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The best camping stoves…and the worst

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 camping stoves would we wholeheartedly recommend and which get a serious thumbs-down. 

Read on for our favourites.

Campingaz Xcelerate

She looks to be having fun with the Campingaz Xcelerate. We didn’t! Have a look at the much better camping stoves we DO recommend.

Latest update: November 2020

Better choices for camping stoves – and the very best!

Best for

The neat Bivouac camping stove

calor-bivouac-camping-stove

It’s an especial shame about the Campingaz Xcelerates (see further down the article for details) because our all-time quick and easy favourite is a Campingaz stove.

 

The supremely nifty Campingaz Bivouac (around £50) has slot-in legs and a single big burner, and fits into a neat bag. It takes two sizes of easily findable gas cartridges. You couldn’t get much more compact, stable and pleasingly designed.

We’ve found that if we use the larger of the two gas canisters, you can even use the stove without the legs.

Best for

Cadac 2 Cook

Without wanting to spoil the surprise, we love our Cadac Safari Chef best, but Cadac have also brought out a more traditional-looking camping stoves with two burners – the 2 Cook.

 

So many people have opted to camp this year, that this nifty stove keeps going out of stock. Keep popping back and try Ebay too (where we did find a couple today!)The Pro Deluxe is the one to go for because it has piezo ignition, two burners that also take a flat fry plate and a ridged grill plate plus a carry bag for around £100.

These take refillable gas bottles (see end of article).

Affordable BUT read the in the next column

Cartridge stoves

The basic campstove for lots of people is one that takes a canister in the body of the stove. 

You can get a toaster for the top and even a heater attachment (extreme care needed!). These cartridge stoves cost between £12 and £25.

Campingaz make the Bistro. And there are lots of other brands that are nigh-on identical. There are also a lot of very cheap and potentially dangerous variants.

Steer clear of the double-canister Popamazing stoves – a fault on the connection could make them dangerous. Also, don’t bother with the Campingaz Bistro 300 – very low on gas power and the plastic parts melt far too easily.

And please do read the warning that follows. Some cheaper versions of these stoves can explode or set on fire. We’ve been getting a stream of scary stories from readers since posting Jim’s warning (see next).

In fact, Jim thinks the stoves should be banned. Another reader, whose stove burst into flames although it was being used according to the instructions, says: “These stoves are often sold for family camping and as part of ‘festival packs’. That means that there is the potential for children and youngsters to be in the firing line!”

There seem to be three major dangers

  1. Users don’t turn over the pan support into the correct position.
  2. The gas canister connection to the stove may be inherently risky and screw-connection is safer.
  3. Pans that overhang the stove cause heat to build up.

Don’t turn your stove into a bomb

Thanks to Jim C. for this important warning. He was camping at Strathyre when he heard an explosion, and a frying pan landing by his feet – after sailing through the air for 15m!

Luckily for the owner of the pan, she’d just nipped into the tent. Otherwise, she could have been seriously injured as her stove blew to pieces.

She was using one of the cartridge stoves mentioned here. The danger comes when the pan support isn’t turned over. They’re often stored upside down to make packing easier. Left like that, though, placing a pan over the flame completely blocks the ventilation around the burner and reflects the heat down inside the case.

If you look at the patch of burnt grass in the photo, it shows how hot the case of the stove became before it exploded – and the gas canister is stored inside that red-hot case.

Pan support issue or not, Jim is sceptical of the construction – “a thin-walled gas canister, lying on its side, a couple of inches from the burner – and with no real leakproof method of connection other than the can being pushed against a seal by a piece of bent tin”.

The stoves have safety warnings on them, but sometimes not written in English.

 

Best for

Campingaz Super Carena burner

You don’t get much simpler or more reliable than a burner you fit directly on top of your refillable R904 or R907 cylinders.

It’s super-powerful and the R904 will give you around eight hours of cooking time. Plus it costs under £25.

The downside, of course, is that the cylinders are heavy, but the burner part doesn’t add much to the weight at all.

Best for

Campingaz Kitchen 2

While we dislike Campingaz’s leggy Xcelerate camping stoves, we do like these simple, compact two-hob stoves.

