Are you looking to but the very best camping stove for you and your family, but you’re not quite sure how to pick the right one?
In today’s article, I have for you a full list of features that you need to look at and have in mind when deciding how to choose a camping stove that fits your style.
Or you can head straight to our previous article where we recommend the best camping stoves out there and choose our favorite. It’s easier that way!
But if you still want to know what makes for a great camping stove and how to pick one, make sure to always consider the things mentioned below!
1. Decide on the BTUs you need
The BTU, or British Thermal Units, is extremely important when you’re looking at a camp stove.
This rating tells you the amount of energy (and therefore time) it takes to heat one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
So if your camp stove has a BTU of 20,000 it will heat water (or anything else) slower than one with a BTU of 30,000.
You want to make sure that the one you choose has enough power to cook the things you want as quickly as possible. Lower BTU is still going to get the cooking done, after all, but it’s going to take longer.
Also, if you plan to prepare larger pots or quantities of food, a higher number is better as it handles larger quantities with more ease.
All in all, opt for a BTU of at least 10,000 – although 20,000 is considered ideal and 30,000 is better for larger families or more burners.
2. Choose the right number of burners
Think about who is going with you on your trip. Remember that the first trip you’re taking with your stove may not be the same as the rest.
So try to think about what the average is going to be. Are you normally going to have three people with you? Five? Seven?
The number of burners on your stove will depend on the number of people you expect to be cooking for.
If it’s just going to be you or you and one person, then one burner will most likely be enough. If you have seven or more, however, you might want to get three burners.
Usually, choosing a two-burner camping stove is considered the safest route if you can’t really estimate the number of people that will be traveling with you.
3. Wind Performance
In open areas, a strong wind may whip away the heat before it ever gets to your pot, which will certainly make your stove less efficient.
Some kind of stoves like integrated canister stoves have better performance in windy conditions, while stoves like solid fuel stoves or wood stoves are not suitable for that condition.
To avoid such inconvenience you should use a windscreen while using your stoves in nature. Generally, it is best to have a stove with a windscreen instead of one without – but the former has extra components to carry around.
4. Type of Fuel
The type of fuel needed to run the unit is important as well. For example, propane tanks are easy to get ahold of, easy to refill (because you just buy a refill), large in size and there’s very little waste.
Plus they can be hooked up quickly and easily, and save you money on that refill cost too. On top of all that, they burn cleaner and there’s less work involved in getting it started.
With all of that, you may be wondering why you’d consider anything else, but there’s a very good reason.
Liquid fuel works better in cold areas and it continues to work exactly the same from the moment the can is open until it runs its last drop.
Propane can slow down and stop working as efficiently when it starts running low. Unfortunately, liquid fuel is messy to refill (you have to do it yourself) and it’s actually quite costly as well.
Finally, you have the option to get a wood-burning stove, but these are for the more hardcore hikers and survivalists. They are messy and difficult to set up for the casual user, but have the advantage of allowing you to spend very little – if anything at all – on fuel since you’ll use wood around you.
But for most people who want to have a fire ready instantly and start cooking, a wood burning camping stove is the least ideal option.
5. Choose the right size
If you’re going to be camping for extended periods of time or if you’re going to move around a lot, you want to make sure the weight of your unit isn’t going to be too much.
You need the ability to carry and store it easily and not have to worry about where you’re going to use it either.
That means you need to consider not just what you can carry or where you can put it away, but also where you can set it up.
If you don’t have a lot of surface space (like a table or counter) you may want a stove with legs to stand on its own.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a lot of extra space you might want one that will easily fit on your table.
So spend some time thinking about your travel style and choose the stove appropriately.
6. What Add-Ons Do You Need?
Just like the grill you probably have for home, there are plenty of add-ons that you can get for a camping stove.
These could range from grill plates to griddles and a whole lot more. Some options actually come with some of these features included in the box and it’s always good to have as many options available instead of being out there and finding out that you needed a feature and it’s not there.
For example, there are camping stoves that offer both burners and a grill. There are also many that you can add a grill surface to so you get that experience of grilling outdoors but on a stove that’s also easy to cook regular meals on.
Make sure you consider several different options if you’re looking at an add-on grilling surface and also that you pick something that will easily fit on the grill you choose – not everything is transferable.
7. Stability is essential
If you don’t want to knock a cooked dinner onto the ground, you should carefully choose your next camping stove and pay close attention to its stability.
Stoves that have a large and wide base that will rest firmly on the ground are the best option if you like to cook a large meal for a bigger group of people.
We don’t say that canister stoves are a bad choice, although we suggest cooking with care because they tend to be a little less stable. And very dangerous accidents can happen if the stove is knocked down, so it’s always best to be safe!
Though it shouldn’t be the number one deciding factor for which stove you choose, the price is definitely going to be important.
You want to make sure that you consider what your price range is before you even get started looking at different stoves.
For example, come up with a price range that you’re comfortable with, like under $100. Then you can focus your search on camping stoves that fit your budget.
You’ll be able to find some that fit any criteria within any budget you have so don’t be too concerned about having a high budget in order to get what you want. Actually, we’ve seen some great cheaper stoves that offer a lot for the money and are better than more expensive ones out there.
One such example is the Camp Chef Everest burner stove (affiliate link) that’s one of my personal favorites. Check it out!
The more specific you are and the pickier you are on different features the higher your budget may have to be, but if you’re just looking for a quality camping stove that will feed your entire family and friends you won’t have a problem even with a small budget.
The key is just making sure you know what you want before you start looking, so you don’t fall in love with something you definitely can’t afford.
These are the most important things you should look at when deciding what your next camping stove should be. You do have to consider quite a few things, as you see on our list above – but it’s something that you should only do once.
And trust me, it’s better to lose a bit of time with the research instead of getting a camping stove that is not the right fit for you or of poor quality.
Finally, you should also think about the tools that you’re going to use for your cooking as well.
If you’re going camping and you get an actual camping stove you are likely going to have no problem putting all of your normal kitchen tools, like pots and pans, on it.
If you get a smaller stove, however, you may need to purchase special tools that will fit on the smaller surface.
And this would be all now. And remember, if you’re looking for a smaller, single person stove, I am strongly recommending the Solo Stove & Pot 900 – check the review to find more about it.
Daniel is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.