Hands-on Gear Review

Napoleon TravelQ 285 Review

Napoleon makes “no holds barred” grills for your backyard and for professional applications. Their travel version brings high end performance to a quite portable format.
By: Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 24, 2018
Price:  $250 List  |  $249.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Excellent cooking performance, smaller and lighter than most
Cons:  Moody wind performance
Manufacturer:   Napoleon Grills
88
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 10
  • Output Power - 25% 9
  • Control - 25% 10
  • Portability - 20% 8
  • Cooking Area - 20% 8
  • Wind Resistance - 10% 8
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  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Editors' Choice Award

Our Verdict

The TravelQ 285 from high-end grill manufacturer Napoleon is well-made, cooks very nicely, and packs into a relatively small portion of your car trunk or garden shed. Across our scoring rubric, the Napoleon leads the pack and handily comes out on top overall. Commanding performance comes at a price, but you will realize the value of the Napoleon with long service and excellent cooking performance. Smaller and more budget grills, like the ultra-portable Eureka Gonzo Grill or Best Buy-winning Smoke Hollow 205 offer a different balance of performance and value, but nothing exceeds the total performance of the Napoleon.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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The Napoleon TravelQ 285 is a high-end home gas grill that has been downsized with its legs chopped off for travel use. Napoleon's home grills are very well regarded, and their travel version leverages the advantages while optimizing portability.

Performance Comparison


In our overall scoring matrix, a formula that replicates and quantifies "real world" use, the Napoleon model tops the charts. As our highest scoring product, it handily wins our Editors' Choice Award. Our testers were eager to deploy the TravelQ more than any other.

Testing gourmet  portable cooking equipment is a dirty job  but someone has to do it.
Testing gourmet, portable cooking equipment is a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Output Power


The TravelQ 285 produces piles of heat, directs it to your food, and keeps it there. Napoleon claims 12,000 BTUs of output (6000 from each of two burners). Because of the many variables involved in measuring actual output, we cannot exactly verify the manufacturer's claimed output. However, anecdotal evidence and our experience compared to other products reviewed support the claim. 12,000 BTUs is plenty of power, and the TravelQ has plenty of power.



For the grill size, this produces an appropriate amount of heat. The heat is dispersed around the grill surface by tubular grill burners and the shape of the grill grate itself. Because of the distribution of heat, no one spot on the grill gets hotter than the rest of the cooking area. This isn't the case with the former Editors' Choice winner, the Coleman RoadTrip LXX. The Coleman's round burners create hot spots directly above them. It also gets hotter right over its burners than the Napoleon does. However, this maximum amount of heat seems to be perhaps more than necessary. In short, the Napoleon makes as much heat as you'll ever need and distributes it evenly across the grill surface.

The in-lid thermometer of the Napoleon. For the most sophisticated grilling  a thermometer like this is crucial  especially when paired with a probe meat thermometer.
The in-lid thermometer of the Napoleon. For the most sophisticated grilling, a thermometer like this is crucial, especially when paired with a probe meat thermometer.

Control


As we identified, the Napoleon makes as much heat as you could use in normal to extreme grilling. As valued as this maximum output power is, it is the control that sets the Napoleon apart. With two burners, spread beneath respective sides of the overall grill surface, the entire 285 square inches can be heated to one of many uniform temperatures, or the grill surface can be "zoned" to very different conditions. Each burner can be fine-tuned from "barely-there" to smoking hot. One burner can be cranked up while the other is left completely off. The in-lid thermometer allows for external monitoring of internal conditions.


Few grills offer the control of the Napoleon. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the smaller Top Pick Eureka Gonzo Grill. The burner output of the Eureka can be suitably fine-tuned, but the round grill surface heats evenly and can't create zones of differing temperature. Napoleon's close competitor, the Coleman RoadTrip LXX, has two burners and a large grill surface for constructing and finding different heat zones. However, the round burners of the Coleman mean that attaining a uniform heating surface is more difficult than with the Napoleon. The Napoleon offers greater control than the Coleman.

The opportunity to heat two different zones on the Napoleon allows one to sear a steak on one side and to slow-cook vegetables on the other.
The opportunity to heat two different zones on the Napoleon allows one to sear a steak on one side and to slow-cook vegetables on the other.

The dual burners are controlled by matching knobs  with lighting and settings clearly marked and intuitive.
The dual burners are controlled by matching knobs, with lighting and settings clearly marked and intuitive.

Portability


Portability is complicated to assess. How "portable" something is will depend on your transit demands. Some choose a portable grill for camping and picnicking. For them, low weight and compactness are clutch. Others will choose a portable grill for their backyard or patio, and need the portability because of storage constraints. Those in the second category might value things like a built-in, collapsing, wheeled stand. As tested, the Napoleon TravelQ is better configured for the former. For its performance, it is remarkably compact and lightweight. For the latter type of user, this exact same grill head can be purchased with a collapsing, wheeled stand. This option further enhances the overall portability score. You can reliably extrapolate everything we say about the performance of the Napoleon to the backyard patio version of the TravelQ 285.


Overall, we catered our review more to the user that is putting his or her grill in the car or truck and taking it away from home, whether short or long. For this application, the Napoleon configuration we chose is optimized. We did not test the Napoleon in its wheeled iteration. We did, however, compare it to the wheeled, stand-equipped Coleman RoadTrip LXX. The wheels and stand are indeed nice around your own home or apartment, but the Napoleon is more versatile. We like the portability of the Napoleon, given its high-level performance.

