People tend to fall into two—if you’ll pardon the expression—camps when it comes to cooking on backcountry adventures. There are those of us who see it as the penultimate drudgery, a distraction from what we really want to be doing on our overland expeditions, and a source of never-ending dishes that must be cleaned. Others relish mealtimes, packing exotic ingredients, planning elaborate multi-course dinners, and spending lots of energy (and money) setting up their perfect camp kitchen.
As I collected the camp stoves that make up this wide-ranging gear review, I had the opportunity to reflect on where I fall on this continuum. I tend to shade toward the “cooking is a chore” side of things, which is surprising because I love to cook at home. But on the road, everything seems more difficult in the kitchen—the knives are duller, the pots thinner, the stoves more challenging to use. I also realized that my own camp stove, a classic two-burner unit that’s been in the family for quite a while, is over 40 years old and has some issues. We often refer to it as the Death Stove because it leaks fuel badly and can randomly burst into uncontrollable flames at the slightest provocation. While that makes breakfast prep a little more exciting, it certainly doesn’t make cooking easier or more efficient.
Whether you’re the Jacques Pepin of the wilderness or just desperately want to boil some water for your freeze-dried mac and cheese and be done with it, a high-quality stove can make a big difference in your enjoyment or tolerance of making trailside meals. This also goes for how you cook on the road, as well as what you cook. You might have an army of hungry campers lined up around the tent with their sporks at the ready, or you may need to pack as light as possible to maximize storage space on your ADV bike. In either case, you need a stove that best fits your use case. The products in this review fall into three broad categories: compact one- or two-burner stoves, traditional two-burner stoves, and larger stoves that will feed a crowd with big cooking surfaces and multiple burners.
I took two tacks in testing the 10 stoves in this review. First, I used a handful of performance objectives that could be compared across the range of products, and second, more subjective cooking-based evaluations. The idea here is to understand how each stove performs, both for the reluctant camp chef and the trail gourmet.
Testing took place in my backyard in Missoula, Montana (elevation 3,258 feet) on a calm, overcast morning in September, with temperatures ranging from 58°F to 64°F and relatively high humidity (for late summer in Western Montana) of 55 to 65 percent.
The primary fuel used throughout the test was propane from a 5-pound Ignik Gas Growler but also included propane from the ubiquitous green bottle, as well as butane from disposable cartridges in the case of the Fore Winds and Snow Peak stoves and a backpacking-style isobutane canister for the Primus. A brief note on induction: single-burner induction stoves are becoming popular in the overland world. However, their energy consumption is still significant, requiring large-amp-hour battery systems to run effectively. Not everyone has made that investment in their vehicles, and traditional camp fuels are still widely available, so we excluded induction cooktops for the time being. However, look for a review of this burgeoning technology in future articles.
Each stove was tested for the elapsed time it took to bring 1 liter of tap-cold water (63°F) to a rolling boil in a 2.5-liter, thin-walled MSR pot with a lid. The pot was allowed to cool to ambient temperature between each test. The Jetboil was the only stove with its own covered pot (5-liter size) as standard equipment, so it was tested twice, once with the Jetboil pot and once with the test pot.
Windy Cold-start Test
Windy conditions can be frustrating in a camp kitchen, so each stove was evaluated for how quickly it could start from cold with a 9.5-10.5 mph constant breeze. The wind was produced by a regular household fan directed at a 45-degree angle to the left-front corner of the stove as level as possible with the cooking surface. Wind speed was measured by a small anemometer held directly above the burner to ensure consistency. Any wind-blocking devices a stove might be equipped with were deployed.
Everyone has their favorite egg preparation, from omelets to hard-boiled, but the classic over-easy fried egg is a challenge for many camp stoves. While the cooking surface is critical, heat control is also essential in preventing yolk breakage, over-cooking, and sticking.
I cooked one over-easy fried egg on each stove using 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a 10-inch non-stick pan. Exceptions (egg-ceptions?) were made for stoves that came with an accessory cooking surface as standard equipment, like the Jetboil and Front Runner, or if an optional accessory was included by the manufacturer with the stove for testing, like the cast-iron flattops that shipped with the Cook Partner and the Camp Chef Pro 60X.
I looked for even heating, precise flame control, ease of flipping, and yolk consistency. Each stove received a subjective chef’s rating from one to five eggs, five being best. While it wasn’t exactly a Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke situation, I did end up eating a lot of eggs.
Funny, isn’t it, how a campsite suddenly falls quiet once dinner is over? Where did everyone go? Out for a hike? Snuck off early to the tent? Who gets to clean up all these pots and pans? If that job usually falls to you, a greasy stove littered with stuck-on bits of charred food is possibly the least appealing scrubbing chore, especially if you’re trying to conserve your water supply. For this test, I evaluated how easy the stoves were to disassemble, how well they were designed to keep messes contained, and how swabable the interior and exterior surfaces were. Ratings are a busboy’s subjective assessment from one to five sponges, five being best.
