Coleman Even Temp with griddle 3 Burner Stove
Living by the addage that 'poor man pays twice' meant that we purchased a cheap two burner stove from one of the large camping supply stores. It seemed too good to be true, a two burner stove, a gas lantern and pole and stand to put it all on for about a hundred and fifty bucks. I think the whole thing lasted about three weekends away before what was left of it was donated to someone in more need. We decided that we would go and spend a little more and the Coleman Even Temp unit came in at $235. The stove was purchased new in 2015 and has cooked countless meals in that time. It shows all the signs of neglect that comes with a life of constant travel but is still performing as good as the day we got it out of the box.
The unit itself appears to be constructed of a lightweight anodised aluminium material but it's hard to know for sure and I can't find anything on the website to confirm or deny my suspicions. It's typical of modern consumables in that it has all the hallmarks of a product made in China, and whilst in this day and age that is certainly no surprise it does leave you with sense that the items days are numbered right from the day you buy it. So far it's proven me wrong and is holding fairly well apart from the layers of the aforementioned signs of neglect but when the whole shebang is screwed together utilising self-tapers into the alloy body of the unit you know what the eventual outcome will be. The owners manual shows a list of available spare parts so it should be repairable for the most part but I haven't purchased anything so I can't vouch for pricing in this regard.
The Coleman Even Temp stove comes with a couple of options when it comes to supplying the unit with gas. In the kit you get a strange looking little inflexible steel gas line that screws into the side of the stove, it's done using your fingers which I found to be a bit fiddly to get started and when it's covered in oily residue from cooking it's almost impossible to undo. To solve this issue I now keep a pair of pliers handy. Into the other end of this steel gas line you can either screw in a small, 453 Gram (16Oz) disposable gas cylinder or a 1 metre long gas hose that standard, comes with a 3/8ths gas bottle fitting. We have fitted a 3/8ths to POL adapter that allows us to use the same gas bottle as our Webber Baby Q. If space or carrying ability of a standard gas bottle is problematic then the small bottles are a great option but they don't last long so you then find yourself having to carry a bunch of them which of course negates the space saving benefits. We carry one of the disposable bottles as a back up in case our 4.5 kg bottle runs out at an inopportune moment.
Okay so build quality aside, how does it perform? It's great to be fair. It has two round burners located on either side of a rectangular shaped central burner and all three are lit using the inbuilt 'Instastart' electronic ignition system, otherwise known as a piezzo. Once the burners are lit they take no time in getting to work, as you'd expect. The most difficult thing when the unit was new was getting the gas burner low enough for gentle simmering, it was either a raging inferno or out completely. This has improved with use as the internal workings of the gas control knobs have bedded in and more subtle adjustments are facilitated, all though super low simmering is still a bit of an issue. You can easily fit a larger saucepan and a frying pan on the two outside burners but if you want to use a couple of pots with your frying pan, they'll need to be smaller. The griddle is fantastic for cooking steaks or even bacon and eggs for breakfast, a nice even temperature means that cooking your food to perfection is a relatively easy task. The negative is that if you have the griddle, or 'hot plate' in the house were I grew up, on the cooker you can't have a saucepan as well. Ideally I would like to see a two piece hotplate, leaving one burner exposed for boiling vegetables or what ever whilst your T-Bone is being taken care of. On big trips we take both the Coleman stove and a Webber Baby Q which gives us a range of options, but this is a bulky set up and you need to be in one spot for quite a bit of time to justify it, it is a nice combination though. The other problem with using the hotplate is that to use the 'oil' catch cup on the side of the hotplate means you have to have the wind deflector down as the catch tray sits on top of it, rarely a major problem but it is one that has raised it's head a couple of times.
Overall the Coleman Even Temp stove is a pretty good thing and I guess life on the road is one of compromises. it's just a matter of working out which compromises your prepared to make.