Want to smoke meats and BBQ at your next camping trip or tailgate party? If you are searching for a good portable smoker, in this article I share my findings after testing and researching the top smoker brands and models.
Sure, some small smokers can be portable, but small doesn’t always equal portable, or good.
Key Features of a Good Portable Smoker
BBQ Smokers are traditionally heavy. Smokers grills have many parts, large cooking chambers, and bigger models are built out of thick gauge steel, making them durable, rust-resistant, but also heavy.
Key features contribute to portability and ease of carrying. We look for features like foldable legs, lightweight components, cooking efficiency, and quality.
It is important to get a smoker with enough capacity to cook food efficiently and fit in your truck or car.
The next factor to consider is the many types of fuel that compact smokers can utilize. Each form of BBQ smoker fuel has advantages and cons. However, the optimal fuel type will depend on the sort of meats you intend to smoke, your cooking methods, flavor preferences, and where you intend to transport your smoker.
For example, if you are planning on buying a smoker for outdoor trips and electricity is unavailable, an electric or pellet grill smoker might not be a good choice, but a portable charcoal smoker will work great.
Consider This when Buying a Portable Compact Smoker:
When shopping for a compact smoker, weight is the most crucial factor to consider. A smoker that weighs 200 or even 100 pounds will be hard to move around and carry.
Traditional smokers are large and heavy because they are designed to cook large amounts of food, hold multiple cooking grates, plus are built out of heavy materials.
2. Size and Capacity
Choosing a smoker model that offers a good balance between size and cooking space is important. There must be enough square inches of cooking surface, a burner or burning box, space for the cooking grates, and decent space for smoke and heat to flow.
So be sure to buy a smoker that can cook enough food but still be able to fit the smoker inside your trunk, car, or RV.
Whether you are looking for a road warrior smoker, tailgating, or trips to the beach, portability is a key attribute of an excellent portable grill or smoker.
Some smokers are designed with fold-out handles, folding legs, making it easier to carry them around and fit them inside your car. Others are designed essentially like self-contained crates boxes, which are the easiest smokers to carry.
4. Ease of Use
When on the road or camping site, you want the cooking part to go smoothly and without any hassles. After all, you are out enjoying the outdoors, trying to relax and recharge. meaning the smoker should be reliable, easy to set up, and easy to operate.
The last thing you want to be doing is reading a manual on your camping trip. 🙂
For instance, a portable LP smoker with an electric battery-powered ignition system will be easy to start and begin cooking fast. Electric smokers are also very easy to use given that that electricity is available.
Pellet and propane smokers are the easiest to use and control cooking temperatures.
5. Versatility and Temperature Range
An excellent portable smoker needs to be versatile and offer a good temperature range. Why? Because when you are at the campsite, your smoker becomes your outdoor kitchen.
Although smokers are meant to smoke meats, when you don’t have any other cooking appliance available, the smoker becomes your grill, stove, and even hairdryer—just kidding! The point here is that the smoker grill will be the only way of cooking foods. Suppose you are planning on doing more than just smoking meat. In that case, a versatile grill like a small pellet smoker or portable Kamado grill will fit the bill.
6. Fuel Source
The last aspect you’ll need to consider is what fuel source you’d like to use. What fuel type do you feel comfortable using? Every fuel source has its arrangement of advantages and disadvantages. But again, how you are going to use your portable smoker and where, plays a role.
For example, if you take your smoker to the beach, you will likely not have access to electricity. Therefore, an electric or pellet smoker will be a bad choice. A charcoal or propane smoker will be the best choice.
On the other hand, a pellet grill or electric-powered smoker can be a better fit if you plan to use the smoker at a camping site, where electricity might be available. You can also opt for a charcoal or propane smoker.
One thing worth mentioning about LP ( liquid propane ) smokers is that you either need to take plenty of propane with you or extra tanks. Or be close to a tank exchange station in case you run out of propane.
Here are Our Top Picks for Portable Smokers
1. The Weber 14-Inch Smokey Mountain Charcoal Cooker – Best Overall
Weber’s Smokey Mountain Cooker has two 14-inch-diameter grates and can handle a good amount of food. The lower frame of the smoker has three air vent dampers to control airflow to the wood chips and charcoal in the charcoal basket.
