There’s nothing quite like a steak or vegetable kebab under the stars, out on your own. Camping grills are basically your best friend while you’re out in the wilderness. Cooking inconsistently over a campfire just won’t do it for you – who could blame you? Camping grills offer an even cook, they’re portable, and easy to use. Heading out to the campsite this weekend? Let’s get you grilling in no time.
The Best Camping Grills in 2019
Coleman has a habit of stealing the top spot on any list. Their attention to detail, low costs, and being America’s household outdoor name for decades have put them on a pedestal. With the Road Trip LXE, they live up to their namesake.
At an excellent price, this 20,000 BTU propane grill spreads across 285 square inches of cooktop space, allowing you to grill up hefty amounts of food while you’re out on the lake or the camping trail with the gang.
285 square inch cooking space
20,000 BTUs of power
Lightweight and portable
- Weight47 pounds
Simple to clean
Ignition has had trouble; takes multiple attempts to light
Paint is easy to damage
The budgeter’s dream, and the envy of all your friends. They’ll never believe you snagged it for such a low cost. Blackstone gives you even heating and a quick start, which is crucial for getting the food going the second you and your friends unpack at the campsite.
Blackstone boasts their “paper towel rule,” where you can let it cool down, wipe it with a paper towel, and it’ll look nearly new right out of the box. Simple to clean, simple to carry. Handles make for a sturdy grip, while the weight is evenly distributed between the entire unit. You won’t pull you back out carrying this 25 pound unit through the trail.
260 square inches of cooktop space
Even heat distribution (no messing with multiple burners)
Heats up quickly
- Weight25 pounds
Inexpensive w/ quality
Easy to clean
Portable and lightweight
Only 12,000 BTUs of power
Does not include cover; use with caution
The king of tailgating and prince of the campground, Smoke Hollow’s 205 model comes with everything you need at a jaw-dropping cost (you know, in a good way). Your temperature pressure gauge reads back accurate temps in short intervals of time, while the steel legs fold up nicely for storage. You can pop this open on the tailgate at the campsite, use it, and fold the legs to slide it back to the other end of the bed. Easiest assembly and cleanup ever.
Apart from the stainless steel frame and 10,000 BTUs of power, you get the option to quickly switch out your one-pound propane tanks when they run empty. Simply switch, and keep the heat on the meat without missing a beat.
205 square inches of cooktop space
Utilizes small, disposable one-pound propane canisters
U-shaped burner means even cooking, all the time
- BrandSmoke Hollow
- Weight20.4 pounds
Made with tailgating in mind
Foldable steel legs for portability
Low cost with top notch features
Only 10,000 BTUs of power; don’t plan on feeding the entire parking lot
Latches on front are a bit dodgy
It’s a little hard not to imagine this grill is riding on a pair of skis. Cuisinart makes excellent interior, kitchen appliances, and they wanted to show the test of their mettle with this killer outdoor camping grill – they didn’t disappoint. CGG-180T Petit Gourmet Portable Tabletop Gas Grill is set with the twosome in mind.
The BTUs on this model aren’t anything to get excited about, but they do the trick in their 155 square inch cooktop space. For a romantic dinner under the stars (or a solo trip with a bunch of steaks), you’re locked and ready to rock and roll.
Perfect for up to 2 people
Easy to clean
- Weight2.2 pounds
Excellent price w/ stylish design
Lightweight (13.5lbs) for easy travel
Plop down anywhere, and you’re already good to grill
The lowest BTU rating on our list with only 5,500
Small cooking space of 155 square inches
The bigger brother to the top pick on our list, Coleman’s Road Trip Propane XLE gives you similar features, and an entirely new style to fall in love with. Eight different color options give you versatility over your own design, while the similar build to our other model makes you feel right at home.
285 square inches of cooking space are powered by two burners, boasting 20,000 BTUs of power between them. This model is simple to clean as simple could possible get, and portable enough to pack up with your weekend plans. Heading out to the lake? The cabin? Wherever your destination is, Coleman’s right by your side.
20,000 BTUs of raw power across two burners
285 square inches of cooking space
Collapsible design for easy storage and portability
- Weight44 pounds
Instastart button for immediate ignition
Very easy to clean, just like most Coleman outdoor products
Comes in 8 different styles to suit your desires
Even though it’s similar to the other Coleman, these wheels have a hell of a hard time moving around
Side tables are flimsy
This list wouldn’t be complete without Weber – the rival of Coleman. These two have been butting heads for decades, and yet, we still find ourselves using both. Weber’s Q1000 allows you to pick it up, drop it down, and just pop in a single one pound propane cylinder to get the party started.
Use the push button ignition to get everything rolling right off the bat. The specs on this include a cat aluminum body, which was initially intended for easy cleaning, but it proves a little bit harder to clean than the five models above Weber on this list. Because it’s all focused on a single burner (which is great for cooking), it produces more stuck-on grease through higher heats.
