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How to use a camping stove: safety tips for cooking at camp

A couple cooking on a camping stove
Knowing how to use a camping stove also involves vital safety, set up and storage practices that will protect you and your gear from any harm (Image credit: Mike Harrington)

Whether you’re backpacking solo through the wilderness or car camping at the beach with your family, a hot hearty meal under the darkening sky is the perfect end to a day of exploring. The best camping stoves come in many different styles and sizes, from lightweight quick boils to deluxe double burners and the specific instructions will vary depending on what you buy. However, knowing how to use a camping stove also involves vital safety, set up and storage practices that will protect you and your gear from any harm.

Most of these tips apply to gas camping stoves, however you be interested in a more rustic experience with a wood burning stove instead. 

Friends preparing breakfast at campsite

Whether you’re backpacking solo through the wilderness or car camping at the beach with your family, a hot hearty meal under the darkening sky is the perfect end to a day of exploring (Image credit: Morsa Images)

1. Check your gas stove for leaks 

Close-up of camping stove and pot

It’s important to check your camping stove and your gas canister for leaks before you set off on your adventure (Image credit: Malorny)

It’s important to check your camping stove and your gas canister for leaks before you set off on your adventure. The easiest way to do this is to mix a good squirt of washing up liquid with water in a spray bottle and spray it on the connection points of your stove and gas canister. If there are any leaks, bubbles will start to appear in the areas where the gas is leaking out and you should not, under any circumstances, use the equipment. Find out if your gear is still under warranty before making a new purchase.

If there are no bubbles, you can wipe the stove and canister down with a paper towel and pack them for your trip.

2. Never cook in your tent 

A man cooking on a stove outside his tent at sunset

When you arrive at camp, if the weather is particularly nasty, it could be tempting to want to cook inside your tent, away from the wind and rain, but this is one thing you should never do (Image credit: Maya Karkalicheva)

When you arrive at camp, if the weather is particularly nasty, it could be tempting to want to cook inside your tent, away from the wind and rain, but this is one thing you should never do. Though the best tents and sleeping bags are often treated with fire retardants, the material they are made from is intrinsically flammable and one wrong move could send things up in smoke. In fact, according to official advice from the UK Government, a tent can be destroyed by fire in under a minute. 

Furthermore, tents are not particularly breathable structures – which is why condensation builds up on the inside walls while you sleep – so carbon monoxide poisoning is a further risk involved with gas stoves.

Set up your stove at least several feet away from your tent to be safe, and if the weather looks grim, set up under a tarp for some protection. 

3. Set up on a flat, clear surface 

Best double-burner camping stoves

When it’s time to cook, find a flat, uncluttered area to set up your camping stove on (Image credit: Primus)

When it’s time for dinner, find a flat, uncluttered area to set up your camping stove on. Though some stoves are more precarious than others, the last thing you want is the stove toppling over when a gust of wind comes. 

Even if your stove is quite wide and flat, you also don’t want to be in any danger of tripping over an errant rock or tent pole and falling onto it. Make sure the area is free of bushes, long grass or any other vegetation that could catch fire and spread if things do go awry (read more in our wildfire safety article).

Finally, once the stove is going, never leave it unattended where it could be knocked over by kids, the wind or wildlife.

4. Disconnect the gas after use 

Gas canisters with a camping stove

After you’ve finished cooking your meal, in addition to turning the stove off, make sure you disconnect the gas canister from the stove (Image credit: Anglers Mail)

After you’ve finished cooking your meal, in addition to turning the stove off, make sure you disconnect the gas canister from the stove too. Keeping the canister attached to the stove opens up the possibility of gas leaks, which of course can be dangerous, or just mean you run out of fuel before the end of your trip.

Make sure to also check out our guide to how much fuel to bring for a backpacking trip. 

5. Store your camping stove safely 

women instals the primer into a camp stove fuel canister while camping in a remote, coastal rainforest

If you’re heading out on a hike or trail run and leaving your camp set up, make sure that your camping stove and gas canister are stored away from direct sunlight and extreme heat (Image credit: Alex Ratson)

If you’re heading out on a hike or trail run and leaving your camp set up, make sure that your camping stove and gas canister are stored away from direct sunlight and extreme heat. Pick a shaded spot such as under a tree or picnic table. If you’re desert camping or it’s going to be a hot day, don’t leave the gear in your tent, which will trap heat and could cause the canister to combust.  

6. Clean your camping stove

Washing up at camp

The best way to keep your camping stove functioning well is to keep it clean. (Image credit: Cavan Images)

The best way to keep your camping stove functioning well is to keep it clean. Oil and grease from your camping meals can clog up the burner and leftover pieces of food can cause a fire hazard next time you use it. For a longer camping trip, bring a little washing up liquid and wash up your stove and pan after each use – just be sure to allow it all to cool first. For a quick overnight trip, you can clean up when you get home. Keeping your camping stove clean can help it last for years or even decades. 

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Adventure.com. She is an author, mountain enthusiast and yoga teacher who loves heading uphill on foot, ski, bike and belay. She recently returned to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland after 20 years living in the USA, 11 of which were spent in the rocky mountains of Vail, Colorado where she owned a boutique yoga studio and explored the west's famous peaks and rivers. She is a champion for enjoying the outdoors sustainably as well as maintaining balance through rest and meditation, which she explores in her book Restorative Yoga for Beginners, a beginner's path to healing with deep relaxation. She enjoys writing about the outdoors, yoga, wellness and travel. In her previous lives, she has also been a radio presenter, music promoter, university teacher and winemaker.