A quality portable cooktop is a must-have for anyone who routinely goes on hunting, camping or fishing trips. I also believe everyone should have a reliable, and safe, portable cooktop like CanCooker for emergency preparedness.
Emergency preparedness is a continuous what-if and may be called to action at any time and for a wide variety of reasons. What if your electricity or gas service goes out? You may have a gas grill but that’s not especially portable if the emergency requires bugging out. This unit may be small and light enough to add to your survival kit.
For less than a $100 investment, a portable cooktop like the CanCooker Multi-Fuel Cooktop could mean the difference between drinking safe water and eating well or not eating at all.
When considering the purchase of a cookstove (or any equipment), it is important not only to evaluate if it meets statements or advertising claims made by the company, but to also research the company’s reputation, the warranty and the return policy.
If you are new to cooktops/camp stoves, you should understand that those which use gas fuel are not intended for indoor use as they are considered a carbon monoxide hazard, and most are not intended to be used in windy conditions, as the wind can extinguish the flames and fuel will continue to flow.
Some cooktops/camp stoves include a wind guard, or they can be purchased separately. This information will not typically be stated or advertised but is generally addressed in the product’s instruction manual.
Equipment purchases are generally made with a particular purpose in mind. Therefore, being mindful of that purpose is important when making the decision of which model or brand of equipment to buy. When evaluating portable cooktops/camp stoves, a few questions to ask yourself include:
- Is it for hunting, camping or fishing trips; tailgating, parties or emergency preparedness?
- Will it be used as the primary or backup stove?
- What is the weather typically like where or when it will be used (is it cold, windy, rainy)?
- Will you need to carry it for a long distance (how much does it weigh, how big is it)
- How much does the fuel weigh?
- How much does the fuel cost and is it readily available where you’re likely to be?
- How is it constructed?
- How easy is it to set up and use?
Each of these questions should be answered before you start shopping.
“A quality portable cooktop is a must-have for anyone who routinely goes on hunting, camping or fishing trips.”
Seth McGinn’s CanCooker, headquartered in Freemont, Nebraska, was founded in 2009, and information online indicates the Multi-Fuel Cooktop has been on the market at least five years.
Seth McGinn’s CanCooker has a Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating of A-plus. While the company is not accredited, the BBB tracks complaints it receives against companies (accredited or not) and shows only one complaint filed against Seth McGinn’s CanCooker in the past 10 years.Statements and Advertising
The Multi-Fuel Portable Cooktop is advertised as:
- Operating ultra-quietly in a compact design;
- Perfect for outdoor use – including camping, hunting, fishing and tailgating – and a great complement to your backyard grill;
- Easy to use, with its electronic ignition system, you don’t need matches or batteries to light it;
- Always ready to go because of its convenient carry/storage case;
- Multi-Fuel uses standard 8-ounce butane and 16.4-ounce propane canisters that are sold separately.
- Includes propane hose and regulator ($25 value)
There was no information found on the company’s website or through an online search describing the materials used for construction of the Cooktop. The body appears to be constructed of a light-gauge stamped steel; the burner was lighter than I would expect if it were stainless steel, leading me to believe it is made of aluminum; and the drip pan appears to be have some type of enamel coating.Field Test
We took the Cooktop on a three-day fishing/camping trip to see how it performed. It is compact and light enough to carry with an index finger. While the Cooktop’s small footprint and weight make it extremely portable, the storage/carry case is flimsy and offers little protection for the stove, so great care must be used to protect it when packing for a trip.
Setting up the Cooktop was simple and the instruction manual easy to follow. The only issue encountered was a warning label instructing the user to ensure the drip pan is in the correct position prior to use, and instructions to remove that label before use.
The label is placed in a position where it could possibly catch fire, and removing that label was not an easy task. Fortunately, there was adhesive remover in the truck (I have no idea why) and a sharpened stick was used to scrape off the label.
Instructions to hook up the propane cylinder were very clear. No tools were required; however, it was necessary to use both hands to connect the brass propane fitting to the stove, one to keep the hose straight and the other to tighten the fitting. The hose and regulator appear to be well-made and durable.
