By definition, camping entails a return to basics: everything you need to survive is either contained in your backpack or the trunk of your car. Now even though you can live off a diet of Cliff bars and trail mix, doesn’t mean you should. Here, we walk you through the best camping stoves of 2020, so you can enjoy the luxury of a warm meal even in the midst of a rugged adventure.
Best single burner stove: Coleman Fyrestorm
Best two-burner stove: Jetboil Genesis Basecamp 2 Burner Stove System
Best car camping stove: Coleman RoadTrip Stand-Up 285 Grill
Best backpacking stove: Optimus Crux Lite Stove
Best backcountry stove: MSR WindBurner Stove System Combo
Best winter camping stove: Jetboil Joule Cooking System
Best camping stove/grill combo: Coleman Stove 4-in-1 Portable Cooking System
What to look for when choosing a camping stove
Best Single-Burner Camping Stove
Coleman Fyrestorm Butane/Propane Stove
If you’re hiking or just love to travel light, Coleman’s Fyrestorm is the perfect companion for your meals. Compact and lightweight at just 0.3 lbs, it takes up the space of a mini soda can when packed into its reinforced carry pouch.
With wind resistance and even heat distribution, it can boil 1L of water in 7 minutes in 3-metres/second wind. The adjustable burner allows you to adjust a roaring flame to a soft simmer, while the PerfectFlow technology provides consistent performance in extreme temperatures. Lasts up to 1 hour on high with a Coleman 220g fuel cartridge.
|Coleman Fyrestorm Butane/Propane Stove|
Best Two-Burner Camping Stove
Jetboil Genesis Basecamp 2 Burner Stove System
The Jetboill Genesis Basecamp 2 is perfect for those who take both camping and cooking seriously. Its nesting design allows you to optimize space and store all the components away like Russian dolls. And, once it’s set up, the two burners let you simultaneously fry eggs and boil water.
The ceramic, non-stick fry pan offers an impressive 10” diameter, while the FluxPot pot holds up to 5L of water. A simmer control valve gives you the freedom to adjust the flame, while the windscreen shelters even your flame from rogue gusts. At an altitude of 1,000 feet or less, boil time for 1L of water is three minutes and fifteen seconds.
While the price point certainly reflects the Basecamp 2’s quality, it can also be off-putting for those on a budget or who won’t be spending much time cooking outdoors. Also, while considerably light for its build, it’ll add 10lbs to your pack.
|Jetboil Genesis Basecamp 2 Burner Stove System|
Best Car Camping Stove
Coleman RoadTrip Stand-Up 285 Grill
Looking for a traditional home grill on a camping trip? Look no further than the Coleman RoadTrip Stand-Up 285, where home-barbeque meets wilderness living.
The RoadTrip features a foldable body and sleek design that draws inspiration from airport luggage. This makes it easy to stow it and transport; rugged wheels allow it to travel on uneven terrain, though we don’t suggest dragging it through a boulder field. Three burners and two pull-out side tables make it easy to prep and cook as you would at home.
The porcelain-coated cast-iron grates are easy to clean, as is the removable water pan. For the price, Coleman offers one of the best car camping stoves on the market.
|Coleman RoadTrip Stand-Up 285 Grill|
Best Backpacking Stove
Optimus Crux Lite Stove
Backpackers, have you heard the good news? The notoriously lightweight Optimus Crux is now even lighter. At just 2.5 oz., it’s one of the lightest camping stoves on the market; roughly half an ounce has been trimmed off the original.
What’s so remarkable about the Crux Lite is the burner’s diameter, whose wide head allows for even heat distribution. Moreover, the simmer control lever gives you the freedom to set your temperature. At altitudes below 1,000 feet, you’re looking at just three minutes to boil 1L of water.
While built for compatibility with Optimus’ fuel canisters, the Crux Lite can be used with any self-sealing butane/propane mix. The 3,000W burner is powerful, while the stainless steel and aluminum body is durable.
|Optimus Crux Lite Stove|
Best Backcountry Stove
MSR WindBurner Stove System Combo
If you’re going to spend a lot of time in the backcountry, you can’t underestimate the restorative power of a good meal. Our top choice for backcountry camping is the MSR WindBurner Stove System.
