Half the fun of going camping is the food! Some people prefer to go out for all their meals to avoid cooking, but we think it is much more fun to go back to basics and cook over a camping stove or campfire.
In this article, we talk you through the different types of camp stoves, what type of trips they are good for and what fuel they need.
How to Choose a Camping Stove
If you want to cook delicious meals with minimal fuss you want to find the best camping stove. With so much choice available we’ve put together the key considerations to help you choose the best camping cooker for your trip.
The camping stove you choose to buy will depend on the type of trip you’re going on and who you’re cooking for. If you’re keen to put on the walking boots and head off on an adventure holiday while carrying your gear on your back you’re likely to want a small and easily portable camping stove that’s lightweight, efficient and can be folded away so you can store it in your pack.
If you’re off on a trip with all the family you will probably want a bigger stove with multiple burners that allows you to cook larger meals or different things at the same time.
If you are a regular camper and you only cook for yourself you’ll want the best all-round camping stove that’s versatile, portable, easy to use and offers a stable cooking surface for every meal.
This guide contains all the different camping stove options available, the pros and cons of different fuel types and which types of stoves fit different camping trips so that you can get the best burner for your trip.
What are the Best Camping Stoves for Families?
When there are lots of mouths to feed you’re going to need a camping stove that can cater to all needs. You’re probably going to need a camping stove with multiple burners to allow you to cook meals the whole family can enjoy. You can get stoves that have 4 burners, perfect if you have to cater for fussy eaters out in the wild.
Here are the best camping stoves for families.
What is the Best Camping Stove for Backpacking?
When you’re on a backpacking trip or even wild camping, space is a luxury. You need a camping stove that’s small, efficient and lightweight. If you’re going to be staying out in the wild, you want to get a stove that is windproof so you can have hot meals even in adverse weather conditions.
Gas Canister Camping Stoves
The type of camping stove you should buy depends on where you’re going to be staying. The most common and easy to use are canister stoves.
Canister camping stoves are a very popular option due to their efficiency, convenient size and shape. They tend to come with liquid gas canisters that contain the fuel you need to ignite and generate heat and are easy to transport and generally pretty reliable.
If you want to be able to move your cooker between meals you will need to look for a canister that’s designed to allow you to disconnect after each use. You will want to look for a screw fitting canister where a thread and valve are screwed together when you are ready to cook and unscrewed when you are finished and ready to store or move on from your campsite.
Other camp gas stoves operate with a piercing mechanism where once the canister is pierced it creates an airtight seal between the stove and the canister to allow you to cook. These canisters can’t normally be removed from the stove until they are empty, meaning that they can be larger, heavier and sometimes more awkward to transport, however, they do tend to be cheaper and canisters are very cheap to buy and easy to find in most outdoor stores and online.
If you’re going to be taking a trip where the temperature is likely to fall below freezing or at a high altitude, a liquid fuel stove could be the best and most efficient option.
Our favourite gas backpacking stoves
Summit Portable Gas Uno Stove Single Burner – RRP £29.99
- Quick set up
- Lightweight 1.69kg
- Has a protective wind shield so usable in adverse weather
- Includes carry bag for easy transportation
- Great for back packers
- Variable heat controls for easy cooking
Wood Burning Camp Stove
If you fancy yourself a bit of a forager and don’t want to carry around fuel canisters, a mini wood stove could be a good choice for your camping trip (remember, these don’t work if you aren’t in an environment where you can be guaranteed to find or buy the wood fuel).
These stoves aren’t suitable for use in UK campsites if they prohibit open fires. You’ll also have to clean up debris after each meal to ensure there’s no risk of fire to your campsite or the environment where you’re camping.
If you want a cheap stove that won’t break the bank you could go for a solid fuel camping stove or an alcohol camp stove. They’re both ultra-lightweight which is great for backpacking, however, they do come with downsides like longer boil times, no flame control and they aren’t great in the wind.
Safety should always be an important factor to consider when choosing a camping stove, whatever type of trip you are taking.
