CHOOSING A CAMP STOVE
you are planning to eat cereal, sandwiches, and food straight from
the can you're going to need some way of cooking your meals, but
which stove should you use?
As with other camping gear, selecting a stove and cookware can be confusing. The wide variety of stoves and fuels can leave the prospective camper wondering: What's the difference? Is one better than the other? The answer is that each type of stove and fuel has advantages and disadvantages, making it great for certain types of trips but not so great for others.
There are many different types and sizes for you to choose from.
a camping stove is easy once you know the choices and have decided
what type of camping trips your family will be taking.
What will you be using it for?
Where will you be using it?
How many people will it be used for?
What kind of weather/temperatures will you be using it in?
You can narrow your choices by determining which general type of camping you will be doing;
backpacking or family/group camping.
OR GROUP CAMPING
WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO YOU?
As you can see, size and weight are the two biggest factors in choosing a stove. Many manufacturers provide ratings to assist in your selection, such as the BTU output, burn time, and fuel capacity of the stove. Other requirements, such as ease of use and packing, can only be judged from actual use and recommendations.
Single burner stoves are generally the most portable, although
some are considered too heavy for backpacking.
Double and triple burner stoves are good for family camping or
trips that provide baggage transportation.
Pocket stoves, for emergency situations, consist of a small tray to hold your pot or cup, and burn a small, compressed cube of fuel.
few stoves use "canned heat" such as Sterno, but this type
of fuel burns very cool and takes a long time to cook food or boil water.
OF USE AND PACKABILITY
TYPES OF FUEL
The next question you must answer is "what type of fuel will you be using?" and this will be dependant on the type of camping you will be doing. Fuels vary in how hot they burn, how well they work in the cold, how easy they are to light, how safe they are to use and how much they cost. Availability varies too so the places you plan to visit may determine the fuel you wish to use.
Weight, availability, price and temperature responsiveness should all be looked at in relation to your intended use. Dual Fuel or Multi fuel stoves (developed to run on 2 or more different fuels) are helpful if you are traveling to other countries, or are using the stove in a variety of climates.
are two basic types of fuel
fuels make good stoves.
No matter what fuel you choose, its a plus if your stove takes the same fuel as your lantern(s) and space heater.
two main types of stove are canister and liquid gas, though some
stoves aren't of either type. Canister (or cartridge) stoves use
non-refillable canisters, whereas liquid gas stoves use refillable tanks.
Canister stoves are further broken down into two main types: those that use propane, and those that use butane, isobutane, or a blend of butane and propane (and sometimes also isobutane).
Propane burns cleanly and efficiently, and produces a hot, steady flame. Also, it works well at high altitude and temperatures well below freezing. However, most propane stoves are too heavy for backpacking, since regulations require propane canisters to be thick, heavy steel.
stoves produce a steady flame and work well at high altitudes. They
are good for camping trips short enough that you won't have to pack
multiple canisters. However, straight butane or isobutane has
drawbacks: it doesn't produce a very hot flame, and it works poorly
at temperatures below 40 F because the fuel doesn't vaporize well.
For colder temperatures, canisters containing a blend of butane and
propane are necessary. These canisters work at below-freezing
temperatures, and have the benefit of being lighter than propane
canisters. The higher the percentage of propane (blends range from
20% to 40% propane), the better it will work in the cold.
PROPANE (pressurized) is sold in disposable cylinders or bulk supplies. The cylinders are heavy, making propane more suitable for family camping. It is not greatly affected by cold weather and burns very clean so stove maintenance is rarely necessary. Propane stoves operate on a high or low pressure system, and each have different parts and fittings. High pressure propane stoves are set up to run on disposable tanks and use no regulator. They can usually be converted to use a refillable tank. Low pressure propane stoves use a regulator for pressure, and deliver a more constant flame. Some can be converted to natural gas, and often serve as an inexpensive stove in vacation cabins.
does not give out as much heat as the white gas stoves,
type of stove is very easy to use.
There are even propane stoves with built in electronic starters. This feature makes the transition from cooking at home to cooking at camp easier for most people.
stoves are great for campers and families who only go out a few
times a year.
propane tanks come in
However, if you buy a stove that has a hose to screw into a larger fuel tank, you can get a better price at the RV refill center. You will also save a lot of bottle changes that can happen right in the middle of cooking your meals.
BUTANE (pressurized) is sold only in disposable cartridges. It is one of the more expensive fuels, but the cylinders are considerably lighter than propane, convenient, available in most places, and burn clean and hot, so maintenance is rarely required. Due to evaporative cooling, cooking time is limited to 15-20 minutes before output starts to drop. As fuel changes from a liquid to a burnable gas, the temperature of the remaining liquid in the cylinder drops, and condensation or frost forms on the outside. When liquid butane's temperature drops below freezing, it will not vaporize, or burn. Isobutane has a lower evaporation temperature than butane (12²F versus 30²F), which extends the cooking time on one canister.
ISOBUTANE (pressurized) Butane and twenty percent propane which is sold in light steel canisters. It has replaced straight butane since it ignites in outside air temperatures down to about 15º F (-10º C). It is the most convenient and clean-burning fuel for normal conditions since you just strike a match and turn on the stove.
