There are 4 main types of fuels for camp stoves. We are going to walk you through each one along with its pro and cons so that you can decide what camp stove is best for you.
So what type of fuel do camp stoves use?
The four mainstream types of fuel for camp stoves are propane or isobutane canisters, white gas or liquid fuel, kerosene, and unleaded gasoline. Propane and white gas are the most widely used but each of these four fuels has its upside and downside.
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Which fuel sources do camp stoves use?
Camp stoves run on a few different types of fuel sources. Depending on what you get, the longevity of the fuel will differ. Let’s go over the fuel sources that are often used and how long each should last!
Propane (canister fuel) Stoves
One of the more popular fuel sources for camp stoves on the market is propane. Many camp stoves are compatible with only propane, in fact. Why is propane such a popular choice? Let’s discuss.
Propane is less noxious than other fuels
Propane is the result of refining crude oil. After being refined, it is colorless and odorless at room temperature (roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit.) As it heats up, you may smell light fumes, but it will be nowhere near as thick and noxious as gasoline, for example.
Propane burns cleaner than some substances
While propane is not the cleanest of fuel sources, it’s a great deal cleaner than gasoline. Your environmental impact is lowered by a significant amount when you choose this fuel to power your camp stove with.
There are multiple types of propane
Propane can be mixed with butane and isobutane to make for ideal camp stove fuel depending on the conditions you’ll be camping in. Butane-propane is great for warm weather camping and its isobutane-propane counterpart is more suitable for cold weather camping.
How long does propane stove last?
Ultimately, you will want to know how long propane and its mixtures will last while you are cooking on your camping trip.
- 16 oz. of pure propane fuel should last through 2-3 hours of continuous cooking. For a four day trip, you will likely need to use 1.5-2 propane canisters.
- 16 oz. of isobutane-propane should last through 3-4 hours of continuous camping, according to some seasoned campers. If you were to take a 3-5 day trip, you should bring 2 canisters to be safe.
- 16 oz. of butane-propane in warm weather should last as long as isobutane-propane, but in cold weather, your cook time would be cut in half, according to other campers with prior experience.
For more information about gas canisters, check out this article that we wrote. Camping Gas Canisters ( Price, How long they last, Comparisons )
Camp stoves that use propane fuel
There are multiple camp stoves that use propane or some mixture of it. Some of these are:
- The Coleman classic propane stove. This camp stove is compact and gets the job done. There’s a reason that Coleman has been the standard for camping gear for decades! For pricing information, click on this link.
- The Coleman bottle top propane stove is perfect for campers who want to pack lighter and those who cook for themselves or a small group. It’s relatively inexpensive and is highly rated with over 1,000 reviews! For pricing information, click on this link.
- Several models of the Jetboil stoves use isobutane-propane fuel! If you want their special brand of fuel, you can find it when you click on this link.
White Gas (liquid fuel) Stoves
Some camp stove fuel does not come in a pre-pressurized canister. You fill it yourself instead. One example of the liquid fuel you can use for your camp stove is white gas. We’re going to go in-depth about this liquid fuel and how long you can expect it to last. First, though, let’s talk about why it’s so popular!
White gas burns cleaner than other fuel
White gas (or Coleman fuel) is renowned for its purity. You will find no cleaner fuel on the market! There are no toxic additives to worry about, and this purity makes it easier to store and carry on your trip.
White gas burns faster and hotter
White gas burns hotter and brighter than other fuels for camping stoves. Your food will cook faster as a result, leaving you more time to gather with your family and friends and bond over good food and shared experiences.
White gas can be used in all seasons
Some fuel for camping stoves do not fare well in colder temperatures. With white gas, you don’t have to worry about a significant loss of fuel. It has a low flash point and evaporates quickly. (The downside to this is that the substance is still volatile. Handle it with care when lighting your camp stove.)
How long does white gas last?
A 10 oz. container of white gas (Coleman fuel) should last for one weekend if you only cook for a small group or yourself. You should bring 2-3 just to be safe.
Its shelf life, however, ranges from 1-7 years. If you do not open your fuel canister, then it lasts for 5-7 years in the right conditions (stored at room temperature.) If you do open it, the fuel is only good for another year.
Camp stoves that use white gas
Some of the best camp stoves that are powered by white gas are:
- The MSR WhisperLite camping stove. This compact stove is perfect for a single person backpacking or camping out! It’s made to last; the stove itself is made of stainless steel and brass. For pricing information, click on this link.
- The 2-burner Coleman classic fuel stove again tops the charts when it comes to camp stoves! It runs on Coleman fuel (white gas.) Since they are the company that came up with this game-changing liquid fuel, you can rely on them to provide a great camp stove! For pricing information, click on this link.
Kerosene is a classic form of liquid fuel, though it has somewhat declined in popularity in recent years. Let’s discuss some of the pros and cons of this fuel as well as the camp stoves you can use with kerosene.
Kerosene is affordable
Kerosene fuel is incredibly affordable, beating both white gas and propane in that aspect. On average, you can expect to pay around $15 for 32 oz., while a 16 oz. canister of white gas can cost the same. If you are camping on a tight budget, kerosene maybe your best option.