The Weber Smokey was my first smoker. I used this very same model for years before upgrading to a Green Egg. I loved it and have zero complaints. There are a few things I wish the Smokey did better but for the most part it did a great job.
The metal is a bit thin but the smoker retains heat well. Air flow control is easy but the air vents at the bottom of the grill do get extremely hot and can be hard to adjust.
This smoker includes a built-in lid thermometer, a front door to add charcoal, and a side opening to run meat probe cables. We like the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker because it offers a good balance between cost, quality, and versatility. This smoker is well made and is simple to use. You can smoke meats and use it as a grill.
The exterior of this smoker is enameled coated, which will protect the finish from corrosion and exposure to the elements.
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is available in three different sizes, and all models include the same features. We like the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 14-inch because it is light but offers plenty of inches of cooking space for smoking meats.
However, the best part of these smokers is that they can be broken down into three pieces. The base, the middle or center cylinder, and the top lid, making it easy to pack, transport anywhere, and a great camping smoker.
|Dimensions||L 31.4” x W 14.75” x H 14.75”|
|Cooking Capacity / Square Inches:|
|Materials:||Stainless Steel and Painted Steel|
|Charcoal is available everywhere.|
No electricity is needed.
Charcoal smokers tend to be light.
Temperature gauge ( top lid )
Two cooking grids
|Some users find charcoal difficult to manage.|
2. The Traeger Ranger – Runner Up
Traeger is known for producing high-quality pellet grills, and this portable wood pellet grill is no exception. Take a look at the Traeger Ranger if you want something compact and easy to carry. This grill offers all of the benefits of pellet grills in a small, easy-to-transport design.
We like this grill because it tucks in like a toolbox and can be carried like one. All you have to do is set the desired temperature and enjoy.
I enjoyed the Traeger Ranger so much I decided to keep it in my family and let the kids use. This is a great gill for camping because normally power is available at camping sites. Now, here are a few things to keep in mind, the lid gets hot and if you are cooking for long periods you will find yourself refilling the pellet hopper often.
|Dimensions||L 20” x W 21” x H 13”|
|Cooking Capacity / Square Inches:||184 sq. in|
|Materials:||Stainless Steel, coated grates|
|Fuel Type||Wood Pellet|
|Light, small, and easy to carry.|
A self-contained design can be carried like a toolbox.
Wood pellet taste.
|You will need an electrical power outlet.|
3. The Pit Barrel Cooker Junior – Good Grill and Smoker:
The Pit Barrel Junior, or PBJ, is an excellent choice for individuals who want something economical and simple to operate. Despite its small, light, and compact size, the PBJ can cook large amounts of food thanks to its meat-hanging system. With a weight of only 33 pounds and a height of 33 inches, this smoker can easily fit in the back of your vehicle or truck.
You get a lot for your money. You get a high-quality drum smoker, a grill grate to use as a grill or to smoke meats on, as well as a meat hook hanging system. This smoker is fueled by a large charcoal basket and is simple to operate.
I was able to get my hands on a Pit Barrel and I a wrote a full review on this model. This smoker works well and is simple to use. I like that there aren’t many components to this smoker adding to its simplicity.
What I dislike the most is that there is no charcoal door and every time I ran into issues with the fire I had to do it from the top and in some instances had to remove the food out the smoker. Other than that, love it.
|Dimensions||33 inches tall and 21.25 inches wide|
|Cooking Capacity / Square Inches:||Six racks of ribs or 1 pork shoulder or one brisket|
|Efficient, easy to use. ONLY one air vent to manage the temperature.|
Versatile – can grill and smoke meats.
Easy to transport. Only two parts, a drum, and a lid.
The meat hook system allows for cooking large amounts of food.
|Because the drum is one piece, it may not fit in small vehicles.|
4. The Big Chief Electric Smoker – Great Electric Smoker
What most people don’t realize is that, back in the day, a smokehouse was the way to smoke meat. Fast forward to today, and those smokehouses have been turned into small smoking boxes that I and you can enjoy. Smokehouse Products makes a small 18-pound electric smoker called the Big Chief.
