For camping trips, either solo backpacking trips or family campouts, you need food and you need a way to cook it. There are a lot of different types of camping stoves, and they all have their own fuel options. And since there are so many different models, it can be hard to keep track of how to use each one.
So, how does a camping stove work? The answer, of course, varies depending on the stove–but overall, it requires attaching a specific fuel type, turning on a switch, and letting the stove do its thing. Since each type of stove requires different fuel, there are some nuances to be aware of.
In this article, I will go over the specifics of the most popular stoves, and what it looks like to set up and use each option. Each stove you buy should come with individual directions, but it is helpful to see them side by side, procedures and all, to know what is best for your trip.
Before we get into specifics, the general advice for any stove is: do not use the stove inside your tent and try to always put the stove on a level surface to avoid pots and pans sliding off or any liquid making a mess.
The main stoves I have seen most often camping use propane, gas, biofuel, the sun, or fuel canisters. Each of those stove and fuel options are outlined by procedure below.
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How to Use a Propane Stove
Before you use the stove, be sure to clear the area of any debris, especially any dry and flammable leaves or twigs because you could unintentionally start a fire.
Turn the regulator valve off while you hook up the propane. And as for the propane, check whether your stove has hookups for a screw-in bottle or a hose and clamp. That way, you will know exactly what size of propane to buy and won’t have any problems when already out in nature.
Connect the propane to the stove, and put the propane container in the stand, if there is one provided. Now, you can switch the regulator valve on. You can then light the stove with either a match or by simply pressing the starter button if the stove has one.
After that, the stove should be ready to cook! Just remember to turn the regulator valve off when you are done cooking, and clean up any mess, and then your stove should be ready to be stored for the next use.
How to Use a Gas Stove
First of all, you want to check that you have all the parts to a gas stove, because if you don’t, working the stove could be very dangerous. There should be a list of all the parts included in the packaging, so you will be able to tell right off the bat if you have everything.
Connect the gas to the stove using the gas line. When you hear gas line click, you have twisted hard enough. The gas should be set to “off” until you are fully ready to cook, because you still need to check if the gas line is ready to use.
You can check by spraying soapy water onto any gas connector points to see if any bubbles appear. If there are bubbles, you probably should not use the stove. That means there is a leaky connection. If there are no bubbles, dry off the connector and then feel free to move on!
Find the flattest surface possible for the stove, and then separate the arms so there is a place for your pot or pan to sit. You should see either a vertical or horizontal black pump that you should press about fifteen to twenty times (or however many times the specific stove calls for). This will get the liquid that turns into gas flowing.
Open the gas using the controller knob and let about half a teaspoon of liquid out into the catchment area. This liquid will help you start the initial flame. You can now light the gas with a match or lighter. Let this fuel burn almost all the way out.
Using an adjuster that looks kind of like a paperclip, you can change the size of the flame. Don’t turn the flame down too low, or you will have to start over with the pumping process.
If it’s windy, find something to block the wind, and then you are ready to cook! Since you’ve separated the arms on the stove, you should be able to place your pot or pan over the flame and get started.
How to Use a Bio-Powered Stove
There are a lot of different models for this type of stove–most commonly you will see brands like BioLite, but each model will have its own nuances. So, this section will be a bit more general than the others.
You typically will want to attach the power module and the burn chamber to get started. You then fill your stove with little pieces of wood, twigs, dry leaves…whatever is around and ready to burn. Start with smaller pieces, and don’t overfill the burn chamber, to actually get the fire going.
With this type of stove, you have to maintain the fire as you cook, so make sure you have enough fuel (sticks, leaves) nearby. Your stove should provide some fire-starting tinder, so light that using a match or lighter and drop it into the burn chamber. Watch out for wind!
There will usually be a button on the side–press it twice until you hear the jet kick in. Once the flame starts getting higher, you can press the button again and the jet will start working faster as well. You can repeat this as necessary.
You can keep adding wood or twigs now but try not to get the chamber more than three quarters of the way full. Once the fire is burning well, you can place pots, pans, or water canisters on top! Again, some of the smaller details might be different depending on your model, but the filling of the burn chamber should be universal.
How to Use a Solar-Powered Stove
The thing is, you could build your own stove out of tin foil or metal sheets and the reflective power will heat your food. It might take a little bit longer than other methods, but it is easy and effective.
If you choose to get an actual solar-powered stove, however, here are the general directions for using one. Basically, you just let the sun do the work, but lately there are new models that involve tube-like inserts, like the GoSun stove for reference.
So, your solar powered stove will most likely have a tube where you put the uncooked food–meat, vegetables, whatever–and then you slip the tube inside the enclosed stove. The stove refracts the sunlight and can get up to temperatures of 500 degrees.
If you get a really good model, these stoves should work even if it is a little cloudy outside. And as usual, this stove should be placed on the flattest surface possible to get the best access to direct light.
How to Use a Water-Boiling Stove
These stoves are best for anything cooking that involves boiling water, like rehydrating dehydrated food. The most common brand for this kind of stove is Jetboil.
The kit should come with a fuel canister already, so just attach that fuel to the igniter and then put it on the stand on a flat surface. Then you attach the Jetboil (or similar) mug to the fuel and igniter. The mug and igniter should line up and fit together easily.
You can then put water into the Jetboil, but don’t fill past the max fill line! Put the lid on, and then ignite by clicking the button and getting the gas to turn on. The water will start boiling momentarily.
These stoves work really fast and they are light and easy to carry. They are both a camper’s and a hiker’s favorite.
- Don’t forget to turn the stove off when you are done. Sounds simple, but it’s a very common issue!
- Don’t leave the gas attached to the stove when you’re not using it.
- Wait for the stove to cool down before removing the gas cartridge.
- Store fuel types in a dry place.
- Always clean your stove when you are done!
- Keep your stove sheltered from the wind. Not only does it help the fire stay lit, it also helps save on gas!
So, any of the camping stoves you choose are relatively easy to use, and with the stove’s specific directions attached in the packaging, you should be able to work any of them, even with limited experience.
All of these stoves are made for camping, so you should feel confident with any purchase. Just be sure that you are picking the right model for your trip–for instance, Jetboils are best for hiking, and propane stoves are best for campground camping.
In any case, the stoves are ready for you, and now you are ready for them.