This party is getting hot!
Continuing to test some cool camping gear while actually out camping, we realised that pitching tents, inflating mattresses, and hoisting roof boxes up onto cars takes a lot of energy. To that end, we needed food; freshly cooked grub, straight from the grill. Thankfully our mates at Campingaz got in touch to offer the Party Grill 400. And rightly glad we were, too.
We last checked out a Campingaz grill during the previous summer for our Family Camping feature. Despite the Compact Series Gas Grill being just that, compact, it was also a bit of beast to lug around. It seems Campingaz have been working on the weight of their products, as the Party Grill 400 is lighter and easier to carry, without losing much of the cooking surface.
A rounded grill, the Party Grill 400 comes with three short detachable legs. This means that you either have to put it on a table to use, or sit next to it on the ground (not advisable if you have kids running amok). However, the shorter legs mean that they can be stored inside the cooker itself when not in use, and because all cooking plates fit one on top of the other (and that the lid is also a wok – nice), the whole thing fits inside a single-handle carry pouch, about the size of a bowling ball bag. It packs up so small and compact that we took it to the camp site in the Thule Ocean 100 Roof Box, along with all the sleeping bags.
Once assembled, and with the gas connected (more on that later), you can choose how to set it up. The Campingaz Party Grill 400 comes with a stove top, a grill, a griddle (ahh, steak...), and a plancha. Because each of these is cleverly designed, they all fit together nicely so you can lock the lid into place and keep them secure.
Because the gas burner is circular, and because there is minimum-contact stove top adaptor, the Party Grill was able to boil water far quicker than any other gas or flame powered grills we've ever used. Combine it with a small travel kettle, and your coffee will be ready in just a few minutes, sir. It also performed very well in the grub-cooking department, getting the griddle very hot and sizzling in just a couple of minutes, perfect for laying on some well-earned slabs of beef (or slices of tofu).
It was also very easy to clean, as the blue base of the unit is removable. During set up the instructions informed us to fill it with water, which was a bit puzzling. Without reading on we did so, thinking it was to act as some kind of safety measure. But no; as the grease and juices fall from your food as it cooks, it drops into the water, so when it comes to clean it, you simply throw away the water – grease and all! After that, a quick rinse is all it takes to get it set for the next meal, or a more thorough clean with soapy water if you're done with it for a while. A great innovation, and one that saved us a lot of messy cleaning.
But hey... gas. The Campingaz Party Grill 400 takes Campingaz's R904 or R907 butane gas cannisters. Our only previous experience of Campingaz's canister range was the much smaller and disposable models for the Compact Series grills, which retail for about £8 each. However, the larger types for this grill are pricey. To get the cannister the first time round, and then to get it filled, cost us close to £70 from Go Outdoors. Obviously once you have the cannister it will be cheaper to have it filled each camping trip, and the capacity of both will last you several meals while outdoors, but it's one thing to seriously consider. Bear in mind that we only checked out Go Outdoors for their prices – you might find it cheaper elsewhere.
So apart from the initial expense of getting your gas, the Campingaz Party Grill 400 is a fantastic camping accessory. Small, light, truly compact, and versatile, it will see you right from your breakfast through to your dinner, for several fun days.