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I like camping, in fact, before I settled down with the wife and family, I spent many happy days, weeks, even months at a time out in the wilderness, enjoying the freedom that having my home on my back gave me. But this was before the health and safety brigade kicked in and stopped the fun by banning open fires, camping in the middle of nowhere and basically bringing a more serious look to what was a fun activity to be had.
And don't get me started on the idea of Glamping... what a stupid idea that is. Why did the health and safety brigade not put a stop to that before the idiots on the television got their camera hungry fame grabbing faces shown on the box as they wondered around a mud covered field whislt wearing a sparkly gown with 6 inch high heals on their feet....??? Idiots. Camping is for living a scruffy, down to earth few days where you can just let it all hang out, (not that... please). So why do people think that camping should be about wearing Prada and carrying a diamond handbag whilst heading for the shower block for a number two....
But I'm not here to have a go at Glamping, I'm here to talk about camping, or more a great little gadget that comes in handy when out camping, which I have had for many years and used over and over again, not just on camping.
This item I am talking about is in fact a simple single hob camping gas cooker that comes from the great camping supply company called Gelert.
* So what does this cooker look like..?
At the end of the day it looks like what it is, it's small gas cooker, a single head one, which, of course, is what it is really. It is a small(ish) rectangular box shaped object, being about 330mm long by 270mm wide and not more than 100mm thick, weighing in at about 1 ½ kilo, (without the gas canister attached).
On the top there is the gas ring itself, or the hob, which consists of four metal stands on each corner surrounding a plate like ring which houses has a lot of little holes in the top edge that allows the gas to come out of. Inside this ring there are little notches and a hole right in the centre.
This hob covers more than three quarters of the top with the remaining quarter being just a flat area, which actually is the cover of the gas canister as it sits underneath. Which I will go into later, but that is what it looks like on the top.
On the front, there are the controls, which are on the right side of the front and consists of a simple on/off lever, pushing down to turn on, or to release the gas into the hob. Then there's the heat control itself, which is just to the right of the lever. This heat control is a dial with an 'O' on the top, meaning the lower setting, to the higher setting, which is gained when turning the dial fully 180° anti clockwise
And that's all there is for the controls.
* Where does the gas supply come from..?
This is from a gas canister that slots into a hidden section inside the cooker, and that is where the end 'flat' area of the cooker comes into it as it is under here that the canister hides away. This area may only seem to have a cover that is as thin as a something you'd find separating chocolates in a box, but the cover is steel and is great at keeping the heat from the flame away from the gas canister that is housed inside. The flap is covered in a lot or writing, although most of the writing on mine has been left on the camp sites as it's mainly worn off. But there is a few words left, such as 'Caution' or more Caut..n, there's also a few smaller words like 'Do Not' and 'danger'... but in all it is a lot of health and safety wordings to stop you from blowing yourself up when using the cooker.
This is where you have to place the gas canister, which is a matter of pulling this cover upwards, sort of, using the little hole to put your finger in to get a bit of leverage. This section then lifts up, hinged on the side, and it is the lid of the gas canister area. But when the lid is up you then simply place the canister into the housing, making sure you've followed the correct directional instructions, and that the top of the canister, with the little plastic 'pin' that the gas comes out of, is waiting on top of the coupler area. Then, with the notches lined up, you press down on the lever which is on the front of the cooker, at the side of the heat control dial. This lever locks the canister in place and connects the coupler to the 'pin' on the top of the canister.
Once this is connected up you then close the lid, pushing it down securely, which will protect the gas canister from the heat from the flame of the cooker.
So know you're ready to start cooking...
* How easy is it to use..?
Simple. Or as simple as the gas cooker that you may have in your kitchen is, unless you're on electric or the old fashioned wood burners.
The first thing you do is ignite the flame, which is a matter of turning the dial 180° anti-clockwise. There is a little logo of what looks like a lightening bolt, which means that it is the ignition switch. Turn the dial until you hear a clicking noise, which should release a little blue flash from the ignition point on the hob. This may take more than one turn as the flame does not always light first time, if it doesn't catch then you simply turn the dial back to the start and try turning again.
Once the gas has ignited, with the same firm clicking sound letting you know that the ignition has kicked in, you need to push and hold the dial around the 'full on' setting for a second or two, which allows the gas to figure out that that the switch has not been accidentally turned. Then you can reduce the heat by turning the dial slowly clockwise, following the little 'long arrow' symbol which starts thin at the top and wider at the bottom.
And that's it. That's how to use this camping cooker.
* Now, the ultimate question. How long does a canister last..?
Well, this depends on what you do with it really, so it is one of those questions such as How long is a piece of string? (twice as long from the middle to one end...)
