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Types of Fuel
Canister (compressed) Fuel
White Gas ("Coleman") Fuel
Unleaded Gas
wood or fuel tablets
Different Stoves for Different Kinds of Camping
Stoves for Backpacking
Stoves for Car Camping / Family Camping
Operation and Use of Stoves
Safety with Gas
The Dutch Oven / Cast Iron Pot
Cooking On A Dutch Oven
Purchasing A Dutch Oven
Seasoning a Camp Oven
Care of your oven
Stove Extras

How To Select A Stove

Unless 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?
This depends on what kind of camping as well as what you want to cook. 

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.

Selecting 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?

Ice fishing?
Vacation cabin?
Family outings? 

Where will you be using it?

United States?

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. 

requires appliances that are quick to set up, easy to light, stable, fuel efficient, dependable, durable, compact and lightweight. The availability of fuel in other countries, and its performance at various altitudes and temperatures, can be a deciding factor, if using the stove for trekking or touring.

allows more leeway in the weight and size of stoves, since they don't need to be carried in a pack. Comfort and convenience, while cooking for a larger group, is usually the most important. Fuel efficient, dependable, durable, stable, easy to light, and quick to set up stoves are still desirable.


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.

 is particularly important when backpacking.
As a rule, the smallest stoves range from 15 ounces to 36 ounces (with fuel)
 and the family camping stoves rarely list weights but start at around 8 pounds (without fuel) for the lightest.
The type of fuel and size of the container also impact the overall weight of the system, as their weight will vary.

Both in use and packed away, is almost as important as the weight of the unit.
A well designed single or double burner stove will be easy to set up and will fold down into a compact shape that also protects the components.

Single burner stoves are generally the most portable, although some are considered too heavy for backpacking.
The most common fuels are white gas, butane, and unleaded gasoline. 

Double and triple burner stoves are good for family camping or trips that provide baggage transportation.
The most common fuels are propane, white gas or unleaded gasoline. 

Pocket stoves, for emergency situations, consist of a small tray to hold your pot or cup, and burn a small, compressed cube of fuel.

A 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.
It is best reserved for an emergency survival kit.

 is important to both user groups. 
Who wants to spend their trip trying to outwit a stove?
 They should be simple, with few parts 
(fewer to lose and easier to maintain),
 and store compactly.
Electronic ignitions eliminate the need for matches (dry or otherwise) and make lighting a snap.

 of both the stove and your pot on top of it, is more difficult to achieve on lighter weight stoves. Adjustable legs can help compensate for uneven terrain and surfaces.

is a rating that indicates how long it takes the stove to boil water. The results are not concrete, since manufacturers don't all start their tests with the same amount of water at the same temperature.

is the length of time that a stove will burn on a full "tank" or cylinder. This rating is subject to altitude, pressure and temperature changes among others.

 is the amount of fuel that a stove with a fixed container will hold. 

 is the maximum heat output. The higher the number, the hotter, more efficiently the stove cooks. Flame adjusters regulate the speed that fuel is released in order to control the size of the flame, and thus the temperature that you are cooking with. Though most 2 and 3 burner stoves can be adjusted, like your kitchen stove, some single burner stoves are either on or off.


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.

There are two basic types of fuel
Gas or Propane?

Both fuels make good stoves.
 The best one for you depends on your preference and the type of camping you plan to do.

No matter what fuel you choose, it’s a plus if your stove takes the same fuel as your lantern(s) and space heater.

The 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.
 A few other stoves use wood or fuel pellets.

Canister Fuel

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.

Butane/isobutane/blend 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.

Propane does not give out as much heat as the white gas stoves,
 but it has some very significant advantages for family camping.

This type of stove is very easy to use. 
Nothing to fill and no pumping needed.
Just attach the cylinder, turn on the fuel and light with a safety match.
your stove is ready for cooking.

 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.

These stoves are great for campers and families who only go out a few times a year.
Propane stoves are available for use with small fuel bottles, or even large RV type bottles. If you start camping a lot, you will find that the small bottles may be very, very, convenient, but very, very expensive.

The propane tanks come in

16.4 oz. disposable bottles
5, 10 and 20 pound sizes.
A typical patio gas barbecue grill has a 20 pound tank.