Isobutane is mainly sold in two incompatible formats: canisters manufactured by Camping Gaz-Bluet, a French company that dominates the gas stove market, and more or less industry standard canisters sold by EPI (British), Primus (Swedish), MSR and Coleman (American), and Olicamp (Chinese).
Gaz-Bluet fuel canisters are practically everywhere in continental Europe, widely available in outdoor shops in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, and somewhat available in sixty-two other countries. In France, where the canisters are also widely used for lanterns and heaters, you can cheaply buy them in grocery stores.
standard canisters are slightly more available than Gaz-Bluet
canisters in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. In my overall
experience, however, most shops that carry industry standard
canisters also have Camping-Gaz, while the reverse is less true.
This stove type is good if you are going to be using the stove a lot. Your best bet is to buy a stove that can use both unleaded gas and stove fuel (also known as dual fuel).
A few gallons of unleaded gas or Coleman fuel will last you a very long time. This is good for long camping trips where you're not close to any supply stores. Just keep the pressure pumped up to keep the flame burning properly and you are good to go.
have to pack the fuel which can be messy and smelly if it spills.
You'll need to fill your stove a few hours before you use it. A small
funnel will make it easier.
Liquid gas stoves mostly burn white gas or its close cousins, Coleman fuel and naphtha, all of which are inexpensive and clean-burning. At subzero temperatures, these stoves burn hotter and more efficiently than do canister stoves. They also work well in winds and high altitudes. And for long trips they have a weight advantage over canister stoves: one full fuel tank weighs less than multiple canisters containing an equivalent amount of fuel. Another advantage is that many of these stoves (but not all) can burn other liquid fuels like automobile gas, diesel, jet or aviation fuel, kerosene, and Stoddard solvent. This makes these stoves the best choice when traveling in parts of the world (particularly developing countries) where the types of available fuels are limited.
there are disadvantages. Liquid gas stoves are more expensive and
harder to operate than canister stoves, and they require cleaning.
They're also larger and heavier, making them less than ideal for
short trips or super-lightweight backpacking.
GAS ("Coleman") Fuel You will encounter all the
fuels named above such as propane, butane, white gas ("Coleman
fuel"), unleaded gasoline, or kerosene.
The white gas stoves will produce the most heat of any camping stoves. It burns cleanly without any odor or effect on food taste. If you spill the fuel it will evaporate very quickly and will not leave an odor. This is very important - sooner or later some fuel will spill on your hand or clothes, maybe even on your table. No problem though.
of the white gas stoves now come in a "dual fuel" version.
recommend using only the white gas in the dual fuel stoves, unless
you run out and can't buy any - then use a little unleaded gas.
main advantage of the unleaded fuel over white gas is cost.
(Coleman fuel or camp fuel) is not sold in bulk and is the most widely available fuel in America. It burns efficiently in all temperatures, providing a lot of cooking time for its weight, occasionally needs priming, and is one of the cleanest burning fuels, which means minimal stove maintenance. If you spill the fuel it will evaporate very quickly leaving no residue and will not leave an odor.
GAS is sold in bulk, but should be used only when absolutely
necessary since it is volatile and emits fumes. It is readily
available here and abroad, and costs about that of white gas, which
is why the multi-fuel stoves (which accept unleaded gasoline) are popular.
KEROSENE is sold in bulk throughout the world, and burns efficiently. Slightly heavier than white gas, it will not ignite as easily, and requires priming. It is messy to handle, smelly, and leaves an oily residue so doesn't burn as cleanly as other fuels. This means more frequent maintenance.
ALCOHOL (Denatured) mixes with water and is safe for use on boats since, if spilled, it will evaporate and won't ignite readily.
less common liquid-gas stove is the alcohol stove. Alcohol burns
clean, and its low flammability makes it safer than other fuels. At
the same time, its invisible flame can be dangerous if one doesn't
know the alcohol is ignited. Also, alcohol has a cool flame and
doesn't burn as efficiently as other liquid fuels.
fuel is expensive.
Types of Fuel
Other stoves use wood or fuel tablets. Wood stoves can burn twigs, bark, pine cones, scrap wood or charcoal. The main advantage is not having to carry your own fuel - just collect it from the forest. The disadvantage is that wood is useless after being soaked with several days of rain, so you may have to pack fuel after all. Also, these stoves cannot be used during burning bans.
Esbit stove burns Esbit solid fuel tablets, which burn hot and
clean. The half-ounce. tablets light with a match, last about 15
minutes each, and can be blown out for later use. They are not
affected by the cold and burn well even at high altitudes. The stove
is 3.25 oz. and folds to about the size of a deck of cards, making it
the choice of many lightweight backpackers.
Different Stoves for Different Kinds of Camping
It's been explained that certain types of stoves and fuels are best for certain types of trips - short trips, cold-weather camping, camping in developing countries, and so on.
Stoves for Backpacking
you are backpacking a single burner stove is a good way to go.
stoves are a wonderful value for your camping dollar and will last a
long time if properly cared for. Peak 1 and Coleman have some awesome
single burner stoves.
about killer sunsets or jaw-dropping summit views.
Follow this hard-won advice for using a lightweight backcountry stove safely and for ensuring that it fires up when you need it.
to the wise:
White-gas, or liquid-fuel, stoves are much fussier than canister stoves, hence they need extra TLC:
1. Carry a maintenance kit and know what to do with it. It helps to tote along the instruction manual, preferably in a zipper-lock plastic bag.