This smoker is built for “cold smoking,” and with its 450 watt heating element, it will reach temperatures of about 160 degrees. This is a small smoker that’s great for taking on the road and cold smoking foods.
|Dimensions||L 12.40” x W 18” x H 27”|
|Cooking Capacity / Square Inches of Cooking:||about 50 pounds of meat|
|Fuel Type:||Electric – 450 watts heating element|
|Easy to use – turn on and the smoker will operate at a constant temperature. ( about 165 degrees F )|
Light and easy to transport.
|Front-loading door gets hot.|
5. The Kamado Joe Jr – Great Portable Kamado Smoker
The Kamado Joe Jr is made of high-quality ceramic and offers top-tier features, which makes it one of the most versatile grills on the market.
Like its bigger brothers, the Kamado Joe Junior is a ceramic Kamado grill that is very efficient and excellent at grilling and smoking, and it is a quality smoker. Kamado Joe’s features a cool grate design called “Divide & Conquer,” which is a modular grate system that allows you to set grates at different heights, use different cooking surfaces, and setup the cooking space in just about any way you want it.
This kamado can smoke, grill, sear steaks, and bake, making the perfect outdoor cooking machine for the campsite or beach trip. The Kamado Joe Junior includes an ash box, a firebox, removable cooking grates, and a built-in temperature thermometer.
Kamado grills are known as the Swiss Army Knife of the grilling world. These grills can do any kind of cooking and do it well. This grill is a great tabletop smoker.
I own a kamado and I can tell you that these grills are amazing. If learn how to manage the charcoal and fire, you can cook anything. High and fast, low and slow. Being made out ceramic means this little guy can last a lifetime but being a ceramic grill also means it can crack.
You have to be kind of gentle to kamados and can’t drop them.
Kamado Joe Jr. Warranty Specs
5 years warranty on ceramics, 5 years on metal parts, 3 years on heat absorption and pizza stone, 1 year on thermometer and gasket.
|Dimensions||L 19.75” x W 20.75” x H 27”|
|Materials||Ceramic and Stainless Steel|
|Cooking Capacity / Square Inches of Cooking:||158 sq in|
|Ceramic Kamados are very efficient.|
Versatile – can grill, smoke, and bake.
The removable ash pan makes it easy to clean.
Built-in temperature gauge.
|Built out of ceramic means it will be on the heavy side.|
6. The Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett WiFi Controlled Pellet Grill – Portable pellet
The Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett is a well-thought-out portable pellet smoker. This smoker offers foldable legs and the unique advantage of operating using your vehicle’s 12-volt outlet. Making it the perfect portable wood pellet grill for camping or a tailgate party.
This smoker has something that no other grill on this list has: WiFi and a good app. When i was testing the David Crockett, it took me a minute to get the app and WiFi, but once I did, it worked great.
The Davy Crockett is one of the few grills that can operate using a 12V adapter, a small generator, or an inverter. I tested the 12 volt adaptor, and it works but the test cost me my car battery. I didn’t have a good battery to begin with but is important I tell you that this thing will pull some amps.
Like many small smokers, uneven temperatures can be an issue. Still, if portability is your main priority and you want a portable pellet smoker, the Davy Crockett is a good fit.
Green Mountain Davie Crockett is a small wood pellet grill smoker, and when folded, it has dimensions of 20 by 28 by 18 inches plus only weighs 57 lbs. It offers 219 square inches of cooking space. The grills controller can be powered by a 12-volt car battery, a car accessory outlet, or a 110-volt household outlet. It typically uses just 60 watts of power.
Another great feature of the Green Mountain Davy Crockett is its WIFI capability. With a mobile app, you can monitor and control the smoker’s temperature using your mobile phone.
|Dimensions||L 20” x W 28” x H 18”|
|Materials||Stainless Steel with some painted Steel|
|Cooking Capacity / Square Inches of Cooking:||219 sq in|
|Fuel Type||Wood Pellets|
|Pellet smokers will yield good wood smoky flavor. ( fuel type wood pellets )|
Meat temperature probe so you can monitor the food and how is cooking.
Using a Pellet grill is as easy as setting the temp in the controller.
“Set it and forget it”
|You will need electricity|
If you run out of pellets, well, try to find a Lowes.
7. The Masterbuilt MPS 20B – Portable Propane Smoker
Mastersbuilt’s MPS 20B weighs 22 pounds and measures 16 by 24 by 23 inches. It features a 50,000 BTU stainless-steel propane burner, which operates from a 1-pound propane can. This smoker is meant to be portable, so the regulator will only accept a one-pound propane tank unless you get an adaptor.
