth a look. The stove comes equipped with Camp Chef’s generously sized, non-stick flattop, features matchless ignition for easy on and off, and cooks evenly across the entire surface. Additionally, the VersaTop is compatible with Camp Chef’s Artisan Oven and barbecue box (sold separately), meaning you can whip up meals like bacon and eggs, homemade pizza, and gourmet burgers in the backcountry.
There are inherent compromises that come with choosing a design like the Camp Chef VersaTop. If you plan to make intricate meals that involve multiple types of cookware, costs can add up rather quickly (Camp Chef’s 14-inch accessories range in price from around $40 to over $200, plus the initial $195 investment). The stove also is heavy at 24 pounds without any add-ons, which can be a pain to lug around camp. But for those who want a stove they can use both in the backyard and while camping, the VersaTop is a fun option.
See the Camp Chef VersaTop
Burners: 1 @ 34,000 BTUs
Weight: 3 lbs. 15 oz.
What we like: Beautifully made, strong burner.
What we don’t: Single burner and very expensive.
Snow Peak sets themselves apart in the stove market with exceptional attention to detail and craftsmanship. You pay a premium for their high-end products, but they’re thoughtfully designed, highly functional, and downright stylish. From their camping stove line, their GigaPower LI is our favorite. This powerful single burner is made for one-pot meals for large groups: the 34,000 BTU burner has a super fast boil time, precise controls, and the strong support arms can accommodate a range of pot and pan sizes. The legs adjust individually to keep the cooking surface level, and the entire unit folds into a reasonably small package for transport.
Priced at $375 and with only a single burner, the GigaPower LI doesn’t have the wide-ranging appeal of many of the options on this list. It also runs on backpacking-style isobutane/propane canisters, which have a smaller capacity and shorter burn time than standard propane bottles or 5-gallon tanks. On the other hand, the isobutane canister is easy to install and the stove performs well in cold weather. Those that will value the smart features and need just a single, strong burner should be very happy with the GigaPower LI.
See the Snow Peak GigaPower LI
Burners: 1 @ 6,000 BTUs
Weight: 14 lbs. 3 oz.
What we like: Three-in-one cook system.
What we don’t: Limited power and cooking surface area.
Combining a grill, griddle, and stove into one cook system is no easy feat, but Eureka accomplishes it quite well with their Gonzo Grill. The three-in-one design converts fairly simply: use the cast-iron grill or flip it over with the metal hook to access the griddle, or remove the layer entirely to utilize the single-burner stove. Like many Eureka stoves, the Gonzo Grill can also be daisy-chained to other Eureka or Jetboil systems and connected to a single propane bottle.
Where does the Gonzo Grill fall short? While the three-in-one system can be convenient for solo campers and small groups, choosing one 12-inch surface at a time—grill, griddle, or stove—seriously limits cooking space. And with only one 6,000 BTU burner, the Gonzo Grill lacks the cooking power of many of the stoves above. While it’s an innovative idea that can work quite nicely if you have more than one stove connected, the Eureka has limited appeal on its own. Alternatively, you can buy a stove like the two-burner Camp Chef Explorer above and swap out accessory tops for similar versatility.
See the Eureka Gonzo Grill Cook System
Burners: 2 @ 12,000 BTUs
Weight: 9 lbs.
What we like: Good looks, quality materials.
What we don’t: Underperforms its price tag.
The Primus Profile is a modern take on a camping classic, and while it has the right looks, it unfortunately packs old-time performance. To be fair, the Profile Standard is a good little stove overall, but it slips down our list for a few reasons. The main knock on it is value, because its performance falls short of the similarly priced but more powerful Camp Chef and Stansport above.
It’s true that the Profile's knobs are a little nicer, and it's pleasing to the eye (at least before you cover it in food grime), but it’s pumping out far fewer BTUs, translating to slower cooking times (particularly boiling water) and less flexibility in the type of meals you can cook. Further, the igniter is known to be finicky in use. To sum up, we’d recommend the Profile only on sale.
