If you want to be a happy camper while spending time in the great outdoors, you should pay attention to your meal preparation. In particular, you should ensure simple and convenient preparations for your food, which entails getting the right microwave for a camping setting. It was around 2008 when 12V or 12-volt microwaves were introduced to the public, which was a great milestone for microwave technology.
With them, you can speed up meal preparation when camping without worrying about depleting your energy resources (whether from solar panels and the sun or your RV battery and how much fuel is left in your tank). So what are the Best Microwaves for Camping out there exactly?
What Should You Look for When It Comes to Camping Microwaves?
A 12-volt or more compact microwave that has 600w to 1.1Kw of watt consumption is ideal for camping as an off-grid electronics device.
Further Reading: Small Microwave Oven, 0.6 Cubic Feet, 600-watt
You also want a microwave of the right size. You want a device that’s portable or at least small enough to fit inside the tiny kitchen of a recreational vehicle (RV) or camper. More to the point:
- Portable or Non-Portable: Your 12-volt microwave oven unit should be portable or at least small. The smallness of the microwave unit allows you to fit it anywhere. A microwave that’s bigger than a Coleman icebox might be too big for camping but at least it’s big enough for a standard home microwave. However, for travel and off-grid activities, a compact or even portable microwave is the way to go.
- Wattage and Voltage Consideration: Barring the 12-volt microwave, you can look for a 600-watt to 1.1-kilowatt microwave instead (perfect wattage for a solar-powered RV or a camper with a solar battery). You can also avail of one with an AC/DC model that won’t stress your battery pack if you’re camping off-grid without any electricity available. It’s designed to ensure that you won’t sap your electricity storage in one go just because you want to heat up a hot pocket.
- What Should Your Camping Microwave Be Used For? Your microwave for camping should have enough watts and power to heat up water, defrost meats (so you’ll also need a refrigerator inside your RV), and cook meals. It should have enough space inside it to fit in most meals and dishes but still be compact enough to not eat up space on your countertop. It should also be tough enough to deal with rigorous camping.
- Food To Bring to Camping: If you’re taking a microwave with you for camping it must mean you want an alternative way to cook your food that doesn’t involve preparing a barbecue or using your grill or frying pan. This means getting TV dinners and some such that you can easily prepare with your microwave. You want something that works with approximately 700 watts (or even 600 watts) of power or can fit with 0.7 cubic feet of space.
- What Should Your Camping Microwave Be Made of? Your microwave should be made of steel, reinforced ABS plastic, and rubber to make it last longer and work in a camping setting. This is especially true if you’ll be placing your unit out in the wilderness by hooking it up extension cords galore. You want it to survive rough handling and the elements when push comes to shove.
- Camping Microwave Issues to Watch Out For: Customer reviews tend to complain about a camping microwave’s smallness and lack of power. There are even some 12-volt microwaves that became unavailable on Wal-Mart, Amazon, and Cabela due to complaints about camping microwaves. It’s mostly about the sacrifices you have to make in order to make them viable for use in campers and RVs without sapping your battery life or a whole day of solar cell charging in just a few uses.
- Consider the Customer Reviews: An easy way to tell if a camping microwave is worthwhile or not is by their reviews. With them, you can get a better idea of the abilities of the microwave at the 600-watt to the 1.1-kilowatt range to how their customer service handles complaints. You can stay clear of the microwaves with many negative reviews and 1-star ratings. There are camping microwaves out there that overcome the size limitations and excessive run times to heat up beverages.
- Warranty, Repair, and Parts Availability: Although it’s a little more expensive than usual, your camping microwave should come from a name brand like Samsung and Sharp in order to ensure that you won’t have issues when it comes to warranty, repair, and parts availability. Otherwise, check the reviews if the machine is made in China because if that’s the case, the parts might not be available for you in the U.S.A.
- Pricing Considerations: This is another point. You can get for $335 an AC/DC camping microwave and around $300 the DC-only version, thus necessitating the use of an inverter or converter to make it work with your power sources. Although you might think that the smaller the microwave is and the lower its wattage the more inexpensive it should be, that might not necessarily be the case. You might be paying for convenience and portability, which adds to its cost.
