Want to take your culinary skills into the great outdoors? We love campsite cooking, and since we're in the business of finding the ideal products for every situation, we got to work. After researching 50 top models, we tested the best 13 stoves on the market head-to-head. Both foodies and "I can't cook" types tried their hand with each model over several months, cooking everything from simple dinners to multiple-course meals. From races for boiling times to sauce-simmering competitions to wind-resistance trials, we put each model to the test. All key aspects were inspected thoroughly, including how easy each model was to transport, setup, and maintain. Two things are certain — we ate well during the test period, and our resulting review guides you to the perfect camping stove for your next campsite, cookout, or tailgating party.
The Best Camping Stoves of 2018
Gearing up for Summer camping trips and cookouts, we updated our camping stove review to guide you to your ideal cooking experience. Last spring, two models that won awards were updated, so we bought, retested, and re-reviewed them both. Camp Chef released new versions of the Everest and Pro 60X, and our testers confirmed that they both continue performing a cut above the competition. We also added three new stoves with a focus on affordability: the Camp Chef Explorer 2-Burner, Camp Chef Teton, and Coleman Classic. Read on for to see how they measured up!
Camp Chef Everest
For several years running, the Everest has been our Editors' Choice winner. This year it continues that tradition. It outperformed the competition in the most important categories, having the fastest boil time, the best simmering ability, and great performance on windy days. For a dual-burner stove, it's compact and straightforward to use. We struggled to find any drawbacks of this camping stove. We also appreciate that its price is modest at $125, while still outperforming more expensive models.
Our testers were on the lookout for negatives to report on this stove, but there honestly wasn't much of anything to complain about. Digging deep, the fuel adaptor, like most camp stoves of this type, is occasionally finicky to thread into place. It's also easy to cook a little too hot if you're not paying attention. But these issues were so minor as to be nonexistent practically. For niche demands, there may be other more suitable models, yet for all-around campground use, the Everest is the best. Note that it is sometimes listed by its model name, the Camp Chef MS2HP.
Read review: Camp Chef Everest
Best Buy for a Two-Burner
We added the Coleman Classic to our test suite, and we're glad we did. There's nothing special about this simple and straightforward stove, but it performed admirably across all our rating metrics and only sets you back $80 at full retail. Further cementing its excellent value is that it is often sold at online retailers for almost half that price. We loved the adjustable windscreens, good wind resistance, and the convenient packed size. Surprisingly, the available cooking area was the largest of our tested compact 2-burners even with the smaller packed size, so a win-win all around!
This cooker does not have a fancy auto-ignition system, and dialing in a good simmer was trickier than on some of our other models — though not by much. The small burners were also prone to creating a hot spot in the center of larger pans, something we saw in other small-diameter burners in our review as well. All-in-all this stove isn't the best we tested, but it did everything we expected 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
Our new Best Buy winner is the Gas One GS-3000. It knocks the Coleman Butane Instastart from its perch as our former winner with speedier boiling times, less weight, and easier care and transport. It just has a single burner, but, buy three of them and hardly spend more than the cheapest dual-burner in this review. This model is capable of any single-pot meal you have on your mind to put in your stomach, so don't let its tiny price tag fool you. In a field of fierce competition, this stove held its own, scoring at the top of the group for simmering, packed size, ease of care, and ease of set up.
The Gas One does lack protection from the wind and is not practical if you're cooking for large groups, but using it in addition to another two-burner stove grants you an affordable way to have three stove tops going at once. It costs $31, and we think it's worth every single buck.
Read review: Gas One GS-3000
Top Pick for Group Cooking
Camp Chef Pro 60X
The Pro 60X was the largest stove we tested, so it's no surprise it took the win for group cooking. With powerful burners that can be finessed down for extremely low simmering, a windscreen and oxygen regulators for combating the breeze, and two large side tables that fold out for prep space, it's almost like you're cooking indoors in a real kitchen.
