I am one of those people that get the hangries. Ever since I was little, food has always been a priority in my day-to-day life. I am by no means a picky eater, but if you mention having s’mores at the campsite, then you better have s’mores at the campsite. Needless to say, I have put a fair amount of thought into backpacking and camping meals, and the stoves required to cook these meals. Here is a simple breakdown of the pro’s and con’s of various camp stoves.
Campfire: The free stove
A campfire is the obvious camp stove for every first time camper. It is free, easy, and you don’t have to pack any extra gear. That being said, unless you are planning to roast wieners or marshmallows, I don’t suggest cooking in the fire. I’ve had my fair share of campfire meals, and it takes a surprisingly long time to cook the food, which is a problem because, as I previously mentioned, I get the hangries. The center of a fire can reach temperatures suitable for cooking food, but that requires getting your food into the center of the fire without burning yourself and without getting coals into your cuisine.
Natural Fuel Stove: Campfire meets Stove
Kelly Kettles provide a way to boil water and cook food without needing to carry any fuel. It’s the most natural option besides cooking on the campfire. The kettle has a small, circular base where you can start a fire with kindling. The fire feeds up a chimney and the flames heat the surrounding water. It is a mesmerizing process. However, there are a few downsides to Kelly Kettle. First of all, it is bulky and oddly shaped. This isn’t a big deal for car or canoe camping, but if you are backpacking, then you will find that it takes up a lot of precious space. You also need to continually stoke the stove with kindling because the area that holds the fire is small.
Dutch Oven: The Key to a Delicious Meal
Every meal I have eaten from a dutch oven has rocked my taste buds. There is something about the way a dutch oven harnesses the flavors while slowly cooking a meal that leads to deliciousness. In fact – I made an apple pie for our family and my mother-in-law said it was the best apple pie she had ever eaten. Dutch ovens are made of cast iron which evenly cooks food but this adds significant weight. Consequently, Dutch oven meals are ideal for car and canoe camping, or just cooking in the backyard, when you have plenty of time to spare. We have an eight-quart Lodge dutch oven that is the perfect size for all our meals.
Two-Burner Camp Stove: The Family Stove
This stove brings back memories. It was used at summer camps and family reunions, college camping trips and summer lake days. There are many companies that design two-burner stoves. Coleman, Camp Chef, and Stansport are some of the better known brands. They usually pack down to about 1 ft by 2 ft, weigh 5 to 10 lbs, and cost around $50. Two-burner camp stoves make it easy to cook larger meals for the whole family. The stoves give you the option to cook in pots and pans or directly on the grill grates for burgers and hotdogs all while providing consistent heat and using cleaner burning fuel. A perfect stove for picnics and longer car camping trips.
Backpacker’s All-Purpose Stove: Lightweight and Easy
I may have a slight bias because the MSR Pocket Rocket is the first camping stove I bought, but I think it is the perfect backpacking stove. It is lightweight, small, and easy to use. The Pocket Rocket screws onto the top of the propane can and has three prongs that extend out to hold the pot or pan. The stove can cook at a range of temperatures from a low simmer to high boil, and can boil water within a few minutes. Best of all, you can buy the MSR Pocket Rocket for around $40. The only downfall to the stove is that you are required to use MSR propane canisters.
Backpacker’s Instant Hot Water Stove: Even Simpler
The name says it all: a Jetboil boils water fast. The Jetboil product line has a range of products and styles based on how much money you are willing to spend. The Zip and Flash are the most basic models with boiling times of 2.5 minutes and 2 minutes, respectively. Jetboils are ideal if you eat dehydrated meals or if you need your coffee/tea fix in the morning. Similar to the MSR, the Jetboil is lightweight and easy to use. It does not pack down to quite as small of a size, but you also to not need to pack any pots. The Jetboil is specifically designed to only be compatible with Jetboil fuel canisters and pot. The base camp set up looks pretty awesome of you have money to spend.
Above all, the best advice I can give is to pack good food. Boiling water is useless if it isn’t mixed into something yummy and a dutch oven doesn’t make a meal out of peanuts. Remember, just because you are roughin’ it doesn’t mean you need to eat like it.