GRAND FORKS -- They bought it some 50 years ago, a Coleman camp stove of the variety that nearly everyone seemed to have back in those days.
Anyone who camps knows the kind: Green paint, red gas tank, two burners, a little metal “thingie” knob that turns up to light and down to burn – to clean the generator, as I recall – and two wind flaps that fold out from under the lid, to keep the burners from going out during use.
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As camping gear goes, the Coleman camp stove was a classic. Still is, if you can find the version that burns white gas. Good luck with that; I found a dual-fuel version of the camp stove online for $169.99, but the most affordable of today’s camp stoves use those 1-pound propane canisters that are as clumsy as they are wasteful.
This particular Coleman camp stove didn’t get much use over the years. The couple who bought it lived on a farm and didn’t do much camping; there wasn’t time. Plus, they had a national wildlife refuge and plenty of nature right outside their front door. They used the camp stove for a week when the power was out for an extended period several years ago, their son, now 46, recalls. But other than that, the camp stove sat on a shelf in the basement.
The husband died in 2019, and the wife moved off the farm. So began the process of purging many of the belongings accumulated over more than 50 years of marriage.
This past spring, the camp stove came within inches of going into the garbage and most certainly would have, if the son hadn’t been there to rescue it.
On the surface, at least, the camp stove appeared to be in very good shape, but years of disuse had taken a toll. The son gave the old Coleman to a friend who wanted a white gas-burning camp stove for an upcoming camping and fishing excursion but could only find the propane variety without spending more than he wanted to spend.
In the end, the rehab process took more than a good clean-up job, and the gas tank and generator had to be replaced. Finding replacement parts for a classic Coleman camp stove turned out to be no small feat, either, as the company no longer makes the parts.
A website called eReplacementParts.com saved the day .
Several weeks and more than $100 later, the camp stove that nearly ended up in the garbage was in working order and performed like a charm during a July excursion to Isle Royale National Park, percolating several pots of morning coffee and cooking up evening meals for six nights.
The story of the camp stove's road to recovery got me thinking about the old camp stove I had back in high school. Some neighbor kids and I had a shack back in the woods, and the camp stove got a lot of use. I even had a folding oven – also a Coleman brand – that fit across the burners and worked quite well for cooking frozen pizzas.
I also had a single-mantle Coleman lantern that burned white gas just like the stove. Unlike the double-mantle lanterns that sported the classic Coleman green color, my single-mantle lantern was bright red.
Unfortunately, I have no idea what happened to the camp stove, the oven or the single-mantle lantern. They got a ton of use and served me well, but I wish I’d have done a better job of looking after them, if only to look back on younger days and a chapter of life I very much enjoyed.
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Would their value be anything more than sentimental? Probably not, although I suspect the single-mantle lantern might have some value since I had no luck finding one anywhere online. In that context, I’m glad the old Coleman camp stove that nearly ended up in the garbage found a new home.
Spending more than $100 to fix a 50-year-old camp stove might not have been the best investment ever made, since a new dual-fuel version costs about $80 more, but at the same time, the new owner rescued a piece of history by spending the money to fix it.
The odds are good that it will get a lot more use in the next five years than it got in the previous 50 years combined.
From the bowels of an old farmhouse basement to Isle Royale National Park, one of the most beautiful places the North Country has to offer, the old camp stove has made quite a journey on its road to recovery.