- Must-Have Benefits of a Camping Microwave: Your camping microwave should be convenient instead of cumbersome to your camping needs. It should either work with your solar power or your RV’s battery. Some might not even require electricity so that they can conveniently run when you’re camping or traveling. With them, you can produce delicious dishes and non-perishable microwaveable goods such as instant meals, soup, and popcorn.
- The Importance of Compactness: No matter how big your RV is, it will never be as big as a house. You will have a tiny kitchen, so therefore you should have a compact microwave that can fit inside it without eating up your countertop space. Your unit should be small enough to slip into the center console of your vehicle. Otherwise, it should be a little bigger than a lunchbox so that you can heat up inside it lunchbox-sized meals at least.
- Emergency Use: A compact 600-watt or so microwave can be quite handy for energy conservation. You can even avail of the WaveBox in case you want to be able to microwave without energy. If you suffer from power outages or your car battery ran out of juice, you can use the WaveBox 12-volt microwave to be able to enjoy microwavable dinners and coffee as well as instant noodles within a few minutes of time.
- Battery Drain: Even if your microwave runs at 12 volts of electricity, it can drain out your car battery rather quickly. Be careful not to run your energy storage device down to the point that your RV or camper won’t start. A solar battery is rechargeable so you can use it with your camper microwave, but even then you should watch out when it comes to draining a whole day’s worth of power from merely defrosting a pack of chicken quickly.
- Load Tests Your Battery: Have your RV’s battery load tested before camping or leaving the city. This way, you have a better understanding of the limits of your energy sources and how many times you can use your microwave prior to your camping expedition or odyssey. The watts of your microwave and the load your battery can take should dictate when and how long you can use your microwave oven as well as how often it should be used.
- Precautions and Capacity: If you’re using your car or RV battery instead of a solar battery for your camping needs, then remember to start your vehicle occasionally to recharge the battery from time to time in order to counteract battery drain due to you frequently using your microwave. Finally, check the capacity of your microwave. How quickly does it cook meals or even prepare microwavable TV dinners? Is it more worthwhile to invest in propane instead of a camper microwave for your situation?
- Special Deals and More: Most campers lack enough cooler space, so it pays to get a camping microwave that comes with its on the cool bag to keep your food cool until you’re ready to microwave them piping hot. Some microwaves can double as breakfast stations, such as the Nostalgia Breakfast Station. They’re handy because you can do things like making coffee and toast while defrosting your chicken or ground beef in one machine. Just remember that as long as the microwave meets the 600-watt and 0.6 to 0.7 cubic feet capacity requirements, it’s considered a camping microwave.
Product Reviews for The Best Microwaves for Camping
Here’s a shortlist of the best camping microwaves available. They can work with solar-powered RVs or campers. They can conserve your car or solar battery as well as gas consumption even as you live off-grid from the local power plants.
The Commercial Chef 600-watt Rotary Microwave Oven CHM660W is on the same boat as the Sharp Microwave. The 4.5 out of 5 stars (2,490 ratings) has similar ratings as the Sharp Microwave, but more reviewers or verified Amazon purchasers can vouch for its high ratings. As a standard countertop oven, it’s decent to mediocre with a 0.6 cubic feet capacity but as a camping microwave oven for solar-powered RVs or for campsites that depend on the car battery for electricity, it truly shines as the cream of the crop.
According to the kilowatt reader, the device actually consumes 950 watts instead of only 600 watts. However, all microwaves are inefficient and even with its real watt reading, the Commercial Chef Microwave still falls under the 1.1Kw threshold. In other words, it’s only outdone by Amazon’s own portable microwave offerings when it comes to energy efficiency and overall ratings relative to the amount of people rating it. It also has all the niceties of a standard microwave, from the turntable to the multiple timer settings.
- Relatively inexpensive.
- Straightforward and easy to use.
- Dependable for defrosting and reheating.
- 600-watt microwave with 0.6 cubic feet capacity.
- The timer keeps food from drying out or getting overcooked.
- Quality control issues in the reviews.
- It’s smaller than the 0.7 cubic feet microwaves on this list.
