Meals are so much better when cooked and eaten outdoors. And if camping food is one of the things you look forward to in any adventure, then a camping stove is a must in your arsenal. Just thinking about freshly made damper or campfire nachos makes my mouth water! But what is the best camping stove to buy? Should I choose a single burner? Is propane better than wood-burning stoves?
There are several kinds of camping stoves available in the market. Luckily, there are more delicious campfire meals for us to consider than portable stoves. However, understanding their uses and features is the secret ingredient to our cooking success. So, I’ve selected a few of the best camping stoves in Australia to make purchasing a bit easier. Plus, I’ve listed some of the essential factors you need to know when buying a stove unit that suits your next outdoor culinary adventure.
|Image||Product Name||Size & Weight||Fuel Type||No. of Burners||Total BTU||Where to Buy|
|Size: 18cm x 23cm|
|Biomass (e.g. leaves, sticks, twigs and pine cones)||1||-||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Size: 66cm x 48cm x 15cm|
Weight: 8.6 kg
|Propane||3||28,000||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Size: 51cm x 33cm x 13cm|
|Propane||2||20,000||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Size: 35cm x 31cm x 13cm|
|Propane||2||20,000||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Size: 38cm x 33cm x 10cm|
|Propane and Butane||1||10,000 (propane) and 8000 (butane)||Check Price on Amazon AU|
Things to Consider When Buying a Camping Stove
While all camp stoves can help you cook, their unique features make your cooking experience better. Read on and find out which one is perfect for your favourite recipes.
Do you often go camping or backpacking? Both are great outdoor activities that can tell you which stove to purchase:
- Camping stoves. These robust stoves are usually heavy and bulky. But they also have more fuel supply to let you cook more intricate recipes, just like your stovetop at home. These stoves are more suitable for base or car camping, where size and weight are not an issue.
- Backpacking stoves. These lightweight stoves are often limited to simple recipes and water boiling. Usually, they only have a single burner, which is ideal if you’re camping alone or with a few people. They are very compact, making them easy to carry and pack for your multi-day or long-distance hikes.
Are you camping out for the weekend or an entire week? You need to gauge how long do you often stay outdoors. This way, you’ll know how much fuel you need to bring, because no one wants to run out of gas while perfecting their fluffy pancakes. Visiting the manufacturer’s website is one way to know more about the stove’s fuel requirements. If you’re going on a long-distance trip and you don’t like lugging a fuel tank with you, stoves that work with small fuel canisters can be a better option. You can also bring a small wood-burning stove as back-up.
There are two basic types of camping stove available in the market:
- Freestanding. These stoves with legs are larger and heavier, but they often have more than one burner, higher BTUs (for faster cooking) and more fuel supply. They are also stable and well-built, so you can safely set them anywhere. These features make freestanding stoves ideal for longer trips with a large group of people.
- Tabletop. This stovetop design is more portable and lightweight. However, its small size also means less cooking space, fewer burners and lower BTUs. Its lack of legs also requires you to find a safe, flat surface for cooking or to bring a camping table. Still, this easy-to-carry stove is your best choice for your weekend or week-long trips with your partner or small family.
It’s not a very well-known stove type, but there’s also a range of specialty hybrid cooktops you can check out. These versatile stoves often include a grill or griddle along with the usual burners. They’re perfect if you want to enjoy barbecues and other meals without packing all kinds of cookware.
Number of burners
Like most camping stove features, the right number of burners depends on your preferred meals and the size of your group. A 2-burner stove, however, is a popular choice for most campers. It provides cooking versatility without the extra load. Here’s a more detailed comparison to help you choose:
|No. of Burners||Use||Ideal Group Size|
|1||Compact and lightweight; best for preparing one-pot dishes, reheating food or cooking dehydrated meals||1 to 3 people|
|2||Standard stove; best for cooking more food or different meals at the same time||4 to 7 people|
|3||Camp chef’s choice; best for preparing more intricate recipes with faster cooking power||7 or more people|
Size and weight
Size and weight matter when camping out and choosing your stove. A large, multi-burner unit is versatile but not as easy to carry compared with a solo stove. Also, if you can’t go camping without your trusty cast iron pan, it’s best to check the specification of your stovetop to make sure it has ample space and capacity for your favourite cookware.
The best camping stovetop is one that you can easily cart to and from camp. To make your camping load more manageable, I also recommend choosing your cookware wisely. For example, a Dutch oven is multipurpose and ideal for boiling, deep-frying, baking and more. Also, you can cook for a crowd with this one, large pot.
Choosing your camping stove based on fuel type is dependent on your destination, cooking preference and budget. There are several types of fuel suitable for camp stoves, and here are some that you’ll likely encounter:
- Gas canister. This type includes propane, butane and isobutane. Campers usually prefer gas canister stovetops as they are relatively easy to use. This fuel source is also readily available in most camping stores and gas stations near campsites. Propane is the most popular gas canister type; it lights instantly and performs well in a wide range of camping conditions. Also, you can level up your stovetop power from cans to tanks with the right equipment. The only problem with gas canisters is they do not work well in temperatures below freezing and can be difficult to dispose of responsibly.
- Liquid fuel. This type includes unleaded gasoline, white gas, kerosene, jet fuel and diesel. White gas produces more heat without emitting off odours that may affect the flavour of your food. You don’t have to worry about spills when refilling with this fuel either as it is odourless and evaporates quickly. Also, if you frequently camp in winter or high altitudes, liquid fuel stoves are highly recommended. However, your camp stove has to cool down first before you can safely refill it.
