I have long been an advocate of “keep it simple, stupid” when it comes to campground food. But to keep it hot-dogs-and-smores simple, you need a fire.
This year’s drought in Colorado resulted in statewide fire bans, and we had a camping trip planned for early August. We kept hoping the bans would get lifted but were left scrambling when a week before our camping trip, we couldn’t have a fire and didn’t have any other way of cooking food. Driving into town was an option, along with subsisting off PopTarts, but we wanted to have hot food.
My husband dove headfirst into Internet Research to find a camp stove that was affordable, but not crappy. We quickly settled on the Coleman one-burner butane camp stove, found here at REI or here on Amazon.
We bought it at REI because even Prime shipping wouldn’t it get it to us fast enough – we picked up the stove at the Fort Collins REI that was on the way to our campground. At $29, the price was right, and we hoped we wouldn’t regret this spur-of-the-moment decision to become camping cooks.
Spoiler alert: we didn’t. I’m an official convert.
Camp stoves cook food way more quickly and open you up to a ton of eating options beyond hot dogs. Butane (or propane, but this stove takes butane) is easy to find and affordable. We saved a ton of money by cooking most of our meals at camp instead of going into town to a restaurant every night…and we didn’t have to eat hot dogs non-stop to do it!
Because this camp stove is lightweight and inexpensive, I was worried there would be a catch (aka it would turn out to be a piece of crap). The Coleman brand bolstered our confidence, and we really didn’t want to spend a ton of money, so we pulled the trigger on it. Now that I’ve put it to the test of six days of camping (not all at once, I’m not insane), I can report back that it’s a high-quality, lightweight, game changer of a stove.
Coleman puts the stove in a really convenient hard plastic case with a handle, which makes it easy to pack and carry around. Because it’s so light, you don’t feel like you’re hauling a massive stove around. And it seems fairly hardy. I’ve dropped it a few times (this is just who I am as a person) and it doesn’t even have a ding on it.
The camp stove is pretty idiot-proof to begin with and also comes with easy-to-follow instructions. Butane is sold separately, and that was honestly the trickiest part of getting the stove to work. You have to make sure to line up the notch on the nozzle of the can of butane with the loading area for it in the stove or the stove won’t light. It’s for safety reasons I think but was initially easy to miss. All of this information is in the instructions, so don’t worry!
The stove lights instantly and cooks quickly. Water boils in about the same time it does on a real stove, and a can of Spaghettios is piping hot in about a minute. I’ve made corn fritters and pancakes on it, too, and they cooked just the same as they would at home. We’ve made at least ten meals on it by now and we’re still on our first can of butane, so it seems pretty fuel-efficient as well.
I’ve only used the stove to cook for two people at a time, so one burner was totally sufficient for us. If you have a bigger family or are trying to make multiple things at once, you may need to upgrade to a larger model (or buy multiple of these).
Light-weight, powerful, and easy-to-use, the Coleman one burner butane camp stove has totally changed my outlook on camping. Eating terrible junk food is fun for a few days, but ultimately gets pretty tiring if you have no way to make something better. Waiting forever for water to boil on a campfire when you just want your morning coffee will be a thing of the past.
Invest $30 in a camp stove to broaden your options for yummier meals without sacrificing your desire for simplicity.