There’s a CV model, which takes canisters, and an R model that uses bottled gas. You need a hose and connector and you’ll need to position it well as the lid only shields wind from one side.

Two high-performance, easy-to-clean 2kW stainless steel burners that’ll hold pans up to 24cm in diameter. It’s manual ignition rather than piezo, but that leaves less to go wrong.

Around £40-£50, depending on fuel source. If space isn’t an issue, go for the refillable bottled gas version.

 

Best for

NJ two-burner stoves

A simple and reliable gas stove with two burners and a choice of  connectors and hoses – around £45.

Best for

Sturdy stainless steel stoves

These stainless steel stoves weigh 4kg, but they’re very strong. In fact, they’re really intended for big pot and wok cooking. Far more controllable than many.

They run on LPG, butane or propane and have piezo ignition. For safety, there’s an auto cut-off for the gas if the flame goes out.​ Around £65.

Best for

Simply four rings

Four rings and nothing to go wrong or annoy you! If you’ve got a big family, friends to entertain or just love really love cooking, have a look at this £70 four-burner stove that will work with lots of different gas sources. It couldn’t be lighter, simpler or sturdier.

Best for

Cast iron burners

As simple as it gets. Heavy, of course, but built to last. No problem about cooking up a giant pot of stew on these. From around £50.

Outwell camping stoves

The Jimbu (around £60) is solid and has side windshields, ignition and two hobs, one with removable grill plate. 

You’ll need EN417 gas cartridges (see the guide further down) for the Jimbu.

Outwell Appetizer camping stove

We’ve also tried the Outwell Appetizer stoves with two rings and a grill. 

It worked well for us, but we’d prefer to use a separate toaster than the small grill. This one uses bottled gas, so you’ll need a hose and connector (see the guide at the end of the article).

Outwell Appetizer stove

The Olida

For something simpler and a lot cheaper, go for Outwell’s Olida two-burner camping stove (around £55).

We’d suggest this rather than the more expensive Annatto, which has failed a couple of our readers.

All stoves need a windshield

Just get yourself a cheap folding windshield for your Bivouac or other camping stove. Don’t let heat build up around the gas canister or plastic parts or you could end up with a melting stove or worse.

We like how small the 10-section windshield folds, but this rectangular windshield is more suitable for double burners.

 

Kitchen stands with windshields

Some kitchen stands come with windshields attached, plus you get a nice stable cooking ands storing area. Our favourite is the sturdy Campart camp kitchen (in two sizes, Alicante and Valencia)

Cheaper than gas? Go for a traditional Coleman

Terrifically sturdy and durable, this traditional Coleman petrol stove is a winner, but only if you follow our top tip…don’t use unleaded fuel (clogging) and don’t use the Coleman fuel (expensive).

Instead, buy Aspen 4T or a similar purified petrol. You’ll find them in garden equipment stores. Around £25 for five litres and without the smell and health hazard of unleaded.

The stove itself has been in production since the 1920s, so it’s a tried and tested design. Around £160, but will last a lifetime.

If you don’t need two burners, the Coleman Sportster is a fantastic petrol stove that’s cheap to run and small to pack.

Same advice applies about which type of fuel to use (see the double burner details). Costs around £70 and comes in a neat box.

By the way, the box is very strong and robust, but it’s plastic…so don’t put your hot stove inside! Well, you just wouldn’t, would you!

Our gas camping stove

The very best camping stove? Well, we love it.

Our firm favourite for camping stoves has to be the Cadac Safari Chef

You can read all about it in our full Cadac stove review. Suffice to say, it’s versatile, packs away into a smallish bag and you can use it on its legs or on a table. There are different sets to choose from, starting at around £90. There are lots of different cooking surfaces too. It’s simply great!

The Safari Chef 2 HP operates off the Cadac 500g EN417 threaded gas cartridge or any other EN417 threaded gas cartridge. The Safari Chef 2 LP works off any 2.8kPa supply. We use a refillable gas bottle.

Cadac

Campingaz Party Grill

This is a camping stove that lots of readers like. To be honest, we’d choose the Cadac over this one, but it does have its fans, and it is quite a bit cheaper!

