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 basecamping 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 2021. 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 excellent all-around performance.
What we don’t: A bit pricey for occasional use.
Our top choice, the Camp Chef Everest, 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. Add in functional features including a convenient carry handle, side shields to block the wind, and a reasonable 12-pound weight, and the Everest is hard to beat.
The biggest knock against the Camp Chef Everest 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 less powerful and far cheaper alternatives that can do the trick for occasional campers. In addition, the Camp Chef is a little heavier and bulkier than some of the competition—especially when stacked up against streamlined designs like GSI’s new Pinnacle Pro—although it’s still reasonably compact and easy to haul around. Overall, unless you need a freestanding build or a third burner for cooking for a large group, we think the Everest is the best all-around option for 2021. Note: availability has been hit or miss lately, but the Everest is back in stock at a few major retailers at the time of publishing.
See the Camp Chef Everest
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 $44 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 barbecue 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 tips 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 the three-burner Camp Chef Tahoe below, although it’s over double the price and even heavier than the Explorer.
See the Camp Chef Explorer
Best Crossover Camping and Backpacking Stove
Burners: 1 @ 7,000 BTUs
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 @ 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 $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 freestanding Explorer above. In other words, it’s decidedly overkill unless you plan to regularly utilize the third burner. But if you’re the consummate camp host or have a large family, the sturdy and powerful Tahoe is a worthwhile purchase.
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 made 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. Additionally, simmer control and burner output are excellent, and by specifically creating burners to work with their pots and pans, there is less fuel waste.
Despite these high praises, 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). And at the time of publishing, the Genesis system is fairly hard to track down with limited availability through most retailers. Jetboil also makes the Genesis HalfGen Basecamp System for $195, but that model only includes a single burner and is less versatile overall (it does have appeal for tailgating and solo travelers).
See the Jetboil Genesis Basecamp 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 $85 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 around $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 @ 10,000 BTUs
Weight: 10 lbs.
What we like: Good all-around performance for less than the competition.
What we don’t: Not a standout in power or build quality.
Released last year, GSI’s Selkirk 540 slots in as a direct competitor to the two-burner Camp Chef Everest and Eureka Ignite Plus above in both price and performance. We’ll start with the good news: this stove is the most affordable of the trio at $125 and feature-rich with push-button ignition, micro control valves to tweak the flame, and plenty of space to accommodate two larger pots or pans side by side. Plus, GSI nailed the details with a built-in and easy-to-grab carry handle, powder-coated exterior, and generous windscreens to block light gusts.
Where does the Selkirk fall short of its competitors? You can get more output with the Everest (two 20,000-BTU burners) for only $5 more, and the Ignite Plus has a slightly wider cooking area. Plus, the Ignite can be connected to other Eureka or Jetboil stoves to increase efficiency and speed when cooking more intricate meals. Finally, some users have reported issues with the igniter and general build quality, but only time will tell how the new Selkirk fares over the long term. Of note, GSI released the stove in a 460 model for $100, which also features two 10,000-BTU burners but in a smaller, more compact design that sacrifices some cooking space.
See the GSI Outdoors Selkirk 540
Burners: 1 @ 8,000 BTUs; 1 @ 10,000 BTUs
Weight: 16 lbs.
What we like: Hybrid stove/griddle combo makes cooking breakfast quick and easy.
What we don’t: We prefer to purchase a griddle accessory separately.
Most tabletop stoves on this list feature two standard burners, but Camp Chef’s Rainier bucks that trend with a single burner on one side and built-in aluminum griddle on the other. This makes cooking breakfast at camp extremely quick and easy: you can boil water for coffee or tea on one side of the stove while simultaneously whipping up eggs and bacon—no need to wait for a burner to free up. And importantly, the rest of the design is well-made, including matchless ignition, protective wind shields, a drip tray for easy clean-up, and the inclusion of a handy carrying bag.
