Camping Grill Guide: How to Choose the Best Grill for Camping

Camping grills allow you to cook delicious meals whether you’re car camping at a campground or backpacking deep into the wilderness. With so many options available, it can be tricky to decide which type of camping grill is right for your needs. This comprehensive camping grill guide will walk you through the pros and cons of different camping grill types, features to look for, and provide camping grill recommendations for every budget and cooking scenario.

Camping Grill Guide: How to Choose the Best Grill for Camping

Types of Camping Grills

There are three main types of camping grills: gas grills, charcoal grills, and electric grills.

Gas Grills

Gas grills are the most popular type of camping grill. They utilize propane or natural gas as fuel. Gas camping grills are easy to use and clean, and they provide consistent heat. Gas grills are convenient to use with push button ignition and precise temperature control. The gas fuel allows quick heating and cool down.

ProsCons
– Convenient
– Easy start up
– Precise temperature regulation
– Quick heating
– Requires fuel source
– Can be bulky
– Less authentic flavor
Pros and Cons of Propane Camping Grills

Charcoal Grills

Charcoal grills are a more traditional option. Charcoal grills use charcoal briquettes as the fuel source. Charcoal provides an authentic smoky, wood-fired taste that some people prefer. However, they can be more difficult to use and clean than gas grills. Charcoal grills include portable kettles, freestanding models, and collapsible options.

ProsCons
– Traditional grilled flavor
– Allows slow cooking
– Retains heat well
– Inexpensive fuel
– Messy cleanup
– Temperature regulation challenging
– Not as portable
Pros and Cons of Charcoal Camping Grills

Electric Grills

Electric grills are a good option if you’re looking for a grill that’s easy to set up and use. However, they don’t provide as much heat as gas or charcoal grills. They’re also less portable since electric camping grills need to plug into an electrical outlet or generator for power. Electric grills use heating elements to cook food.

ProsCons
– Easy to use, convenient
– Safe for indoor use
– Precise temperature control
– Requires power source
– Limited portability
– Lower maximum heat
Pros and Cons of Electric Camping Grills

7 Best Camping Grills of 2024

Investing in a high-quality camping grill ensures delicious campsite cuisine and memories cooking under the stars for years to come. This list covers the top-rated camping grills across different fuel types, featuring sturdy construction and ample cooking power to feed yourself or the whole campground. Whether you need a portable propane grill to toss in the car for weekend trips or a professional-grade pellet smoker for base camping, these grills represent the best of the best for 2024.

Coleman Fold N Go™ Propane Grill

With 6,000 BTUs of power and Instastart ignition for easy lighting, this lightweight and portable grill is perfect for solo hikers who want a simple, portable propane unit for boiling water and cooking meals on the trail. This Coleman camping features a folding design that makes it easy to transport for backpacking, camping, and tailgating.

Weber Q 1200 Portable Gas Grill

This versatile tabletop grill from Weber offers 8500 BTUs, 189 square inches of cooking space and convenient push-button ignition. Coming in at just over 31 lbs., this grill is ideal for picnics, tailgates, car or RV camping, and small families. It also features a lid thermometer for temperature control and a removable drip tray for easy cleaning.

Coleman RoadTrip 285 Portable Stand-Up Propane Grill

Boasting 20,000 BTUs across 285 square inches, this freestanding Coleman grill has the power to feed the whole campground from the convenience of its portable stand-up cart with wheels. This is a larger propane grill that is perfect for car camping and RVing. It has fold-down side tables for added convenience, Instastart ignition for matchless lighting, and built-in thermometer for temperature control.

Everdure Cube Portable Charcoal Grill

The Everdure CUBE charcoal grill is perfect for camping and backpacking. The unique cube shape of this grill provides 103 square inches of cooking space while still being lightweight and compact. The removable charcoal tray and porcelain enamel firebox help make the CUBE grill easy to set-up and clean. The CUBE grill offers convenient charcoal cooking for camping, beach trips, picnics, and backyard cooking.

Snow Peak Takibi Fire & Grill

The Snow Peak Takibi Fire & Grill is another unique grill that uses wood for fuel. Designed in Japan and recipient of the 2022 Good Design Award, this compact stainless steel grill is made specifically for open fire cooking on-the-go. Since it does not require any propane or charcoal, it is perfect for camping or backyard cooking.