Kerosene is not eco-friendly
One of the major downsides to using kerosene fuel is that it is a pollutant, as all fossil fuels are. Because it is a fossil fuel, it’s also non-renewable. Kerosene exhausts resources that the world can never get back. You should never cook with it in small spaces indoors, as it can cause you to become ill.
Kerosene is highly flammable
This can be either a good or bad thing. You don’t have to go through endless frustration to light it, but this can be very dangerous if you spill it around open flame or crash your vehicle on the way to your destination.
How long does kerosene last?
On average, kerosene tends to last for a weekend if you use 32. oz. This isn’t as long as other fuels burn with less liquid.
Camp stoves that use kerosene
Your options are few if you want a kerosene-powered camp stove. You will have an easier time finding kerosene lanterns instead. However, if your mind’s made up, the following camp stove uses kerosene:
- The MSR WhisperLite multi-fuel backpacking stove allows you to use either kerosene or unleaded gas to cook your food. It’s compact enough to fit in a backpack, and it is relatively inexpensive for a stove of its caliber. For pricing information, click on this link.
Unleaded Gasoline Stoves
Unleaded gasoline is another fossil fuel that you can use to power your camp stove, though we would not recommend it over any of the other fuels listed. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of using unleaded gas for your camp stove and help you find some stoves that are compatible.
Gasoline is not eco-friendly
Again, unleaded gasoline is both a pollutant and non-renewable. You could harm yourself and others in the long-term just by breathing it in for too long. Though it is not technically toxic to you if your cookout is in the open air, avoiding it would be better if you have other options.
Gasoline is expensive
In some parts of the United States, unleaded gasoline is relatively affordable. However, in states like California, one gallon of gas can cost up to $5. This is absolutely not ideal because you can get cleaner, better fuel for less than you ultimately would if you were to cook using gasoline.
Gasoline is easy to get
In some states, you can’t have certain fuels shipped to you. California is one of these states. If you’re stuck without them, then you can always go to the gas station and get fuel for your camp stove.
How long does unleaded gasoline last?
For a camp stove, unleaded gasoline will last for around 2.5-3 hours of continuous cooking if you only have 40 oz. As you can see, this is a significantly quick burnout time. If you use it sparingly, you may get 3-4 days of use out of it.
Camp stoves that use unleaded gasoline
Some camp stoves allow you to use more than one type of fuel, and unleaded gas will be an option. These camp stoves are:
- The Coleman Sportster II dual fuel 1-burner stove. This compact camp stove allows you to burn either unleaded gas or Coleman fuel (white gas.) You can fit it in your backpack if you are camping light, and this stove can hold up through all types of weather. For pricing information, click on this link.
- The MSR WhisperLite multi-fuel backpacking stove also gives you the option of using unleaded gasoline, and it is easy to clean and set up! This is perfect for backpackers on a budget. For pricing information, click on this link.
How long do camp stoves last?
As to how long the stoves themselves last, it depends on the fuel that you use and the brand that you buy from. For instance, a camp stove that uses gasoline will get damaged within a year if proper maintenance isn’t meticulously done. A stove that uses this fuel gets clogged quickly.
On the other end of the spectrum, a camp stove that uses white gas (Coleman fuel) can last for multiple years because this fuel doesn’t clog up the necessary parts of your stove. It’s all about the purity of what you are using. If you use fuel full of additives and pollutants, your stove’s longevity isn’t great.
Big names in the camp stove world are more likely to offer you warranties for broken stoves. They are also made of stronger stuff than the competition. One of the best on the market is Jetboil. Jetboil stoves may be more expensive, but you get what you pay for!
Other things to note about camp stoves
While you have gotten a good picture of what you can expect from the camp stoves on the market and how long the fuel lasts, you have to understand that there are variables that you should be aware of. Your experience varies depending on your choices.
- Stoves burn at varying power levels. If you use a high-powered camp stove, your food heats up faster and you may use less fuel. Each product should tell you what you can expect when it comes to BTUs.
- The weather that you camp in affects fuel usage. Some fuels aren’t ideal to use with your camp stove if you are camping during the winter months. The pressure in the cans will lower as temperatures do. This affects the longevity of your fuel.
- Camp stoves require regular maintenance. Your stove is like any other appliance; you need to take care of it. If you don’t, pieces can get clogged and stop working. Always clean your camp stove before and after your trip for the best quality.
- Not every camp stove offers fuel compatibility. Some stoves that you purchase will only use white gas or only propane. If you can use multiple fuel sources, then the product description should let you know.
- If you are cooking for a larger group, you will need more fuel. More cook time takes up more fuel, and it also depends on how long you plan to stay for. If you are camping for the weekend with five people and every meal must be cooked on your stove, bring double the cans that you thought you would need. If you are alone, you’ll use less, especially if you don’t cook every single meal.
- Use the fuel that best fits your situation, but be aware of the dangers. Some substances are more volatile than others. If you aren’t prepared to deal with that, then you should stick to something safe. If you are on a budget and you need to use kerosene, that’s fine. If you can afford other options, though, you should. Using too many fossil fuels is dangerous not only for ourselves but for the entire planet.
In summary, the longevity of your camp stove and the fuel that you use will depend on many factors. You can look at the average consensus for a better idea of what you’re facing, but the ultimate decision is up to you and your specific needs.