The Best Camping Stove Review
Looking for the best camping stove for you and your family? So were we. We lined up a selection of the most highly regarded camping stoves, and put them head to head in a summer-long stove cook off. In this latest testing round, we re-tested some old favorites, like the previous Editors' Choice selections: the Camp Chef Everest and the Stansport Outfitter Series. We also added six new models from a variety of manufacturers. The top-secret OutdoorGearLab testing campground cooked countless rounds of pancakes, too many pounds of pressure-cooked beans, boiled at least 40 gallons of sauna water, and even purchased a 14-inch cast iron skillet to accommodate the frequent group burrito cooking sessions. The result? More products tested, more questions tackled, and more of YOUR concerns addressed. Read on to learn our picks!
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Analysis and Test Results
There are several important questions to consider before buying. In a nutshell, you will want to start by considering whether a car camping stove (like the ones in this review) or a backpacking stove will better suit your needs. You should also think about how many people you typically need to cook for, how often you camp, and what the conditions of your favorite camping locations are (elevation, wind, etc). Addressing these questions will significantly improve the likelihood of being satisfied with your purchase. For a more in-depth look into these questions, check out our Buying Advice article.
Before diving into our Best-In-Class review, here's some additional information on the scoring criteria we used to evaluate the products in this review. Each criteria was weighted in order to calculate the final score for each product. For example, the most important metric, "Time to Boil," has a weighting of 25 percent, while less important metrics like "Ease of Set-Up" are only weighted 10 percent. Breaking down the metrics in this way helps you decide which categories are most important to you and which product will ultimately best meet your needs. Other metrics we included for this review include simmering, group cooking, ease of care, and packed size.
All the products we tested in this review are car camping stoves, which means that they aren't the kind of cooking implement that you want to carry in your backpack into the backcountry. Instead, they are the kind that you pull out of your trunk and carry 20 feet to the nearest picnic table. If a backpacking stove is what you're interested in, be sure to check out The Best Backpacking Stove Review. In this review, the products range from single burners to triple burners, with the majority being two burners. We reviewed free-standing products like the Camp Chef Yukon and Bayou Classic Double Burner and tabletop models such as the Coleman Triton and Stansport Outfitter Series. In our previous review, we even included the Coleman Grill Stove InstaStart, a combination single burner and grill unit. We also tested out one product that runs off liquid fuel, the Coleman Dual Fuel 2-Burner. See our buying advice guide for more information on what to look for if you're cooking for large groups, have limited packing space, or are buying a camping stove for the first time.
Criteria for Evaluation
Time to Boil
Time to boil was the most heavily weighted metric we used to rate the products in this review. Generally speaking, the more power a model has, the better it boils, and the more efficient of a cooking experience one would (hopefully) have. What became apparent during our boil test, however, is that BTU ratings, surprise, weren't everything.
The hands-down winner in the boil test was the Camp Chef Everest. It boiled one liter of water at 55 degrees in 3:42. It has two 20,000 BTU burners, which is surprising considering we tested the Camp Chef Pro 90 and Camp Chef Explorer which have 30,000 BTU burners yet were slower in this test. What seemed to help this compact stove ace the boil test was likely not just its burner capacity, but how much more wind resistant it is because it is smaller. The large, 5" burners on the Pro 90 and the Explorer were surrounded by so much usable cooking surface area that they were much more easily affected by the wind.
The slowest contender to boil water in the boil test was the Coleman PowerPack. With a modest 7,500 BTUs and no windscreen, this wasn't too much of a surprise. A simple aluminum windscreen would greatly help the efficiency of this model and we would not recommend using the PowerPack without one. It took this product 7:40 to boil one liter of water. An additional and important fact to note is that all boil tests were conducted at 8,600 feet of elevation. This is a significantly higher testing elevation than our original review. The actual test consisted of boiling one liter of room temperature water with an external temperature of around 55 degrees Fahrenheit and little to no wind. Lastly, all boil tests were conducted with stoves attached to a five-gallon propane tank.
Often overlooked in favor of BTU power, simmering ability significantly contributes to a camping stove's usability and function. When cooking for smaller groups, simmering ability is also crucial in increasing the efficiency of your propane. In the simmering category, the Camp Chef Everest was the undisputed winner. Like the rest of the Camp Chef stoves we tested, the flame power of the Everest was impressive. Unlike the larger models we tested, however, the Everest was able to tame down its power and simmer just as well, or better, than a home gas stove. This can be attributed to the smaller overall burner size of the Everest vs. the Pro 90 or the Explorer. The latter two models have massive burners, which means that the ability to minimize their flame power is inherently limited. With the Camp Chef Everest, simmering sauces, cooking French toast, and frying eggs was easy. No scorching necessary! What's even more exciting is that this stove's proficiency at low heat translates to fewer trips for you and your family to go fill up your propane tank.
The product with the poorest simmering capability was the Coleman PerfectFlow 2-Burner (ah, the irony in a name ). There is essentially only one setting on this product, and that is rage. Attempting to turn the flame dial down to a "simmer" is futile as the flame will either instantly begin to surge once you let go of the knob or it will go out. For most of the testers in our group, this model was most similar to the one they were using prior to our testing period. It gets the job done and a has a cheap price tag, but is not versatile and is almost incapable of simmering.
