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  1. Default San Diego to Boston in September - car camping: what kind of stove?

    Hi all,

    I'm planning on road tripping from San Diego to Boston in September. Since we want to keep costs down by cooking our own food most night and camping the whole way I was wondering if anyone had any advice as to what kind of stove I should get? I really like the Biolite Wood Burning Stove because it is very efficient, creating a lot of heat for a little amount of fuel and it charges electronic devices. It comes with a hefty price tag at about $130 plus tax. But my other options seem to be camping stoves like the Primus Yellowstone Classic Trail Stove ($20) which runs on Primus LP butane/propane cartridges. Or a the standard Coleman two burner stove running about $70 and running on 16 oz. propane fuel cylinders.

    My main concerns are:
    1. I have heard that some campgrounds do not allow fires however, the biolite is a contained fire unlike the traditional campfires. It is very contained within the metal fire cylinder and so I 'm not sure if it would fall within the category of prohibited fires. But if some of you more experienced roadtrippers have noticed that a large majority of campsites so prohibit such fires then I will have to look at the butane/propane stoves.
    2. The other thing I'm worried about is the cost of fuel and the added inconvenience of having to constantly stop and spend money and time to get more fuel for those stoves. If camp grounds don't limit you to certain types of heat elements, it would be great to be able to cut the added inconvenience of having to stop for fuel out of our plans. I know I could save some money by buying a propane stove off of craigslist for cheap but I am still worried about the cost of propane since I don't really know how long each can would last and if the cost of propane would end up making a coleman just as expensive I would rather just get the biolite. (I would look up the costs of fuel myself but I have no Idea how many I would need and CA won't let vendors sell fuel over the internet so I can't even price check a single can)
    3. Lastly, I know that wood burning fires tend to make utensils dirtier faster with soot and I'm ok with that but are there any other considerations that I'm missing? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
    Last edited by lasingparuparo; 06-16-2014 at 06:03 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
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    Default basics

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    First, I will say the number of campgrounds that don't allow campfires is pretty small. I can only think of a few places I've ever stayed where that's been an issue, and in most of those cases it was because the fire danger in that specific area was very high.

    In the cases where campfires have not been allowed, camping stoves have always been allowed. I can't imagine that the specific model you are looking at would be any different.

    I use a coleman stove, as a supplement to cooking over an actual wood fire, and it works just fine. Propane Canisters are available everywhere, and are pretty cheap - about $2.50 each, if you find them on sale - and last quite a while. I also use the canisters for my lantern, and I only go through a few of them a summer. You can also find the Coleman 2 burner stoves for a lot less than $70. Just looking on Amazon, you can get one there for $50, and I've seen them for less than that.

    For cooking over a fire, I'm a fan of cast iron. I stands up to anything you throw at it, and then some. Obviously, it's not lightweight and doesn't work for hiking, but it's great for car camping.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    In the fire-prone west, you may be limited to NO open campfires or even those in a barbecue pit. However, they will allow campstoves in approved campgrounds. We always used a three-burner Coleman stove, white gas variety, but if we went back to camping today and bought a new stove, it would probably be propane. We would have the stove and just a fry pan, sauce pan, and some way to heat up water for coffee.


    Donna
    Last edited by DonnaR57; 06-17-2014 at 04:49 AM. Reason: added important word: NO

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default What about after the trip?

    Along with the above, the thing to consider is, how much use will you get out of this stove after your trip. Will you be doing more camping? Will you have any other use for it? That should determine as to how much you are willing to spend on it.

    Years ago I had a butane stove, which I found ideal for my use. Then butane became almost impossible to get, so I went to propane. I tried two different model stoves. Neither was very stable, due to the fact that the canister needs to be at an angle. This year I note that both the butane stove and fuel is back again, so I have ditched the propane and gone back to butane and a very stable stove.

    Like Michael I too have found that fuel is readily available, inexpensive and the canisters last for a long time. And yes, they burn much cleaner than wood.