The BBQ tank could be hooked up to a stove for the camping trip.

 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.

Consider a Distribution Tree

Advantages of Propane vs. Gasoline 

1. No pumping necessary. Saves time and effort, and in general makes the cooking go more smoothly. 

2. A constant heat source. Because the pressure is not user-regulated (yes, the flame is) propane stoves provide a much more constant heat level. Make sure the propane stove you buy is"regulated," in that it provides constant pressure.

3. Cleaner and easier to refuel. Instead of adding a liquid gasoline which could overflow onto your hands or something else, with a propane stove you merely change a coupling.

4. Can be hooked up to a bulk system. There is no convenient way to do this with a gasoline-fueled stove. 

5. No changing generators. With a propane stove, there is never any generator to change; if the generator goes on your gasoline stove you better have a spare, and the tools to change it. (However, generators last a long time.)

Safety and Tips for Using Propane 

1. Read and follow instructions that come with stove and propane cylinder. 

2. All stoves consume oxygen. Do not use in unventilated areas. 

3. Use a stove as a cooking appliance only. Never alter a stove in any way. Never use stove as a space heater. Never leave stove unattended while it is burning.

4. Never allow tents, sleeping bags, clothing, or any flammable material to come close to a stove that is operating.

5. Never install or remove propane cylinder while stove is lit, near flame, pilot lights, other ignition source or while stove is hot to touch.

6. Never store propane near flame, other ignition sources, or where temperatures exceed 1200F. 

7. Keep all connections and fittings clean. 

8. Propane is heavier than air and will accumulate in low places. 


Disadvantages of Propane vs. Gasoline

1. Greater fuel bulk. Propane is typically sold in disposable canisters, and these canisters -- regardless of their size -- take up more room per hour of cooking time yielded than does liquid gasoline fuel. This should only be a problem in wilderness or backpacking situations where most professional outdoor people do use the gasoline models.

2. Higher cost per hour. Propane is more expensive to run per hour. However, if you camp only a few times a year, the overall convenience should overshadow the small extra cost. Then, too, if you hook up a bulk propane system, the running cost becomes considerably less than with gasoline. In fact, I it becomes extremely economical.

3. Poorer fuel availability in rural areas. You will find it easier to buy a gallon of Coleman Fuel than a two-pound canister of propane in most rural areas. Also, the sizes of the coupling that join gas canister to stove are not universal among all manufacturers.

With a gasoline stove, more attention must be paid to safety. This is mainly because of the possibilities of spilled fuel and flare-ups. If the generator is good and you know how to use your gasoline stove perfectly, flare-ups should not occur. But the fact is that flare-ups do occur -- I witness them every year in campgrounds. If you'll just locate your stove far enough away from tent, dining fly, clothing, etc., the occasional flare-up you might get will be unlikely to hurt anything. But it would be even better to learn how to use your gasoline stove precisely so that flare-ups don't occur. This just takes practice, and the common sense to read and follow the manufacturer's directions carefully.

Read The CAUTIONS for Canister-Fuel Stoves

For Safety and Tips for Using Gas 
Click Here

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.

Industry 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).

The advantage

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.

The drawbacks

You 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.
 Make sure you fill your stove at least 20 yards away from any campfire, tent or food.

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.

However, 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.

WHITE GAS ("Coleman") Fuel You will encounter all the fuels named above such as propane, butane, white gas ("Coleman fuel"), unleaded gasoline, or kerosene.
However, I recommend only two real choices - propane or white gas ("Coleman Fuel").

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.

Many of the white gas stoves now come in a "dual fuel" version. 
This will allow you to use unleaded auto gas. Many campers use the auto gas and are satisfied with it. However, if you spill it or get it on your hands, you will have a hard time getting rid of the odor.
(check your hands the next time you fill up at the self service gas station)

I 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.
This is the advantage to the dual fuel stoves.

The main advantage of the unleaded fuel over white gas is cost.
 Auto gas is about $1.50 per gallon, 
while white gas is about $4.50. 
I feel the extra cost for the few gallons of white gas used each year is worth paying so you get the cleanliness of this fuel.

