Classic Camp Stoves: Coleman 502

Though no longer in production, you can still can still find them used and they last forever with proper care.

AP4V5145

Built in the 1970s, this is a lovely little stove that anyone who has used a two-burner with a red tank will recognize. Same basic idea as a Coleman two-burner, except the 502 is compact and fits into its own square aluminum case that doubles as a nice pot. It has the same heat control as a two-burner and can simmer as well as the gas range at home.

Heat output is great. Furthermore, it puts the heat in the right place, and with finesse. I have simmered oatmeal and cooked rice with zero scorching. That’s not a bad pay-off. With the pump-pressurized tank, there’s no priming needed; just open the valve and let the generator warm up before turning the stove up to full power.

Because of its size, the 502 is stable: like full pot of spaghetti stable. It’s one of the few camp stoves where I feel like I can cook for five or six people and not be pushing it.

The aesthetics are classic Coleman, with a green enameled tank, ringed aluminum burner support and a nice, heavy grill. For canoe camping, these vintage stoves are, in my estimation, significantly better than some of the newer Coleman stoves.

Downsides? It’s a little bulkier than most of the stoves in my collection but it still fits in a sea kayak hatch with no problem. It has more moving parts and a leather cup for the pump that needs maintenance. That’s no big deal either.

Decibels: 51
Fuel: White gas
Time to Boil: 3:58
Oatmeal Index: Julia’s Child

—Return to home page: 6 Classic Campstoves Reviewed

MSR WindPro

The Windpro is a go-to for backcountry chefs because because of its exceptional flame control and pot stability.


Optimus Crux with Elektra Cookset

Simplicity and extremely effective, this is a very nice stove and an exceptional value.


Svea 123

Indestructible: if I dropped it off a 50-foot cliff, the Svea would light right up.


MSR Reactor

It has the fastest boil time in the bunch, saving fuel on an extended trip.


Kelly Kettle

Fueled by twigs, grasses, and driftwood, the Kelly Kettle made something out of nothing.


Emberlit Original Stove

It slides together easily, and the workmanship is excellent.


MSR XGK

One of the best stoves out there for frosty temps.