See the Primus Profile Standard
Burners: 1 @ 7,650 BTUs
Weight: 4 lbs. 11 oz.
What we like: Compact and decently powerful.
What we don’t: Single burner is limiting, butane fuel doesn’t work in the cold.
Let’s start with the obvious: this Coleman stove isn’t for serious camp chefs. But the Butane Instastart is an affordable single burner that performs well for limited use or as a backup. The stovetop easily accommodates a small kettle or pan (up to 10 inches) and performs admirably considering its diminutive size. It’s a great choice for bringing along if your primary cooking will be done over a fire pit but you need a stove for quick items like heating water.
This Coleman stove does run on butane, and while the cylinder fits neatly into the stove’s case, the fuel isn’t as readily available as the ubiquitous green propane canisters. In addition, butane struggles in cold temperatures (around and below freezing), so it’s a less versatile option than the propane and liquid-fuel designs on our list. Finally, don’t expect much wind resistance from the simple, exposed layout. But for $35 and occasional use, it’s easy to forgive these issues.
See the Coleman Butane Instastart
Burners: 2 @ 10,000 BTUs
Weight: 7 lbs.
What we like: Great packaging and cutting board included.
What we don’t: No windscreen and each burner requires a fuel canister.
The Onja 2 is a smartly designed and highly portable stove from the reputable Swedish brand Primus. Unlike the stoves above which lay flat on a table top, the Onja sits upright on two folding legs. This puts it at a nice height when cooking on a picnic table, and the stove also can be used directly on the ground. As we expect from Primus, there is nice detailing work with brass and leather along the exterior, a comfortable carry strap, and an oak cutting board that doubles as a lid. And despite the relatively small footprint, the two-burner Onja can fit large pots and pans.
From a performance perspective, the Onja 2 does have a few shortcomings. For one, the burners are left partially exposed to wind, and the stove does not include a windscreen like many of the table top options above. Other issues are that the Onja is a little low on power, and each burner runs on its own isobutane/propane fuel canister with a burn time of only 34 minutes on high (230g canister). But the performance is more than adequate, and the Onja’s compact size and creative packaging is great for small groups and quick trips.
See the Primus Onja Stove
Weight: 2 lbs. 1 oz.
What we like: Inspiring mission and charging capabilities.
What we don’t: Less cooking control and wood isn’t always readily available.
BioLite does things a little differently: instead of using propane or butane, the company was founded around the concept of harnessing power from a cooking system. Essentially, their stoves use wood or pellets to run an integrated generator, which in turn powers a fan to boost heating efficiency as well as collect energy to power electronics (you also can pre-charge the battery before heading out). The CampStove 2 is their portable model, which features easy-to-read LED indicators that display fire strength, available power, and fan speed. And as an added bonus for those limited on space, the BioLite packs down to the size of a 32-ounce water bottle when not in use.
As a camp stove, the CampStove 2 is a fun option but somewhat limiting. The basic design comes without accessories (you’ll have to purchase a compatible BioLite grill top separately for $60, for example), and reliance on wood or pellets doesn’t allow for as much control over the flame and heat. That said, you can switch between four fan speeds to adjust the size of your fire, and the ability to charge your phone or other devices in the woods is an undeniable perk. The BioLite isn’t for everyone, but we admire the company’s ambitions and their technical know-how in developing this fun and somewhat useful camp stove.
See the BioLite CampStove 2
Weight: 7 lbs. 8 oz.
What we like: Fuel-free cooking.
What we don’t: Limited shape and partial sunshine isn’t a guarantee while camping.
For a completely different cooking system, GoSun’s Sport camp stove steams, fries, and bakes totally based on solar power. This cylindrical stove warms quickly in sunlight (up to 550°F), and the efficient vacuum tube works even in partially cloudy conditions and cold weather. Moreover, it’s reasonably lightweight, easy to carry, and has a great warranty. It’s not a stove to depend in a pinch (it needs sunlight to function), but the GoSun Sport is a fun concept that’s been well executed.