(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.

The white gas stoves will produce the most heat of any camping stoves. It burns cleanly without any odor or effect on food taste.

UNLEADED 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.

A 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.
It is often used to prime stoves using other fuel.

This fuel is expensive.

Other scenario's to consider

Unleaded Gas 
Available wherever modern cars run. Additives in fuel are noxious (injurious to health). Stoves and pans will require frequent cleaning.

Leaded Gas 
Produces very noxious fumes, not recommended as a fuel. Will clog the jets on stoves quickly.

Available worldwide, this is the chief heating and lighting fuel for developing countries. Cheap, but often of such a low grade it should first be filtered through a cloth. More difficult to light than gasoline, especially in cold weather. Usually the stove must be "primed"--the burner is initially heated with a flame from preheating paste, gasoline, or paper. Kerosene is also dirtier, smellier, and smokier than white gas, and it blackens pots.

  Jet Fuel and Stoddard Solvent
Similar to kerosene.

Stove combustion byproducts of this heavy fuel are noxious, enormous, and immediately cancel out ten years of broccoli.

Read The CAUTIONS for Liquid-Fuel Stoves

Other Types of Fuel
for certain stoves

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.

The 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.
However, the stove requires a windscreen to maintain efficiency.


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.

But a more rudimentary division can be made: 
stoves intended for backpacking,
 and stoves intended for car camping.

Stoves for Backpacking

Backpacking stoves -
lightweight, compact models that fit in a backpack - 
usually have only one burner and weigh less than 2 pounds without fuel. Some weigh just a few ounces, making them ideal for lightweight backpacking.

If you are backpacking a single burner stove is a good way to go. 
They are lightweight, can tuck away in your pack and great when cooking one course or one skillet meals.

These 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.
So do Campinggaz and Texsport.

Forget about killer sunsets or jaw-dropping summit views. 
No backcountry event will grab your attention quite like a backpacking stove that has burst into flames and is sending a pool of flaming white gas over your campsite.
Among the gear you take into the wilds, a stove is probably the most dangerous item you'll possess short of a rifle in polar bear country.
And it's by far the most temperamental. 

Follow this hard-won advice for using a lightweight backcountry stove safely and for ensuring that it fires up when you need it.

Word to the wise:
Always test-run your stove at home before a backcountry trip. 
This advice applies doubly to liquid-fuel stoves. 

Liquid-Fuel Stoves 

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.

White gas breaks down gradually while in storage, yielding balky stove performance.
Replace months-old gas.
 Also, if you've stored old white gas or a dirtier fuel like kerosene in a fuel tank or bottle, rinse it with fresh white gas.

Liquid-fuel 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.
Here's how to troubleshoot the most common maladies: 

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 Stoves 

Canister, or cartridge, stoves are virtually foolproof and maintenance-free. Still, some sensible precautions will keep them that way.

  • Clean away spilled food, dirt, and mud from your stove. Store stove in its stuff sack.

  • Guard against damaging the all-important valve connecting the fuel canister or fuel line to the burner. Always attach fuel canisters with care, and cushion the stove from potential damage while in your pack or in transit to the trailhead.

  • Some canisters are designed to stand upright during stove operation; others lie flat. Know which type you have.

  • Avoid jostling or tipping the canister while cooking, which can cause the stove to flare up.

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.

Click on image for enlarged view and description

Coleman® Fuel or kerosene

Coleman® Fuel

16.4 oz. Coleman® propane cylinder

Coleman® fuel or unleaded gasoline

Coleman® fuel or unleaded gasoline

1.1 pints of Coleman® Fuel or unleaded gas

16.4 oz. Coleman® propane cylinder

Coleman® fuel, unleaded gasoline or kerosene

Stoves for Car Camping / Family Camping

Car 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.
They also burn fuel faster.

When planning a family camping adventure, you may want to consider a two or three burner stove.
The extra burner(s) will come in handy when cooking larger meals. Also, most multi burner stoves can use (liquid) unleaded fuel, standard Coleman stove fuel, or propane.

Brands 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 ten persons.
This size can be a good choice for larger families if there will be a campfire which could be used to heat some dishes.
Otherwise, you might want to try the extra large size stove, as it will accommodate larger pots and may even put out more heat.

