What are the advantages/disadvantages of cooking over an open campfire made with firewood as opposed to cooking on a propane gas stove? And which should one use for which occasion?

EDIT: Thanks everybody for the answers. For a propane stove, if we are carrying it to cook in wet weather, how does this help? We cannot light it inside the tent and if we take outside, the stove will surely go out in case of rain. No?

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    Re: your edit -- if there is wet weather, you may have trouble finding dry fire wood, so you can just use the propane stove (which doesn't need dry wood). As far as the stove going out in the rain, it would depend on how hard it's raining; you also may be able to make a sort of auxiliary tent from a tarp draped over a string between two trees or something to provide some shelter under which you can cook.
    – Tara
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 15:14
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    It would take a tremendous amount of rain to extinguish a propane stove, especially if it had a pot sitting on it. Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 17:41
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    There are also roof-only "tents" that you can use a propane stove under. But as @CareyGregory says, it'll take a lot of rain to extinguish propane. Lighting it initially may be trickier (rain may put the match out), but you could even use an umbrella. Just make sure to keep it high enough to be out of the heat.
    – derobert
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 19:14
  • Thanks a lot everyone. I am off to buy my first stove :)
    – Kaushik
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 20:26

4 Answers 4



Advantages: Less equipment to bring, you can do everything from grilling to roasting to steaming to baking, makes you feel more awesome for having cooked over a fire.

Disadvantages: Longer to set up, can darken pots, harder to control and regulate heat, more prone to burning food/hands.

My Usage: BBQing/Grilling (Steaks, burgers), roasting (anything that can be skewered), no dish steaming/baking of foods (Tin Foil wrapping), anything else that benefits from direct heat.


Advantages: Quick to set up, It's just like cooking on the stove at home. Much better control of heat.

Disadvantages: More equipment, you're limited to what you can do on a stove (which admittedly is quite a bit).

My Usage: Anything cooked in water (soups, noodles, hot drinks), Stuff that is really better done on a pan (eggs, french toast)

  • Thanks. Do you know where I can purchase firewood except at the campsite? like homedepot or something? I am in toronto, canada
    – Kaushik
    Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 21:03
  • Not a clue about specific place, but you could check Kijiji or else for small amounts, gas stations (but they're usually expensive). Also, if you drive around industrial areas (at least in Calgary), there are often signs for "free firewood", but for cooking you have to be EXTREMELY CAREFUL, as to what wood it is, as you definitely don't want ANYTHING that is treated with anything and certain woods let out nasty stuff in the smoke. Other than that, um... google (google.ca/…).
    – talon8
    Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 21:11
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    You can probably find wood on the way to your campsite. Many non-urban gas stations have it, as well as supply stores along your driving route to get there.
    – sdg
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 1:17
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    @talon8 please purchase and burn firewood near the camp site to slow the spread of Emerald Ash Borer. Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 3:49
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    If you cook over an open fire, you will want to rub dish soap on the outside of your pots and pans before cooking. It makes cleaning the creosote off your pots and pans much less of a chore.
    – Sean Hart
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 11:39

When you are camping, there are a number of things to take into consideration when deciding between an open fire and a gas stove.

  • Weather: if it's raining or it has been raining, it's going to be difficult to find wood that is dry enough to burn properly.
  • Availability of good quality wood: Will there be wood available at your campsite or will you have to carry it in?
  • Luggage: is there space in your luggage for wood or only enough for the gas stove?
  • Permissibility: In the UK at least, there is a restriction on open fires at a large number of campsites - you would need to check in your area if this is the case there too

In general, I much prefer cooking on an open fire because it is more social and meat cooked with it tastes much better. But when camping I always take a gas stove for hot water at least. Then if it's raining there is always the backup plan of using the gas stove for a hot supper.

Cooking on an open fire will probably also give you a much wider variety of things you can prepare. For example, I've seen roast beef done on an open fire complete with roasted veggies - and I don't know how you would do that on a gas stove!

Last point - if you're going to use an open fire, make sure you kill the embers before you move on. And if you're going to use a gas stove - don't use it in a tent.

  • I completely agree. Bans on open fires, or harvesting of firewood should be the first consideration. And it will often change through the year, as if it hasn't rained in a while, they won't allow open fires. Always check before you go, each and every time. Learn what's required for a safe fire pit, and make sure to bury it afterwards.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 21:08

- Smokey flavor
- No weight for hiking
- More fun
- Difficult to cook with a pan
- Harder to use in bad weather
- Dirtier

- Cleaner
- More reliable
- Easy to use with a pan
- Heavy

I use the fire for dinner. It's a social thing. There's something amazing about cooking hot dogs together with only the light of the fire. Dutch ovens can make magic.

I use the stove for breakfast. Pancakes over a fire are always a disaster.

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    They make single-burner propane stoves for hiking that weigh almost nothing, and pack up into a teeny-tiny package.
    – Marti
    Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 22:44
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    a trick to deal with cleaning, if you cook over an open fire: smear the bottom of the pot and up the sides with dish soap, assuming it isn't cast iron. The soot then sticks to the soap, not the pan
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 21:10


  • can give out not just heat to food but to yourself as well
  • requires no weight but time to gather wood
  • can be difficult to start with bad weather


  • Lot heavier
  • faster set up time
  • cleaner

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