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Which Fuel Type is Best For a Camp Stove and Which to Avoid

Which Fuel Type is Best For a Camp Stove and Which to Avoid

If you are planning on going camping anytime soon, it is important to know what type of fuel your camp stove takes. This can be quite intimidating, and even dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. We will teach you the basics so that you will be able to choose the fuel that’s right for you.

The three types of fuel that can go into a camp stove are liquid fuels, gaseous fuels, and solid fuels. Each fuel has it’s advantages and drawbacks. It’s important to see what fuel type is compatible with your stove when making a decision about which one to buy for your trip.

This article covers the most common fuels and their uses for cooking purposes in a tent or RV so that you can choose what’s best for you and your camping stove.


Camp Stove Fuel Types


The most common types of camp stove fuels are butane, propane, kerosene, alcohol, white gas, and gasoline. Read on to learn about how each fuel type works and what it is best used for.




Butane is stored under pressure in a steel container. The fuel type works well for quickly boiling water or cooking food, but it can be wasteful if used with an open flame (such as when frying foods).

It’s commonly available in pressurized cans of varying sizes, and the fuel type is one of the cheapest options. You can purchase butane at outdoor stores or from major online retailers with ease.

Pros of Butane

Butane stoves tend to be lighter and smaller than their propane counterparts. You can purchase both a single and double burner, depending on whether or not you will want to cook several dishes at once.

Butane canisters can be purchased in 8-ounce containers, making them small, lightweight, and portable. It is less toxic and less expensive than propane, making it a good choice for those who want a safer option that is widely available.

Cons of Butane

Butane canisters are highly flammable, which makes them dangerous if dropped or handled incorrectly. You’ll need to make sure to use butane in a well-ventilated space. This means if you’re using it inside of an RV or other shelter, you’ll want to make sure that the windows are open.

Another drawback to butane fuel is that it doesn’t do as well in colder temperatures as other fuel sources do. It won’t combust properly until the temperature reaches at least 20 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s best to use this fuel in 40-degree weather or warmer.




Propane is an ideal fuel for camping stoves because it is easy to find, safe to handle, and relatively inexpensive. It’s the most popular fuel type used in camp stoves and therefore can be found in many stores and gas stations near your camping destination.

It burns hotter than butane or white gas does when used in an open flame camp stove (think grilling). The fuel type works well with frying pans and even larger pots/pans that can hold more food.

It’s great for cooking foods that require more time and attention, such as frying or boiling. You can use propane in a stove with an open flame (such as on a gas grill), but it is not recommended for burning inside of an RV due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Pros of Propane

Propane is easy to find. The 1 pound Coleman green propane tank can be found at most gas stations, grocery stores, and major retailers. This is great for campers who don’t want to have to drive to a specialty store if they need to restock during their trip.

You can use it in a stove with an open flame, which makes cooking simple and quick. Propane is more efficient than other fuels and has more heat energy than butane does, making it the best choice for windy conditions or cold weather camping trips.

It’s also better than butane when it comes to cold weather camping and cooking. It will remain stable and combust properly until the temperature drops to -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cons of Propane

The biggest downside is that propane releases toxic fumes. This means that you’ll need to make sure to use it in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors.

Propane stoves are sometimes heavier, larger, and bulkier than other stoves. You’ll need to make sure that you have a large enough propane canister on hand (or multiple small ones) if you plan to cook for more than one person at a time.




Kerosene is another commonly used fuel type for open flame camp stoves. It is most often found in 16 or 32-ounce containers, and it can be purchased at outdoor stores, major retailers with camping sections, and even many grocery store chains.

The kerosene cooking stove was one of the original types of stoves for camping. It’s been around since the late 1800s, and it is still a popular choice among campers today.

Pros of Kerosene

Kerosene has a long shelf life when stored properly in its original container (with the plastic cap tightly sealed). This makes it ideal for those who want to store their fuel for future camping trips.

It is relatively inexpensive, so you won’t have to worry about it cutting into your budget too much if you need to replace the fuel during a long trip.

Kerosene doesn’t freeze in cold temperatures and doesn’t evaporate. This means that it’s an easy fuel to put in storage long-term.

