fuel: Propane

MSR Reactor

MSR Reactor

MSR Reactor

PRO’s: Extremely powerful, excellent fuel consumption

CON’s: Heavier than you think, can’t simmer

VERDICT: Excellent stove for small expedition groups who are simply rehydrating dried meals

OUR RATING ★★★★½ 

For many years Jetboil have had the single pot camping stove market all to themselves with stoves such as the Jetboil Zip and Sol but recently MSR have joined the fray with the MSR Reactor.  But which is better ?

Although the name ‘Reactor’ sounds cheesy it’s actually an extremely good description of this stove.  It’s one of the fastest, most powerful camping stoves ever and is able to boil one litre of water in under three minutes.  Yet it’s also one of the most fuel efficient stoves as well.

It’s basically a Jetboil stove on steroids.  But, and this is the thing, that’s not necessarily a good thing.  Let us explain . . .

The MSR Reactor consists of a radiant burner which is enclosed by a unique heat exchanger and it’s this which helps to contribute to the fuel efficiency.  Because the flame is completely enclosed (and lit by a built-in ignition system) it’s virtually immune to wind which could, at best, disperse some of the heat from the flame and, at worst, blow the flame out.  This is one stove that you can use in a serious storm !

But there is a downside: the MSR Reactor has a much higher Carbon Monoxide output than any other comparable stove, a fact which is pointed out by several stickers on it.  This means that it can’t be used in a tent and we’d be reluctant to use it even in the porch of a tent so it’s a good job that it’s storm resistant !

Working in tandem with the  enclosed burner is a pressure regulator which provides optimal heat output over the life of a fuel canister.  The power output of a stove drops as the pressure inside the gas canister drops as it empties but MSR’s regulator keeps it constant almost until the canister is empty.  The downside is that you get relatively little warning that the canister is near empty so you’ll need to carry a spare – no big deal, they are small and pretty lightweight.

When not in use the stove and fuel canister stow inside of the supplied 1.7-litre pot.  This is where the Jetboil stoves and the MSR Reactor differ.  At nearly double the size of the Jetboil pots which means that the MSR Reactor can cope with cooking meals of up to three people rather than the one or two people that a Jetboil stove can manage.

So what’s it’s like in use ?

Blindingly quick are the only words that we can find to describe how this thing works.  However, like a fast car, having lots of power in tap comes at a cost.  And in the case of the MSR Reactor the price that you pay is that it’s impossible to simmer anything on this stove.

Now that’s fine if you’re just planning on heating water so that you can rehydrate instant meals but if you’re cooking anything that needs to simmer, like tinned soup or rice pudding, forget it.  It’ll just burn on the bottom of the pot unless you stir like a demented person !

But is that a deal breaker ?  No . . .

For single person use, we’d have to say go with one of the Jetboil stoves.  If you’re on a budget get the Jetboil Zip, if you’re looking higher end then go for the Jetboil Sol stoves.  This is because the MSR Reactor is too big, bulky and heavy for single person use.

However, if you’re going to mostly rehydrating instant meals for two or more people then this is a good stove to get as it’s ideal for this.

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Campingaz Camping Kitchen

Campingaz Camping Kitchen

Campingaz Camping Kitchen

PRO’s: Large powerful burners, can be used with regular sized pans

CON’s: Prone to draughts from the side

VERDICT: if you’re going camping and expect to get several years use out of it buy this

OUR RATING ★★★★½ 

It seems to us like the Campingaz Camping Kitchen has been around for ever but if you look closely you can see that the edges have been softened in order to make it more contemporary.  But has anything else changed ?

Well, no.  You still get two burners: the larger one is rated at 2300 Watts and the small one is rated at 1700 Watts.  Both rings are large so proper sized pans can be used on them which means that you can bring pans from home if you wish – particularly if you’re working to a budget and don’t want to invest in camping specific cookware.

The burners can be independently adjusted via push to twist knobs which are located well away from the burners.  In use they give excellent control of the flames and allow you turn the flames down to a really gentle simmer.  The time taken to boil a litre of water is a little over 5 minutes.  This is a slower than we expected given the power of the burners but this is due to the fact that there is no wind protection built-in.

Campingaz claim that the lid offers some wind protection and whilst this is true (up to a point) protection from the wind is needed at the sides as well as the back of this stove. Without built-in windscreens you’ll need to use something to deflect the wind.

Surprisingly, though,  there’s no built-in ignition system so you’ll need to pack a box of matches or a lighter in order to get your cooking underway.

A potential gotcha when you buy this is that it doesn’t come with a regulator or hose although some retailers will throw them in at the time you buy.

What is also doesn’t come with is a gas cylinder (it requires the Campingaz R904 refillable gas cylinder or the larger Campingaz R907 refillable gas cylinder) but that’s not really surprising.  Many people are astonished at the price of these (a large one costs more than this stove) so here’s a tip: cylinders are expensive to buy because the bulk of the cost is the cylinder itself.  See if you can find an empty one by advertising on Gumtree or Freecycle, then take it along to a local supplier and get it refilled.