The tradeoff for all this luxury is a hefty price tag, a whopping 45.6-pound weight (not including fuel), and a more involved setup than most other models reviewed. However, if you find yourself on large group camping trips often and you have the capability to set up and stay a few days, or you're the designated tailgating chef among your group of friends, this is likely the stove for you.
Read review: Camp Chef Pro 60X
Top Pick for Expandability
Eureka Spire LX
We needed a special award for the clever Eureka Spire LX. In regards to fun added features that are available for the stoves we tested, this one takes the pancake. The Spire LX boasts a JetLink accessory port that allows the chef at hand to either connect another Eureka stove or a JetBoil and run it all off the same fuel source. No more waiting around for water to boil before starting breakfast in earnest. This setup lets you do it all quickly and easily with a stove that performed well across the (test metric) board.
The only drawback to this fun set up is that it's expensive and you have to stay in the Eureka family to take full advantage. The stove by itself is $150, and if you want to get the adaptor hoses to link up other devices, you'll have to dish out $40 for the stove adaptor (plus have a second Eureka brand stove to link up) and $60 for the Luna Satellite Burner which connects a JetBoil. But, if you don't mind the upfront investment, you'll have a sweet family of well-performing equipment that is sure to make any gearhead jealous.
Read review: Eureka Spire LX
Notable for Best Freestanding Bargain
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 loved the flexibility of the removable legs — use them if you're in the middle of a desert or field and remove them if you have a table or tailgate. The powerful burners are fantastic for cooking up large meals quickly but still simmers like a pro, and the grate allows for both small pots and oversized pans. We cooked some perfect eggs and pancakes on this stove, all for less money than some of our small, compact models.
The Explorer did struggle with the wind a bit due to its open and airy design. The burners are far away from your cookware and gusts of wind can sneak in and extinguish the flame. With no auto-ignition, this means having to slide your food aside to relight. 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 breaking the bank, this is a great option to consider.
Read review: Camp Chef Explorer 2-Burner
Analysis and Test Results
There are several important questions to consider before buying a stove. In a nutshell, you want to start by considering whether a car camping stove (like the ones in this review) or a backpacking stove better suits your needs. Also think about how far you camp from your vehicle, how many people you cook for, how often you camp, and what the conditions of your favorite camping locations are (elevation, wind, etc.). Addressing these questions improves the likelihood of being satisfied with your purchase. Our Buying Advice article provides further help in making your purchase decision.
We bought and tested each model included in this review, testing them head-to-head for several months to elicit their performance strengths and weaknesses. Each performance metric used to score these models in our testing process was weighted based on importance. For example, the most critical metric, Time to Boil, has a weighting of 30 percent, while the metrics we determined to be less important, like Portability, are weighted 10 percent. Weighting aside, breaking down the metrics in this way helps you decide which categories are most important to you and which product ultimately best meets your needs. Wind resistance, simmering, ease of care, and ease of setup are the additional metrics we based our testing on.
With some camping stoves costing $30 and others soaring above $200, it's important 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 soup and macaroni, then an efficient and lightweight single-burner is probably perfect. But if camping season means groups with multi-course gourmet meals, then considering a larger freestanding two-burner makes sense — cost aside. We know that price is a major determining factor when choosing what model to buy, so we offer a price vs. performance chart (below) to help illustrate the relationship between performance and expenditure (hover over the dots to see what model each one represents). Notice that price does not necessarily equate to a high rank in our tests.
Time to Boil
Time to boil was the most heavily weighted metric used to rate the products in this review. Generally speaking, the more power a model has, the better it boils, and the more efficient of a cooking experience one would (hopefully) have. What became apparent during our boil test, however, is that BTU ratings — surprise! — weren't everything.
The Camp Chef Everest, our Editors' Choice winner, has two 20,0000 BTU burners and boiled a quart of 60-degree water in two and a half minutes and a quart of 50-degree water on a breezy day in three and a half minutes. Despite the fact that all our large freestanding models had 30-35,000 BTUs per burner, they generally didn't boil water as efficiently. Some of them came close, but usually only if no wind was present. More on this later, but there is a fairly obvious correlation between reliable wind resistance and faster boil times, which is why these are the two most heavily weighted metrics.
