The Best Camping Grills of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

We tested everything from cast iron griddles to folding titanium grills to find the right one for your next long weekend

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Whether it’s over briquettes or open flame, a camping grill can take your outdoor dining menu from ho-hum to gourmet. Like most campers, I’ve used the camping grills pre-installed at established campgrounds for years, to varying degrees of success. A lot of times it works just fine, but more than once I’ve been stymied by a grate that was too far off the ground to be effective or covered in so many layers of rust as to be a health hazard. To help you find the best camping grill for your next adventure, I checked out options from Coleman GSI, UCO, Vargo, and more. 

How I Tested the Best Camping Grills

I originally tested the GSI Outdoors Portable Camping Grill and Coleman Deluxe Camp Grills as part of my look at the best camping accessories back in 2022. While I found the Coleman version of the portable grill to be a nice alternative to using the traditional campfire grate, the small packed size of the GSI Outdoors Portable Camping Grill didn’t quite make up for the short legs.

The GSI Outdoors Portable Camping Grill was ultimately too heavy (2 pounds, 3 ounces) and too short to be included in the best camping grills.
The GSI Outdoors Portable Camping Grill was ultimately too heavy (2 pounds, 3 ounces) and too short to be included in the best camping grills. Laura Lancaster

For this story, I decided to check out a few models that are even more lightweight and compact, including the Vargo Titanium Bifold Grill and the UCO Grilliput Portable Grill. Both these models are appropriate for either casual backpacking trips or to fit inside of a camping bin with limited space. I also tested the GSI Guidecast Griddle, a cast-iron option, during this round of testing. 

If you’re looking for something with a bit more oomph, check out my best upgrade pick and best stove-grill combo, from Outdoor Life’s Best Grills and Best Grill-Stove Combo stories, respectively. Finally, I included a DIY option (for anyone who felt the UCO Grilliput wasn’t complicated enough), from OL contributor Tim MacWelch: a camping grill made entirely from forest refuse. Just remember, while this is a great option for national forest and BLM campgrounds, do not try this at a national park or state park campground. 

Read Next: Where to Go Camping to Beat the Crowds

Best Camping Grills: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Coleman Deluxe Camp Grill

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Key Features

  • Price: $25
  • Packed Size: 24 x 12 x 0.6 inches
  • Weight: 3.3 pounds
  • Height off the Ground: 6.3 inches

Pros

  • Taller than other foldable grills I looked at
  • Lower price than other options

Cons

  • Larger packed size can be a bit clunky

This is the camping grill that gets the job done at the price point you’re looking for. It’s tall enough to get a healthy bed of coals underneath. It packs up small. While it isn’t the sturdiest piece of gear I’ve ever tested, it handled one of the Best Cast Iron Skillets for Camping just fine. But most importantly, it’s the most affordable option on this list. If you’re looking to get into grilling on your next camping trip but want to steer clear of the established campfire pit’s grate this is a great choice. 

Best Ultralight: Vargo Titanium Bifold Grill

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Key Features

  • Price: $50
  • Packed Size: 4 x 1.25 inches
  • Weight: 3.7 ounces
  • Height off the Ground: 4.5 inches

Pros

  • Lightweight and compact enough to take backpacking 

Cons

  • More delicate than other options on this list
  • A bit more difficult to get a stable grilling surface

Like all ultralight backpackers, I love titanium products. And Vargo, which specializes in titanium gear for backpackers and thru-hikers, is one of my favorite companies for outdoor products that are innovative, useful, and shockingly lightweight. Which is exactly what their Bifold Grill was. This thing is so small and so lightweight that it would disappear in even the most studious gram-counters kit. And yet it was easily large enough to heat up multiple brats during my test. If you’re looking to shake up the menu on your next backpacking trip, now you can absolutely add “grilling over an open fire” to your list of options. 

The discoloration on the Vargo Titanium Bifold Grill is a result of the material being used, but does not affect its overall durability. 
The discoloration on the Vargo Titanium Bifold Grill is a result of the material being used, but does not affect its overall durability.  Laura Lancaster

Of course, like all things ultralight, there are a couple of quibbles to be aware of. This is ultralight titanium cookware, which means you can expect some discoloration, even the first time you use it. This is normal, and won’t affect the Bifold Grill’s durability, as titanium is able to withstand temperatures over 1,000 degrees —  far in excess of what you’ll be grilling over. Titanium this thin and this lightweight, however, will be susceptible to being bent, so just be aware when you’re packing it away again. Finally, during testing, this was by far the most finicky camping grill to get into a sturdy enough setup for grilling. It can be done, just be patient with yourself, and plan to have a steady supply of coals to pull underneath its comparatively low height. 