It 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.
 You can even add a third pot by heating up one dish and setting it aside while you heat the others.

Click on Image for enlarged view & description

2 Burner

3.5 pints of  Coleman® Fuel or unleaded gas

3 Burner

3.5 pints of  Coleman® Fuel or unleaded gas

2 Burner

16.4 oz. Coleman® propane cylinder

3 Burner

2 Burner

16.4 oz. Coleman® propane cylinder

3 Burner

16.4 oz. Coleman® propane cylinder

20 lb. propane tank

16.4 oz. Coleman® propane cylinder


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.

PRESSURIZED BUTANE CYLINDERS 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.
To help reduce or control evaporative cooling, you can: 

1. Place the canister (while in use) upright in a pot filled with an inch of cold water.

2. Warm the canister with your hands while cooking. (Don't wrap anything around it though, that will just keep the cold in.)

3. Alternate between 2 or more canisters when cooking.

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.

TRANSPORTATION of fuel and fuel containers is generally not allowed (filled or unfilled) by the airlines.

No matter how dirty it gets, never use oven cleaner on your camp stove top. It will burnish it for life & it won't be looking shiny anymo. Baked on goo is only gonna come off with elbow grease & a good scrubber. Even the steel wool pads leave a weird mark on this stubborn metal surface

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 

Do not use a stove inside of your tent. 
Not only do tents melt or catch fire, they also fill up quickly with deadly carbon monoxide fumes. Remember that stoves need oxygen to burn, and you need it to breathe.
Only use your stove where there's enough oxygen for both. 

Safety with Gas

See also Emergency Fire Procedures.

Precautions to be taken when handling gas.

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.
 The valves should also be protected from damage while in transit. 

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.

When 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.
It's good practice to have a plastic utility box that contains spare regulators, hose clips and a screwdriver. Assemble and dismantle all hose and regulators for every journey. This prevents the regulators from being damaged in transit, and also ensures that every connection is inspected before use.  Check for leakage by placing a drop of washing up liquid on every connection. It will bubble if there is a leak, and if this is the case it should be removed from service immediately and suitable repairs or replacements effected.

Remember, 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.
As with hoses, check for leakage by placing a drop of washing up liquid on every connection. It will bubble if there is a leak, and if this is the case it should be removed from service immediately and suitable repairs or replacements effected.

For 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.
The pieced canister type cannot be removed once fitted. 

To 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 -
this is a left hand thread. So be careful.

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

Ok, having followed all the guidelines, the unthinkable happens and a gas pipe punctures and flames.
What do we do? 

The most important thing is personal safety, do not compromise it. 
Clear the area of all personnel immediately, and make things safe if possible without a delay (ie: if a pan of something is cooking on the other ring remove the pan, but do not stop to turn off the burner).

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.

You should not turn the gas off at the bottle.
 A flame in tubing is controllable as long as the pressure stays up. 
The pressure pushing the gas out of the hole prevents the flame retreating up the tube and igniting the gas bottle.
 A complete severance of the tube would cause a flame thrower type effect.
Don't be tempted to think that you can disconnect it and be quicker than the flame can travel up the pipe -

you're not!

The best thing that you can do in any emergency involving gas is to firstly make sure everyone is well clear of the emergency
(in case the gas bottle explodes), 
and call for emergency assistance. 

 The next thing is to call the Fire Department.

Never be tempted to deal with it yourself,
as with many things untrained hands can make things worse than doing nothing.

Carbon 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.


How to Make a Campfire Oven from a Cardboard Box

The Dutch Oven / Cast Iron Pot

Cast iron camp ovens are fun and a time-proven way to cook a variety of food including breads, roasts, stews and casseroles.
 Camp ovens come in various sizes and a good one will last a lifetime if cared for.

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? 

There are two basic kinds of Dutch Ovens. 
This is how to distinguish between the two. 

There are two basic types of Dutch Ovens: indoor and outdoor. 
The indoor Dutch Oven is intended for use in a kitchen oven. It is not intended for use outdoors on a fire.
The outdoor Dutch Oven, on the other hand is designed for outdoor use.

