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Thread: Propane vs White Gas

  1. #1
    Super Moderator renodesertfox is on a distinguished road renodesertfox's Avatar
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    Oct 2008
    Northern Wasatch Mountains

    Question Propane vs White Gas

    Howdy Campateers,
    Here's another subject to toss around and compare notes. It's a forum, so everyone's $0.02 is worth a lot more these days. So allow me to get the ball rolling....

    Propane is one the easiest fuel source to use. All you do is screw it on and light the gas. Because propane is already under pressure you do not have to pump it or do anything special. Propane has to be under pressure because its boiling point (point when it turns from a liquid to a gas) is negative 44 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that it is normally a gas. In order to turn it into a liquid you need to pressurize it, which is why it is stored in strong metal containers.

    All you do with propane is screw on the container, turn on the valve, and light the gas that is exiting out of the burners. Very simple when compared to other white gas.

    With white gas (Coleman fuel) you have to pump the container up, heat up a bit of the fuel, and then ignite it. So it obviously takes more time to set up and start a white gas stove then it does for a propane stove.

    Another benefit to propane gas is it is easy to handle the transport. You do not have to worry about filling it up, spilling fuel, or priming it. This makes it the idea fuel source for individuals new to the outdoor/camping experience.

    One of the problems is you cannot use propane in very low temperatures. If it is just 40 degrees then you should have much of a problem. But if you plan on camping in the snow or where it is 0 degrees then you need another fuel source like white gas. White gas does not have this issue.

    White gas is commonly thought of as a hotter fuel source. While I have not tested this I believe it to be true. So you will use less fuel to heat up the same amount of water. An advantage of white gas vs. propane.

    There is another issue with propane if you go backpacking. The containers are heavy and are not disposable. You usually do not have a trash can on the top of the mountain so you will be forced to pack it down with you. I know you have to do that with your white gas container but they are lighter and smaller. And for backpackers every ounce counts.

    More important than extra weight (in my opinion) is that you cannot refill the small propane canisters. Instead you are forced to trash them into a landfill. With white gas stoves you just refill the container.

    Propane has another issue when it comes to cooking. When propane burns it produces heat, light, carbon dioxide, and water. So the water vapor will come in contact with your food and does effect how it is cooked ever so slightly. This is why some snobbish chef’s (like on Iron Chef) refuse to cook with the gas in the stadium and instead us charcoal or another dry fuel source. This is also one of the reasons why I like to use charcoal to cook instead of propane, the other is briquettes also impart a nice flavor.

    One of the nice features about some white gas stoves is many of them can use alternative fuel sources. This is nice if you are in a country that doesn’t sell propane then you can easily use their fuel sources. But keep in mind that not all stoves have this as an option and many other forms of fuel do not burn as cleanly as propane. Every propane stove I know of only burns propane.

    How do you know how much propane is left?
    There are two ways of figuring out how much propane you have left. One way is to see how heavy it is. Now this requires you to know exactly how much an empty container weights but it is one option and you have to have good measuring skills. The other option is to use hot water. Just pour hot water along the side of the container. Then wait a few seconds. Then touch the side. The propane container will have a hot spot and a cooler spot. Right at the point where there is a temperature difference then that is where the liquid propane level is.

    Another method is to purchase the new fiberglass propane refillable canisters 3 1/2 gallon to 20 gallon tanks. One can see the level because they are see through canisters. However, they cost three times as much as the steel canisters. I have two fiberglass models and two steel models but rarely take all four camping unless it's camping for ten - fifteen days.

    Advantages of propane when compared to white gas.
    -Easier to start a stove or lantern.
    -Easier to replace, just disconnect and reconnect a new container.
    -If spilled or compromised, it will just be released into the air and not contaminate the ground.
    -It is less likely to leak.

    Disadvantages of propane when compared to white gas.
    -Won’t work in very cold weather (around 0 degrees.)
    -Most small propane canisters are not refillable.
    -Not as hot as white gas.
    -Heavier than white gas.
    -More expensive per pound
    -Harder to find in some areas of the country and/or world.

