One of the absolute highlights of camping is the food! Bacon & eggs in a cast-iron skillet, a fresh cup of coffee straight from the percolator. Nothing tastes as good as food made in the great outdoors! But before you can start cooking, you’ll need a camping stove.
A good camping stove is the centerpiece of your camp kitchen setup. It should be reliable, functional, and a pleasure to cook with.
But figuring out which camping stove model is right for you can feel a little overwhelming. There are just so many different options! Various fuel types, new features, and—of course— a wide spread in price points.
The good news is that in this article, we’ve done much of the hard work for you! We’ve whittled the list down to just the very best camping stoves on the market and we’ll walk you through the most important features to consider. We also give you our top recommendations.
While there are tons of different types of camping stoves, this guide will focus on those designed specifically for front-country car camping. These stoves are larger and more substantial than lightweight backcountry stoves and should perform closer to the burners in your home kitchen.
If you are interested in lightweight stoves, you should check our list of the best backpacking stoves on the market.
Top recommended camp stoves
We cover the particular pros and cons of each camping stove later in this article, but if you want to skip straight to the conclusions here are our quick-takes for “the best camping stove in their category”.
Best All-Around 2 Burner Camp Stove: Camp Chef Everest 2X
The Everest 2X is our personal favorite and go-to stove for camping. There is a lot to like about it, but we absolutely love the broad, wind-resistant 20,000 BTU burners (twice as powerful as most other camping stoves).
Best Budget Camping Stove: Coleman Classic
The Coleman Classic was the first camp stove we ever owned. For its price, it’s an incredibly reliable workhorse. If you’re new to camping or shopping on a budget, this is a great camp stove to start with.
Best Single Burner Camping Stove: Gas ONE GS-3900P Dual Fuel
This compact single burner stove can run off propane or butane, features an incredibly powerful 15,000 BTU burner, and offers high-end features like auto-ignite and substantial wind protection.
Best Free Standing Camp Stove: CampChef Explorer 2 Burner
This is a real professional setup. Featuring two 30,000 BTU burners, super responsive simmer control, and substantial wind protection, this free-standing camp stove is perfect for campers who want to take their outdoor cooking to the next level.
Camp stove fuel types
The most commonly used fuel for camping stoves is propane. However, some camping stoves also run off of isobutane and butane. So what’s the difference?
- Propane: Propane is by far the best performing and most common type of camping stove fuel. The single-use green propane bottles can be found at virtually every gas station, grocery store, and hardware store across the country. Propane stoves can also be attached to larger reusable tanks when fitted with the proper adaptor. A reusable propane tank can save you a lot of money on fuel costs over time and can be refilled at most gas stations, reducing waste.
- Isobutane: This fuel is most commonly used by lightweight backpacking stoves. While it offers decent performance when it’s cold, its main advantage is being lightweight—which isn’t as critical a factor for car camping. Isobutane is also the most highly processed and therefore the most expensive type of gas. But, if you do a lot of backpacking and want to own just one stove, it might make sense to buy a camping stove that uses the same type of fuel.
- Butane: Butane is remarkably cheap, but it does not perform well in colder temperatures. As temperatures approach 30F, this fuel will struggle to power a stove, making it better suited for warm weather climates.
Our Take: For the vast majority of recreational campers, we would recommend a propane stove. They have the best performance, the fuel is cheap and widely available, approved under all but the most severe wildfire restrictions—and if you pick up a refillable tank, it’s the most eco-friendly.
Alternative fuel options
Wood Burning Camp Stoves: There are a few stoves on the market that run entirely off of biomass (wood, sticks, twigs, etc). This can reduce your fuel costs, so long as you are allowed to collect wood at your campsite. But because it’s a wood-powered flame, these types of stoves are often prohibited during wildfire burn bans. Additionally, most campgrounds require all fires to be contained within the designated fire ring.
Dual Fuel Camp Stoves: These old-school, manually pressurized camping stoves can run off of either white gas or unleaded gasoline. The most iconic model is the Coleman® Powerhouse® Dual Fuel™. While this type of stove is beloved by many long-time car campers who want fuel flexibility, we feel these types of stoves can be more finicky than the average camper wants to deal with.
Camping stove features to consider
There are a lot of factors to consider when buying a new camp stove, but don’t get overwhelmed! Just think about how you intend on using it and you will naturally take note of the factors that are important to you. Also, where we think it’s relevant, we’ll chime in to give you our two cents too!
Number Of Burners
How many burners do you need? This will largely depend on the size of your group and your style of cooking.
- One Burner: If you’re cooking for a small number of people and enjoy making one-pot meals, you will be surprised just how much you can get done with a single burner. These types of stoves are relatively lightweight and take up the least amount of space.