The Campingaz Camping Kitchen is designed to be used on a table but legs are available as an optional extra as is a carrying bag. The box ours arrived in is what we used to store it in but it soon got tatty. The proper Campingaz carry bag is highly recommended.

So should you buy one?

If you’re a family and planning on going camping for a few summers then the answer is a resounding YES? Although the Campingaz Camping Kitchen seems inexpensive, don’t forget that you’ll need to buy a regulator and hose too – many retailers will bundle these in.

Even if they don’t include them, don’t forget that a stove, hose, regulator and a gas bottle will work out cheaper in the long run than buying something like a Coleman Perfectflow two burner stove especially if you plan on using it for a few summers.

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Coleman Fold n Go Two Burner Stove

Coleman Fold'n'Go two Burner Stove

Coleman Fold’n’Go two Burner Stove

VERDICT: if you’re limited on space & need something that folds this is the stove for you

PRO’s: relatively lightweight, two burners, easy to use

CON’s: needs a windshield to get the best out of it, canisters still not that easy to find

OUR RATING ★★★★☆ 

Coleman have been at the forefront of camping cooker design for years and have brought out a range of innovative products lately. The most recent addition is the Coleman Fold’n’Go camping stove which features two extra large rings separated by a hinge so that you can cook, fold and go.

Able to take two 12 inch (30 cm) diameter pans at the same time, the Coleman Fold’n’Go is robust and compact. It’s also rugged with a hinge that looks like it could take some serious abuse. Two built-in carrying handles mean that it’s easy to lug around and it’s relatively lightweight means that you can carry it some distance.

As it uses the same Coleman Propane canisters as its cousins the Coleman Perfect Flow 2 Burner Stove and the Coleman Perfectflow Stove and Grill, the same comments about them apply to this stove as well. Namely, that these relatively new canisters aren’t that easy to find in shops so it’s best to stock up with spares before you leave home. That said, we are seeing more of these canisters in camping shops now than we did 12 months ago.

Each propane canister will run for around 1 hr 10 minutes with both rings on so should easily last for between three and four days under normal cooking conditions where you’ll mainly use one ring at a time and occasionally two together.

The time to boil a litre of water is not great mainly because this stove lacks any real wind protection. A simple aluminium folding windbreak will reduce the boil time from 6 minutes down to around 5 minutes and will also help to conserve fuel.

Each of the burners can be individually adjusted although, to be honest, the difference between minimum and maximum isn’t all that great !

So who is the Coleman Fold’n’Go aimed at ?

We’d have to say that we can see it appealing to the festival go-er and perhaps the occasional car camper. The relatively short life of the canisters means that a week long family camping trip might be more expensive with this stove then say the Campingaz Chef Stove and Grill.

Overall, if space is at a premium and you need something that folds this is a good buy but if you don’t then we’d recommend its cousin the Coleman Perfectflow 2 Burner Stove.

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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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Coleman Perfectflow 2 Burner Stove

Coleman Perfectflow 2 Burner Stove

Coleman Perfectflow 2 Burner Stove

VERDICT: The Coleman Perfectflow 2 Burner stove is a well designed, compact stove suitable for festival goers and families

PRO’s: Two burners, clever windshield design. Quick boil time

CON’s: Gas cylinders still hard to find. Take a spare

OUR RATING ★★★★☆ 

The Coleman Perfectflow 2 burner stove is a sturdy little unit with two independently adjustable burners which means that your sausages and beans can cook to perfection !  It’s ingenious built-in windshield (similar to that found on it’s cousin the Coleman Perfectflow Stove and Grill) ensures that as much heat as possible is directed into your pots.  Neat design touches such as this ensures that the boil time for a litre of water is a very respectable 5 minutes.  And it’s built-in piezo electric ignition system ensures that you won’t need to carry matches either.

Although it folds down quite small this stove still feels quite sturdy and feels like it could take some abuse.  On the face of it then, this camping cooker looks like the perfect solution for families, festival goers and even solo travellers who don’t want to compromise on luxury.

So what’s not to like ?

A minor criticism is that both burners are the same size.  In our experience of camping it’s extremely rare that you have two pans on the stove at the same time which are the same size.  More often than not you’ll have a frying pan and saucepan, or two different sized saucepans.

In an ideal world it would make sense to have one larger and one smaller burner so that the ring (and the heat output) could be tailored to suit the size of the pot because this would help to reduce the stoves fuel consumption.

And talking of fuel, we move on to the aspect of this stove that we like the least although it’s by no means a deal breaker.

This stove uses Colemans own high-pressure propane gas canisters which only last for around one hour.  Annoyingly, because these canisters contain propane at high pressure the stove cannot be used with larger, low pressure propane cylinders.

At the time of writing these cylinders are still relatively new and not that easy to find so it’s worth buying a few spares when you buy the stove.  Many retailers realise this and will offer you a discount which is well worth taking advantage of.  Without it, this stove could be expensive to run.

Overall this is a well designed stove, with some neat features but spoiled by the relative poor supply of fuel canisters.  In time this situation will improve so we still have no hesitation in recommending this stove, just make sure that you buy (and carry with you) some spare gas canisters.

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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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