We end up ranking the GoSun towards the bottom of our list because of the inherent compromises in this style of stove. For one, the long, cylindrical shape of the Sport camp stove limits what you can cook and how much you can make at a time. And the biggest consideration is cook time, which can vary quite a bit based on weather (and doesn’t work at all once the sun goes down). In the end, the GoSun is a novel idea and we like that it doesn’t require any fuel, but it can’t compete with the convenience or dependability of a standard propane stove.
See the GoSun Sport Solar Camp Stove
|Camp Chef Everest 2X||$130||Tabletop||Propane||2 @ 20,000 BTUs||12 lb.||Matchless|
|Coleman Classic Propane||$43||Tabletop||Propane||2 @ 10,000 BTUs||12 lb.||Manual|
|Camp Chef Explorer||$118||Freestanding||Propane||2 @ 30,000 BTUs||36 lb.||Manual|
|MSR WindBurner Stove Combo||$260||Tabletop||Canister||1 (no BTU rating)||1 lb. 13 oz.||Manual|
|Stansport Outfitter Series 3-Burner||$110||Tabletop||Propane||2 @ 25,000 BTUs
1 @ 10,000 BTUs
|Eureka Ignite Plus||$145||Tabletop||Propane||2 @ 10,000 BTUs||12 lb.||Matchless|
|Camp Chef Tahoe||$260||Freestanding||Propane||3 @ 30,000 BTUs||43 lb.||Matchless|
|Jetboil Genesis Basecamp System||$380||Tabletop||Propane||2 @ 10,000 BTUs||9 lb. 5 oz.||Matchless|
|Coleman Triton||$80||Tabletop||Propane||2 @ 11,000 BTUs||11 lb.||Manual|
|Camp Chef Mountaineer||$235||Tabletop||Propane||2 @ 20,000 BTUs||16 lb.||Matchless|
|Coleman Guide Series 424||$108||Tabletop||Multi-fuel||2 @ 7,000 BTUs||12 lb.||Manual|
|Camp Chef VersaTop||$195||Tabletop||Propane||1 @ 15,000 BTUs||24 lb.||Matchless|
|Snow Peak GigaPower LI||$375||Freestanding||Isobutane||1 @ 34,000 BTUs||3 lb. 15 oz.||Manual|
|Eureka Gonzo Grill||$190||Tabletop||Propane||1 @ 6,000 BTUs||14 lb. 3 oz.||Matchless|
|Primus Profile Standard||$108||Tabletop||Propane||2 @ 12,000 BTUs||9 lb.||Matchless|
|Coleman Butane Instastart||$35||Tabletop||Butane||1 @ 7,650 BTUs||4 lb. 11 oz.||Matchless|
|Primus Onja Stove||$150||Tabletop||Isobutane||2 @ 10,000 BTUs||7 lb.||Manual|
|BioLite CampStove 2||$150||Freestanding||Wood||1 (no BTU rating)||2 lb. 1 oz.||Manual|
|GoSun Sport Solar Camp Stove||$249||Tabletop||Solar||n/a||7 lb. 8 oz.||n/a|
- Stove Categories: Freestanding or Tabletop
- How Many Burners?
- Burner Power: BTUs
- Fuel Type and Capacity
- Camping Stove Width
- Windy Weather Performance
- What is a Piezo Ignitor?
- Simmer Control and Performance
- Cooking Grate, Grills, and Griddles
- Weight and Packed Size
- Camping vs. Backpacking Stoves
Camping stoves come in two basic designs: tall freestanding models with legs and more compact tabletop models. Freestanding stoves are typically associated with larger, high output models, which would take up a lot of real estate if placed on a picnic bench or table. They're far heavier and more difficult to transport, but are an amazing tool for the discerning camp chef. With a lot of cooking space, you can get creative with your backcountry meals. If you think you might benefit from a freestanding stove but dread having to lug it around on every trip, fear not: most stove legs are removable.
By and large, campers prefer the tabletop stove. Their small(er) footprint and lighter weight is easy to pack up and fit into a car, and on a high quality build like the Coleman Triton, the drop in performance is fairly minimal. You do need something to set it on, however. If you’re heading deep into the unknown or are base camping in a remote location but still desire a gourmet meal, you’ll probably need to bring a camping table not only for the stove but also for any prep work.
