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Van life presents you with a lifestyle that requires you to go outside the box a little. While you may have some semblance of normal life, some of the products you use may be a bit different than you are used to. A stove is one of those items. If you don’t have a built-in gas stove in your van, you’ll have to get used to a camping-style propane stove that utilizes small propane containers.
I chose not to use a built-in solution in my van because I didn’t want to dedicate a space for it. Cooking isn’t something I do a lot so wanted to have a mobile solution that could be set up and taken back down as needed.
That’s where the trusty ole propane camping stove comes in. It has served me well and as a camper and outdoor enthusiast for most of my life, I have used many stoves like this over the years. They are not created equal and some stand out above the crowd.
I’d like to share a list of the top 5 stoves that would make a great cooking solution for van-lifers. There is a clear winner for me as it’s been the one I’ve stuck with over the years and have cooked many meals with.
Keep in mind that these propane stoves are great for van life where most of your cooking will be done inside your van. My criteria for a great van life propane stove are quality, size, and mobility. All the stoves I have looked at are small enough to work well in tight spaces but pack a punch when it comes to cooking or heating foods and liquids.
While there isn’t too much that can go wrong with a simple camp stove, a low-quality one will leave you wanting more. While there are pros and cons to each of them, the trick is to find one that suits your needs. If you’re an aspiring chef, a built-in solution will be better. However, if you are in the market for a more portable solution, read on.
1. Eureka Ignite – Overall WINNER
The Eureka Ignite has been my go-to cooking solution in my van since the beginning. I have cooked many meals on this little stove and it has been excellent! I initially purchased this because of its design. I liked the color, and size, and was sold on the simmer control that it offers.
I have been pleasantly surprised at how well this little stove functions. It’s small and sits nice and neat on my counter but stores away easily when I’m not using it. It is a quality product that some thought has gone into.
I wrote a full review on this stove that can be found here. Let’s look at a few of the best things to love about this stove.
- Low flame control. You can simmer your meal really well with this stove. The flame can be brought down to nearly nothing and allow you to slowly cook or warm foods without burning them.
- Low profile. – This stove is quite slim and will fit nicely on a countertop or picnic table. I use it on my kitchen counter all the time and it works great.
- Quality. The quality of this stove is better than a lot of others I have tried. I have been satisfied with the overall build, controls, elements, and connections.
- It looks great. This stove looks great sitting on my countertop without being too bulky.
- Easy to clean. I have spilled my share of foods and liquids over time as I’ve gotten sloppy and allowed foods to fall or water to boil over. Those spills are easy to clean up with the stainless-steel drip tray.
- No storage case. I wish it came with a carrying case. It would be much easier to store in a van with a padded case. It does have a nice hidden carrying handle to easily carry it from place to place.
- Wind guards are flimsy. This is common with all camp stoves but the wind guards are flimsy and easy to bump into causing them to fall while you are using it. The simple solution is to just be careful not to bump into them while they are in position.
Overall the Eureka Ignite camp stove is my favorite! I consider it the best quality stove for the money and it can be perfect for van-lifers who want a portable solution rather than a built-in stove.
2. Coleman Cascade Classic Camp Stove
Another compact stove that packs a punch is the Coleman Cascade Classic Camp Stove. This stove is similar in color to the Eureka Ignite and has a similar overall look. Its feature set is quite similar and makes a great option for those who want a compact, portable stove.
While it weighs slightly more than the Eureka Ignite, it is still compact, sleek, and will get the job done with its 20,000 total BTUs of cooking power.
- Sleek Design. this is not your camp stove of the old days. It has a modern look for those who want the aesthetics to go along with the functionality.
- Compact. While it is a little larger than my favorite Eureka stove, it is still compact and is small enough to store away easily.
- Built-in Carrying Handle. I love the carrying handle on this product. It’s built-in and easy to grab and go no matter where you are cooking your meals.
- Removable grate for easy cleaning. The grate can easily be removed to be cleaned or to clean spills and food out of the drip tray.
- Not as solidly built as other Coleman stoves. This stove has reported issues with being flimsy and not as well constructed as some of the older Coleman models.
Overall, this is a great stove that won’t break the bank, will look great in your living space, and will allow you to cook some delicious meals out on the road.
3. Coleman Classic 3 Burner Propane Camping Stove
The Coleman Classic 3 Burner Stove is one of the most popular on the market and for good reason. Coleman has been the go-to brand for many campers for many years. This classic stove is larger than the previous two stoves above. It’s for those who need to utilize larger pans and have the space for it.