In the context of cooking for a crowd, bigger is certainly better. And that is why the Camp Chef Pro 90 is our Top Pick for Group Cooking. With three 30,000 BTU burners and two side 'prep' trays, there is more than enough space and power for a crowd. The cook-top for the three burners is a continuous grate that makes shuffling around pots and pans of any size easy. It easily accommodates large pans and while the Pro 90 burners are actually too large for small pots or a stove top coffee percolator. However, this really isn't an issue for large groups as everything is produced in considerably larger quantities. The prep trays are invaluable as they keep frequently needed ingredients within arm's reach and free up a little more precious table space. The convenience of a stove this large can be easily recognized when its size and power are needed, but if it is not, you might be better off without it. The Pro 90 is heavy, large, and expensive. It requires significantly more time to set up and take down than a compact two burner.
As we mention in our buying advice article, another group cooking option is to use a one-burner like the Coleman PowerPack along with a compact two-burner. This has the added benefit of allowing two people to cook at once and will likely take up less space in your vehicle during transport.
East of Set-Up
While car camping stoves are typically much easier to set-up than their backpacking counterparts, some are more user-friendly than others. Behold the Primus Firehole 100. This was the only product we tested that had an already attached propane adapter and the only two-burner with a hose, as opposed to a metal elbow, adapter. This hose adapter also conveniently stores in the underbelly of the stove so it can't get lost and is that much easier to pack. The windscreens of the Primus Firehole 100 attach with magnets, making their manipulation easier than the peg-in-hole joint connections typically found in its competitors.
The size of the Camp Chef Pro 90 made it the most involved stove to set-up. It had multiple parts that came separately (propane hose, legs, leg stabilizer, windscreen) and it was big and bulky. It requires a special wrench to attach the Camp Chef propane hose to the stove (wrench is included, but good luck not losing it!).
Ease of Care
Good news about these camping stoves is that they are engineered with the assumption that a.) They are going to get filthy dirty and b.) You aren't going to want to do anything about it. That means that they are pretty low maintenance and easy to clean. That being said, we did notice a difference in the ability to clean each one. By far the most low-maintenance model was the Camp Chef Explorer 2-Burner. Its construction is such that beneath the cooking grate, only the burners stand in the way of food hitting the ground. Therefore, 9/10 times you are sloppily stirring your overflowing skillet, the spewing contents will land on the ground instead of in the bottom of your stove. That means minimal clean up, which we like. In addition, the cast aluminum of the cook top and base is easy to wipe off and its black color is even more filth friendly.
The Camp Chef Pro 90 was the most involved model to clean. Unlike the Explorer, beneath the cooking grate of the Pro 90 there is a thin metal sheet preventing food spills from landing on the ground. Here, the food bits accumulate until you unscrew (it cannot be lifted out like most two-burners) the cook top grate and wipe down the metal sheet. Fortunately, the burners are elevated above this sheet so food does not tend to collect on them and burn. Nonetheless, it is a pesky step for a camping stove.
The wind resistance category was a tricky one as none of the products actually provided great wind resistance, yet winds can significantly interfere with a flame's performance. Anyone who has used a lighter outside knows how sensitive it is to even the smallest gusts. Well, imagine this is your burner. In our boil test, the Everest, which has 20,000 BTU burners, beat out two 30,000 BTU burner stoves, the reason being most likely due to the increased wind protection in compact stoves. For this reason, we scored the Camp Chef Everest as one of the best performers in windy conditions.
As mentioned before, the Coleman PowerPack is not designed for wind. There is no wind barrier of any kind, therefore boil times can vary significantly depending on the conditions. One redeeming note worth mentioning is that it would be quite simple to add a windscreen, which would significantly improve its efficiency. No wind screens were used during our testing process as we operated the competitors only with their included devices.
In consideration of packed size, the Coleman PowerPack took the cake. Who can argue with a compact single burner, approximately 13 x 10", that likely takes up less space than the pot you will use to cook with! The metal propane adapter elbow does not stow away in the stove and must float around with your other camping essentials. If packed size is something that is important to you, another alternative to the PowerPack is the GasOne, a similarly designed single burner unit.
No surprise, the three burner Camp Chef Pro 90 scored the lowest on packed size. Disassembled, this stove's dimensions are 38 x 16 x 6.5". Also, the windscreen and 'stabilizer' leg do not pack down inside the stove, meaning these items must be transported outside of the stove.
There are many different accessories to go with camp stoves, from cook wear to griddle attachments. Some that we recommend looking into are the Camp Chef Camp Table and the Camp Chef Two Burner Carry Bag. A camp table can come in very handy if you are planning on cooking up an awesome meal away from the comforts of a picnic table. The carrying case helps keep everything compact and it one location, while also keeping it all protected.
Also check out the Camp Chef Two Burner Oven to take your stove to the next level.
With the large assortment of stoves to choose from in this category, making a decision about what type to buy is no easy task. Choosing from one to three burners, or a free standing model versus a table top design, depends on the amount of people you are planning to cook for and your available packing space. Your desired stovetop materials and cooking power will also play a role in making this decision. With our thorough testing, it is our ultimate goal to help you sort through the options to find a stove that is best for you. If you are still needing guidance on how to choose, read through our Buying Advice article.
— Laura Lingeman
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