Over the last 8 years, we have hand-picked, purchased, and rigorously tested 32 camping stoves. For our 2020 update, the top 14 have been scrutinized and ranked to find the best. From one-pot-magic and sauce-simmering-marathons to wind-resistance trials and boil tests, we put each stove through a ton of cookoffs in the great outdoors. When testing, we assess each model for efficiency, performance, and function — taking note of how easy each stove is to set-up, use, clean, and transport. We have rated each to help you determine the best option for all your camping culinary needs.Related: Best Backpacking Stove of 2020
Best Camping Stove of 2020
Best Overall Camping Stove
GSI Outdoors Selkirk 540
The GSI Selkirk 540 is a durable, efficient, work-horse of a camp cooking stove, ranking high across nearly every metric in our tests. The compact design lends well to easy portability, and despite the comparatively low BTUs this stove boils fast and is relatively impervious to wind. It features a Piezo igniter, an easy carry handle, releasable windscreens, and ample cook space, while being slim for easy storage. Beyond all these practical concerns, the Selkirk's sleek design and orange powder-coat look good to boot.
Our complaints about the Selkirk are fairly minimal. The burners sit close to your cookware, so this stove tends to cook hot. As long as you pay close attention while simmering, or plan to cook only on high heat, this shouldn't be an issue. Beyond this, the Piezo igniters proved a little finicky, but with some finesse and patience we were able to consistently utilize it. We were fairly unbothered by this issue as auto-igniters are notorious for giving people trouble, which is why our testing team always carries a lighter or matches when headed into the field.
Read review: GSI Outdoors Selkirk 540
Great Value for a Two-Burner
There's nothing special about the simple and straightforward Coleman Classic. It performs well across all metrics and at a thrifty price. You can often find it for sale at online retailers for almost half its full retail price. We love the adjustable windscreens, substantial wind resistance, and its convenient packed size. Even with the smaller dimensions, this stove boasts one of the largest available cooking areas of the compact two-burners we tested, so a win-win all around!
The Classicis lacking a fancy auto-ignition system, and dialing in an ideal simmer is trickier than on some of our other tested models — though not by much. The small burners are prone to creating hot spots in the center of larger pans, which is a common trend in small-diameter heating elements. While we enjoy many features of this model, it is not the best we tested. Fortunately, it does provide everything you want out of a camping stove, without breaking the bank.
Read review: Coleman Classic
Best Bang for the Buck on a Tight Budget
Gas One GS-3000
The Gas One GS-3000 is capable of slaying any single-pot meal you're craving, so don't let its slim price tag fool you. This competent single-burner has excellent simmer control, is easy to care for, and is ultra-portable. It's also the lightest model in our review. While this stove has just a single burner, you could buy three of them for almost the same cost as the cheapest dual-burner in this review! In a field of fierce competition, this stove holds its own, scoring at the top of the pack for portability, ease of care, and ease of set up.
The Gas One lacks wind protection and requires butane as its fuel source. Butane may prove more difficult to find than propane, which is widely available. The Gas One is also not as practical as a two-burner stove when cooking for large groups, but using it with another two-burner stove is an affordable way to have three flames at once. This stove is cheap but worth every single buck.
Read review: Gas One GS-3000
Best for Group Cooking
Camp Chef Explorer 2-Burner
The Camp Chef Explorer 2-Burner is a professional-feeling freestanding stove that offers great cooking options at an approachable price. We love the flexibility of the removable legs — use them when you're in a field or the desert, and remove them if you have a table or tailgate. The powerful burners are fantastic for cooking up large meals in a jiffy, but they still simmer with ease, and the grate allows for both small pots and oversized pans. We cooked some perfect eggs and pancakes on the Explorer, all for less money than some of our small, compact models.
The open and exposed design of the Explorer allows the wind to have a larger impact on its efficiency. The burners are far away from your cookware, and gusts of wind can sneak in and extinguish the flame. Because it lacks an ignition feature, you have to move the hot pot to relight. The grate has some generous gaps, so if you prefer to make coffee with a stovetop espresso maker, it may be incompatible with this stove. Additionally, this stove is also heavy and, in our experience, prone to rust if left outside. While a big set up like this isn't for everyone, if you've dreamed about having a chef-style gas range in the great outdoors without spending a fortune, this is a great option to consider.
