7 Best Small Charcoal Grills for Camping: Compact & Portable Picks for Outdoor Cooking

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compact and portable camping grills

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As seasoned adventurers, we understand that a small charcoal grill is the compass that points the way to culinary excellence in the great outdoors. Our experiences have taught us that the right grill is not just a tool, but a gateway to enhancing the camping experience with flavors and aromas that make every trip memorable.

We’ve scoured forests and fields, testing various models to compile a definitive list of the seven best small charcoal grills that offer both compact convenience and the robust performance demanded by the discerning camper. Our meticulous approach ensures that each grill we recommend has been put through its paces, considering factors such as size, durability, heat control, and ease of use.

As we lay out the intricate details of each model, you’ll find yourself equipped to make an informed decision on which grill will best suit your next outdoor adventure, and perhaps you’ll even discover features you hadn’t considered essential before joining us on this journey.

Charbroil® Kettleman TRU-Infrared Charcoal Grill, Blue

For the avid camper who values precise temperature control and efficient fuel usage, the Charbroil® Kettleman TRU-Infrared Charcoal Grill, Blue stands out as a top-tier option with its innovative TRU-Infrared Cooking System. This system ensures consistent heating, minimizing hot spots and flare-ups, which is ideal for cooking meats to perfection while outdoors.

The 360 square inches of cooking area provides ample space for a variety of foods, and the hinged lid allows for easy access during the cooking process.

With a slide-out ash tray, the grill simplifies the cleanup routine, which is especially appreciated when enjoying the great outdoors. The large air damper enhances temperature control, giving the user complete command over the cooking environment. Durability is assured with porcelain-coated cooking components, ensuring long-lasting performance.

Based on customer feedback, the Kettleman Grill offers superior quality and design that reliably prevents food from charring, even during extended use.

Best For: Outdoor grilling enthusiasts who prioritize even heat distribution and efficient charcoal usage for their cookouts.

NOMAD Portable Grill & Smoker

Pros

  • TRU-Infrared Cooking System for even heat and fewer flare-ups
  • Easy-to-clean design with slide-out ash tray
  • Hinged lid and large air damper for convenient temperature control

Cons

  • Assembly may require assistance for some users

Royal Gourmet 24-Inch Charcoal Grill with Folding Table (CD1824M)

The Royal Gourmet CD1824M 24-Inch Charcoal Grill is an optimal choice for campers seeking a reliable and versatile grilling experience. It features a spacious 490 sq. in. of cooking space and a height-adjustable charcoal pan. With a durable porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grate and a stainless steel warming rack, it can serve up to 10 people. The integrated access door facilitates charcoal management, while the built-in thermometer and dual air vents offer precision temperature control.

While some users have reported challenges with assembly and heat regulation, overall satisfaction is high due to its ease of use and maintenance. The Royal Gourmet CD1824M offers a balance of quality and practicality, making it a functional and aesthetically pleasing outdoor grill.

Best For: Outdoor cooking enthusiasts and campers who need a portable charcoal grill that can cater to a medium-sized group.

Pros

  • Spacious 490 sq. in. cooking area with a height-adjustable charcoal pan for versatile grilling.
  • Built-in thermometer and adjustable air vents for better temperature control.
  • Features like an easy-to-clean design and folding table enhance convenience and user experience.

Cons

  • Some users have reported that the grill is difficult to assemble.

Cuisinart CCG-190 Portable Charcoal Grill, 14-Inch, Black

Ideal for outdoor enthusiasts who prioritize portability, the Cuisinart CCG-190 Portable Charcoal Grill boasts a compact 14-inch design with a lightweight build, making it an excellent choice for camping excursions. This grill features a 196-square-inch chrome plated cooking rack, large enough to accommodate a satisfying meal for a small group. Its dual venting system is expertly engineered for precise charcoal management and temperature control, essential for achieving that perfect sear.

The Cuisinart CCG-190 also includes three secure lid locks, ensuring safe transport to and from your outdoor adventures. The enamel-coated firebox is built to last, while the mess-free ash catcher contributes to a clean cooking experience. Weighing a mere 2 pounds, this grill exemplifies durability and convenience, packaged in a sleek, painted steel construction, backed by a 90-day limited warranty. It’s an affordable solution for grilling aficionados seeking both quality and compactness.

