The Coleman 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 the small size and low BTUs, the Instastart provided us a lot of really pleasant cooking experiences. It even did great with a wok!
Time to Boil
If boiling time isn't a top priority for you, then the Instastart is a great fit. It wasn't terrible in this category, boiling a quart of 60-degree water in 5 minutes and a quart of 50-degree water on a cooler day in 7:15. Not bad, considering the one burner only has 7,650 BTUs, but still 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 also tends to be 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 cold outside you will need to warm up the fuel canister before using it.
This was the only stove of those we tested that used butane. The handy compartment for the canister was nice because it kept the fuel bottle out of the way and out of sight.
The Instastart does not come with a windscreen and has only 7,650 BTUs on its one burner, so we weren't surprised to find it struggled with the wind. On a mildly breezy day this stove still did decently, but under direct and more intense wind, it just couldn't hack it. During our box fan test where we set up a fan 24 inches to the side of the stove while boiling water, this stove took an astounding 21:30 to boil a quart of water. For comparison, our Editors' Choice winner, the Camp Chef Everest, completed the same challenge in 3 minutes flat.
With low BTUs and no wind guard, this stove did struggle with the wind. But adding a portable aluminum wind screen would be super simple and very effective. And with no wind this stove did 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 simmered 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 made it easy to trust what the flame was doing and not have to constantly worry about whether or not the burner was still lit. Overall we were quite pleased.
Lock the fuel canister into place and turn the knob to ignite and off you go! Fine tuning the flame on this stove was also a cinch.
Ease of Set Up
The Instastart was at the top of the pack for being a cinch to set up, made all the easier 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.
With the setup instructions printed right on the lid of this stove, we were able to get cooking in a flash.
Aside from the GS-3000, this is quite a different setup from all the other stoves. You don't have to screw adapters or hoses into place, which is nice when you're in a hurry or have cold fingers. When you're done cooking, you can "unlock" the butane canister to ensure it's not leaking any fuel without having to remove it completely (though per the manufacturer's instructions, the canister should be removed when the stove is no longer in use or it is being transported).
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 would likely miss the opening.
This stove was easy to fine tune and performed really well with simmering and low cooking challenges.
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 allowed us to use 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 3-4 person group.
The Instastart comes with a handy little box to pack it away, helping secure its high score for portability.
This Coleman model is a great choice for a handful of situations. For budget campers, it's an obvious winner: not only does it cost just $30, by design it's geared towards simple meals (pasta, soup, oatmeal), which tend to cost less. Small and lightweight, it's also a good option when your campsite is more than a stone's throw away from your vehicle (although it should not be considered for backpacking). Additionally, it's fantastic as an additional stove to be used with another two or three-burner model, or as an emergency stove kept in the shed.
Despite only having one-burner, this stove can handle large cookware, making cooking for a group still in the realm of possibility.
This model presents awesome value. It's so cheap that you could buy three of them for the cost of a many two-burners. Sometimes when a product is super cheap you sacrifice all the quality, but that was not our experience here. We had a lot of fun cooking on this stove in many different scenarios.
Is it ready yet?
This is a great product at a great 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. While we felt that the Gas One GS-3000 performed a bit better overall, we still feel we can recommend the Instastart with confidence.