A portable grill is often one of the must-haves for campers. Aside from being a necessity to cook food, it also completes the outdoor adventure experience. Its simple design allows almost anyone to use it easily. However, choosing the best portable grill is not an easy task.
Not all small grills are created equal. Different companies and manufacturers often emphasize one feature over the other. One reason is that different campers have different needs and preferences. This way, the customer will get the most out of each portable grill they purchase.
In choosing a small grill, here are the general features you should look for first:
- Easy transport
- Easy to set up and easy to put away
- Made from strong and quality materials
Those features are essentials especially for campers. It’s different from choosing a conventional backyard grill. When camping and traveling, the priorities are easy transport and easy setup. The whole experience is much different and the environment is far from what you do in your backyard.
In addition, the portable grill should be made from strong and quality materials (cast iron, cast aluminum, or stainless steel). It’s a huge inconvenience if it breaks while you’re on the go. The whole camping experience will be ruined because of that.
Aside from the basic features mentioned above, experienced campers also look for other things before purchasing a small grill. This way, they’re sure that the grill will be a reliable companion during their adventures. They know the importance of choosing a quality and reliable portable grill.
That’s why this article will discuss what experienced campers look for before buying a small grill. Furthermore, you’ll also read product reviews about the most popular portable grills out there. Let’s start.
How to Choose A Portable Grill for Your Camping Trip
In this section I’ll talk about the additional features and considerations experienced campers think about. This way, you’ll be able to wisely compare portable grills among one another.
Charcoal, wood, and gas are the most common fuels to start grilling. But which one do you choose and why?
- Charcoal: Many people choose charcoal as the default because it provides the classic barbecue flavor to the food. Aside from that, it just feels more natural to go with charcoal.
However, charcoal won’t be the ideal choice for first-time campers. It can be a challenge to set it all up, and beginners often worry about a dozen things when camping. But for experienced campers, charcoal is all good.
- Gas: Gas grills are often recommended to beginners. It’s easy to set up and get started. Gas grills also provide a consistent stream of heat, which makes it easier to control the cooking of food. Although they are more expensive than the ones running in charcoal, gas grills offer more convenience when outdoors.
- Wood: This is also an option. It gives a prehistoric feel because that’s the way our ancestors did it. But handling wood can be more challenging than charcoal.
- Electricity: Electric grills can be far more convenient to use than charcoal or wood grills. Some have an AC plug, a car adaptor, or both. Apart from convenience, electric grills might also be safer than the ones using gas or wood.
Aside from heat source, another important feature to keep in mind is heat control. Grilling is much different than regular cooking. That’s the case especially with wood and charcoal grills. The heat can greatly fluctuate from one second to the next.
In addition, the heat on the surface can be uneven. However, that doesn’t discourage many campers for going natural. Wood and charcoal provide a unique experience, as well as appealing to those who want to unplug from the modern lifestyle.
On the other hand, many choose gas or electric grills when camping. The amount of heat being given off can be easily controlled. The grilling will then be a much smoother experience and the foods won’t be burnt partially or completely.
This makes gas and electric grills ideal for beginners and families. The amount of heat is predictable and the whole setup can be much easier. You can start cooking within 5 minutes or less without much effort. But for those with lots of experience in grilling, wood and charcoal will provide a genuine experience outdoors.
This is where most of the action happens. That’s why experienced campers often look at the grilling surface first before anything else. As mentioned earlier, the whole grill should be made from strong materials.
Usually, the materials are stainless steel, aluminum, and cast iron. Each one can have its own strengths and weaknesses.
For example, grills made from aluminum are much lighter. Most campers place weight as one of the most important factors when traveling.
They prefer their travel gear and equipment to be lightweight. However, grills made from aluminum often get too hot. This can cause the food to be burnt which eventually spoils the camping experience.
That’s why some choose grills made from cast iron and stainless steel. Compared to the aluminum ones, cast iron and stainless steel don’t heat much easily. They can better withstand the heat. In addition, they are much more durable especially the ones made from commercial grade stainless steel.
Aside from the material of the cooking surface, individual campers and families also consider the grilling area available. How much is the ideal space for grills? The numbers vary. For barbecue parties, families, and large groups, a large area is preferable. This way, lots of foods can be grilled simultaneously. But for camping, the equipment should be portable and small enough for campers to carry it easily.
The diameter or width of the grilling area is most commonly around 18 inches. The total surface area could reach up to 280 square inches, which is usually large enough for most grilling needs.