While not the lightest stove on the market, its weight-to-features ratio makes it an excellent choice, especially if you’ll be doing more camping than hiking. Cook surfaces are non-stick and coated in ceramic to make them easy to clean. A built-in windscreen protects your flame from the elements.
Thanks to the WindBurner’s versatility and durability, it fares well in most conditions—from beachside to mountainside. It’s a great choice for groups of two or more who plan on making camp and sticking to it. It’s less suited for single-person use, or for groups doing more hiking than camping.
|MSR WindBurner Stove System Combo|
Best Winter Camping Stove
Jetboil Joule Cooking System
The Joule Cooking System from Jetboil strikes the nail on the head for all your winter adventures, from backcountry camping to weekend ski trips.
With its 2.5L FluxRing cooking cup, a packed weight of 1.5lbs, and compatibility with both 100g and 230g Jetpower Fuel Canisters, it’s versatile for both groups and individuals. Expect reliable performance in temperatures as low as -12.5°C (-10°F).
The advanced regulator valve allows for precision control over your flame, even in freezing conditions. The FluxRing cup is equipped with its own cozy for insulation. The flipside of the Joule’s lightweight aluminum build is that it’s more delicate than your average winter stove.
|Jetboil Joule Cooking System|
Best Camping Stove/Grill Combo
Coleman Stove 4-in-1 Portable Cooking System
Car campers, glampers, and road-trippers—gather round. Coleman’s 4-in-1 Stove System is a highly versatile and portable cooking machine. Its versatility lies in its four interchangeable cooking surfaces and its removable legs and inserts, which allow for easy storage and transport.
For the price point, you’re getting a solid amount of grilling power—7,000 BTUs, to be exact. That said, a common complaint about this model is the so-called lid which, in fact, isn’t a lid at all—it’s a wok! So make sure to find an alternative cover for your system.
|Coleman Stove 4-in-1 Portable Cooking System|
What to Look for When Buying a Camping Stove
As we’ve seen, the best camping stoves come in all shapes and sizes. But if you know what to look for, the process becomes exceptionally simple. Let’s look at what to consider when buying a camping stove.
Let’s review the three most common types of camping stoves.
- Campground Stoves:
Big, bulky, and plenty of room to cook up a storm. A campground stove is your run-of-the-mill portable grill. It’s spacious and powerful and usually transported in the trunk of your car. These are usually the best camping stoves for big groups going frontcountry/ car camping/ glamping.
- Canister Stoves:
Examples of canister stoves include the Coleman Fyrestorm and the Optimus Crux Lite. Because of their compact design, they are considered the best camping stoves for backpacking, especially when flying solo or in pairs. They’re affordable and usually nest within a larger system of cookware. Fuel comes in disposable canisters.
- Liquid Gas Stoves:
A better option for winter camping trips and long-distance hikes when compared to canister stoves. Additionally, liquid gas is more widely available than canister gas, so verify the accessibility of your preferred fuel type before setting off. Since bottles are reusable, it’s an eco-friendly alternative.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG): A general moniker for the gas mixes found in pressurized canisters (think MSR’s IsoPro or Optimus’ Energy). LPGs are usually a combination or two or three gases such as propane, butane, and isobutane.
White Gas: Affordable and clean-burning, white gas is derived from natural gas. It’s often used in conjunction with a liquid gas stove.
Alcohol: Denatured alcohols, like ethanol, are cheaper alternatives to traditional camp fuels. An alcohol burner can be purchased for relatively cheap and used with most camping cookware. Alcohol burns clean, but tends to heat more slowly when compared with LPGs.
Kerosene: Also known as paraffin, kerosene is still sometimes used when lighting lamps, but rarely when it comes to modern camp stoves.
Solid Fuel: Affordable, safe, and ultralight, solid fuel tablets are an excellent alternative to more complicated stove systems. Though not as efficient as LPGs or alcohol, it’s easy to keep track of how many meals you can cook. While transportation is safe, cooking with solid fuel can leave residue on your burner and cookware, in addition to producing pretty gnarly smells.
