When summer arrives we all enjoy that outdoor grilling in the backyard, but what about taking your grill on the road?
Those unplanned picnics, weekend camping trips or tailgate parties could all benefit from a quality grill.
In this review I have looked at five of the best gas grills which have been designed to be more portable.
Some of them offer a performance that you would be happy to use in your backyard, just in a more compact form.
The stainless steel construction of this portable gas grill not only looks great.
A single burner produces up to 10,000 BTUs to quickly heat up the grilling area of 205 square inches.
This grill also features a further 100 square-inch warming rack and a double-walled lid for better insulation and heat retention.
The hood latches down on the Smoke Hollow 205 with the folding legs making for easy transportation.
With a smaller footprint than many other portable grills, it will fit the trunk of most cars and still leave room for the gas tank.
As a standard, it uses the smaller one-pound disposable tanks but an adaptor and hose will allow for 16- or 20-pound tanks to be used.
The grilling performance of the Hollow Smoke 205 is pretty impressive for a sub $100 portable gas grill with only one burner. The 10,000 BTU loop burner can quickly reach temperatures of 500 degrees Fahrenheit in less than five minutes.
With a grill grate just slightly over 18 inches long by 11 inches wide, you can fit about eight medium-sized hamburger patties.
The additional warming rack is ideal for storing extra foods once cooked, but can’t really be considered an extra cooking area.
And when you’re done grilling, clean up couldn’t be much simpler. The stainless steel of the body and lid can be cleaned with just a plastic scraper and a wipe down with a soapy cloth.
A drip tray located at the bottom of the grill collects most of the grease and debris from the grill. Plus it’s easy to remove, empty and wash.
Although the grill reaches high temperatures quickly, it can be hard to find any other temperature than high.
A flimsy control dial makes it difficult to regulate the temperature. Plus the loop of the burner also makes the left-hand side hotter than the right.
And despite the grill being 95 percent stainless steel, the parts which aren’t can be a worry. The latch on the lid is known to rust very quickly and likewise the flavorizer plate is very thin and doesn’t last too long.
If you are looking for an ultra-portable gas grill at a bargain price, it will be hard to find one more suitable than the Hollow Smoke 205. Although it may not be the lightest portable grill, with folding legs and a large sturdy handle, it’s one of the easiest to carry.
You will normally find this portable gas grill being sold for less than $80. For that price and considering the quality and features of this grill, it is easily our best overall portable gas grill.
This grill with 22,000 BTUs from two burners has the highest heat output of all the portable gas grills we looked at.
It uses a folding design with an adjustable stand to be easily transported from one spot to another.
With a 285 square-inch cooking surface, it grills a large amount of food, easily enough for a family of three or four.
Folded or unfolded, wheels on the bottom of the unit make it easy to move once on the ground.
As a general rule, you should allow about 72 to 80 square inches of grilling area per person. At nearly 50 pounds, you will probably need an extra pair of hands loading or unloading from higher beds of a pickup truck.
The two 11,000 BTU burners will provide up to 22,000 BTU of heat which could be used to sear meats. The two burner control knobs are clearly labelled for high, medium and low settings, with the high flame best for preheating or cleaning.
Included as standard, the two cast iron grates have a flat griddle style area in the middle surrounded by traditional grill grates. This offers the versatility of cooking more delicate foods, but still adding those grill lines towards the end of cooking.
The Coleman RoadTrip LXX has been designed to use the disposable one-pound propane bottles which are easy to find. If you want to use a 20-pound bottle, you will need to purchase an additional adaptor.
The larger size and extra weight of this Coleman RoadTrip grill can be off-putting for many people. It’s not as portable as many of the other portable gas grills on the market, and you will certainly need a larger trunk on your car.
Secondly, a thermometer integrated into the lid of the grill has been found to be not the most accurate. A secondary temperature reading device is always recommended if you want more control.
The RoadTrip LXX is a great grill with an instant start ignition, which ensures you will be grilling in the quickest time possible. That’s once you have managed to lug it from the car, but the trolley design is easy to maneuver from then onwards.
The scissor legs provide a sturdy base for this grill, with no trouble coping with strong gusts of wind. Many people actually buy this to use as a backyard grill, with the solid construction featuring a smaller footprint than other giant patio style grills.