Finally, we’ve produced a handy table to compare hard data on each stove, including important metrics like thermal output, packed dimensions, weight, and price. For the individual reviews of each stove, I have not ranked them in any particular order other than to identify an Editor’s Choice for my favorite in each of the three categories, and an overall Value Award.
Sometimes, one burner is all you need, and when weight is a primary concern for your camp kitchen design or space is at a premium, these compact stoves might just be the ticket.
Fore Winds Luxe
The Fore Winds Luxe has a deceptively straightforward design—a lid, a grate, a burner, and a stove body, all folded into one plain, rectangular package. But this Japanese-built, single-station cooker also had the highest power output of any of the compact stoves by a large margin, and its 282-port burner features precise heat control that rivals the professional-style large stoves in the test. The slim half-pound butane canister that feeds the fire resides in an integrated sleeve on the back of the unit, meaning the fuel and stove are always together, and its helpful handle and high-quality stainless clasps make storage and transport painless.
The Luxe’s diminutive dimensions (just a shade over 4 inches high), light weight, and removable lid make it an excellent choice in a small-scale drawer system or a portable kitchen setup. However, it still easily accommodates a 10-inch frying pan with remarkable stability. The nearly $200 price tag may give you pause, but the materials and build quality reflect the steeper asking price. Where the Fore Winds struggled was, paradoxically, in the wind. During the windy cold start test, no matter how many times I tried, the Luxe refused to light at the 10 mph level as read by the anemometer. I backed the fan up a couple of feet to reach a 6.5 mph top speed, and it finally ignited. Of course, this can be mitigated by turning the stove so the lid blocks the breeze, but that’s not always an option in real-world conditions.
Front Runner Safari Chef 30 by Cadac/Dometic — Value Award
Front Runner’s Safari Chef 30 had the privilege of traveling with me for the longest time among all the stoves in this review. A cheerful companion, it rode along on extended journeys to Arizona and Oregon and shorter trips around Montana. It’s a nimble multi-tasker, and I grew to appreciate its compact size, faithful one-push starting, and the combination of excellent fire control and the included non-stick ceramic griddle that produced one perfectly cooked egg after another (not to mention true wipe-down cleaning). A 1-pound propane bottle screws neatly under the folding tripod legs when deployed for kitchen duty, preserving the modest footprint of the stove.
The Safari Chef is the clear value leader in this review at just shy of $150, including the carrying case and three cooking accessories (the griddle, a grill plate, and a combination pot/wok/lid device). The price point also reflects its primary shortcoming. The stove’s advertised 6,140 Btu/hour power rating (lowest in this review by over 2,000 Btu/hour) resulted in our slowest boiling test time at over 6 minutes. The meager power output means you won’t risk burning dinner, but you’ll also be waiting around for al dente pasta, a problem exacerbated at higher elevations. That said, this all-in-one starter kit is an excellent way to outfit an efficient on-the-go kitchen at a great price.
$150 | frontrunneroutfitters.com
Jetboil Genesis Basecamp System — EDITOR’S CHOICE
If NASA was going to launch a portable stove to the International Space Station (now there’s a remote campsite), I could imagine it would be the Jetboil Genesis. Cramming an amazing amount of features and efficiency into an impressively tight structure, Jetboil has managed to package a two-burner stove system into the same space the one-burner Cadac Safari Chef 30 occupies. Not only that, with its fuel expansion port connected to the tiny Luna Satellite Burner accessory ($75), you would have one of the most full-featured portable kitchens in orbit.
The Genesis system ships standard with Jetboil’s proprietary 5-liter FluxPot with its polycarbonate lid that doubles as a strainer; a ceramic-coated, 10-inch non-stick fry pan; a featherweight wind protector; and a carrying case. Using the FluxPot, the Genesis rocketed to the best water boiling time at 2:34, saving plenty of gas in the process (with the 2.5-liter test pot, the result was a mid-pack 4:02). Speaking of fuel, this stove curiously uses 16-ounce propane bottles rather than the isobutane canisters that power Jetboil’s backpacking stoves. With its hinged design, the Genesis is not quite as steady on its feet as some other stoves, and the many nooks and crannies in the stove body make clean-up a little more of a challenge. Besides those small quibbles, this space-age marvel is the stove that best broke through the category boundaries in our test.
$400 | jetboil.johnsonoutdoors.com
Snow Peak Home and Camp Burner
Just because it’s the smallest, lightest, and least expensive stove here doesn’t mean the Snow Peak Camp and Home Burner doesn’t pack an engineering punch. In fact, with its fully exposed burner and lack of any shielding, I had serious doubts about its ability to fire up at all in the windy cold start test. But light it did on the first try with a heavy click from the automatic starter and a determined whoosh—impressive performance for a bantam-weight cooker. At only 3 pounds and less than 14 inches long, this is likely the only stove in the test that may appeal to adventure riders.