    Lifey

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
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    Default

    Lifey has a really good point. We still have our camping stove. It came in very handy, 6 or 7 years ago, when we remodeled our kitchen. We took the camping stove outside, put it on a table, and cooked dinner often. Saved us a ton of money on eating out while remodeling! It's also there in case of a power outage. Our stove is electric, so if we lose power for a long period of time, we can still cook as long as we can get in/out of the fridge quickly. This was handy in a time of wildfires, back in both 2003 and 2007, when we lost power for more than 12 hours.

    Once you get the camping bug, though, it's like road tripping -- you find a way to do it locally on weekends.


    Donna

  6. Default

    Thanks everyone for the great feedback!

    It seems like the propane/butane option seems to be the best for what I'm trying to do and maybe I can still get the added benefit of charging my electronics by getting a solar powered charging device. I am definitely trying to keep my future use of my equipment in mind which is hard because equipment to car camp is usually not viable for backpacking. I had one additional question if y'all dont mind! I have to buy sleeping bags for the trip and I was considering the TETON Sports Celsius XXL -18 Degree C / 0 Degree F Flannel Lined Sleeping Bag (90"x 39", Black, Right Zip) because its being sold for $65 and I hear it can get pretty cold in September (our route has us going up the west coast and then to Colorado, Wyoming, Chicago, and eventually Massachusetts).

    1) Do you think that it will be warm enough? (I've checked reviews and almost everyone seems to say that the sleeping bags are very good at keeping you warm) I'm leery of manufacturer temperature ratings just because I've been told they are unreliable but this sleeping bag seems dependable. It is possible that it might actually be too warm?

    2) What kind of sleeping pad do I need? Air mattresses seem to be unreliable because they get holes and can be a pain in terms of set up and take down. They also dont seem to do well in the cold because of the coldness in the ground seeping upwards through the mattress. The alternative then is a pad? Could I get away with a cheap foam pad given how cushy the bag seems to be? Any thoughts?

    Thanks so much!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
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    Default

    From our own previous backpacking experience, you want a decent pad underneath you to help insulate you from the cold ground. It also helps (only a little) to keep you padded, but that's not its purpose. My knowledge of the current pads is non-existent; way back when, we had something halfway between the cheap-o pad and the thermo-rest pad.


    Donna

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
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    Default Get the best you can afford.

    When it comes to sleeping bags, buy the best you can afford. I'd settle for nothing under a 6" loft. Don't overlook places like Craigslist. I bought a barely used down four season sleeping bag from Craigslist a decade ago (in Boston) for $40. Now that I have a small campervan, I still use it. Sometimes as a sleeping bag, sometimes as a blanket.

    With sleeping mats, you have the choice of two types. The closed cell mat up to .5". These are good for insulation, but do not give any cushioning. The more expensive is the self inflating mat like the Thermarest. Thermarest were first, but there are now several copies. These can be up to 1" thick when inflated. They are good insulators and offer a measure of comfort.

    Do not overlook the insulating properties of newspaper. A good layer of newspaper under either of the above will add extra comfort.

    Air mattresses are not really suitable on cold nights. They offer 'comfort' but do not offer any insulation.

    Lifey

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
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    Default

    I would think that sleeping bag should work just fine for you. You are right to be skeptical of temperature ratings, and if you were planning to actually be sleeping in 0 degree temperatures, I wouldn't recommend it. However, in September, I would be pretty surprised if you saw temperatures much below freezing, and Zero should be just fine.

    If you go with a self-inflating pad, this is a case where I would recommend going with the brand name. Thermarest is going to give you good quality and comfort, especially if you are planning on doing backpacking in the future. I have a cheap one from another brand (a brand I have had good luck with on other products) and it works ok, but it was certainly a case of getting what you pay for, and I would spend more on the real deal if I was doing it again.

  10. Default

    Thanks guys!

    I'll definitely do that and look around on craigslist for pads like that! I really appreciate all the advice I've gotten!

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