For people who enjoy RVing or general picnicking, the Coleman RoadTrip LXX provides all the grilling power of your home grill but on the move. And at under $200, you get a quality grill with a high BTU output, to evenly and quickly grill your foods.
The Q1000 is one of the smallest Weber gas grills, with a single 8,500 BTU stainless steel burner.
Yet this portable unit still has a respectable 189 square inches of cooking space, with a split grate for a grate/griddle combination.
Featuring the usual high standard of construction you associate with Weber, it has a heavy duty aluminum housing.
It also includes an electronic ignition and Infinity burner control dial.
Inside you will find porcelain coated cast iron cooking grates and a nylon frame reinforced with glass. This stylish titanium and black colored portable grill is extremely compact at just 20 inches wide by 16.5 inches deep with the lid closed.
Although it is heavier than other portables of this size—weighing in at over 27 pounds—it’s a sturdy construction.
What I really liked about the Weber portable gas grill was just how easy it was to use and the consistent results it gave. The push-button piezo ignition and clearly-marked temperature control make it one of the easiest grills to start and regulate.
The Weber offers some of the most consistent grilling, with a firebox made from cast aluminum evenly holding and reflecting the heat.
The U-shaped burner ensures fewer hotspots. The higher heat setting is great for perfectly seared burgers, with a low-medium setting for larger cuts or bone-in chicken.
Potential flare-ups are reduced by porcelain coated grates, which shield the flames and divert grease or drippings away from them. Being cast iron, they retain enough of the ambient heat for efficient browning—or those grill lines we all love so much.
Some customers have bemoaned the rather meagre 8,500 BTU rating of this grill, it’s certainly much lower than the Coleman RoadTrip grills. With the Weber, you will need a little more patience but the extra economy can be an advantage.
And at 27 pounds for its small size, it’s hardly light. The smaller footprint may fit easily on an outdoor counter but lifting it up there can be difficult. Fortunately, it runs on disposable one-pound propane cylinders which are lighter to carry.
With its striking design, the Weber Q1000 is certainly a grill which will turn heads at that next picnic. It’s a compact yet efficient grill if you want to just cook for a few people.
The extra versatility of the excellent temperature control and interchangeable grates make it the perfect choice for a camping trip or a gourmet picnic.
It may not be the lightest of portable grills, however you get a well-constructed, compact grill that will last you many years of outdoor grilling.
With the optional adaptor you can even connect 20-pound propane tanks to use on longer road trips, or on the patio. And it’s all backed with the industry-leading 5-year warranty of Weber.
At just under 10 pounds, the Char-Broil Deluxe is one of the lightest gas grills on the market.
Using either 16.4-ounce or 14.1-ounce propane canisters.
This is the ideal grill for camping, where you may need to hike with a grill under your arm.
Large handles on this deluxe model make it easier to carry.
The design features legs which double up as the locking mechanism for the lid when not in use, and fold down as a stand.
This Char-Broil tabletop grill measures only 24 inches by 12 inches by 15 inches and is made of a quality steel.
A durable porcelain high-temperature finish will prevent the grill from rusting. Yet, despite the compact size it features a 187 square-inch chrome-plated grill and 11,000 BTUs of grilling power.
With the lid down, this grill will quickly cook hamburgers, hot dogs, fish and chicken. Baked potatoes may take longer with the thinner construction not retaining as much heat as more expensive grills.
The 187 square inches of grilling space is more than enough to cook about eight hamburger patties at one time. Hooks on the back of the grill body allow the lid to be attached as a windshield when using the grill open.
A thin metal flavorizer tent over the burner prevents flare-ups and adds a little of that smoky flavor to your food. By vaporizing the drippings or juice which fall down to the bottom of the firebox, it can impart flavor to the food being cooked.
One of the largest complaints with this grill was the lack of a drip tray. Drain holes in the bottom of the grill mean you should cover the surface you are cooking on. Many users tend to put a bit of foil in the bottom of the grill before cooking, which can also act as a heat reflector.
The build quality of this grill is not the greatest, with the steel body and lid both being very thin. The Char-Broil arrives completely unassembled and, although the instructions look quite scary, it is simple to put together.