The short legs of the Napoleon TravelQ are the right height to make a temporary home on your standard picnic table.
The short legs of the Napoleon TravelQ are the right height to make a temporary home on your standard picnic table.

It is similar in size and weight to the Weber Q 1200. The Weber, though, doesn't perform as well as the Napoleon. For ultimate portability, something much smaller like the Cuisinart Petite or the Top Pick Eureka Gonzo Grill offer even greater freedom. Of course, grill surface area and cooking performance suffer when you downsize to the more compact options.

With limited van space  the compact stature of the Napoleon TravelQ is welcome.
With limited van space, the compact stature of the Napoleon TravelQ is welcome.

Cooking Area


The cooking surface area is right in the name. With 285 square inches of usable surface, the Napoleon TravelQ 285 holds enough food for a responsible meal for four. Four big eaters, grilling meats and veggies, will max out the cooking area of the Napoleon. A group of two or three will have all the space they need for even the most lavish flamed feast.


The cooking area is easy to compare, and pretty easy to choose. Consider your grilling style, menu options, and group size. 250 to 350 square inches of grilling surface area, which the Napoleon falls right into, is on the bigger side for genuinely portable grills. The STOK Gridiron 1-Burner and Smoke Hollow Vector Series are even larger than the Napoleon and are suitable for grilling the meat course for 6-8 people. If you are grilling meat and vegetables, careful organization atop these larger grills will feed 5 or 6. The Coleman RoadTrip LXX and Blackstone The Dash both have cooking surfaces that are essentially the same as the Napoleon.

For this hearty  entirely grilled meal for four hungry adults  the 285 inches of cook surface on the Napoleon is just right.
For this hearty, entirely grilled meal for four hungry adults, the 285 inches of cook surface on the Napoleon is just right.

The grill surface of the Napoleon is in two symmetrical parts. Beneath is the round-stock  rectangular grill burner itself (shown on the left) while the steel cooking grate is shown on the right. The grill grate can be removed in two parts  as shown here.
The grill surface of the Napoleon is in two symmetrical parts. Beneath is the round-stock, rectangular grill burner itself (shown on the left) while the steel cooking grate is shown on the right. The grill grate can be removed in two parts, as shown here.

Wind Resistance


We had mixed results in our wind resistance assessment of the Napoleon. This was the only chink in this grill's armor, but our poorer experience is anecdotal and limited to one incident we could not repeat in more controlled circumstances. In short, on a windy spring picnic in Grand Teton National Park, the TravelQ 285 burners kept going out. We have to assume that, since this didn't happen in any of our other hours of testing, this was an anomaly. In an attempt to clarify this experience, we repeated our fan test on the TravelQ, aiming the wind straight at the burners. We couldn't blow the Napoleon burners out with the fan, even with direct, high winds (we couldn't blow out the burners of any other fanned grills either). In our more "standardized" fan test (cooking a chicken breast with the fan blowing onto the closed grill) the Napoleon functioned just fine. We didn't have to max out the flame power of the covered Napoleon even under sustained, direct fan-generated wind.


Aside from the one, notable-yet-isolated experience with poor wind resistance, the Napoleon performed in the upper echelon. The high burner output and heavy, well-sealing lid protected cooking food during our comparative and repeatable fan test. The smaller grills suffered, presumably for their higher surface-area-to-volume ratio. Both the Cuisinart Petite Gourmet and the Top Pick Eureka Gonzo Grill had to have their burner power maxed out to keep the internal temperature appropriate for cooking chicken. In the strongest winds, these small grills and the STOK Gridiron 1-Burner didn't produce enough usable heat to sear a steak effectively. The Napoleon TravelQ, outside of the isolated Grand Teton incident, grills a steak in any wind you might consider tolerating yourself.

This is lead test editor Jediah Porter relighting the Napoleon after yet another flame extinguishment. This peculiar performance was isolated  but notable.
This is lead test editor Jediah Porter relighting the Napoleon after yet another flame extinguishment. This peculiar performance was isolated, but notable.
The Napoleon performed well in our comparative fan testing.
The Napoleon performed well in our comparative fan testing.

Best Applications


As our top scorer and Editors' Choice winner, this product has wide potential applications. It cooks well enough, and cooks enough food, to serve as a gourmet backyard grill for those with limited storage space. Choose the wheeled version for even greater patio or balcony versatility. In its tested configuration, it packs small enough and carries light enough that car campers will justify bringing it on their travels.

26 pounds of portable grill  in transit to a roadside picnic site.
26 pounds of portable grill, in transit to a roadside picnic site.

Value


This is an expensive product. Napoleon takes high-end materials and design and down-sizes it for portability. The result is a pricy grill that performs and will last. The initial purchase price is steep, but your value should be realized with reliable function over the years. If you will only use your travel grill occasionally or for the most basic of grilling tasks, the Best Buy Smoke Hollow 205 is a better choice.

We have a broad and deep test team at OutdoorGearLab. From professional backcountry chefs to discerning toddlers  we make sure to test thoroughly.
We have a broad and deep test team at OutdoorGearLab. From professional backcountry chefs to discerning toddlers, we make sure to test thoroughly.

Conclusion


Cooking on and traveling with the Napoleon TravelQ is a joy. For gourmet cooking on the go, you can't choose a better grill. With the option to choose this same grill performance on a folding, wheeled stand, all types of portable grill users will find what they want and need.

Tough competition. These are all excellent products  but the Napoleon model outperformed all contenders overall.
Tough competition. These are all excellent products, but the Napoleon model outperformed all contenders overall.

Jediah Porter

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Most recent review: June 24, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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5 star: 100%  (1)
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