2. If the fuel line can be disassembled, periodically clean it with a rag dipped in white gas. Use the rag and gas to wipe carbon residue off the burner; otherwise it may get into the jet.
gas breaks down gradually while in storage, yielding balky stove performance.
stoves also have a tendency to clog or otherwise go on the fritz.
But with a repair kit and a touch of MacGyver-like knowledge you can
fix these stoves in the field.
1. Weak or non-existent flame: Usually this is due to a clogged jet. Some newer stoves have a built-in wire for cleaning the jet. Otherwise, poke carbon residue out of the jet with a wire. If that doesn't work, unscrew and remove the jet, soak it in white gas, and wipe it clean.
2. Leaky pump: Try lubing the rubber O-ring with maintenance-kit oil or saliva. If that fails, replace the O-ring.
3. Fuel bottle won't pressurize: Same remedy as for a leaky pump.
4. Eyebrow-singeing flare-ups: Probably the result of over priming. Prime just enough to squirt fuel from the jet for about three seconds. Turn the stove off and light that fuel, then wait until the fuel nearly burns away and the yellow flame is barely lapping the burner before slowly turning up the gas. You can also let the flame burn out completely, then open the fuel valve slightly and hold a match to the burner.
Fuel Choice Tip
With a multifuel stove, burn white gas whenever possible; it won't clog your stove as quickly as will kerosene, gasoline, and other fuels.
Canister, or cartridge, stoves are virtually foolproof and maintenance-free. Still, some sensible precautions will keep them that way.
Cold Weather Tip
In below-freezing conditions, keep canister stoves running hot by warming the cartridge with your gloved hands or standing it in an inch of cool (never hot) water. Better yet, keep a spare canister in a warm place, like stuffed between your long undershirt and your jacket, turn off the stove, swap canisters, and fire it up again.
Stoves for Car Camping / Family Camping
camping stoves are much larger and much heavier than backpacking
stoves. The tabletop models weigh around 10 pounds without fuel,
while freestanding models can weigh several times more. They usually
run on propane or white gas, have multiple burners, and burn hotter
than backpacking stoves.
planning a family camping adventure, you may want to consider a two
or three burner stove.
like Coleman typically offer a couple versions of each two-burner
stove, with the difference being the space for the pots. The
"standard" sizes are adequate for most small families, and
with a little creativity and planning, can function well for up to
will be easier for your first few trips if the stove has at least
two burners. This will allow you to use nearly all the same food as
at home. With two burners, you can have a typical two-pot meal, like
pasta on one burner and sauce on the other.
PACK fuel bottles in zip-lock freezer bags, away from food. Protect your stove, and keep it clean, with cloth shoe protectors, or trim off a pair of 2 liter soda bottles to make an armored travel case. Also take a cleaning/maintenance kit that includes a jet-cleaning needle, pipe cleaners, and thin wire for cleaning debris out of hoses and other hard-to-reach areas. Test your stove before you leave and check your fuel canister to ensure it's full and intact.
OPERATE your stove outside, not inside a tent, or anywhere else with poor ventilation which could lead to fire or asphyxiation. Don't fill the fuel tank up to the brim. Leaving a small air space will help prevent spills and ensure that the stove holds pressure better. Place a stove base (a small square of closed-cell foam wrapped in duct tape, half of a license plate, or a piece of plywood) under your stove to improve stability and help conserve fuel. Once you are sure your stove is stable, check all fuel lines, valves and connections for leaks before lighting.
require special care. Do not change or unseat cartridges when a stove
or lantern is burning. Check to make sure detached cartridges aren't
leaking before striking matches inside a tent.
PRIMING is necessary with some fuels in order to preheat the burner to a temperature at which the liquid fuel will vaporize. This can be done with your regular fuel, or a different one and simply involves burning off a small amount of the fuel in a priming cup located near the fuel jet.
STORE your fuel in airtight containers, and empty the fuel tank/canister after your trip. If exposed to air, fuel will degrade, discolor, and produce sediment that will affect stove performance. Leave at least 2 inches of air space in the container to allow for expansion. Uncap the empty canister so condensation can evaporate.
of fuel and fuel containers is generally not allowed (filled or
unfilled) by the airlines.
Make a place for it! Put all your outdoor gear in the same spot in the garage or closet. That way you know where everything is, right? The headache of preparing for a camp trip will be minimal once you get organized.
A Word of Caution
not use a stove inside of your tent.
Safety with Gas
Precautions to be taken when handling gas.
in a canister is stored as a liquid, so it is important to keep the
cylinders upright at all times, especially when being transported.
When setting up a kitchen area, place the gas bottles outside so that if there is any leakage it will dissipate rather than build up in the tent. Use plenty of hose from the regulator to the appliance so that any bends are smooth.
renewing hose give it a little extra length to allow for cutting the
ends of if they split, but not too much that will tangle. Use jubilee
clips to tighten the hose at each end. Tight is enough, too tight
will crack the hose. If the hose is tight going on a drop of washing
up liquid will help ease it on.
never test for a gas leak with a naked flame. When changing bottles,
always turn of all naked flames (including pilot lights where applicable),
and this should always be done outside and away from tents. Good
practice should dictate that a torch (with charged batteries!)
is kept nearby in case you have to turn everything off in a hurry.