Check the specifications, usage recommendations and things like the stability rating of your camping equipment carefully before you buy.
What is the Best Small Camping Stove?
If you’re off on a solo adventure and only need something to make a cup of tea you may want something ultra-lightweight to pop into your backpack like a small camping stove.
If size matters to you, then getting a small but robust stove is key. Sometimes small stoves offer just a single burner which can mean the stability is poor. The cheaper stoves tend to have bad flame control and may not allow you to put much weight on the burner.
There are some excellent quality small gas cooker stoves in various sizes, from pocket-sized stoves to larger, small tabletop gas stoves.
Choosing the best one for you all depends upon what you need most from your cooker.
What Type of Camping Stove Should You Buy?
There are so many different types of camping stoves that it can be overwhelming trying to decide which suits your needs.
Here are some things you should think about these things before you buy:
- Who are you cooking for – The number of people you’re cooking for can help you decide how many burners you need. If you’re cooking for the whole family you may want a multi-burner or double camping stove. If there are going to be children on the trip, a burner that’s closer to the ground may be wise so it’s less likely to be knocked over. If the stove is for solo use, a mini or lightweight camp stove may be sufficient.
- What type of trips you’ll be taking it on – If you’re going backpacking you need a lightweight portable camping stove or a folding gas stove that can be easily transported in your backpack as you travel. If you’ll only be carrying it from the car to your pitch you may choose to buy a slightly more heavy-duty stove with 2 or 3 burners. If you’re off on a fishing trip and just want something to heat food and drink a cast iron camping stove could be a good option.
- How often you’ll use it – for occasional alfresco diners, you may only want a small gas stove for camping that’s less fancy and robust, but if you’ll be using it regularly you want to get a burner that will be reliable and long-lasting.
- Where you will be using it – if you’ll be taking your camping stove wild camping or off the grid you’re likely to want a multi-fuel camping stove so you can use any fuel. This is handy if you get delayed or you are going to different places where some types of fuel may be restricted or the availability of fuel canisters is inconsistent. Survival stoves, as they are often known, are very popular with explorers, wild campers and adventurers for their versatility. Depending on where you’re going, a wood-burning camping stove could be a good option if you don’t want to have to carry around gas canisters, remember these are only a good option if you’re sure you’ll always be able to find plenty of wood.
- What will you be cooking – If you want to cook different types of food, you may want to get a camping stove with a grill, this will give you many more options when it comes to camping recipes and meals. You can also buy accessories like electric camping grills or camping stoves with BBQ grills built-in to give you even more cooking options. These types of stoves tend to be larger, heavier and generally more costly so aren’t suitable for those moving from place to place frequently or those heading away from the more well-trodden paths.
- Your budget – you can get everything from a cheap camping cooker up to premium camping stoves, your budget will help you decide which end of the scale you go to. Ultimately, price isn’t normally the best way to decide what kind of stove you need for your trip. You are generally much better off considering the cooking features that you need, the types of foods you want to eat and the size of stove you are happy to transport, as well as the number of people you are catering for first and finding appropriate stoves. You can then decide your budget when you have an idea of the price and features of the stove that suits you.
Should you Choose the Cheapest Camping Stove?
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to camping stoves. It depends on the type of trips you go on and what kind of camper you are. Cheap camping stoves can be a great option if you are only going to use them a few times however if you want a durable camping stove that you can get a large amount of repeat use from, you’re likely to want to pay a bit more to get.
You can get very cheap folding mini stoves that are easy to pop up and fit into any spare space you have, however, they won’t offer the flexibility or the stable cooking platform that a burner stove could. If you’re going to buy the cheapest camp stove, you want to make sure you read reviews before you buy and follow all the safety precautions recommended with the product.
If you’re buying a discounted camping stove make sure you aren’t buying one that’s discontinued as it could be hard to find fuel canisters that fit. This is especially important if you’re travelling abroad, just because fuel is cheap and easy to find here, doesn’t mean that it will be readily available everywhere you go.
