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How To Use a Camping Stove To Cook Meals You Love

WriterAubrey McShan
10 min read
How to use a camping stove - Someone cooks a meal on a camping stove by mountains and a lake
When it comes to camping, having the right cookware and setup is arguably one of the most important things. Learning how to use a camping stove can help you level up your campsite experience in so many ways!

Firewood usually isn’t reliable for too long in certain weather conditions, and using a camping stove also saves you the time needed to gather wood to burn in a campfire. So whether you’re brand new to camping or you simply need a quick camping stove refresher, here is everything you need to know about using a camping stove like a pro.

Operating a Camping Stove

Because of the generous, diverse selection of camping stoves available on the market, it’s challenging — but not impossible — to create a step-by-step walkthrough of how to use one. Each stove will have its own unique features, so be sure to read your specific owner’s manual before operating it.

Another reason is that different camping stoves use different fuel types. In general, there are two categories of portable stove fuel:
  • Canister fuel: Popular options can include propane, butane, and/or isobutane individually or a mixture of more than one.
  • Liquid fuel: Types of liquid gas can include white gas, diesel fuel, kerosene, and/or automotive gas.

For this guide, we’ve opted to use the Coleman® PerfectFlow™ 2-Burner Stove as an example where necessary for a number of reasons. It’s a great beginner-friendly propane canister-fueled stove because it is affordable, accessible, reliable, and durable! However, this how-to guide will help you understand how to use most camping stoves. Let’s begin!

Step 0 — Ensure Safety Best Practices:

Keeping a decent camping stove on standby when you go camping is the closest we can get to our kitchens back at home in a campsite. But there are a few safety measures to consider prior to operating one.

While camping stoves come in a wide variety of sizes and styles, learning about — and practicing — good safety habits can help safeguard you and your family from accidents or more serious injuries. We’ve created the following brief list to get you started:
  • Never leave your camping stove unattended
  • Always use camping stoves on flat, non-flammable surfaces while cooking
  • Let stoves cool down before storing or packing them
  • Regularly maintain your camping stove
  • Be careful not to spill liquid fuel while handling it
  • Use camping stoves outside of your tent
  • Carefully attach your fuel + cautiously light your stove
  • Keep your family + friends safe

Step 1 — Inspect the Camping Stove

No matter what type of camping stove you have, you should always inspect it to ensure you can operate it safely. You should never use one that’s compromised.

Look for any fuel leaks, significant dents, or bent/broken pieces. Most manufacturers should include maintenance guides in their owner’s manual, so it’s always a great idea to double-check with yours if you’re unsure of how to care for the camping stove.

Step 2 — Set Up the Stove on a Sturdy, Flat Surface

Portable gas camping stove and a frying pan in a campsite
Find a sturdy, flat surface to set it up on so the stove is stable and won't tip over. Gusts of wind are no joke! We recommend using a foldable table or even the ground when it’s clear from taller grass, bushes, precarious rocks, and other potentially flammable debris if a picnic table isn’t available to you.

If applicable, make sure your stove’s legs lock into place before proceeding further. This is also the perfect time to set up and secure your camping stove’s wind guards if your stove has this feature.

Step 3 — Make Sure All Knobs + Buttons are Turned Off

When you’re camping in more remote sites, the lack of access to emergency services makes it vital to practice fire safety. That’s why it’s important — before proceeding — to confirm that any knobs including the igniter button are turned off. This step might take a few extra seconds, but it’s no less important! If for some reason something disturbed the knobs on your drive out to the campsite, this step helps protect you and anyone near the stove.

Step 4 — Attach Fuel To Camping Stove in Correct Position

A person takes off the plastic cap of a propane canister
With any valves, knobs, and/or buttons turned off, attach the fuel source to your camping stove as the manufacturer advises. Propane stoves (like a Coleman® PerfectFlow™ 2-Burner Stove) make it simple and fast to affix the fuel to it:
  • Screw the regular part into the stove until it’s hand tight.
  • On the Coleman propane bottle, remove the plastic cap at the top of the cylinder.
  • Follow up by screwing the propane fuel cylinder into the regulator — again until it is hand tight.
  • Position the fuel bottle until it sits tilted on the flat surface. The top should face upward.

Step 5 — Turn On Stove + Adjust Knobs for Ideal Temperature

When you’re ready to begin cooking your meal, turn on the camping stove and ready a lighted match or a butane lighter near a burner. Turn the igniter knob until the burner is on. You should hear a few clicks as the stove powers up. You’ll want to adjust the ignition knob to your preferred temperature.

Step 6 — Cook Your Meal

Woman cooks breakfast in a campsite on a camping stove

Now it’s time to start cooking up something good! Be careful of what size pots, pans, and kettles you use on a camping stove. They should comfortably fit the size of the burner and metal grates. Using too large cookware can trap the heat underneath, directing it down to where the gas cartridge is located. To avoid overheating on multi-burner camping stoves, you should avoid positioning your cookware too closely together.

Step 7 — Turn All Knobs or Buttons Off + Remove Fuel Source

When you’re ready to begin cooking your meal, turn on the camping stove and ready a lighted match or a butane lighter near a burner. Turn the igniter knob until the burner is on. You should hear a few clicks as the stove powers up. You’ll want to adjust the ignition knob to your preferred temperature.

Step 8 — Clean Up Your Camping Stove

Remove any cooled-down metal grates, then grab a clean towel. Damp it with warm water and some dish soap to wipe away superficial grease buildup or other minor residue stuck to the stove and clean the burner. After your first pass with the first towel, continue to rinse it further if needed and towel dry the stove.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How does a camp stove work?

Camping stoves are portable cooking options specifically intended for outdoor use and activities like backpacking or camping. They generally operate with one of two popular types of fuel: canister fuel and liquid fuel. While there is a wide variety of sizes, manufacturers, and styles available, most work by replying upon external fuel sources while still offering the familiar cooking experience and creature comforts of a traditional kitchen back home.

Q: How long does camping stove fuel last?

Camping stove fuel burn time varies depending on the type of fuel. The three more popular types that fuel the most accessible camping stoves are butane, propane, and white gas fuels. But generally, you should expect a burn time of the following based on these three sizes:

General Camping Stove Fuel Burning Power
Canister Size
(in Ounces)
Duration Set To Low
(in Hours)
Duration Set To High
(in Hours)
Recommended Usage
3.5 oz or 4 oz Up to 1.5 hours Up to 0.5 hours Overnight, short camping trips Emergency or backup supply for camping
8 oz Up to 3 hours Up to 1.5 hours Weekend camping trips for smaller groups
16 oz Up to 6 hours Up to 3 hours Extended camping trips for smaller groups

Q: What is the difference between a backpacking stove vs a camping stove?

Backpacking stoves and camping stoves are not equal. The most obvious difference between the two stove types is how many burners each one has. Backpacking stoves typically will be lightweight and have one burner; camping stoves are more functional for families gearing up for the campground! They’ll have more than one burner for faster cooking time and less space efficiency.

Q: How long will a Coleman stove burn?

A Coleman camping stove using a 16-oz fuel canister and both burners at once can typically burn for about 1-2 hours on high. That time dramatically increases when you lower the heat output and/or use one burner at once, though.

Q: What fuel can you use in a Coleman stove?

At Academy, we offer a great selection of Coleman camping stoves, fuel, and accessories. Most stoves in-store and online take propane fuel.

Have Fun Out There!

So now you know how to use a camping stove! Camping stoves are great for campers and explorers as well as handy to have in emergency situations like when the electricity at home goes out for an extended period of time. Keep in mind that you should always use camping stoves outside.

We’re excited to help get you back to the outdoor fun and adventure you seek.