Easy use with disposable cylinders for liquid propane
- Weight28 pounds
189 square inch cooking space
Single burner gives even heat throughout the process
Adapter hose for larger tanks requires an additional purchase
Slightly harder to clean than other leading brands
Coleman understands that sometimes, you just need to get away. No camping trip, no crazy time out on the lake surrounded by friends – a few days of solitude can do wonders for a man. That’s why they crafted this straight-to-the-point, ultra-portable Fold N’ Go grill. Toss it on the passenger’s seat, and you’re ready to ride like the wind.
Perfect enough to cook up some single meals, up to one steak or two burgers (without overcrowding). When you need to get away, you need the world’s most reliable grill brand right by your side. For more great grilling options check out our guide to the best pellet grills.
Lightweight as it gets
- Weight10.4 pounds
High quality materials
Simple, smart design
Flimsy piping to propane tank
Camping Grill Buying Guide & FAQ
Heading out into the great outdoors can be tricky without the right equipment. Take a look at the best categories and features to look out for in an excellent camping grill. We’ve been on the trail with numerous models (this is quite a fun job) and tested these all ourselves. Based on our experiences and those of other camping grill enthusiasts, these are the main components you should be looking out for.
Features to Look For in a Camping Grill
There’s a few major components you need to look out for. These all have to do with how you use your grill, how long it’s going to take you to finish cooking, and more. Not sure what’s important in your selection? Check it out.
Cooking Surface - Usually dealt out in square inches, your cooking surface is going to determine how much you can cook at one time, and how much it’s going to cost to keep the flames going. The more cooking surface you have, the more fuel you’re going to need to keep the fire going. Smaller cooking surfaces are ideal for those planning no more than four in their party while they’re camping.
Temperature Gauge - These are a hit or miss for some. When it’s a small batch of food, you can generally keep your eye on it with little to no worry. Food items like sausage, hot dogs and burgers just take a keen eye to keep under wraps. Trying your hand at ribs or something more complex? You may need your temperature gauge.
Transportation - You need it to be portable, no questions asked. When you’re loading and unloading the car, wheeling it to your campsite and more, you want maximum mobility for minimum fatigue. Look for all-terrain wheels or lightweight carry models.
Grill Tops/Plates - Want to ensure that your food comes out perfect? You may need a cooktop or cook plate addition with your unit to treat it like a skillet or griddle. If you’re a newcomer to the outdoor grilling scene, this is going to come in handy for you.
Easiness to Clean - The last thing anyone wants is to buy something that’s difficult to clean. Your camping grill has to look good, so that you can cook well. Of course, it’s always best to have a scrub bristle brush for your grill as well, just to scrape off any caked-on grease or food after it cools down.
Ignition Button - Quick, easy no-flame ignitions are what most grills are sporting these days. They make the job quick and easy; these are a must.
Q: What’s the Difference Between a Camping Grill and a Camping Stove?
A: Think of an old gas range. There’s a burner, and a controlled flame - that’s what a camping stove is. It resembles a regular, traditional stove like you’d find in anyone’s house. Camping grills are just smaller versions of large backyard grills, where you’re using either gas (different way it’s distributed than a burner) or charcoal to cook your food.
Q: How to Properly Grill Outdoors
A: Believe it or not, some folks just don’t know how to grill outdoors. If you’re new to the world of grilling on the campsite, don’t you worry about a thing (because it was our writer’s first time doing it, too). Follow these steps and you’ll be safely grilling up a storm.
- Inspect the Grill
Unless you’re using it right out of the package on its first go, you’ll need to inspect the grill. For charcoal, you should ensure all the ash is swept away. For gas, make sure you have a full tank, and inspect the line for leaks (a lot can happen when you stow it away).
- Ignite the Night
Charcoal or gas, you need to heat up your grill for 10 minutes. Avoid using lighter fluid on charcoal grills - it makes the food taste like chemicals. Your components need ten minutes to heat up so you’ll actually cook your food instead of staring at it, and to avoid light-outs (when your gas grill flame inexplicably goes out and you have to wait five minutes to reignite it).
- The Cooking Process
Alright, ready for a slew of tips and tricks? You’ve inspected, prepped, and lit the grill - now let’s get ready to actually cook some food.
- Only flip your meats (ideally) one single time during the entire process. You place them on the grill on one side, await until it’s properly cooked, and flip it, then wait some more. This gives you consistent color on both sides.
- Get the same flavor and effects as a professional smoker by taking non-treated wood chips, soaking them in water for 15 minutes, and applying them to the basin (charcoal grills only). If your camping grill comes with a smoker, this is where you would use the chips.
- Keep your meats moist or keep the marinade on them by wrapping them entirely in tin foil. This also avoids your sugar-rich marinades and/or sauces from caramelizing when you don’t want them to. Direct flame contact will practically candy your meats (if this is your intention, rock on).