However, as with most hybrid designs, there are some tradeoffs to choosing the Rainier as your primary camp stove. Most notably, the grill portion takes up about 2/3 of the cook space, which can be limiting should your meal require more than one pot, pan, or kettle (even a single larger pot or pan can cause issues). To maximize versatility, we recommend buying a standard two-burner stove (like Camp Chef’s own Explorer above) and swapping out accessory tops. Alternatively, Stansport offers an intriguing alternative in their 2-Burner Propane Stove with Grill, which adds an additional burner. However, the grill section is grated rather than smooth, which limits what it can cook.
See the Camp Chef Rainier 2X
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 Propane above, the Guide Series Dual Fuel comes packed with nostalgia and reliable performance. What’s made it so popular over the years—and what earns it a spot on our list for 2021—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 Dual Fuel is hard to beat.
What are the shortcomings of this stove? For one, the Duel Fuel 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-in. pan alongside a 10-in. pan). Overall, the Duel Fuel 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 Duel Fuel
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.
Not surprisingly, there are a number of compromises that come with 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-in. accessories range in price from around $40 to over $200, plus the steep initial 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. And for a cheaper but less powerful design, check out Blackstone’s 17-inch Tabletop Griddle.
See the Camp Chef VersaTop
Burners: 1 @ 11,500 BTUs
Weight: 3 lbs. 4 oz.
What we like: Compact and decently powerful.
What we don’t: Single burner is limiting and butane fuel doesn’t work well in the cold.
Let’s start with the obvious: this Eureka stove isn’t for serious camp chefs. But the SPRK+ Butane 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 11 in.) and performs admirably considering its diminutive size. We also love the adjustable feet to keep the unit level and slightly inset design that adds crucial protection against wind. All in all, 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.
As its name suggests, the SPRK+ runs on butane, which 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 less versatile than the propane and liquid-fuel designs on our list. That said, the SPRK+ is very well-rounded for a butane model and handily beats out Coleman’s popular Butane Instastart in heat output, weight, and wind protection (we used to include the Coleman here but consider the Eureka worth the added $15-$20). If you don’t mind the tradeoffs in opting for this fuel type, the Eureka is an affordable and thoughtfully designed single-burner stove. And for an even cheaper but less powerful option in this category, check out Gas One’s GS-1000.
See the Eureka SPRK+ Butane Camp 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. In short, 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 your primary cook stove while camping, the CampStove 2+ is a fun but somewhat limited option. The basic design comes without accessories (you’ll have to purchase a grill top separately for $60), and reliance on wood or pellets doesn’t allow for as much control over the flame and heat. And you can go much cheaper and simpler in this category with alternatives like Solo Stove's Titan or Campfire. 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 will be a perk for some.
See the BioLite CampStove 2+
Burners: 1 @ 12,000 BTUs
Weight: 6 lbs. 3 oz.
What we like: Sleek, streamlined, and packs down small.
What we don’t: Unless you’re limited on space, we prefer the cheaper and higher-capacity two-burner options above.
Snow Peak is known for their strong and streamlined designs, and the Baja Burner carries the torch. The stove’s stainless steel build is low-profile and clean, and the whole unit folds down nearly flat for transport—a nice perk if you’re limited on vehicle or storage space. And despite the thin and unassuming shape, you get respectable output with a 12,000-BTU burner, as well as a low weight of just over 6 pounds. Finally, we appreciate that the stove allows you to invert your fuel canister, which helps maintain pressure when the mercury drops.
Why do we have the Baja Burner ranked here? The main knock is value: at $180, the Snow Peak is fairly pricey considering its single-burner design, and most campers will be better off with a more traditional (and cheaper) two-burner option like the Camp Chef Everest or Eureka Ignite Plus above. Further, despite the ability to invert the canister, propane still tends to suffer in truly cold temperatures (typically below freezing), meaning we wouldn’t recommend bringing the stove high into the alpine or on winter camping adventures. Finally, the Baja Burner is decidedly basic and lacking in useful features like a windscreen and push-button ignition, although it does integrate into Snow Peak’s Iron Grill Table, which is essentially a modular and customizable outdoor kitchen and dining space for large groups.
