There are plenty of options to choose from in the market – with different materials and features with each having their own set of pros and cons. Ultimately, it all boils down to choosing the type of stove and camping cookware that will work with your personal needs in the outdoors.
Here are the different types of camping stoves:
A favorite among many hikers and backpackers because it’s compact, lightweight and easy to use. It’s quick to boil water and the flame is easy to adjust, perfect for your morning coffee or some soup-making at camp. There are plenty of cheap options to choose from and depending on the brand of your stove, replacement cartridges are typically available just about anywhere.
However, the fuel cost of canister stoves are higher than that of liquid-fuel stoves. This type is also not compatible with windscreens which means that if it overheats, there is the risk that it might explode. Canister stoves are not ideal for cold weather trips, because unless the model has built-in pressure regulators, it can freeze in the cold!
Although heavier than the canister variety, this type is also compact and has a more stable design. It can run on more (and less expensive) fuel options, which means they are good for travelling. Liquid fuel vessels are also refillable, making this type of stove an eco-friendly choice. Unlike canister stoves, it’s easy to tell how much more fuel you have left. They also perform better in cold weather and at high elevations.
Liquid-fuel stoves are more expensive and require more maintenance. Flame is not as easy to control and it takes longer to boil water. If you go for this type, be sure to safely pack the flammable fuel inside your pack to avoid spills.
Note: There is an existing “upgraded model” for liquid fuel stoves called pressurized liquid multi-fuel stoves – you can control the flame and boils water very quickly. They are not very compact, though, not as easy to use and require more maintenance.
When it comes to fuel options, the best one to use is white gas. Although pricier than other types of fuel, white gas is clean-burning, won’t make unpleasant smells and won’t clog your stove. Depending on the model, some stoves will run on alcohol, diesel, gasoline or kerosene.
Solid Fuel Stoves
If you have to pack really light, this is an option for you. They are the most lightweight among all types and probably the easiest to use. All you have to do is light the fuel tab and you’re good to go. They’re very inexpensive, too!
However, like liquid fuel stoves, there is no way to control the flame and it takes longer to boil water. Each tablet will burn for 10 minutes, and since the fire can easily be extinguished by the wind, it will usually take multiple tablets to boil water. The tablets are typically very cheap, but be sure to bring a lot of stock for your trip.
Another downside of solid fuel stoves is that they leave a sticky black residue on pots and pans. To avoid this, coat the bottom of your pots and pans with soap before cooking so you can easily wipe the residue afterwards.
Alternative Fuel Stoves
The latest and “coolest” addition to camping stoves is the alternative fuel type. These are typically compact and lightweight. Powered by small pieces of wood, the stove converts the energy to charge gadgets.
Since it runs on wood, alternative fuel stoves may be hard to use in wet conditions and may be prohibited at high elevations or areas with burn bans.
When it comes to camping cookware, here are some of the important things to consider:
Usage – You can choose to purchase cookware per piece or go for a complete cookset, depending on your needs. Will you be using cookware to cook only for you, for two or for a group of people? Do you do a lot of hiking or backpacking or do you usually camp with your car nearby?
If you choose to buy per piece, you will be able to customize and add versatility to your set specifically for your needs. This may not be ideal if you’re packing light though, unlike existing cooksets that are made to pack light and to nest together.
Material – Camping cookware come in a variety of materials, each of which has their own set of pros and cons. Understanding each material will help you determine what will work best for you as a camper.
- Aluminum – Aluminum conducts heat well and is known for its fast cooking time. It’s great for simmering food. More importantly, it’s lightweight and inexpensive. But because of its lightweight material, it is prone to dents and scratches. Aluminum also reacts to alkaline and acidic foods which may affect the food’s flavour. In turn, aluminum material breaks down slowly because of the exposure.There is a more expensive yet more durable type of aluminum cookware called the hard anodized aluminum. It’s not only a popular choice for camping usage, but it’s a favorite in home-based cooking as well. Most hard-anodized cookware are coated with a non-stick finish which makes it easy to clean and resistant to abrasions. It’s great for cooking real meals using fresh ingredients as it distributes heat evenly.
- Titanium – The lightest cookware material there is, making it an ideal choice for backpackers and thru-hikers. Stronger than raw aluminum, titanium material is thin but durable and highly corrosion-resistant. It’s thinness allows it to transfer heat quickly (boils water very quickly) but doesn’t disperse it evenly, creating hotspots.
- Stainless Steel – Stainless steel material has been said to be between aluminum and titanium – it’s not particularly a good heat conductor and is prone to hot spots but on the other hand, is exceptionally durable and is scratch-resistant. This makes it the top choice for backcountry campers who like “roughing it out” or for campers who prepare meals for a larger group. Stainless steel cookware is also particularly heavy, but if weight is not an issue or if you do a lot of car camping, this might be a suitable choice.
- Cast Iron – Many campers swear to cast iron skillet as the best piece of camping cookware there is. Although very heavy (not ideal for backpacking), it’s the most durable among all types. Not only that - it cooks evenly, great for baking and cooking (at home or at camp) and has a naturally non-stick surface. The only downside is that it requires maintenance, you would have to re-season it regularly to retain its non-stick surface.
The type of kitchen gear you should choose should jive with your camping lifestyle. Good luck and have fun cooking outdoors!
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