An Ode to the Simplest Camp Stove Money Can Buy

Coleman butane single burner camp stoves are dirt cheap, portable, and will last for years.
Photos: Matt Miller

Parents always seem to have a trove of items they’ve collected over the years, trash or treasure. Maybe it’s a set of wooden-framed floor speakers from the 90s, antique brass candle holders, or decorative rocks. Idealizing minimalist values to an extent, when my mom says she’s got something for me, I’m usually in no rush to find out what it is.

Back in 2015, when I was laid off from my job in the mental health field, entertaining the idea of becoming a writer and collecting unemployment, one thing was certain: I was going to camp and ride my bike a lot. I kept a low overhead and tried to be frugal, but I also wanted to travel around the Southwest and rack up as much dirt mileage as I could. Expanding my car camping kit, learning the public lands dispersed camp sites where I’d be traveling, and cooking my own meals would help me accomplish my summer dirtbag dream.

Come to find out, my mom had a pretty sweet gift for me. A $25 (back then, probably) Coleman single burner butane camp stove. I’ve used it multiple times every year since then on camping and bike trips. It’s about as simple as a camp kitchen can get and trusty as your grandfather’s old watch.

I believe the adage goes, “they don’t make ’em like this anymore.” Except in this case they do, and these single burner butane camp stoves still kick ass.

Coleman Single Burner Butane Camp Stove

About the Coleman Single Burner Butane Camp Stove

These stoves, and ones made by other brands which are essentially the same thing, are sold at Walmart and other storefronts around the country, and are available online too.

The stove has its own “Instastart” ignition, negating the need for matches, and it has 7,640 total BTUs of cooking power. It fits up to a 10″ pan, and cooking for up to 2-3 people, I’ve never really needed more than that.

There is a dial to adjust the burner and the cooking grate is porcelain-coated to make it easier to clean. Coleman says the aluminum burner will remain rust-proof after years of use. Mine hasn’t shown any rust yet.

The stove uses 8.8oz butane canisters, which are said to give about about 1.25 hours of cooking time. Usually, I’ve been able to find them at Walmart ahead of a camping trip, but over the pandemic, they became pretty hard to find. But they only cost about $3 a can, or you can sometimes find multi-packs for a discounted per-can rate.

Just lock n’ load a butane canister and you’re ready to go.

Cooking with the Coleman

I don’t recall my first meal cooked on this single burner. It was likely a can of chili or beef stew. I likely regretted it the next morning. Fortunately my cooking has come a long way since then.

Stoves like this are excellent if you’re just cooking for yourself and your partner or a small family. While there are a lot of excellent, premium 2-burner camp stoves out there, they also come at the expense of weight and what your car can hold, whereas this is a very reasonable size for heating up a meal after a long day on the trail.

There are still limitless cooking options for a single-burner stove. Campers can easily cook some chicken, set it aside while they cook noodles, and then mix everything together or just heat up pre-cooked spaghetti they brought with them.

Gnocchi and quality ground beef for an excellent post-ride meal camping.

While there is a dial to adjust the temperature, this stove seems like it always cooks on the hot side. I advise frequent stirring and cooking oil if you don’t have anything fatty in the pan. There also isn’t any sort of wind resistance feature on the stove and the flames will fold over like a box top in a strong breeze.

So it’s not perfect. And a lot of camping gear is like bike gear. You can buy the bulky, heavy stuff for cheap at Walmart or you can spend a whole paycheck at REI on light, compact tents and sleeping bags. But when it comes to a camp stove, unless you’re cooking for more than a few people, I’m not sure a very high-end burner is necessary. And the Coleman Single Burner Butane stove pays itself off in one trip, and the following dozens of trips for years to come.

Pros and cons of the Coleman Single Burner Butane Camp Stove


  • Cheap
  • Reliable
  • Portable and easy to use almost anywhere


  • Not great in the wind
  • Cooks hot

Bottom line

If you want to quickly and easily cook small meals without a bulky camp stove, this Coleman single burner makes a trustworthy camp cooker ready for the long haul.

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