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TESTING

The Great Outdoors : Rating Camp Stoves

April 25, 1991|JOAN DRAKE | TIMES FOOD MANAGING EDITOR

Most camp stoves (multi-burner portable stoves, not the single-burner stoves used by backpackers) are made by two companies, Coleman Outdoor Products Inc. and Century Primus. Even the house-brand stoves carried by department stores are usually made by these companies. As a result, camp stoves differ little in purchase price or overall performance, so you should choose a model on the basis of economy, convenience and/or environmental considerations.

FUEL:

Coleman gives the following comparison of fuel costs for 50 hours of cooking (two-burner stoves):

* Unleaded gasoline ($1.20 per gallon), $10.75.

* Camping fuel ($3.99 per gallon), $39.25.

* Propane ($3.29 per disposable bottle), $149.75.

Fuel prices may vary, of course, but clearly, in terms of operating cost, the front-runner is unleaded gasoline.

Unleaded gas, bought straight from the gas station pump, is a newcomer in camp cooking. For decades, propane was the only alternative to the traditional camping fuel (also known as white gas). Coleman has conducted extensive testing on its unleaded gas model, but only time will determine whether it is as reliable as the classic Coleman stove running on camping fuel.

EVALUATION:

The four models were evaluated according to the following criteria:

* Ease of obtaining fuel.

* Ease of fueling stove.

* Overall ease of operation.

* Time needed to bring two cups of cold tap water to a boil in a teakettle.

Unleaded gasoline was the easiest fuel to obtain. Camping fuel (white gas) and propane had to be purchased at camping supply stores.

Both unleaded gasoline and camping fuel must be poured into the tank through a filter. Filling these tanks was more time-consuming than attaching the bottles to propane stoves.

The Times detected no significant difference between the two gas models tested. Both required periodic repumping to maintain pressure. When the auxiliary burner was lit there was a definite decrease in main burner power. On the propane stoves tested, power to the first burner did not diminish when the second burner was lit.

All models had adjustable cooking power. No significant difference was found in the time it took to boil water.

CONCLUSIONS:

When it comes to convenience, propane-powered stoves with electronic starters win hands down. The drawbacks are higher fuel cost and an environmental concern over disposal of the empty bottles.

RESOURCES:

Several models of Coleman and Primus camp stoves are available at camping and sporting goods stores throughout Southern California.

Make & Model: Coleman (1) Unleaded Powerhouse (TM) Gas Stove, Model 414-700 Price; $80. Features: Two burners. Folded size: 22x13 3/4x6 1/4-inches. Fuel capacity: 3.5 pints. Warranty: 5 years. Comments: Best feature: Convenience of obtaining fuel. Biggest drawback: No track record on reliability. Make & Model: Coleman (2) Powerhouse (TM) Gas Stove, Model 413H499 Price: $75. Features: Two burners. Folded size: 22x13 3/4x6 1/4-inches. Fuel capacity: 3.5 pints. Warranty: 5 years. Comments: Best feature: Reliability. Biggest drawback: Not as convenient to use as propane stoves. Make & Model:Primus (3) Matchless Deluxe Regulated Propane Stove, Model 4930 Price: $60. Features: Two burners. Nickel plated grill. Chrome plated spill tray. Folded size: 21x11 3/4x3 3/4-inches. Implied warranty: If product is defective due to manufacturing, it will be repaired or replaced at no cost. Comments: Best feature: 24-inch connection hose. Biggest drawback: Valve on regulator can freeze if closed too tightly. Make & Model: Coleman (4) Electronic-Ignition Propane Stove, Model 5435A700 Price: $69. Features: Two burners. Folded size: 21x12 1/4x3-inches. Warranty: 3 years. Comments: Best feature: Ease of operation. Biggest drawback: Short connector when using disposable propane fuel bottles.

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