Instructions to install the butane cylinder were equally easy. I was delighted to see the “soapy water bubbles” test for leaks included in the manual for both butane and propane installations.Day One
When dinnertime came around, it was cool, hovering at 62 degrees (F), and there was a light breeze of 5 to 10 mph. I had some concern about the Cooktop’s ability to light and maintain its temperature without a wind guard; however, the Cooktop lit on the first try and performed well.
Fish and home-cut fries, one of our favorite outdoor cooking recipes, were prepared in an 8-inch cast-iron skillet (cast iron most certainly helped maintain the heat). It took 16 minutes for the oil to rise to the desired temperature of 300 degrees (F).
Immediately upon adding the fries, the oil’s temperature dropped to 225 degrees but quickly climbed back to 300 and maintained its temperature. The adjustable flame was reliable and worked perfectly. Dinner was a success and tasty.Day Two
I was eager to try Seth McGinn’s CanCooker, Jr. in conjunction with the Cooktop, and stew was on the menu; however, the weather was not cooperating. It was 48 degrees (F) with gusts of wind up to 30 mph. It is nearly impossible to cook on any gas-fueled camp stove in high wind without a wind guard or other wind break. Due to the weather conditions, our stew was cooked over an open fire.Day Three
This was our last day and it was a brisk 28 degrees (F) on this morning; fortunately, there was no wind. To determine the energy difference in the fuel, I added one quart of water in a triple-ply stainless steel pan and turned the Cooktop to high. When heated with propane, the water began to boil in 8 minutes and in 13 minutes it began to rapidly boil.
After allowing the pan to cool to ambient temperature, I repeated the process using butane (which had been stored overnight at a temperature well above freezing); it took a full 17 minutes for the water to begin to boil.
At lunchtime, the temperature had just reached 30 degrees (F). The Cooktop was already set up with propane and the stove lit on the first try. I set the Cooktop on high, put the stew in the CanCooker, Jr. and in 15 minutes it was warm enough to eat.
Packing up to head home, I again noticed the lightweight construction of the Cooktop’s storage/carry case. Upon returning the Cooktop to the case for transport home, the case did not close properly.Conclusion
Pros: The company appears to have a good reputation and the Cooktop performed as advertised. It is truly lightweight, compact, and easy to set up. The user’s manual was well-written, easy to follow and included well-thought-out safety precautions.
Cons: The storage/carry case is of substandard quality and durability.
The Cooktop is suited for occasional outdoor use such as tailgating and cookouts. It would be a great addition to your emergency preparedness supplies to serve as a backup or to have on hand for short-term use in the event of a power outage.
“Equipment purchases are generally made with a particular purpose in mind; therefore, being mindful of that purpose is important when making the decision of which model or brand of equipment to buy.”
If you need a cooktop for occasional use that is compact, lightweight and burns propane or butane, Seth McGinn’s Multi-Fuel Portable Cooktop fits the bill. The Cooktop is available on the company’s website for $59.99, as well as at other retailers for about the same price.Propane vs. Butane
As one of the features of this cooktop is the ability to burn different fuels, it is important to understand a few basic differences between propane and butane.Availability
While this may not be the case in your area, in my area propane is readily available but butane is not. After looking online and calling retailers, I made a 90-minute roundtrip drive to purchase an 8-ounce canister of butane.Temperature
Butane and propane are liquid fuels and must turn into gas in order to burn. During my research, I learned that the point where fuel ceases to turn into gas (remains liquid) is referred to as the boiling point.
Propane’s boiling point is around -44 degrees (F), whereas butane’s boiling point is around 30 degrees (F). There are other technical factors included in the boiling point, such as atmospheric pressure, but suffice to say that once the temperature reaches freezing, butane may not work.Cost
In my area, the standard 8-ounce butane canister averages $3 and the standard 16-ounce propane canister averages $3.50. In this comparison, it is more economical to purchase a 16-ounce canister of propane rather than an 8-ounce canister of butane.
However, according to TexasPropane.com, butane can provide 12 percent more energy than propane when using the same volume, providing it is burned above freezing.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the March 2020 print issue of American Survival Guide.