There’s a Party Grill 400 and 600 that run on refillable gas bottles, plus there’s a 200 and a 400CV that use CV470 canisters. 

We don’t like the sticky-out control, but we do like how easy they are to keep clean and the long legs. They’re also multifunctional in that you can use griddle plates and even a wok with them.

Prices are around £50 to £80.

The Party Grill 200 CV

The Party Grill 400

Know your gas cylinder

All the camping stoves mentioned here run on either a butane/propane mix or propane. However, the range of canisters and cylinders they come in can be a bit confusing. Here’s a little guide to help you.

Pierceable gas canisters – Campingaz C206 GLS

Definitely not our favourite fuel source as these can’t be removed from the stove until all the gas has gone.

They contain a mix of butane and propane and you simply attach to your stove, providing it has a connector to pierce the top. These are becoming fairly rare because no-one wants to have to carry their camping stove with gas attached.

Coleman C range and EN417

Mostly used for smaller backpacking stoves, these can be attached and detached safely because they have a threaded valve top. They contain a mix of butane and propane and come in a range of sizes.

You’ll tend to see them branded Coleman, but other manufacturers make them too, and all with the same fittings. 

Click-on canisters – Campingaz CV470, CV300

These are the canisters we use in the Bivouac stove. They simply click into place and can be safely detached for carrying.

It’s a butane/propane mix again.

Butane bottles

These are the types of push-fit canisters you use in stoves like the Campingaz Bistro

A valve means you can take them out and reattach as needed. Lots of manufacturers to choose from.

The Campingaz own brand is CP250

Remember that pure butane needs to warm up a little before it will light. Worth knowing if you plan on winter camping. 

Refillable Campingaz

This is the sort of gas bottle you need for the Cadac and the Campingaz Party stove. It’s butane, so see the note earlier about cold temperatures.

They have the big advantage of being refillable. You don’t refill them yourself, though. You take the empty bottle to a store and they swap it for a full one.

The first bottle costs more because you pay a ‘rental’ fee for the container. After that, it’s cheaper because you’re only paying for gas.

You need a hose and a screw-on regulator for these, and they connect to a short metal pipe on your stove, held in place with circle clips.

There are three sizes – The R901 (400g), R904 (1.8kg) and R907 (2.75kg). That’s the weight of gas, by the way. The containers are hefty.

 

Hose and regulator

If your stove takes the refillable bottles, then you’ll need one of these. The blue bit screws on to the top of the gas bottle and the hose attaches to your stove. Around £10.

How about cooking on electric?

Von Shef induction hob

Have a look at the best camping hobs and cookers

A portable induction is controllable and safe. You need hook-up, of course. 

Tefal is great and the Von Shef is super too (both under £40).

 

Or how about a wood-burning camping stove?

Frontier stove

We think you might be won over by the lovely wood-burners with chimneys or the teeny woodgas stove! 

cooking on wood-gasHave a look at the options we suggest.

Now…the problem with the Campingaz Xcelerate camping stoves

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.

ST, by the way, means it has a toaster section; SG means there’s a hob-top grill thing. You may see similar stoves branded Coleman. They’re the same thing.

The Campingaz 600SG

Campingaz Xcelerate 600SGThis model apparently won a Camping Editor’s Choice Award when it came out (way back in 2014 now). 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Around £110

The Campingaz 400ST

This is a smaller, lighter model without legs and side-tables, but with a small grill. Our test model let us down badly.

Campingaz Xcelerate

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 that 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.
  • Around £90

No mention of Primus or Coleman gas camping stoves? If that surprises you, it surprised us too. We expected to find some lovely camping stoves from these two stalwarts.

 

However, Primus have become very expensive and seem to have gone for style over substance – note the spindly legs on the otherwise beautiful £180 Tupike stove. And Coleman’s Xcelerate-style Hyperflames are so hot that it’s impossible to simmer or even cook moderately slowly.

Found something we’ve missed? Let us know what camping stove works for you!

Solid tablet fuel camping stoves?

A reader asked us about camping stoves that run on those hexamine tablets of fuel. These tend to be for small (often foldable) backpacking stoves.

They’re very simple, lightweight and easy to use. A match or lighter is all it takes to get the fuel tab going.