Did you know that Amazon itself is making their own microwaves? The Amazon Basics Microwave is rated 4.4 out of 5 stars by 20,791 ratings. It’s not bad for microwave and has the Amazon seal of quality with it. Just like how Ring video doorbells can easily integrate with Alexa and your Amazon smart apps, so too can the Amazon Basics Microwave can work with your Echo if you have one. It’s easy enough to set up.
With that said, in regards to its performance as a camping microwave, its decent but its score dropped from a perfect 5-star rating to 4.4 stars for a reason, and it’s not just the 20,000+ ratings and reviewers balancing things out. You have to be careful when using the microwave in order to avoid overusing it. Because of its size, there’s a real chance of it overheating when used and abused for too long.
- 700-watt microwave.
- The compact size of 0.7 cubic feet.
- Includes a child lock, turntable, and 10 power levels.
- It’s easy to set up Echo with it and it works fine for the most part.
- It works with Alexa and voice controls. Loads of cool voice features.
- Great for camping classics like microwaving popcorn and TV dinners.
The Sharp 700-watt microwave is comparable to the Amazon Basics Microwave in wattage and compactness (it occupies about 0.7 cubic feet of space and a capacity of 0.7 pounds). It’s colored white and it is made of steel. It also weighs about 21.4 pounds, so it’s rather heavy for a portable camping microwave. Normally, its main point of contention is its size, but since it’s being used in the context of camping, its smallness is to its benefit.
Rather, it’s as convenient as a standard microwave with its multitude of functions yet as small as a portable microwave like the 12-volt WaveBox camping microwave. Regardless, its wattage and energy consumption is what makes it viable for RV usage. This unit is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars by 376 ratings. The Amazon Basic might be the more popular microwave, but by virtue of percentages, the Sharp ZSMC0710BW is pound-for-pound the better microwave due to fewer complaints regarding its performance.
- 700-watt microwave.
- 10-inch carousel table.
- The countertop installation type.
- The compact size of 0.7 cubic feet.
- It has a capacity of 0.7 pounds.
- Instant start care of its +30-seconds key.
- Weighs 21.4 pounds so it’s relatively lightweight.
- It’s capable of auto defrost, timed defrost, and timed cooking.
- You can’t fit 11-inch dinner plates on it.
- The reviews were mostly concerned about its size limitations.
Last but not least is the Nostalgia 3-in-1 Family Size Breakfast Station. The Breakfast Station by Nostalgia is rated 4.4 out of 5 stars by 2,335 Amazon customers. This makes it the highest-rated “microwave” (or multi-function microwave with coffee maker and toaster included) unit on this list next to the Amazon Basics Microwave. Does it earn its stripes as a camping microwave? Absolutely. This is especially true if you’re worried about using a toaster and coffeemaker at the same time.
You won’t have to worry about the under $100 Nostalgia Microwave draining all of your car battery’s power or solar battery’s power in just a few goes since it was developed with energy conservation in mind. Its wattage is quite impressive and you can get two variants out of it depending on how much you’re willing to pay. For $80, you can get the aqua model. For $100, you can get the red model. It’s also one of the lightest appliances on this list at 13.1 pounds.
- Cleanup is easy.
- Weighs 13.1 pounds.
- The toaster can toast 2-4 bread slices.
- It includes a 30-minute auto shut-off timer.
- 3-in-1 microwave, toaster, and coffee maker.
- A coffee maker can make up to 4 cups of coffee.
- The griddle lid is non-stick and its handle stays cool.
- The griddle lid is non-stick and its handle stays cool.
- Microwave function is no more complex than an easy bake oven.
- Microwave capacity smallness due to other attachments and devices.
The Final Judgment
Commercial Chef is the best one of the bunch, followed by Nostalgia and its 3-in-1 gimmick. Sharp and Amazon Basics are viable alternatives.
A microwave might not be as important as a propane camp stove or camping food recipes, but having a viable microwave for use in camping or off-grid travel can be quite convenient. If your location is off-grid and you’re depending mostly on your RV fuel and solar panel batteries for power, it pays to have a meal prep device like a 600-watt microwave handy. They speed up your meal preparation when you’re camping and they’ve been doing so since 2008. They can make the most out of your stored electrical power.