Read review: Camp Chef Explorer 2-Burner
Best for Portability
Jetboil Genesis Basecamp
The Jetboil Genesis Basecamp is stylish, collapsible, and straightforward — what's not to love? Jetboil was very thoughtful and intentional when designing this stove. It is easy to assemble whether, on flat or off-camber ground, it simmers better than many in-home electric ranges, and could be lightweight and compact enough for some backcountry expeditions. The Genesis features the Jetlink accessory port to link with other Jetboil or Eureka-brand stoves and simultaneously share the same fuel source. This stove provides a fun and enjoyable cooking experience while taking up a fraction of the space and weight of a traditional two-burner model.
For most folks, the steep price-tag is the main deterrent with this stove. The Genesis may not be an ideal option for those on a budget. Beyond the price, the plastic windscreen could be inconsistent. On windy days, you can expect to wait longer before enjoying your hot tea or miso ramen soup. These concerns aside, the Genesis is pretty dang awesome. It's perfect for car campers, van-lifers, and basecamp chefs concerned about space and/or weight. If the price tag doesn't make you woozy, scoop up this gem of a stove.
Read review: Jetboil Genesis Basecamp
Why You Should Trust Us
Our camping stove testing team is a solid crew of experienced car campers, foodies, and folks who love to play camp chef. This review is headed up by Mary Witlacil an avid outdoorswoman who would always choose a dish seasoned with a little bit of trail-spice (aka dirt) over a Michelin five-star meal, especially if it means falling asleep under a blanket of stars. After spending years bike-touring and traveling, Mary traded in her bike cleats and passport for a trad-rack and a pair of climbing shoes. She has spent years dialing in her backcountry cooking scene, from deluxe multi-course car-camping meals to prepping expedition meals for multi-week backpacking trips. This gal loves playing outside almost as much as she loves cooking outside. You'll find her romping around the Western US, climbing cracks, and perfecting her backcountry culinary skills.
Our team of accomplished campers and van-lifers isn't just reheating canned soup. These adventurous eaters schlep all sorts of fresh food to campsites and trailhead parking lots, making everything from ramen with powdered miso to elaborate multi-course feasts. They went to high altitudes, cooked in lousy weather, and lived out of cars and tents for months to analyze the best camping stoves available.
Related: How We Tested Camping Stoves
Analysis and Test Results
Each stove in this review was tested head-to-head for several months to find all of the strengths and weaknesses. Our reviewers weighted each testing metric based on their importance for the function of the stove. For instance, our review weights the parameters for time to boil and wind resistance at 25 percent because these functions speak to the capacity of a stove to perform well in outdoor settings. By contrast, our review team maintains that portability is somewhat less critical than stove performance, which is why we weighted this metric at 10 percent. The additional metrics used to determine the overall score for each stove include simmering ability, ease of setup, and ease of care (or clean-up). Beyond the weighting of each of our testing metrics, we distinguish between different testing criteria to enable you to make an informed decision based on the strengths and weaknesses of each model.
Related: Buying Advice for Camping Stoves
The world of camp stoves houses an incredible amount of options across a wide price range; it's essential to consider the value of the product you are purchasing. Attributes and features that are essential for one person may not matter to someone else. If all you care to eat while camping is ramen or mac and cheese, then an efficient and lightweight single-burner is perfect. But if camping season means a big group of friends and multi-course gourmet meals, then a larger freestanding two- or three-burner stove makes sense — cost aside. We know that price is a major determining factor when choosing what model to buy, so finding something that strikes the essential balance between stellar performance and a fair price is key.
The GSI Selkirk 540 is a fine example of striking the ideal balance between great performance and a reasonable price. However, for certain culinary needs, the price tag might be a little too much to stomach. On the other hand, while the Coleman Classic did not perform as well in our tests, it is sufficient for most car campers, and won't break the bank. If you want to go big, the Camp Chef Explorer is large, powerful, and surprisingly affordable. Only you can determine what aspect — performance, cost, or both — is most important.