Make sure to turn off the bottles last thing at night, if not
done so after every meal. Never
leave gas appliances unattended when lit. Screw type regulators are
left hand threads and should not be over tightened. If you have a
leak here do not try to tighten further but check the seal, have
spares in utility box, or wrap PTFE tape around the thread.
the small personal type cookers and lanterns there are generally two
types, a self sealing and a pieced canister. Ensure that the valve is
turned off before replacing a canister. The self-sealing type of gas
canister are safer and can be removed part full. This also enables
the same canister to be used on a cooker and lantern, such as on a hike.
fit a new canister, this should be done outside to ensure that any
escaped gas does not build up inside an enclosed space, such as a
tent. Firstly, ensure there are no naked flames in the vicinity, that
the canister is empty, and the valve turned off. Unscrew the
appliance from the body. Unclip the canister restraints. Fit the new
canister to the body ensuring the restraints are firmly fastened. Now
screw the appliance back on. At the moment of piecing there will be a
sudden gas escape, and as soon as this happens firmly screw up tight
and this will stop (providing this is done quickly and there are no
naked flames there are no serious dangers). Ensure the escaped gas
has dissipated before lighting. On the smaller cylinders the
regulator has to be screwed to the bottle -
There are different types of gas -
Make sure you have the right type of gas, valve, regulator and other equipment, as the items do not necessarily match.
In an emergency
having followed all the guidelines, the unthinkable happens and a
gas pipe punctures and flames.
most important thing is personal safety, do not compromise it.
Never attempt to move the bottle, as this may make things worse, and if it explodes when you are carrying the bottle you would probably not survive to regret it.
should not turn the gas off at the bottle.
best thing that you can do in any emergency involving gas is to
firstly make sure everyone is well clear of the emergency
The next thing is to call the Fire Department.
Monoxide Poisoning with Camping Equipment
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns consumers that each year there are about 30 deaths and 450 injuries because of carbon monoxide poisoning from the use of portable camping heaters, lanterns, or stoves inside tents, campers, and vehicles. Follow these guidelines to prevent this colorless, odorless gas from poisoning you and your family.
Do not use portable heaters or lanterns while sleeping in enclosed areas such as tents, campers, and other vehicles. This is especially important at high altitudes, where the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is increased.
Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and confusion. Carbon monoxide reduces the blood's ability to carry oxygen. Low blood oxygen levels can result in loss of consciousness and death.
See a doctor if you or a member of your family develops cold or flu-like symptoms while camping. Carbon monoxide poisoning, which can easily be mistaken for a cold or flu, is often detected too late.
Alcohol consumption and drug use increase the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide is especially toxic to mother and child during pregnancy, infants, the elderly, smokers, and people with blood or circulatory system problems, such as anemia, or heart disease.
iron camp ovens are fun and a time-proven way to cook a variety of
food including breads, roasts, stews and casseroles.
Dutch oven cooking has survived from the days of the open hearth, and flourishes still. When Lewis and Clark made their pioneering trek to the Northwest in 1805, they listed the Dutch oven as one of their most valued pieces of equipment. Legend has it that the Dutch oven was actually invented in colonial times by Paul Revere.
Indoor or Outdoor Dutch Oven?
are two basic kinds of Dutch Ovens.
are two basic types of Dutch Ovens: indoor and outdoor.
The outdoor Dutch Oven has four main features which are easy to identify that make it the ideal tool for outdoor baking: the legs, the lid, the fit, and the size.
For most outdoor Dutch Ovens, there are three or four legs attached to the bottom of the oven. This oven will be placed on top of burning coals. The legs prevent the oven from smashing the coals and allow the coals to get the air they need to burn.
The lid of the outdoor Dutch Oven should also have a raised lip around the lip. After the food is placed in the oven to cook and the lid is placed on the oven, burning coals are placed on top of the oven to heat the lid. If you do not have heat on the lid, items inside are just cooked from the bottom, not baked. This lip on the lid keeps the coals on the lid and prevents any ashes from falling on the food when the food is checked.
The lid of an outdoor Dutch Oven fits securely on the top of the oven. The lid should trap most of the air inside the oven. The lid should not be tight enough cause pressure to build up inside when liquids are boiled inside, but is tight enough to prevent heat from escaping rapidly.
On the whole, indoor Dutch Ovens are smaller than outdoor Dutch Ovens. Outdoor ovens will hold significantly more food.
ovens can take your campfire provisions to a new dimension,
Position your Dutch oven over a bed of briquettes, place more on the lid, and presto, it bakes like an actual oven. Baking at 350 F requires five to eight briquettes evenly distributed under the oven and 12 to 16 on the lid. When using more than one Dutch oven, you can stack the second on top of the first, and so on, without the necessity of spreading more briquettes on the ground.
If your campsite mandates low impact, spread some aluminum foil under the coals and pack them out in a fireproof container.
is the best judge when deciding when a Dutch oven meal is ready. As
one river guide put it, "it falls somewhere between instinct and
a sense of smell." Using your watch is a safe way to bake and
always keep in mind that if you snooze, you lose. Avoid lifting the
lid to look at the food. Like your oven at home, opening it up loses
precious heat. Each peek can cost you five to 10 minutes.
