Okay, some of you are former military, or you just like to ‘rough it’ – so your idea of the best camping stove is anything that works – a tin can, an old altoid’s box – perhaps just a spit made out of a live branch that you’ve chewed the bark off of… Or perhaps you prefer cold C-Rats, just to bring back memories of the good times you holed up in a fighting hole (civilians know it as a ‘fox hole’) for days on end.
But my best guess is that most of you aren’t Rambo, or trying to emulate him – you just want to get away from civilization for a while, but you don’t particularly care to ‘rough it’ too much, so you’re going to make a decision about the best way to cook your food. The best camping stove is going to depend on just how you like to camp – are you a loner? Hiking in from a distance? Or are you with friends and family, and the car is just 50 feet ‘thataway’? Is this going to be a single day or two of camping? Or are you out for a week or two? These factors are going to play a key role in what sort of outdoor cooking stove is the best one for you.
The Backpacker – hiking in to a camp site on foot – is going to want a stove that’s light-weight and compact. Trust me, 5 miles out on that hike, you’re going to be regretting every excess ounce you packed in your backpack – so weight is a big factor. So unless you’re in the service, and can just order a Private to carry it – you’ll want to consider carefully what the best camping stove will be if you’re hiking in to your campsite from a distance. Some camping areas forbid open fires due to scarce wood resources or forest fire dangers, so in cases like this, you don’t really have a choice, you’re going to need some form of outdoor camping stove that will get you fed. You’ll also need to consider the two choices you have for fuel – most backpacking stoves use either canister fuel or liquid fuel. For larger groups of campers – your better choice is going to be a liquid fueled cooking stove, since liquid fuels are cheaper. Liquid fuels are also better for winter or high altitude camping. Canister fuels are easier to use, and it can be difficult to tell how much fuel you have left. But for the single hiker, or a couple, as long as you aren’t in winter temperatures (canister’s perform poorly in the cold), the advantages of a canister stove will be decisive. Weighing in at just 14 ounces is one popular choice, the ‘Jetboil Flash’ cooking system.
Wood Stoves are large and bulky – but if you’re heading to an area where you have plenty of firewood laying around to gather, and you’re with a larger group, driving in – this may be the best choice for you. One advantage, in my opinion, is the smell is so much better with a wood burning stove. You can’t get too much cheaper than using free wood for your fuel, so if you don’t like the idea of expensive fuels, this might be the choice you pick. Make sure that the area you’re going camping in doesn’t have any restrictions on wood gathering – you’ll be seriously out of hot food if you can’t find any wood for your wood stove!
Nor is a wood stove going to be particular easy – just starting the fire is going to be more difficult than the ‘push button’ solutions that many backpack or propane stoves use. So you’ll need to know how to start a fire, and for you camping newbies out there, it’s not quite as easy as tossing a match into a pile of wood. (That only works in homes with no homeowner’s insurance.)
But if you don’t mind the slower cooking, the smell of woodburning, and the soot – perhaps this is your best camping stove.
Propane Camping Stoves: Now we come to the ‘heavy hitters’ of the best camping stove categories – the propane stove. If your family and friends are along – and you want ease and comfort, then propane is for you. If you want cheap fuel, this isn’t for you – but if you want a fuel you can get just about anywhere, and ease of use, this is your choice. You’ll be cooking just the same as if you were still at home. These aren’t the sort of stoves you want to backpack in to a campsite – but if you’re driving in to a campground – these are the ticket for you! Although the fuel is more expensive – it’s readily available virtually anywhere in the U.S, Canada, and most of Europe. If your camping is more exotic than that, then be careful to have a good supply on hand!
Propane stoves generally come in one or two burner models, but you can even find three burner ‘deluxe’ propane stoves – so if you have a larger group, think about how many burners you want before you make your purchase. One or two people can get away with a one or two burner stove – but if you have a real crowd, you’ll need something bigger. The last consideration for propane stoves is that these are generally considered to be the safest types of camping stoves – just make sure you tighten the connections – and there’s nothing to spill or cause problems – so if you’re considered a klutz by your family and friends, a good propane tank is the way to go.
