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.
Latest update: November 2020
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.
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
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
- Users don’t turn over the pan support into the correct position.
- The gas canister connection to the stove may be inherently risky and screw-connection is safer.
- 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.
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.
While we dislike Campingaz’s leggy Xcelerate camping stoves, we do like these simple, compact two-hob stoves.
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.
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.
Outwell camping stoves
The Jimbu (around £60) is solid and has side windshields, ignition and two hobs, one with removable grill plate.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This 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
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 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!
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.
It does pay to buy a stove set that comes with the right-sized pan or water kettle.