A Dutch Oven
If you go to lots of garage sales and flea markets you will occasionally find used cast iron for sale. The prices will vary as will the quality and cleanliness of the items. The nice thing about used cast iron is that the cleanliness when purchased is not really important.
pay a premium for seasoned clean cast iron; you will be getting it
to the bare metal any way.
real killer of cast iron is cracks.
common problem is missing pieces, especially the lid.
a piece of cast iron is exposed to chemicals.
spend too much on a used oven unless it is an unusual size or shape.
I have seen indoor Dutch Ovens go for $8 - $12. Usual prices for used
outdoor ovens are in the range of $30 -$45. I have seen a good new
12" outdoor oven for $30, but they can go as high as $60
of the reason for the strange pricing is the cast iron collectors
and perception of what the collectors will pay. Be careful even when
buying new. One company makes outdoor ovens without legs. I have seen
malformations in the bottom of cheap ovens that almost looked like
cracks and could become cracks in the future.
The first step with a new cast iron camp oven is to peel off any labels and then wash the oven and lid in warm water only, rinse and dry completely.
there is food that is thick and baked on try an old screwdriver,
putty knife or paint scraper.
Seasoning a Camp Oven
All new camp ovens need to be seasoned before use.
your cast iron is clean, you need to season it.
the cast with a thin layer of vegetable oil.
CARE OF YOUR OVEN
at first acidic foods like tomatoes and fruit and water the first
few times you use the cast iron which removes the
"seasoning" otherwise you will have to re-season the oven.
In cleaning the oven NEVER use detergents, they will enter the pores of the oven and you will forever have the lingering taste of soap. Never use a hard wire brush unless you intend to re-season the oven. Simply scrape out the remaining food and clean the oven with hot water and a natural fibre brush and allow to completely dry.
To store your oven, lightly oil all surfaces, place a piece of paper towel inside and store in a dry place with the lid ajar. The seasoning will improve with each use. It's a good idea to make a bag or a box to transport your oven.
There are a few essential tools for cast iron camp ovens.
The first is a long strong hook to lift the lid of your camp oven to check on cooking progress and to remove the oven from the coals. You can make your own from thick wire or you may find one in a good camp store. They are usually sold as tent peg pullers, are 60 - 70cm long and come with a wooden handle.
You will also need long handled tongs, a pot scraper (a spatula or putty knife), oven mitt or heavy pot holder, a small whisk broom (not nylon) to remove the ashes from the lid, paper towels and oil.
Cooking with coals from the camp fire is fine but it will take a bit of practice to get enough coals in the right place to avoid burning and to cook the meal to perfection. A great alternative to camp fire coals is heat beads (see Feb magazine). They are easier to control, hold their heat longer and you can use them to practice the art of cast iron camp oven cooking at home.
Some extra things you will find helpful when using your stove are a windscreen, a starter, a stand, and a fuel funnel (if using white gas).
Even though many campgrounds provide picnic tables, you might want to consider a folding stand for your stove. This leaves you with more room on the table for preparing the food, eating, and having the kids play games while waiting for dinner.
LIGHTER or The stove starter is a long handled
sparker that you use to light the burners. You can use a match, but
the sparker is much easier and, I believe, much safer.
convenient Butane Lighters are so easy to use for lighting fires;
the refillable ones are your best bet for close to the same price at
your local drugstore.
though many campgrounds provide picnic tables, you might want to
consider a folding stand for your stove. This leaves you with more
room on the table for preparing the food, eating, and having the kids
play games while waiting for dinner.
There is also your Chuck Box
you do a lot of camping, a refillable tank may be a wise investment.
No cartridges to dispose of and you can run your stove and lantern
off the same tank by using a distribution tree and an 8 foot high
pressure extension hose.
may be more than you really want for starting out.
heat your stove puts out can be blown away making it take a long
time to heat up your meal. Most larger stoves come with built-in back
and side windscreens.
Windscreens help to keep a stove burning strong in all kinds of weather conditions, reduce fuel consumption and the chance of flaring, and can decrease the boiling time by 20-50%. You can make your own by cutting them out of disposable aluminum pie tins or cookie sheets. (Store them wrapped around your fuel bottle.) When using full-coverage, wraparound windscreens on tank-under stoves, be careful to monitor how much heat reflects down onto the fuel tank or cartridge because overheating is dangerous.
The right cookware and some preparation can go a long way to preventing culinary disasters while out camping.
could probably argue that cookware has one of the widest price
ranges of field equipment that you can buy. A small collapsible
mess kit can be found in department stores for as little as $5 that
are made from aluminum. On the other end of the scale personal
cooking kits can be found for $100 or more.
A flexible cookware set should come with a frying pan (that may double as a lid), two pots, one small from 1 to 1.5 quarts and another larger, around 2 quarts, a lid, and a stuff sack.
You don't have to spend $50+ on a duplicate set of expensive camping cook wear. Your local discount stores have an adequate selection of inexpensive pots & pans. You can also get utensils, pans, and helpful items at your local thrift store or army surplus shop.
