feature: Stove + Grill

Campingaz Camping Chef Vario Stove and Grill

Campingaz Camping Chef Vario Stove and Grill

Campingaz Camping Chef Vario Stove and Grill

PRO’s: Updated version of Campingaz Camp Chef but better looking

CON’s: Grill is still very puny

VERDICT: If you need a dual burner stove you can put on legs buy this one but there are better options

OUR RATING ★★★½☆ 

New for 2012 is the Campingaz Camping Chef Vario which looks destined to replace the trusty Campingaz Camping Chef.  Is the new model worth it or should you buy the older one ?  Read on to find out.

Just like the Campingaz Camping Chef the idea behind the Campingaz Chef Vario is that you shouldn’t compromise on what you can cook just because you’re away on holiday so to help rustle those culinary delights you get two burners and a small grill situated below.

Whilst you may think that one burner will be sufficient, if you’re away for more than a few days and you can fit in the extra bulk then a two burner unit like this one makes a lot of sense.  After all, with two burners you can stumble out of your tent and get your morning cuppa AND your fried breaskfast underway at the same time !

Just like the original Camping Chef you get piezo-electric ignition on both burners and the grill so there’s no need to take matches with you.  All the burners are independently adjustable and feature child-proof switches which should prevent inquisitive little ones from playing with the cooker.

And just like the original it too uses the timelss blue Campingaz gas cylinders, the high capacity R907 refillable gas cylinder for which you’ll also need a hose and regulator.

Like its predecessor, the Campingaz Chef Vario sports a grill and, like it’s predecessor, it’s undersized.  Publicity shots for the old model showed two slices of toast under the grill which was just daft – you could barely fit one under it and it was so far away from the elements that it barely toasted.

We’re pleased to say that on the 2012 version Campingaz have reduced the distance  between the grill and toast but only by a small amount.  However, it does mean that your toast will actually toast, albeit slowly.  At least it won’t burn !

The stove packs up into a compact, easily transported suitcase style case complete with carrying handle.  The case is robust (try as we might we couldn’t twist it) and has fold down flaps at the sides of the hob which act as wind breaks.

In theory these should help to direct heat from the burners into the pots rather than allowing it to be blown away by the wind but, in practice, we found that they made little difference.  This is borne out by the time taken to boil a litre of water – just under 7 minutes – which is about the same as the Campingaz Camping Chef Stove and Grill that it replaces.

The styling of the old version was very agricultural but we still liked it.  The styling of the new version is much improved and reminds us of the Go Systems Dynasty Trio.  That’s no bad thing – we think that it’s a brilliant stove.

So would we buy one ?

Maybe.  It’s good at what it does but it currently costs more than the older model (the Campingaz Camping Chef) that it replaces.  At the moment, we’d still go with the older model simply because it’s being reduced as retailers clear out remaining stocks and the £20 price difference between the two can be put towards a regulator and bottle of Butane gas.

However, once stocks of the old model are gone then it becomes a toss up between this and the Go Systems Dynasty Trio.  If you want the option to add legs and a storage tray beneath your Campingaz Vario then go for that one.  You can buy the Deluxe version or buy the legs and tray seperately.  Otherwise we’d still be inclined to go for the Go Sytems Dynastry Trio which is rebadged and sold by Mountain Warehouse as the MountainLife Double Burner with Grill via their online store.

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Campingaz Camping Chef Stove and Grill

Campingaz Camping Chef Stove and Grill

Campingaz Camping Chef Stove and Grill

VERDICT: A puny grill but worth buying if you’re on a budget & find it discounted

PRO’s: Compact, runs on Propane and Butane. Often heavily discounted.

CON’s: puny grill which lacks power. Grill difficult to clean. Prone to gusts of wind

OUR RATING ★★★☆☆ 

On the face of it the Campingaz Camping Chef Stove and Grill is perfect for family camping as it sports two powerful burners and a radiant grill. And if you buy the version which comes with a regulator and storage bag then all you need to add is a gas cylinder. But is it any good ?

There no way around it – it’s simply not possible to cook for four people on a single burner stove. Two burners is what you really need whilst the inclusion of a grill widens the range of meals that can be prepared. The two burners on the Campingaz Camping Chef are widely spaced which means that two large pots or pans can be used at the same time.

Sitting immediately below the two burners is a grill. In theory this is a plus but in the case of this stove it’s been poorly executed and lets the stove down. The main problem is that the grill is actually smaller (6 inches x 2.5 inches) than two slices of bread placed side by side. This means that you’ll need to constantly rotate the slices. A further problem is that the grill is located too far below the element which means that a lot of the heat is simply wasted. Whilst this means that your toast is extremely unlikely to burn, you’ll probably end up holding the toast nearer the element to speed things up and this probably will result in it burning.

The lower section of the stove which holds the grill is designed to collapse. Whilst this means that it packs away into a smaller size than it otherwise would do, setting up and packing it away does involve take a little longer especially if the grill has been used as this is fiddly to get at to clean. In order to keep the grill clean we’d just use it for doing toast. Sausages would be better of fried rather than grilled.

Frustratingly the sides of the stove are fixed and offer very little protection from the wind for either the two burners or the grill. The metal lid does act as a windbreak but only protects the back of the unit. When in use it’s a little too far back for our liking. Because the sides don’t extend up above the level the burners (unlike the Coleman Perfectflow 2 burner stove) as soon as the wind changes direction you’ll have to re-align the stove.

All of this contributes to the relatively long boil time of seven minutes and the poor performance of the grill already noted above. The burners and the grill each have individual control knobs all with good adjustability although none of them have piezeo-electric ignition. To light any of them you’ll need to use matches.

