Whether you’re the type of outdoor aficionado who likes to rough it in the wild, or you prefer to camp with more of life’s creature comforts, you’ll want to bring along a camping grill on your next excursion. Choosing the best portable camping grill for your needs depends on several factors.
Here, we’ll discuss the different options available in the best portable camping grills, and narrow down our top five picks for portable charcoal, gas, and electric grills that cook every meal to perfection.
Types of Portable Camping Grills
The first step to deciding the right grill for you is determining what type of fuel source and heating mechanism you prefer for your cooking.
Grills come in three main types: gas, electric, and charcoal. Here we’ll tell you what you need to know about each.
Gas-powered grills use propane as fuel to cook your food. Also sometimes called a propane grill, they provide a good flavor to your meats and vegetables, heat up quickly, are environmentally friendly, and can come with extra bells and whistles.
The amount of heat that gas grills can generate are measured in BTU’s or British Thermal Units. Generally, a higher BTU means a hotter grill, but the grill construction and materials can also play a role in the heat generated. Thin materials or an inefficient design could make it difficult for your grill to hold heat despite a high BTU rating. Use this calculator to figure out how much propane your grill needs.
Electric grills are another option and plug directly into an electrical outlet to generate heat. They are extremely portable and efficient and sometimes offer variable temperature settings. However, of the different portable camping grills, they provide the least authentic flavor.
These models are popular because they’re easy to clean, and are one of the safest types available as there is no open flame while cooking. The best portable electric grills are also known for preparing some of the healthiest outdoor meals. Their unique designs sear meat and let excess fat drip away for a lean, healthy option.
For many people, camping just isn’t the same without the flavor of a meal barbecued on a charcoal grill. While the flavor is unbeatable, there are a few important points to consider when cooking with charcoal.
The best portable charcoal grills take longer to heat than their electric or gas counterparts, usually 20 to 30 minutes from the time you light the fire. You’ll need to purchase the charcoal separately and learn how to ignite it using either fluid or kindling.
Clean up with charcoal grills can also be tricky. It’s best if they burn down naturally, so it’s important to create a large, clear space around the cooking area to avoid fires as the coals cool.
Universal Things to Consider
No matter what fuel source you prefer for your grill, you’ll also want to take these factors into consideration when choosing the best model for your next camping trip.
Consider how much food you’ll be cooking on your gas grill to select the right size for your needs. A few hot dogs take up less space than several steaks, baked potatoes, and grilled vegetables for a family of four. An average-sized 200-square foot grill can cook 12 four-inch burger patties or two large steaks with room for baked potatoes and corn on the cob. Most pros recommend between 75 and 100 square feet per person as a rule of thumb for cooking space.
You'll need to make sure the camping cookware you currently use will be compatible with the grill.
Larger grills are more expensive, but it may be worth the investment to get a greater surface area to make meal preparation fast and efficient.
The grate within your grill is what conducts the heat into your food and creates the char marks associated with grilling. Grates can be made of many different types of material.
Stainless steel grates are some of the most common; they are lightweight and easy to clean. Cast-iron grates do the best job of holding and conducting heat but can be difficult to maintain and may rust. Heat-treated porcelain wrapped around cast iron is another option that offers excellent heating but can chip or crack and make for a hefty grate.
Some models may also use chrome or nickel-plated grates. While these are lightweight and inexpensive, these materials can rust and don’t hold heat well.
The best portable camping grills are both lightweight and durable. When cooking with flammable liquids and gasses over high heat, it’s important to be safe and to choose a barbecue made from quality materials.
Look for models made from cast iron, enameled steel, cast aluminum, and stainless steel. Look for quality in the painting of the items, as chipping can result in rust and deterioration over time, especially in cast iron.
Check that the parts used to assemble the grill, like the welds, nuts, and bolts, are of high quality. Plastic parts on a hot grill are a recipe for disaster, so it’s important to choose a model without pieces that could melt or warp over time.
Here are our top five picks of gas, electric, and charcoal grills on the market and the pros and cons of each.
