Camping stoves bring a whole new level of enjoyment to camping trips. They have come a long way since the Coleman company introduced theirs years ago. Why eat prepackaged, unsatisfying meals on your outdoor adventure when you can enjoy wholesome food that you cook yourself right at your campsite? Besides, there is nothing better than smelling breakfast cooking in the crisp morning air. Many portable stove brands are available, each with different characteristics and price points, so deciding what features you consider to be ideal becomes a great starting point for finding the perfect camp stove for your family.
There are two basic types of camping stoves. Portable freestanding stoves have foldable or removable legs and are larger than the more compact tabletop models which set nicely on a bench or picnic table. The stand-alone models are heavier and bulkier to transport, but discerning camp chefs like them since they often have more burners and better heat control. Some require a separate fuel source such as a refillable propane bottle. The substantial cooking surface allows larger skillets and pots to be heated at the same time, making these stoves ideal for groups or large families.
The most common camp stoves are the tabletop models with two burners. They have a smaller footprint and are much lighter in weight than their freestanding cousins. These models will still accomodate a 10-inch skillet or two but are not ideal for cooking a large meal. Remember that the amount of heat supplied can be reduced by windy conditions so consider models with fold out shields that block the wind on three sides. This is true for any camp stove including the freestanding versions, but as a general rule, the tabletop models have better wind resistance.
As far as fuel is concerned, most camping stoves run on propane, found either in little green bottles available at outdoor and big-box retail stores, or stored in the classic 5-gallon portable tanks commonly used with most bbq grills. The tanks are easy to fit into a pickup or trailer, are refillable in just about any town, and should last for many, many meals. The little green propane bottles, while more convenient, must be replaced often, but for a weekend outing, they should work fine.
The amount of heat output of a stove is measured in British Thermal Units, or BTU’s, Heat output is a good rule-of-thumb for rating a stoves’ cooking potential. A higher BTU burner will produce a stronger flame and allow food to cook faster. This is important when completing tasks such as boiling water. However, the extra heat output requires more fuel consumption, so if your stove has a higher BTU rating and is fueled by the small propane bottles bring along some spares.