Pros: Simple design, easy to use, hot baked goods in the woods!
Cons: Size, a bit pricey, InstaStart feature noisy.
My wife and I live for our yearly camping trip, and over the years we've amassed darn near every item Coleman makes, from Weathermaster tent and sleeping bags to lanterns and two-burner propane stove. I had seen the InstaStart Camp Oven, my first thought was that packing an item the size of a toaster oven into our already overloaded van would be something we could easily do without. Heck, who needs a blasted OVEN on a camping trip? I mean, what the heck is it good for, other than hot biscuits, blueberry muffins and cornbread?
So, I ordered the oven. When it came, my wife gave me her patented "I love you enough to overlook your faults, but sometimes you really push your luck" look. I immediately offered to send it back, admitting I didn't know what I was thinking when I ordered the darn thing . . . other than hot biscuits, blueberry muffins and cornbread.
Well, we kept the oven, and used it during our week-long camping trip at a State Park. My wife's first effort was biscuits, and she was impressed with how perfectly they turned out. She couldn't wait to give the blueberry muffins a shot the following morning. Again, the result was perfect. In fact, my wife took a second batch of six to our camping neighbors, and they were pleasantly surprised to get warm, fresh muffins to go with their morning coffee.
Cornbread? Again, perfect. My wife even stuck a meatloaf in the oven, and was very pleased with the result.
Yes, it's rather big and clunky, and when transporting or storing, you want to make sure nothing is set on top of it, as it is not of extremely sturdy construction (obviously a factor in keeping the weight down); but the hot baked goods that the oven produces made even a skeptic like my wife admit, "It was well worth it!"
All of the baking was done with the rack in the second-from-bottom position, with the drip-pan occupying the bottom position. Meatloaf experiment was done with the rack moved up an additional position. There are seven rack positions, and with the rack at the top position, both sides of sliced bread can be toasted. Coleman claims the oven capable of 500 degrees, but from our experience, the max was about 425. I'd say the claim of 3.5 hours use per 16.4 oz propane cylinder at the highest temperature is fairly accurate. Two cylinders got us through a half-dozen uses; for us, about the same as the use of our two-burner stove. Judging from the resulting baked goods, my wife declared the thermometer on the top of the unit to be accurate.
The only negative aside from the size and price (retail just under $100.00 - shop around! I got ours for around $80.00) is the temperature adjustment dial. We quickly found it's best to preheat the oven with the control full-on, and then adjust down if needed. But, like all Coleman propane cooking gear, it only takes a bit of fiddling to find the "just right" position. The InstaStart feature worked well, but each push of the button produces a metallic "clank" that seems considerably louder in the woods than when experimenting in the living room. The Instastart failed after the meatloaf experiment, but I attribute this to grease from the meat (worked fine after cleaning with a bit of soap and water after arriving home). Due to the noise produced, we quickly chose to light the oven using a grill lighter with the oven on low. I'd also recommend purchasing the heavy-duty vinyl carrying case to protect and transport the oven.
Overall, I'd have to say that if you're the kind of camper who likes to travel light and avoid frivolities, this item is obviously not for you. But, if like us, you like a bit of luxury in your camping trips, the Coleman InstaStart Oven is a very nice addition to your camp kitchen. The first bite of that hot, buttered biscuit or muffin is all the proof you'll need.