At the bottom of the stove a pair of thin but relatively sturdy metal legs fold out to raise the stove a little. Unfortunately these don’t have a rubberised feet on them so on metal camping tables there’s a chance that the camping cooker could slide around. Campingaz actual produce an enhanced version of this stove called the Campingaz Camping Chef Plus which includes a collapsable stand although this can also be bought seperately.

A plus point of this stove is that runs not only on Campingaz Butane cylinders (specifically the Campingaz R904 refillable cylinder or the Campingaz R907 refillable cylinder) but also will run on Propane too which means that a fuel supply should be easy to find wherever you are.

So, would we buy one ?

Possibly, but not at the recommended retail price as we feel, given the various shortcomings of the design that it offers poor value for money at the full price. That said, by mid-June this stove is often heavily discounted by outdoor retailers and that’s when we would buy one.  Bear in mind also that Campingaz have launched the Campingaz Camping Chef Vario stove and grill which has led to further discounting of the older Campingaz Camping Chef.

There are undoubtably better stoves out there but at the discounted price that you can pick this up for (often with the regulator and carry case thrown in) then it does offer good value as long as you’re aware of the flaws.

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Go Systems Dynasty Trio

Go Systems Dynasty Trio

Go Systems Dynasty Trio

VERDICT: The perfect camping cooker for a small family. Powerful, easy to clean & store, it’s highly recommended. Not that easy to find though.

PRO’s: Double burner and grill combination, folds in to own slim travel case, can operate from a variety of gas cylinders

CON’s: Can be tricky find in store & online

OUR RATING ★★★★★ 

The Go Systems Dynasty Trio is, if it’s possible, the sexiest looking family camping cooker on the market today.  Boasting a double hob that floats above the base which acts as an easily accessible drip tray it still folds down into a compact package.  In fact, we reckon that this is the slimmest family camping stove that money can buy.

Now with the name ‘Dynasty Trio’ you’re probably expecting a third design feature and you won’t be  disappointed to learn that it’s one of the best grills and toaster that we’ve seen on a camping cooker.  That’s right: it’s the super sim yet it manages to squeeze in two burners and a grill!  Both the grill and each of the hobs have independent ignition and a full range of adjustment from a low flame to a satisfying roar.

Like many other Go Systems camping cookers, this one uses their own Butane cylinders such as the Go Systems Powersource 220 gas canister or the Go Systems Powersource 445 gas canister but it also has the ability to connect to other, larger cylinders via a regulator.  This added flexibility, coupled with a three year warranty (most of their competitors offer only one year), make this an excellent choice in our opinion.  It’s worth noting that it will also work with the smallest Go Systems Powersource 125 gas canister but the runtime will be so short that we don’t recommend this.

Whereas the Coleman Perfectflow Stove and Grill is ideally suited to small families (two adults plus a child) due to it’s single ring, the Go Systems Dynasty Trio is better suited to larger families with more children.

The only thing against this cooker is that it’s not that easy to find online although whilst browsing through our local Mountain Warehouse shop recently that they sell a rebranded version of this stove called the MountainLife Double Burner with Grill.

Whether you can find one online or not, this camping cooker is highly recommended!

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Coleman PerfectFlow Stove & Grill

Coleman PerfectFlow Stove And Grill

Coleman PerfectFlow Stove And Grill

VERDICT: A compact stove and grill combination that offers great performance in a small easy to transport package.

PRO’s: Grill doubles as second burner, drip tray for easy cleaning

CON’s: Only one burner plus grill, new Propane cylinders still hard to find

OUR RATING ★★★★☆ 

Coleman produce a huge range of camping equipment include camping stoves and cookers.  The Coleman PerfectFlow Stove & Grill offers both a standard hob and an open grill with a driptray beneath it to catch any fat drips.  This makes cleaning it a breeze!

At first glance it looks like a winning combination – perfect for campsite fry-ups as well as more elaborate evening meals such as kebabs.  But does it deliver all that it promises ?

Both the burner and the grill have seperate controls and both also have piezo-electric ignition so there’s no need to faff about with matches which is a plus point in our book.  The grill can also be used to simmer a pot so if you’re cooking a meal which requires two pots on the go at once, spaghetti bolognaise for example, then you won’t need juggle them around.

However, if you’re looking for something with two burners and a grill we’d recommend that you take a look at the Go Systems Dynasty Trio which offers two burners and a grill all of which can be used at the same time.

To get the most heat out of the burners the lid connects to the two sidewalls in order to make a substantial windshield.  This helps to  reduce fuel comsumption by directing more heat into the pots.  Not that it’s any slouch – heating a litre and a half of water in around 8 minutes.

The cooker uses Coleman’s propane cyclinders which connect via a steel connector and regulator.  The hose which connects the stove to the cylinder is a bit short which means that it’s not that easy to  position if you’ve got limited space on your camp table.  However, Coleman have informed us that it’s perfectly safe to simply dangle the cylinder over the side so long as it’s not inverted.

Propane is a better fuel that butane as it’s more efficient, every last gram in the cylinder gets burnt and it works better at lower temperatures and altitude.  However, as we noted in our review of the Coleman Perfectflow 2 burner stove (basically a two burner version of this stove) the availability of the fuel cylinders, in the UK at least, is still rather limited although this situation will only improve over time.  We suggest buying a couple of spares when you buy the stove.

In our opinion this is a fantastic little camping cooker and will be equally suitable a family summer camping adventure or a few nights based in the Cairngorms in November.

Highly recommended !

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