Where can you use camp stoves?
Research stove rules and camping stove fire regulations of every country you plan to visit on your trip before you buy a stove to ensure you will be able to use it everywhere you go.
Camp stoves are generally easy to use if you stick to the popular designs. Most of the time you simply need to connect a gas canister to your stover with a hose.
Choosing easy to cook meals for camping is also important, especially when cooking space is limited. Generally, single pot or pan dishes are the best so think pasta,
Where is the Best Place to Buy Camping Stoves?
You can buy camping stoves from any good outdoor leisure retailer like Blacks, Cotswold Outdoors, Millets, Go Outdoors or Mountain Warehouse. Most of these shops will offer a good selection of camping stoves for different prices and needs. High Street shops like Argos also stock basic camping stoves and if you’re lucky, you may even find one in the middle aisle at Aldi.
You can also buy camping stoves online from retailers like Amazon where you’ll be able to read reviews and easily compare products with one another. If you’re buying your camping stove from an online retailer, be sure to check their reviews before you buy.
Why Fuel Type Matters & What Should You Choose?
The type of fuel you use will depend on the kind of camping stove you have or choose to take on your trip. Different trips suit different types of fuel better.
- Gas – also known as LPG (liquid petroleum gas) this type of gas usually consists of a mixture of either isobutane or butane and propane. It’s super lightweight so ideal for backpackers, really easy to ignite and has excellent flame control. Stoves that use gas are often affordable and you can generally keep leftover gas for years. Gas isn’t great if you’re at a high altitude or in super cold temperatures. Be wary that not everywhere sells gas, so if you’re going off-grid, you want to make sure you have an extra canister with you.
- Liquid Fuel – Available worldwide, liquid fuel can be one of the best options for remote expeditions and if you’re looking for the best alternative camping stove to LPG. You normally have a refillable bottle that is generally filled with white gas that attaches to your stove. It performs well in both high altitudes and cold weather but the stoves that use this type of fuel are generally a bit heavier so worth considering when heading out on a trip. Some liquid fuel stoves are also known as multi-fuel stoves as they can burn different types of combustible liquid fuels.
- Multi Fuel – These types of stoves can be good for extreme weather as you have different options of fuel types to use, depending on the conditions. They are also a wise choice for backpackers and wild campers who may have to rely on whatever is to hand to heat food. Often burn white gas, kerosene and unleaded gasoline. If you do use different types of fuel with the burner, it’s important to make sure you care for it fully to avoid unwanted deterioration.
- Alcohol – A good fuel option for longer trips is alcohol (methylated spirits, like paraffin or isopropyl), it’s pretty widely available. Alcohol burning stoves are ultra-lightweight and simple to use which make them a great option for backpackers.
- Solid Fuel – Some specific brands of camping stoves run on specially made fuel tablets often made from Hexamine. These tablets can leave a noticeable odour and will only be able to be bought from specialist shops however the stoves themselves are often relatively cheap and very lightweight so transporting them is easy. They will need to be kept dry to operate at their best.
- Wood – great for those who want all the fun of a campfire but with the cooking capabilities of a stovetop. Cooking with wood saves you from having to carry around fuel with you, provided you are guaranteed to find a source of relatively dry wood nearby to where you are caping, otherwise you’ll be left hungry. Wood burning stoves can be quite heavy and you need to check that the campsite or area you are going to allows you to have open fires without flame control onsite.
- Electric camping stove – If you camp in a camper or campervan or are staying only at pitches where there’s an electrical outlet you could get an electric stove. If you opt for a lower watt electric stove it’s likely to take a longer time to heat your food, so consider this when looking at specs. Some electric hobs are also induction, so make sure your pans work with them before you head out on your trip. Some electrical cooking stoves come with rechargeable batteries which makes cooking in confined spaces a possibility due to the elimination of carbon monoxide caused by burning liquid and solid fuels. These are generally a heavy option and you will need to make sure you can recharge the batteries frequently so you always have enough power to cook with.