Best For: Outdoor enthusiasts and grillers looking for a compact, portable, and affordable charcoal grill for small gatherings and adventures.

Pros

  • Highly portable with a compact and lightweight design, perfect for travel and outdoor activities.
  • Features a dual venting system for efficient temperature control and charcoal management.
  • Comes with a durable enamel-coated firebox and a convenient mess-free ash catcher.

Cons

  • The top grill may lack stability, requiring additional support or careful handling.

Fire Sense Notebook Charcoal BBQ Grill (60508)

With its patented fold-open design and lightweight construction, the Fire Sense Notebook Charcoal BBQ Grill (60508) emerges as a superior choice for campers and outdoor enthusiasts seeking a portable and efficient grilling experience. Standing at a convenient 13 inches when in use, this grill swiftly folds down to a mere one inch, making it exceptionally easy to store and transport. Constructed from high-heat-resistant-painted steel, it ensures durability and reliability under the demanding conditions of outdoor cooking.

The grill features a 17.34×11.82 inch cooking surface, supported by 3.5mm cooking bars, providing ample space for a satisfying meal. The compactness of the grill doesn’t compromise its performance, with users praising its impressive heat distribution and sturdy build. However, it’s essential to note some reports of rust and warping, suggesting that while the Fire Sense Notebook Grill shines in portability and ease of use, additional care may be required to maintain its longevity.

NOMAD Portable Grill & Smoker

Best For: Outdoor adventurers and grill enthusiasts looking for a portable, easy-to-use charcoal grill for camping, tailgating, and picnics.

Pros

  • Patented fold-open design allows for quick setup and compact storage.
  • Lightweight and portable, ideal for outdoor activities.
  • Made from high-heat-resistant painted steel, offering durability and even cooking.

Cons

  • Some users report rust and warping after several uses.

King-Griller Gambler Portable Charcoal Grill (E1816)

Boasting a sizable 320 sq. in. cooking area and robust portability features, the King-Griller E1816 Gambler Portable Charcoal Grill is a standout choice for campers seeking a reliable, on-the-go grilling companion. Crafted by Char-Griller, a well-respected brand in the outdoor cooking market, this barrel-style charcoal grill meets the demands of grilling enthusiasts with its cast iron cooking grates that ensure even heating and superior flavor. The inclusion of a stainless steel thermometer and a handy workstation with BBQ tool hooks underscores its thoughtful design aimed at enhancing user experience.

Moreover, the King-Griller E1816 is engineered with convenience in mind, featuring a foldable construction, a secure locking leg and lid system, an integrated handle, and wheels for effortless transportation. With a painted finish and stainless steel frame, it presents a durable and stylish option for outdoor cooking adventures. Despite its compact size when folded, reviewers acclaim its easy assembly and even heat distribution, marking it as a highly functional and portable grill that doesn’t sacrifice performance for mobility.

Best For: Outdoor enthusiasts and grillers who need a portable and reliable charcoal grill for camping, tailgating, or picnic outings.

Pros

  • Large 320 sq. in. cooking area provides ample space for grilling a variety of foods.
  • Cast iron grates and integrated thermometer ensure even heating and optimal cooking control.
  • Foldable design, locking features, and wheels offer excellent portability and ease of transport.

Cons

  • Some customers have reported stability issues with the grill falling or stand bending.

Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch, Black

The Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch, in classic black, caters to the outdoor enthusiast seeking a portable yet capable grilling solution that comfortably accommodates up to 13 burgers, making it a superb choice for small group camping adventures. Designed with meticulous attention to detail, this grill boasts a porcelain-enameled lid and bowl for optimal heat retention and durability.

The built-in lid thermometer and rust-resistant aluminum dampers offer precision heat control, ensuring perfectly grilled food every time. The convenience of the One-Touch cleaning system, paired with a high-capacity ash catcher, minimizes mess and simplifies maintenance.

The hinged cooking grate is a thoughtful addition, facilitating easy charcoal replenishment. With the availability of 3D interactive assembly instructions via the BILT app, setting up the grill becomes an effortless task. The Weber Original Kettle Premium Grill is a testament to Weber’s commitment to quality, promising a reliable and enjoyable grilling experience.

Best For: Outdoor grilling enthusiasts looking for a durable, portable, and efficient charcoal grill that offers a premium cooking experience for small gatherings.

