Choosing a Camper Van Stove | Best Van Life Stoves + What to Consider

Heather Arbour

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When deciding what kind of camper van stove to install in your van build, there are a few things to consider. We’ve run through a number of camper van stoves in our time on the road, and have a by far favorite, but of course, will include other options as well as what makes our favorite stove so great.

But first, before we dive into the different kinds of camper van stoves there are out there, let’s cover a few bases. Click on the bullet points below to jump straight to that section of this post!

Butane vs Propane Stove

Honestly, we’re no scientists and can’t truly comment on the difference between butane vs propane. But we’ve had experience with both, so we’re going to share what we know. If you want to dive into the scientific differences between the two, check out this article here.


PROPANE //  Propane is the easiest type of camper van stove gas to get refilled. It’s found out most gas stations, and there are even propane-specific stations to fill up or replace your tanks too. New propane tanks are easy to buy at most stores, even can be found on Amazon, and are easy to exchange at most gas stations. (The cheapest way to get one of these is to go to a propane store like Carson). If you’re not interested in large propane canisters, supermarkets, and outdoor stores sell smaller canisters like this. Alternatively, you can find small propane tanks perfect for a camper van stove at any propane retailer. Just search propane on Google Maps, and you’ll find something!

BUTANE // Butane in the States comes in smaller, lighter canisters making it a more friendly gas to use for a mobile camper van stove. You can find it at outdoor shops, hardware stores, and sometimes places like Walmart — but it’s not as accessible as propane.


PROPANE // Our campervan stove was wired in to use propane and while you can’t really refill the propane in the UK, instead you just exchange the propane tanks. Luckily, most petrol (gas) stations in the United Kingdom carry the small version of the propane tanks, making it easy to exchange — even on the Scottish isles!

IN EUROPE // butane

BUTANE // When we took Izzy, our van in Scotland, on our first trip across the English Channel into Europe, we didn’t have any problem with finding propane because we didn’t need it. Our tank lasted us the entire month through Europe. The second go-around did not go as smoothly. We ran out of propane, went to exchange the tank, and found out that Europe uses butane or a mixture of butane and propane.

While this isn’t the end of the world, it is really sucky! Changing from propane to butane, you have to have a different adaptor for connecting your camper van stove to the gas line. Not a fun thing to try and find while you’re traveling and exploring a new place.

cat and camper van stove, arboursabroad, vanlife

The moral of the story… If you plan on traveling between the UK and Europe in a campervan.. be sure to leave with a full take of gas for your van stove. And if you’re heading out for longer than around three months, opt for a larger tank, or bring an extra one if space allows. 

How Big of A Tank Should I Get For My Campervan Stove?

While the answer to this question varies tremendously based on the duration of time in the van, how much space you have, and how much weight in gas you’re willing to carry around.. the smaller, 11lb tanks are perfect for DIY campervan builds.

Most RVs have larger propane tanks, but they also have the extra space and ability to carry the extra weight at no worry to the RVer’s. However, when you’re doing a DIY campervan build, you’ll likely be trying to save on space and weight, while also making things easiest for your time on the road.

The 11lb propane tanks (4.7 kg in the UK) are perfect for a campervan. They last about 2.5-3 months with pretty heavy use and are the smallest and lightest weight without dropping to the 1 lb cans that aren’t refillable. When we say, “heavy use” we’re talking… coffee or tea 2x a day and cooking breakfast and dinner, and sometimes lunch every 6-7 days a week.

If you don’t want your stove to be permanently in one spot, they consider getting the 1lb propane tanks. Our beef with these is they’re not refillable, so it’s a lot of extra waste and it just sounds annoying to set up and take down your stove each time you want to use it. Having a larger gas tank and keeping your camper van stove in one spot makes the van seem homier instead of like “van life”.

Types of Campervan Stoves

There are loads of options for van life stoves. You can use traditional camping stoves, homemade stoves, induction stoves, countertop stoves, or heck, even a full campervan cooker with an oven too. When considering different camper van stoves, keep in mind the amount of space they take up, if you want them to be permanently on the counter, and how you want to run your stove — ie. gas, alcohol, or electricity.

Whatever stove you choose, be sure to check if the size pans you typically use fit on the stove. The stove we have in our current van build is the perfect size for our 10 inch cast iron.. anything smaller and the pan wouldn’t have fit!