Solo Stove Campfire Grill

With a patented double-wall smokeless design, this lightweight and compact wood-burning stove and cast iron grill is great for campsites, hunting, backpacking, and park day-use areas. It’s double-walled design and superior airflow help keep the flames hot, making this grill very efficient and producing very little smoke. The Solo Stove is made of durable stainless steel.

TRU Copper Smokeless Grill

The TRU Copper Smokeless Grill is the perfect grill for camping and other outdoor activities. It is virtually smokeless, so you can use it without worrying about bothering other campers or your neighbors. The TRU Copper grill provides 192 quare inches of cooking surface with an easy-to-clean design. It weighs less than 7 lbs. which makes it very portable. It is electric, so you will need some sort of portable power or generator to use it.

No matter your needs or budget, there is a camping grill out there that is perfect for you. With so many great options to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect grill to help you enjoy delicious meals while you’re enjoying the great outdoors.

Camping Grills Styles

When selecting a camping grill, you need to decide which grill best suits your camping style and cooking needs. The most common categories of camping grills include:

Portable Grills

Portable grills are lightweight and compact for easy transport. They are a top choice for backpacking, car camping, or other activities where portability is key. Types of portable camping grills include:

  • Backpacking stoves – Ultralight stoves that connect to detachable fuel canisters. Examples include the MSR PocketRocket 2, Jetboil, and BioLite.
  • Small propane grills – Affordable and easy to use.
  • Collapsible charcoal grills – Lightweight grills that allows cooking over charcoal on the go.
  • Cast iron grills – Basic grills like the Lodge Cast Iron Grill Skillet that allow cooking over the campfire.

Tabletop Grills

Tabletop grills are larger models designed for car camping and base camping with more cooking space. Types of tabletop camping grills include:

  • Small propane grills – Larger propane grills from Coleman, Camp Chef, and Cuisinart offer more cooking area.
  • Portable pellet grills – Use wood pellets for flavor.
  • Tabletop charcoal grills – Charcoal grills that provide ample cooking surface.
  • Flat top grills – Allow even heating and cooking in skillets.

Freestanding Grills

Freestanding grills are full-sized, feature-packed grills ideal for car camping and RV camping. Types include:

  • Large propane grills – Grills that offer multiple burners and ample cooking space.
  • Pellet grills – Set precise temperatures and infuse smoky flavor using wood pellet fuel.
  • Charcoal grills – Large charcoal grills that provide lots of space to cook for a crowd.
  • Sheltered grills- Enclosed grills to allow grilling even in bad weather.
  • Hybrid grills – Offer the versatility of gas and charcoal cooking with a dual fuel design.
Weber Q 1200 Portable Gas Grill

Key Features to Consider

Keep the following features in mind when shopping for a camping grill to ensure you select the right model for your specific needs:

Weight

  • Backpacking demands an ultra-lightweight grill under 2 pounds. For car camping, weight is less critical allowing options up to 50 pounds or more.

Packed Size

  • Backpackers need a grill that packs down small like the MSR PocketRocket 2 stove. For car campers, size matters less if there’s room to transport bulkier grills.

Cooking Surface Area

  • If cooking for 1-2 people, 100-200 square inches is sufficient. For larger groups, look for 300+ square inches of grilling space.

Fuel Source

  • Propane, charcoal, wood pellets? Fuel type influences cooking capabilities and portability.

Burner Output

  • More BTUs mean more cooking power. Backpackers can get by on lower BTUs while larger campsites benefit from more BTU output.

Ignition Type

  • Matchless ignition systems make starting the grill quicker and easier.

Durability

  • Important for supporting frequent use. Look for solid construction with stainless steel and cast iron components.

Extras

  • Side burners, tool hooks, shelves, and other bonus features improve the grilling experience.

Budget

  • Camping grills range from $20 portable models to $1000 full-sized grills. Set a budget to narrow options.

Choosing a Camping Grill

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a camping grill. First, consider the size of your group. If you’re cooking for a large group, you’ll need a larger grill. Second, think about the type of fuel you want to use. Gas grills are the most popular, but charcoal grills can also be a good option. Third, decide how much you’re willing to spend. Camping grills can range in price from a few dollars to several hundred dollars.

By carefully considering grill features, you can identify the best camping grill to match your camping style, group size, cooking needs and budget.