Cons of Kerosene

Kerosene tends to be quite dirty and will leave a lot of soot on your camp stove. You’ll need to clean your stove regularly and will also need to replace your fuel lines more often than with other types of fuel.

It has a strong odour that many find unpleasant, and it can be challenging to light because of its high flash point. This means that you’ll need to keep extra matches or a lighter on hand when cooking with it.




Alcohol is a popular fuel option because it’s easy to find and inexpensive. You will be able to purchase alcohol in most outdoor stores or major retailers, as well as any hardware store that carries camping supplies.

The three main types of alcohol used for camp stoves are denatured alcohol, methanol, and isopropyl alcohol. There are also many blends that have additional additives and different ethanol concentrations.

Pros of Alcohol

It is easy to find, inexpensive, and won’t have a big impact on your wallet. You can usually purchase it in larger quantities for even better deals.

The fuel will also last longer than other types because you’re able to use less to do the job right. It’s easier to light than kerosene and doesn’t need to be primed before lighting.

Cons of Alcohol

The biggest downside is that alcohol can cause serious health problems if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. It has a very high flash point and will evaporate quickly in warm conditions or windy locations. You’ll also have to deal with frequent spills when pouring it.


White Gas


White gas, also known as naphtha, is a popular choice among campers because it’s easy to find and relatively inexpensive. It can be purchased in many outdoor stores, big-box retailers with camping sections, or even most hardware stores that carry basic maintenance items for your vehicle.

Pros of White Gas

White gas is an effective fuel source for cooking at a wide range of temperatures. You can use it in hot, cold, or even windy conditions without worrying about performance being affected too much. It also doesn’t freeze during colder months like some other fuels.

Cons of White Gas

White gas can evaporate quickly and poses a risk of fire when it’s in storage for an extended period. It may also develop shellac, which is an oily residue that is left behind after the fuel evaporates. The best way to avoid this build-up is by purchasing your white gas in small containers rather than storing gallons of it for longer periods of time.




Many people are interested in using gasoline as a camp stove fuel because of its wide availability at all gas stations and much cheaper price tag. It has a similar flammability to white gas and can be used in certain camp stoves.

Pros of Gasoline

Gasoline has a lower flash point than white gas and will ignite more easily. This makes it ideal for use in colder temperatures or high elevations where the air is thinner and requires less effort to light your stove.

It makes one of the best emergency fuels because it’s so widely available and you just need to

Cons of Gasoline

In many traditional camping stoves, gasoline will eventually clog the stove lines. This is because a camp stove is not able to burn off additives the same way that a car can.

Gas is also a poor choice for a fuel that you will store long term. It has a shelf life of 3 to 5 months, significantly less than other fuels that have a shelf life of upwards of 10 years.

Since gasoline sourced from a gas station may have different formulas, blends, and additives, it can be tricky to tell exactly how it will work in your stove.

Try to use gasoline in a camp stove in emergencies only. It’s not harmful if carefully used on occasion but isn’t a long-term solution.


Solid Camping Fuels


There are several camp stoves that are designed for use with solid fuels like wood, coal, or Esbit tabs. This type of fuel will work with a camping stove that can be placed directly on top of the fuel source. Many brands design their stoves to be used with both liquid and solid fuels.

A single Esbit tab will provide a consistent flame for up to 12 minutes and should be sufficient for boiling water, so this fuel works nicely for those who are warming up packaged camping meals.

Pros of Solid Camping Fuels

Solid fuels that are designed to work with camp stoves are extremely easy to use and require no preparation before lighting your stove.

You can also carry them in bulk without worrying about spills or the fuel evaporating quickly due to heat. It’s ideal for use in cold weather without worrying about the fuel freezing or gelling.

Many backpackers prefer this fuel source because it is lightweight and space-efficient in a pack.

They are also odorless and smokeless, and have a 10-year shelf life, making them an easy and low-hassle option.

Cons of Solid Camping Fuels

Solid fuel such as the Esbit tab only burns for 12 minutes, and this means that if you’re camping with a large group or preparing a complicated or slow-cooked meal, you will need to use several tabs.

Not only can this become costly, but it means you need to constantly keep an eye on your meal and rotate to a new fresh tab. This can also make it hard to control the temperature and heat output of your stove.