    Ok, what fuel should I use?
    Propane is easier and less of a hassle. Coleman makes some of the best stoves and lanterns so that is a brand I would start with. If you are going backpacking then I recommend getting a white gas single burner stove. If you are caught in a cold environment then at least you won’t have to worry about getting your stove lit. Thanks for lookin'!
    Get campin', Renodesertfox A canvas campateer
    Campin' Here Between Campouts! Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult

  2. #2


    White gas all the way. No question. Coleman makes a line of dual fuel's if you want to save money and you have to buy it new. Also, if the spam hits the fan, the first thing to go will be the convient propane bottles. Next white gas, gasoline, then kero.

    Cost. I got a Coleman Dual Fuel 285 in a Garage Sale from an ex yuppie camper-in plastic box for 2 bucks. Got a DF stove for 5 at a flea.

    Gasoline makes the generator clog and need to be replaced faster. White gas is safer to store and transport (people have been doing it for almost 100 years) as it has no octane.

    Recently, I have been getting into kerosene as it is cheaper than white gas! It is a lubricant and therefore safe. I do not know if your can run a stove off of it. Frank6160 can really address any stove or lantern issues as I know him from the CCF and consider him a real Coleman Pro.

  3. #3


    I have 2 Coleman Model 288s that I got off Ebay for $25 each new-in-the-box. I passed on the Dual-Fuel models: Although you can run them with unleaded gasoline, Coleman cautions you to avoid that if you can get Coleman fuel, since unleaded will prematurely wear the generator out on the Dual-Fuel just as it does their standard models. The bigger fuel tank is a nice touch, but I"m yet to have one of my 288s run empty during the night. Harvest Outfitters carries a nice line of stoves, ovens, and lanterns that run on good ol' Kerosene.
    Last edited by tplife; 05-27-2010 at 03:10 PM.
    “People have such a love for the truth that when they happen to love something else, they want it to be the truth; and because they do not wish to be proven wrong, they refuse to be shown their mistake. And so, they end up hating the truth for the sake of the object which they have come to love instead of the truth.”
    ―Augustine of Hippo, Fifth Century A.D.

  4. #4
    TrailerMan is on a distinguished road
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    May 2010
    Ontario, Canada


    I have only ever used Coleman white gas for my stoves and lanterns. This is probably due to the fact that when I was a teenager, I did quite a bit of backpacking with my father, and a single burner Coleman stove with some white gas was a lot easier to carry than propane.

    Those days of being a teenager were almost 30 years ago, but I've stuck with Coleman and white gas ever since.

    I have two single burner stoves (I thought I had lost one so purchased another recently then found the one I thought I had lost), and two two burner stoves.

    One is a large stove that I've never seen in stores but that I picked up at a garage sale for 5.00 about 25 years ago. It looked brand new when I got it. It is now having problems holding pressure which I have to try to fix.

    I picked up a standard size two burner stove off E-bay a couple of years ago - can't remember what I paid for it, but it was quite inexpensive and it works fine.

    And I have a Coleman lantern that I've owned for years and years. Have only had to replace the mantle the odd time; other than that, it's been fantastic!


  5. #5


    Those are good lanterns. I have one, but never run gasoline in it as it does tend to clog the generator after a while. I just heard a report that you could buy the 214 kerosene generator and install in on a 288 and it will run perfectly on kerosene. You need a preheat cup, but those you can get from Coleman or make yourself. You can probably come out ahead running gasoline and buying new generators.

  6. #6
    Primitive camper! Bigdog57 is on a distinguished road Bigdog57's Avatar
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    Oct 2008
    Norfleet, Florida

    Thumbs up

    I have the big Coleman Dual Fuel Lantrn and two-burner stove, but have always used only Coleman Fuel. Fifteen years later they still run good.

    But, for camping I have preferred the lightweight propane stoves- but riding a MC, size and weight penalties exist. And, propane is SO much easier to work with.
    I just picked up four more 1lb bottles at the Grocery Store (on sale in pairs).
    Longtime Motorcycle Camper. Getting away from it all on two wheels!

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