Gas - propane / butane / LP gas

Gas is generally used at the campsite to power cooking stoves and gas lanterns. We won’t be considering gas powered lanterns for lighting because they can be quite bulky, and heavy and while gas is good for fuelling stoves and absorption fridges, there are more compact solutions for lighting.

LP gasButanePropane bottle

Gas for camping mainly comes in the form of refillable LP gas cylinders and disposable propane and butane canisters. For safety and environmental reasons, the refillable canisters need to be disposed of responsibly.

Some of the gas stoves on the market can operate on a disposable propane bottle, and are also sold with a 3/8" hose to fit a refillable LP gas cylinder, giving you more flexibility if you want a stove that can run on LP gas but don't always want to take the heavy and bulky cylinder. Other stoves will only operate on one form of gas.

Stoves fuelled by LP gas and propane will burn at temperatures as low as -42°C, whereas butane fuelled stoves will only burn at temperatures above -1°C. So if you tend to camp in colder conditions, you may find butane gas unreliable. Butane also burns about 10% more efficiently than propane and LP gas.

Though refillable LP gas cylinders are much better for the environment than disposable butane or propane cannisters, they can be quite bulky and difficult to pack, particular in cars with smaller rear cargo spaces. The disposable cannisters, on the other hand, can fill smaller spaces, but for example, you will use at least 15 butane cannisters compared to a 4 kg LP gas cylinder and they will all just go to waste, and most likely landfill.

Safer use of gas

DO NOT use gas-fired stoves and other appliances in confined spaces, such as an enclosed tent, because of the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning.

When not in use, turn off LP gas bottle valves and disengage gas canisters from the appliance as a safety measure against potentially life threatening gas leaks. 

Keep all gas-fired appliances in a well ventilated area at the campsite, and not in an enclosed tent or other structure, as a further safety measure against carbon monoxide and harmful gases. 

Safer transporting of refillable LP gas cylinders

Transporting refillable LP gas cylinders in an enclosed car is generally considered to carry some risks because of the potential for gas to escape from a faulty or incorrectly closed gas bottle. Plenty of horror stories can be found of gas bottles exploding in cars from leaking gas, ignited by such things as a static charge or a naked flame from cigarette smoking.

While we certainly warn against transporting gas cylinders in the passenger cabin area, transporting in the rear cargo area is less risky if proper precautions are taken. You should, however, always check with your local laws before transporting your LP gas cylinders in this way.

If you will be transporting an LP gas cylinder in your car, the following important safety suggestions should help reduce the associated risks:
  • Gas cylinders should not be transported inside the passenger compartment.
  • The total capacity of gas cylinders transported in a car should not exceed 9 kgs, or whatever your local laws permit, whichever is less.
  • Subject to the above maximum weight, no more than two gas cylinders should be carried in a car at any one time.
  • Here in Australia, LP gas cylinders must be professionally tested every 10 years to be re-certified for use. It is also advisable that they be professionally checked before any long trips.
  • Before each trip, valves should be checked to ensure they are firmly turned off.
  • For added protection against leaking gas, gas cylinder valve safety plugs can be connected to the gas bottle thread to help protect the outlet when not in use.
  • To check for gas leaks, use soapy water and NEVER a naked flame.
  • Gas cylinders should be secured firmly in your car and sitting in an upright position and NOT laying down.
  • The area surrounding the gas cylinder should be vented as often as possible during your trip, for example at every stop.
  • The gas cylinder should be removed from the car as soon as possible upon your arrival at your destination.
  • Gas has a strong smell added to it to draw your attention to any leaks. At the first smell of a leak, remove the bottle from the car and vent in an open area until the leak can be sealed.   

Options for transporting an LP gas cylinder on the outside of your car are limited without a significant investment in a roof platform to properly secure the cylinder. If this is not an option, you will need to choose alternative sources of fuel / power for your absorption fridge and / or gas cooker.

For more on gas safety:

  • For more on LP gas safety tips and precautions, go to the article on this topic on the Elgas website.
  • For more on gas bottle cylinder testing, go to the article on this topic on the Elgas website.