In the prepping community, there is a lot of focus on stoves for a bug out bag, while stoves for events such as natural disasters are overlooked.
A stove for an individual bug out bag is different than a family sized stove. Do you need a two burner store, one burner stove, propane fuel, liquid fuel, will you be using a lantern? Do you need a stove for a car survival kit or a stove for a cabin off in the woods?
Before we begin, I want to make it clear I am not a big fan of liquid fuel. Whether it is Coleman fuel or gasoline, I feel liquid fuels can be dangerous in certain situations. Then there is the spilling issue with liquid fuel and fumes. However, Coleman fuel is more efficient than propane. Coleman says a gallon of liquid fuel is equal to something like 4 1/2 one pound cylinders of propane.
Everything mentioned in this article is for reference only. During the course of this article certain brand names and models are mentioned, this is not an endorsement. It is up to the reader to make the final decision on what is best for them and their family.
In this article we talk about several different types of stoves:
- Family size
- Liquid fuel
- Blended fuel
Family Size Stoves
Two burner stoves are an ideal choice for a family unit.
My two family stoves are:
- Coleman perfect flow instastart grill stove
- Coleman 425
I can not recommend the Coleman Instastart grill stove. For that matter, I can not recommend any gas stove that has a grill or griddle. On the instastart grill, the stove top on the left side is too small for a pot. Just about any decent sized pot will hit the wind shield. The grill has a very small grease drip pan. The stove uses a LOT of propane. Cooking for a single day used around half a pound of propane. Using the grill gets the stove filthy with grease. I spend more time cleaning the grill than I do cleaning a pot. There are griddles that will fit on top of a stove. A griddle is much easier to clean than the built in grill. My Coleman perfectflow grill stove is retired to a shelf in the closet. It rarely, if ever, gets used.
When using the grill, grease drips off the meat and runs down into a drip pan. This creates a large mess that has to be cleaned up. The grill, the pan under the grill, and finally the grease trap has to be cleaned.
The windshields of the Coleman perfectflow instastart grill stove are not adjustable to accommodate larger pots or skillets. The windshields fold up and latch in place.
- Grill stoves use too much propane.
- Grill stoves get messy if you use the grill.
- The stove top is small and large skillets hit the windshield.
- Grease dip pan is small and fills up quickly.
Coleman 425 Camp Stove
My Coleman 423 was bought in the early 1990s and has been faithful ever since. It was designed to only use Coleman fuel while newer models are labeled as dual fuel and can use either Coleman fuel or gasoline. With the purchase of a “propane convertor” a liquid fuel stove is converted to a propane stove. This makes a dual fuel stove tri-fuel – Coleman fuel, gasoline or propane.
The windshields of the Coleman 425 are adjustable. They have a wire clip with different adjustments. If you need more room on the stove for a skillet, open the windshields up to accommodate it.
My ideal setup would be a dual fuel stove (Coleman fuel and gasoline) with a propane adapter to use 20 pound propane bottles. This would provide long-term cooking abilities.
If you want a griddle, measure the two burner stove and buy a griddle that fits.
The Coleman 425 uses a reasonable amount of fuel, as compared to the Coleman perfectflow stove. The stove top is a reasonable size for cooking with two skillets. Burners produce adequate heat for family-sized cooking.
Coleman stoves like the 425 have been in production for decades and have passed the test of time. They are cost-effective and spare parts are readily available.
These stoves are single burner and more portable than the two burner stoves. Rather than cooking for a family unit, the single burner stoves will probably be used for one or two people.
Coleman 533 Dual Fuel Camp Stove
Also known as the Coleman Sportster II, the 533 is dual fuel, meaning it can use Coleman fuel (white gas) or unleaded gasoline.
This is an excellent individual camp stove for car, truck, SUV or cabin camping. It is a little large for backpacking, but people say they backpack with the Coleman 533 dual fuel stove. When compared to using a single burner stove with a 1 pound propane bottle, the 533 is more compact than the single burner propane stove.
- Dual fuel.
- Works in all temperatures.
- Fuel can be used in lanterns.
Coleman 533 measures:
- 5 5/8 inches tall
- 4 3/4 burner diameter
- 5 1/4 base diameter
- Empty weight is around 2 1/2 pounds
This is a robust camp stove and I like that it is dual fuel. If I were off-roading for several days, the Coleman dual fuel 533 would probably be my go to stove. One gallon of Coleman fuel is supposed to equal around 4 1/2 pounds of propane.
For an individual bugging out in his or her SUV, truck or car, the Coleman 533 would be ideal. For a car survival kit, the Coleman 533 is just right.
Coleman fuel is sold in 32 ounce containers, 1 gallon or even 5 gallons. If left factory sealed, white gasoline is supposed to last for years. There are reports of Coleman fuel / white gasoline being a decade old and still being used in stoves.
Single Burner Propane Stove
My “go to” stove for close to fifteen years was a generic, no brand name, single burner propane stove. I kept a pound of propane and stove top in my ALICE pack, which was also my bug out / camping bag.
- Propane stoves are reliable. A buddy of mine has been using his for around 20 years.
- Propane is clean burning, no fumes.
- Propane last forever.
- They are easy to use.
- Cooks fast.
- Adjustable heat, simmer.
- Propane is easy to find.
- Propane bottle fits in outside pocket of alice pack.
- Propane can be used in lantern.
- Takes up a lot of room / bulky.
- Top heavy, easy to tip over without base.
- Have to carry three pieces – stove top, bottle and base.
- Maybe not work well in cold conditions or high altitudes.
- Stove top can wobble.
- Older propane bottles may not seal when the attachment is removed.
My propane stove with base measures:
- 11 1/2 inches tall
- 6 5/8 across the base
- 5 inches across stove top
There are so many options for single burner propane stoves. Some stand up, some are low profile, some are low cost, some are expensive. A lot of it boils down to what you want in a stove and how much money you want to spend.
I liked using my propane stove. I really liked that the bottle can be used on a stove and lantern. About 22 years ago or so, a buddy of mine gave me a small lantern that can be used on a one pound bottle of propane. While on camping trips, one of us would use his bottle of propane for the lantern, while the other used his bottle for the stove. We would take turns using the stove while the lantern provided light to the camp.
Single Burner Isobutane Stove
Due to the size and weight of the propane bottle and stove, several years ago I decided to switch to isobutane. The isobutane stove and bottle are much more compact than the propane stove and bottle. I swapped a one pound bottle of propane for 7 3/4 ounces of isobutane.
The isobutane stove I bought is a Coleman Max. There are many brand names out there who offer isobutane stoves besides Coleman. Shop around and find a stove that fits your needs and in the price range you want.
The stove folds and fits inside my Optimus terra solo cook set. Instead of having the stove and cookware separate like with the propane stove, the stove is stored neatly inside the cooking pot. Along with the stove there is enough room for folding fork and spoon, lighter and paper towel. The paper towel is to prevent rattling and to help prevent the inside of the pot from getting scratched.
- Blended fuel works better than straight propane in cold temperatures and at high altitudes.
- Certain blended fuels are better than others for cold temperatures and at high altitudes – do your research.
- Lighter than propane.
- More compact than propane stoves.
- Wide variety of stove options.
- Bottle can work with isobutane lanterns.
- Fuel may not be as easy to find as propane.
Hopefully those suggestions will give the reader with some ideas. Between Ebay and Amazon, someone should be able to find a stove that fits their needs.