Camping stoves and fires

Not having every comfort of home is part of the camping experience as you test your hardiness while enjoying the outdoors.

a kettle needs heat to boil

And it is a very pleasurable part. But even primitive man had fire, both for cooking and for providing needed heat on those chilly nights.

Camping stoves and fires for convenient cooking

Some camp sites don't allow fires in pits, some don't allow them at all. That leaves campers with the necessity to supply their own method for cooking and heating. Modern technology to the rescue! Today you can find cooking stoves and heaters that do a great job of satisfying those two needs.

Though they are usually called propane stoves or Colemans, there are several different types of fuel used and many manufacturers. Stoves typically burn either propane, butane or white gas ('Coleman fuel'), though some still use kerosene or even unleaded gasoline. The latter two shouldn't be anyone's first choice. They produce odors that are unpleasant and even unsafe, particularly when used for cooking.

Propane and butane are roughly equivalent, though the former is probably a little more common these days. Coleman fuel burns cleanly and produces the most heat, though propane stoves can become plenty hot. If you must use unleaded gasoline, avoid spilling any on your skin and restrict its use to boiling water, except in emergencies.

Duel fuel stoves are available that allow you to have two different types in twin containers. But they can also be used as a repository for twice as much of the same fuel. They're more expensive to use, since Coleman fuel is higher than gasoline. But it burns much more cleanly.

Propane will burn the most cleanly of all, but propane prices have been rising for the past few years. Also, they don't produce quite as much heat as liquid fuels. Propane in a container is liquid, but only because it's under high pressure. At room temperature it's a gas.

Fuel cannisters come in several sizes - 5 gallon, 10 gallon and up. For most camping, you won't want anything larger than the 10 gallon container. They're about 10 inches high and 10 inches in diameter. Larger containers are unwieldy, unless they're attached to your RV via a hose and connector.

There are several sizes to choose from and you may want to consider having more than one. A smaller one is lighter and easier to pack for those short trips, larger ones are handy for cooking for multiple people in the shortest time.

Two-burner stoves are common and convenient. They allow you to cook for two people or, more often, two different foods - such as meat and vegetables, or pasta and sauce. There are special cooking pots that can be stacked on top of one another to allow even more choices. You can boil potatoes in water on the top pot, for example.

Even two-burner stoves, however, come in different sizes. Larger grills are great for making eggs, hamburgers, pancake and other foods that require a little space to prepare. Remember, though, that the larger pot - especially if filled with water, will require more gas to heat it.

There are smaller stoves, just for backpacking. They fit well in a backpack, but are designed to prepare only very small meals, which might be just fine for one person.

Many commercial campsites provide cooking facilities, but most State and National parks don't. Plan your trip to ensure that you have a stove if you need one.