The BEST Piece of Camping Gear We Bought in 2020

It’s probably an understatement to say that 2020 was quite a challenging year, wouldn’t you agree? But I’d be a liar if I said it was all bad because there were a few positive things that happened in our lives. We bought our first house, we’re both healthy along with our friends and families, there were new babies and engagements (not us!) and despite COVID raging across the world we were still able to sneak away for a few camping trips. Not to mention we purchased our favorite piece of camping gear (the little wins matter too)! We hope that when you reflect on this past year of uncertainty and insanity you too can think of a few bright spots throughout 2020, the year that “must not be named.”

We weren’t taking as many camping trips as usual in 2020 so we also weren’t buying much gear. Of the few things we did purchase there’s one gem that sticks out and was by far the BEST $35 I spent on camping equipment: a Coleman portable tabletop butane stove. Honestly it’s probably one of my favorite pieces of camping gear that I’ve ever bought. We’ve been camping for most of our lives and have cooked on all sorts of propane grills, with charcoal, and over campfires. We really love and prefer campfire cooking — it feels so primitive — but you can’t always rely on being able to start a fire. It could be too windy or damp to get a fire started, or as we’ve learned the hard way there might be a fire ban where you’re camping. If you’ve read any of our blogs you’ll know that we always preach to prepare and do research, so make sure to check online or call the campground or local Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office to see if there are fire bans in effect, before you go heading off with all your firewood in tow, food and no backup plan. Pretty sure we ended up eating our lunch for dinner, i.e., turkey sandwiches.

We’ve actually had our eyes on these little butane camp stoves for awhile now. Our good friends have one which we’ve used camping many of times and always noticed how efficient it seemed and appeared easy to use. I’ve owned a few different propane grills including a three-in-one burner/griddle/grill, which sounds pretty convenient but I always found these grills to be awkwardly shaped, a little heavy, and would end up collecting tons of grease. It also seemed to burn through those little cans of propane rather quickly, which felt wasteful. Typically we travel by car and camp in a tent so saving space is crucial, and these bulky, heavier grills just weren’t cutting the mustard.

Why we love our butane camp stove

Initially we were worried that we’d miss having the grill, but you can do pretty much all the same cooking with the one-burner camp stove. It’s especially handy for car camping because it’s extremely light and compact and comes in it’s own carrying case that you can squeeze virtually anywhere in a packed vehicle. I was stressed that I was going to blow myself up but fortunately the little butane stove is super easy to use. You basically lock an 8.8 ounce can of butane into the side, hit the ignition button and voila, you’re cooking with gas! The flame is very easy to adjust with the knob and we found that the stove heats up quickly and evenly. Even on a few windy nights of camp cooking the flame stayed lit. The burner supports up to a ten inch pan or pot. For a small stove that weighs just under five pounds this thing packs a big punch for only $35 — you can check it out on Amazon.

The butane cans themselves are also pretty small and light, and in our experience last longer than the small propane canisters. Our Coleman butane stove cooks with 7,650 BTUs of power for up to 75 minutes — I think we were able to cook five separate meals with one can! However there are some minor downsides of butane, one being that it’s not as readily available and easy to find as propane. Of course you can buy cans of butane on Amazon, and will certainly save money buying them in bulk. You can also find them in camping and outdoor stores, as well as Walmart, Target and large grocers like Fred Meyer, however there’s a good chance they won’t be as available outside of camping season (summer). In October I was struggling to find them at these stores and didn’t have enough time to order from Amazon before our trip. After doing some online research of local stores I was able to locate the butane cans at Smart Foodservice (formerly Cash & Carry), a warehouse store that carries restaurant supplies. And they were cheap — we scored a package of four cans for $7.70!

There are all sorts of options to suit your needs and budget when it comes to camp stoves and grills. If you’re cooking multiple items or for many people it could get a bit tricky with the one burner, but if you time everything right you can make it work. For us, this camp stove was perfect and we have no complaints. I’ve seen the same type of butane camp stove for as low as $20, but I just couldn’t resist the vibrant blue one sold by Coleman. At $35 it was worth it to me, even if I probably paid $15 more for blue paint! I’ve always found Coleman brand gear to be good quality for the price so I felt confident spending a little extra money. If you have a camp stove or grill that you really like please tell us about it in the comments, and if you have any questions about the portable Coleman tabletop butane stove feel free to reach out.

Butane vs. Propane

Not until I started writing this blog post did I wonder what the difference is between propane and butane, so if you were wondering the same thing I just saved you a search! Propane has a lower boiling point at -42℃ (-43.6℉), whereas butane is higher at -2℃ (28.4℉). The downside of butane compared to propane is that it doesn’t work as well in cold temperatures; if it’s lower than it’s freezing point the gas will stay in liquid form and won’t be able to produce a flame. This is significant to consider if you camp in colder temperatures. We typically do not camp when it’s that cold outside, but it’s not unheard of to get that chilly overnight up in the mountains, even in the summer. According to the butanesource.com blog, a container of butane often has a higher volume than the same size container of propane, and it provides more energy than propane when the same volumes are burned above freezing — this explains why it felt like our butane cans were lasting longer, they actually WERE! #science

Thank you for reading and happy cooking!

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