Time to Boil
Time to boil and wind resistance are the most heavily weighted metrics used to rate the products in our review. Theoretically, the more power a stove has, the better it boils, and the more efficient you can be when you slay your camp feast. What became apparent during our boil tests, however, is that BTU ratings — surprise! — aren't everything.
With two 20,0000-BTU burners, the Camp Chef Everest boiled a quart of water in 2.5 minutes with no wind present. With the constant wind from a box fan, the Everest's time increased a mere half minute, up to 3 minutes. The 30-second gain is the smallest increase in time between these two tests of any stove in our review. The GSI Selkirk 540 also performed well boiling water in 4 minutes (no wind) and 5.5 minutes (wind) despite having a mere 10,000 BTUs per burner. Even though all our large freestanding models had 30-35,000 BTUs per burner, they could not boil water as efficiently. Some of them came close, but only if no wind was present. We'll go into more detail below, but there is an apparent correlation between reliable wind resistance and faster boil times, which is why these are the two most heavily weighted metrics in our review.
The large 5" burners on the Pro 60X and the Camp Chef Explorer are surrounded by so much open space that they are noticeably more affected by the wind, despite their power. The flame is farther away from the cookware on big camping stoves such as these, so despite having the highest BTUs, they didn't win all the boil tests — though, for the most part, they did perform quite well. However, the impermeable burner design of the Everest made a clear difference with wind protection, allowing for faster boil times regardless of the circumstance.
As noted above, lower BTUs doesn't necessarily result in slower boil times if a stove boasts well-crafted wind resistance and the burner sits close to your cookware. However, the combination of less power and poor wind resistance or lack of windscreen did result in lower ratings in this category. This may not matter to you, if you tend to boil water in a separate device like a JetBoil, or if you prefer to simmer your dinners and don't care about a raging flame. We heavily weighted the metric for boiling time because a faster boil results in quicker meals, faster coffee, broader versatility, and more efficient fuel use, but the importance of this metric depends on your cooking style and preferences.
We conducted all of our boiling tests at elevations of 5-7,000 feet using an enclosed tea kettle with one quart of 70 degree Fahrenheit tap water.
Wind resistance is tricky to test, as you can't order up the same wind for every cooking scenario. But we consider this to be a crucial metric, integral to and on par with boiling time because, when a breeze does crop up, it can have a huge impact on the performance of a stove. If a stove doesn't have sufficient wind-protection, even the smallest breeze can affect output. This can take an otherwise pleasant cookout and turn it into a frustrating and inefficient disaster.
To test this metric in a controlled manner, we set up a box fan and continuously blew air on the burners of each stove while boiling water. Granted, this is not an exact replica of the variable wind gusts that circulate from all angles and speeds in real-life, but it did give us insight into how each model handles a constant wind. When scoring in this category, we also took into account our real-world experiences while cooking on windy days at the campsite. What became clear to us in assessing this metric is that, despite the 30-35,000 BTUs available per burner on our bigger models, wind resistance suffers when the design is less compact. Because of how low the burners sit below the cooking surface on these models and the subsequent physical space left open around the flame, they tend to struggle.
Our top performer in this category is the Everest. It has the essential balance of high BTUs — 20,000 per burner — and a smart, compact design. The Selkirk 540 — despite only having 10,000 BTUs per burner — also fared well, which is a testament to good design and implementation. No surprise, models that didn't come equipped with a windscreen had considerable trouble. We also noticed that the powerful freestanding models did fine with the constant "wind" simulated in our box-fan test. In the field, breezes circulated from every angle, which challenged free-standing models. Given the open airy design of these stoves, wind could extinguish the flame, requiring a second (third or even fourth) lighting.
If wind resistance suffers due to a flawed design element, there's often not much you can do. But in some cases, as with simple one-burner models like the Coleman Butane Instastart or Gas One GS-3000, you can make or purchase a basic aluminum windscreen like the kind that comes with a backpacking stove. These windscreens are light, flexible, easy to transport, and maintain your stove's performance on those gusty days.