- Two Burners: The most common type of camping stove is the two-burner setup—and for good reason. This type of stove offers a lot of versatility in a relatively compact form. For us, cooking on a two-burner stove feels very similar to the way we cook at home.
- Multi-Burner: We find it very rare that we wish we had more than two burners at a campsite, however, if you’re cooking for a large group or family, it might be nice. Some stoves offer a fixed 3 burner configuration, like the Camp Chef 3x Explorer.
Our Take: For most recreational campers, a two-burner stove is the most versatile option. Being able to boil water and saute at the same time feels the most like cooking at home.
Burner power is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Unit). The burners on most camping stoves run between 7,000 and 20,000 BTUs. For comparison, a typical home stove burner runs between 7,000-12,000 BTUs.
Camp stoves tend to have higher burner power than home stoves because they are designed to be operated at colder-than-room-temperature conditions and need to contend with the wind. Burners with a few extra BTUs can really go a long way to level the playing field.
The actual diameter of the burner is an important thing to consider, too. A small burner will produce a small hot spot right under your pan. A larger burner will spread the heat more evenly. Generally speaking, the wider the burner’s diameter, the better for even cooking.
For two-burner camp stoves, the distance between the burners and the overall cooking space between the side windscreens can restrict the size of the cookware you will be able to use.
Some two-burner stoves might only be able to accommodate two 10” inch skillets at the same time while others are able to accommodate one 10” and one 12” skillet.
Our Take: Unfortunately, some stove manufacturers overstate what size skillets their stoves can accommodate. While it might be possible to shove two 12” skillets onto the cooking surface, if the skillets aren’t centered over the burners, you are going to get hot spots and uneven cooking.
As mentioned above, wind can play a major role in the overall performance of your stove. Even a gentle breeze can really throw off your cook times—especially when simmering at low heat.
Most one-burner stoves don’t come with any integrated wind protection, so it’s advisable to pick up a foldable windscreen to improve performance and increase fuel efficiency.
However, two-burner stoves usually have some degree of wind protection built into their design. Many open like a briefcase and have folding sidewalls. Additionally, some stoves—like the Camp Chef Everest—have recessed burners that are surrounded by protective sheaths to improve their wind resistance.
How low can you go? If you want to make creamy risotto, oatmeal, or polenta, you’ll need to be able to simmer on low heat. Otherwise, your food can scorch to the bottom of your pot.
Quality flame control requires very precise valves, which lower-end models don’t frequently have. Additionally, the wind resistance plays a large role in a burners ability to hold a very low flame.
Integrated Ignition System
Most stoves come with an integrated ignition system, some easier to use than others, but all are extremely convenient…when working properly. Unfortunately, auto ignition systems are often the first thing to fail, so always be sure to have an alternate fire starter (i.e. long handle Bic fire lighter) on hand.
Our Take: This is a must-have feature for us. Having to repeatedly relight a burner—especially when there is a hot cast iron sitting on top of it—can be difficult and annoying.
Adjustable Foot Pads
Few, if any, campground picnic tables are perfectly level. Which is why some newer camp stoves come with adjustable rubberized footpads to allow you to level out your stove before you begin.
Our Take: We’ve used stoves with and without adjustable footpads, and honestly find them to be too finicky to deal with. They are also one of the first things to fail (as the screw threads easily strip after repeated use). This is not a make-or-break feature, so if your stove doesn’t have them, we suggest just buying a packet of wooden shims and storing a few with your fuel connector.
Free Standing vs Tabletop
If you do a lot of boondocking or free camping on public lands, then you know that you rarely have access to a picnic table; a free-standing stove can be really convenient and save what little folding table space you have.
Best camp stoves: reviews
The following list represents the best camp stoves on the market and was arrived at through a tremendous amount of online research, comparative analysis, and in-person experience.
We kept the list fairly narrow because while there are a ton of different camp stoves out there, the vast majority are not even worth considering. So below you will only find the best of the best!
Heat Output: 20,000 BTUs per burner
Fuel Type: Propane
Pros: The Camp Chef Everest 2X is our favorite camp stove. We owned the predecessor to this stove, the now discontinued Camp Chef Summit, and we’re very impressed with improvements made for the Everest 2x.
The push button ignition has been replaced with a more ergonomic twist ignitor, the plastic locking mechanisms have been replaced with rugged metal latches, and the short side windscreens have been replaced with much larger wedge-shaped windscreens. They also did away with the failure-prone adjustable legs, which we personally consider to be a plus.
But the thing we absolutely love about the Everest 2x are it’s two 20,000 BTU burners. This camping stove has a ton of power, allowing you to easily overcome variable outdoor conditions. The burners are also nicely recessed into the metal frame and surrounded by a protective sheath, allowing you to dial down the flame even in breezy weather.
Cons: The main drawback to the Everest 2x is its somewhat bulky size. It is slightly heavier than other brief-case style stoves and a little thicker, but in our opinion, not unreasonably so.
