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How a Coleman camp stove became a gift of treasured memories

Updated on August 18, 2014

Dawn and the scent of sizzling bacon in the open air

The other day someone mentioned the old Coleman propane cook stove we used to take camping, and a flood of memories, sounds and scents poured over and through me.

When my kids were growing up, we lived in one of the Rocky Mountain states, and camping was a routine part of our summer. My favorite part of the day was sunrise.

Waking before first light. I couldn't wait to get into the fresh air. Grabbing my boots and a warm jacket, I slipped from the tent to sit in utter silence under the trees.

That early in the morning in the wild country, as the stars faded and first light began to peep over the mountain tops, barely audible sounds shu-shued through the forest--rodents scampering under the pine needles, bigger critters stealthily moving through the brush, and sometimes, the snort of a nearby elk.

Scents of pine and ripe berries wafted across our rustic campground--no running water or amenities there, other than the nearby brook or stream. Sometimes I got a whiff of something wild--coyote, or maybe a mountain lion.

By the time a rounded tip of the sun began to slip above the tallest mountain peak, I had a fire going in the pit, the propane stove running and water boiling for coffee.

One by one the children dragged themselves out, hair all mussed, smelling like wood smoke and sweat, the corners of their eyes crusted with sleep. They gave me limp, half-hearted hugs, stumbled closer to the fire and huddled there, cuddled under a woolen blanket, staring into the flames.

Soon enough, they came to, and I set one of them to stirring up pancake batter from the homemade mix I brought along. Even then--especially then--homemade and fresh mattered.

As soon as the coffee was ready, I put the two-burner griddle on the stove, heated it through and laid the bacon. Oh how it sizzled. And oh, how good it smelled!

By that time, their dad was out, fetching firewood so we wouldn't have to do it after a long day hiking and playing in the river or picking berries.

A thoughtful gift, a treasure-trove of memories

His parents, who had gifted us with the propane stove for Christmas before the second child came, popped out of their trailer, wakened by the smell of fresh-brewed coffee.

"How'd you sleep last night?" "Oh, we slept fine. This new trailer is a gem. You should think about getting one."

That's one reason that little cook stove meant so much to us--because they gave it to us, to make our camping trips easier and to leave us more time for playing in the forest and exploring the granite hills.

It did all that too. No pumping and worrying about whether we could get the stove lit this time. I quickly became a big fan of cooking with propane.

With the bacon crisp and sorted between two warmer plates at the edge of the grill, I let the oldest child pour the batter and flip the flapjacks on one side of the grill while I cracked eggs next to her, so close I could see the dead gnat in her hair, normally dark brown, but summer-sun bleached now to a tawny golden color.

We liked our eggs over easy. While we cooked, she chattered about the fish she caught the day before and how good they tasted last night at supper, and whether we would have the hot springs all to ourselves today.

The littlest one, getting ready to peel oranges for our something-fresh, cried out as she washed her hands in the tub, The water was bitter cold. I know, because I'd washed up there earlier.

Soon enough, she had warmed her hands and peeled the oranges, their citrus scent mingling with pine, bacon and fresh air smells.

"I'm hungry!" Grandpa said, "Let's eat!"

That was my favorite part of the whole day, every day in the woods. It's strange to imbue an inaniminate object with such sentiment, I suppose, but I miss that propane cook stove and all the memories it carried.

This one is pretty much like it, and that is the griddle we used. I can smell the coffee and bacon now!

Coleman Classic Propane Stove
Coleman Classic Propane Stove

This looks exactly like my little camping cook stove. It was my first experience cooking with gas, and boy did I love how easy it was.

Coleman Cast Iron Non-stick Griddle
Coleman Cast Iron Non-stick Griddle

This is the griddle we carted on all our camping trips.


What kind of camper are you?

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If you're a camper or outdoors enthusiast, do share one of your favorite memories. If the outdoors doesn't do it for you, maybe you have another memory you would care to share.


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    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @gottaloveit2: It's only 7:30 in the morning here, but your comment totally made my entire day. Thank you so much! I hope you have as much fun with yours, and build as many memories, as we did with ours.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 4 years ago

      I read every word; love your writing and style. And, loved the 'dead gnat' comment. Cracked up. We just bought a coleman gas stove as, although our RV has a regular stove, I too like the routine of getting the coffee and bacon going on the gas stove, outside, early in the morning.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @Diana Wenzel: They do, when they can get away. One daughter and her family live in the coastal mountains, and have the best of all worlds, with the ocean and a lovely resort town nearby. Thank you for your kind words. Made my day!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      Such a beautifully evocative review. I felt more alive just reading it (and wishing I were out in the forest somewhere firing up my Coleman propane stove). Of course, now I am hankering for some pancakes and bacon... my favorite breakfast when I am out and about (or anywhere, for that matter). Such powerful memories and writing you have shared. If I didn't already own these products, I would be running out to purchase them for a camping trip. Do any of your kids still camp?

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @lesliesinclair: Thank you, Papier.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      Isn't that the truth - we have our fond memories of using those great stoves for camping. Nice narrative too.

    • ayannavenus profile image

      ayannavenus 4 years ago

      Admire those who are able to camp without the mod comforts.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @ThreeQuarters2Day: Looking forward to seeing that!

    • ThreeQuarters2Day profile image

      Dawn Romine 4 years ago from Nebraska

      I love camping and didn't have a chance to do it when the kids were small. Something always got in the way. But I'm now finding how to camp in a more luxurious fashion. I can even camp in a tent in luxury. Reminds me of a topic....hmm..

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      I'm not a camper myself (biting bugs seek me out even in the dead of winter!), but I was thoroughly engaged by your wonderful story, and if I did have an interest in camping I'd be ordering one of these Coleman camp stoves right now. Well done and congratulations on your feature! :D

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @CampingmanNW: Before the grandparents gifted us with the propane Coleman, we had a white gas Coleman as well. We made a lot of good memories on those trips too, but that old stove was difficult to use.

      I'm always happy to meet another outdoor enthusiast, as your name aptly implies! I am sorry to learn that Coleman went bankrupt. Not surprised to learn the new owners build the stoves in China. I do hope we can see manufacturing return to the US. How do you feel about that?

    • CampingmanNW profile image

      CampingmanNW 4 years ago

      Nice lens. I have no individual memories, to share except to say, I've been camping, hiking, hunting and fishing since I was a kid. In fact, I still have my original Coleman two burner camp stove, given to me by my Grandfather. It was the kind that used white gas (unleaded gasoline) instead of propane and was manufactured sometime in the early 50's. Although the Coleman company went bankrupt, the name was sold in 2005 to the Jarden Corp (N.Y., N.Y) and nearly all products are made in China, I still use my original as well as a newer 'propane version' camp stove my Son bought for me in 1990's.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @smine27: It is truly one of the great pleasures of life, but if you've never been, do read up on the best ways to assure a good night's sleep. That is from one who learned the hard way.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I'm ashamed to say that I've never been camping in my life but I can see the allure of it and hopefully I get a chance to do it one of these days.