Multi Fuel Camping Stoves: Able to work with Coleman liquid fuel, unleaded gasoline, or kerosene, the Coleman Multi-fuel camping stove isn’t really the choice if you need to backpack it in… but if you’re heading to all sorts of strange places, and aren’t really sure about fuel availability, this is the one for you. This is a frequent choice of American military serving in Afghanistan or Iraq, as you often don’t know what fuel you’ll have access to. With the same advantages that your typical propane stove has, this is a good choice if you want ease of use. The Coleman Multi-fuel model can be filled up before the trip, and last all weekend long. Liquid fuels are generally going to be cheaper than propane tanks, but more expensive than free firewood – but this isn’t going to be quite as easy to work with as most propane camping stoves. Lying in the middle for stove repair glendale ease of use between a propane stove and a wood stove, it’s still an excellent choice – particularly if your camping takes place in out-of-the-way places.
The final choice? There’s no way for anyone to choose without also defining how and where they camp. But I hope you’ll have some ideas here to narrow down your search for the best camping stove for your next trip. I’ve avoided talking about some possibilities, such as alcohol fueled stoves, solid fuels or solar stoves, because those are in the more exotic realms of camping gear, and I wanted to speak about more commonly used camping stoves. The best camping stove for you is going to end up being a personal choice based on how you enjoy your camping.
A wood burning stove is a variant of a fireplace that is made of metal for the intent of burning wood and other similar biomass products. The history of wood burning stoves dates back to 1642 at a foundry in Lynn, Massachusetts. The first stove was made of cast iron plates. In 1744, a revolutionary patriot by the name Benjamin Franklin took on the original idea to develop his own cast iron stove. His stove out shined the efficiency of previous inventions and is still a commonly used stove to date. In the next two centuries, the concept of a closed firebox with a controllable air intake was the most common design. During this time pot-belly, convoluted Alsatian cylinder pattern stoves emerged.
The Rumford fireplace was constructed around 1796 and it was the pioneer stove to angle the hearth of the fireplace with bricks, and also control the choke of the chimney so as to draw smoke upward faster. By reducing the width of the chimney the updraft was increased, thereby eliminating the feeling of smoke that floated in and around the fire place causing air pollution. In 1900, an American and British spy called Benjamin Thompson invented the first metal wood burning stove that was suitable for use in castle kitchens.
The oil crisis in 1970 saw wood burning stoves adapted for use in the kitchen and the stoves evolved to meet new efficiency standards. In 1988 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued regulations that triggered innovative designs which incorporated long burn times and low air pollution levels. Modern versions of these stoves feature airtight construction which utilizes aluminum, cast iron and steel parts. The stoves also have firebrick linings to prevent heat loss and catalytic converters for burning waste fumes. Modern stoves are mostly rectangular boxes or chambers with a thick door. They contain adjustable grates which can prevent, or allow air flow for controlled burning. These stoves have a chimney at the top. The part of the chimney that links it to the base is wider than its neck to prevent blockage. This design makes the stoves very efficient and more environmental friendly.
There are 3 types of modern stoves that use wood or wood biomass products for fuel which include airtight stoves, pellet stoves and metal box wood stoves. Box wood stoves contain the fire in a metal box and have a loose door designs. They are the cheapest stoves and are not as airtight as the other types. The second type is the airtight wood burning stove. These are an improvement over the box stoves and have a completely closed fire box, and a door that is made from materials that make it totally airtight. These stoves have an automatic or manual method of increasing or reducing airflow to the stove to regulate the heat output of the fire.
The third type is the pellet stove. These stoves burn compressed wood or biomass pellets to provide heat for residential or industrial spaces. Fuel is fed from a storage container into a burn-pot area to create a constant flame that requires minimal or no manual adjustments. Fuel is regulated by an electronic timer and sensor. The first miniaturized pellet stove emerged from Washington State in the 1980’s. These stoves can be either stand alone units or fireplace additions vented into an already existing chimney. They are made from large conductive steel or cast iron pieces with stainless steel to enclose circuitry and exhaust areas. In most states pellet fuel us exempted from sales tax. Wood burning stoves are highly efficient and have very low pollution levels.