“Don’t let life put you back on your heels. Lean into it.”
Sheldon Coleman - Founder
You wouldn’t think that the Coleman Portable Camp Oven has much in common with a B17 or B29 bomber, but nevertheless they share a common history.
The Coleman Corporation began life in 1900 as the Hydro-Carbon Light Company. Their first portable lamp was invented in 1909, followed by their ubiquitous lantern in 1914, which has since sold over 50 million units worldwide.
The company has had a long relationship with the US Military, developing and supplying lamps and stoves for the troops, and parts for many of the B series bombers. They also had a very extensive civilian product line at one time that included waffle irons, coffee percolators and toasters.
In the 1960’s the company began to focus primarily on camping, and established a name and reputation that has become synonymous with the outdoors. Go to any campground almost anywhere in the world and you will likely come across a Coleman product of some sort.
I’m not entirely sure when their stand-alone Portable Camp Oven made its first appearance. It was certainly available in the early 1960’s in much the same configuration as you see today, and prior to that they made camp stoves with integrated fold down oven lids as early as the 1920’s.
While I had seen the oven in the camping section of various stores, I really never gave it a second look. First of all I had no particular use for a camp oven at the time, and in any event the rather flimsy looking silver colored metal box did not make much of an initial impression.
That all changed once we acquired our “permanent” camp and began looking around for cooking equipment that we could haul in without the need to charter a Hercules Transport.
I began researching camp ovens, and was somewhat surprised to find that many of the other units on the market came in at around the $200 mark. Besides, most of them had built in stovetops, which were of no particular use to me having recently bought a three burner Camp Chef Expedition Series stove.
I gave some thought to a Dutch Oven, but because most are made of cast iron they are pretty heavy, and in my view don’t have the versatility of a conventional style oven. At least one company I know of makes an aluminum version, and while it saves on weight, the 12-inch model carries a price tag north of $100.
So what about the little metal box? Well, after all Coleman made it, and for around $50 what did I have to loose – other than my $50 bucks that is. I looked up the customer product reviews on both the Cabela’s and Bass Pro website,s and to say I was surprised by what people had to say would be something of an understatement.
With very few exceptions the reviews were overwhelmingly positive. People talked about baking bread, pies, potatoes, biscuits, cookies and roasting various things all with amazing results. With those reviews in mind I popped into my local Bass Pro to take a closer look at this little metal marvel. There was a fully assembled unit on display, and I have to admit I was rather impressed with how sturdy it actually was.
Assembled it’s 12-inches high by 12-inches long by 11-inches wide. When folded its 12 x12 and only 2-inches high – approximately the same as your laptop computer - and it only weighs about 7 pounds. I parted with my $50 and left the store with one securely tucked up under my arm. It’s worth noting that they sell for as little as $29.95 in the US, and there may even be better prices available if you hunt around some.
Set up was a breeze, and the overall design is brilliant in its simplicity. It’s nothing more than a square metal box with a single rack, a small thermometer on the door and a heat deflector on the bottom, but despite the simple design, it works like a charm.
Once assembled I placed it over one of the burners on my camp stove, and in no time at all the oven was at the desired temperature and required little by way of adjustment to keep it there. That said, my stove generates a great deal of heat, therefore if you are using a different type of stove with fewer BTU’s, or if there are some other factors, such as wind that might affect your stoves overall performance, you might have to adjust it more often. So don’t set it and then head off fishing for a couple of hours, because when you get back there may be an unpleasant surprise waiting for you.
Not surprisingly the built in thermometer was not very accurate, so to solve that problem I invested $5 in an oven thermometer and used it to calibrate the built in. On my unit the built in was about 25 degrees on the low side, therefore when it said 275 degrees it was actually closer to 300. I tested it at different temperatures, and the 25 degree variance remained consistent. Your other option is to hang the oven thermometer on the oven rack and open the door from time to time to check.
You can use muffin tins, cake pans and the like with your oven, but don’t forget to measure before you buy. It will certainly hold an 8” by 8” pan and perhaps something even slightly larger, but better safe than sorry – so measure first. If your pan is too large and touches the sides of the oven, it will negatively affect its performance.
While I haven’t tried to roast anything as yet, my bannock, bread, baked potatoes and chocolate chip cookies came out perfectly each time. It’s also great for keeping food warm either by placing it in the oven on low heat or just setting it on the top. I use it to keep the breakfast bacon and toast warm while the eggs are cooking.
Clean up is easy. Just use any all purpose household cleaner and it should do the trick. To prevent any stains or spills from becoming baked on and possibly affecting the taste of your food, its best to give the interior a wipe after each use.
While larger camp ovens are available and come with many additional features, they have a price tag to match. Even Coleman has another model called the InstaStart Portable Camp Oven, although it does not fold up and usually retails for over $100.
In my opinion when it comes to overall value, portability and effectiveness the Coleman Portable Camp Oven, or as I like to call it, the “little metal marvel” is an excellent product.
- Portable Camp Oven
- Tackle Type:
- Overall rating: