Can You Put a Camping Stove on a Plastic Table?

Camping stoves may be perfect for cooking on, but will they melt right through a plastic table? You’ll find out what to expect from a camp stove here, as well as how to avoid a burnt table or worse.

Many camping stoves are okay to put on a plastic table. However, depending on the design of the camping stove, they could melt the plastic. That said, circumstances for every stove can be different. It’s always better to stay on the safe side and pair the stove up with a heat-resistant mat or table.

Cooking over the campfire can become quite the hassle, and camp stoves are perfect for helping with “the struggle.” However, knowing how to use a camping stove safely is the first step to being able to cook great meals while you’re out in the woods.

By the way, as an Amazon Associate, I earn when buying qualified products through links on my site.

Which Types of Camping Stoves Are Safe to Use on a Plastic Table

Through my research, I have found that most camping stoves on the market fall into the category of “usually okay” when used on a plastic table. In most cases, the bottom of the stove isn’t going to get hot enough to cause problems to either a plastic table or a plastic tablecloth on a wooden table.

As I peered through the experiences and advice offered by many other camping stove users, I found mixed results. Some stoves are reported to melt plastic tables (such as the Gas One from Amazon) or plastic table clothes, while many other stoves have no issues.

In looking through some of the manuals for camping stoves like those made by Coleman, I didn’t see any warnings that the stove shouldn’t be used on such surfaces. This doesn’t mean that they are completely safe to use on any surface, just that it’s not a big enough problem for it to make it into the safety precautions in the manual.

As I mentioned from my research, once in a while a user might recommend avoiding plastic surfaces, or have a story about a particular stove that caused an issue. Many of these stoves can get incredibly hot, so it wouldn’t be impossible to think that adding a heat resistant surface to the mix wouldn’t be a bad idea.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Regardless of the surface you’re using a camping stove on, it’s a wise choice to use a mat under the stove. This will help to keep the heat that reaches the table to a minimum.

For the most part, camping stoves are made to keep the heat contained, but that doesn’t mean the space around the stove might not get warm. Just a single extra precaution can allow you more peace of mind when cooking, at the very least!

How Hot Does a Camping Stove Get?

Camping stoves can come at a pretty wide range when it comes to heat.

In some cases, you may find that the kind of fuel a stove uses may play a role in how hot it gets. However, both propane and butane are able to provide about the same levels of heat. Consequently, deciding between the two often relies upon their convenience and cost.

If you’re still deciding whether you’d prefer a propane or butane stove, our article about the costs of these fuel types is worth a look. Read through the article here!

Something worth knowing about measuring the heat of camping stoves is how that heat is typically measured. BTUs, or British Thermal Units, are the units that describe how hot a stove can get when you’re using it to cook. Naturally, the higher these BTUs are, the hotter a stove gets.

From there, let’s take a look at a few examples of the different stove types:

  • One of the most commonly used camping stoves is the standard Coleman propane stove. It’s a simple, effective stove that provides you with two burners to cook on. These stoves can top out at 20,000 BTUs.
  • Meanwhile, newer models of Coleman propane stoves, like the Even-Temp Stove, reaches a maximum of 28,000 BTUs.
  • For those who want the most lightweight option, canister stoves like the Jetboil MiniMo can get up to 6,000 BTUs.
  • If you favor butane, Coleman also offers a smaller butane stove that can hit a maximum of 7,650 BTUs.

As you can see, all of these stoves can get quite hot. As previously mentioned, most of these stoves at least attempt to keep the heat in a central location. However, this can be harder for stoves that are less contained (like canister stoves), than it is for fully contained stoves like the propane options offered by Coleman.

The stoves burn hot, some extremely hot. The stove hardware itself will inevitably get warmed in the process and can potentially affect the surface they are on.

If you’re considering a new stove, then understanding the kind of fuel it uses can play a huge role in the decision. To learn more about all of the stove fuels available on the market today, take a look at our article on the subject here.

Heat Resistant Mat for Camping Stoves

If you’re concerned about the amount of heat that may pass from your stove to the surface it’s sitting on, a mat can be a great idea. While it can be tough to find mats designed specifically for camping stoves, there are larger options like the BioLite FireMat that can work well as a replacement. Although options like these are typically designed for wood stoves, some can be re-purposed into camping stove mats quite easily.

You can also look into silicone baking mats, which are typically designed to protect your counters as you’re baking. Many of these mats can handle temperatures up to nearly 500 degrees, Fahrenheit. Overall, they make for a great way to keep heat away from the table and are often very easy to clean.

Heat Resistant Table for Camping Stoves

If you’d rather just give the stove its own table, there are plenty of options out there designed specifically for cooking. For those who want to get really fancy, there are some excellent combinations of cooking tables, storage and even sink space, such as Coleman’s Portable Kitchen.

Another benefit of having your own table to set the stove on is that you can not only aim for a heat-resistant table, but it’s less of a hassle if that table ends up damaged. Camping can be rough on furniture, and it’s better to avoid causing accidental damage to the campground-owned tables.

Tips For Using Camping Stoves Safely

Camping stoves can be highly useful tools while you’re camping, but they can also be quite dangerous!

In order to stay safe, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Know how to handle your fuel. At a minimum, these fuels are usually flammable. Propane can also cause the risk of problems with carbon monoxide or even explosions. Learn how to store, move and use your fuel carefully to avoid dangerous situations.
  • Anywhere you use the stove should be well ventilated. Many cooking stoves emanate carbon monoxide, making them unsafe to use indoors. Don’t use it in a tent, RV or other enclosed space.
  • Try out the stove before you head out into the wilderness. This is more of a convenience tip than a safety tip, but it can be pretty frustrating to travel all the way to your campground just to find that your stove doesn’t work!
  • Children and pets should be kept away from the camping stove. It is a burn risk while it’s being used. If you make use of a propane tree, then children and animals could bump into it, causing problems with the connections or even potentially knocking it over.
  • Try to avoid cooking in too much wind. Wind can cause problems for your flame, forcing it to change directions or even blowing it out entirely.
  • Don’t leave the stove while you’re cooking. This is a good tip for any cooking surface, but it’s especially true when a flame is involved. The flames and fuel can be temperamental, and it’s better to resolve problems quickly. Otherwise, they may have a chance to snowball.
  • As you gain experience, you’ll learn that the color of the flames can give you an idea about how well the stove is working. Make sure to become familiar with them.
  • Know where the nearest hospital is and make sure other family members are able to reach out for help if needed. Just a few moments of exposure to the flame can result in a severe burn. It’s always better to be prepared, just in case an accident should occur.

Congratulations! You’re now prepared to become a master at cooking on a camp stove. What will you cook? A camp stove is a great tool for taking those boring campfire hot dogs and turning them into something more magnificent. To learn more, take a look at our article on what to eat with hot dogs.

Next, you’ll need to pick out your stove, select the ideal heat resistant mat or table and remember the safety tips listed here. Before you know it, you’ll be cooking delicious meals easily while enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors.


Peter is a software developer who loves to take every opportunity to go outside that he can get. Peter grew up going on long backpacking excursions with his family every Summer and now enjoys staying at the beautiful Texas State Parks and swimming in the amazing Texas Rivers.

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