"use old pots & pans"
and pans do not have to be purchased specifically for camping,
but if you are backpacking, aluminum or stainless steel nesting pots
give you a compact, lightweight setup that can often store your
stove, nested in the middle.
Black Exterior Finish
A black exterior finish offers several advantages over other pots. First it is easier to clean, as your cookware is used some staining from soot is inevitable. The black outside finish helps hide this accumulation over time. Second a black exterior absorbs more heat, boosting cooking times. Because the finish is coated or sprayed on, continued abuse in the field can scratch the finish.
know that awful black soot that gets all over the bottom of your
pots and pans when you cook over an open campfire?
The type of camping you'll be doing and the number of people in the group largely determine what type of cookware you should get. For long-distance backpacking, weight and space is at a premium. A small, lightweight pot, a plate, a cup and a spoon will suffice if you are camping alone. If camping with a companion, pack a larger pot for the both of you. Frisbees make for lightweight plates that you and your companion can rinse off and play with after dinner. For more campers, an even larger pot is needed.
trips where weight is less a concern, consider packing a full set of
cookware and utensils. Cook sets rise in price with increasing
pieces, sizes, features, and quality of materials. The most basic is
a personal mess kit that can be bought for under $10. These are
comprised of a plastic cup that fits inside a small pot with lid, all
of which is sandwiched between a pan and a plate/bowl. The handle of
the pan swivels in to serve as a clasp to hold the kit together. More
extensive cook sets include multiple plates and cups, several pots
nested within each other and a kettle for boiling water and brewing coffee.
Of course cookware sets can come with a lot more. So read on to learn everything there is to know about cookware for camping and backpacking:
WHAT CAN BE INCLUDED
Some cookware sets will come with a frying pan. These low sided, larger pans are useful for cooking a wide variety of products including meat, and pancakes. If you like to fish, having a frying pan allows you to sauté that trout you caught in olive oil instead of roasting it on a fire. Due to the increased surface area, with a lid over the top, you can boil water faster in a frying pan than a pot, especially if you are using a fire versus a small stove. A majority of cookware sets come with a frying pan. A good size to look for is from 7-1/2 inches to 9 inches. Smaller is pretty functionally useless and larger will probably be too bulky.
Except for the most basic of mess kits, your cookware set should come with a pot. Pot sizes that are common are 1 quart (liter), 1.5 quart (liter), 2 quart (liter) and 3 quart (liter). Some sets will come with smaller and some with larger, but these are pretty standard sizes, not just in camping cookware, but in your kitchen too. When looking for a cookware set consider sets that have a couple of different pot sizes included. Also, the pots (as well as the frying pan) should nest into each other. This will help save room in your backpack. The other benefit to having multiple sized pots is you can mix and match depending on the length of your trip and the kind of cooking you will be doing. Going on a solo hike for a weekend? Then grab your 1.5-quart pot, put your stove in it and you are ready to go! Planning to do some car camping with the family? Than bring the whole set for more versatility and for cooking a couple of different things at the same time.
Measuring and/or Drinking Cup
Some cookware sets come with a plastic measure and/or drinking cup. For the most part these are pretty useless. The standard plastic cup that seems to come with these cookware sets only holds eight ounces, not even enough to mix a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, and the graduation of measurements, well they leave a little to be desired. Also the thin plastic won't keep your cold drinks cold or your warm drinks warm for a long period of time. What is our recommendation? Get a collapsible cup that can hold around 16 ounces, and read on for a trick to measuring and lose the cup.
A few larger cookware sets can come with a coffeepot. Basically a tall kettle with a lip for pouring the pot can be used for boiling water. With instant coffee, tea, or hot chocolate you can make a large amount for the masses and keep it warm by the fire. A kettle is helpful if you are doing car camping or walk in camping. Going into the backcountry? Consider using a pot to cut down on weight and bulk.
Lids are a must have with your cookware set for a number of reasons. First, a pot with a lid will cook food faster, and boil water in a shorter period of time. Lids also help keep out soot out of your food from the heat source you are using. Cookware sets that have lids that serve double duty like frying pans or plates should be strongly considered. By serving double duty they help save room in your pack and increase the versatility of your set. A well designed cookware set might have a 2 quart pot and a seven to eight inch frying pan that serves as a lid for the 2 quart pot. Lids should fit snug and seal the pot, aiding in faster cooking.
ideal cookware set that could be used across the full range of
camping might include a frying pan and three pots ranging in size
from 1.5 quarts to 3 quarts. Two of the pots will have lids,
and the largest third pots lid serves double duty as a frying pan.
Most personal mess kits and many larger cook sets are made of this material, which is inexpensive and lightweight. However, aluminum has several disadvantages.
Health concerns have arisen however, primarily concerning certain acidic foods that may react with an uncoated aluminum surface.
can oxidizeinferior aluminum, creating a chalky white residue that
is unhealthy to ingest, and aluminum reacts with acidic food,
altering the taste of the food. Aluminum traps heat, so if it is
removed from the heat the food will continue to cook (or burn).
pots are usually stainless steel and copper or stainless steel and
aluminum. The copper or aluminum is usually sandwiched between
the stainless steel. Composite pots, especially those with
copper-sandwiched bottoms are the best for cooking. Not only do
you get the durable, non-stick qualities of stainless steel, copper
is an excellent conductor. It heats quickly and cools quickly,
and passing through the layer of stainless diffuses the heat for nice
even cooking. Aluminum adds the same qualities, but is not
quite as efficient as copper. Because stainless steel does not
take to welding, specialized construction of composite pots adds
weight. Poorly designed pots with sandwiched bottoms can break
their welds, leaving you with useless cookware when the copper plate
and protective stainless layer falls off. Also, don't confuse a
pot that has a layer of copper on the bottom that is visible with a
sandwiched bottom. The thin layer of copper on the outside of
some pots, typically electroplated on, are so thin it ads very little
benefit to the cookware.
