Getting ready for camping season? Need to still buy some camping equipment? What kind of camping stove do you have or need? What type of food and how much are you going to prepare? There are several types to choose from, which will suit your need? Are you lost when it comes to camp cooking? Do you just make the same boring meals time after time on camp-outs? Want to learn how to cook better when camping and backpacking? Great! We can help.
A lot of people think camp cooking has to be difficult and boring. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. First of all it is best to cook with a stove compared to a campfire. There are a number of reasons stoves are my primary choice for camp cooking: Stoves leave little or no impact on the land while improper fires can scar the land for decades, stoves are less likely to get out of control, stoves are more convenient. You don’t need to gather kindling and wood. Just turn on the fuel, light it, and you’re ready to go. When you are finished cooking all you have to do is turn the stove off and let it cool. When done cooking with a fire, you must take the time to put the fire out completely and make sure that it is completely out, no hidden embers, stoves are cleaner. You don’t have to worry about ash getting into your food when you’re doing the camp cooking, stoves are easier to cook with. You have more control over the flame and the amount of heat output with a stove, stoves can often be used where fires are not permitted. Always check with local land agencies prior to leaving for your trip. No campfires are enjoyable and I am not saying you shouldn’t have one, just evaluate your location and know how to make a well controlled fire.
Lets talk about the different types of stoves available to campers and backpackers: Canister stoves, liquid fuel stoves, and what we call family camping stoves.
Canister stoves run on canisters filled with propane, butane, or a butane-propane mix. They are a great choice for backpackers because they are quite small and very lightweight. On top of that, canister stoves are so easy to use. All you have to do is attach the stove to the canister, turn the gas on, and then light it. There is no need to prime them, and they require almost no maintenance.
If you want to make these stoves even easier to operate you can often purchase an automatic ignition device to attach to the stoves. Then all you have to do is turn the fuel on, press the button, and you’ve got a roaring flame.
There are some negatives with canister stoves. First of all, their performance in extremely cold environments is not as good as liquid fuel stoves. If you are going on an expedition where you will see very cold weather, you may want to do your camp cooking on a liquid fuel stove instead of a canister stove. One other draw back is the fact that most models have canisters that cannot be recycled.
Some models, however, use canisters that can be recycled. When the canisters are empty you can almost completely collapse them, which saves a lot of space in your pack. Then the crushed fuel canisters can be recycled after your trip.
Liquid Fuel stoves are also a good choice for backpackers. They are heavier and a little more bulky than canister stoves, but they are still small enough for backpackers. Liquid fuel stoves are often called “white gas stoves” because most models work best when using white gas or called Coleman fuel, but some models burn a variety of fuels. They are relatively easy to use, and they work very well in all conditions.
Even though most liquid fuel stoves are more powerful and provide great heat output than canister stoves, they are not as convenient. Most models require pumping and priming. One other negative to these stoves is that they are often more expensive than their canister counterparts.
Family camping stoves are much too large and heavy for backpackers. They are ideal for people that go car-camping by driving to a secluded spot or to a designated campground and unloading all of their gear from the car or truck. Family campers have more room and they don’t have to worry about how much the stove weighs since they don’t have to carry it on their backs. Family Camping Stoves are great for camp cooking because they offer high heat output and a large cooking area. You can have two or three things cooking at once, depending on which model you choose. Once you decide on what kind of fuel you want to use, you will then need to decide how many burners you want. There are two-burner and three-burner models, and there is even a grill-stove combination. These stoves offer great flame control, too. You can simmer on one burner while you are boiling on another one. Or if you choose the grill-stove model, then you can grill some hotdogs while you boil the noodles for the macaroni and cheese. With family camping stoves you have a lot more options. If you are a car camper / family camper that has a lot of people to cook for or you need to make more than one dish at a time, then these stoves are for you.
Now you will need pots and pans to do your camp cooking. There’s a lot of cookware to choose from, so maybe this will help.
Probably the most used materials for cookware among campers and backpackers is stainless steel and aluminum. Stainless steel is extremely durable, fairly lightweight, fairly cheap, and conducts heat well. Aluminum is quite a bit lighter, conducts heat very well, but it isn’t as strong as stainless steel. That is until recently. There is a new form of aluminum that is just as strong as stainless steel, yet it is lighter, conducts heat better, and is easier to clean. It is more expensive and if it is not in your budget than stainless steel works great.
How many people will you be cooking for and what type of meals will you be preparing? If you have 3 or 4 people to cook for then a 5 piece Cook Set will get the job done. If larger groups then you will need to plan accordingly and get a bigger set and also look at what your stove can handle. You can purchase camping cook sets for camping and hiking. A lot of the cookware can also double as something else for cooking, like the lids used as fry pans. The stainless steel fry pan / lids work pretty well, but foods tend to stick and burn if you are not careful. The anodized aluminum fry pan / lids work even better and they are a cinch to clean.
If you purchase a cook set that does not have built in handles, then make sure they come with pot grabbers. A pot grabber is a small tool that allows you to grab the pots without burning your hand. This is an item that is easily misplaced, so be careful. Dutch ovens are simply wonderful for camp cooking. They are usually made of cast iron, but they can also be made out of aluminum.
And lastly, you need something to eat with. Utensils. You will obviously need some sort of bowl. You can use a Tupperware-type bowl with a lid. It’s durable, lightweight, easily cleaned, and you can use it for storage when not eating out of it. They also come in a ton of different shapes and sizes to suit your needs.
You will also need something to eat with. If you are family camping, you will probably take a whole set of cutlery and tableware since you have room in the car or camper. Backpackers, on the other hand, need only a spoon. We can’t really think of any food that requires a fork instead of a spoon. If you don’t like that idea then try using a spoon and fork combo. Lexan is also a great material for utensils. It is lightweight and durable yet it is nearly impossible to melt. And you can always use the stainless steel variety, but they are a little bit heavier.
A knife is also needed. There are thousands of uses for a knife in addition to using it for camp cooking. If you want even more use out of your knife, then we suggest looking into getting a Multi-Tool.
Of course plates to eat off of. Paper plates are great and no clean up, plastic ones are also great and lightweight. Just remember you have to clean it, so if that isn’t on your agenda then go with paper disposable. Just remember to put trash where it belongs. An then cups. Again plastic, styrofoam is too hard on the environment. Finally, you will need some odds and ends to do some serious camp cooking. For example, you may want to take a spatula, or serving spoons, or anything else that depends on your menu.
Hopefully this helps you in planning what type of cook stove, pots & pans, and utensils you will need to consider before going camping this year.