Propane Camp Stove | closes and can be permanent or portable

In both our van conversions we’ve used traditional car camping stoves. They’re much cheaper than the stoves that have to be built into the countertop, and they’re easy to install. And while they may take up a bit more space than other stoves, they also offer more space to cook with bigger pots and pans. We loved our Campingaz Chef Stove from the UK, but there are many other great cheaper options too.

When we were living in our car traveling across the States, we used a Coleman camp stove. They’re easy to find fuel for, have a tray to hold spillage, and are relatively cheap. However, when we build out our second van in the States, we didn’t want the Coleman camper van stove as it’s rather large and heavy. So instead, we went with a Stansport camp stove. Same idea, just a bit smaller and more lightweight.

Single Burner Campervan Stove | perfect to save space

If you don’t typically use two burners at home, not need to put a two-burner stove in your van conversion. Single burner stoves are great for smaller builds as they’re smaller, and can be tucked away or put anywhere! We’ve always had two-burner stoves so we have the option of using two-burners at one time, however, more often than not, we only use one burner. So, definitely think about what your needs will be and if you can get away with just a single-burner stove, go for it!

Lots of people that we’ve seen with single burner stoves, use a stove similar to this. If you want a portable stove, the single burner stoves are great for that! However, this one is much cuter and would look way better in a van build if it’s out all the time!

Induction Camper Van Stove | uses electricity

I would choose cooking on gas over anything else, hands down, all the time. However, obviously, we’re not all the same, so people love induction stoves! Induction cooktops are great for the van so you don’t have to worry about burning fumes inside your van as you’re cooking. Just make sure that if you go with an induction camper van stove, your van is set up with enough solar power to run the stove.. even on cloudy days!!

Not going to lie… this stove would look so slick on a countertop in the van. I’d just be worried about breaking it all the time! And again, not a fan of cooking this way. There are also portable induction stoves, that would be great for people wanting the flexibility of cooking inside and outside!

Counter Top RV Style Stove | permanently out + uses electricity

I’m not 100% sure, but it seems like most RV drop-in countertop stoves require electricity to ignite the flames. All of the RV stoves I’ve seen come with a plug that would need to be plugged into an inverter. However, we don’t have experience with this, so I’m not totally sure about that!

I’ve also seen drop-in RV stoves, like this one here, that doesn’t look like it needs the power outlet. And the Dometic brand is a very reputable brand in the campervan world.

DIY Soda Can Stove | cheap, small, and uses alcohol instead of gas

soda can stove, camp stove, arboursabroad,
Soda can stove setup!

We definitely wouldn’t recommend this as a type of stove to use for van life, however, if you’re on a budget and you just want to get in the van.. a soda can stove will work fine. Jay made us one when we backpacked through South America, and it was a lifesaver. Back then, finding gas for stoves wasn’t an easy thing to do, so instead, he made a soda can stove that burns isopropyl alcohol to create a flame. While it’s not the nicest setup, it works! We used ours the entire six months in South America and got on just great!

Learn how to make your own soda can stove here.

Campervan Cooker | full stovetop and oven

Talk about luxury van life!! This campervan cooker is for the elite! You not only get a stove, but you get an oven too! Obviously, this isn’t necessary for everyone, but if you don’t think you can live without an oven in your van.. then maybe this is the best option for you! You’ll obviously need much more space to include this in your build, but shoot, how lovely to be able to have fresh cookies whenever you want!

If you’re dying to have an oven in your campervan, before taking the plunge on a full oven, check out this Omnia Oven. We’ve heard amazing things about it, and shoot may just have to get one ourselves!!

minivan conversion, outdoor cooking, campervan stoves, arboursabroad

Our Favorite Camper Van Stove

Our all-time favorite camper van stove was in our old van, Izzy. It’s a Campingaz Chef stove from the UK. This campervan stove is perfect for van life. It has two burners, is super compact, and has a toaster with a tray too! The stove itself folds super flat, and then when you want to use it, it opens up and has a great tray beneath the burners, perfect for catching any spills! It’s more expensive than other stoves, however, it looks nicer, than other stoves set up the same!

The one we had was an older version of this one, however, I reckon this one is just as good. In my opinion, the older version looked nicer, but hey, to each their own!

Where to Purchase a Campervan Stove

Don’t go straight to the store for a brand new camper van stove. Purchasing a van stove second-hand is a great way to save money! We found our favorite camper van stove on Gumtree (the UK version of Craig’s List) and got a killer deal on a really nice stove that wasn’t perfect for the old owners.

Check places like —

  • Garage sales
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Craig’s List or Gumtree
  • Walmart / Bimart
  • Outdoor Stores
  • RV Shops (probably most expensive)
  • Amazon (if you use Amazon, shop camp stoves through us, and we get a small percentage of your sale at no cost to you!)

Where to Put Your Camper Van Stove


If using an induction stove, you don’t have to consider the airflow for the fumes as much as using a gas stove. However, with both, you need to think of airflow for the steam and smell that comes from the food or even boiling water. You’ll want to put your campervan stove next to a window, or better yet, install a roof fan above or near your stove to pull all the steam and smell out of the van.


Don’t forget to consider the things around the stove. Again with the smell of food, you don’t want your clothes right next to the stove soaking in all the cooking smells! Likewise, you don’t want your clothes or your bedding near the stove, for those times you spill something, something boils over, or just the splatter of oil and grease coming from the stove!


Our first van we had the stove right on the counter accessible from inside the van and it was perfect. We used it multiple times a day, so we wanted it on the counter. And we placed it with a plastic-like wall behind it for easy cleanup of grease and the like. In our second build, we didn’t have much space and put the camper van stove out the back of the van. This is something we really regret!

If we were in warmer weather all the time, it wouldn’t be that big of an issue. However, in the cold, it’s not fun to be outdoors cooking. And, we lose all the heat from the stove when the back has to be opened to cook. The other major downside to this is wind. When it’s windy it takes SO LONG to cook things.. to the point where we sometimes just don’t make food if it’s too windy. We highly suggest keeping your stove indoors if at all possible!

man cooking out the back of a van with a camping stove, arboursabroad

Van Life Stove Accessories

Is accessories the right word here?! I don’t know, but it seems like it! Below are all the add ons you’ll need for a camper van stove, as well as the three main things we use to cook in the van.

Propane Adaptor Hose | check prices here

If you go with a camping stove, you’ll definitely need to get an adaptor hose like this to convert the typical plug for the 1 lb propane canisters to the bigger 11 lb tanks. This will also lengthen the hose length, allowing you to pipe the propane a longer distance if need be. The one we have listed here may not work for all stoves. Be sure to check the thread size of your camper van stove and get the right adaptor for it!

Propane Regulator | grab one here

Again with this, check if your stove or the adaptor hose comes with a propane regulator before purchasing this. The propane regulator basically just controls the amount of gas flowing through the tubes, making the burning more safe and efficient.

Propane Tank Tie Downs | check prices here

Super simple tie-downs to clamp your propane tank to the floor of your campervan just in case you get in an accident or hit a cattle guard too fast! We recommend tieing down all things that are heavy and could cause serious damage if in an accident!

10 inch Cast Iron | grab one here

Sure, it’s heavy.. but cast irons are the best! You never use soap on them, so they’re great for van life. Easy to clean, and a much healthier thing to cook on than alternative pans.

Small Pot | current prices here

We have one pot and it works great… we’ve never needed something bigger or different. Grab a pot that would fit enough pasta or food for how many people are in the van with you, and call it good!

Spatula | check prices here

We have a metal spatula and two bamboo spatulas and haven’t touched the bamboo ones since we’ve been on the road. Metal spatulas work great with the cast iron, and you truly do only need one!

Kettle | current prices here

Water for coffee and tea. Boiling water to do dishes. Warming up water to shave your legs.. you name it.. a kettle is so nice to have. We love the gooseneck kettle as it works great with our pour-over coffee, but also allows for more control when using it to wash dishes — making us waste less water.

READ MORE || Best Campervan Coffee Makers

Roof Fan | check prices here

Installing a van fan into your roof allows for better circulation when cooking. It helps pull out the steam and smell the stove produces and also pulls out any fumes from the gas of the stove burning!

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man cooking out the back of a van with a camping stove, arboursabroad
cat and camper van stove, arboursabroad, vanlife
stove options to fit any build and budget for vanlife, arboursabroad

We’d love to know what stove you choose for your build-out! And heck, we always love looking at other builds for ideas and inspiration. Let us know what your build-out plans are below. And, don’t forget to include a way for us to find you and see pictures of your van build progress! 

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