The stove’s unfolding and repacking is a complex operation whose steps need to be followed in specific order, but once you have the hang of it, you’ll appreciate the precision with which the Snow Peak is designed. Everything snaps together sharply, and the expanded burner trivet can accommodate relatively large vessels. However, take care with balancing pans that have longer handles, as they need to be aligned with one leg or another of the trivet to prevent tipping. The flames from the burner are also tricky to see in direct sunlight, making heat modulation more difficult. Like the Fore Winds Luxe, the Camp and Home Burner runs on 8-ounce butane canisters, which are lightweight and efficient but often not as easy to track down as the more common green propane bottles.
$130 | snowpeak.com
Traditional Two-Burner Stoves
The two-burner lidded camp stove is the classic choice for most overlanders, striking a balance between the ability to cook more complex meals and adding extra mass and bulk to your load out.
Camp Chef Mountaineer — EDITOR’S CHOICE
One stat should draw your eye to the aluminum-bodied Camp Chef Mountaineer: 20,000 Btu/hour. That’s the roaring power output of each burner in this two-up cooker, doubling up other two-burner stoves’ total power number under a single pot. That number is good for second place in our test (falling only behind its bigger brother, the Pro 60X), and the upshot is that the Mountaineer turned around a sub-three-minute boil time for 1 liter of water. It was the only stove to do it in under 180 seconds with the 2.5-liter MSR test pot, so if absolute horsepower and speed are your priority, this Camp Chef is the Ferrari of the group.
Also boosting the Mountaineer’s design cred are recessed controls, including flame knobs, the auto-ignitor, and the fuel hose connector. I appreciate this engineering choice since it reduces the risk of breaking off valve stems or losing knobs when you toss the stove in the back of a pickup or the bottom of a drift boat. That fuel connector is located on the front face of the stove, however, which is convenient but does put the hose in the path of snags and catches while you’re busy at the pans. The included hose has a little extra length over other fuel lines to reach behind or below the stove. The Mountaineer’s alloy construction is instrumental in lowering its weight to a modest 16 pounds, adding to the raciness.
$390 | campchef.com
Kovea Slim Twin
At just 9.5 pounds and less than 3 inches in height, the Kovea Slim Twin lives up to its name as a featherweight, low-profile camp stove. However, with a 10,500 Btu/hour burner rating, it’s no slouch in the power column, and it boils 1 liter of water in a rapid 3:21 time. The burners’ swirling flame port design is a work of art rendered in metal that looks beautiful in low light. Kovea’s commitment to aesthetics also extends to the matte-finished lid with its neatly integrated wind deflectors and recessed catch, as well as the pleasant feel and positive feedback from the flame control knobs.
There is plenty of space on the nickel-plated cooking surface for 10- or 12-inch cookware, and the lid pops off easily to accommodate even larger pots and pans should you need them (which also aids cleaning). The Kovea’s lack of mass does contribute to a general unsubstantial feeling in its construction, and the woven steel fuel hose seemed a little short, making it difficult to place bottles in a convenient spot away from the stove. The new generation of the Slim Twin is equipped with a hard line regulator adapter explicitly designed for 1-pound propane bottles, locking the stove into one fuel source but also lowering the price.
$135 | koveausa.com
Wood accents seem like a puzzling choice for a device that literally spits fire. Still, Primus knows what they’re doing—the Swedish company pioneered the technology for the modern camp stove in the 1890s, and they’ve been refining the concept ever since. This shows up in the Tupike’s many engineering details that not only go into making a stove that’s pleasing to look at and operate but also functions at a very high level. Those oak laths? They add rigidity to the stainless steel stove body and ensure plenty of cool touch-points, including on the full-width locking handle. The brass hardware not only looks great but resists corrosion as well.
Primus goes its own way on fuel choice for the Tupike, requiring the isobutane canisters more commonly used with backpacking stoves. It pumps out a robust 10,200 Btu/hour from each of its two burners. The tightly toleranced stainless drip tray is angled to collect grease away from the burners and cleans up with one wipe. Built-in magnets for the wind deflectors keep them stuck to the inside of the lid when not in use, and ever-so-slightly tweaked corners make them easy to grab and deploy when the wind kicks up. The fold-out legs feel slightly spindly, but they open up space under the stove for stashing utensils or plates when prep space is at a premium. You can use the stove with the legs stowed as well. A sandwich-sized non-stick ceramic griddle plate is included in the base price.
$260 | primus.us
Stoves for Large Groups
When you must go all-in cooking for large groups or are serious about camp cuisine, there may be no alternative but to step up to a full-featured, full-size stove—if you’ve got the room.