When I'm using it I can get a breakfast done, sausage and bacon on one pan, maybe an egg or two, with some of the old faithful, baked beans. With the longest cooking time being for the sausages, 10 to 15 minutes on a medium heat. Then I can do a dinner later on that day, a stew of some kind, maybe even a burger. Plus, I can boil several camping kettles of water for a nice cup of tea or coffee. All this done on a daily basis take about three or four, maybe even five canisters of gas in a full week of camping, with five being if I've gone over board on the cooking, dabbling in a rice dish or two.
* What about cleaning..?
The metal stands do comes out of the hob so that they can be cleaned thoroughly, but unless you're one messy chef it's not really something that you will have to do.
The rest of the cooker is easily wiped down with a damp cloth and a bit of elbow grease, (they may sell the later in the camping shop on the site... you never know?)
* Is it safe..?
It's really as safe as any cooker hob that you may use. If you treat the naked flame with respect then you won't end up burning yourself. Just make sure that you have this on a flat surface so that the pan you place on the hob doesn't slide off the stands and drops hot stuff onto the floor. But as you can usually find a flat bit of grassed area somewhere near your tent then this should not be a problem. The only issue you really have to worry about is the wind, so stay clear of the baked beans then...tee hee... no, seriously, when it's windy there's a high chance that the flame will get blown out in the middle of your cooking session, which could mean that the gas canister will run out without cooking your food. But don't worry as this cooker has a nice safety feature which stops the gas from flowing if the flame is blown out accidentally, saving you not just the loss of the gas but also the risk of eating uncooked sausages.
* What do I think then..?
I haven't used this for a while, mainly because I have not been camping on my own for as far back as I can remember, and this is only a single hob which is not that good when you go camping with the family and everyone want's something warm to eat at the same time. As that is the one and only issue with this cooker, the fact that it is only a single hob, which causes hassles when cooking several different items in one go as there is only one hob, which means that you do end up with some food going cold as you finish cooking something else.
There's no real way out of it as there is no where to keep the cooked food whilst you're waiting for the rest. But this is camping and eating cold bacon and sausage butties is all part of enjoying the countryside.
The cooker itself is made of a strong metal and can withstand a bit of hassles that you tend to find when camping, a few drops of two, scraping with pans and other items, and it still comes up smelling of roses. Plus, the steel construction means that there's a good barrier between what is technically and open flame sitting at the side of a canister filled with gas. Then there's the fact that is weighs almost next to nothing so that carrying it around is as easy as carrying a four pack of lager around with you.
This is why I liked to take this with me when I was out and about, on my own or with a mate, with the low weight of this meaning that I could slot it into my rucksack, with the other things I need, and I would not be struggling up and down the hills and mountains. The only issue for me was making sure that the gas canisters were safety packed away so they would not get pierced accidentally, blowing up my home and all my clothes inside my rucksack.
There is the usual safety instructions on the cooker, telling you that you have to line up the notches on the gas canister are lined up with the cooker markings, this is so that the canister can fit snugly into the cooker so there's no gas leakage.
The good thing is that because it runs of a common gas canister there's very few camp sites that you can get an emergency canister from. And the fact that it has a good easy to use heat control system, a dial that turns around to lower or higher the amount of gas released at a time. This means that you can get that perfect heat to your pan so you don't burn the outside of your sausages whilst the inside remains pink.
I nearly forgot to mention the case, which is quite nice, being blow moulded out of plastic so that the cooker fits perfectly inside without rattling about everywhere. There area couple of catches on the case that snap the two halves together, keeping them closed so that nothing falls out.
Although you do have to make sure that the cooker is cooled down fully before you put it into the case, or just into your rucksack.
As for the price of the cooker...
This cooker sells for about £15.00 which is a nice price for a single hob cooker..
You do need to have a good supply of gas canisters in order to use this cooker. These can be bought for a range of prices, from a couple of quid to nearly a tenner, (which is what the campsites try and sell them to me for and is why I make sure that I used to take enough canisters with me so I could spend my money in little village pub rather than the village shop).
* Would I recommend this..?
I'd have to say yes if you're a person who goes camping on your own or with a mate, but if you go camping with your family or a lot of friends then a single hob is not going to make everyone happy, unless you've all got one of course.
So, for one or two people who want warm food on in the middle of nowhere then this is something to look at. Any more than that and you may struggle a bit.
So the five stars are for the fact that this cooker does exactly what it is supposed to do and is easy to use.
The camping cooker comes in a plain black case, with a handle on for easy moving, it has two clasps on either side of the lid to lock it shut, so that it can not spring open when walking about with it and drop out.
As with household cookers you have a large flame, a medium flame and a small flame. This just comes as standard with the medium flame, although the flame can be adjusted to the correct heat required.
The cooker is just a basic small cooker, which is light in weight for easy moving. It is like a black/silvery colour, with the pan support just above the silver hob where the flames come out. The pan support can be removed, whereas the hob can't be, that is stuck firmly to the cooker.
