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5 Aug 2021

Five mistakes not to make when cooking with a camping stove

Avoid accidents if you're cooking meals outdoors using a portable gas stove and gas canister this summer
Woman cooking with a camping stove

Camping equipment has seen a huge surge in popularity over the spring and summer months, with retailers such as Decathlon reporting as much as a 150% increase in demand for gear such as camping stoves.

If you're new to camping, it can be a head-spinner getting to grips with all the different bits of kit and advice out there - and with camping stoves, nothing is more important than safety.

Find out the key advice you need to stay safe when handling camping stoves and gas canisters.

We also recently put seven camping stoves through our tough tests to help you find the right one for your next camping trip.

1) Don't cook in your tent

Camping in the rain

If the weather turns on you it can be tempting to fire up the burner in your tent, especially if it has a porch or a high ceiling. But few things are more dangerous on a camping trip than cooking in your tent.

Government advice warns that if a fire breaks out in your tent, the tent can be destroyed in less than 60 seconds.

Tent manufacturers often treat their tents with fire retardants, but materials such as the canvas and groundsheet are still highly flammable, and open flames should be kept well away.

But the risk doesn't just come from the fire itself. Tents are not well-ventilated structures, and using a gas stove inside can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

We recommend keeping your stove at least a metre away from your tent - further if possible.

In the market for a new tent? We've recently published new test results for pop up tents.

2) Check your stove and gas canister for leaks

Small camping stove and gas canister

Camping stoves and gas canisters are perfectly safe as long as they're kept in good condition, which is why it's important to check them for leaks before you take them on a camping trip.

This isn't always easy, as you won't be able to smell or hear the leaks if they're small.

However, a handy way to be sure is to mix a healthy amount of washing-up liquid with water and pour some of it on the connection points of your gas canister and stove.

This includes the gas regulator and hose, the valve on the cylinder, and the point on your stove where the hose attaches.

If there are any leaks, you'll spot more bubbles gradually being blown. If your gas canister, regulator, hose or stove has a leak, don't use it under any circumstances.

If your canister is leaking, the manufacturer should have an emergency service line you can call for advice on the next steps to take.

If a leak has caused a fire, call 999 immediately.

If you're also keen to use your canister for gas grilling, check out our top five gas barbecues.

3) Keep your camping stove clean

Washing up while camping

Camping stoves should be kept clean to keep them running at peak condition. If they're well looked after, one camping stove can last you decades.

The flow of gas to the stove can be disrupted if burned-on food or grease is left to clog up your burner, and this could lead to issues with heat distribution and safety.

Accidents can also happen if you don't keep on top of cleaning. Old bits of food, leaf matter or other debris can quickly lead to a fire if your stove isn't cleared prior to cooking.

If you prefer to clean up straight after cooking, make sure your stove has fully cooled before touching it.

4) Give yourself plenty of room

A cluttered cooking station is asking for trouble when using a camping stove.

Because they're portable, camping stoves can fall over if knocked, so it's best to keep the area clear of any clutter, furniture, guy ropes or other bits that could trip you up.

Anything remotely flammable should also be kept well away.

Clearing the area around your stove will also enable you to get away quickly if an accident should happen.

Store your camping food safely with our reviews of cooler boxes and cooler bags.

5) Disconnect the gas when it's not in use

Turning off a camping stove

Unlike with your gas hobs at home, it's not enough to simply turn the dial and extinguish your flame.

While the gas cartridge is screwed into your stove, or while the gas hose and regulator are attached to the gas canister valve, there's a route for the gas to get out of the canister.

The best way to avoid leaks and keep the valve on your gas canister in good condition is to disconnect the canister from the stove, and make sure the valve (if there is one) is closed.

This is especially important when you're heading out for the day and will be leaving your stove and gas canister unattended.

Make sure they're both disconnected and switched off, and store them in a shaded spot where they won't be in direct sunlight.

Read our expert advice on what you need to know before buying tents, camping chairs and other camping gear this summer.