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.

The Legs

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

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 Fit

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.

The Size

On the whole, indoor Dutch Ovens are smaller than outdoor Dutch Ovens. Outdoor ovens will hold significantly more food.

Cooking On A Dutch Oven

Dutch ovens can take your campfire provisions to a new dimension,
 and you do not have to be a gourmet to pull it off. 
Anyone who can start a fire and follow a recipe
 can perform miracles with a Dutch oven. 

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.

Experience 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.

Purchasing A Dutch Oven
Most camp stores carry good quality ovens but look for one that has a strong handle and a lid with a large lip to hold the coals.

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.

Don't pay a premium for seasoned clean cast iron; you will be getting it to the bare metal any way.
Rust is not something to worry about either.
 Do check to see if it is almost rusted through - 
that would be an indication of an unusable piece. 

The real killer of cast iron is cracks. 
Look all over the item for any cracks. Popular places for cracks include: the lid edges, the lid handle, the rim, and around the legs. If there are any cracks at all, put the pieces down and walk away.
It is possible for an expert to weld cast iron so it can be used in cooking again, but it is a specialized skill and unlikely to be worth the cost and effort. For this same reason, avoid any cast iron pieces that show signs of welding.
They may crack when heated. 

Another common problem is missing pieces, especially the lid.
 If there is no lid, avoid the piece, as you are not likely to find the mate and no other lid will fit tight enough.

Sometimes a piece of cast iron is exposed to chemicals.
 Radiator water comes to mind. 
I would ask if I see any unusual stains. If a poison contacted the interior, I would thank them for their honesty and walk away. If they can't identify the stain, do the same thing.
Cast iron is porous and retained poisons, chemicals, and materials could affect the food.

Don't 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
. The larger the piece, the more expensive it will be whether it is new or old.

Part 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.
If possible, open the box and look inside before you buy it. 

Before using a camp oven and to prevent rust it needs to be cleaned and "seasoned".

There are three tricks to having good clean cast iron: 
1. Getting it clean. 
2. Seasoning it 
3. Keeping it seasoned. 

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.

If there is food that is thick and baked on try an old screwdriver, putty knife or paint scraper.
 Some people have good luck with cast iron pieces by running them through the self clean cycle of a kitchen oven.
(I have not tried this, so you on your own if something goes wrong.) 
Do NOT do this with an aluminum oven.
You can also use sand paper, scouring pads, and aluminum foil. 

Seasoning a Camp Oven

All new camp ovens need to be seasoned before use. 

Once your cast iron is clean, you need to season it. 
To season it properly you need to make sure it is completely clean. 
Even new ovens need to be scrubbed down to metal before there first seasoning. When the piece is clean, rinse it off with water and dry it completely. Some scrubbing pads contain soap, this must be removed. You may want to let it sit in a warm oven for a couple of minutes if needed to make sure it is completely dry.

Coat the cast with a thin layer of vegetable oil. 
Do not use lard, grease, margarine or any oil that contains salt.
Do not use a spray in coating the oven but rather use oil soaked in a paper towel.
Do not put much on; the oil should not drip when the piece is turned over. Pop it upside down into your kitchen oven at 350 degrees for an hour. Some people suggest two hours and some suggest removing it every 30 minutes and putting a second layer of oil on it. I find that adding layers of oil tends to cause build up and drips. Because I recommend using a liner pan almost all the time, I don't worry too much about extra seasoning.

You will probably need to repeat the process for the oven to obtain the desired uniform black patina that provides the non-stick qualities and protects your oven from rust.


Avoid 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.
After cooking remove the lid and do not use the oven as a food storage vessel.

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.

NEVER pour cold water into a hot oven as it may crack.


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.

When storing a camp oven, 
remember to smear inside and out with vegetable oil to prevent rusting.

Stove Extras

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).

Folding Stand

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.

BUTANE 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.

If you get a propane stove, get one with the ignition system built in.

These 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.
Cans of butane can be found at most liquor stores or your local smoke shop.


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.

