You will notice two major grill types: propane and charcoal when it comes to portable grills or camping grills. When it comes to backpacking, and ultralight grills, hikers and backpackers likely need to rely on wood they can collect, so these grills are designed specifically to heat up food utilizing wood or charcoal brought in the pack. These are not the same as a fold up grill for tailgating, car camping, or parties. Alternatively, hikers and backpackers are often looking for backpacking stoves that run off of fuel like isobutane. You can read about choosing the right backpacking stove here, but there is still a select group of backpacking minimalists that want to avoid utilizing gases for fuel.
Here we are going to discuss exactly what you’ll find in ultralight backpacking grills, the features you should be looking for, and some of the best products out there in the market.
How To Choose A Backpacking Grill
Types Of Grills
Before choosing an ultralight grill, you need to familiarize yourself with the types of grills so you can determine what suits your needs best. Hikers and backpackers can find ultralight foldable grills, or can repurpose other items to utilize as grills while backpacking. Here, we are going to show you all of those options.
Foldable / Designed Backpacking Wood, Twig, Leaf, Charcoal Stove
You’ll find organizations that designed foldable stoves that stand on their own, have an area to burn material, good airflow, and a surface to place a pan or food directly on the grate. These come in various shapes, sizes and prices. We will compare the top choices in the market below.
BBQ, Grill, Or Oven Grate
Alternatively, backpackers may simply take a metal grate from a toaster oven, or purchase a small grate as a backpacking grill. Grates are great because it is cheap and simple.
They don’t fold small, but because they are flat, they often take up very little space. By setting up a great on rocks over a fire, one can utilize this grate to cook food or place pans on top of.
Wire or Metal Rack / Cooling Rack
Metal racks with handles can be placed directly on fires to cook food within. Often made from stainless steel, these can be great cooking devices. A cookie cooling rack for example is much like a metal grate, and can be used quite effectively.
Choosing The Material
Generally speaking, look for a stainless steel backpacking grill for designed grill choices. If you are making your own grill, we recommend aluminum, cast iron, stainless steel, or titanium as these metals are safe, durable, and touch better for cleaning than other materials.
Stainless steel is durable, easy to clean, rust resistant, and non-toxic. Most backpacking grills will be made of this material.
Titanium is a bit more expensive than stainless steel, so many backpacking grills are not made from this material. However, you will find some higher end wood burning stoves made out of this durable material.
Cast iron is a fantastic cooking materia, but usually significantly heavier, making it not common for backpacking materials, but far more common for car or RV camping equipment.
Legs / Stand
Backcountry grills come both in systems with and without legs. Legs give stability and ease of use, but increase the weight of the system. Also, legs are frequently foldable, and therefore are a point at which the equipment can be damaged if dropping or crushing occurs.
Backcountry grills without legs are usually supported by rocks around a fire to stabilize the system. This involves a little extra work, and the need to find materials to secure your setup on a fire, which can sometimes be difficult.
Weight is extremely important when considering a grill for backpacking. The lighter the weight, the easier it is on the hiker. Backpacking stoves require also carrying fuel, grills often don’t. We recommend keeping your whole system under 2 pounds. Many backcountry grills, or grates easily accomplish this.
When fitting items into your backpack, you quickly see how items add up to space. A backpacking grill tends to take up less space than a stove or a Jet Boil which is fantastic. When comparing different cooking options, you certainly should consider the dimensions. The more packable and well designed and item is, the more expensive it tends to be.
How big is the cooking surface of this grill, and how small does it get when it is packed? A well designed grill will have a larger cooking area while still packing up small. Foldable designs are pretty cool these days, and you’ll find quite a few different styles to achieve a stable and large cooking surface, yet still keeping the system packable.
This one is pretty straightforward. Some systems can be really expensive, while just about nothing is cheaper than a metal grate. Your budget may dictate your needs. Often times, there is no need to go to the absolute top of the line, yet spending a little more to get something better designed or more durable often pays off in the long run.
The Best Ultralight Backpacking Grills
Now that we have laid out what to look for, check out our top picks for the best ultralight backpacking grills. Here we will point out some options in different styles that you can’t go wrong with. Keep in mind that we are showing only 1 or two in each style of grill. There are dozens of other options out their on the market, we just know these ones will suit you well if you determine the style that best fits your needs.