The large 5" burners on the Pro 60X and Camp Chef Explorer and the 5.5" burners on the Stansport Outdoor are surrounded by so much open space that they are more affected by the wind. The flame is also physically farther away from 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 performed quite well. The impermeable design of the Camp Chef Everest made a clear difference with wind protection, allowing for faster boil times no matter what the circumstances.
Again, lower BTUs didn't necessarily mean slower boil times if the stove offered good wind resistance. But the combination of less power and either poor design or no windscreen did add up to poorer performance in this category. If you tend to boil water in a separate device like a JetBoil, this may not matter as much to you — particularly if you like to simmer your dinners gently and don't care about a raging flame. We weighted this metric heavily because a faster boil time means people get fed and caffeinated more quickly and fuel gets used more efficiently, but it all depends on your camp kitchen preferences.
All our boil tests were conducted at elevations of approximately 5,000 feet using an enclosed tea kettle and one quart of water with a beginning temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wind resistance is tricky to test, as we couldn't exactly order up the same wind for every cooking experience. But when it does crop up, it interferes with the performance of a stove. Even the smallest bit of wind can drastically affect a flame and its efficiency. We tested the boiling time of each camping stove with a box fan constantly blowing from the side from 24 inches away. While we did not imitate the variable wind gusts circulating from all angles as in real-world situations, this objective test gave us plenty of insight into how each model handles constant wind. We also incorporated our experiences on windy days at the camping grounds into the scores. 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 suffered in simulated and real-life scenarios due to a less compact design. Because of how low the burners sit below the cooking surface on these models and the physical space surrounding the flame, they tended to struggle.
Our top performer in this category, once again the Camp Chef Everest, had the essential balance of high BTUs — 20,000 per burner — and a smart, compact design. The Eureka Spire LX — despite only having 10,000 BTUs per burner — also fared quite 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 noticed that the big freestanding models mostly did fine with unvaried wind from the side, but when breezes snuck in from every angle in the field, all of them had issues with the flame becoming extinguished and needing to be relit.
If wind resistance suffers due to a design element or flaw, there's often nothing you can do. But in some cases, as with our simple one-burner models like the Gas One GS-3000 and the Coleman Butane Instastart, you can purchase a simple aluminum windscreen like the kind that comes with a backpacking stove. These windscreens are light, flexible, easy to transport, and provide a noteworthy boost in performance on gusty days.
More than half of the 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. Our champion Camp Chef Everest, however, was hardly phased, taking only 30 seconds longer with the fan than without. It's no wonder this model continues to win our Editor's Choice award year after year. The Pro 60X also did well in our fan test, taking only 1 minute longer with the fan than without. But, as mentioned above, when out in the real-world wind, the flame went out multiple times in a cooking session.
Often overlooked in favor of BTU power, simmering ability contributes to the usability and functionality of a camping stove. In the simmering category, our Editors' Choice model took the win yet again, this time alongside the Camp Chef Explorer 2-Burner. The flame power on both of these models is impressive, (10,000 BTUs per burner on the Everest and a whopping 30,000 per burner on the Explorer). Both were able to tame down their power and simmer with finesse and grace. We slow cooked sauces and fried eggs easily and with confidence, much like on a gas range at home.
Even if you don't plan to cook fancy detail-oriented meals, simmering is an important 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 don't need to be. It also means less accidentally scorched pans and more flexibility in timing. Maybe you have a curry that's way ahead of your rice — a nice low simmer allows you to keep a dish warm without overcooking while you finish the rest of your meal, start a fire, or pitch a tent. Other models that impressed us in this category were the sleek and compact Primus Kinjia and our Best Buy one-burner, the Gas One GS-3000.
Ease of Set Up
While car camping stoves are often easier to set up than their liquid fuel backpacking counterparts, some are more user-friendly than others. We chose the Coleman Butane Instastart and the Gas One GS-3000 as the winners in this category in no small part because the directions for how to get them up and running are printed on the lid. This makes it super easy for a new user to jump in and help out if needed. And all these two stoves require for setup is placing the butane canister in the fuel compartment correctly, flipping a switch to lock it into place, and then turning the knob to self-ignite. Very fast and easy.
