As much as we love grilling, there's an impracticality to using a larger propane grill for prepping your meals while camping. It's mainly just in the size of the grill itself and the lugging of the tanks to fuel it. Smaller charcoal grills are an option—but if you really want to get back to basics and make some tasty meals unlike anything you'll make at home, it's time to look at campfire cooking. Preparing a meal over open flame and wood imparts a great flavor to your meals that's unlike any other form of outdoor cooking. The great thing is that most wood fire grills are quite portable and easy to lug along, even on a backpacking trip deep into the backcountry if they're light enough.
Today, we'll give you some of our top picks of grills for open-fire cooking. We're focusing mostly on affordability and ease of transport here, although we will recommend a few higher-priced ones if you're in the market for something that's going to last a while. No matter which route you take, open-fire grills are one of the easiest ways to get into cooking some incredibly tasty and memorable meals in the outdoors.
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1. The Best Swivel Grill Option
Camp Chef Mountain Man Grill Griddle, $169.99, Amazon
- Grill and griddle in the same package
- Versatile for cooking beyond campfires
- Too heavy to be super portable
We've used Camp Chef products several times in the past and can vouch personally for how well made their products are. The Mountain Man Grill and Griddle is no exception. It's built from high-quality alloy steel. It features a 16-by-18-inch steel grill, and a 16-by-20-inch steel charcoal box and griddle, giving it a ton of versatility. Use it to prep some bacon, eggs and coffee in the morning, and some steaks and burgers in the evening. If you like heavy-duty products that are built to last, Camp Chef provides it with this one. Just make sure you've got a quality hammer or camp axe to hammer the stake into the ground, as it is quite beefy and could be difficult to drive home depending on the terrain. Once it is in place, you're good to go for several days of camping. Just head back out, stoke up the fire, and get cooking. The possibilities are nearly endless with this grill. The only two downsides are the price and the weight. At $169.99, it's not cheap. However, like most things in life, you get what you pay for. This is the best option for anyone who's sick of cheaper open-fire BBQ grills breaking. This camp grill does weigh a hefty 36 pounds thanks to that solid steel construction. So, it's not a backpacking option. However, for car camping and RVs, this is the best grill of this style on the market today.
2. For the Camper Who Wants Versatility
Texsport Adjustable Outdoor Camping Rotisserie Grill and Spit, $85, Amazon
- Large grilling surface
- Versatility and cooking options
- Swinging arms
- Might need repainting
One of the cool things about camp cooking is that there's a ton of room for creativity when using a fire pit. Using a rotisserie to roast some game birds is a unique way to use this unique camping grill. Texsport built this grill and spit with a stainless steel rotisserie that features four positions for slow-roasting your favorite meats. Below that is a 24-by-16-inch grilling surface. There are also two adjustable swinging arms for warming up food in pots. You could cook something in a Dutch oven, or prepare coffee on one of the arms, a bird on the rotisserie, and grill something else on the grate cooking surface. One thing we will note with this grill is that it is not built for putting food directly onto the grilling surface. You're going to want a cast-iron pan or a griddle down there to help transfer the heat properly. Also, we've heard some users had the paint peel on their grill. This is something that was fixed by burning the original coat off and then re-coating it with some high-heat spray paint. At 16.5 pounds, it's still a little too heavy for backpacking. However, this is a great choice for car campers. The entire thing stows away quite nicely in an RV's storage areas. This grill normally goes for $85, but we've seen it as low as $54 if you happen to catch a sale at the right time. For that amount of money, you're getting a ton of functionality and versatility.
3. The Portable, Zero-Trace Grilling Solution
- Self-contained fire and grill system
- Difficult to clean
- Must wait for it to cool before being stowed
Technically, this is a grill and a fire pit in the same package, but it has quickly become one of my favorite pieces of outdoor gear. I've had mine for just over two years now, and I constantly find myself packing this over my other outdoor cooking solutions simply because it uses practically no space. It's about 13.5 inches long by 10 inches wide when folded and stowed away. It's only about an inch thick. It only weighs about 3 pounds. You can stow this under any seat, slide it into a backpack, or put it an RV storage area as a backup. When you're ready to use it, it sets up in seconds and cooks quickly. This is my favorite way to make cheeseburgers while camping. UCO made the flatpack of stainless steel, so it holds up nicely to the elements, too. The sides also serve as a wind break for when you're trying to cook dinner in poor weather. As a no-trace solution, this is as good as it gets. The one downside to this grill is that it does take a while to cool down. And it's quite messy to clean up afterward. However, considering the price tag is only $40 to $50 depending on where you get it, this is a great starter for cooking over open flame. We really like this one for backpackers or van lifers who have limited space in their vehicle or pack.
4. For the Camper Looking For a Durable Tripod
Sunnydaze Tripod Grilling Set, $81.95, Amazon
- Capacity to hold a heavy Dutch oven
- Easy to assemble and take down
- No storage case
Tripod grills are extremely useful for cooking over an open fire because you can easily adjust the height of your cooking grate to the size of your fire and pit. There are a lot of open-pit tripods on the market. We picked the Sunnydaze because it's built slightly more rugged than some of the cheaper options out there. We think it's worth the little bit of extra money to pick this one up for $81.95 as opposed to cheaper grills made of lesser materials. The grate can support 20 pounds, which means it'll hold your heavy Dutch oven cookware for some truly unique camping meals. The tubes of this grill use a simple locking button design. Cookers can adjust the height of their outdoor BBQ by switching up the hanging chain between 14 and 23 inches. This versatile grill will cook just about anything you can dream up. The downside to this grill is the fact that it doesn't come with a storage bag. Some small parts like the hanger for the chain can be easy to misplace if you aren't careful. We're not sure why Sunnydaze chose not to include one, but you'll want to find a storage solution before your first camping trip with this one, just to keep everything organized. We like this grill most for RV enthusiasts and car campers who have the extra storage space to spare.
5. The Best Compact Camp Grill
Stansport Steel Camp Grill, $42.99 - $100, Sportsman's Warehouse
- Heavy-duty construction
- Three different sizes to pick from
- Sturdy for heavy pots
- Can only be used on specific-size fires
As far as campfire grill grates go, sometimes it's best to keep things simple. Stansport builds these grills out of heavy-duty steel, which makes them extremely durable and sturdy over a fire. You can grill directly on the surface or use a small iron skillet, griddle, or coffee pot. The nice thing about this grill is that Stansport offers three different sizes: a small, medium, and large. The smallest measures 16-by-12 inches and stands 7 inches high. The largest is 36-by-18 inches and stands 9.5 inches tall. These grills fold flat, which makes them easy to stow behind a car seat or in an RV. The only real downside to these grills is that they may not fit all fire pits in an established campground. However, we like these for campers who want a camping fire cooking solution that's simple and to the point.
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