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We (wife, 5 year old and me) are planning to go camping next summer (UK). It will be car camping - i.e. drive, set up tent and, knowing the UK, sit in the tent as it rains.

I'm looking at equipment and I would like to know what the advantages and disadvantages are of the various camp stoves that are available.

I'm used to this type of burner, used when I was walking and having to carry all my equipment:-

enter image description here

But, as we're not going to be walking with our gear, weight is not an issue.

What are the (dis)advantages of this type, running off a cylinder of butane:-

Campingaz Camp Bistro

Or indeed something like this, running off a regulated large fuel cylinder:-

enter image description here

We'll be camping for a weekend in the first instance, but should be looking to extend to longer trips in the future as we get more confident.

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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

As a keen car camping family with 3 kids, I can definitely recommend your second option - it has sufficient power and capacity to make meals for 5 without taking up too much space. It is light, easy to clean, and the small gas canisters for it are available in a huge number of places.

It is also light enough that if you are having to lift your gear a few hundred metres from the car it won't be a problem, whereas the ones that run off the big canisters get quite heavy quite quickly!

The top option you pictured - the single canister backpacking stove - is fine for camping on your own, but it does suffer when trying to cook for a group.

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Do you find yourself wishing that you had more than a single burner on your stove? –  Nicholas Sep 5 '12 at 10:31
    
No - I had worried about this, but even sitting in the highlands cooking for 5 in a storm the one burner was absolutely fine. –  Rory Alsop Sep 5 '12 at 10:58
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We (and most of the friends we camp with) use one of these.

As others have said, two burners is really useful and although the grill is small, it comes in handy. It's positioned so that it will keep a pan above it warm too.

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If car camping, you should go for the two-burner stove:

  • It will be far more stable than the backpacking stove. This is IMO the most important feature.
  • It will probably have a larger burner (thus more heat output) than the backpacking stove.
  • The two-burner stove will not take up much more space than the single-burner stove, and for car camping you will probably be cooking more complex meals. For example, you might be boiling water for pasta on one burner, and cooking the sauce/protein on the other.

That answers your direct question, but I think that fuel type is also an important consideration. Unfortunately, available fuels differ between the US and UK, and even the names may be different. I'm listing fuels from the US perspective, with a description; I welcome edits from someone who can supplement with the European perspective.

  • White gas, aka Coleman fuel

    A liquid fuel, stored at ambient pressure in unvented cans, that is converted to a gas by the stove. Pros: easy to store; amount available is obvious; seems to last longer per dollar; you can buy "dual fuel" stoves/lanterns that also run on automotive gasoline. Cons: can be messy; lighting the stove can be exciting (moreso for backpacking stoves); "generator tube" can clog, rendering stove useless. Availability (US): outdoor gear stores, most sporting goods stores, Wal-Mart, most hardware stores.

  • Propane

    A gas that is stored as a liquid under pressure. Pros: easy to use; commonly available; you can buy large refillable cylinders; hotter than alternatives. Cons: stored in heavy metal cylinders that can't go in your recycling bin; you learn that you need more when the burner goes out. Availability (US): small one-time-use cylinders sold in hardware stores, sporting goods stores, some super-markets.

  • Butane

    A gas that is stored as a liquid under near-ambient pressure (does not require a pressure vessel). Pros: convenient. Cons: sold in one-time-use canisters; you can't see how much until you're out; doesn't work well in cold weather (allegedly getting better). Availability (US): camping/outdoors stores and some sporting-goods stores.

Personally, I like the white gas stoves because of the availability of fuel. Also, I had a white gas backpacking stove, and didn't want to deal with multiple fuel types when I bought my car camping gear.

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Propane does not work in winter/cold weather, but for three-season you would be fine. –  sdg Sep 3 '12 at 18:06
    
Thanks for the summary of different fuels - that was very helpful! –  Nicholas Sep 5 '12 at 10:22
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@sdg - perhaps you use "propane" for a different substance; the propane to which I refer remains usable in winter. According to Wikipedia, the boiling point is < -40F, and I know many people who use propane for home heating/cooking in climates that regularly drop below 0F. Perhaps if the OP is planning to go car camping in the high arctic it will be an issue. –  kdgregory Sep 5 '12 at 11:37
    
@downvoter - thanks! –  kdgregory Sep 5 '12 at 11:37
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