At the side you have the part where the gas canister is fitted into place. This has a lid that pops up and easily pushes back down. It also has the instructions on how to use the cooker and fit the gas canister.
The cooker is pretty basic but it's good to have when your away camping, as you don't need anything fancy, just something that will cook your food properly.
FITTING THE GAS CANISTER
This can be the tricky part. To fit the canister you lift the lid up on the right hand side of the cooker, inside the lid you will see a little red thing, sorry I don't know what its called, but on opening the lid you would know what I mean loll. Then you need to get the tip of the gas canister and lay it down in the compartment, making sure that the tip is covering the red thing.
Then to connect it up so it stays in place you have a lever on the front, pull down the lever, and it should lock into place, to test push in the control button and twist, if you can hear gas then its connected correctly. If you can not hear gas you have not got it in the hole correctly, so you need to take it out and try again. This may take a few tries, but after a using it a few times, you do get the hang of it and usually manage to get it working first time.
If your gas canister is running low make sure to keep checking that the flame is still lit, as when the gas does run out, it gives no warning signs it will just die out.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU HAVE TO REPLACE THE GAS
This really depends on what you are cooking, I normally find that you can cook at least 4 corn beef ashes. So they do last for around 4 meals, but it does depend how long you have the cooker on for. We never eat out when camping, and I find 2 gas canisters will last us for a full week, but always make sure that you take enough with you, because I would assume to buy it from over there would cost a lot more.
WHAT CAN YOU COOK ON THIS
Basically anything you want, the only problem is that it only has one ring, so you can only cook one thing at once. I eventually bought a second one, so I could cook more if needed. I found a trick with some things, for instance if you wanted a bacon and tomato sandwich, I would at first cook the bacon, then once that was cooked i would put the tomatoes on and put the bacon in the tomatoes, I found that doing this it kept the bacon nice and hot.
You can cook stews, corn beef ash, basically anything that you fancy. It's just a pain if the children are wanting different foods, so you might want to make sure you get things in that all the children will eat it will make your cooking a lot easier.
The cooker is pretty easy to clean, just get a damp cloth and it wipes straight off, the pan stand comes off so if it gets too dirty you can soak it in water, but this has never been needed.
I would however recommend cleaning before any spillages dry as it does make it easy to clean. i have found that if left to dry a cloth won't clean it. However a scourer will, I was a little bit wary of using this, as i thought it may scratch the cooker, but it never left a mark on it. Even so I would not recommend scrubbing too hard.
EASE OF USE
The cooker is really easy to use, I think the hardest thing to do is fit the gas canister, but apart from that its just like using a normal cook, just that you need to place it on a table to get it to the right height, that is required for you. Don't worry also if it's a plastic table that you use, as the cooker does not get hot at the bottom, so won't go burning any plastic, it's also safe to use on the floor.
WHERE YOU CAN USE IT
This is so small and light, with its own carry case you can use it anywhere. I would not even say it has to be used only when you go camping, you can use it if you want to go for a picnic or anything.
You can also use it inside your tent too, but I would make sure you never leave it unattended if you do this. Also I have used this at home while waiting for my new cooker arrived, and I had no problems using it then either.
REPLACEMENT GAS CANISTERS
These I usually purchase from one of two stores, they can be bought from Argos for £9.99 which is for 4 canisters or from the range for £5 each so I know where I would go loll, although they don't always seem to have them in stock and do appear to be seasonal.
WHERE TO BUY
you can buy these from Amazon for £12.95 or from Argos for £14.99 O am sure they sell them in other shops too but it would take me too long to type that all in.
The cookers do seem pretty safe, but only to an adult. You have to have your own safety rules too. Never leave the cooker unattended. Also never leave it where a child could touch it. Plus I always make sure that when i have finished using the cooker, I take the gas out and store it away somewherer safe, out of the reach of children. The cooker can be stored anywhere without the gas, as without that its useless and very safe.
This stores away pretty nicely in the carry case provided. Or can just be popped into the corner of a room, or in a cupboard. Or you can just put it in the boot of your car. I find the carry case a very good thing for this as it does make tidying away a lot easier, without everything all over your tent. And its just as easy to get back out too, so not loads of messing around.
MY OVERALL OPINION
I think this is a really good cooker for the price it was, although I am sure there will be better cookers out there but a lot more expensive. Originally I did think one cooker ring would be enough, but I found that I really could do with a second. Maybe if I realised this to start with I could have just bought a 2 ringed cooker, which they are available.
But I would recommend this to anyone who wants just a one ringed cooker, as it does the job and the gas lasts long and is also cheap to replace. I have had no problems so far with the cooker, and it always ignites up first time with no problems.
Obviously a cooker is a must have when camping unless your the type of person who prefers to eat out all the time, I would recommend this to first time campers, as it is cheap, and if you decide camping is not for you then you have not wasted a lot of money.
Short name: Gelert Portable