When learning how to use a camping stove, consider the many different kinds of camping stoves that are possible.
Some of them are homemade, while others can be purchased from department stores or camping outfitters. Online retailers often carry a variety of these handy stoves.
How to Use a Camping Stove Safely
Each stove has its own tips, tricks, and unique aspects.
1. Tin Can to Camp Stove
Both girl and boy scout camping books have directions for how to make this handy stove. You’ll need a number 10 tin can, the kind in which cafeterias or restaurants purchase food.
You’ll want the kind of can opener that will make a smooth, not sharp, edge on the can, as well as a pair of tin snips. After the food that’s inside the can is used, turn the can upside down.
Use the kind of soda bottle opener that’s sometimes referred to as a “church key.” This is to make a row of small holes on one side of the bottom of the can. On the other side, use the tin snips to cut an opening. The small holes will serve as a smoke outlet, while the square opening at the bottom of the can will act as a door.
Place the fuel for the camp stove on a cleared patch of ground. It should be free of grass, leaves, and even small pebbles. You can use canned heat, sometimes referred to as Sterno, as the fuel. You can build a small bonfire, or you can use coals from a larger fire.
Put a pan or kettle on top of your camp stove, and cook as usual. Note: these don’t get extremely hot under most circumstances, so they are best for heating a can of soup or frying an egg.
2. Small, One-Burner, Propane Stove
These are essentially a burner that will screw directly onto a small propane canister. They are great for creating a quick, hot fire that’s perfect for heating soup, frying bacon or eggs, or cooking a simple, instant meal.
In theory, the flame/temperature is adjustable. But in practice, they mostly have one temperature. You can control it by lifting the pot, letting it cool a little, and setting it back on the flame.
One of the big problems with these stoves is the difficulty of disposing of the spent propane canisters. Another is that the small burners won’t support anything larger than a medium saucepan. It’s best to use these outdoors.
3. Two-Burner Propane Camp Stove
These are usually larger and sturdier than the one-burner stoves. They need to be set up on a solid base, such as a picnic table or at the very least, a large log.
They can be attached to the small propane canisters, or they might be set up to attach to a refillable canister. The latter is preferable, especially if you’re car camping. This is because the refillable canisters can be recycled simply by exchanging an empty for a full canister.
The designs will vary from stove to stove. But for the most part, they are very much like using any gas range or gas grill. You attach the canister, making sure that all the fixtures are tight. If in doubt, you can paint the joins with a little dish soap. If there’s a gas leak, a bubble will form.
Once you’re sure the joins are tight, you can turn the gas on from the canister. Then turn on the burner you wish to use. Some will require a match to light, others will be self-igniting. Some of the self-igniting models require a battery. As with the small propane stoves, use this device outside your tent or cabin.
4. Wood Burning Tent Stove
This stove can be used as an open-air cooker, or it can be placed inside a fire-resistant tent that’s equipped with a stove-pipe flap. Never use one of these stoves inside a tent that’s not rated for it.
These little stoves are truly a nice thing to have for winter camping since you can warm a “hot tent”, that’s one rated for having a heater inside, with it and you can cook on the flat surface. They have a short chimney that will poke through the premade tent flap.
The chimney features a spark disperser which will help prevent your fire from getting out of control. If your tent has a floor in it, it’s a good idea to have an insulated fire board to place under the stove.
To operate, kindle a small fire inside the stove, or add coals from your campfire to it. Close the door at the front of the stove, and use the damper that’s located in the chimney to help regulate the airflow. Never allow a wood-burning stove to glow cherry red.
To do so is hard on the metal and will burn it out quickly. It’s also possible to catch fabrics that brush against the hot metal alight, and could be a hazard even to tents rated to be fire-resistant.
5. Generate Electricity with a Cupful of Fire
Sounds crazy? Amazingly, the concept isn’t all that new. Thermal exchanges have been being used for a while now to generate electrical energy.
What makes this idea unique is how small and portable the unit can be. Biolite manufactures a ready-made version of this camping stove. To operate, place paper, twigs, small bits of wood, and similar biofuels to the cup-sized container.
The heat activates peltier units that are wired in series, and are then attached to a USB charging cable. The peltier units make electricity which can be used to charge a cellphone or portable power sticks. Biolite has done the heavy lifting for those of us who aren’t so technologically able.
The nifty thing about these camp stoves is that while you are charging your phone, you can also cook your dinner or toast a few marshmallows.
All heat-producing devices, such as camp stoves, should be used carefully with respect for their ability to produce heat and flame.
Always follow manufacturer recommendations for safety and use good, camping fire control techniques. Eating a cold dinner or wrapping up in a sleeping bag is a cheap price to pay for preventing forest fires.