The scent of food cooking on a charcoal barbecue or wood fire is one of the joys of summer camping holidays. Not every caravan has enough space left in the lockers to pack the kind of BBQ you might favour in a garden, though. So we’ve tested a selection of portable products designed for compact living.

Before we tested them, however, we debated the pros and cons of gas-fuelled barbecues and traditional charcoal and wood-fired units. Which is better, we wondered?

Charcoal BBQs tend to give food a delicious smoky singed flavour that you simply can’t achieve when you’re cooking with gas. You can even cook with wood, such as hickory, pear wood or apple, to give your meat an extra something special – and it works particularly well with beef steaks and pork. On the other hand, lighting a living fire close to grass and caravans can be risky in hot, dry conditions, so charcoal barbecues are banned on some campsites, especially on the Continent. On top of that, there’s the half hour wait for the coals to turn ash-grey before you cook anything. Plus there’s often an unpleasant smell of various firelighters and accelerants to contend with. 

So what about gas barbecues? They heat up almost instantly and create no ash to clean up after the party. If you use lava rocks or a grill, the fat can drip down and then flare up to singe and flavour the food. The cooking method is a little easier, in that you can often adjust the amount of gas flowing, the height of the grilles and vent openings, to control cooking speeds and heats. Best of all, you can use gas barbecues more safely in hot countries, so they’re favoured by campsites.

In this test we’re looking at the Quest Folding BBQ, which is priced at a modest £21.99.

Top marks to Quest Leisure for producing such a compact charcoal unit — it measures just 36 x 25cm when folded flat in its carry bag. Well, almost flat: the full bag is around an inch thick.

Unfolding the legs and sides and setting up the barbecue is an absolute doddle, and the spacious 31 x 31cm grilling area is certainly not to be sniffed at. We’re sure that the portability and low price will give this product wide appeal not just for camping, but also for picnics on the beach and in the countryside. It only weighs 1.9kg.

Once loaded with charcoal or wood, the vents under the grate make it easier to light than most. Unfortunately the low vents also allow more ash leakage than others here. This could prove an issue, given that the base of the unit sits just 7cm above the ground. Unless you stand this portable product on a heat-proof barbecue stand, you’ll find that hot ash is likely to set fire to dry grass beneath it, making you rather unpopular on the campsite! And once the charcoal fire is lit, you really won’t want to take the risk of trying and lift any kind of folding portable barbecue into a new position.