Storage, cleanup, and transport
Space is a priority whenever we’re venturing outdoors. We always need to take less volume so that we’ll have space for other important items. That’s why the design of the portable grill should be compact. This way, it will take less space that will give way to our other items.
The way we transport it is also important. Many portable grills come with external handles that makes it easy for them to be carried. This way, the whole equipment is secure while we’re carrying it along. Camping destinations can be far from plain and smooth, so it’s important that the portable grill is secure.
What about the cleanup? The cleanup can be a hassle especially during extended camping trips. We don’t want the black residue to stick to our next batch of foods. We also want the grill to be cleaned easily so we can readily use it the next time we need it.
The good news is that many portable grills are easy to clean. There will be no mess and the grill will be ready again in no time. In addition, even with constant use and cleaning, the grill can last for a long time especially if it’s made from sturdy materials.
Before finally deciding to buy a small grill for your upcoming camping trip, consider safety and stability.
Fire and heat are the risks you need to consider when using a grill (no matter what it’s made of or what fuel it uses). It’s also good to consider the stability of the whole equipment. The portable should not easily tip over whenever you place foods on it.
Having a strong handle so we can easily carry the portable grill is also important for safety. It should be attached securely and the whole material should be strong. This way, it won’t fall off when we’re carrying the grill, which can risk your grill becoming damaged or injuring someone.
Best Small Grill Reviews
We’ve already explored what experienced campers look for in choosing a portable grill. Next is we’ll explore some of the popular portable grills available in the market. I’ll discuss their strengths, weaknesses, unique features, and more.
Cook-Air EP-3620BK Wood Fired Portable Grill
Weight: Less than 20 lbs.
Dimensions: 17 x 15 x 15 inches (14 inch cooking grid)
Specifications: Porcelain coated steel, unique blower system that creates a turbo effect, uses hard dry wood as combustible
Description: Die-hard fans of fire-cooked foods love the Cook-Air EP-3620BK Wood Fired Portable Grill. It uses hard dry wood as combustible, which provides a true camping experience. In addition, it can reach 1,100 degrees within 5 minutes because of its unique blower system.
It’s already pre-assembled (just attach the handle) so you won’t have to worry about the setup. It’s a combination of both traditional and modern grilling technologies. Hard dry wood is the combustible and you can connect the grill to an AC power source or 12v car adaptor.
Because of the fast heating and large amounts of heat being generated, the cooking might be hard to control. The grill cooks the food fast so keep an eye on what you’re grilling. But some campers prefer that because it means grilling is much faster.
Weber Liquid Propane Grill
Weight: 42 lbs
Dimensions: 25.1 x 51.4 x 26 inches (280 square inch total cooking area)
Specifications: Porcelain-enameled cast iron cooking grates, infinite control burner valve and easy start electronic ignition, cast aluminum lid and body
Description: This Weber Liquid Propane Grill is an updated version of an older model (which is already popular). The grip handle and control knobs were made larger and with added ergonomic handles.
In other words, the designers and manufacturers focused more on the aesthetics of the product.
In the first place, the functional features are excellent. It uses propane as fuel for clean cooking. You can also easily begin grilling because of its easy-start electronic ignition system. It’s similar to cooking at home. If you prefer an easy-to-use and no-frills grill, this is for you.
The overall design is compact. Yet, there’s an available 280 square inch cooking area. This is perfect for small groups (4-6 people) wherein each one can have their food ready in each grilling batch. After grilling and eating, the cooking grates will be easy to clean because the cast iron is porcelain enameled.
Weber Jumbo Joe 18-Inch Portable Grill
Weight: 17.9 lbs
Dimensions: 19.75 x 20.5 x 19.75 inches (18.5-inch diameter plated steel cooking grate)
Specifications: One glass-reinforced nylon handle, extra large but still very portable
Description: From its name, the Weber Jumbo Joe 18-inch Portable Grill is a bit large, but the whole equipment is still portable for most camping needs.
It has a simple design, which makes it suitable for minimalist campers. This is also perfect for those who prioritize safety and stability. Its glass-reinforced nylon handle makes the grill more secure to hold while on the road.
The parts are rust-resistant (dampers are made from aluminum). The whole portable feels sturdy and you feel like you’re going to use it for many years ahead.
This charcoal grill requires assembly (but don’t worry, it’s easy). If you prioritize stability and simplicity, this is suitable for you and your family.