Bottom Line: The Everest 2X is our go-to camping stove. Ruggedly built, sensibly designed, and with a ton of extra power, this stove outperforms every other camp stove we’ve ever used.
Heat Output: 10,000 BTUs per burner
Fuel Type: Propane
Pros: Sporting a flashy coat of paint, Eureka Ignite Plus certainly looks like a camp stove designed for the modern era. Some of its updated features include a push button ignition, adjustable rubber footpads, and a responsive fuel valve for better simmer control.
Additionally, the overwhelmingly positive reviews by users at REI give us an encouraging sign about the overall quality control and long-term durability of the product.
Cons: The Ignite Plus doesn’t do as great a job mitigating the effects of the wind as the Everest. The side panels are short and allow a lot of air to pass underneath. The burners are shallowly recessed and don’t have a protective ring around them. And with 10,000 BTU burners, the stove isn’t able to overcome the wind with more power.
Which leads to the biggest drawback of the Eureka Ignite: the price. It’s a top-of-the-line price tag, but doesn’t come with top-of-the-line performance. Food for thought: for an extra $15, you can get an extra 10,000 BTUs per burner with the Camp Chef Everest.
Bottom Line: The Eureka Ignite+ is a sharp-looking camp stove that offers a variety of modern features with an overall positive track record with reviews on REI. However, for the price tag, we would like to see better wind protection and more powerful burners.
Heat Output: 10,000 BTUs per burner
Fuel Type: Propane
Pros: The Coleman Classic was our first camp stove. It is a no-frills, basic camp stove that has proven to be very reliable for us over many years of use. What we love most about the Coleman Classic is the tremendous value it offers. It might not have all the new bells and whistles, but it’s a very serviceable 2 burner camp stove for under $50.
Cons: This stove has two major drawbacks. The first is the lack of an auto-ignition system. The second is the less-than-responsive valve, which can make dialing in the temperature difficult. This results in a flame that is more susceptible to being blown out, requiring it to be manually relit more often. It’s a vicious circle of irritation.
Additionally, as with many long running product models, there have been allegations by users online of declining quality control and workmanship. However, personally speaking, our stove has continued to work very well over the years. And, Coleman still backs this camp stove with a 3 year warranty.
Bottom Line: If you’re shopping for a camp stove on the budget and looking for some simple and reliable, the Coleman Classic is an excellent choice.
Heat Output: 7500 BTU (single burner)
Fuel Type: Propane
Pros: The Coleman PowerPack is a very simple and very compact single burner stove that can be stored just about anywhere. Unlike many other single burner stoves, which run off butane, this PowerPack is designed to run off propane. The wide and stable cook platform allows for nearly any size pot to be placed on top, while a responsive valve allows for excellent simmer control.
This stove is perfect for vanlifers*, who need a reliable and functional single burner that can be easily stowed away when not in use. It can also be used as an extra burner, for larger camping trips.
*This camp stove, like every other camp stove on the market, states it should only be operated outdoors. But if you’re the type who built your own camper van, we’ll let you decide how much credence to give this warning.
Cons: Given its simple design, this stove has very little wind protection. Its burner BTU output is also on the low side of the camp stove spectrum. However, for the low price and compact form, we are willing to forgive some shortcomings. But you will want to create your own makeshift wind shelter if used outside during breezy conditions.
Bottom Line: Small and compact, the Coleman Powerpack can be a very useful single burner camp stove if space is at a premium.
Heat Output: 15,000 BTU (single burner)
Fuel Type: Propane / Butane
Pros: The Gas One Dual Fuel is a single burner camp stove that runs off either butane or propane, allowing you to burn cheaper butane in the warm summer months, and then switch to high-performance propane in the cooler shoulder seasons. It features an impressive broad 15,000 BTU burner, responsive flame control valve, an auto-ignition system, and multiple layers of wind protection.
Cons: In order to get those extra features and increased performance, the Gas One does end up being slightly larger and slightly more expensive than the Coleman PowerPak mentioned above. In our opinion though, the increase in size is well worth it.
Bottom Line: The Gas One Dual Fuel is a super versatile single burner stove that pairs high-end features with a high-performance burner.
Heat Output: 30,000 BTU (per burner)
Fuel Type: Propane
Pros: Unlike the other stoves on this list, the Camp Chef Explorer is free-standing and comes with adjustable height legs. This allows you to place it anywhere, without needing to have a table to set it on.
This really is a professional quality cook system, with two broad 30,000 BTU burners, hyper-responsive flame control, a generous cooking area, and substantial wind protection (individual burner ring & cook surface wind shroud).
Cons: The major downside to this stove system is its size. While the legs do collapse down, it is still a 29” by 14” package, which might be too unwieldy for space-conscious campers. Another thing to consider is that the Camp Chef Explorer is designed to use a large refillable canister (sold separately). Not necessarily a con, but something to keep in mind.