While it can be too large for many van living areas, it can make a great stove for those who want to cook outside the van. Its large size allows you to cook more food in less time, making it a great cooking solution on the road.
Coleman is a reliable brand so this classic stove will ensure that you have a reliable stove ready to serve your needs.
- Carrying handle. All portable stoves should have a built-in handle like this. It makes it easy to transport from place to place while on the road or out in the wild.
- 3 Burners. A large amount of burner space will ensure that you make the most of every square inch of cooking area.
- Fold down wind guards. If the wind guards are in the way, you can easily fold them down. They make great areas for stove utensils and other items when not being used for blocking wind.
- It can accommodate larger pans up to 12-inches. Most compact camping stoves can only accommodate 10-inch pans at best. However, this whopper gives you the room you need to cook larger meals.
- It’s large and bulky. This may be too large for van life but if you have the space, it has a lot of room for cooking large meals.
- The temperature is hard to adjust. Many have reported that the temperature is not as adjustable as some other stoves. This is common with camp stoves as you either get it too hot or not hot enough. It may take some time to get it working to your liking.
4. Coleman Fold N Go 2 Burner Propane Camping Stove
The Coleman Fold N Go 2-Burner Stove is a space-saving stove can help you maximize the room in your van while still providing a powerful place to cook meals. If you only get your stove out when it’s time to use it (like I do), you’ll appreciate the foldable design on this stove. Storing it away is easy as it can fit in smaller spaces than some of the regular-sized stoves mentioned above.
I have a place where I always keep my stove out of the way but having one that folds as small as this one does would make finding a storage space much easier.
- Folds for easy storage. Storage is often hard to find in a van so having a small stove is an advantage. It folds small but still maintains a normal footprint when opened up and ready to use.
- Lightweight. At only 5 pounds, it’s about half the weight of some of the other lightweight models above. If you are trying to save weight, every little bit helps.
- No wind guards. If you intend to use this stove outdoors, you won’t have wind guards to keep your flame from blowing out. This won’t be an issue on non-windy days but could cause a problem in windier conditions.
- Propane connection is in the back. If you have small counter space, the propane tank on the back will make this unit stick out further than those with the propane tank on the side.
5. Jetboil Flash Camping and Backpacking Stove Cooking System
The Jetboil Flash is a different system than those we’ve looked at so far. However, I feel that this is a perfect additional stove for van-lifers. There are times when you just need a simple burner that can warm water quickly. The Jetboil gets it done fast and is extremely small for storage.
I’ve included it on the list because I use it regularly and know how great it works. For those times when I just want to warm water for coffee, tea, dried soups, oatmeal, or anything else that requires hot water, this is the stove I reach for.
Besides that, van life allows me to be outdoors and as an avid hiker, I often find myself lost in the woods far away from the van. Having a portable stove like this allows me to enjoy creature comforts when I’m not in the van. I can take an early morning hike and fix some coffee once I get to my destination. It’s truly a great solution for the mobile outdoorsman.
It’s also great in your van as an addition to a larger stove. I love my Eureka stove but there are times when the Jetboil is all I need.
- It’s very small. While not your typical camp stove, this stove serves a different purpose and is small for hikers, backpackers, and multi-day outdoor excursions. This means it takes up less space which is great for van-dwellers.
- It heats up fast. If you need some boiling water fast, this system is easy and fast to set up. Once set up, you can expect boiling water in just a few minutes.
- It can be used in your van or out on the trail. Use it in your van or on your day hikes. Either way, it can be useful in so many scenarios.
- It’s an all-in-one solution with minimal weight. Everything you need is inside, including the gas canister. Just drop it in your backpack and you’ll never know it’s there.
- It requires a different type of fuel canister than other stoves. It won’t work with the typical 1-pound propane tanks that camp stoves often use. Instead, you’ll need a specific canister designed to fit the smaller connection. These are easy to find at most outdoor stores or online.
- It’s too small to cook full meals on. You likely won’t be cooking large meals but will use it for dry soups and other foods that can be cooked out on the trail.
- It’s mainly used to boil water. Its primary use is to boil water that can then be added to items requiring it.
A good camp stove is essential for van life. Unless you decide to have a built-in solution, you’ll need to invest in a great portable stove so that you can live comfortably while on the road. There are many options on the market but my favorites are listed above. I’ve found these to be top-of-the-line models that will work great for your van.
While I have preferred and have used the Eureka Ignite for many years now, all of these are great solutions. The one you choose will be unique to your situation. You can’t go wrong with any of the models I have chosen for this list if you are looking for a reliable solution.