Q: How to Keep Food Fresh Outdoors
A: The number one way to go about keeping your catches fresh, or your from-home food nice and beautiful is by using a cooler. We’re past the days of salting meats and curing foods; use a cooler, and keep your food fresher for longer. Our top cooler for this particular task is able to keep your food and beverages cold for up to 72 hours - more than enough time to cook and enjoy your perishables out on the camping trail.
Q: What Accessories Should I Bring for my Camping Grill?
A: Glad you asked. There’s five basic things that you should never be without. These give you the opportunity to be forever at-the-ready, so nothing sneaks up on you. Avoid all those, “Dammit!” moments by packing the following:
This six-piece set includes everything you need, whether it’s a one-man show or a ten-person feast, you’ll be ready to go. It includes a spatula, barbeque brush, and other tools that you’ll find invaluable. There’s even a bonus with this purchase: a miniature charcoal grill, perfect for firing up for a single medium-sized saucepan when you’re cooking sides.
Laying out the dishes in an orderly fashion? Take it buffet style and serve up the dishes as they come off the grill, allowing your mates to just grab and go. This folds up real small and pops up to provide a bunch of surface area. Comes with a nice carrying case to avoid damages.
While it’s never the most fun subject to talk about, these gloves give you optimal safety when you’re working around roaring flames. These are usually used with parties larger than four (high volume cooking) and provide an alternative to using a spatula when you don’t know if the flames are going to touch you or not.
Where are you going to stick the steak and burger buns? Right. Here. Coleman (who else?) makes this killer kit with cutlery and dishware that’s intended to be used outside. Super durable, super easy to clean, and ready to use whenever.
Look, nobody wants to pack up a dirty grill, greasy utensils, and filthy plates when they’re leaving. This wash basin allows you to clear everything before you leave, so you return home the same way you left.
Safety Tips When Using an Outdoor Grill
We’re all aware that open flames are dangerous. We’re going over some basic safety practices, and a few things you may not have thought of, to give you a well-rounded view on how to set up your camping grill, and what to look for when using it out on the trail.
- Avoid using your grill within twelve feet of a hanging branch. The best way to judge this is by having your mate take a look at you standing beneath it, and doubling your height. If you’re clear, grill away. A more decisive way would be to bring a tape measure along for the ride, or to simply set up shop far away from overhanging branches.
- Stable footing. This may sound like child’s play, but trust us - this is one little feature that often gets overlooked. When you set up your grill, you need to check the ground around it first. If you can, ensure it’s as level as Mother Nature would allow, and stomp the topsoil into the ground with your feet. Clear away leaves and twigs, so there’s no chance of a wild wind pulling your camping grill away. It’s also helpful to avoid accidental tip-overs.
- Keep the grill clean. Burgers and chops will taste better as a result, but that’s not the main reason - remember that overhanging branch issue I told you about? That’s generally only a concern when you have a dirty grill, and grease sends pillars of flame and smoke barreling into the sky. Keep the grill clean, and you’ll avoid grease fires.
- Keep the five minute rule close. If your gas grill goes out entirely, wait five minutes to reignite it. Gas pockets can form in the air and linger for a few minutes, and a quick ignition can ignite the gas around you. It’s best practice to just hold off if your grill suddenly goes out.
- Keep the grill area as an off-limits zone, even after the fire’s gone out and the food’s been eaten. For at least an hour after use, most grills will stay hot enough to start a brush fire if they get tipped over. Treat it as if the flame is live, and you’ll have nothing to worry about. It keeps everyone on their toes around the grill.
- Lastly, always, always be prepared to put out a fire at a moment’s notice. Keep your extinguisher around 5-6 feet away from the grill, and be sure that it’s visible. If you head off to use the loo in the woods, you don’t want your friends digging through every bag, only to not find the fire extinguisher in case of an emergency.
Okay, now that we’re through all the safety tips, we can get the flames going.
Q: Can I Use a Camping Grill on my Apartment Terrace?
A: Most apartments (in the United States) have extremely strict guidelines regarding having anything on your patio, porch, terrace, or whatever they want to call it. In some cases, you can’t even have children’s toys out there on the balcony.
With grilling, they don’t want to see them sitting outside. They feel that it gives a “trashy” appearance. When it comes to safety, there’s something to consider, and it’s where their validation comes into play. Rising black smoke from your camping grill could be affecting your neighbors on the patio above, or trapping heat/smoke to give the appearance of a fire. Even if you live on the top floor, a camping grill isn’t going to suffice. For that, you need an electric or infrared grill (and then they really can’t say anything about it).
Our Top Pick
The Smoke Hollow 205 was our editor’s personal favorite. Here’s what he had to say:
“It’s basically like cooking at home. You feel like you’re using a regular grill in your backyard, so the comfortability is key. [The grill] happens to be one of the easiest to use.”