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(The Gear Loop) - For most backpacking campers, a lightweight stove is an essential entry into the kit list. But if space isn’t at a premium and you have plenty of hungry mouths to feed, it’s far wiser to opt for a larger stove that can feed the entire family.

The increased cooking space means you can fit multiple pots and pans for more lavish meals, while others on the list feature clever additions for keeping cooked food warm or the ability to create fantastic barbecue food in a neat, compact space.

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We’ve collated some of the best large family stoves and campsite cookers on sale today, all selected for their ability to create proper meals (not just freeze dried packets). 

But if space is an issue, it might be best to look at our guide of lightweight camping stoves that neatly fit into a hiking backpack. 

The best family camping stoves

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Vango Camp Chef Explorer 2X

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For

  • Robust
  • Brilliant group/family cooker

Against

  • Quite substantial to pack
  • Larger (heavier) gas bottles required

As a standalone stove with serious cooking power, the Vango Camp Chef Explorer Two Burner Stove ticks all the boxes, offering a robust, no nonsense cooking area that can be setup anywhere, without needing extra furniture or tables. 

Running off standard propane or butane gas bottles, it’ll be much cheaper and more efficient to run compared to smaller gas canister stoves, and there’s very little chance of it running out over the course of a long weekend. 

A three-sided windscreen blocks annoying breezes from stealing heat, and the cast aluminium burner won’t rust when you store it in the shed in between trips. 

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CampinGaz 360 tabletop grill

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For

  • Social tabletop cooking experience
  • Simple to clean

Against

  • Single ring isn’t so good for pan-based meals
  • Relatively bulky

An interesting and slightly left-field choice, the gas powered 360 grill delivers tabletop grilling for all the family. An interactive and ingenious solution to the problem of one person being stuck over in the kitchen area managing a hot stove.

With a smooth plancha surface and interchangeable ribbed griddle, cooking anything from haloumi to steak, veggies to eggs can be cooked to perfection in the middle of the table, allowing family and friends to socialise while dinner is created.

Particularly useful for fussy children, who can now shout when the precise, desired shade of grilled brown is reached.

As well as being compact enough for easy travel, the CampinGaz 360 tabletop grill has a pan support too, and can easily be used at home.

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Decathlon GoSystem Dynasty Compact 2

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For

  • Astonishing value for money
  • Compact
  • Works surprisingly well

Against

  • Single gas ring challenges
  • Euro-style gas isn’t available everywhere

The GoSystem Dynasty Compact 2 might not look much to get excited about, but there’s a reason that every campsite in France will be bristling with them. 

They’re bewilderingly cheap, but for the money you get a compact, reliable, easy-to-pack single gas ring. 

Sure, there are more exciting culinary devices out there, but if all you need is a few cups of tea, pasta for the kids and bacon butties in the morning, then you could spend much more and get much less. 

Indeed, buying two of these is one of the most cost-effective and compact cooking areas for a family or large group imaginable. 

Perhaps most importantly, the large base keeps this super-stable, and the large burner means you can use pretty much whatever pots you want from home. 

The only real challenge is that the Go system mini gas isn’t always available, so pack a spare or two. 

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Primus Onja

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For

  • Portable
  • Quality craftsmanship
  • Double burner

Against

  • Fabric can get stained with grease
  • Requires two gas canisters

There are very few car-camping stoves that shout “aspirational” but this is one of them. Beautifully crafted, and with an ingenious scissor opening action, the Onja not only packs down into a neat package when stored, it’s also nice and stable when open for business.

An oaken lid doubles as a chopping board, and the twin burner setup is enough to cook a simple home meal on with ease. The fabric surround allows for easy portability along with a shoulder strap, making this perfect for short walks to a picnic site and similar. A deserved classic. 

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Snow Peak Kojin Grill

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For

  • Triple cookout combo
  • Serious chef toolkit

Against

  • Requires solid fuel
  • Takes a while to fire up

There’s a lot to be said for the Snow Peak Kojin Grill, combining a smoker, grill and campfield oven into a stainless-steel monster that packs down surprisingly small. 

The key trick here is a very flexible series of different levels to position hot coals and grills on, allowing heat to be direct or indirect, depending on the feast you have planned. 

The stainless build is not only easy to clean, but durable and most importantly won’t rust, so the odd shower is nothing to panic about. The Kojin is also just as useful on your home patio or in the garden, making it a multi-use family cooking device in the best of senses. 

Downsides? You need to also pack solid fuel, but then you can’t beat that authentic BBQ flavour, can you?

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Vango Combi IR Grill Cooker

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For

  • Adds in a grill
  • Nice and stable

Against

  • Quite substantial in size
  • Requires decent surface

The Vango Combi IR Grill unfolds like a transformer robot into a roomy cooking area with a hidden secret - albeit given away somewhat by the name. 

Underneath the twin burner setup there’s a 0.6kW Infrared Grill, ideal for everything from keeping bacon warm to grilling sausages and making scrummy cheese on toast. 

The pan supports are flat and enormous, so there’s really very little limitation on what you can cook on this, and the stainless steel drip tray will be very much appreciated after heavy use. 

A foldable frame and carry case - which doubles as a windbreak - collapses down and locks shut, and has a carry handle for easier transport. Ideal for getting your Masterchef on in the middle of a field.  

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What to look for when buying a family camping stove

Fuel for thought

Fuel is always a big consideration for camping stoves, and although these are in the main, gas powered, it's worth considering what fuels you’ll be able to obtain easily, or carry with you. The romance of an open fire does fade somewhat when explaining to a five-year-old that their baked potato will take several hours to cook in the embers. 

Within even gas stoves, there are different cartridge styles, some easier to find than others.

Burner baby burner

Just one burner is fine for cups of tea and a well-planned stew, but intensive planning is required, while multi-burner stoves give a home from home cooking experience - as well as create home-style volumes of washing up too. 

Space to feast

Even when car camping, portability is a big question, not only in terms of fitting the stove into a car crammed with tents, mats, food and family, but also at the actual campsite. Some allow cars to drive right up to the pitch, but some have a short walk, which is worth considering for some of the larger, heavier options. 

Seat at the table

Finally, while many stoves need a table or similar surface to set up on, others are entirely freestanding, which potentially frees up the table space for socialising and actual eating. Although there are dedicated freestanding "kitchen" areas available, it’s worth bearing in mind the packing burden of carrying two tables, making a standalone stove a potential winner for larger gatherings (or smaller cars). 

Writing by Mark Mayne. Editing by Leon Poultney.