Camp Chef Pro 60X (Pro 14)
The name of the game with the Camp Chef Pro 60X—now known as the Pro 14—is accessories. While this standing-height propane stove does put out a blistering 30,000 Btu/hour from each of its two commercial-stove-style burners (best in the test) and offers a generous 448 square inches of cooking space, its real value lies in its versatility. Camp Chef offers a range of modular add-ons for the Pro 60X, from a cast-iron griddle to a pizza oven to a combination grill box and smoker. Each of these accessories slots securely into the rim of the oven body, and there are thoughtful touches like an angled grease collector integrated into the flattop that drains away messes and a temperature gauge built into the lid on the BBQ box.
The Pro 60X weighs nearly 50 pounds but includes generously sized foldable work tables on each end of the stove, and adjustable legs snap securely into place, making for an exceptionally sturdy platform that resists tipping in crowded camps. A wind blocker comes in the package but is not permanently attached to the stove’s body, so it asks to be bent, left behind, or lost in the back of your truck. Flame control is excellent on the Pro 60X, both on direct heat for pots and pans as well as with the accessories. The low setting is properly low—a true simmer—a boon for delicate culinary tasks like cooking rice.
$300 | campchef.com
The Hitchfire was an outlier in our test. Not only is it arguably not actually a stove, but it is also equipped with the most unique storage and deployment functions of all the products we reviewed. As the name suggests, the Hitchfire rides on a swingarm in a standard 2-inch receiver hitch on the back of your rig. It operates more like a traditional backyard BBQ than a camp stove, featuring grates mounted over long, tented burners rated at 10,000 Btu/hour each. While an optional fold-out side burner ($55) is available for items that need frying or boiling, its primary raison d’être is grilling.
The hitch-mounting system deploys smoothly and sets the grill at the perfect height for long cooking sessions (as long as your vehicle’s lift isn’t too extreme). You can easily disconnect the F-20 from the swingarm to set it on a camp or picnic table. The entire system weighs in at 80 pounds, and if you want to add the side burner, you’ll also need to carry a separate fuel source, as it only accepts the 1-pound green propane bottles. This setup is not Rubicon Trail-ready—the hitch mount protrudes nearly 14 inches from the bumper, wrecking whatever departure angle you may have. Still, for gentler terrain and tailgating, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better solution for grilling for a crowd on the go.
$650 | hitchfire.com
Partner Steel Cook Partner 3-Burner Stove — EDITOR’S CHOICE
There are some products, when you pull them from the box, that just feel different. The Partner Steel Cook Partner stove is one such example. Its 23-pound heft and square-jawed dimensions give it real gravitas in the camp kitchen. The carrying case is emblazoned with the classic steel logo (the same one found on the helmets of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers), so when you pop the lid on the Partner, everyone knows you’re ready for business. Despite its undeniable presence, the Partner Steel stove was the most compact product in the large stove category and the only one in the entire test with three burners.
There are small details you don’t notice immediately but stand out the more you use the stove—the low-profile tensioned hasps that secure the lid are a joy to use, and the control knobs hide in recesses whose edges are dimpled just so to accommodate your thumb and finger without scraping your knuckles. This no-frill stove is relatively expensive, considering it lacks basic features like automatic ignition, and the flame control lagged behind some of the others, making the egg test a bit of a challenge. The Cook Partner did receive top marks in the scrubbing test; however, as the cooking grate is integrated with the burners, so when it’s removed, the entire stove body is empty, making cleanup a snap. Built to order in Pocatello, Idaho, the Cook Partner looks and feels like it belongs in a professional kitchen.
$535 | partnersteel.com
Blast from the Past: 1970 Svea 123 Camp Stove
When I explained to my neighbor Joseph why nearly a dozen stoves were littered around my yard during testing for this gear review, he disappeared into his garage and returned with a Svea 123 camp stove from 1970. It hadn’t seen the light of day for over two decades and was still full of gas. Over 50 years ago, there was not the huge variety of stoves on the market for explorers as there is today. If you wanted to cook in the backcountry without building a fire, this little liquid fuel stove was it.
Costing $8 in 1970, the Svea only summons about 4,000 Btu/hour, but this was the technology that Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hilary used on the first successful climb of Mount Everest, so it deserved a crack at our tests. Starting the Svea is strangely intimate. You warm the brass canister with your hands until it displaces fuel into a small cup at the base of the burner. Placing the stove into the aluminum wind shield and opening the key-like valve, you light the puddle of white gas with a match. Let the leaping (and a little disconcerting) orange flame preheat the burner until it gets hot enough to begin drawing fuel for itself, and you’re off and running. Burning 20-year-old camping gas, it boiled 1 liter of water in a valiant 11 minutes and started on the fourth match in our wind test.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Overland Journal’s Gear 2024 Issue.
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