It's extremely durable, cleans quickly and efficiently and won't scratch easily.
This material is heavier and more expensive than aluminum, but it doesn't oxidize and is more durable. It is easier to cook with because it doesn't trap heat as much as aluminum does, and it is slicker, making cleanup easier.
to pay for this quality, though.
more than thin steel coated with a kiln-baked enamel finish that
looks good, is easy to clean and hard to scratch. The down side is
that this stuff will chip and dent over time and rust will appear
wherever a chip occurs.
Dutch ovens are usually made from cast iron, as are many skillets and griddles. Cast iron is extremely sturdy and offers the benefit of adding small amounts of iron to your diet.
A lot of cookware is available with non-stick cooking surfaces. This makes cooking and cleanup much easier, and the newer surfaces are even resistant to scratching. Other pots have exterior surfaces coated with a black finish, which absorbs heat and hides soot.
Another option to consider is a pot grabber. These are handles that clamp to a pot rather than being permanently attached. This prevents burning your hand on a hot handle.
Don't forget the utensils. In addition to knife, fork and spoon, you may also want to get a spatula, tongs, cooking spoon, ladle, or other utensils, depending on what you're cooking.
The variety of cook set combinations and materials is extensive. When you buy, decide what you'll need for your type of camping and how much you're willing to pay.
Bail handles are almost identical to what you would find on a bucket. The semi circle arch rises from two points on the side of your pot, and folds down to the side when stored. Some bail handles have a notch at the center, allowing for easier hanging over a fire. Bail handles can get hot, and if the handle is kept up while cooking, can become untouchable. Bail handles that swing easily can dump your meal into your cooking source or fire if they get swinging.
Swing handles are wires or a bar that swings out from the side of your pots and frying pans to form a handle. The most basic mess kits have a swing handle the goes over the top lid holding the whole set together. Because they are attached to the pot, and close to the heat source, they get very hot, even insulated ones can give you a nasty burn. If you are using a bug or windshield while cooking, the swing handles can get in the way. Sure you can swing them down to the sides but they will become unmanageably hot. Swing handles can also make nesting your pots, well, interesting if you are in a hurry or you are wearing gloves.
A pot grabber is used for cookware that has no handles. There are several benefits to using a pot grabber versus having a cooking set with handles. Because the pot grabber is not attached, you can use bug and windscreens easily. If you want to use your cookware in a camp oven, you don't have to worry about rubber coated swing handles melting from the heat. A pot grabber doesn't get hot; simply use it to move the pot on and off the heat source. Finally a well-designed pot grabber will hold a pot firm, even when full and gives you a nice stable grip for moving your meal around.
Non-stick coatings are finding their way into camping cookware. Allowing for easy cleanup and aiding in the making of perfect pancakes, a non-stick finish on the inside is very desirable when out in the field. Make sure there are no disclaimers on the cookware about using metal utensils while cooking that will scratch the surface. The latest generation of materials is tough as nails and can take some scraping in the field.
This is a must have with a cookware sets. Pots that nest one into each other take up far less room in your pack for efficient space. If your cookware set comes with lids and or a pot grabber, they should also nest neatly together.
Cookware sets that have storage bags help keep all those little bits neatly together in your pack.
Pots that are designed with rounded bottoms should be given special consideration. Bottoms that have been rounded cook more evenly, are easier to stir and easier to clean. Rounded bottom pots are a must have when looking at sets that can serve as an oven in the field. Pots should be thick and have lipped rims. Thicker material with lips on the rims is more durable and won't warp if it gets overheated. If you're using a set with a pot grabber, a lipped rim is an absolute must. If the rim doesn't have anything for the grabber to bite into, the pot can slip off, dumping dinner on the ground.
WHAT SIZE DO I USE
If the cookware set you are looking at is measured in liters, don't worry. A quart is just slightly smaller than a liter, so the measures for this guide are interchangeable.
Less Than 1 Quart
Pots that are less than one quart can only serve limited use. A one quart pot can only hold about three cups, so a pot that is say 3/4 of a quart might be able to hold about two cups. Good enough for a personal cup of coffee or a small amount of soup, stews or beans.
Use a one-quart pot when traveling solo. Good for boiling water for coffee, heating up soup, oatmeal, most small cans of food, or making most freeze dried meals for one. A great size if you need not water fast. Don't use a one-quart pot for cooking rice or pasta. There won't be enough water to absorb the starch and the resulting sticky mess will be, well yuck!
Obviously can do everything a one-quart pot can do and more. This is a good size for cooking rice or pasta for a couple of people. This is also good for simmering a stew or more elaborate meal in the field.
