I like picnics, a lot. But my picnics are more Ratty and Mole down by the river bank style (imagine the best plowmans you have ever had and then double it) than meagre rations. I have been very happy to camp this summer eating lots of delicious bread and cheese in the sunshine. A cold pie with a salad will also do nicely. I don’t really need a stove to cook at lunch or dinner time.
Breakfast, however, is a different story.
I missed my coffee. I missed my morning brew of tea even more! I’m not really a rise and shine, early morning kind of person, and my family don’t like me much before caffeine has hit my system. I tried taking some iced coffee but it just isn’t the same.
So it was time to buy a camping stove.
There are so many different kinds of camping stoves, from teeny tiny three pronged gadgets that clip onto the top of a little can of gas, right up to enormous two ring burners complete with grill that come on their very own kitchen stand!
I wanted something in between. Something that would allow me to cook two things at once ideally. I’ll need a kettle + frying pan for bacon for breakfast, of course. Or pasta + sauce. One pot meals are great but more limiting than I would like so I needed two burners. But I really didn’t want a grill. Cleaning up stoves is fiddly enough without having to scrabble around in a grill. Especially as my husband has a liking for curry powder on his cheese on toast which would make the whole thing a cheesy-curry-catastrophe in no time. I do however definitely want a camping toasty maker, those things look amazing!
After a bit of a search I found the Campingaz Base Camp. I chose the version with a lid as it is supposed to give a bit of protection and help stop the wind from blowing out the flame. It will also help protect the burners in transit.
To use the stove you need a regulator and hose to connect it to a bottle of gas- I use a 4.5l bottle of butane from Calor. These stoves don’t work on the little cans of gas you find in camping shops. That means that although the initial outlay of getting the gas bottle and kit is more expensive, your continued cooking is considerably cheaper as the cost per litre is much, much lower. Many petrol stations stock Calor gas, so it is really easy to get a refill.
It was a lovely sunny afternoon but with that distinct tang of autumn so I decided to test the stove making a stew- a recipe I found in Annie Bell’s The Camping Cookbook (more on that another time, it is a gorgeous book I can’t wait to share with you.)
The first challenge was to boil a kettle for coffee. I put 1 litre of cold water into a cold kettle, popped it on the stove and waited. And waited. It took nearly 20 minutes to heat a litre of water to boiling temperature, by which point I was getting worried about how effective the stove was. Until I realised that 1 litre is quite a lot of water- if I was boiling a kettle for tea I would use half that- and that I kept opening the top of the kettle letting the heat out and faffing around with the gas dial. So not a robustly scientifical test of heating power- a fail on my part rather than the stove!
I moved on to the second test, browning the beef for the stew. I stuck my cast iron casserole dish on the burner, popped the meat in and prepared to wait. But this time I didn’t need to. In only a few moments the meat was browning nicely, which I was surprised by as that dish usually takes a long time to get hot even on my normal hob.
My faith in the stove was restored! It then happily blasted away cooking the stew for a long two hour simmer. I didn’t just want to test a quick boil, I wanted to see it really perform. And it did, really well. In that two hours the wind really picked up and I was worried the flame would blow out all the time. I have used little burners on windy days and it can be a battle to keep them lit however this one only blew out twice, with quite big blusters when the gas was turned down low for a slow simmer. I think if the gas had been higher, as you would for most things you cook, then it might not have blown out at all. However on really windy days you might be best off sticking to the bread and cheese.
My only criticism of the stove is that while the blue colour is very pretty (think the deep blue of the Mediterranean sky), it makes it hard to see the flame. I found the trick is to look for the heat shimmer, or even more simply, if the food stops cooking the flame has gone out. You should only ever cook with camping stoves outside, and not leave them unsupervised, so although wasting the gas is an expense I would rather do without, it isn’t especially dangerous if the flame blows out for a few moments.
While the stew was cooking I also boiled a few kettles of water for more tea (this time much faster than 20 minutes!) and cooked a pan of home grown potatoes, partly to see if the stove could cope with both burners running at the same time. Since there is no point having a two burner stove if you can only use one at a time. I’m pleased to report, that unlike the BabyBelling hob I had as a student, you can get two things to boil at once. I am still slightly scarred by my attempt to roast a chicken in that monstrosity, four hours, still raw on the inside. Anyway, back to topic.
I really like that it is simple and practical, with good open spaces that are easy to clean. After all, you don’t want to have to spend your evenings cleaning when you’re camping! The open design means it is easy to light with an ordinary match, although I personally prefer to use longer cooks matches. It is solidly heavy enough I’m not worried about it being knocked over while still light enough that carrying it plus the gas bottle is no difficulty at all.
The pot stands are a good size and a sturdy double rectangular design so they support your pots without wobbles. They even held my big cast iron casserole dish with no problems at all. I can’t imagine anything worse than carefully stewing your dinner only to tip it over at the last moment!
Luckily the stew was delicious, and the stove has definitely proven itself. I will be writing more about the recipe and Annie Bell’s fab The Camping Cookbook soon. But first there is a rather delicious looking cake I need to test. Possibly twice.
These stoves make a great addition to your camping kit, but they would also be ideal for power cut emergencies, or at Christmas when there is just never enough space on the cooker for all the food!
Would you like to own a Campingaz Basecamp stove? Well lucky for you I bought two, one for me, one to give away! To find out how to win a stove head to the TyldaGlamping Facebook page.