A close second in this category was the Primus Kinjia. The Kinjia was the only stove we tested that had an already attached fuel hose; this stove required no fussing with screwing a metal adaptor into place, which is nice, especially if you have cold fingers! It comes with a special stand to prop the fuel bottle up at the correct angle after you screw it into the hose. The nice thing about this is that you can set the fuel bottle wherever you'd like within the bounds of the hose. The potential issue is that it's a separate piece that could get lost.
The size of the Camp Chef Pro 60X made it the most complex stove to set up, though it still wasn't difficult (just heavy!). The 47-pound stove has to be flipped over to fold out and secure the legs, and the windscreen has to be slotted on around the edges. The manufacturer recommends tightening the propane hose with a wrench upon first use, which isn't included. None of this is brain surgery; there's just a lot to contend with here. If you want a stove of similar size that's lighter and easier to set up, consider the Explorer 2-Burner instead.
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, we did notice some big differences between the various models.
Our most low-maintenance stoves were the Explorer 2-Burner and the Stansport Outdoor Stove. Their construction is such that beneath the cooking grate only the burners stand in the way of food hitting the ground. So when, inevitably, food flies out of your skillet, it lands on the ground instead of collecting at the bottom of your stove in a drip tray. This aspect could potentially be seen as a negative if you're camping in a place like Yosemite, where the less food to hit the ground the better, so as not to attract critters. Plus, it's a poor idea to leave a campsite with food waste piled below where your stove was standing. But both of these models have fewer pieces and parts and are also painted entirely black, the most filth-friendly color.
The Camp Chef Pro 60X was one of the trickier models to clean. There is a thin metal sheet beneath the cooking grate and burners that prevents food spills from landing to the ground. Food bits accumulate here until you unscrew a special hook on the left side and remove the grate (it cannot simply 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 than pick things off the ground, this is probably a fair tradeoff.
Other models we appreciated for their easy maintenance were the Primus Kinjia and the Gas One. While all of our compact models had some kind of drip tray, not all of them allowed the tray to be completely removed — but these two did. This means the innards of these stoves are accessible to clean out every crumb or splatter of sauce that escapes the pan.
Our winners for portability were, no surprise, the Gas One and Coleman Instastart — lightweight one-burner models that come with little plastic suitcases for easy transport. We also loved the Primus Kinjia, a sleek, low profile camping stove with a large handle.
The Gas One, in its handy plastic case, packed up the smallest of all our competitors at 14 x 12 x 3.5 inches. It also weighed the least at 4.1 pounds. The Instastart comes with a similar lightweight plastic suitcase, measuring 14.25 x 12 x 4.5 inches, while the sleek and slim Kinjia design is a mere 18.5 x 11.75 x 3.5 inches. All have obvious, accessible handles and are plain easy to store in your car and carry around.
No shocker, the giant Camp Chef Pro 60X scored the lowest in this category. Disassembled, this stove's dimensions are 33 x 14.5 x 9.5 inches. The side tables don't secure into place when closed, leaving them to flop open when carrying this stove by its handle (an apparent design oversight). Plus, you also have to lug a large propane tank. Add in the fact that this stove weighs 47 pounds, and you don't have a very portable stove. But hey, you'll burn off a few calories lugging it around before you cook all that food.
With an extensive assortment of camping stoves on the market to choose from, making a final decision about what type to buy is no easy task. Deciding how many burners you want, whether you want a free-standing or tabletop design, what potential accessories you may want to add to your set up… All these choices depend on the number of people you plan to camp with and cook for, the available packing space in your vehicle, the cookware you plan to use, and your basic needs as a camp chef. Hopefully, our thorough testing helps you sort through the options and find the stove that is best for you and your needs. If you still need guidance on how to choose, please read through our Buying Advice article.
— Penney Garrett
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.