The Coleman Butane Instastart offers good performance across several metrics along with the lowest price of any contender we tested. On its own or as an addition to another stove, this is a great model to have for car camping adventures.
Despite only having one-burner, this stove can handle large cookware, making cooking for a group still in the realm of possibility.
Time to Boil
If boiling time isn't a top priority for you, then the Instastart is a great fit. It certainly isn't terrible: it boiled a quart of water in 5 minutes, which is pretty decent considering the burner only has 7,650 BTUs. However, it's still one of the slowest of all the stoves we tested.
Of note is the fact that this stove takes straight butane, which is known to be slightly more efficient than propane. So even though this stove takes longer to boil, chances are you're using less fuel. Butane is also generally cheaper, so all-in-all it kind of evens out in the end. One downside of butane to keep in mind: it does not perform well in below-freezing temperatures. So, if you are going to be using this stove when it's really cold outside, you will need to warm up the fuel canister before using it.
The handy compartment for the butane canister is nice because it keeps the fuel bottle out of the way and out of sight.
The Instastart does not come with a windscreen and only has 7,650 BTUs on its one burner, so it's no surprise that it struggles with the wind. On a mildly breezy day, this stove still does decently, but under direct and more intense wind, it just can't hack it. During our box fan test, where we set up a fan to the side of the stove while boiling water, the Instastart took an astounding 21.5 minutes to boil a quart of water in a tea kettle.
With low BTUs and no wind guard, this stove does struggle with the wind. But adding a portable aluminum windscreen is super simple and very effective. And with no wind this stove does great.
Because of the low profile of the Instastart, we recommend purchasing a separate windscreen, like the kind that comes with many backpacking stoves. These windscreens are made of aluminum, so they are light, packable, and versatile. Slip it into the handy carrying case that comes with this stove, and you'll be good to go.
The Instastart simmers very well, making for enjoyable and pleasant cooking all around. The burner knob is nice and big and very easy to adjust. Unlike some of the other stoves we tested, the size of the flame is accurate in regards to the low-to-high gradient picture next to it. This makes it easy to trust what the flame is doing and not have to constantly worry about whether or not the burner is still lit.
Lock the fuel canister into place, turn the knob to ignite, and off you go! Fine-tuning the flame on this stove is also a cinch.
Ease of Set Up
The Instastart rises to the top of the pack for being a cinch to set up in large part because the instructions are printed right on the body of the stove. This means that asking a friend who has never used the stove before to help get set up and start cooking is a reasonable request. All it requires to get going on this stove is to align the butane canister inside the fuel compartment, lock it into place, and turn the knob to ignite.
Aside from the GS-3000, this is quite a different setup from all the other stoves in our review. There are no adapters or hoses to screw into place, which is helpful when you're in a hurry or have cold fingers. When cooking is finished, you can "unlock" the butane canister to ensure it's not leaking any fuel without having to remove it altogether (though per the manufacturer's instructions, the canister should be removed when the stove is no longer in use, or if it is being transported).
With the setup instructions printed right on the lid of this stove, you can get cooking in a flash.
Ease of Care
Cleaning this small stove is easy — there's minimal surface area to get dirty. The drip pan doesn't remove, but the design is open enough that cleaning the top surface, even under the grate, is easy. There is a recess below the burner that could potentially collect food particles over time, and there's no way to get down in there, but because the recess is directly below where your pot or pan sits, even something boiling over will likely miss the opening.
This stove is easy to fine-tune and simmers really well.
The Instastart is about as portable as you can get. It packs into its little plastic suitcase for easy transport, measuring just 14.25 x 12 x 4.5 inches, and it weighs less than 5 pounds. Sure, the tradeoff is that you don't have as many options when cooking multiple dishes or for a group, but the wide sturdy burner still allows the use of a large 10-12" skillet and even a wok. So if you are a one-pan-meal aficionado, you will still easily be able to feed a small group.
The Instastart comes with a handy little box to pack it away, helping secure its high score for portability.
This model presents awesome value. It's so cheap that you could buy three of them for less than the cost of many two-burners. Sometimes when a product is super cheap, you sacrifice all the quality, but that is not the case here. This stove is a lot of fun and appropriate for many different scenarios.
This is a great product at a sweet price. It's doesn't have any fancy features, but it does the basics very well. While it's not the best for boiling water super fast or combating the wind, it sets up easily, is simple to care for, cooks evenly, and simmers well. It's fantastic for a low maintenance camp cook that doesn't need much, and it's also a great addition to any other stove if you want to add in another burner.