Kovea MULTI All-In-One Stove – Bench Test and Long Term Field Review – Considerations for Overlanding
When one thinks of technical four-wheeling, camping, or overlanding, the phrase “form follows function” inevitably comes to mind. First coined by 19th Century architect Louis Sullivan, when maximum performance and utility are demanded, aesthetic design often takes a back seat. But every once in a while a company comes around that seemingly effortlessly combines the two, creating beautiful products that at once make no compromises in performance. That’s how I felt when I first started researching Kovea’s equipment.
Kovea is a leading manufacturer of high-performance outdoor living equipment. Established in South Korea in 1982, Kovea has been a go-to brand in numerous international markets for nearly 40 years and, fortunately, is currently expanding its US distribution networks. I’ve spied Kovea gear in-action in numerous high-profile expeditions, including Andrew St Pierre White’s 4xOverland video series (unsponsored). In Europe, their stoves are routinely pitted against brands more established in North America, including makes such as Primus, Snow Peak, and Mountain Safety Research (MSR). I’ve been told Kovea is making a push to break into the US market and a recent trip to REI confirmed this… there was an entire shelf dedicated to Kovea fuel canisters.
I’m a self-admitted foodie, but I’m also a type-1 diabetic, which means that it’s critical that the recipes I plan to prepare during trips are successful. I achieve this via overland meal planning, categorizing recipes by logistical inputs such as cold storage options, cookware, and heat source. In this vein, whenever a product comes to market that has the potential to increase cooking options in the field, I’ll be the first in line to check it out.
And this brings us to the purpose for today’s review. I’m a California native, and as I sit here writing this review over Labor Day weekend, nearly every National Forest in the state is shut-down due to wildfires. Fires have always been a risk out here, but with their increasing incidence and magnitude, local and state jurisdictions have been more prone to implement stricter campfire regulations to mitigate risk, which means no cooking over a wood or charcoal fire.
Today we’ll be detailing an assessment of one of Kovea’s flagship camp cookers, the All-In-One. As the name implies, this stove features multiple cooking options, including (1) a traditional pot/pan support top, (2) a cast aluminum griddle pan that doubles as a hot pot for soups and stews, and (3) a gas grill top, a game-changer for grilling in fire-restricted areas. I’ve put this stove through its paces the past few months and will be highlighting notable features while identifying any potential shortcomings of this cooker for overlanding purposes. I’ll finish with some notes from the field, and my recommendations on where and when this stove may be best-implemented.
Find it online:
- The stove for this review was provided by Oregon-based Nomadica Outfitters.
Specifications and Features
- Dimensions: 21”x 7.3”x 12.2”
- Weight: 12.125 lbs
- Output: 9,769 BTU
- Fuel: Butane/Propane Mix
- Carrying Case: Yes
- Auto-ignition: Yes
- Construction: Enameled steel body, stainless steel burners, non-stick coated cast aluminum fry pan, chrome plated steel grill and pot support attachments, removable aluminum grease tray.
The All-In-One stove features a nesting design where each attachment rests within the next, minimizing overall storage volume. The stove is also available with a padded, ruggedized nylon carrying case, a feature I appreciate for keeping gear organized when transferring from vehicle to vehicle, or in and out of longer-term storage.
Fuel canisters are inserted into an integrated cradle featuring a clamshell lid, no hoses or hard lines that need to be attached or stored separately. The stove uses nozzle style fuel canisters (think aerosol canisters), which are available online and from national big-box stores. The fuel for this review is Kovea’s high performance butane-propane mix.
A brief note on fuel type, and that is fuel matters. Just like the gasoline you put in your vehicle or the nutrition you feed your body, the type of fuel you burn in your stove can have a significant impact on its performance, depending on where and how you’re using it. The pros, cons, and indications for liquid versus canister fuels expands beyond the scope of this product review, but for our intents and purposes, there are three types of canister-based cooking fuels to be aware of: propane, butane, and mixtures of propane, butane, and/or isobutane.
