Monday, March 27, 2006

Coleman 1-Burner Propane Stove

Even though this was my very first backpacking stove – the Coleman 1-Burner Propane Stove is still actually in my hiking gear collection and I’ve even used it on and off throughout the years since I replaced it with a series of fancier (and lighter, thank god) backpacking stoves.

I’d hazard to guess that just about for anyone who hikes, they have probably had a propane burner stove like this at one time or another – and more than likely had the Coleman model. The stove is easy to use, a breeze to cook on, and easy to pack away (though not light and the propane tank doesn’t lend itself to being packed easily because it’s quite bulky).

Honestly, it’s kind of like taking a gas stove from a kitchen and shrinking it down so that it only has one burner. You’ll get that kind of convenience and cooking ability with it. Now if you could only find propane connections in the backcountry and not have to carry that bottle around with you!

Coleman 1-Burner Propane Stove Basics

The Coleman 1-Burner Propane Stove consists of a single burner that can put out about 10,000 BTUs of heat when it’s turned all the way up and on the “hi” setting. This will boil the average pot of water in a few minutes and otherwise burn and scorch food if you are not paying attention when you are cooking.

The gas burner sits in the center of the stove and four pot supports radiate out from the center of the burner to hold your pots and pans on the burner. The total ‘burner bowl,’ or the area that surrounds the gas burner and provides protection for the flame and helps direct the heat upwards is about 8 inches diagonally from corner to corner (it’s roughly a square).

The burner bowl doubles as a drip pan to catch spills while you are cooking. I’ve found though, since you are using fairly large pots that usually overhang the burner – most of the time, the spill is more likely to just drop to the ground or whatever surface you’re cooking on instead of getting caught in the bowl.

Lighting the stove is easy – turn on the gas using the dial and keep a match next to the burner – it should quickly light and be ready to go. There’s no priming or prep needed because the propane is already pressurized and ready to go in the cylinder.

In order to regulate the intensity of the gas flame on the stove, there’s a dial on the underside of the burner, just like you would find on a grill or even on a kitchen stove. Starting at the off position, you turn the dial and can go all the way up to the ‘high’ setting, which gives you the maximum heat output and the fastest cooking.

The stove gives you an incredible amount of flame control when it comes to comparable backpacking stoves. The adjustability of the flame is really only limited by your creativity. You can literally go from a full flame all the way down to the smallest of a flame for very light simmer. For more complicated backpacking dinners this is great – though to get that control – you are sacrificing the small size and lighter weight of other camp stoves.

The Coleman 1-Burner Propane Stove attaches to the ubiquitous 16.4-ounce propane cylinder that is available in just about any ‘outdoor gear’ section of almost every store I’ve ever been in. The stove screws directly onto the cylinder. The stove does not require any adapters and can either be left on the cylinder or taken off and the two can be stored separately.

The stove also comes with a wide plastic base that the cylinders sit in. This gives you a more stable and secure base to use when you are cooking. Otherwise – if you are just using the cylinder without the base –it’s easier to tip over the whole contraption while you are cooking and no one wants their hard-earned meal spilt all over the ground before you even get a chance to eat it.

A single 16.4-ounce propane canister will most likely last for one or two weekend long trips that involve cooking one or two times each day. Coleman finds that on the “hi” setting, a single propane canister will last for about 2 hours and on the low-setting, it’ll last for about 4 ½ hours. Since no one cooks always on “hi” or always on “low” – you’re likely to get about 3 hours worth of cooking time out of your single propane canister. For a weekend trip or two – that’s more than enough to make small breakfasts and slightly more complicated dinners.


You’ll quickly learn that this isn’t really the most convenient backpacking stove available after using it a few times. The stove itself is easy to pack and not very heavy, but the propane cylinders you need to fuel the stove are bulky, heavy and if you need more than one, will eat up space in your backpack faster than almost anything else. Plus, who wants to have lug around the empty canisters since they are just as bulky and almost as heavy as the full ones.

While it started out as my first backpacking stove, I quickly realized that this wasn’t the stove to take all over on my backpacking travels and I moved on into the world of smaller and lighter backpacking stove.

Though that wasn’t the end of the line for my Coleman 1-Burner Propane Stove. Nowadays it travels with me on quick car-camping trips and it comes out when we’ve lost power and I want to still be able to cook something up. With its quick setup, it’s easy to have something cooking within a few minutes of pulling it out and setting it up.

I’m still amazed at the control of the heat-output this kind of backpacking stove. You can literally go from almost nothing to full blast with everything in between. I’ve found that it is easy to cook just about anything on the stove and I’ve never really had a problem with burning or undercooking food. I even have managed to make pancakes and eggs on this stove without burning either of them.

Final Thoughts

The Coleman 1-Burner Propane Stove is a great choice for someone who is looking for a basic, easy-to-use propane stove for car camping or as an emergency stove for home.

While the stove itself isn’t that bulky – the required propane cylinders really make the stove awkward for anything beyond a short overnight backpacking trip or use in a ‘base camp’ situation where you aren’t carrying the canisters that far. Just remember – even after you use the propane in the canister – you’re still going to have to carry it back out and the propane doesn’t add that much weight to the canister.

Really don’t consider it a backpacking stove, but for car camping or emergency home use, the Coleman 1-Burner Propane stove is a handy little one-burner propane stove to have.

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