Best Cast-Iron: GSI Guidecast Griddle

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Key Features

  • Price: $27
  • Packed Size: 10-inch diameter
  • Weight: 5 pounds, 5.5 ounces
  • Height off the Ground: Not applicable

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Can be placed directly on top of coals or even fire

Cons

  • Takes a while to heat up (and cool down)
  • Harder to create a level surface
  • Heavy

Cast iron and outdoor cooking go hand in hand, and that’s true for camping grills as well as frying pans. The advantage of a cast-iron griddle is that you can place it directly onto the coals, rather than trying to carefully balance the fold-out legs over it. And, since cast-iron retains heat, you’ll end up with a more uniform cooking surface in the long run. Check and check. 

I especially liked the Guidecast Griddle from GSI, as it comes with two easy to use handles that allow you to pick up and put the griddle down without grabbing a couple of pot holders. During testing, I noticed that the length of time it takes for the griddle to heat up means that you need to be doubly careful that you have plenty of coals to work with. While the lack of a level surface area ended up not being too much of an issue, the overall weight of the item was noticeable compared to others I looked at. 

Best Packed Size: UCO Grilliput Portable Grill

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Key Features

  • Price: $30
  • Packed Size: 11.4 x .9 inches 
  • Weight: 19.8 ounces 
  • Height off the Ground: 5.5 inches

Pros

  • Fairly lightweight
  • Very small packed size 
  • Surprisingly sturdy

Cons

  • Assembly is time-consuming and fiddly

If space is at a premium in your camping bin, then the UCO Grilliput Portable Grill is one to consider. It packs down to nothing more than a thin cylindrical tube, but was one of the most stable grills in my test, with plenty of room for coals under the grill. In fact, I was so impressed by its functional performance that it outweighs the biggest issue here: This one is a pain in the butt to assemble.

Each metal spoke has to be inserted and then screwed into place; in practice, I found that this took as much time as actually starting my fire. But this and the Vargo Titanium Bifold Grill were the only ones that fit into the gaps in my current camping bin. If you’re not sure what kind of camping grate you’re going to get on your next long weekend, this one is a great backup to have along. 

Best Upgrade: Traeger Tailgater 20

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Key Features

  • Total Cooking Space: 300 square inches, or two whole chickens
  • Weight: 62 pounds
  • Pellet Hopper Capacity: 8 pounds
  • Max Temperature: 450 degrees
  • Min Temperature: Approximately 180 degrees
  • Keep warm mode
  • Meat probe included
  • Digital arc controller
  • Porcelain-coated grill grates
  • Price: $530

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy to maneuver
  • Easy to use, plug it in and turn it on
  • Durable and quality build

Cons

  • Temperature and pellet hopper need to be monitored
  • Requires thorough cleaning after each use

I’ve had my Traeger Tailgater 20 liter since I graduated college six years ago. It’s weathered four moves, crossed state lines with me five times, and even endured a trip to South Dakota where I used it to smoke more than 100 pounds of bacon in five days. I’m happy to say that it’s held up admirably.

I’ve smoked more than 1,000 pounds of meat on this little grill in the past six years, and have used surprisingly few pellets to do so. (I use about 1 pound of pellets per hour at lower temperatures—my optimal smoking temp.) 

The Traeger Tailgater 20 is great for dishing out tons of dove poppers on the tailgate.
The Traeger Tailgater 20 is great for dishing out tons of dove poppers on the tailgate. Derek Horner

The downsides of the Tailgater are to be expected with this type of smoker. You cannot set it and forget it like the higher-end Traegers since the temperature and pellet hopper need to be monitored, as the temperature tends to fluctuate. You must also clean the ash out of the burner regularly to avoid fires. I’ve caught mine on fire three times by neglecting this. Six to seven hours of smoking without cleaning led the ash to catch; then the grease and drippings helped fuel the fire. Thankfully, I was able to just turn off the grill and the fire settled down. 

Read Next: Best Traeger Grills

Since I bought my Tailgater, Traeger has upgraded it with a keep warm mode and an included meat probe. Overall the Traeger Tailgater 20 is lightweight, easy to maneuver, delivers plenty of bang for your buck, and doesn’t take up much space in the bed of my truck. —Derek Horner

Best Stove-Grill Combo: Camp Chef Rainier 2X

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Key Features

  • Includes both non-stick grill and flat top griddle inserts
  • Combined 18,000 BTUs/hour for both burners
  • Push-button ignition
  • Three-sided wind screen
  • Holds up to a 10-inch pot on the burner
  • Carry bag

Pros

  • Extremely versatile unit 
  • Included griddle surface
  • Carrying case keeps all parts packed together
  • Consistent performance even in windy conditions
  • Heavy duty stove top surface handles the weight of a full pot of water

Cons

  • Heaviest (16 pounds) unit tested
  • No channel for grease to drain from griddle

Of all the tested units, this grill stove combo is one of the most well built. While all that extra metal comes with the price of a few extra pounds, if you are looking for a unit that will stand up to the rigors of camping for years to come, this is the stove for you. Even in a stiff breeze, the wind flaps worked well to keep an even flame. And they conveniently lock in place with the stove’s side latches. These were a nice improvement over some of the small clips of the other units. 

