Cooking out is part of the fun of camping. There’s nothing better than hot food on a cool night, surrounded by nature and a few good friends—but it isn’t always convenient to cook over your main fire, whether you’re on your own or feeding a crowd.
Camping grills are a smart solution to a kitchen-free vacation, or for people permanently living in RVs who don’t want lingering heat and food smells in their home on wheels.
In this buyer’s guide, we’ll take a look at why camping grills are a great investment for your next trip into the woods—and evaluate some of the most popular models on today’s market.
1. What makes a camping grill different from a regular one? Why can’t I just cook over an open fire while camping?
In general, camping grills are lighter and easier to transport. They almost always run on propane; while a few charcoal and wood pellet models exist, it’s not exactly convenient for traveling (or cleaning). Camping grills can be set up and taken down fairly quickly, and stowed in a bag or case until the next time you need it. Like regular grills, they can withstand the elements pretty well; if you run into a storm while camping and can’t get the grill packed up fast enough, they usually won’t be any worse for wear.
Cooking over an open fire is great, but you’re pretty limited in the amount of food you can cook at once. It’s also incredibly difficult to get consistent heat this way.
There’s the added the issue of safety; you have to stand fairly close to the fire to cook over it, so you’re prone to accidents and flares (not to mention, unsightly sweating).
Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to buy a camping grill is up to you. For some, the wilderness experience is all about food cooked over an open flame; a grill is just another luxury. For many campers, though, it’s an indispensible tool they wouldn’t leave home without.
2. Tabletop or standard size; charcoal, wood, or propane—which should I get and why?
Most camping grills are shorter than the standard, but there are options with expandable legs/bases. The size you choose is up to your preferences and how much space you have.
Consider not just weight and traveling size, but also its grilling surface area (measured in square inches). If you have an entire caravan to feed, you’ll need a larger model; if it’s just you and one or two traveling companions, you can get by with a smaller one.
As for fuel, there are some pros and cons to consider:
There are also electric grills, but these run into the obvious problem of power. When you’re out in the wilderness, you won’t have easy access to electricity (though some campgrounds do come equipped with outlets). Unless you’re traveling in an RV, skip the plug-in grills.
3. I need a grill for occasional use. What should I look for?
You’ll probably want to focus on size, first. Rarely-used camping grills will most likely be involved in larger trips—with more mouths to feed—so you’ll need more square inches of grilling space than someone who camps more often, and likely brings only one or two friends.
Of course, this won’t be true for everyone, so choose the size that works best for your unique needs and trips.
Fuel is another factor. You might decide charcoal is worth the hassle of cleaning up, since waiting for the grill to get going won’t bother you as much once or twice a year, versus every night for several trips (or full-time use).
There are also important maintenance issues that come into play with grills you don’t use very often. Make sure you clean your grill thoroughly after cooking, especially before it goes into storage. Grease can become rancid when left for too long, producing a terrible smell and residue that’s much harder to clean as time goes on. Inspect it for bugs (particularly spiders and cockroaches) before use. If using a propane grill, check the fuel lines for leaks prior to your trip.
4. What if I plan on traveling full-time?
Your grill should be easy to set up and take down, as well as convenient to store, if you expect to cook outside of your camper or RV fairly often.
Of course, this also depends on how much you’ll be relocating; a larger grill is less of a hassle when you don’t have to pack it up at the end of each day!
You might want to consider a mounted grill, in fact—one that attaches to the side of your RV—for easier storage and set-up.
When it comes to fuel, most permanent or long-term travelers prefer propane. It’s easy to transport, quick to heat up, and cost-effective for daily use; you can even hook most models up to your RV’s fuel supply.
Top 4 Best Camping Grill Reviews
1. Coleman Road Trip Propane Portable Grill LXE Review
In the grill industry, the Coleman name is pretty big—but thankfully, this grill is not. The Road Trip portable camping grill is perfect for up to 4 campers, comes with a collapsible wheeled stand, and even features sliding tables to keep your spices and spatula handy when you need a little kitchen counter space…without the actual kitchen.
With an affordable price and convenient folding design (plus a color choice to suit every style), the Coleman Road Trip camping grill is ideal for both occasional travelers and permanent ones, and anyone in between.
If you plan on cooking anything tall (large chicken legs, for example), you might be disappointed in this model, however; the lid has a depth of only 3”, which is great for traveling, but not so much for bulkier foods.
2. Texsport Heavy Duty Over Fire Camp Grill Review
For true-blue campers who really want to rough it, this over-fire model from Texsport is perfect: it uses no fuel except your regular campfire, and provides a handy table when the fire dies down. It’s constructed with durable steel to support even the heaviest of cast-iron cookware. It also has foldable legs, which make packing a breeze.
Its price is fair and its materials are top-notch—but its paint job leaves a lot to be desired. We aren’t sure why Texsport didn’t simply produce an uncoated option, since users report the paint easily burns and scrapes off after initial use, anyway.
For a strong, no-fuss open-fire cooking surface, however, this is still worth considering, even if it’s not a “true” grill.
3. Char-Broil Portable Gas Grill, Standard Review
A definite standout in this guide, the Char-Broil Portable grill is lightweight, easy to store and set up, and priced to move.
One might expect a flimsy or sub-par grill at this price, but Char-Broil has crafted a well-built product that can withstand even daily travel and use for years to come.
Other than the fact you’d have to set this grill up on a table because of its short size, the Char-Broil portable model is a solid contender. It gets the job done, is built to last, and comes at a very fair price for campers on any budget.
We recommend the deluxe version to anyone who doesn’t want the slight hassle of lighting it and would rather just press a button, but other than that, even the standard model is a winner.
4. Cuisinart CCG-190RB Portable Charcoal Grill, 14” Review
At only two pounds, this grill definitely wins in the portability category—but what about performance? The fact that it runs on charcoal means it can reach much higher temperatures than gas options (although it does take longer to heat up overall).
It also guarantees that savory, smoky flavor you can only get with charcoal, which just might be worth the extra clean-up.
If you want a sturdy grill that promises the flavor and heat only charcoal can provide, look no further.
We recommend this model to more patient campers who don’t mind giving the grill time to warm up (and who don’t mind disposing of the ashes, afterwards). Perhaps the best feature is its triple-latch system, which ensures the lid stays closed during your travels.
Camping can be as rugged and off-the-grid as you like, or as glamorous as a vacation in a 5-star resort—but cooking outdoors, it seems, is a must either way. Camping grills allow for a portability you just can’t swing with standard ones, and come in a range of sizes and fuel types to fit your travel needs.
Before you buy, consider factors like grilling capacity, fuel type, and ease of transport. Doing so will ensure you get the grill best suited for your journey—whether it’s a quick trip to the campgrounds, or a month-long journey into the unknown.