Napoleon Portable Propane Grill
Weight: 30 lbs
Dimensions: 22.8 x 19.2 x 14 inches (285 square inch total cooking area)
Specifications: Ultra compact design, Dual stainless steel burners for direct or indirect grilling
Description: You can carry the Napoleon Portable Propane Grill like a bag. When you first see it, you’ll think it’s like a brief case. It looks very compact because of the design, but the cooking area is large enough to accommodate up to 18 hamburgers in one batch.
After cooking all this food (or while traveling outdoors), you can securely put away the whole grill. The handles have a lock that you can use for transport and storage.
You can also easily monitor and control the heat through the addition of a temperature gauge. It also helps in precisely controlling the amount of heat being given off.
With all those features (propane fuel, temperature gauge, compact and cool design, and easy transport), it is definitely recommended for beginners who are out on their first camping trip. It’s highly recommended for camping and even backyard barbecue parties.
Cobb Grills™ Premier Grill
Weight: 8.8 lbs
Dimensions: 13 x 13 x 11 inches
Specifications: Can also roast, bake, smoke, and fry. Safe cool-to-touch base. Uses only 8-10 charcoal briquettes for a minimum 2 hours of cooking
Description: The COBB Premier uses charcoal as combustible. It sounds traditional but wait for its other features: grilling, frying, smoking, roasting, and baking (you can even bake a pizza with this). It also looks and feels quite solid, so you won’t have to worry about it falling apart after your first trip.
It’s made from basic materials and only has basic parts. There are not much extra features unlike the portable grills mentioned above. But that’s also a good thing because fewer parts mean less risk for malfunction. In every camping trip, you can be sure that the grill will work perfectly.
Son of Hibachi Combo
Weight: 17.1 lbs
Dimensions: 14 x 14 x 14 inches (170 square inches of cooking surface)
Specifications: Non-stick cooking surface, folding legs, unique chimney effect which allows cooking to be finished in 10 minutes
Description: Its cast iron cooking surface has a relatively smaller area compared to many portable grills out there. The features are pretty basic at first glance.
However, this Son of Hibachi Combo is perfect for camping and beach trips. With its simple design and basic features, almost nothing can go wrong while you use it. In addition, you can get the most out of every charcoal piece because of the grill’s unique chimney effect.
Many other charcoal grills can be a hassle to pack up. That’s because the charcoal pieces will take too long to cool before they exhaust all their fuel. But for the Son of Hibachi Combo with Snuff out Pouch and its fire retardant lining, you can pack all the coals even while they’re hot.
Volcano Grills 3-Fuel Portable Camping Stove
Weight: 4 lbs
Dimensions: 12 x 17 x 17 inches
Specifications: Collapses down to 5 inches for convenient portability and storage. Can use propane, charcoal, or wood.
Description: Versatility can be the word that best describes the Volcano Grills 3-Fuel Portable Camping Stove. Your fuel choice might change because of the availability of wood, charcoal, or propane, but this grill has you covered for whatever you choose.
That’s why it’s built for both camping and survival. Its versatility can help you make use of what’s available. In addition, you can easily set it up in seconds and can start grilling in no time. The patented cook chamber and its efficiency also help in getting the most out of the wood or charcoal.
Its robustness is also what made many campers choose this grill. Also, take note of the name “Volcano.” The grill can quickly produce heat up to 19,500 BTUs. This is ideal for people who want their food cooked quickly.
BioLite CampStove Bundle
Weight: 1.87 lbs
Dimensions: 8.03 x 10.87 x 13.46 inches
Specifications: Generates usable electricity for charging LED lights, mobile phones, and other personal devices. With USB FlexLight.
Description: Although it only uses wood, the BioLite CampStove Bundle with CampStove Portable Grill is far from conventional. That’s because it generates electricity (while cooking) so you can charge your mobile phone, LED lights, and other electronic devices.
It also has a free USB FlexLight that you can use while camping and grilling at night. This is helpful but bring additional sources of light just in case. Overall, the electricity generation and the USB FlexLight are helpful when you still want some source of electricity while being far from modern civilization.
The Fun of Grilling During Camping
Grilling completes the experience of every camping adventure. It’s the time when you unplug yourself from the modern world and experience some simplicity. With grilling, the cooking is much simpler and, of course, the meals are fun to consume and share.
Have you invested in any of the grills that we’ve mentioned, or do you have another product you’d like to share that you think should be mentioned in this list? Leave your comments and stories with us below.