If you’re wondering what is the most eco friendly camping stove, then you may want to look to nature. Gas canister stoves are very convenient, but they aren’t the most eco-friendly stove out there. Wood burning stoves can be a great alternative to other fuel sources, especially if you can forage wood from sustainable sources. You could even burn it on a stove that then turns the power made from it into electricity to power your electrical appliances – win-win!
How Long Does Camp Stove Fuel Last?
Unfortunately, it depends on many different factors, most importantly, the type of stove and fuel you use and how much you use it. Other factors that can affect how long your fuel lasts are the temperatures you are using the stove in and the general conditions like your altitude and wind speed. Be sure to check how efficient your camping stove is before you head on your trip – the more efficient the stove is the less fuel you will need.
Camping stove efficiency is measured by dividing the amount of heat you get in kilojoules by the amount of stored energy in the fuel that’s burned, also in kilojoules. If you use 100kJ of gas to create 75kJ of heat, your camping stove has an efficiency of 75%.
If you’re after a sustainable lower-cost option, then a liquid fuel stove will be an economic option in the longer term. Although the stoves are often quite pricey to purchase, the fuel is more economical over long periods.
Where Can You Buy Fuel for Camping Stoves?
When choosing your camping stove one of the key things you need to think about is where you can get fuel from. There’s no point in buying a stove that’s super cheap if you can only buy fuel from one specific shop.
Gas fuel can generally be purchased from outdoor retailers, online and in some hardware stores. However, most brands of gas will work with the majority of camping stoves, so although you should check it is compatible before buying, you’re likely to be able to find gas for your stove. It can be harder to find in less developed countries, so this is worth considering if you are heading abroad.
Liquid fuel is widely available and can even be found in much less developed countries – however, it is worth noting that if your burner uses white gas, it is often only available from specialist shops.
Alcohol fuels are less commonly available than petrol-based liquid fuels, however, they can generally be found in most garages and hardware shops.
What Accessories do You Need for a Camping Stove?
It’s important to come prepared when cooking on a camp stove, there’s nothing worse than cooking alfresco without the right tools and equipment.
A windshield is a necessity to protect the flame from the wind, stop it from blowing out and make your cooking more efficient.
Many people wonder whether you can use a regular saucepan on a camp stove – and you absolutely can. You can buy specialist camping saucepans that are compact, stackable and even have lids that double up as plates.
*Product we love: If you want a space-saving option these stackable camping pans are a great addition to any outside kitchen. The Kampa Stacker Cook Set nests together for easy storage. It comes with 2 pans and lids with a detachable handle and a silicone mat.*
Remember to take your pots and pans with you and be sure to check that they are suitable to be used on the type of camp stove you have. If you’ve opted for an electric camp stove, check whether you need specialist induction pans.
If you can’t function in the morning without a cup of tea or coffee you may want to consider a camping kettle.
*Product we love: We love this collapsable kettle- Outwell Collaps Kettle as it can be placed on direct heat and is easy to pack away and store. The camping kettle is made of non-toxic materials and can even be popped in the dishwasher when you go home.*
You can get great accessories to use with your camp stoves like camping grills and even camp stove toasters so you can have a piece of toast in the morning regardless of where you are.
You’ll also want to make sure you have good seating like a camping chair and something to eat off of like a foldable table.
*Product we love: For a cheap camping table option, we love the Royal Tea Table Large for a family set up, only the legs fold so not great if you are short on space. Alternatively, for a slightly more expensive option the Crespo Oval table, it’s oval, waterproof, the height can be adjusted and is easily foldable for compact transportation.*
Don’t forget cooking utensils like tongs, forks, spatulas and spoons to ensure you can cook the food you are making evenly so you can enjoy the food you cook on your trip!
Katie from bestcampingproducts.co.uk is a huge fan of the great outdoors. When visiting a new area she’ll always scout out a walk or beauty spot to visit. She’s been going camping since she was young and loves nothing more than waking up under canvas and a lighting a campfire to cook breakfast on.