Can do everything a one-quart and 1.5 quart pot can do and more. A good size if your are cooking for two to four people. This is a perfect size for boiling a larger amount of pasta or rice. This is also a very good size for heating up several freeze-dried meals at the same time.
This is a great size if you are with a larger group or car camping with the family. Capable of boiling large amounts of pasta slow cooking a big stew or soup. If your going into the backcountry, you will probably want to leave this one at home.
More Than 3 Quart
Probably over kill, especially if you are in the backcountry. If you are going to steam clams, oysters or crabs while ocean camping or other bulky foods that require a lot of water to boil or steam this might be handy.
COOKWARE CLEANING AND CARE
Put soap on the outside of your pots. Only does this if you are car camping and cooking over a fire. Introducing this much soap in the backcountry would not be following Leave No Trace ethics. By putting dishwashing soap on the outside of your pot (make sure you don't get inside) makes for easy cleaning of the soot that will accumulate on the outside. Just take a small amount and put a thin layer on the bottom and sides of the pan. Make sure also you don't get any on the handles.
Make a small cooking and cleaning kit to pack in with your cookware. Your cooking and cleaning kit should include a small pot holder, a can opener, cheesecloth packed in a Ziploc bag, a very small scrub pad, a small sample sized bottle of a unscented, bio-degradable, low-phosphate dish cleaner, and a small sponge. Use the potholder to pack around your stove or two pots that might be banging around making noise and driving you nuts. Make sure you get a quality can opener that is small and durable. To make a small scrub pad, take a standard pad that you can buy in the supermarket and cut off a 2" X 2" piece. Do the same for a sponge. You can take an old travel size shampoo bottle to store your dishwashing soap. Make sure to pack your scrub pad, sponge and soap in a Ziploc bag. Consider sealing your small bottle of soap with wax before going on a trip. These bottles tend to leak as the soap doesn't allow for a good seal, and can make quite a mess. You can use the wax from a survival candle to reseal the bottle in the field. When in the backcountry, you can use the cheesecloth to strain any food bits out of your gray water. Shake out the food bits into your waste bag and keep your cheesecloth stored separate from your scrubbing gear.
Use sand or ashes to scrub your pot.
Use heat and water to clean your pots.
Consider not using soap for cleaning.
As soon as you get off the trail and back at home, properly clean your cookware set and allow it to thoroughly dry before storage. Nothing is worse than finding a crusty cooking kit after a long day of hiking.
COOKWARE TIPS AND TRICKS
Paint them black.
Use a large coffee can to boil water. Need to boil up some water but you don't want to cover that new cookware set in soot? A coffee can or other large steel can makes an excellent pot for yeoman's work.
Use the lid from that coffee can. Need a small cutting board? Well the lid from the coffee can makes an excellent cutting board. When you are done with your trek you can put the can and lid into their respective recycling bins.
If you are baking, frying or using a pot for a oven, consider raising your pot off of the heat source. Raising the pot from the heat source allows cooking at a lower temperature and helps prevent burning your food. A steel tuna can, with the inside edges filed to prevent cuts, cleaned and the labels removed make an excellent riser to protect your gingerbread when cooking.
Mark measurements on your pots. When you get your cookware at home take a high quality measuring cup and pour ¼ cup, ½ cup, 1 cup, 2 cups and so on into the pot. Scratch a line on the inside of the pot at the ¼ cup mark, the ½ cup mark, the ¾ cup mark, the 1 cup mark, the cup mark and so on. Now you won't need that measuring cup when you are out in the field. If your pot has a no-stick finish, take high heat paint which you can buy at any auto parts store and paint a small mark on the outside of the pot.
Pack a ¼ cup-measuring cup with your cookware. Find a good quality stainless steel measuring cup at a specialty kitchen store. If you can find a cup with a small spout and no handle this will work even better. The stainless steel will stand up to the rigors of the trail and is easy to clean. The small measuring cup will take up very little room, and can be used for precise measurements when your making your chicken and coconut curry.
Purchase your cooking stove at the same time. When considering a cookware set either bring your stove with you or purchase one at the same time. The ideal stove should fit nicely in your 1.5 to 2 quart pot. If it will fit in a 1-quart pot, it may be too small to do larger duty of heating for a couple of people. If it won't fit in a 2-quart pot the stove you have selected is probably to big. When sizing your stove remember that this does not include the fuel bottle, which will have to be store separately. Already have a stove? Than take it with you to size up your cookware. By putting your stove in your cookware you save room, protect the stove, and know where it is at all times.
Make one-dish meals. Do you hate cleaning or cooking? Would you rather be watching the sunset then scrubbing pots? Consider making a one-dish meal and eating right from the pot. Saves time and saves cleaning.
Take only what you need. If you are going on a solo weekend trip, consider taking just a single pot. It saves space and weight when you are out in the backcountry.
buying cookware there are a number of options you need to
consider. However equipped with this information you are now
more educated on the right cookware set to get for your needs.
There really is no right or wrong answer. If the cookware meets
your culinary needs, is within your budget, and doesn't take up your
entire backpack when out in the backcountry then you have made a good choice.
Last But Not Least . . .
Aluminum foil is the outdoorsman's "kitchen in a pocket." Using foil allows the camp cook to dispense with carrying and cleaning heavy, bulky cookware.
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