Finally, despite having a higher BTU than some other mobile gas grills we have looked at, it can seem less hot yet use more gas.
The thinner metals used don’t retain the heat and the exterior of the grill can become very hot. The lower height of this grill can also mean you may have trouble keeping it lit in windy conditions.
If you are looking for the most portable gas grills for that next outdoor adventure weekend, the Char-Broil is the lightest to carry. For two people camping, the 190 square-inch grilling area will be enough to cook your breakfast, and maybe a couple of steaks for dinner.
The poor 90-day warranty at this low price is not too important, it will often be cheaper to replace the grill then send it away for repair.
But if looked after correctly and cleaned well after use, you should get plenty of camping trips or impromptu grilling sessions from this grill.
This latest version of the popular Coleman RoadTrip grill features the same stand up design of its predecessors.
Only this time it features three independent burners rather than two, for enhanced temperature control.
Otherwise, it’s pretty similar to the LXX model we looked at earlier.
It has the same expansive cooking area of 285 square inches.
The BTU rating has dropped to 20,000, but Coleman claim the three burners give 20 percent better control of the temperature.
It also features the same collapsible design and is ultra quick to fold away or set up. Rugged wheels on the RoadTrip allow you to roll the grill around like a case, ideal for the campsite or when tailgating. And this time it has dropped a little, to 47 pounds.
The extra burner doesn’t give you any more heating power, but it does give you more control over your grilling. All three burners can be adjusted independently so you can control the temperature all across your grill area.
Combined with the interchangeable grill panels or grates, this allows for more variety of cooking methods.
You can use the griddle attachment at a lower heat at one end for your eggs while using the other side with a grill grate.
This could then cook bacon, sausages or steaks at higher temperatures simultaneously. With the Instastart ignition and quick heating up times, you can grill the ultimate breakfast before the other campers even wake up.
Unfortunately some sacrifices have been made for this new three-burner technology. The stainless steel slide out tables of the LXX have been replaced with less durable plastic coated shelves.
The Road Trip 285 has also lost the useful utensil hooks under the burners of its predecessor—maybe these two changes explain the two pound weight loss.
Furthermore, the integrated thermometer of the 285 has not been improved from the inaccurate one used in the earlier LXX model. What’s the point of having more control over the temperature if the thermometer is going to give a completely different reading?
If you really want to know what’s going on, invest in a set of digital meat probes.
For many, the three burner technology of this latest Coleman RoadTrip 285 portable gas grill makes it their best yet. With improved burner technology and three adjustable heat zones, the grill definitely offers more options to your grilling.
Throw in the huge grilling area and swappable cooktops and you have one of the most versatile portable gas grills on the market.
However, for that extra burner you are going to have to pay nearly a $100 more and lose some of the previous features.
Many users may decide the stainless steel side tables and hanging spaces for utensils and accessories are more useful. It all depends on what you value most, whether that extra hundred bucks is worth it.
A portable gas grill can be a great alternative with their compact designs and less of the mess associated with a charcoal grill.
Many of the National parks across the US now ban open fires or charcoal grills, especially in the drier summer months.
In California, for example, state parks forbid the use of your own portable charcoal grill, but will allow a small propane grill. Other parks may have dedicated charcoal pits if you insist on that charcoal flavor.
Gas, by comparison, is self contained, flames are normally covered and there’s none of that unsightly ash leftover.
Plus the grills themselves can be much easier to keep clean when being stored in the back of your trunk, RV or bed of a pickup.
Although purists may argue you don’t get that smoky grill flavor from gas, a gas grill is much more convenient.
They can often be ignited with a single press of a button and be ready for cooking in less than five minutes.
Temperature controls on modern portable gas grills allow you more control of the heat just as easily as the oven found in your home.
This extra control will help to prevent the charring of foods, undercooking and avoiding those flare-ups. It’s just as easy to perform a quick sear of a steak as it is a slower, more even cook of a chicken.
British Thermal Units are the measurement which determines how gas output heats up your grill. In theory, the higher number of BTUs a grill has, the hotter temperatures it will be able to reach.
A BTU rating alone doesn’t determine how hot or quick your grill will come to temperature. A grill which is made of thinner materials will be less efficient at holding the heat and lose many of those thermal units to the outdoor weather.