This 130 square-inch, propane-fueled camping grill is a compact option perfect for solo or couple trips to the great outdoors.
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- Aluminized steel cooking grate is durable, long-lasting, and easy to clean
- Dual burner design allows you to use the grill and a stovetop style burner at the same time
- Adjustable control settings for each individual burner
- PerfectFlow technology helps maintain heat as your cooking, regardless of conditions
- PerfectTemp technology regulates a consistent temperature in a fuel-efficient design
- Wind Block panels pop up to shield your flame from the elements or fold down into a convenient tabletop
- The grill is a lidless design, so if you’re looking for an option you can use as a dutch oven, this one won’t work
This 22,000 BTU gas grill offers completely adjustable cooking settings in a 2-in-1 grill design.
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- The two-sided design comes with a traditional burner that can fit up to a 10-inch pan and a grill with 130 square inches of space.
- Each side of the grill has an independent temperature control gauge.
- PerfectFlow technology helps to maintain a consistent flame and heat regardless of outside weather conditions.
- Dual-purpose Wind Block panels keep your fire burning steady and can also fold down to be used as a portable table.
- Ignition button for a push-start fire and no need for matches
- At 7.7 x 12.3 x 23.9 inches, this is on the larger side if you’re looking for a very compact stove
- There aren’t any grippers on the bottom of the stove, so on a smooth surface it may slide around if nudged while you’re cooking
This minimalist barbecue grill is designed to sit over a campfire or a fire pit to serve as a platform to sear your food and warm up your pots and pans.
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- Made from heavy-duty, high-quality steel, this grill will stand up to any elements and is perfect for camping in any conditions
- The steel mesh grill top provides a lot of support and can hold heavy objects like cast iron skillets with ease
- The legs fold under the grill when it’s time to store it, making it slim and easy to slide into a backpack or tent
- It comes in three sizes so you can choose how large of a cooking space is appropriate for you
- This grill does not come with an independent heat or fuel source. To use, you’ll need to build a fire safely and then place the grill over it once it’s burning cleanly, meaning it could take a significant amount of time to heat and cook your food
- The grill itself has a painted finish that may not stand up to high heat conditions. Some users report that the paint melts off when it was used over an open flame, so it’s important to put your food on cookware and not directly on the grill
- If not properly cleaned and stored, the steel grate can rust over time
Unique, compact grill that generates 19,000 BTU’s and can use charcoal, gas, or wood as a fuel source.
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- Option to use multiple fuel sources depending on flavor you’re looking for in your food
- Collapses down to 5 inches making it easy to transport
- Can be used as a Dutch oven, wok, or to bake or roast meat, as well as a fire pit
- Difficult to control temperature with propane option, grill gets very hot and is difficult to adjust
- Small cook surface, 17-inch diameter
- Expensive for a small grill
This portable gas camping grill features a 240-square inch dual cooking surface and generates 7,000 BTU’s.
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- Large cooking surface with a flat griddle on one side and a ridged grill on the other offers versatile grilling options
- Telescoping legs allow for fast set-up and tear down and a comfortable cooking height
- Without the tank, the grill only weighs 18 pounds making it easy to transport and carry
- Griddle separates food from flame resulting in no charring
- Very easy to clean
- Doesn’t hold heat very well and may result in longer cook times on food
- Materials like screws in the legs and some of the welds are not as high quality as the actual grill materials and may wear out quickly
- Because the food is completely separated from the flame, it may produce a flavor that is like an electric grill rather than a traditional propane grill
Our Top Pick
While every portable camping grill we reviewed has its merits, the Coleman Camp Propane Grill/Stove+ is our recommendation for the best camping grill stove on the market. While it has many similarities to the other grills we reviewed, there are a few features that make it stand apart.
It generates a lot of power with 22,000 BTU’s, and the dual burners with independent heat control make it easy to cook many items at once. It’s both lightweight and portable, making it simple to carry to your campsite and pack easily back into your car or backpack.
The Coleman patented technology ensures that the grill is steadfast and will work regardless of weather conditions, and its extra features like the wind guard that folds down into a small table make it stand out above the rest.