See the Snow Peak Li Baja Burner
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
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 Cooker
|Camp Chef Everest||$130||Tabletop||Propane||2 @ 20,000 BTUs||12 lb.||Matchless|
|Coleman Classic Propane||$44||Tabletop||Propane||2 @ 10,000 BTUs||12 lb.||Manual|
|Camp Chef Explorer||$125||Freestanding||Propane||2 @ 30,000 BTUs||36 lb.||Manual|
|MSR WindBurner Stove Combo||$260||Tabletop||Canister||1 @ 7,000 BTUs||1 lb. 13 oz.||Manual|
|Eureka Ignite Plus||$145||Tabletop||Propane||2 @ 10,000 BTUs||12 lb.||Matchless|
|Camp Chef Tahoe||$271||Freestanding||Propane||3 @ 30,000 BTUs||43 lb.||Matchless|
|Jetboil Genesis Basecamp||$380||Tabletop||Propane||2 @ 10,000 BTUs||9 lb. 5 oz.||Matchless|
|Coleman Triton||$85||Tabletop||Propane||2 @ 11,000 BTUs||11 lb.||Manual|
|GSI Outdoors Selkirk 540||$125||Tabletop||Propane||2 @ 10,000 BTUs||10 lb.||Matchless|
|Camp Chef Rainier 2X||$180||Tabletop||Propane||1 @ 8,000 BTUs; 1 @ 10,000 BTUs||16 lb.||Matchless|
|Coleman Guide Series Duel Fuel||$140||Tabletop||Multi-fuel||2 @ 7,000 BTUs||12 lb.||Manual|
|Camp Chef VersaTop||$150||Tabletop||Propane||1 @ 15,000 BTUs||24 lb.||Matchless|
|Eureka SPRK+ Butane||$55||Tabletop||Butane||1 @ 11,500 BTUs||3 lb. 4 oz.||Matchless|
|BioLite CampStove 2+||$150||Freestanding||Wood||1 (no BTU rating)||2 lb. 1 oz.||Manual|
|Snow Peak Li Baja Burner||$180||Tabletop||Propane||1 @ 12,000 BTUs||6 lb. 3 oz.||Manual|
|Eureka Gonzo Grill||$190||Tabletop||Propane||1 @ 6,000 BTUs||14 lb. 3 oz.||Matchless|
|GoSun Sport Solar Cooker||$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
- Simmer Control and Performance
- Windy Weather Performance
- Camping Stove Width
- Automatic (Matchless) Ignition
- 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 Camp Chef Everest, 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 basecamping 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 can be burdensome: for reference, 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 Basecamp 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, 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 Eureka SPRK+ Butane Camp Stove, 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 basecamping 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 Dual Fuel, 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.
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 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.
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 Dual Fuel, 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.
Piezoelectricity is a pressure-based (read: matchless) 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.
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 barbecue 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 aren’t necessarily specs 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. In general, we look for an effective balance of performance and weight, which is why we rank the Camp Chef Everest so highly. It clocks in at 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). At the extreme end of the spectrum, MSR’s WindBurner Stove Combo System is the lightest option on our list at a scant 1 pound 13 ounces, but you only get one burner, and the MSR lacks the output and cooking capabilities of more traditional camping designs (we consider it a great crossover option for camping and backpacking).
Depending on your needs, packed size may or may not play a big role in your buying decision. If it does, a model like the Snow Peak Baja Burner folds down nearly flat when packed (for reference, the aforementioned Camp Chef Everest is 4 in., and a freestanding unit like the Camp Chef Explorer is 14 in.). This makes it easy to slide into the crevice of a vehicle or back corner of a gear closet. Taking it a step further, we also like Jetboil’s Genesis system, which includes a stove and cookware, manages to weigh less than 10 pounds, and folds down to nest into the included pot. Again, these considerations don’t matter to some campers, but they can be a difference-maker for those limited on space.
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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