It’s no coincidence most of the big-time sellers come with two burners—they’re all the vast majority of us will ever need. As with cooking at home, two burners going at the same time will get most meals cooked in a timely manner. Additionally, it’s often the better choice over the more limited single-burner stove, although some designs, like the MSR WindBurner Stove Combo System, do have appeal for crossing over into backpacking. And for large gatherings, there are three-burner stoves like the Camp Chef Tahoe. In many cases with a large group, however, it’s not a bad idea to put the onus on someone else to bring along a second stove. Packing a three-burner is burdensome: the Tahoe is 8 pounds heavier and 6 inches longer than the next-largest two-burner stove, the freestanding Camp Chef Explorer.
An alternate option for larger groups is to choose a stove that can be daisy-chained to another system. For example, the Jetboil Genesis Base Camp System and Eureka Gonzo Grill can be linked to other Jetboil or Eureka models and connected to a single propane bottle. This allows you to increase cooking space without having to lug around a heavy freestanding stove. And on outings where you don’t need the added burner(s), simply leave one of the stoves behind.
BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is a measurement of heat output. More specifically, it’s the amount of energy needed to heat 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. In the context of camping, it serves as a standard for determining the performance potential of a gas stove. While BTUs shouldn’t be looked at as the sole indicator of power—cooking surface area can impact the flame’s actual intensity—it’s a great way of comparing stoves overall. If you’re used to a 10,000 BTU burner and are eyeing a 20,000 BTU burner like the Camp Chef Everest 2X, we can guarantee you that the difference will be noticeable.
The boost in power comes with various benefits. For one, a stronger flame will allow you to cook more food faster—you can trim minutes off your time when boiling a large pot of water. As such, for large groups a more powerful flame (20,000 BTUs and up) is recommended. With that extra output comes greater fuel consumption, which can become an issue if a powerful stove is fueled by a small 16-ounce propane bottle. You’ll definitely want to bring along a few back-up canisters if you’ll be out for more than an overnight trip.
The vast majority of camping stoves run on propane: the fuel performs well in a range of temperatures, and not by any coincidence, the little green bottles are readily available at just about any outdoors or big box retail store. For the sake of space, and if you won’t be setting up camp for an extended period of time, the 16-ounce bottles should do. However, we highly recommend bringing a few of them no matter the length of your stay. At high heat with some of the more powerful stoves, you can burn through most of a bottle in a single day. For max cooking convenience, the classic 5-gallon tank (also referred to as a 20-pound tank) is a tried-and-true choice. They’re easy to fit into the back of a pickup bed, refillable in just about every town, and will last you many, many meals. Note: most tabletop stoves come only with an attachment for the 16-ounce bottle, but an adapter and hose is often available to fit the larger capacity tanks.
Propane does start to see its performance diminish once the temperatures dip below freezing. Butane, used in the Coleman Butane Instastart, does even worse and isn’t as readily available as propane, but the canisters are lighter and more compact (this is more of a consideration for backpackers). That said, if you’ll be doing a lot of 4-season camping, liquid fuel is the most reliable choice and can come in the form of white gas, unleaded gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene, or diesel. White gas is one of the best choices for backpacking and base camping in extreme conditions, but there aren’t a whole lot of options in a full-size camping stove style. If you’re a hardcore adventurer, consider a stove like the Coleman Guide Series 424, which can run on either white gas or unleaded gasoline. Liquid-fuel stoves cost more than propane models and don’t offer any performance benefits in mild conditions, so for most folks, propane remains the best option.
Wood-burning stoves like the BioLite CampStove 2 are also becoming more popular, and the allure is clear: there’s no need to buy or bring along fuel canisters—you simply collect twigs and sticks at camp and burn them to cook your food. However, these systems have more limited flame and heat control compared to other models, are restricted during fire bans, and rely on a resource that might not be readily available depending on the terrain and weather.