- Wood. If you don’t have enough space (or strength) to carry spare fuel for your backpacking trip, wood-burning stoves are your best option. You only need time to collect twigs, sticks and pine cones for fuel, which you can conveniently pick up at your campsite. The problem with this type of fuel is if you’re camping on high terrains or wet conditions, where dry biomass is not available. Also, some campsites may restrict this type of fuel during a fire ban. Most wood-burning stoves also have limited firepower and control.
- Alcohol. This fuel type is not as common as it neither generates much heat nor works well in windy or cold regions. However, denatured alcohol is easy to find and inexpensive. Alcohol stovetops are also compact and lightweight, making it ideal for ultralight travelling and backpacking.
British Thermal Unit or BTU is the amount of energy required to heat 1lb of water by 1°F. In simpler terms, BTU indicates the amount of heat power your stove can produce: the higher the BTU, the faster your meals get cooked. Most campers would recommend looking for the BTU to find the best camping stove.
While this may be the most objective and accurate indicator, assessing the stove’s other attributes is still the best way to go. Moreover, stoves with high BTUs burn fuel faster, which may not be ideal for other users. Ideally, choose burners with 20,000 BTUs if cooking intricate dishes for a crowd and 10,000 BTUs or less for simple meals with a few people. More importantly, make sure to balance out this feature with your choice of fuel and outdoor activity.
A powerful stove is no match for windy conditions. So, look for camping stoves with built-in windshields or fins along its sides. These handy protectors will help you cook with consistent power and get perfect cooking results. They’re useful for slow-cooking on a windy day, too. However, if you want a light single-burner stove without the added weight of the windshield, portable ones are also available. You can even get creative with an improvised barrier. Just make sure that it is well-built enough to withstand a moderate breeze.
We love going beyond boiled food while at camp. And without a proper stove, you might have a hard time cooking tasty soups or golden pan-fries. In that case, choose a camping stovetop with a thermostat or good simmering ability. It’s an excellent add-on for stovetops equipped with windshields. This feature is usually found in high-end ranges though. However, for safety and excellent cooking results, it’s an attribute worth considering.
Most entry-level camp stoves use manual ignition to start cooking. Here, you need to simultaneously turn on the gas and light the burner with a lighter or match. If you’re a little wary about getting your hand close to the flame, some stoves come with piezo ignition. It’s a pressure-based ignition that works with a push or twist of a button. It’s a handy feature that you can use in place of a separate BBQ lighter with a nozzle. However, camping stoves with piezo ignition systems are also more expensive, and the self-ignition mechanism may no longer work after some time. To be sure, always have a lighter or box of waterproof matches with you when camping.
The price of your camping stove is just as important as its durability and efficiency. Also, as you will be using this mainly for cooking, it’s always good to spend on safety features. Make sure to base your purchasing decision according to the product features that matter to you.
FAQs About Camping Stoves
You might be wondering if a camping stove is necessary when you can build a campfire on-site. Or, what if you want to hike abroad. Will you be allowed to board a plane with your camp stove in toll? Here’s a handy FAQ section to help you out.
Do I need a camping stove?
One of the highlights of camping out is cooking over the campfire (and roasting marshmallows). But, having a camping stove comes in handy on some circumstances, too. For example, a camp stove is more straightforward to set up than a campfire, and if you’re travelling alone or with a few people only, it’s more practical to use when you need to cook a small meal or boil some water. With a campfire, it’s more likely for you to burn or have flecks of ash on your food. Also, depending on your destination, some campsites may have a burn ban in effect or have no available materials for firewood. So, if you enjoy freshly cooked meals while camping, a camp stove is an ideal backup if a campfire is not allowed.
Is it safe to use a camping stove indoors?
Camping stoves are cheaper than kitchen stoves as they do not undergo the same level of rigorous testing for safety as our stovetops at home. Thus, in general, camping stoves are not safe for indoor use. However, if it’s necessary, there are things you need to check and do before using it for indoor cooking:
- Check instructions for safe use. Look for safety stamps on the stove or refer to the manual or manufacturer website to confirm if the camp stove is safe for indoor use. Do not attempt to cook on it indoors if you cannot find any safety certification.
- Ensure good ventilation. If it’s safe for indoor cooking, then set it up somewhere far away from any flammable object (e.g. paper, cloth, oil). Keep your windows open and turn on the vent to let carbon monoxide out.
- Have a carbon monoxide detector. Place this right next to your camping stove. This tool is inexpensive and useful if you will frequently use your camping stove for indoor cooking.
- Observe for any flame abnormality. If your flame is too weak or strong, or if it’s giving off a strange odour, there must be something wrong with your camping stove. It is best to turn it off and air out the room immediately.
Which is better: butane or propane stove?
The choice between butane and propane mainly depends on the type of outdoor activity you plan to do. Here are some points that make these fuel types different:
Can butane canisters explode?
Butane is a pressurised and flammable gas, so it is likely to explode and cause injuries when exposed to heat or improperly handled. For safety, do not throw butane canisters on the campfire. Even if they’re empty, an explosion may occur if the pressurised canisters still contain traces of gas. Lastly, check the data plate of your camping stove and make sure that its certification number is not part of Australia’s suspended butane stove list.
Can I bring a camping stove on a plane?
Before going on an interstate or overseas hike, make sure to read through the camping gear guidelines of your airline and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. Fuel of any type, in general, is prohibited and considered an aircraft hazard. So, to avoid any travel delays, it is best to purchase your fuel source when you arrive at your destination and dispose of it properly after use. If camping stoves are allowed, make sure that they have no traces of fuel and are not in your hand luggage. Alternatively, you can hire a camping stove instead for a worry-free trip.
The best camping stove to buy is one with features that match your outdoor activity, meals and the number of people travelling with you. Make sure to balance out your cooking needs with your budget and preferred level of convenience. That way, you know you’ll be making the most of your investment and enjoying every culinary adventure outdoors!