Nature Herself: Out of fuel? Don’t fret! All you need is a lighter (or matches), a few twigs, and some dry leaves. This really is the O.G. of fuel sources. Throw on some cotton balls doused in Vaseline and you’ve got yourself a blaze.
Most manufacturers produce and recommend their own canisters for their stoves. That said, you’ll often find off-brand canisters that are equally compatible. This means you won’t be stuck without fuel in the midst of a trip if a local retailer doesn’t stock yours.
Conversely, be careful which alternatives you buy; these are pressurized canisters loaded with flammable solvents. Best advice is to verify which alternatives fit your system and stick to trusted brands.
Size & Weight
Among the best camping stoves, you will find everything from hefty grills to featherweight pocket systems. The variety is seemingly endless. When it comes to size and weight there are a few things to note.
First, the lighter a stove, the less stable it will be. Second, the smaller a stove, the less surface area you’ll have to cook on, limiting the size of your cookware. This is especially true of backpacking stoves. When it comes to car camping systems, weight is less of an issue than size; just make sure it fits into your trunk!
FAQ for Camping Stoves
How long does camp stove fuel last?
The lifespan of a fuel canister can be measured in hours, days, or meals. Now, depending on the size of the canister, your camping altitude, and how hot you run the flame, that number can range drastically.
Take Jetboil’s IsoPro canisters. These canisters come in 100g, 230g, and 450g. The 100g canister is good for roughly 10-14 meals, or 3-5 days. The 230g is said to offer three hours of fuel under perfect conditions, or about 7-10 days. Finally, the 450g will give you between two weeks and a month.
You can ask yourself a few questions to determine how far this will take you: Will you be cooking and boiling water? Will you be camping solo or with company? How many times per day will you cook? Remember, cook times vary depending on what you’re cooking; however, it takes approximately three minutes to bring 1L of water to a boil.
With a bit of experience and some rudimentary arithmetic, you can figure how long any given canister will last. As we all know, whatever could go wrong will go wrong—especially in the woods. It’s best to err on the side of caution and overestimate your fuel needs.
Which gas is best for camping stoves?
Not all gases are created equal: some gases burn hotter, while some burn cleaner. In general, the two most common fuel types for camping stoves are propane and butane. If you’re winter-camping, propane is hands-down the way to go, as butane doesn’t vaporize in cold temperatures.
That said, butane does burn more efficiently than propane, making it the superior choice in warmer weather. Unlike propane, butane needn’t be stored in high-pressure canisters to be used as fuel. Both burn clean with minimal fumes.
Can you bring a camping stove on a plane?
Yes. That said, you cannot bring fuel canisters on a plane. Because they’re pressurized and flammable, you’ll have to purchase them from an outfitter upon arriving at your destination or opt to travel by land.
Can you use a camping stove in a tent?
Is it possible? Perhaps. Should you? Definitely not. While some may be tempted to risk it when outdoor conditions are subpar, the possibility of setting fire to your tent (usually quite flammable), or inhaling toxic fumes (think carbon monoxide) is fairly high. Because tents have limited ventilation, you’re putting yourself at risk.
If you expect windy conditions, make sure your stove has a built-in windscreen or you’ve purchased an after-market one to protect the flame. Otherwise, consider snacking until conditions improve.
How should you store camp stove fuel?
Always ensure your fuel canisters are tightly sealed when not in use. This way you avoid wasteful and potentially dangerous spills. At home, it’s best to store them in a cool, dark place standing upright.
It’s also crucial to keep them upright during transport, and never leave them in a hot or closed vehicle. Always check for leaks and cracks on the container. If you find any, dispose of the canister immediately. You can then bring it to your local eco-centre or hardware store.
The Right Stove for Your Adventures
It’s time to bring this article to a boil (sorry—couldn’t resist). We hope our roundup of this year’s best camping stoves will help you rock those outdoor meals. There are many camping stoves on the market but, before choosing one, ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of camping will I be doing?
- How often?
- Alone or with others?
- In which climates?
- Are weight/ size important to me?
- Am I on a budget?
Answering these simple questions will narrow your search and help you pinpoint the perfect camping stove for your needs. Bon appétit!
Next, check out our top camping tents of 2020.