The width of camping stoves varies significantly and can have an impact on what types of cookware you can use. For example, we like the Eureka Ignite Plus because it features a wide 23-inch cooking surface that can accommodate medium to large pots side by side. Smaller units, like the Coleman Guide Series 424, can only fit two 10-inch pans. If you regularly use larger pots or pans, it’s worth digging into this spec closely before making a purchase (most manufacturers and retails will publish the dimensions). Alternatively, if your stove will be your first purchase, make sure the cookware you buy will fit on your unit’s cook surface.
The weather can be variable even in the fairest of months, but the show must go on. And that includes cooking up a decent hot meal. The flame on any stove is sensitive to shifting and blowing wind, and it’ll be important to find a somewhat protected space no matter the stove you choose. To help, there are wind shields on many models that cover three sides of the stove. This type of protection is a must-have, but it still won’t protect you from really strong gusts. In general, we've found that the smaller the footprint the better the wind resistance, but large freestanding stoves can be set up just about anywhere, so hopefully you can find a decent wind break.
Piezoelectricity is a pressure-based form of ignition that is popular in camping stove applications. Rather than the sometimes-harried process of turning on the fuel and quickly lighting a match or clicking a lighter, this form of push-button auto ignition keeps your hands safe from any large bursts of flame. We prefer this type of ignition for the added convenience and ease of use, but it does come at an extra cost. Upgrading to the piezo-equipped Coleman Triton Instatstart, for example, is $20 more than the base model. It’s also true that these igniters are not perfect and often fail over time (sometimes surprisingly quickly after purchase), so always bring along a set of extra matches or a lighter just in case.
While a blazing 20,000 BTU burner is great for a spaghetti feed, for items that require a little more finesse you’ll want to make sure the stove has effective simmer control. This requires fuel regulation that doesn’t fluctuate and a flame that remains strong even at low heat. Good simmer performance isn’t something typically found on a spec sheet, but a high-end model will typically perform better in these conditions. Moreover, having a good windscreen will help keep the flame lit if you’re running the heat on low. The Camp Chef Everest has excellent simmer control, while budget stoves like the Coleman Classic struggle. Spending up will increase your chances of mastering that complex backcountry meal.
The most common form of stove is the traditional two burner with a single, large cooking grate. But should you want a grill and stove combo, say, for cooking bacon and eggs, a hybrid option like the Camp Chef Rainier 2X is pretty appealing. Keep in mind, the grill portion takes up about 2/3 of the cook top, which can swallow valuable space for fitting a large skillet or pot. Alternatively, stoves like the Camp Chef Explorer allow you to swap out accessory tops, including a barbeque box or pizza oven. Griddles are separate attachments that fit over top the burners, and just like at home, they’re great for cooking up items like pancakes or a grilled cheese.
As with most camping equipment, weight and packed size isn't necessarily something to be overly concerned about. Compared with backpacking gear, it’s all heavy and large, but you still need to store and transport the stuff. We look for an effective balance of performance and weight, which is why we rank the Camp Chef Everest so highly. It weighs a very manageable 12 pounds, folds down easily to fit into a duffel bag, and yet performs on par with large and ungainly freestanding units (many of which exceed 30 pounds). Depending on your needs, packed size may or may not play a big role in your buying decision. For those looking to keep both to a minimum, the Jetboil Genesis system includes a stove, pot and pan and manages to weigh less than 10 pounds.
For those weighing the decision between camping and backpacking stoves, there are some important tradeoffs to consider. In addition to a lighter weight and smaller packed size, backpacking models only feature a single burner that can hold a pot or pan, which limits cooking space and the types of meals that you can cook (most backpackers stick to simple foods like dehydrated or one-pot meals). In addition, backpacking stoves are much flimsier, less stable, and don’t simmer as well as camping models. If you won’t be traveling far from your vehicle, a camping stove will offer a substantial increase in performance and the added heft and bulk likely won’t matter much. However, if you trek deep into the backcountry regularly, the weight savings are well worth the sacrifice in cooking ability.
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