Using a Camping Grill Safely

Here are a few safety tips for using a camping grill:

  • Always use a grill mat or other protective surface under your grill.
  • Keep the grill away from flammable materials.
  • Never leave a lit grill unattended.
  • Be careful when handling hot coals.
  • Extinguish the grill completely before storing it.

Camping Grill Accessories

There are a few accessories that can be helpful for using a camping grill. These include:

  • Grill mat: A grill mat protects your campsite from hot coals and grease.
  • Grill brush: A grill brush is used to clean the grill grates.
  • Tongs: Tongs are used to handle hot food.
  • Thermometer: A thermometer is used to check the internal temperature of meat.

How to Care for Your Camping Grill

Your camping grill is an investment that, with proper care and maintenance, can serve you for years of outdoor cooking adventures. Follow these tips to keep it performing like new:

Clean Your Grill Regularly

After each use, be sure to give your grill a thorough scrub down. This is the best way to keep it clean, which not only allows it to cook better but extends its lifespan as well. For charcoal grills, remove any ashes or debris from the bottom tray. With propane models, disconnect the propane tank first, then remove the grates and give them a good scrub.

Perform Seasonal Inspections

Before kicking off another camping season, inspect your trusty grill to spot any wear and tear issues before they become big problems. For propane grills, ensure the hoses, burners, and ignition are all in good working order. Charcoal grill owners will want to check the integrity of the grill grates and vents. Address any issues promptly to get your grill into peak condition.

Keep it Covered

The outdoor elements can be harsh on your grill. Shield it from the rain, snow, and UV rays while not in use with a heavy-duty weather-resistant cover. Taking this simple preventative measure dramatically slows rust and corrosion, adding years of life to your camping cooker.

Oil the Grates

And remember to oil those grill grates! Before and after each cookout, rub down the grates with a thin coat of vegetable oil using a brush or paper towel. This prevents food from sticking while camping and also creates a protective barrier against rust-inducing moisture.

With some basic TLC, your camping grill will be ready to cook up meals outdoors for years of future adventures. Maintaining it properly is the best way to maximize your investment.

Takibi Fire & Grill, Photo © Snow Peak

Camping Grill Maintenance Tips

Proper maintenance will keep your camping grill working efficiently for many seasons. Follow these tips to get the most out of your grill:

  • Empty ash after each use to optimize airflow and prevent grease flare ups.
  • Cover grates with foil to simplify cleaning. Avoid grill brushes which can leave behind metal bristles.
  • Bring grill cleaner and degreaser to remove built up residue after cooking.
  • Confirm propane tanks are adequately fueled and backup fuel is available before departing.
  • Inspect burners, igniters, and tubes in gas grills to ensure proper operation.
  • Replace worn or damaged components like cooking grates when needed.
  • Clean exterior surfaces with warm soapy water. Avoid abrasive scouring pads.
  • Transport grills securely to prevent shifting and damage during transit.
  • Allow grills to fully cool before packing them away at the end of your trip.

Proper maintenance will add years of life to your camping grill and prevent costly repairs down the road.

Camping Grill Safety Tips

When cooking over an open flame, safety should always be the top concern. Follow these tips for safe operation of camping grills:

  • Position grills a safe distance from tents, shrubs, and other flammable items. Avoid placing directly on dry grass.
  • Do not leave grills unattended when lit. Keep children and pets at a safe distance.
  • Wear fire resistant gloves and clothing when cooking and managing fuel sources.
  • Avoid using excess lighter fluid or fuels that can create flare ups.
  • Open grill lids slowly and use caution to prevent steam or flashback burns.
  • Ensure propane cylinders are stored safely in an upright, secure position. Disconnect from grill when not in use.
  • Allow coals and grill surfaces to fully extinguish and cool before touching.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher and first aid kit nearby in case of burns or other injuries.
  • Refrain from consuming alcohol when operating grills to prevent accidental injuries.

Staying safe around open flames makes camping grilling more enjoyable for the whole campground.