In general, a portable gas grill will need a minimum of 8,000 to 12,000 BTU per hour for an adequate grilling temperature.
Grills with larger cooking areas will need more BTUs and the largest area of the Coleman grills will often use 20,000 BTU or more.
Consider where you are going to be using the grill and whether it fits in the trunk of your car or on the balcony of your apartment. Some models may even fit in a larger backpack or others can be carried in just one hand.
The weight of the gas grill will determine not only how easy it is to carry, but also how easy it is to move when being used. Many of today’s grills have a tabletop construction with shorter legs while others have wheels, especially if they are heavier.
Evaluating how and when you will use the grill dictates what size or weight you should choose. If it’s going to be mostly stationary in your backyard or patio, a heavier grill will often be better constructed with higher quality materials.
For camping or outdoor picnics, a lightweight grill is more suitable, for ease of mobility.
Consider how many people you are going to be cooking for and how much food you will need to grill. If it’s going to be a large party or for tailgating, you may want to consider one of the larger grills, with over 250 square inches of cooking area.
For fishing trips with a friend, a cooking area of 100 to 200 square inches will be enough, and easier to carry.
There’s no strict rule on how much space you will need. A 180 to 200 square-inch grill will allow for roughly eight hamburger patties but leave no space for grilling those buns.
Some gas grills may have warming shelves, however, be careful that this isn’t included in the primary grilling area.
Obviously, the larger the grilling area is, the heavier the portable gas grill will be.
Better quality gas grills will use cast-iron grates or griddle plates, which can significantly add to the total weight.
Aluminum is used in the best portable gas grills, with lids and fireboxes made from cast aluminum holding the heat better.
The Weber Q series grills, for example, are made from an aluminum mold but, unfortunately, are normally more expensive.
A more affordable choice tends to be steel or stainless steel. Enameled steel can look very smart and won’t rust, but can chip. Moving a portable gas grill about more will increase the risk of damage.
The quality of materials used also extends to the grate. Porcelain coated grates made from cast iron tend to be the best at searing foods and will also clean better.
Open grate designs will give a better browning and those grill lines rather than cheaper aluminum or stainless steel solid grates.
Just using better materials doesn’t always make a better grill.
Check the quality of paint or enameling on the metals used, and the gauge or thickness.
You should also consider all those hidden components, like nuts, bolts and hinges, which may be made of lower quality materials, sometimes even plastic.
Check that the burners feature some form of protection, like a tented sheet of aluminum or flavorizer bars.
This can help prevent hot spots on the grill and stop those annoying flare-ups as juices drip through. A solid construction will also be more stable. Safety is paramount when using gas for outdoor grilling.
Units that have been welded together tend to be more stable than ones which are screwed together with nuts and bolts. Test a grill for stability by gently pushing it from different angles, to see if it’s likely to tip.
Many portable gas grills come equipped with a coupling which uses the smaller, one-pound, propane canisters you often see.
For camping or outdoor grilling on the go, these can be much more convenient than hauling a 20-pound cylinder around.
If you do intend to use your portable gas grill on longer road trips or in the backyard, consider getting an adapter.
Most manufacturers offer the option of connecting up to a 20-pound propane cylinder with an additional adapter and hose kit.
Porcelain coating on the grates and exterior of the grill body can be easy to wipe down, with less chance of corrosion on a clean grill.
Look at whether the grates are simple to remove for a thorough cleaning; some are even dishwasher-safe.
A removable grease trap or drip tray will also add to how clean the grill is kept. One of the last things you want is grease dripping all over the trunk of your car.
A clean grill will also perform better, with less chance of grease catching fire and causing those dreaded flare-ups or charring.
Burners that don’t have to fight their way through grease and other debris will provide a more even heat with less hot spots.
All the points we have looked at above are worth spending extra time and money on.
When choosing the best portable gas grills I took all these factors into consideration before choosing my favorite five.
If you are looking for a simple grill which is highly portable yet with a large grilling area, the Hollow Smoke 205 tabletop gas grill is ideal.
For those times when you need to grill for more people, the Coleman RoadTrip LXX offers a huge grilling area in an easy to maneuver design—but just be warned, it’s heavy—very heavy!
This post was last updated on July 8th, 2019 at 08:46 pm
William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.