A reliable stove makes all the difference to camping trips, allowing you to cook up a hearty stew in the evening then warm up in the morning with a hot cup of coffee. Stoves vary in size from dinky little ultra-light burners that fit into your pocket to big stove-top numbers complete with grill, side wind protectors and a lid that is pretty much like bringing your cooker from home along with you. The great thing about all camping stoves is that they are essentially portable hobs, meaning that anything you can cook on your stove at home can be whipped up in the great outdoors by sticking a pot or frying pan on top.
Always ensure you buy the right fuel canister for your particular stove. The most common use gas (propane and butane) or liquid fuel (paraffin, kerosene, etc), and different canisters are designed to clip or screw on to different stoves. Turn the gas on and light with a match or lighter – some will burn with a bright, friendly blue flame; others are hard to see alight but make a bit of a roaring noise.
If it’s really windy, watch carefully to make sure the flame hasn’t gone out. Never cook inside your tent - you could poison yourself with carbon monoxide fumes. And always have a go at setting your stove up at home first – there’s little more frustrating than realising you bought the wrong fuel when you’re desperate for a cuppa.
1. Vango Roar stove, £70, Vango
The Roar is the most versatile stove we tested, folding down into a compact size for easy carrying or hiking, yet big and sturdy enough once set up to take large pots, so you can cook for yourself or for a big group with no issues. It has a built-in ignite, uses screw-on butane gas canisters and boils a litre of water in three minutes. If you want a simple-to-use stove to serve most purposes, this is the one to plump for.
2. Campingaz Twister Camp Stove: £27.99, Decathlon
Pocket-sized yet sturdy and strong, this fantastic little stove is designed to last. Gas cartridges (the stove is compatible with Campingaz EasyClic Cartridges) click on easily and the automatic lighting button means you don’t need to remember matches. It boils a litre of water in three minutes, 45 seconds. If you’re buying your first stove and want something portable for hiking and wild camping, or a Duke of Edinburgh adventure, this is a great option.
3. Campingaz Party Grill 200 Stove: £80, Go Outdoors
Planning a summer of camping with the family or hitting up a festival? Invest in this clever and socially-minded Party Grill. An interchangeable stove top, grill and griddle are included and it all packs up into its own bowl with a lid to pop on for easy transportation. A Campingaz canister slots underneath and there’s a built-in lighter. The stove attachment boils a litre of water in four minutes. Great for varied camping trips and for impromptu barbeques in smaller back gardens, too.
4. Kelly Kettle Base Camp Kettle: £56, Cotswold Outdoor
Okay, so they aren’t really stoves, but Kelly Kettles deserve a spot on this list because they are a simple, elegant and gas-free way to boil water in the great outdoors. These genius metal drums are essentially a double-skinned metal chimney – you pour water into the hollow walls and light a fire using sticks and kindling in the kettle’s belly, boiling up 1.5 litres of water in a jiffy (how quickly depends on strength of the fire you build). They even work in atrocious weather and will save you dosh on fuel.
5. MSR Windburner Stove System: £120, Go Outdoors
This is a totally windproof system for those who like to venture into changeable weather, far from the madding crowds. The slick MSR Windburner has an enclosed design, so no need to desperately shield your precious stove flame with your jacket – instead, a glowing radiant burner does its thing protected by outer casing and using IsoPro fuel canisters. The Windburner is less intuitive to set up than others we tested though – we had to watch the MSR video to make sure we had it right. It takes around four minutes to boil a litre of water, but it’ll do so reliably in heavy winds when other stoves just can’t. It all packs down into the one litre pot included, too. It’s best suited to one or two people on wild camping forays.
6. Appetizer 3-Burner Stove with Grill: £55, Cotswold Outdoor
Like taking everything but the kitchen sink with you on camping trips? You might as well bring your cooker – well, this portable incarnation of it. The Appetizer 3-burner has three individually controlled burners above and a grill below, making it perfect for cooking a massive English breakfast or a feast made up of different elements. The burners aren’t the strongest we tested, though, so don’t expect speedy cooking times – we reckon it took six to seven minutes to boil a litre of water. The whole thing feels sturdy, with rubber feet and a wind shield. It’s a great choice for a week camping with the family, and at a very decent price. Strangely, the gas hose and regulator kit you’ll need to use the stove is free, but has to be ordered separately. Powered by gas canisters.
7. Darby Made Cast Iron Burner and Grill: £120, Darby Made
The hipster option of choice, this mega-posh, handmade cast-iron burner is actually very portable (well, when cold) and works as a beautiful fire pit in the back garden, or as an easy-to-use, spacious grill when camping (using lump charcoal as fuel). It’s ideal for beach barbeques or taking to campsites that don’t allow a campfire. You can even use it on decking or on a table, due to its wooden legs, and iron kettles and iron frying pans are available to buy separately. A luxe option for glampers.
8. Outwell Jimbu Portable Gas Stove and Grill: £82, Blacks
A burner on the left, a grill on the right – that’s your beans and bacon sorted for the morning. This setup has wind protectors and is light to carry and easy to clean. It uses small EN417 gas cartridges, which makes it portable but means you’ll need to change the cartridge regularly. The stove burner boils a litre of water in about four and a half minutes. A good choice for family camping trips.
The Verdict: Camping stoves
The Vango Roar is the most versatile stove on our list and a good option for varied group sizes. Wild campers should plump for the small and well-priced Campingaz Twister or the MSR Windburner, a more expensive but very robust choice. Party people will love the Campingaz Party grill and families will get on well with the Outwell Jimbu.
Sian Anna Lewis is a travel and outdoors writer and editor of The Girl Outdoors blog
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