Cooking Tips for Cooking on Camping Grills

Grilling in the wilderness comes with its challenges, but with the right knowledge, you can become a true outdoor chef. Here are a few tips for cooking food on a camping grill:

Mastering Technique

  • Allow grill to preheat thoroughly for 10-15 minutes before starting to cook. This allows the grates to get piping hot for proper searing and cooking.
  • Don’t overcrowd the grill. Leave some space between foods for proper airflow and even cooking.
  • Use direct vs indirect heat zones. Cook over direct heat directly above the flames or coals for searing and quick cooking. Use indirect heat off to the side, away from the flames, for thicker foods needing gentle, even cooking.
  • Control temperature through vents on charcoal and pellet grills. Open vents wider for more airflow and higher heat. Close vents partially to restrict airflow and lower the temperature.
  • Brush on marinades, glazes and sauces only during the last 5-10 minutes. This prevents sugary sauces from burning.
  • Learn your grill’s hot spots and arrange food accordingly. Heat often accumulates more in the back or sides. Place delicate foods in cooler zones and searing items over direct heat.
  • Let meat rest for 5-10 minutes after cooking. This allows juices to reabsorb back into the meat before cutting to prevent dryness. The internal temperature will continue rising a bit during this time.
  • Clean grill thoroughly before and after each use. This prevents grease buildup which can cause flair ups and also allows for proper airflow.

Getting Creative with Grill Cooking

  • Grill slices of zucchini, bell peppers, onions, peaches, pineapple and other fruits/veggies. Brush with a little oil first. They char up nicely and the natural sugars caramelize.
  • Smoke wood chips add flavor – soak chips like hickory, applewood, mesquite in water for 30 minutes then wrap in foil and place over heat source.
  • Make camp pizzas – fully preheat grill, then pre-grill the crust for 3-5 minutes directly on the grates before adding toppings and finishing the cooking.
  • Cook fish and shellfish over direct high heat quickly, about 4 minutes per side, to prevent drying out. Brush with oil or spices first.
  • Take s’mores up a notch by using cookies, peanut butter cups, banana slices or other goodies instead of plain chocolate.

Camping Grill Guide: Final Thoughts

Camping grills are a great way to cook food while you’re enjoying the great outdoors. By following the tips in this camping grill guide, you can choose the right grill for your needs and use it safely and effectively. Keep portability, cooking power, durability and ease of use in mind as you shop. Consider your group size, camping style and budget to select the best camping grill to match your needs. And always make safety the number one priority when cooking outdoors. With your new go-anywhere grill in tow, you’ll be enjoying memorable campfire cookouts under the stars in no time!

6 Frequently Asked Questions About Camping Grills

Can I use a camping grill in a national park?

In most national parks, using camping grills is permitted, but regulations may vary. Always check the specific park’s guidelines before bringing your grill to ensure compliance. Position freestanding grills away from vegetation and store propane tanks securely. Practice leave no trace principles.

How do I clean my camping grill without traditional cleaning supplies?

In a pinch, you can clean your grill grates using a halved onion. Heat the grill, then rub the raw onion on the hot grates using a fork or tongs. The onion’s natural juices will help loosen and remove built-up debris. Allow the grill to cool fully before wiping down.

Are portable electric grills suitable for camping without electricity?

Yes, many portable electric grills can be powered by portable power supplies, making them suitable for camping trips without access to electricity. Some hybrid grill models offer a propane adaptor for an alternate fuel source. Follow safety precautions when using propane or an open flame.

What’s the best way to transport a tabletop camping grill?

Allow the grill to fully cool after use. Secure the lid with latches or clips to prevent opening during transit. Wrap the body of the grill in a blanket or towel to prevent scratches. Use caution when loading into a vehicle and secure the grill from shifting.

Can I use regular charcoal in a portable charcoal grill?

While regular charcoal can be used, it’s recommended to opt for specialty lump charcoal or briquettes designed for portable grills which burn cleaner and produce less ash. Cut charcoal to smaller pieces if needed to fit grill firebox.

Are camping grills suitable for RV camping?

Yes, camping grills are an excellent addition to RV camping! Just ensure you follow safety measures like setting up in a well-ventilated area far from the RV. Many RV parks have designated grill stations. Choose a portable grill that fits your cooking needs.

Bushcraft Charlie

As an avid outdoor enthusiast, Bushcraft Charlie first developed his wilderness and survival skills in the suburbs of Maryland. After relocating to Montana, he's continued to spend time outdoors - hiking the Rocky Mountains and practicing bushcraft skills like shelter building and fire making.

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