Gear review: Coleman updates old standby with ‘InstaStart’
August 20, 2010
I don’t particularly care for cleaning grills, or stoves, so a camp stove wasn’t high on my list of priorities.
In fact, I’ll eat a meal wrapped in foil and tossed on the campfire coals, a freeze-dried dish (just add boiling water) or a sandwich just to avoid carrying a grimy grill home.
That said, camp stoves have gotten fancier since I was a kid, when my dad occasionally fired up one of those ancient green Coleman jobs with the pump on the red gas tank. Since he hated camping, we usually used it during extended power outages at our house, not out in the woods.
As an adult, I’ve most recently hauled a little gas-powered grill with me on camping trips, but not to actually grill food. Instead, I make something at home that can be encased in foil and tossed on the grill to heat up, allowing me to avoid cleaning the thing later.
This summer, my household has stepped it up a notch with the Coleman Signature InstaStart Grill Stove ($89.95 at REI). It’s an update on the old green job. Handily, it uses the same small gas canister as our portable grill and requires no pumping. It boasts a circular burner on one side, for heating a pot of coffee or whatnot, and a grill with a single heating element stretched from one side of the grill space to the other.
It’s all built into a case, like the Coleman stoves of old, with sides that come up to form a wind shelter.
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The only truly updated feature is a push-button starter to fire up the burners. The button worked on day one, didn’t on day two (the air was wet, but the grill was dry) and worked again a week later. The jury is still out on the dependability of this feature.
There’s nothing about the new stove that makes it easier to clean than any other grill; in fact, there’s actually more to clean if food spatters on the metal wind screens or grease oozes into the drip pan. On the other hand, cooking something in a pot on the stove would be a breeze, though we resorted to foil-wrapped burritos for our inaugural meal.
The stove won high praise at breakfast, when we discovered it makes a perfect toaster, evenly toasting bread or bagels spread out on a piece of foil over the grill.
If the power goes out at my house, I’m ready.