However, it’ll take at least one whole tablet to cook a basic meal, so you need to take plenty along with you. Highlander’s well-thought-of fuel tabs cost around £4 for eight.

We like the Lixada (below) and the Esbit set (above). But, there’s very little to choose between this sort of stove because they’re basically small, stainless steel and will hold one pot.

It does pay to buy a stove set that comes with the right-sized pan or water kettle.

cooking on wood-gas

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15 Comments

  1. hi re my post back in march 2020. We bought a 2 burner version the campingaz xcelerate 400s
    . Campingaz have improved the legs. The handle came off in the first week and the catch that keeps the lid up will bend far too easily. My 8-year-old tried to close the lid with it in place and she is not heavy-handed. As far as cooking goes, it’s a great stove. We used it in the storms in august. CAMPINGAZ YOU HAVE A GREAT PRODUCT – FIX THE FAULTS

  2. I bought the Cadac Safari Chef but will return it before using it. Although it looks like a great design and well built, you canonly cook one method at a time. EG – I need to have a pan on the go whilst grilling. ED: It’s a great cooker and we usually cook the two parts of a meal separately and then give a quick heat up before eating. As it’s faster and the cooking area is larger, it works out a neat and quick solution. However, if you definitely need two hobs and like the Cadac quality, I’d go for the Cadac2Cook, which even has a grill plate for you, Andy.

  3. Butane cartridges no good on chilly uk mornings. Apparently the liquid will not vaporise so well. Really annoying for that first coffee or tea in the morning. You have to wait until the butane warms up. Propane better at lower temperatures. Surprised this was not covered in the article. ED: Thanks for the info, Adrian. I think you’ll find it’s mentioned above.

  4. I completely agree about the Campingaz 400ST. The burners are first class: quick, powerful and light easily. The feet are dreadful – far too weak for the job and I’ve had to fix / botch / improvise repairs. The catch / clasp also broke early doors. It’s annoying as I look after my stuff and it’s a problem which could be so easily overcome by beefing up the design which I’m sure wouldn’t cost loads but would make it pretty much perfect. Shame really.

  5. I am tempted by the Cadac after reading your review however we need have 7 to cook for so would you recommend the larger Cadac Carri Chef 2, many thanks. ED: Cadac is certainly a reliable option so the Carri Chef would be great.

  6. We have the Campingaz 400SG and have generally been impressed with the power of the burners. To be fair, the design is a bit flaky, but ours survived a car crash, and was flung along the road. Aside from the broken feet and a few dents, it is still going strong. I would like the Cadac though.

  7. Campingaz 400 sg we’ve had one for about 3 years yes the legs broke within a week and the catch and handle came off. I replaced the legs with some 25mm square aluminium. For cooking in wind one of the best cookers I’ve used. The grill is ok but never use it. We used the cooker last year on a 5 week tour of Europe had on problem of a blocked jet which I fixed in about 20 minutes with basic tools. Our one is getting a bit tired now and is up for replacement. I will be buying the 2 burner version and probably put the aluminium on instead of the plastic legs. Great cooker just wish campingaz would redesign the faults. ED: Thanks for the info, Tony. I agree that the burners themselves are great, but the rest is just so flaky! Hope you do better with the new one. Let us know!

  8. For lightweight camping and short trips in the summer where it’s a cup of tea or coffee a small hiking stove is fine. The MSR Whisperlite Universal is multi fuel (gas, paraffin, unleaded) and packs away in a nice small bag. It’s not the cheapest but it does the job well. I use this for a family of 5, boiling 1L of water in approx 4 mins and it copes fine with a few slices of bacon in the morning. Anything other than that the older Campingaz dual stoves are fine and sturdier than the new models. For larger/longer trips the basic ring burners are best, if not a little heavy.