The defining characteristic of these fuels, and how they relate to overlanding, is their vapor pressure. Functionally, vapor pressure relates to the volatility of a substance as it undergoes condensation and evaporation, or the interaction between liquid and gaseous states. Fuels with a higher vapor pressure are said to be more volatile and, as such, perform better at higher altitudes (lower atmospheric pressure) and cooler temperatures than lower vapor pressure fuels.
- Propane: Highest vapor pressure of all commercially available fuels, best cold-weather/high altitude performance. However, its higher vapor pressure requires greater storage pressures, necessitating heavier, thicker walled canisters. This could be a deficit when attempting to keep vehicle payloads in-check. Advantages include propane tanks being refillable and available in a variety of sizes, such as 5 or 20lb canisters, supporting small to large groups for extended periods of time.
- Butane: Lowest vapor pressure, yet inexpensive. Performance is acceptable in warm conditions but suffers in colder climates and higher altitudes.
- Isobutane and Butane/Propane mixes: Vapor pressure substantially higher than pure butane, while still using lighter-weight canisters. Splits the difference between propane and butane, ensuring efficient performance in a variety of conditions. Many leading manufacturers, including Kovea, Coleman, Jetboil, MSR, Primus, Snowpeak, and Soto, all utilize a blend of propane and butane fuels in their canisters.*
*As an aside, the specific formula each of these companies utilizes for their fuel canisters is proprietary. If there is interest in a comprehensive fuel canister review, please feel free to comment and we’ll see what we can do.
- Burn Time, High: 1 hour, 24 minutes
- Burn Time, Low: 3 hours, 16 minutes
- Boil Time, Water, 1 Liter: 4 minutes, 41 seconds
- Ambient temp 76-69 degrees Fahrenheit, 0-5 MPH wind, using Kovea High performance butane-propane gas mix, 8oz cannister (KGF-0227).
I found initial setup to be quick and hassle-free. The entire unit nests within a padded case. Unzip the case and pull the three cooktop attachments out. Pull the burner unit out and place the cooktop of your choice onto the stove. I store the unused cooktops back in the case to keep camp organized.
The stove features a dual-function rotary knob that serves as both a flame-adjuster and piezo electric igniter. When first setting up, twist the control clockwise to ensure the valve is closed. Flip open the fuel compartment door and connect a cannister. The unit uses a twist-and-lock type mechanism. I found the attachment fast and secure, it takes just 1/8th turn of the canister to lock it in place. Close the compartment lid and the unit is ready to go. To light, twist the control knob fully counter-clockwise, triggering the igniter. Once lit, adjust the flame control to the desired level.
The grill attachment features 3 components; a chrome plated mesh grill top, stamped steel burner diffusers, and an outer support ring that functions to lock the components together on top of the cooker. The grill also features flip-up, folding skewer supports.
The first order of business was to test the grill’s heat distribution. This stove utilizes a traditional, horseshoe-shaped burner tube with flame diffusers that function to spread heat out over a large surface area.
Over the years of testing various stoves and cookware, I’ve found the best way to assess a grill’s performance is using what I call the Wonder Bread test. It may sound silly, but it works. Line the entire cooking surface with a standardized food product (white bread), turn the stove on, and heat until the bread begins to toast. Wonder Bread works great here as you can visually identify exactly where the hot spots are, based on the toast pattern. Flour tortillas maybe substituted here as well.
The results of this test were favorable, and what I’ve come to expect from a single-tube burner. The flame further away from the fuel canister is cooler than the flame closer to the canister. As seen in the photos, the result is a two-zone grill, with the front half cooking hotter than the back half.
The pot attachment functions as a traditional stove top. It features a large, central pot support with additional grids for using multiple pieces of cookware at once. In testing, I found the cooktop can support both a large, 8-inch stock pot and a smaller 7-inch saucepan at the same time. The attachment features a serrated top, which functions well for keeping cookware secure. The attachment is relatively light weight yet secure under load.
Kovea calls this the fry pan attachment, however it has multiple functions. Foremost, it is a thick, cast aluminum griddle featuring a non-stick coating. It has straight walls that are approximately 1.25 inches tall, plus a glass lid (metal option available). The pan is not flat, but rather features a slight V-shape, presumably to collect excess oil or drippings. Lastly is an O-ring sealed drain plug on the outer rim of the pan, enabling draining of said excess oil without having to lift the entire unit up.
