To be honest, most gas camping stoves make us sad. There ought to be a thing of beauty out there, but there’s little innovation and a lot of cheap nastiness. So, which would we wholeheartedly recommend and which (we’re looking at you Campingaz) get a serious thumbs-down.
There’s very little innovation going on in the world of gas-powered camping stoves, so we were looking forward to testing the Xcelerate range. Oh dear, were we disappointed!
While the stove’s burners promise faster and more efficient cooking, and a saving on fuel, the stoves themselves have some serious design glitches that mean we can’t recommend them. We tested the 400ST, which has two burners and a small central grill. It costs around £80. We also tested the 600SG, which has telescopic legs, two side-tables and hob-top grill attachments. It costs around £100. ST, by the way, means it has a toaster section; SG means there’s a hob-top grill thing.
This model apparently won a Camping Editor’s Choice Award when it came out. If it were just about the Xcelerate cooking technology, then we’d agree. However, the overall design lets it down. There are two powerful Xcelerate burners and removable, non-stick griddle plates. The control knobs feel good and there’s Piezo ignition for easy lighting. The legs clip away under the cooker for carrying, and there are two side extensions, plus a fabric shelf. It’s quite a beast, weighing 10.7kg and packing down to 63x42x18cm.
- The burner technology is great and we’d like to see this in a more refined model.
- The side-tables take a bit of fixing into place with wing-nuts and we wouldn’t trust them with anything very heavy – certainly not a large saucepan of food.
- The fabric shelf needs to be fitted as it adds stability to the legs. There’s still quite a bit of wobble, though.
- The carrying handle and locking catch are a huge improvement on those of the 400ST (see below for more on that).
- Our main gripe is with the windshield/lid, which is held in place by one very small catch that slips into a tiny groove. Why they didn’t put one on the other side to make the lid less wobbly, we’ve no idea. It tends to give the cooker an unstable feel.
This is a smaller, lighter model without legs and side-tables, but with a small grill. Our test model let us down badly. The very flimsy plastic handle broke off when we first lifted the stove out of its packing box. This handle needs to be strong, not only for carrying what is a fairly weighty piece of camping kit, but also because you need to use the handle when folding the stove flat.
- The hinges that fold the stove lock into position, which makes for stable cooking. However, they’re a real nuisance to unlock, requiring a lot of fiddling and some near-misses for trapped fingers.
- The catch which keeps the stove folded is positioned under the carrying handle in such a way that you can’t click it into place unless you start to move it as you lower the lid.
- The unit sits on curved plastic feet. These are flimsy and we had no confidence that they’d stand up to even light use.
The Xcelerate technology is really something we’d like, especially its ability to cope with a breeze when cooking, but it’s let down by a poor product overall.
In the UK, it seems you can only buy this with a built-in stand. The German version – the 600SV – looks ideal because it’s smaller and simpler. It costs around £50, though.
Better choices for camping stoves
It’s an especial shame about the Xcelerates because our all-time favourite is the supremely nifty Campingaz Bivouac (around £35), which has slot-in legs and a single big burner, and fits into a neat bag. It takes gas cartridges. No windshield, of course, but you couldn’t get much more compact, stable and pleasingly designed.
It’s a bit on the limiting side for a long camping trip, so we’ve also used one of Outwell’s most basic models – the Gourmet. It has just two rings and windshields on three sides. There’s a with-grill version too, but no instant ignition. We got along fine with it, but there are a couple of niggly things that would probably mean we’d consider other models when this one dies – the plastic feet dropped off and disappeared within two days of using it, and the edges of the metal on the underside (where you pick it up) are rather sharp.
Outwell’s newer Appetizer stove has two rings and a grill and grants our wishes with an ignition. There’s a bonus in that it’s made from stainless steel too. Plus it costs less than £45.
If you’ve got a big family, friends to entertain or just love really love cooking, have a look at this under-£60 four-burner stove that will work with lots of different gas sources. It couldn’t be lighter, simpler or sturdier.
Have a look at the Tegstove
This futuristic butane-fuelled stove was a successful competitor on Dragons’ Den – partly for its good looks and partly because it uses special technology to get around the not-so-great qualities of butane.
It’s very stable and the top pan holders hinge outwards to give you a larger, and more even, cooking surface. We found the mechanisms for the legs and top a little stiff, but they’ll no doubt ease up with use. It’s rather heavy, so won’t suit many backpackers.Costs around £90.
BUT…there’s a perfect camping stove
All our wishes have been granted (apart from the running on air, that is) with the Cadac Safari Chef gas barbecue/stove. It’s big enough for a family, comes with lots of cooking options, including a pizza stone, griddle and wok, has a high and low pressure gas option (canister or bottle) and stows away small. No wonder we love it. Have sa look at our full review.
And if Campingaz make any improvements to their Xcelerate, we’d be delighted!
How about cooking on electric? Have a look at the best camping hobs and cookers.
Or how about a wood-burning camping stove. We think you might be won over by the lovely Frontier or the teeny woodgas!