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There are quite a few essentials that are needed for a successful camping trip: sleeping bags, tents, airbeds - and a gas stove is near the top of the list. After all, you’ve got to eat.
Best camping stoves at a glance:
- Best for all-round versatility: Carri Chef 2 Gourmet Combo
- Best for efficiency and design: Primus Onja
- Best for orienteering and backpacking: Jetboil Zip
- Best for value and portability: Campingaz Camp Bistro 2 Portable Gas Stove
Choosing a gas stove
There’s a wide variety of camp stoves available in all manner of shapes and sizes and they all run on gas, or more appropriately propane and a mixture of butane and propane. You don’t need to head to an outdoor retail store: these days, the best camping stoves and their gas cannisters are all available online.
The first thing you need to ask yourself is what type of gas system is best for you. If you have a large family or simply want a multi gas hob to feed several mouths, then perhaps opt for a stove that runs off large a 5kg propane bottle (Patio Gas is the most popular brand).
While larger propane canisters provide lengthy cooking times and will easily last the course of a camping holiday, initial costs can be quite high since you will need to pay a canister rental fee of £40 plus £30 for the gas.
A large 5kg gas canister also has the added benefit of being able to power a gas barbecue (most campsites don’t allow the use of charcoal).
But on the downside, it also takes up much more room in the car and, if considering a European camping holiday in the car or motorhome, you should know that you will need to declare it to the staff at EuroTunnel.
Another much more common option among campers – and especially backpackers and wilderness orienteers – is the classic disposable butane/propane canister.
These small, cheap-to-buy canisters screw on to the gas stove’s regulator and provide around two hours of cooking using a 220g aerosol canister or approximately 3.5 hours using the larger 450g variety.
The big bonus here is that camping gas canisters are available everywhere so you could simply travel without any gas on board and purchase a few canisters at the campsite shop or a local supermarket.
Get kitted out for your camping and backpacking adventures.
We have detailed guides to the best backpacking tents for your adventures here. Want to steady your stride? These are the best walking poles for hiking.
Keep it comfy with the best camping folding chairs, and sleep on the best air beds around, as listed here. And keep things illuminated with a great camping head torch.
Best for: all-round versatility
Cadac’s versatile, South African-designed gas stove-cum-BBQ is hugely popular on French and British family campsites and small wonder because is it arguably the most versatile outdoor cooking system on the market.
The Carri Chef 50 comes with a ceramic BBQ grill plate, a Spanish-style Plancha for fried breakfasts, pancakes, etc and a pot holder for boiling pastas and vegetables or even a whistling kettle.
We would also recommend adding the superb scottle (or wok) at checkout because this one item alone provides a wide range of extra cooking options, including quick and easy stir fries.
Like a Weber barbecue, the Carri Chef’s lid encourages convection cooking and when removed and hooked on the side, it also serves as a windbreak.
The Carri Chef is designed to run on larger bottle of propane (5kg upwards) but it can easily be converted to run on smaller, commonly-available mini camping cartridges.
In fact, the optional Dual Power Pak may be the best option for lightweight camping. In a nutshell, this superb set up is the only outdoor cooking appliance you’ll ever need.
Best for: efficiency and design
Swedish company Primus has been at the cutting edge of the camping and outdoors industry for aeons (since 1892 to be more precise) and produces a wide range of imaginatively designed products that tend to buck the trend.
Like this quirky, easy-to-carry, two-burner model that expands outwards to accommodate two small saucepans.
The Onja’s 2800-watt burners are ferociously hot and will boil a litre of water in less than four minutes.
The admittedly cheap-looking burner controls are extremely sensitive, too, which means you can easily adjust the flames to a really slow simmer.
This model accommodates two threaded or clip-on canisters, one for each burner and they’re nicely tucked away out of sight beneath a detachable fabric covering for added aesthetic.
An oak lid serves as protection in transit while serving as a cutting board at the same time. This one’s a great choice for wilderness camping and picnics.
Best for: orienteering and backpacking
Mountaineers, orienteers, wilderness campers, touring cyclists and backpackers need a light, compact cooking system that doesn’t take up valuable space, is practical, efficient, light and, above all, easy to use.
The all-in-one Jetboil Zip’s single-serve 0.8-litre cooking pot also serves as a container for the burner, stand and propane canister so everything is nicely contained in one tidy package.
But it’s the speed and efficiency of the Zip’s unique burner that impresses most. Like an industrial blow-torch, this thing boils water in less than two minutes, and in temperatures as low as -6˚C.
And when you’re done cooking, simply eat the contents straight out of the neoprene-coated pot – without burning your hands.
Best for: value and portability
The Bistro 2’s wide, flat, sturdy design is perfect for couples and soloists and compact enough to easily fit into a backpack.
The Piezo-equipped Bistro 2 boils a litre of water in around six minutes – not the fastest it must be said – and continues for up to 70 minutes on a single Campingaz CP250 butane cartridge.
Given that this all-metal model is so sturdy and there are no obstacles like ridges or tall surrounds around the hob surface, you could feasibly use any sized saucepan or frying pan on it.
On the downside, the open design means it’s more susceptible to wind blowing out the flame so we would advise using it on the lee side of a tent or somewhere sheltered – but never inside the tent!
If you’re travelling alone or with a partner, this solid, great-value stove is arguably your best bet. It’s efficient, cheap to buy and easy to use.