Malissa and I have been adventuring together for quite some time now, and it is interesting to see the evolution of our camping gear and setup, especially in the kitchen and cooking department. Of course, we have tried a few different setups as I am sure most readers have, ranging from cooking over the camp fire, which is our last resort, to cheap combo grill/skillets. We have identified what works and what doesn’t and have found that nailing down the perfect cooking surface is one of those issues that never really seems to be solved, at least with the gear that we have used. But for now, I am going to review our current stove, and what we like and don’t like about it.
First off, this is probably the best-looking stove that Coleman produces, it comes in a rugged looking grey metal briefcase style enclosure with latching lid and “Gladiator” stamped across the front in a tough looking font, as well as rubber corners to take any kind of abuse you can throw at it. It was clearly dreamed up by an overlanding engineer tired of the traditional options of forest green, or the tailgater special. I won’t lie, the looks of this thing drew my attention right off the bat while browsing the stove aisle of my local Cabela’s. I was a bit shocked by the price tag, at $179.00 dollars, I was convinced that this was going to solve all our kitchen/galley woes, I sucked it up and pulled out the credit card. (Update: The price on these has gone down a bit, and can be picked up at Amazon now here for $131.99.)
So how does it work?
Functionally this thing is amazing, it has two 1 bajillion BTU burners, okay, not that high, but it’s one of the highest rating stoves Coleman puts out at 12,000 BTU per burner. It claims to boil water faster then the competition, which I can attest is pretty damn fast, and has two add-on griddle attachments which makes stir-fry night and pancakes a breeze, not to mention cleanup is a snap when using the griddle attachments. These also reduce the amount of gear that needs to be packed and stowed away, which is really nice and some may even be able to delete a frying pan from their kit.
There are some downfalls in the design and I will cover those next.
The knob adjustment doesn’t really do anything past the 1/3rd turn mark. It basically goes from simmer to blow torch with little in between. This makes the cooking range very small, and can be annoying at times.
During a few of the first uses, the knob refused to stay where you pointed it. You would work to get the flame set where you would want it, and it would adjust back to where you had it previously. This eventually worked itself out and no longer is an issue. But we found ourselves cursing at this stove a few times during initial break in period. Also during the break in period, we found that the stove would howl at higher flame levels, but this has subsided after a bit of use.
Temp control is virtually non-existent. With such a small knob adjustment range, you find yourself simmering or scorching. It is hard to find a sweet spot, although we have gotten pretty good at it. Don’t use good pans on this stove, as you will find yourself with a nice scorch mark right in the center when the stove wants to go into blow torch mode.
Okay, so at this point you must be asking, what is this stove good for? Well it does have some really good features including the wind-resistant design. In fact, we have had no issues keeping it lit in windy conditions on the trail, while others in our group struggled to keep their traditional stoves lit. Coleman is so confident in this feature that this stove does not have wind guards as seen on more traditional models.
Next up, you will get your coffee fast! They were not lying about this feature whatsoever. This is a time when the blow-torch mode really comes in handy. While camping in a group, we noticed our water was boiled and coffee done way ahead of our company, so if you are one of those that need caffeine immediately after waking, this is a stove you should consider. We really liked this feature as you do not waste a ton of propane boiling water in the mornings making coffee.
Also, this is a large stove. It can comfortably fit a percolating coffee pot next to a frying pan, making breakfast quick and simple, a feature most of the lower end camp stoves cannot offer. It’s either coffee first or food first, no room for both.
In the end, I have mixed feelings about this stove. I am still a huge fan of the style and design as well as the ruggedness of it, but the performance is a bit lackluster. Quality seemed great, but we found the electronic starter failed on our last camping trip of the season, meaning that it lasted a bit over 1 season, granted we put about 3 or 4 times the amount of use on the stove versus the average camper. But for a stove at this price point, I wouldn’t expect such quick failures. I have used cheap BBQ grills whose star
ters lasted for years. Also, I also would expect a bit more in the flame control, and feel that Coleman did not put enough testing into this part of the design. Overall, I am not sure I would purchase this stove again, but the higher end units such as the Partner Steel Stove that most overlanders rave about is over twice the price, and most of the cheaper units have a hard time boiling water in a timely manner and have trouble in windy conditions. So, it becomes clear that unless you are willing to drop 500 dollars or more on a camp stove, we are forced to pick and choose features as well as weaknesses.
If you have any suggestions, feel free to post below.