NOMAD Portable Grill & Smoker

Pros

  • Hinged cooking grate allows for easy addition of charcoal without disturbing the food.
  • One-Touch cleaning system and high-capacity ash catcher make cleanup simple and efficient.
  • Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat effectively and are built to last.

Cons

  • Limited cooking surface may not be suitable for large parties or events.

Weber Master-Touch 22 Charcoal Grill, Smoke

Ideal for the outdoor cooking enthusiast, the Weber Master-Touch 22 Charcoal Grill offers a gourmet BBQ system and superior heat retention, ensuring a flavorful and precise grilling experience on every camping trip. The grill’s design integrates a cooking grate that isn’t only compatible with Gourmet BBQ System inserts but also hinges for the convenience of adding charcoal during grilling. Its One-Touch Cleaning System exemplifies ease of maintenance, effectively sweeping ash into a high-capacity, removable catcher.

The porcelain-enameled lid and bowl of the Weber Master-Touch ensure consistent temperatures and even cooking, while the Char-Basket fuel holders facilitate organized charcoal arrangement for versatile direct or indirect grilling. With the capacity to grill 13 burgers and a warming rack for toasting buns or keeping food warm, this compact grill doesn’t compromise on cooking space. Additionally, integrated tool hooks keep essential grilling tools within reach, enhancing the overall functionality and convenience of the grill.

Best For: Outdoor cooking enthusiasts who appreciate the classic taste of charcoal-grilled food and desire a grill with convenience features for ease of use and cleaning.

Pros

  • Superior heat retention and even cooking with porcelain-enameled lid and bowl.
  • Convenient One-Touch Cleaning System and high-capacity ash catcher for easy maintenance.
  • Versatile grilling options with Gourmet BBQ System compatible grate and Char-Basket fuel holders.

Cons

  • Assembly can be challenging, particularly when attaching the legs.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Small Charcoal Grills for Camping

choosing small charcoal grills

When selecting a small charcoal grill for camping, we prioritize:

  • Portability and weight, ensuring it’s light enough to carry yet sturdy enough to endure the rigors of outdoor use.
  • An optimal cooking surface area to accommodate our meals without sacrificing space efficiency.
  • Grills with robust materials and effective heat control features to guarantee a seamless and enjoyable cooking experience in the great outdoors.

Portability and Weight

Selecting a small charcoal grill for our camping adventures, we must consider its portability and weight to guarantee it won’t be a burden during our travels.

We look for grills that are lightweight yet durable, with compact designs that are a cinch to carry and stow away. Features like foldable legs and sturdy handles are non-negotiable for us, as they enable effortless transport and setup.

We’ve learned to check the construction materials closely; they must endure the rigors of the outdoors without adding unnecessary heft. It’s a delicate balance to strike, but we prioritize grills that don’t compromise on cooking capacity while remaining convenient to bring along.

This ensures we enjoy our outdoor feasts without the hassle of a cumbersome setup.

Cooking Surface Area

Understanding the cooking surface area of a small charcoal grill is crucial, as it determines how much food you can prepare in one go and ensures you meet the needs of your fellow campers without sacrificing portability.

We’ve found that a larger cooking surface area is ideal for serving more people, allowing for a variety of foods to be grilled simultaneously. Conversely, a smaller cooking area enhances portability, crucial for those treks to remote campgrounds.

However, the size of the cooking surface also impacts the amount of charcoal needed—more area, more charcoal. It’s a balance we always consider: sufficient space to cook efficiently, while keeping the grill compact and the fuel requirement minimal.

After all, a successful camping trip relies on smart, efficient gear choices.

Durability and Materials

While evaluating the cooking surface area is crucial for meeting our culinary needs, we mustn’t overlook the importance of the grill’s durability and the materials used in its construction to ensure it stands up to the challenges of the great outdoors.

We advocate for grills crafted from high-heat-resistant-painted steel, stainless steel, or porcelain-coated components, known for their longevity. It’s essential to choose a grill that can endure the rigors of camping, resist rust and corrosion, and handle high temperatures and physical impacts.

We look for sturdy construction and robust components that promise reliability even with frequent transportation.

Additionally, we prioritize grills that balance durability with portability, offering a lightweight design without sacrificing strength, ensuring they’re ready for any outdoor adventure.