I recommend getting the adaptor as the 1 pound tank might not be enough for long cooks.
The Masterbuilt portable propane smoker offers enough cooking space to smoke turkeys, ribs, chicken, and pork shoulders, all held by two cooking racks. This unit has a push ignition stater making it easy to ignite. Side handles and foldable legs help to move the grill in and out of your vehicle. Add some wood chips to the smoker box and enjoy.
Specifications for the Masterbuilt Portable Propane Smoker
Propane Gas grill material: Metal with stainless steel doors. Cooking area of 280×220. 1 Burner BTU/hour of production: 5,000.
|Dimensions||L 16” x W 24” x H 23”|
|Cooking Capacity / Square Inches:||273 sq in|
|Cooking Space||Enough for 2 racks of ribs or 2 pork butts|
|These smokers are easy to operate.|
No electricity is needed.
Set it and forget it.
Propane is easy to find at gas stations and convenience stores.
Folding legs and folding side handles.
Front door mounted temperature gauge.
|These smokers need to burn flavoring wood to yield BBQ smoky flavor.|
Usually, there is minimal warning when propane is running out; you just run out 🙁
8. The Smokin-It Model #1 – Portable Electric Smoker
This electric smoker is simple to use and an excellent choice for camping. The smoker cabinet is stainless steel, with four-inch caster wheels on all four legs. The smoker is 22 inches tall and weighs about 114 pounds.
This smoker’s source of heat is an 800 wats heating element that is replaceable. Although this portable electric smoker is small, it is heavy, but it comes with foldable handles to help you move it around.
This is an excellent restaurant-quality portable electric smoker that can be used wherever reliable electricity is available.
|Dimensions||L 24” x W 20” x H 22”|
|Fuel Type||Electric ( 800 watts )|
|Cooking Capacity / Square Inches:||468 sq in|
|Cooking Space||Enough for 2 racks of ribs or 2 pork butts|
|Super easy to use.|
Set it and forget it.
Can be a good choice for those with a reliable power source and who want to smoke for long periods without worrying about running out of fuel.
Stainless steel construction cabinet.
|Portable Electric smokers don’t produce that authentic smokey flavor, so be sure to bring plenty of wood chips.|
Can be hard to use in certain campsites as power is limited, and small generators might struggle to run a smoker plus other appliances.
If you are at the beach, it is very unlikely that you will find a power plug in the sand 🙂
Fuel type electric 🙁
Types of Portable Smokers
There are different types of portable smokers, each with its own advantages and divagates.
Smoker grills can be found in a variety of shapes, sizes, and fuel types. Each type will add unique attributes to portability and ease of use while on the road.
Charcoal smokers are the most common choice for campers, beachgoers, and tailgaters because charcoal is readily accessible, and no external source power is needed. You can take charcoal with you, and if you run out of charcoal, the gas station down the street will likely have small charcoal bags available.
Charcoal is the closest thing to cooking with fire, and we all know that humans have been cooking with fire since the Stone Age.
Because these smokers don’t have electrical components, wires, and burners, they tend to be lighter and more compact than pellet and electric food smokers.
A charcoal grill design is simple by nature, and that contributes to portability. Charcoal grills offer the greatest control over temperature and flavor.
Charcoal alone produces great BBQ flavor, and when combined with smoking wood, the results are authentic BBQ flavor food.
Advantages of portable charcoal smokers
- They are light.
- Usually less expensive than propane, electric or pellet smokers.
- Simple to use anywhere, no electricity needed.
- Can find charcoal anywhere.
Disadvantages of charcoal smokers
- Some users might not know or enjoy using a charcoal grill. But you can learn how to light a charcoal grill here.
- Charcoal can be messy.
- Tempeture control requires some skills and knowldge but is not rocket science. You just need to learn how to operate air dampers.
Pellet smokers use wood pellets as fuel. The wood pellets are fed from the pellet hopper into a burning box through an electrical auger.
The controller automatically manages the feeding of pellets, controlling temperature and burn rate.
Besides needing electricity to operate the controllers, auger, and fans, they are pretty much self-contained.
