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A camp stove is a must-have for every outdoor enthusiast, but there are many factors to take into account when purchasing one. The first consideration when buying a camp stove is fuel type. The two most popular types of fuel available for camp stoves are butane and white gas.
Butane comes in disposable canisters that are both practical and relatively inexpensive. The only disadvantage of butane is that it doesn't perform well in cold weather. For summer and fall campers, this wouldn't be a problem, but if you're planning on four-season camping, you should consider a different type of camp stove.
For year-round camping, white gas, also known as white fuel, can be the perfect choice. Not only is it cheap, but it will burn in any temperature. Other fuel options include propane, sterno or jelly heat, and blended fuel, which is a combination of propane and butane. Gasoline and kerosene are very toxic and should only be used as a last resort.
Access to extra fuel is important when buying a camp stove. While gas is common in the US, butane is the preferred choice in Europe. If you're traveling overseas, make sure you check fuel availability before investing in a camping stove. Another option for overseas travelers is a multifuel camp stove, which runs on both gas and kerosene or alcohol.
Another factor to keep in mind when choosing a camp stove is size. Larger models may be more convenient at dinnertime, but they're usually too heavy and cumbersome for the average camper. Camp stoves vary from simple models that weigh a few ounces to double burners that will add a few pounds to your load.
One feature few campers think about beforehand is stability. Large pots require large burners or the food will cook unevenly. The same is true of cooking on uneven surfaces, in which case a camp stove with adjustable legs is an asset.
Accessories should not be considered a luxury when choosing a camp stove. Carrying cases are now standard for many models, as they protect the knobs and hoses. Many camp stoves also come with a windshield or a lantern head that can be switched with the burner for 2-in-1 convenience. If you're planning "gourmet" meals, a camp stove with an adjustable flame feature is a must, as it allows you to control the amount of heat and avoid undercooked or burnt meals.
If price is a consideration, a single burner with propane fuel will only set you back about US$20. For a quality, two-burner camp stove made of cast iron, expect to pay up to US$200. More expensive camp stoves will usually last longer too, especially if you frequently camp near saltwater, which tends to rust steel quickly.