Click on Image for enlarged view
 and description

There is also your Chuck Box

Perhaps, you would like to build your own Chuck Box!
Clicking here
 on one of the two links below:


If 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.
Attach the tree to the tank, run your hose to the stove and put your lantern on top of the tree or you can purchase the optional attachment that will supply propane to a lantern from the same tank. Now you will have a light in your "kitchen."

This may be more than you really want for starting out.
But if you start with the disposable-bottle type propane stove,
you can grow to the tank version later.


The 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.
You will be glad you have them on cool, rainy and windy days.

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.

traps and redirects hot gases up the side of the cookpot to increase cooking efficiency by up to 25%, and is particularly effective in cold and wind.

 is a grid and cylinder structure that fits in your cookpot. Your food (omelet, bread, rice, freeze dried meals etc.) is cooked in a plastic bag that sits on top of the grid over 1" of boiling water. Because it is all prepared and cooked in a plastic bag (Glad 1 gallon size work well), it is not necessary to clean the pot. There are two sizes.


The right cookware and some preparation can go a long way to preventing culinary disasters while out camping.

One 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. 
That is a 20X swing in price for two sets that basically do the same thing!  A good price range for a quality cookware is from $35 to $60.

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"

Pots 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.
There are also lightweight, nesting sets for family campers.
 Blackened pots with tight-fitting lids can reduce the length of time it takes to boil water by about 20-30%. You can spray paint them with heat-resistant, flat black stove paint (outside only) if you want to speed up the process.

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.

You know that awful black soot that gets all over the bottom of your pots and pans when you cook over an open campfire?
 You can avoid the messy cleanup if you use one of those aluminum foil dishes or pie pan under your pot.
 The foil transmits heat and collects most of the soot!

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.

For 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.
 Other cookware can be bought individually or in sets of like kinds, such as sets of skillets or pots.

 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:


Frying Pan 

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.

An 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. 
 All of the pots nest into each other for easy storage.

is the most common cookware material. 
It's very light and conducts heat very well, making cooking quite efficient. 

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.

Heat 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).
Aluminum is also soft and prone to denting.

 One other down side is that burned on foods stick tenaciously to aluminum which is why non-stick coatings on fry pans and the like are so popular and such a good idea.


Composite 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.

Stainless steel
 is another common cookware material.

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.

The down side is its inability to conduct heat evenly, leading to scorched food in the pattern of a stove's intense flame.

 combines the lightness of aluminum with the toughness of stainless steel. 

Expect to pay for this quality, though. 
Titanium heats quickly and stays hot, making it easy to burn your food.


Nothing 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.

Cast iron
is the heaviest cookware material.

 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.

Bi-metal combination
 which has been used in high-quality kitchen cookware for years and are now being sold for the backcountry. |
Sigg has created a line of bimetal pots with black aluminum outers lined with stainless steel.


Bail Handles

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 

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.

Pot Grabber

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 Finish 

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.

Nesting Pots

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.

Storage Bag

Cookware sets that have storage bags help keep all those little bits neatly together in your pack.

Pot Design

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.


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.

1 Quart 

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!

1.5 Quart 

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.

2 Quart 

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.

3 Quart 

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.


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. 
Ashes and sand have been used for centuries as a cleaning agent.  Take a small amount of clean dry sand and scrub away with a cloth.  Unless you have a really sticky mess, the results may surprise you.

Use heat and water to clean your pots. 
If you have scooped out that stew and everyone is eating, fill the pot with water, put a lid on it and bring it to a boil.  As soon as it is boiling turn the heat off and let the pan soak.  Water is a powerful solvent and when combined with heat and steam can power off even the nastiest mess.  Use the same pot of hot water to wash your plates and other dishes.

Consider not using soap for cleaning. 
If your traveling less than five days and you are in the backcountry, consider forging soap altogether.  Hot water can keep the pots clean during this time.

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.


Paint them black.
  If your cookware does not have a black outer finish you can easily and cheaply put one on.  Go to any hardware or home improvement store and pick up a can of black oven paint.  Adding the black coating to the outside of your pots (don't get the paint on the inside) will help your cookware heat up faster.

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.

When 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

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. 


Do you need an address or phone number for an outdoor gear company?
Here is a listing of a contact information for some of the major gear companies.

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