The Best Portable Smoker for Road Trips, Camping Trips and Tailgating Reviewed

best portable smoker

BBQ Grill Academy is supported by its readers. We may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you if you buy through a link on this page. Learn more

Want to smoke great meats at your next camping trip or tailgate party? No problem, today we review and bring you the best portable smokers. If you are shopping for the best portable smoker for camping, your next road trip, or tailgating, read on!

Most Portable Smokers include the same features and options as full-sized smoker models. However, small smokers are built and designed for travel and taking them on the road. Sure some small smokers can be portable, but small doesn’t always equal to portable. 

So in this article, we will focus on the attributes that make a smoker portable and bring smoker options in every fuel type. Portable smokers pack unique features like foldable legs and compact designs that make them great for portability. We did some research, listened to customer feedback, and found the top 6 portable smokers with the best portability qualities. 

In This Article for Portable Smokers

  1. Best Portable Charcoal Smoker: The Weber 14-Inch Smokey Mountain Charcoal Cooker
  2. Easy to Transport – The Traeger Ranger
  3. Good Grill and Smoker: The Pit Barrel Cooker Junior
  4. Best Portable Kamado Smoker: The Kamado Joe Jr 
  5. Best Portable Pellet Smoker: The Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett WiFi Controlled Pellet Grill
  6. Best Portable Propane Smoker: The Masterbuilt MPS 20B Patio-2-Portable Smoker
  7. Best Portable Electric Smoker: The Smokin-It Model #1

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. 

These smokers need to include key features to contribute to their portability and ease of carrying. We look for features like foldable pieces, weight, and cooking efficiency.

It is important to get a portable smoker with enough capacity to cook food efficiently and fit in your truck or car. Smaller smokers have smoker components and produce less heat ( BTUs ).

The last thing to consider is the different fuel types compact smokers can use. Each BBQ smoker fuel type has its disadvantages and advantages. But which fuel type will work best depends on the kind of meats you smoke, your cooking style, flavor preferences, and where you plan to take 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.

These are the most important aspects to consider when buying a portable smoker:

Weight 

smoker weight graph illustration

When shopping for a portable 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. 

Size and Capacity

smoker grill space and capacity

Choosing a portable 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. 

These smokers are generally pretty large, stretching the definition of “portable.”

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.

Portability 

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.

Ease of Use 

When on the road or camping site, you want the cooking part 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.

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 smoking meats. In that case, a versatile grill like a small pellet smoker or portable kamado grill will fit the bill.

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 colorable 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 portable smoker will be the best choice.

On the other hand, a pellet 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 the 7 Best Portable Smokers Reviews

We picked the best portable smokers in each fuel source, including charcoal, electric, pellet, kamados, and propane.

1. Best Portable Charcoal Smoker: The Weber 14-Inch Smokey Mountain Charcoal Cooker

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. 

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 simple to use. You can smoke meats and use them 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”
Weight23 pounds
Cooking Capacity / Square Inches:
Materials:Stainless Steel and Painted Steel
Fuel TypeCharcoal
ProsCons
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 – Easy to Transport

Traeger is known for producing high-quality pellet grills, and this portable wood pellet grill is no exception. Take a look at the Trager 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.

Dimensions L 20” x W 21” x H 13”
Weight60 pounds
Cooking Capacity / Square Inches:184 sq in
Materials:Stainless Steel, coated grates
Fuel TypeWood Pellet
ProsCons
Light, small, and easy to carry.
Traeger quality.
A self-contained design can be carried like a toolbox.
Wood pellet taste.
You will need an electrical power outlet.

3. Good Grill and Smoker: The Pit Barrel Cooker Junior

pit barrel cooker accessories

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 receive 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.

Dimensions 33 inches tall and 21.25 inches wide
Weight33 pounds
Cooking Capacity / Square Inches:Six racks of ribs or 1 pork shoulder or one brisket
Materials:Steel Drum
Fuel TypeCharcoal
Pros:Cons:
Efficient, easy to use.
Versatile – can grill and smoke meats.
Easy to transport. Only two parts , drum and lid.
The meat hook systems allows for cooking large amounts food.
Because the drum is one piece, it may not fit in small vehicles.

4. Best Portable Kamado Smoker – The Kamado Joe Jr ( tabletop smoker )

Kamado Joe Jr is made of high-quality materials and offers top-tier features giving you the best possible barbecue experience. 

Like its bigger brothers, the Kamado Joe Junior is a ceramic kamado grill that is very efficient and excellent at grilling and smoking plus it is a quality smoker. Kamado Joe’s includes the revolutionary grate design, Divide & Conquer flexible cooking Systems, which add extra versatility to this kamado grill.

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 Knife of the grilling world. These grills can do any kind of cooking and do it well. This grill is a great tabletop smoker.

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. 

DimensionsL 19.75” x W 20.75” x  H 27”
Weight75 pounds
MaterialsCeramic and Stainless Steel
Cooking Capacity / Square Inches of Cooking:158 sq in
Fuel Type:Charcoal
Pros:Cons:
Ceramic Kamados are very efficient.
Versatile – can grill, smoke and bake.
The removable ash pan makes it easy to clean.
smoker
Built-in temperature gauge.
Built out of ceramic means it will be on the heavy side.

5. Best Portable Pellet Smoker: The Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett WiFi Controlled Pellet Grill

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. 

The Davy Crockett is one of the few grills that can operate using a 12V adapter or a small generator or inverter.

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”
Weight57 pounds
MaterialsStainless Steel with some painted Steel
Cooking Capacity / Square Inches of Cooking:219 sq in
Fuel TypeWood Pellets
ProsCons
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”
Folding Legs
You will need electricity
If you run out of pellets, well, try to find a Lowes.

6. Best Portable Propane Smoker: The Masterbuilt MPS 20B Patio-2-Portable Smoker

Mastersbuilt MPS 20B weighs 22 pounds and measures 16 by 24 by 23 inches. It features a 50,000 BTU of the stainless-steel propane burner, which operates from a 10-gallon propane tank. 

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”
Weight22 pounds
MaterialsStainless Steel
Fuel TypePropane
Cooking Capacity / Square Inches:273 sq in
Cooking SpaceEnough for 2 racks of ribs or 2 pork butts
ProsCons
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 🙁

7. Best Portable Electric Smoker: The Smokin-It Model #1

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”
Weight114 pounds
MaterialsStainless Steel
Fuel TypeElectric ( 800 watts )
Cooking Capacity / Square Inches:468 sq in
Cooking SpaceEnough for 2 racks of ribs or 2 pork butts
Pros:Cons:
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

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

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!

Advantages

  • 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.

Disadvantages

  • 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.

Propane Smokers

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. 

Advantages

  • Easy to use.
  • Porpane tanks are readinly acceseisble.

Disadvantages

  • 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

Disadvantages

  • 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 Smokers

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
  • Tempeture control is handled by the smoker controller, set and forget it.
  • User friendly
  • Most can be purchaed with a built in meat probe.

Disadvantages

  • Electric lol
  • Can be on the heavier side

The Vederic: So which is the best portable smoker

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.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print

RELATED ARTICLES