Heat Control Features

To ensure your culinary creations are perfectly grilled every time, it’s crucial to focus on the heat control features of small charcoal grills when preparing for your camping trip.

We recommend opting for grills with oversized dampers and adjustable air vents, which are instrumental in managing the temperature. A built-in thermometer gauge is a must-have for monitoring heat precisely.

We’ve found that a dual venting system significantly enhances charcoal management and heat distribution, ensuring your food cooks evenly. Additionally, a heat-resistant design prevents heat loss and promotes uniform cooking.

For tailored heat intensity, look for grills with adjustable charcoal pans. And don’t overlook the convenience of a hinged lid with a lid hook; it’s essential for effortless heat adjustments on the fly.

Assembly and Disassembly

How quickly can you transform your compact charcoal grill from a sleek carrying case to a fully functional cooking station? We understand that when you’re camping, every minute counts. That’s why we place a high value on grills that offer swift and simple assembly and disassembly.

You don’t want to spend precious time fumbling with parts when you could be enjoying the great outdoors.

Grills that require minimal steps to set up are top picks for their convenience. We’ve found that straightforward designs not only save time but also reduce the risk of incorrect assembly, which can affect performance and safety.

It’s vital to familiarize yourself with the process to ensure you’re up and grilling in no time—and we’re here to guide you through that.

NOMAD Portable Grill & Smoker

Cleaning Ease

After a day of outdoor adventures, we know that the last thing you want is a lengthy cleanup process, which is why choosing a small charcoal grill with easy-to-clean features is crucial for any camping trip.

Look for a grill with a slide-out ash tray or mess-free ash catcher; these are game-changers for hassle-free cleanups. We highly recommend grills with enamel coated fireboxes and porcelain-enameled components, as they make wiping away grease and char a breeze.

Additionally, a One-Touch cleaning system or a hinged cooking grate can save precious time, allowing for quick disposal of ashes and convenient access to the grill’s interior. Always check user feedback on the cleaning process to ensure you’re choosing a grill that won’t turn cleaning into a chore.

Grill Design Efficiency

When selecting a small charcoal grill for camping, it’s essential to consider the efficiency of the design, as it directly influences charcoal consumption and your ability to maintain consistent cooking temperatures. Efficient grill designs ensure even heat distribution, minimizing flare-ups and maximizing fuel usage.

We’ve learned that portability doesn’t have to come at the expense of cooking performance. Features like adjustable air vents and a built-in thermometer gauge are crucial for effective heat management.

Moreover, a grill’s design impacts how easily it can be assembled, cleaned, and whether it will withstand the rigors of camping over time.

Accessory Compatibility

To maximize the potential of a small charcoal grill during camping, it’s crucial to ensure its compatibility with a variety of accessories that can extend its functionality and adaptability to different cooking scenarios.

We must check if the grill accommodates essential add-ons like grill grates and smoke boxes, or if it’s suitable for more specialized attachments like rotisseries. The availability of griddles, pizza stones, and warming racks can significantly enhance our cooking versatility.

We also look for features like temperature gauges, convenient side tables, and tool hooks for added convenience. Moreover, the grill should pair with portable stands or carrying cases, making transportation and storage a breeze.

Conclusion

In the forest of outdoor cooking options, these seven small charcoal grills are the towering redwoods—mighty in their compactness and portability.

We’ve stoked the fires of research to bring you grills that not only pack a punch but also fit snugly in your camping gear.

When you’re ready to embrace the great outdoors, trust in these choices for that perfect sear under the stars.

Remember, the right grill turns every meal into an epic campfire tale.

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About Jack Thornborn

Jack Thornborn
My name is Jack Thornborn, and I'm an enthusiastic grillmaster with a passion for all things barbecue. I've been grilling and smoking meats for as long as I can remember, and I'm always looking for new ways to elevate my cooking game. What fascinates me most about grilling and smoking is the endless possibilities for creativity and experimentation. From choosing the perfect cuts of meat, to selecting the right wood chips or seasonings, to adjusting cooking times and temperatures, every aspect of the process offers an opportunity to explore and innovate. I love the feeling of being outside by my grill or smoker, surrounded by the savory aromas of cooking meat and the sound of sizzling juices. Whether I'm cooking up classic barbecue dishes like ribs and brisket, or trying out new recipes and flavor combinations, I find the process of grilling and smoking to be deeply satisfying and rewarding.

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