    Tip – always think about the space you are cooking in. I’ve seen some people innocently cooking on unsteady camping tables next to tent/porch walls with dire consequences. You should always carry a small fire extinguisher or fire blanket if you are going to cook inside your tent.
    ED: Thanks for the tips, Liam. Just to add that cooking inside a tent or campervan can be dangerous because carbon monoxide fumes can build up. Make sure you’re well-ventilated./em>

  9. Be careful when adding a windshield to a canister stove like you advice in the Campingaz Bivouac evaluation. Doing this the wrong way may cause the small canister to heat up quite quickly, with nasty consequences. I once had the plastic regulator of my old burner melting (boiling actually!). Did some research and found out that every now and then, this goes very wrong… apparently canisters do explode! I learned my lesson. ED: Excellent advice, Ralph. Many thanks. If you are using a windshield, position it so that it’s shielding the flames rather than the whole device. You need to avoid heat building up.

  10. I’ve owned a lot of different field stoves over the years, of different styles, sizes and fuels. Most have fallen by the wayside for various reasons, but two have stood the test of time:

    1: My Jetboil PCS – for day-long hikes either solo or as a couple. Good for hot drinks or a pasta & sauce, but fundamentally a one-trick pony. Good features: small pack size, reasonably light, piezo ignition, wind-resistant.

    2: My Trangias. Plural (a 25 with all the bells & whistles for family use, and a Mini/28 for solo). You do anything you want with the big beast; my wife has done a full English on one spirit burner. If you know what you’re doing you can even rig it as an oven – i’ve baked scones, which was rather well received. I did get the gas burner later for convenience, but don’t underrate the spirit burner. Best features: works in any conditions, far more versatile than you’d think, foolproof.

  11. I am using my third replacement exelerate 600 gaz stove total ripoff the plastic components are not fit for purpose,stove has been set up on a table after 2 months use plastic parts are just falling away the supplier will not replace this one I would never buy campingaz product again over priced rubbish

  12. Campingaz 400SG – great stove let down by cheap plastic catch and even cheaper legs. We’ve had the stove for 3 months and one of the legs has broken off with mild use.

  13. Hello, we are hoping to go camping for my husbands birthday (his first time, not mine) and he really wants a stove for his birthday. We have bought a wonderful large tent and other lovely items and don’t really want to scrimp for we feel we will eventually upgrade so might as well start as we mean to go on. I’m finding so many bad reviews on camping stoves that I’m finding struggling to choose and wondered if you could help me please?
    We are a family of 3 (daughter 6 years old) looking to camp for weekends and long stays in UK and France.
    Would you please help me find his birthday present and do you do subscriptions too?

  14. How fantastic to be camping for the first time as a family. You’re right…lots of very bad stoves out there. And if not bad, some uninspirational ones. Our personal favourite is the Cadac (you’ll see a review here)
    It’s very sturdy, very powerful and comes with lots of options for cooking in different ways. Of course, it’s only one cooking surface rather than the two hobs with grill that many standard camping stoves have, but it’s so much better and faster than those that it more than makes up for that.

    I’m assuming you mean a subscription for a printed magazine? We’re online only, and you can subscribe to Campfire Magazine for free. There’s a Join Us button at the top of the page or, better still, follow us on Facebook

    Have a fantastic time and pass on a HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the Campfire crew!!!

  15. Nicholas Collins

    We have just purchased the 600st and used it for 1 week camping – cooking a fry up for breakfast and boiling kettles for tea/coffee.

    Likes: compact all-in-one stove + stand and nice looking design
    Dislikes:
    1) flimsy (new design? Different to box photo) plastic locking catch broke, probably due to weight of heavy lid
    2) could not tell when burners were lit as totally silent and flame not visible in daylight – had to rely on heat rising off burner and unaware when burner flame blown out by wind
    3) metalwork surrounding piezo button gets very hot and burned fingers several times while grasping metalwork to squeeze button
    4) burners ok for large bottomed pans but large hole for burners do not support small pans or coffee pot(had to fall back on trusty old campingaz bivouac for caffeine fixes)
    5) middle control knob for grill was loose and therefore could not push in far enough to open gas valve on burner – therefore grill would not work.
    6) lid latching system unintuitive to close, invites you to think it is stuck/requiring more force to close which would result in a broken latch

    I managed to repair the broken catch with a tie-wrap + drilled hole but really this handle design is inadequate.

    I managed to fix the grill knob by opening up the split in metal spindle so that it gripped the control knob properly. How did such a fundamental quality problem slip through?

    Basically agree with the review – nice product let down by poor design in some areas and poor quality.

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