Bottom Line: The Camp Chef Explorer is a professional quality stove system that is probably better than the stove in your house. And it only costs $129. If you do a lot of cooking outdoors, especially for larger groups (more than 2 people), and have a little extra space, then this is a great option.
Where to buy camping stove propane
In the United States, there are three different ways to buy propane for your camp stove.
1. Single-use 1 lb green propane bottles. Available at virtually every outdoor retailer, grocery store, and gas station across the country, these green canisters can be sold under various names (Coleman, Bernzomatic, Ace Hardware) but they are all made by the same company: Worthington Industries. They can not be refilled (single use only). And while they are technically recyclable, finding a municipality that will accept them is very difficult if not impossible in some areas.
2. Refillable propane tanks: Refillable propane tanks are manufactured in a variety of sizes and can be purchased at many hardware stores and home improvement centers. Typical sizes for consumers are 5 lbs, 10 lbs, and 20 lbs. Many gas stations, U-Haul locations, hardware stores sell propane in bulk. You will need to see an attendant to have it refilled, but this is by far the most economical (and least wasteful) way of purchasing propane.
3. Swap stations (20 lb tanks only): Operated by Blue Rhino and Ameri-Gas, these swap stations can be found at many gas stations, grocery stores, and hardware stores. Just leave your empty tank by the locker outside, see a store attendant, pay the exchange price, and they’ll give you a new pre-filled tank. You can also buy a pre-filled tank without an exchange (for a higher price). Returned tanks are inspected and leak-tested.
While this option offers some level of convenience, you will be wildly overcharged compared to buying propane in bulk. In our experience, it’s roughly a 30% upcharge per swap compared to just getting it refilled.
Our Take: We have used the green 1 lb canisters for years. Particularly for occasional campers, they are just very convenient. However, we are upgrading to a 10 lb refillable propane canister and would recommend the switch if you are a frequent camper and your stove will accommodate an adapter.
Propane Hose Adaptors: Gas One makes propane hose adaptors in a variety of sizes including 4’ and 8’ that are designed to work with most camp stoves
Ignik 5lb Propane “Growler”: This kit includes a 5 lb refillable propane tank, a 4’ adaptor hose, and a stylish carrying case. It’s more expensive than just buying a generic tank and adapter, but we have to award it some style points.
Propane Tanks: Available for purchase at most hardware stores and home centers, we would recommend either a 5 lb or 10 lb refillable tank. These are big enough to last for a week of camping but small enough to transport.
Camp stove accessories
We could probably devote an entire article to camp cookware, but there are a few camp stove-specific accessories that are good to keep in mind.
Counter-Height Work Surface
Most campground picnic tables are at table height (28 inches), which results in an awkward, semi-hunched cooking stance. Additionally, the fixed benches get in the way on the sides, and the ends of the table have limited space. So why don’t we just go home!
Thankfully there are a variety of foldable counter-height (32-36 inches) camp cook stations, some with more features than others, that can really improve your outdoor cooking experience.
- GCI Outdoor Slim: The GCI Outdoor slim is a collapsible workstation that offers plenty of room to spread out. If you’re looking for a simple camp kitchen, this is a great budget-friendly option.
- SylvanSport Outdoor Camp Kitchen: If you do a lot of camping and want to invest in a “designer camp kitchen” then look no further than the SylvanSport Outdoor Camp Kitchen. Intuitive collapsible design, beautiful bamboo countertops, tons of storage shelves, windscreen, and integrated sink basin. It’s better than our kitchen at home!
Omnia Stove Top Oven
The Omnia Stove Top Oven is one of the biggest upgrades you can make to any camp stove. Enjoy freshly baked cinnamon rolls, nachos, or a breakfast frittata using your standard camp stove. Check out this article to learn more about how to use the Omnia Oven.
Long Handled Lighter (backup)
If your camp stove doesn’t come with an auto-ignition switch, a long-handled lighter is the best option for lighting your burners. Avoid using short Bic lighters or matches. And even if your stove does have an auto-ignition system, we would still highly recommend having one of these as a backup!
If your stove doesn’t have adjustable foot pads for leveling, we would highly recommend bringing along a couple of wooden shims. Sure, you can hunt around for a perfectly sized rock or stick to wedge under there, but these wooden shims are fool proof, adjustable, and dirt cheap.
Grease spray, pasta water, and food scraps, it’s inevitable that your camp stove is going to get dirty. The best cleaning method we’ve found for the bottom tray and grate is to gently scrub with steel wool. It might take a little bit of effort, but you can get that stainless steel back to sparkling new in no time. However, you will want to avoid using steel wool on painted parts of the stove.
For more tips on how to clean your camp stove, check out this article by Van Camping Life.