The non-stick cooking surfaces are easy to clean, and the area under the grill is fully enclosed and smooth, with no nooks or corners, which makes it easy to wipe out with just a paper towel or two.

Camp Chef Griddle
The included griddle made it easy to whip up a delicious breakfast on the Camp Chef grill stove combo. Michael Pendley

Cooking breakfast, toasting bread, and even grilling burgers and onions on the included flat top griddle is a breeze. The included carry bag makes transporting the stove easy and makes a handy spot to store the griddle when not in use. While a slide out grease tray would make for easier clean up, it only took a few minutes to wipe out the smooth chamber below the grill grates. — Michael Pendley

Best DIY: Green Wood Grill

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Key Features

  • Price: Free
  • Packed Size: None
  • Weight: Depends
  • Height off the Ground: Whatever you want

Pros

  • You can make yours as large or small as you want

Cons

  • Will eventually begin to burn
  • Time consuming to build

In his story, How to Build a Green-Wood Grill for Camp Cooking, OL contributor Tim MacWelch provides rough instructions for Macgyvering your own camping grill out of nothing more than the sticks around your campsite that are too green to toss into the fire itself:

Cut four stakes, 1-yard long, each with a side branch at the end. Whittle a point on the end that doesn’t fork, and drive these into the ground about 8 to 10 inches. Set two stout green wood poles in the forks, and lay a rack of green sticks perpendicular to the poles.

Maintain a nice bed of coals and low flames to grill your meats and vegetables to perfection. I love roasting sweet corn this way, just as people have for centuries.

And if you’re looking for a grill with greater stability, try a tripod grill. Lash three cross pieces to the outside of a large tripod and then lay your greenwood rack on top of the cross members. Use vines, rawhide strips, or leather thongs to lash the cross pieces since there will be a fire nearby. Synthetic rope may melt and natural fiber rope may burn this close to the flames. If either one yields to the fire, your rack and your food will drop into the flames.

Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Camping Grill

Size

Some camping grills are little more than collapsible grates, while others are so large you may need to upgrade your rig to get it to the campground. Consider your available size before making a purchase. 

Fuel Source

In my opinion, nothing beats cooking over coals from a campfire. Only problem is, it takes a lot longer to prep your cooking area than if you’re using charcoal or gas.

Price

You can pay anywhere from $10 to $500 for a camping grill. Consider your budget relative to the rest of your outdoor expenses before making a final purchase. 

FAQs

Q: What to cook on a grill when camping?

If you’re new to cooking on a camping grill, I recommend starting with some shish kebabs. The advantage to shish kebabs is that people can customize them, choosing whatever mixture of vegetables, meats, and even cheeses that they prefer. They’re also relatively simple to plan, as you can often purchase vegetables already cut to the correct size directly from the store. Finally, since the cuts of meat are typically quite small, there is less concern about undercooking them compared to larger cuts. 

Q: How to clean a camping grill?

A lot of the appeal of bringing a camping grill on a camping trip is to avoid the grease and rust-caked options on established campground fire pits. If your portable option gets a little dirty in the backcountry, just soak in soapy hot water when you get home. If it’s really caked on there, you can break out some iron wool. For heavier duty camping grills, follow manufacturer instructions on the best way to clean them. 

Q: Where should I place my camping grill?

For a traditional grate-style camping grill, place it directly over the coals from your campfire. If necessary, spread out the coals a touch to avoid having direct flame shooting up between the slats of the grill.  

Final Thoughts on the Best Camping Grills 

Whether you are cooking directly over a fire, or hauling in a best-in-class Traeger grill for even more control of your cooking temperature, a camping grill can enhance your experience out of doors. The Outdoor Life team has evaluated a number of top grills  — we’re confident that no matter your cooking requirements, storage space, and culinary dreams, there is an option on this list to get you started.

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Laura Lancaster

Staff Writer

Lancaster is Outdoor Life’s gear staff writer where she focuses on in-depth testing of backpacking and camping gear, with a particular interest in lightweight and ultralight gear. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter.

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