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I tried the Weber Traveler, the new $325 collapsible, portable grill. Here's what happened

The Traveler is Weber's first new portable gas grill in over 17 years.

weber-traveler
Weber

When Weber comes out with something new in the small or portable grill category, it's kind of a big deal. At least, for me it is. The popular $219 Weber Q -- one of the brand's only other portable gas grills -- has topped my list of best small grills two years running, and it didn't appear another grill would topple it anytime soon. Unless, perhaps, that grill came Weber itself. The top-rated grilling brand recently launched its second-ever model that's marketed as portable: A larger, collapsible grill they're calling the Traveler. My attention was grabbed by the sleek, black, foldable, propane grill that snaps up like one of those urban grocery pushcarts. When collapsed, the Traveler can be rolled around on two wheels but it still features a substantial 320 square inches of grilling capacity. It currently retails for $325 on Weber's website. 

Read more: The best portable grill for 2021

As someone who frequents campgrounds and warm-weather park hangs, a reliable portable grill is always a compelling proposition. Earlier this year, I discovered the best truly portable grill, the Nomadiq propane grill, which folds up into a case the size of a handbag and so I fancied myself on a hot streak. I was curious if Weber -- ever an innovator in the grilling space -- could drop another portable grill to shake up the category as they did with the original Weber Q. I recently got my hands on the Traveler to see how Weber's latest portable grill stacks up against the field, as well as its own reputation. Read on for a hood-to-wheels review of the brand new Weber Traveler portable gas grill. 

Assembly and setup

Right out of the box the Weber Traveler was off to a great start. Setting up this grill took -- I kid you not --  no more than eight minutes from cutting open the packaging to literal ignition. To get grilling, you simply stick a dowel through the legs, fix the wheels onto both sides, stand it up, plop down the cast iron grill grates and peel off a few instructional stickers. Ta-da!

wever-setup
David Watsky/CNET

Mobility

If you've seen Weber's marketing video for the Traveler, it leads you to believe the grill is extremely portable with images of would-be adventurers dragging the collapsible grill on hiking trails, over rock formations, and the like. I should start by saying that all feels like a bit of a stretch. While the Traveler does fold up easily and can be dragged around without too much effort, it is still rather heavy -- 47 pounds to be exact -- especially with the grill grates inside. I personally wouldn't want to drag or carry this grill on a hike or even a long walk. 

The big draw is that the Traveler is essentially a full-sized grill with legs that folds up to be no more than a foot wide and is something you can slide into the trunk or even the backseat of your car with relative ease. It's portable in the sense that it's easy to move from one semi-permanent location to another but, at that weight, it's not the right grill for a beach day or to take on a wander in the woods. 

weber-open
David Watsky/CNET

How well did it grill?

Once assembled, it was time to give the Weber a go at its most important duty. At 1,300 BTUs, the Weber has a good punch of power for a "portable" grill so I expected some serious heat. The ignitor worked and the grill lit on the first attempt. The internal temp quickly rose to just about 500 degrees F with the lid closed but didn't exceed that temp. Worth noting that 500 is a good mark to hit for high-heat grilling -- things like steaks, burgers and in my case, tuna. The tuna steaks and sausages I plunked down on the grill grates got a nice sear with pretty grill marks in about 10 minutes (five on each side). 

Next, I wanted to see how well I could control the temperature for lower-slower grilling candidates. There's just one knob to control the fuel output and while the temp did drop when I lowered it, it was difficult to precisely control the temp one way or the other. That's not uncommon with grills but if you're looking for pinpoint low-and-slow cooking, this might not be the product for you.

There were also some noticeable cold spots on the grill, mostly around the edges. Again, not uncommon for gas or charcoal grills but I thought these cold spots were maybe just a little more pronounced than with the Weber Q. In fairness, the Q grill has a smaller grilling surface which could account for the difference

Read more: The best fish to grill, according to an expert

weber-grill-greate
David Watsky/CNET

Grill size

Speaking of surface size, at 320 square inches of grilling space, this has more than enough capacity for any grilling situation I find myself in. If you're cooking for more than 10 people you may have to grill in batches but for a portable grill, 320 is more than suitable to cook at least 10 burgers or pieces of chicken at once. Weber says it holds 15 burgers at once but I suspect that would be a tight fit.

Cleanup

The Traveler is not much easier or more difficult to clean than your standard gas grill. There's a drip tray to catch the worst of it and you can easily remove the grill grates to clean the inside of the firebox or hull of the grill. The grates are best taken to the sink or a hose for rinsing. Be aware they are cast iron and on the heavy side. 

weber-closed
David Watsky/CNET

Final verdict

As far as I'm concerned, Weber is the standard for quality consumer grills at the mid to upper mid-range price category and so my expectations for its products are high. The Weber Traveler portable gas grill didn't disappoint and I think this a solid value at $325. It's a sturdily built unit that comes together in a snap and is completely user-friendly to boot. If you've never grilled a single day in your life, I still don't think you have any problems assembling and operating this grill. The Traveler got and stayed nice and hot (hit 500 degrees F in minutes) and controlling the temperature -- while not perfectly precise -- was fine for the type of grilling most people do. It's also large enough to be your permanent, everyday home grill.

I don't know if the complaint is the right word, but I would contend the Traveler is slightly less portable than the brand would have you believe. It's heavier than any other portable grill I've tested and I would categorize the Traveler as a semi-portable grill and not a truly portable grill. Still, if you want a grill that feels permanent while it is engaged but can still be moved quickly from one part of the house to another or lugged by car to a campsite or park barbecue, the Weber Traveler is as good -- and easy -- as grilling is going to get.

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