Combined, this attachment enables multiple cooking options. Notable uses include being a breakfast griddle, a flat-top for stir-fry, and a soup-pot for hot pot, shabu-shabu, ramen, and other soups or stews. The aluminum creates an evenly distributed heating surface, yielding uniformly cooked pancakes in our test.
Traditional heat sources for overlanding include single burner stoves, dual burner stoves, portable bbq/fire pits, and dedicated water-boilers. The Kovea all-in-one is unique in that it transcends several of these categories, so I’ll focus on identifying some key attributes which indicate how this stove may add value over other options on the market.
Being able to easily access, setup, and breakdown equipment in the field is a hallmark of intuitive product design informed by real-world experience. The key asset of this stove is the ability to swap between several different cooking functions, from traditional stove to griddle or grill, within seconds. I especially appreciate having everything self-contained in a dedicated container, this goes a long way for vehicle organization and minimizes the potential for noise due to road or trail vibrations.
The grill function is a standout. Being able to flame broil fresh veggies and kebabs during fire-restricted periods represents tremendous value for our group, there’s nothing we like more than grilled food when spending time outdoors. The grill has almost no pre-heat time, making it both convenient and efficient. We’ve also found the skewer supports beneficial for larger pieces of meat or veggie, or for gently cooking foods with delicate textures or flavors.
As mentioned above, this stove features a traditional, horseshoe-shaped burner tube—simple and efficient. The variance in gas flow from front to back is a surprisingly welcome addition, as it functionally creates a “hot side” and “cool side”. The only alternative we see would be to utilize two grill tubes with an additional flame control knob, however this would increase weight, complexity, and overall size. In my opinion, Kovea made a smart compromise by sticking to a single burner featuring clearly defined warmer and cooler sides, it enables the user to cycle foods into and out of zones, ensuring an even cook.
The pot support is a necessary feature, and it has proven ability to boil water for pasta, rice, and risotto. However, due to the shape of the burner, it simply won’t heat as efficiently as a dedicated single or dual burner stove.
Cast aluminum for the frying pan is an excellent decision here, it’s lightweight and has superb heat distribution, second only to copper. We’ve used this feature almost as much as the grill, it’s a workhorse breakfast griddle at our camp. I also find it fantastic for Yakisoba and Pad Thai, the large surface area and aluminum construction produces a lovely, caramelized sear on stir-fried noodles.
Finally the little things, which can contribute a long way to the overall user-experience. I appreciate how clean and secure the fuel canister arrangement is. The clamshell keeps everything self-contained so there’s no soft or hard fuel lines leading away from the cooker, which often take up valuable table space. The fuel canister connects quickly with a simple, eighth-turn of the can. The flame adjuster is nicely weighted with no slop in the mechanism, enabling precise adjustments to temperature control. And lastly is overall construction: the build quality of this cooker feels very high, imbuing confidence.
Everything in overlanding has its compromises, and the experienced overlander weighs these compromises against their overall trip objectives to help guide their decision points. When considering a heat source, I generally focus on five key factors: efficiency, searing ability, storage volume, fuel availability, and maintenance/repair capability. The Kovea all-in-one features variable efficiency; the grill and cast aluminum fry pan are highly efficient, whereas the pot support is less-so. Both the grill and fry pan attachments have excellent searing capabilities. Storage volume is moderate. The footprint is smaller than most two-burner stoves, although the unit is taller. That said, the multi-functionality of the cooker qualifies the increased storage volume in many cases. Fuel availability is excellent, with canisters widely available in the United States. Lastly, there are currently no readily available repair kits for this stove on the market.
Overall, the Kovea all-in-one represents an excellent option for those looking to grill in the field, be it during fire-restricted periods or as an efficient, leave-no-trace form of cooking. The cast aluminum fry pan has proven itself in a variety of scenarios, from blueberry pancakes to stir fry, while the pot attachment enables the use of traditional cookware. If you’re looking to prepare a majority of your meals using individual pieces of cookware, a dedicated two-burner stove me be indicated, but if you value the variety of options outlined above, the all-in-one could be a great choice.