As I was growing up, Pa Pandemic apparently had an aversion to the concept of a hotel. Instead, we filled the frequent KOA camper punch cards quickly, as I was dragged around the country on vacations. During our sunny, hot, humid, cold, rainy, tornadic, and otherwise semi/non-hospitable vacations, food was prepped with a series of stone cold reliable Coleman stoves.
Our first Coleman was a 1940s era Dual Burner Coleman camp stove purchased used at a garage sale. Tragically, it was run over after using it as a tire block on a steep grade, and we downsized to a then new single burner Coleman 502 Sportster stove.
The Coleman 502 Sportster made thousands of gallons of coffee and hundreds of meals effortlessly powered by all manner of fuels. That stove still remains in use by me today 30-ish years later serving as the heat source for casting bullets. What impressed me most about those stoves back then was the durability. They were neglected, rained on, blown over experiencing 3-foot drops, thrown into the car (with force) more than a few times on hastened weather related retreats, and generally abused. Still, they always worked all without ever—from my memory—being cleaned. When it came time for my family to start camping, I immediately went back to Coleman for the new versions of each of these stoves.
The Coleman Sportster and Powerhouse are among the few stoves left which are made of good old-fashioned steel and assembled in the USA. If you find a more-sturdy stove, I would be shocked. That said, they are not particularly the lightest camp stoves, but they will most likely be the only ones still working after 30 years of heirloom use.
Most importantly, these stoves give you the peace of mind that no other stove can because they are Dual-Fuel. Although Coleman only recommends kerosene and unleaded, they will support less efficient or dirtier fuels such as diesel and high proof alcohol. The performance will always be best with kerosene.
If we are to compare the old vs. new versions, the variances are small refinements which are focused on reducing weight and reducing cost where it makes sense. The new Sportster II features a lighter integrated windscreen/grate and a combination shut off and knob regulator knob.
The new Powerhouse seems nearly identical to the old version with the ability to fire up just the right primary 9000 BTU or both the primary and secondary 8000 BTU left burner activated by a butterfly valve on the left outer side of the stove. Like the older model, the Coleman Powerhouse has integrated windshields to help not only keep the flame unaffected, but also to help with pan and cookware efficiency.
The Sportster is always ready to go and requires no setup. Pull it out; place it on a stable surface; use the integrated pump and pump about 40 times; hold your lit Zippo next to the burner, and flip the red gas knob to light. Then, adjust as needed as the system heats and pressurizes. In theory, the regenerator tube over the burner heats and re-pressurizes the tank. However, in my experience, if you are running for extended periods or low on fuel, you may need to give the stove a pump here and there.
The Powerhouse operationally is the same, but there is some nominal setup required. The tank is stored inside the stove when not in use. Set the Coleman Powerhouse on a stable surface, flip open the clasps and open the lid and crate to remove the tank assembly. The tank assembly mounts on the front of the stove with the fuel tube running inside over the right primary 9000 BTU burner. The suitcase sized Coleman Powerhouse may seem like a lot of wasted space. However, extra points go to those who realize those hollow cavities in the powerhouse can be filled with food and utensils once the stove is cool.
Colemans have become the handiest stoves for me during power outages, disaster situations, or simply a great way to cook food at camp, tailgating, or at the range. I am not big on products focused solely on survival or only preparedness. These multi-fuel Coleman stoves are smart common sense products which provide multi-use convenience, outdoor cooking, and happen to be one of the best stoves for preparedness functions.
At least Coleman is still assembling these stoves in the U.S. with U.S. and foreign parts. It may be a small item to some, but I feel it is a big deal that labor and some manufacturing is still in the U.S. where it should be. Whether the need is to cook up a couple pots of chili for your team or deliver cooking capability during a grid or power out situation, these Coleman stoves are must have items for every home.
Camping, survival, or tailgating – what’s your favorite stove? Share it in the comment section.
Major Pandemic is an editor at large who loves everything about shooting, hunting, the outdoors, and all those lifesaving little survival related products. His goal is simple, tell a good story in the form of a truthful review all while having fun. He contributes content to a wide variety of print and digital magazines and newsletters for companies and manufacturers throughout the industry with content exposure to over 2M readers monthly. www.MajorPandemic.com