More than half of our stoves made it through the box fan test in under 7 minutes, but there was a substantial difference between boiling times with and without the fan. The Everest performed quite well, taking only 30 seconds longer with the fan than without. The Pro 60X also did well in our simulated fan test, adding only 1 minute to its time. As mentioned above, when using the Pro 60X out in the wild, the wind would extinguish the flame multiple times in a single cooking sesh. The Selkirk 540 came in second place, adding only 1.5 minutes to cooking time in the simulated test, but proving far more wind resistant than the Pro 60X in the field.
A stove's simmering ability is often overlooked in favor of BTU power, but simmerability is a critical aspect of the functionality of a camping stove. In the simmering category, the models that performed the best included the Genesis Basecamp, Everest, and Explorer 2-Burner. The flame power on the Everest and Explorer is impressive (20,000 and 30,000 BTUs per burner respectively), and a bit more modest/typical on the Basecamp (just 10,000 per burner), but all were able to dial into the low-and-slow sweet spot for cooking with finesse and grace. We slow-cooked sauces and delicately scrambled eggs with confidence, much like on a gas range at home.
Even if you don't plan to cook fancy detail-oriented meals, simmering is a crucial aspect to consider. The ability for a stove to be proficient at low heat also means better fuel efficiency, which equates to more long-term bang for your buck. You won't burn through your canisters with a raging flame when you need a lower flame. This also means less scorched pans and more flexibility in timing. Maybe you have a curry that's way ahead of your rice — a gentle, low simmer allows you to keep a dish warm without overcooking, while you finish the rest of your meal. Other models that impress us in this category are the sleek and compact Primus Kinjia and the GS-3000. That being said, simmering is not necessarily a make-or-break category for most people. If you decide to go with a stove based on other metrics and still need to simmer, you can always use a heat diffuser to create distance between the flame and your cookware. This could be a great option for the Selkirk 540 for when you want to cook rice or dial back the temps on a stew.
Ease of Set Up
While car camping stoves are easier to set up than their old-school liquid fuel backpacking counterparts, some are more intuitive than others. The easier the product is to use the more likely you will be to use them. We chose the Butane Instastart and the GS-3000 as the winners in this category because the directions for use are printed right on the lid. This makes it super easy for a new user to jump in and help out if needed. For setup, place your butane canister in the fuel compartment, flip a switch to lock it into place, and then turn the knob to self-ignite. Fast and easy.
The Primus Kinjia also garnered top marks in this category, because this is the only compact 2-burner we tested that has a pre-attached fuel hose attached, so no fussing with screwing a metal adaptor into place — a nice feature especially when you have cold fingers! It also comes with a unique stand to prop the fuel bottle up at the correct angle after you screw it into the hose. A benefit of the system is you can then set the fuel bottle in a different location as long as it's within the range of the hose. A potential issue is that it's a separate piece that can get lost.
The Basecamp is another notable model for this category. Unfold, attach the fuel line, press the convenient auto-ignition levers, and you're ready to go. We appreciate the design of the fuel line because the fuel adapter threads are visible and are much easier to sync up. This is a vast improvement on stoves with a recessed adapter port where the fuel adapter pairs with hidden threads. Instead of blindly threading the adapter into the port, the two attach in a visible manner, which reduces the likelihood of cross-threading. The only reason this cleverly designed stove didn't score higher for ease of setup, is that the windscreen attachment was a bit cumbersome and unwieldy.
If you're in the market for a low-fuss freestanding stove, the Explorer 2-Burner is worth checking out. While not the same level of ease as a small compact model, the legs are optional on this stove, so if you have a table or tailgate, setup requires nothing more than attaching your large propane tank to the hose and lighting the giant burners.
Ease of Care
Most good car camping stoves are engineered with the assumption that they are going to get filthy and that you aren't going to want to do anything about it right away. What this means is that they tend to be pretty low maintenance and easy to clean. That said, there are some notable differences between the various models.
The Explorer 2-Burner is the stove that requires the lowest levels of maintenance. The burners are the only obstacle between food and the ground. Food that jumps from your pan lands on the ground as opposed to on the drip tray, which requires cleaning later. The freestanding bottomless design ensures food or grease buildup is a thing of the past. However, it requires more vigilance to ensure the environment doesn't pick up the slack, and you aren't leaving food on the ground to attract critters or bears. This stove has fewer parts to contend with and is painted black (the most filth-friendly color), making it super easy and straightforward to care for.
The Pro 60X is one of the trickier models to clean. There is a thin metal sheet beneath the cooking grate and burners that prevent food spills from landing on the ground. Food bits accumulate here until you unscrew a special hook on the left side and remove the grate (it cannot just be lifted out like most compact two-burner stoves). Once you've done this, everything is accessible and easy to clean, but it's a pesky step. However, if you want a big stove and prefer to clean a drip tray over pick things off the ground, this is a fair tradeoff.
Many of the other compact models in our review scored well in this category. Most of them are built to meet similar maintenance goals, and cleaning is as easy as lifting off the cooking grate to wipe underneath. However, on most models, the drip tray is not removable and/or there are holes in the drip tray where food and grease can fall beneath. The Selkirk 540 ranks high for having a sealed drip-tray with a removable grate — this way it's easy to clean, and easy to avoid having food fall into the unreachable zone beneath your burner. The Kinjia and the Gas One are also note-worthy, because you can remove the drip tray to reach every single internal nook, cranny, crumb, and splatter. A dream for those that love to keep their gear sparkly clean.
A key function of a car camping stove is to be portable. However, not all camp stoves are created equally portable. They come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, weights, and carry. For some people, this won't matter. For folks with smaller cars or space constraints in a built-out van or truck, this is a critical element to consider. Storage space is an important consideration, but you also want to keep in mind useable burner space. This will ensure you have enough space to use your favorite pots, skillets, or other accouterments. The Genesis Basecamp is the clear favorite for portability. This ingenious stove boasts a circular foldable design making it the most compact of any other stove in our review.
The Basecamp measures just 9.75 inches in diameter and 4.5 inches high by itself, or 11 x 6 inches in its handy carrying bag. The storage bag includes a pocket for stashing the fuel adapter and the flexible plastic windscreen wraps around the interior perimeter of the bag. Bag or no bag, transportation with the Basecamp is a breeze: after folding the stove, there is a handle on the bottom side of both burners that tucks away when not in use. The cherry on top is that the Basecamp weighs a mere 7.4 pounds, bag and all, making it a ridiculously lightweight option for a two-burner car-camping setup.
Two of our other top scorers for portability are, no surprise, the Gas One and the Coleman Instastart — lightweight one-burner models that come with little plastic suitcases for easy transport. The Gas One packs up to be one of the smallest of our competitors at 14 x 12 x 3.5 inches. It also weighs the least at 4.1 pounds. The Instastart comes with a similar plastic case and measures 14.25 x 12 x 4.5 inches. It is a smidge heavier at 4.7 pounds. We also love the trim and sleek design of the Primus Kinjia.
While they did not earn top marks in this category, the Everest and Eureka Ignite Plus are worth mentioning here. Both are wider than all the other compact two-burners in our review by at least two inches. You probably won't be miffed by sacrificing a couple of extra inches of storage space in the back of your rig. However, you will probably notice the extra cook space on these ranges when you want to use your largest cookware to whip together a big group meal. The windscreens on the Ignite Plus are also shaped in such a way as to provide some extra width, a detail we appreciated.
With a prolific array of car camping stoves to choose from, picking a model to buy is no easy task. First, you need to decide how many burners you want. Then, whether you prefer a freestanding or tabletop design, and what camping cookware or accessories you need to perfect your camp kitchen. Each of these decisions depends on how much space you have in your car, the cookware you plan to use, and how many people are cooking. Hopefully, our rigorous testing and thorough review help you sort through the options to find the stove best for you, your budget, and your appetite.
— Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett