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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.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $250 List | $249.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Excellent cooking performance, smaller and lighter than most
Cons:  Moody wind performance
Manufacturer:   Napoleon Grills
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 18, 2019
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78
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 11
  • Output Power - 25% 8
  • Control - 25% 9
  • Portability - 20% 7
  • Cooking Area - 20% 7
  • Wind Resistance - 10% 7

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. As our top scorer and Editors' Choice Award 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, stand-up 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.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Editors' Choice Award   Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $249.00 at Amazon$209.00 at Amazon$176 List
Check Price at Amazon
$113.34 at Amazon$129.00 at Amazon
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Pros Excellent cooking performance, smaller and lighter than mostSuper non-stick grill surface, easy to clean, snazzy side tables, excellent temperature control, wind resistant, always starts first tryU-shaped burner puts out a ton of heat, evenlyGreat value, secure lid, good size and heat output, stainless throughoutSturdy, hot, lightweight
Cons Moody wind performanceHeavy, no lid latch, disposable aluminum grease trap inserts fly away in the wind, can be challenging to attach disposable propane canister at firstRattly construction, large packed formatBurner easily disengaged, imprecise burner controlToo hot for cooking some foods
Bottom Line 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.Great grill with good temperature control and awesome porcelain-enamel coated cast iron cooking grates that clean up in a snap.A price-point grill with some of the amenities of top-of-the-line models.This is the best value in a portable grill we've seen.This affordable grill will last you a long time and sear your red meat lightning fast. It is a little too hot sometimes.
Rating Categories Napoleon TravelQ 285 Weber Q 1200 Camp Chef Portable BBQ Smoke Hollow 205 Char-Broil Grill2Go X200
Output Power (25%)
10
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8
10
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7
10
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5
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5
10
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5
Control (25%)
10
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9
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7
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5
Portability (20%)
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8
Cooking Area (20%)
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7
Wind Resistance (10%)
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8
Specs Napoleon TravelQ 285 Weber Q 1200 Camp Chef Portable... Smoke Hollow 205 Char-Broil...
Total BTU 12,000 8,500 12,000 10,000 9,500
Weight (pounds) 26 pounds 31 pounds 20 pounds 17 pounds 22 pounds
Cooking surface area (inches) 285 sq in 189 sq in 200 sq in 205 sq in 187 sq in
# of burners 2, u-shaped 1 1, u-shaped 1 1
Grill material Porcelainized cast iron Porcelain-Enameled Cast Iron Nickel plated stainless steel Stainless Steel Stainless Steel
Packed Size (inches) 24" x 20" x 10" 15" x 26" x 14" 22" x 14" x 15" 27" x 17" x 12" 23.5" x 15" x 14"
Piezo Ignitor Yes Electric Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Napoleon TravelQ is a high-end home gas grill that has been downsized with its legs chopped off for travel use. You can also get this same grill with folding cart/stand legs. Napoleon's home grills are very well regarded, and their travel version leverages the known advantages while optimizing portability.

Performance Comparison


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 some others. 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 approximate and external monitoring of general internal conditions.


Few grills offer the control of the Napoleon. None of the others we have tested (or even found in the portable grill category) have dual, u-shaped burners. This alone sets it apart. The thermometer and wide range of adjustment in each burner round out the package and allow the greatest control of any grill in our test.

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.

The heat distribution on the Editors Choice  as illustrated by our toast test. The middle surely gets hotter. Our anecdotal testing of the Napoleon indicates that the actual performance isn't as spotty as the photo suggests.
The heat distribution on the Editors Choice, as illustrated by our toast test. The middle surely gets hotter. Our anecdotal testing of the Napoleon indicates that the actual performance isn't as spotty as the photo suggests.

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 open-ended "vanlife" or for an afternoon of parking lot tailgating. 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 options from other manufacturers. Wheels and stand are indeed nice around your own home or apartment, but the non-wheeled 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.

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 modest 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 others with that amount of surface area are, on average, bulkier and heavier than the Napoleon. You need to downsize your cooking area quite a bit before you greatly increase portability over 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 years now of more controlled circumstances. In short, on a windy spring picnic in Grand Teton National Park, early in our testing, the TravelQ 285 burners went out multiple times. 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. The smaller grills had to have their burner power maxed out to keep the internal temperature appropriate for cooking chicken. In the strongest and coldest winds, these small grills didn't quite 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.

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, one of our Best Buys 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. 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.

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