Choosing a Camping Stove
Are you looking for a new camping stove? As you probably know, there are quite a few stoves on the market designed with campers in mind. Basically every company focused on the outdoors offers a variety of camping stoves varying in size, feature list, fuel type, and recommended use. Brands include Coleman, MSI, Stansport, Camp Chef, BassPro, and REI, just to name a few. So how do you choose a stove that will meet your needs wile bombarded with options? Lets first take a look at the various specs you may encounter while looking for a stove:Number of Burners
How many burners do you want on your stove? If your cooking requires multiple burners this should be your first deciding factor. Most stoves are going to have two burners, unless they are the ultra portable 1 burner variety. It seems logical that more burners would equal a more expensive stove; however, there are 1 burner camping stoves much more expensive than some of the cheaper two and three burner stoves. It all depends on build quality and brand. If number of burners isn't a deciding factor for you then go with the stove with a better build quality and sacrifice the extra burners. This will also help to keep down weight if you're hiking to the campsite or doing anything besides car camping.BTU's
A BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is defined as the as the amount of energy required to raise 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. The unit has largely been replaced by the joule in everything but the heating industry. Camping stoves typically range from 10,000 BTU's, for the ultra portable type, to upwards of 70,000 BTU's for larger car camping versions.
It would be temping to assume that if all other specs are equal, the higher the BTU rating, the more power I have at my disposal, and the faster I can boil water or cook my food. What I've actually found is that the speed at which you can boil water depends on a variety of other factors in the design of the stove, including the stoves ability to concentrate flame and block wind. Therefore, BTU's can get you in the right ballpark while trying to decide on a stove but shouldn't be the deciding factor if the numbers are close (Around 10,000 BTU's or less in difference). Many manufacturers also state the amount of time it takes water to boil with their stove, this number can be more enlightening. Keep in mind that the higher the BTU output the quicker you're going to consume fuel.Build Quality
The build quality of the stove can be difficult to ascertain until you actually use the stove, or find a decent review. Choosing Brand names can help to an extent but I've found even great brands put out subpar stoves occasionally. One spec that usually reveals build quality is weight. Typically, the heavier the stove the better the build quality. Manufactures generally have to sacrifice build quality while attempting to make a lighter product. If you need a light stove, for instance you're carting this thing on a five mile hike to a campsite, then you might want to sacrifice build quality as well. Otherwise, go with the heavier stove.
- Flame control - The ability to control the flame, and keep the flame consistent, is something that can vary among stoves. Some stoves have dials that work well, provide even temperature control, and have a strong build quality and feel. Other stoves have dials that feel cheaply made and make it difficult to obtain a desired flame height. Finding a good review on the particular stove should help. A good review will go over this feature and warn you of any problems with flame control.
- Ability to block wind - A good camping stove should be designed to keep out as much wind as possible, with the exception of small, ultra portable stoves. Look for stoves that have built in mechanisms for this, such as wind blocking doors, or other barriers to wind. Deeply welled burners can also help block wind from the flame and direct the flame towards your cooking surface.
- Lighting mechanism - Many stoves offer push-button starting. This can be a convenient feature if you find yourself devoid of matches or any other source of ignition. Find reviews that talk about the ease of use of this mechanism. The ignition system of some stoves can die out prematurely. Other stoves can have designs that make the ignition button difficult and awkward to use.
- Carrying - Are there handles for carrying the stove? Is there a builtin handle? Is there a place to store the fuel regulator? A good camping stove should be a fully contained until. Open it and you're ready to go with everything you need. There shouldn't be parts that need to be kept separately, as they can get lost or simply forgotten on your camping trip.
The most widely used and available fuel for a camping stove is propane. It's typically sold in small cylinders for around $3, and each cylinder will give you a few hours of cooking. If your camping doesn't involve subzero temperatures it's a great fuel choice. Once you get into freezing temperatures the volume of gas in the cylinder decreases and pressure goes down. If you'll be camping in the cold a stove using white gas camping fuel won't suffer from pressure loss and will provide more dependable results.
The above paragraphs highlight what I feel to be the key points when deciding on a camping stove. This list will likely grow in the future. Happy camping!
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