This backcountry grill kit is made with stainless steel, comes in two sizes, and packs into very small dimensions. The smaller option weighs in at 2 pounds, making this a bit of a heavier option. It is affordable, durable, and works extremely well.
Dimensions: 9.5 x 8 x 1.5 inches
Weight: 2 pounds
Grilling Area: 9 x 6.75 inches
- Canvas Storage Bag Included (Hook & Loop closure)
- Doubles as a fire pit
NASHRIO Portable Camping Grill
This grill is super well designed. If you want to save weight and have a small grill, this is an amazing option. This grill packs into a 12.4″ x 1″ x 1″ tube and only weight 12 ounces. For the minimalist backpacker, this is a perfect option. It even comes in at under $25.
Packed Dimensions: 12.4″ x 1″ x 1″
Weight: 12 ounces
Firebox Stainless Steel Nano Stove G2
This is one of the ultimate backcountry cooking tools that can be used with wood, charcoal or even gas. Users can purchase accessories like a a stand to make it even more user friendly. This is definitely for backpackers and small pans given the size, but it is super portable, lightweight, and well designed. This grill may take a bit to cool down before it is safe to touch or put back in your pack. At under $50, users can get a portable setup that can utilize any type of fuel, and can purchase accessories to make it even more useful.
This one comes highly recommended, just read reviews and watch some videos.
Weight: 6 ounces with no accessories
Packed Dimensions: 5″ x 3.5″ x .75″
- Multi-fuel versatility (with additional accessories sold separately) – Wood, Gas, Alcohol, Gel
- Wood feeding system for efficient burning
Unigear Foldable Wood Burning Stove
This stove setup is super sturdy, folds up into the size of a book, features a great design for feeding wood and getting a hot surface, and can handle some pretty large pots. A slightly larger setup than the Firebox Nano, this has a bit of upgraded sturdiness to it. It therefore is a touch heavier and larger in pack size. This is a great affordable option for someone that wants something a little bigger than an ultra small setup, but still plenty small enough to pack away.
Packed Dimensions: 158 x 182 mm (6.22 x 7.17 inches)
Weight: 1.54 pounds
Otzi Spark Portable Grill
The Otzi Spark is one of the best designed grills on the market, and made of Titanium keeping it lightweight, durable, and easy to cook with. With a design making cooking plates adjustable to different heights, and a stable base, this is a great option for one or two people.
This is slightly heavier than other options due to the versatility of the different cooking racks, and size of the cooking surface. The weight to size ratio here is great for someone looking to have a bit of a larger area than some of the other well designed grills.
Packed Dimensions: 1/4”H (0.65cm) x 9”W (23cm) x 9”L (23cm)
Grill Plate Size: 6 x 9 in (15 x 23 cm)
Weight: 1 pound, 10 ounces
Coghlan’s Pack Grill
This is about as simple as a design as you’ll find. Just a simple grate with a stand that can be laid over a fire. Simple, lightweight, packable, cheap, and works great (pun intended). Great for minimalists or those on a budget.
Dimensions: 12-1/2 x 6-1/2 inches and stands 7 inches tall; folds flat for easy storage
Weight: 10-11 ounces
The Original Bushcraft Grill Mini
This is about a straightforward and simple as a backpacking grill can gt. Basically just a well designed grate, this solution is small, lightweight, and super packable. Users simply have to place on a flat surface like a rock, stump, or log to keep the grate level, and food can easily be cooked.
This solution also comes with a simple carrying bag.
Packed Dimensions: 5″ X 5″
Weight: 1.41 ounces
BioLite CampStove 2+
This one is quite a bit different, but worth a look. This is much heavier and larger, but it also doubles as an energy generator to charge phones and electronics, still only weights 2.06 pounds and does a really great job at cooking and boiling water. This is the tech backcountry camper’s dream.
- 3,200 mAh battery that charges devices
- Internal fans to improve airflow
- Sturdy stand and pot holder.
Weight: 2.06 lbs (935g)
Boil Time: 1L in 4.5 min
Packed Dimensions: 5.0″ x 7.91″ (127mm x 201mm)
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about