- Commercial grade burners put out highest BTUs in category
- Rugged all-steel no-frills stand-alone design is sturdy and is not knocked around easily
- Runs off propane tank allowing for many hours of cooking without fuel replacement
- Versatile for car camping at a facility or in dispersed camping sites
- Bulky and heavy (but does that really matter for car camping?)
- Requires a carrying bag for easy transport and storage
- Legs are not adjustable
I absolutely love this stove! With 30,000 BTUs, it performs like our gas range at home and the stand-alone design means it doesn’t take up room on our table and I find it safer for cooking with children about. With a couple accessories, it becomes a real joy to use – much like our kitchen at home. Hands down beats my four other stoves for car camping!
For one of my first car camping trips as a dad, I purchased the Coleman Triton Series 2-Burner Stove. I grew up with Coleman stoves and it felt like coming home. But, after using it I was really disappointed for three reasons: it takes forever to boil water, it seems to have only one temperature setting (even thought it has knobs that supposedly control the burner output), and it is so loud I can barely hear folks standing right next to me. With children running around the campground, it also made me nervous having the Coleman running on a table but unsecured to anything.
On that same trip, a friend of mine had an inspiring set up. He had this freestanding tough-looking steel stove, powered by a propane tank and rigged with a lantern. He prepared fantastic meals, day or night. I fell in love.
After the trip, I researched and then purchased the inexpensive Camp Chef Explorer 2-Burner Stove ($103.83). Attaching four legs and connecting it to a propane tank quickly assembles the stove for use. Where my Coleman seemed to barely function as a heat source, the Camp Chef performs very much like my gas range at my house. This gives you the capability to prepare elegant meals without adjusting your cooking technique. Since we camp at high altitudes, the power is especially appreciated for bringing water, soups, etc. to boil. The stove runs quiet and is easy to start.
Of course, there are some downsides but all of them are surmountable, I believe.
First, the stove is bulky. But so is car camping! As you may know, one of my favorite outdoor activities is backpacking. When I backpack, I carry small one-burner stoves and I prefer backpacking for the ease and simplicity, especially when it comes to packing and carrying the gear. But when we car camp, I put comfort over volume and weight. Might as well load my vehicle to the brim so we can have some enjoyable meals!
Second, the stove is heavy. It’s heavy and since the burners are pretty exposed the soot can get on things. I bought a Carrying Bag ($19.29) that resolves this problem. It fits the stove, the legs, plus the wind blocks really nicely. It works well for transport and storage.
Lastly, the legs are not adjustable. I find the height of the stove is ideal (I’m 5’11”) but you may not, depending on your height. Because the legs are not adjustable, you need to make the surface you place it on level. This hasn’t ever been much of an issue with the exception of cooking pancakes.
The benefits of the stove are far greater than these minor issues.
I recommend getting three additional accessories for your Camp Chef that will enhance your experience:
- Propane Distribution Stand ($26.39) – this is a propane tree that allows you to run the stove and a lantern off the same propane tank and is fashioned as a stand for the lantern to sit on top of, perfect for cooking or doing dishes when the light fades.
- Primus Tor Sr. Propane Lantern with Piezo & Stable Base Adapter ($86.99) – this is a great lantern and sits on top of the propane tree.
- Griddle for Camp Chef ($55.24) – you’re going to want to make pancakes for your children with this stove, this is how you do it with class.
What’s your stove set up for car camping? What am I missing in my setup? Is there something better out there?
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