Wood pellet BBQ smokers and pellet grills require a power connection to run their electronics. Still, the smokers are easy to use, easy to control temperature, and yield great smoky flavor since they burn wood pellets.
Beginners like pellet grills and smokers because they are electronically controlled and are pretty much a set and forget it grills. Add a bag of wood pellets to the pellet hopper, push the power button, let the pellet grill turn on, set the cooking temperature, and grab a beer. Seriously is that simple!
- Easy to use – set and forget it.
- Produce great flavor since you are burning wood.
- Great smokers for camping since they require little monitoring; the controller handles temperature control.
- A pellet grill or smoker can be more expensive than a charcoal equivalent.
- The grill needs electricity to operate. No power, no food!
- Can be heavy due to all the internal components.
- A wood pellet bag can be a commodity in some places. Meaning you won’t find one at every convenience store.
These smokers are easy to use, and propane stoves and other propane appliances are typically found at camping sites. It is easy to pack a few propane tanks or find a place to refill your propane tanks.
These smokers, much like pellet grills, take the guesswork out of temperature control, and a temperature dial is all is touched to set the correct cooking temperature. People like this simplicity.
- Easy to use.
- Porpane tanks are readinly acceseisble.
- Propane alone won’t yield good flavor, so smoking wood must be used.
Kamado Smokers and Grills
Kamado grills are the most versatile smokers/cookers you can buy, and our favorites Kamdos can do it all, grill, smoke, and bake. These grills can replace many cooking appliances in your kitchen and backyard.
These grills are very efficient and built out of ceramic means they can retain and ready heat very well. Kakamdos do a great job at cooking and smoking meats yielding great results.
However, because these grills are made out of ceramic, even a little one can be heavy. But if you want the best and are looking for something that will last years and do it all, kamados are a good fit for you.
Advantages of portable kamado smokers
- High quality and durability.
- Extremely efficient and great cookers built using quality materials.
- Can bake, grill, and do it all, even double as a fire pit when camping.
- Easy to turn into a smoker using a smoker box. Using a smoke or wood chip box is very easy.
- This little guy can be heavy due to their ceramic construction.
- High price tag, but that comes with quality.
- Can be delicate and break if dropped, ouch.
- Tempeterue control can be tricky to master at first but once you get it is not that hard.
Electric BBQ smokers are similar to gas smokers because they are easy to use and offer “set it and forget” functionality. Instead of propane, an electrical heating element heats the wood chip box and water pan cooking with heat and steam. The temperature of an electric smoker can be controlled with a dial, just like on a stovetop.
An electric meat smoker will require a reliable source of electricity, something that can be a luxury in some camping sites and limited at the beach. Whereas pellet grills need electricity to operate components, electric meat smokers need stable energy to power the electric heating element.
Advantages of portable electric Meat smokers
- Easy to use
- Temperature control is handled by the smoker’s controller; set and forget it.
- User friendly
- Most can be purchased with a built-in meat probe.
- Electric lol
- Can be on the heavier side
Conclusion: My Pick
If your budget allows for it, the Kamado Joe Jr is the best portable smoker you can buy. It can smoke and grill extremely well, and if well cared for, it will last years.
If a kamado grill does not fit your budget, the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is a great charcoal smoker with an extraordinary and proven track record.
The important thing here is to find a smoker that fits your budget, is light, and you feel comfortable using. Some people do like dealing charcoal and will never touch an electric smoker.
Grab two racks of ribs, your favorite drink, a chair, and enjoy great food and the outdoors.
Portable Smoker FAQs
How do I choose the best smoker for camping?
For camp, a mobile pellet smoker should be reliable, adaptable, easy to store, and easy to move about. Other features which you must keep in mind are listed below. Read about the safety of the portable electric or pellet electric smoker.
What type of wood chips or pellets can I use for smoking meats?
This post oak, hickory, and mesquite are popular wood chips flavors, but ultimately your taste and preferences will influence what wood flavor you like best.
What is the Top portable smoker for Road Trips and camping?
The Kamado Junior is a great travel companion and amazing for camping. Kamado grills can cook, bake, grill, smoke making them perfect for camping.
Are electric smokers good for camping?
Electric smokers are good for camping given that you have a reliable electric power outlet near you. These smokers need and require electricity.