Wood can be a challenging solid fuel because you’ll need to gather it and prepare it before using it. It also produces a lot of ash that can clog up your stove, which is why some backpackers prefer the tabs over loose wood.


What Fuel Is Best for A Camp Stove?


The best fuel type for your camping stove is dependent on how often you use it, the location of your trips, and what kind of cooking experience you prefer.

Propane is the best fuel to use for general camping situations due to its wide availability, cold weather performance, and ease of use. It comes in a convenient canister and doesn’t require liquid pours that may be messy and even dangerous, especially for beginning campers.

White gas is a strong second choice and is ideal for backpacking trips where you will be boiling water over and over again.

Solid fuels like Esbit tabs are an excellent option for backpackers who want to pack light or campers who need a quick and easy emergency fuel.

Gasoline is the worst option since it doesn’t burn cleanly, is potentially dangerous, and comes with additives that could possibly damage your camp stove.

Solid fuels like Esbit tabs work well if time isn’t a factor in your camp cooking experience.

If you only go on occasional car-camping trips with access to a fire pit or grill, wood might be an ideal choice because it is less expensive than other fuels like Esbit tabs. It’s also easier to find dead twigs for fuel than it is to search out Esbit tablets while camping in the woods.


How Do You Store Camping Gas?


When actively camping, campers and backpackers should store their fuel inside a waterproof container so it doesn’t evaporate or spill. When purchasing your gas can, look for one that has an over-pressure relief valve to reduce the chance of explosion if you accidentally puncture your container.

When you’re storing your gas at home, there are a few additional considerations that can keep your gasoline fresh and ready to use for an extended period of time.

  • Keep the container in a cool, dry place that is free from sunlight exposure and heat sources like furnaces or boilers.
  • Store your fuel canisters and bottles in an upright position.
  • Make sure your fuel is stored in a well-ventilated area.
  • Keep your fuel away from entryways and drainage areas.


How Long Can You Store Camping Fuel?


Different camping fuels have different shelf lives. White gas can last a very long time when stored correctly. However, it’s advised to use your white gas within 2 years when opened and 5 to 7 years if unopened.

Propane fuel has a very long shelf-life, similar to white gas. Properly stored, it can stay fresh for 10 years. Butane fuel has a similar recommended shelf life of 9 to 10 years.

Kerosene has a shelf life of approximately 5 years. Over time, water is added to the kerosene through condensation. This allows bacteria and mold to build, which eventually breaks down the substance. Fuel stabilizers can be added annually to extend kerosene’s lifespan.

Gasoline has a significantly shorter shelf life and can last for 3 months at most. Alcohol fuels have a similarly short shelf life because ethanol oxidizes very quickly.


What Are the Different Types of Camping Stoves?


It’s just as important to choose the right camp stove as it is to choose the right fuel. Here are some of the most popular types of camping stoves available:

Canister Stoves:

Canister stoves use small gas cartridges that attach to the burner and burn very hot for a limited time. They are convenient, easy to use, and take up very little space in your pack.

Liquid Fuel Stoves

The liquid fuel stove was the first popular backpacking stove and is still widely used today. Liquid fuel stoves are very powerful and can burn multiple types of fuel, including white gas, kerosene, or unleaded gasoline.

They typically have a pump that pressurizes the fuel tank for easy use and control of your flame intensity. The biggest drawback to liquid stoves is their weight at around two pounds per burner.

Solid Fuel Stoves

Solid fuel stoves are a good choice if you want something lightweight and uncomplicated. They can use gel or tablet fuels that burn clean with few fumes for an efficient cooking experience.

Camping Ovens

Camping ovens have a design that allows you to cook multiple types of meals and dishes by trapping heat inside the cooking area.

They come in different sizes, from small backpacking stoves to larger tabletop models for car camping. In addition, most camping ovens can be used as portable grills with attachments like cast iron plates or griddles.


Final Thoughts


Now that you know which fuel types are best for your lifestyle, planning a camping trip should be a breeze. Make sure to use caution with any type of fuel you will be leaving and to make sure you cook your food in a well-ventilated and safe area.

Happy camping and happy cooking!

Note: the points outlined in this post are intended for educational purposes only. Always exercise extreme caution when dealing with flammable materials of any kind, and make sure to adhere strictly to safety regulations.