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Camping: What’s the difference between white gas and propane

Camping: What’s the difference between white gas and propane

White Gas and Propane are both fuels that are used for camping purposes for cooking and lighting fires. Both, White Gas and Propane are Petroleum distillates but differ considerably in their nature. Propane can also be used at home for the purposes of heating and cooking, whereas White Gas is nearly never used at home.

Most people encounter the use of these two fuels when they decide to go camping and spend a night or two in close connection with nature, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This would require them to purchase a camping gas stove to enable them to freshly cook their meals while on their camping trip. From the perspective of camping, White Gas is a liquid fuel which is more so like a purer form of Gasoline. It is also handled in a similar manner to Gasoline.

Propane, however, is a gas that acquires a liquid state when it has been pressurized. Once the source of pressure is removed, Propane promptly turns back into a gas. Though it may contain properties that are slightly different as a gas, it is typically handled in the same way as Methane or Natural Gas is handled.

This is why any appliance such as a camping gas stove that deals with White Gas will necessarily contain a tank to hold the liquid fuel, whereas an appliance or camping stove that has to store Propane will generally contain a fuel tank or a fuel cylinder that is pressurized and is separate or distanced from the main parts of the appliance. Such camping appliances will, in all probability have refillable tanks to keep them going. Some even have disposable fuel tanks, but these are not preferred as much when compared to the refillable tanks.

On a general note, White Gas is less expensive than Propane per unit of fuel output. This means that one can carry more White Gas fuel in relatively lesser volume tanks or even have fuel tanks that come in different shapes and sizes to suit the needs of the appliance. However, camping stoves that work on White Gas are generally more complex to use and involve tricky procedures in order to light them as well as keep them burning properly throughout. Thus, White Gas based camping gas stoves are generally not preferred by beginners and are mostly used by experts in the field.  

Propane on the other hand is comparatively bulkier and since it is supposed to be pressurized, the fuel tanks or cylinders that are meant to hold Propane generally come in fixed shapes and sizes. However, the camping stoves that are based on Propane are relatively much easier to use than White Gas based appliances. This is because, since Propane is required to be pressurized, this allows the user to control the flow of the fuel and thus keep a check on flash fires. Thus, a camping stove based on Propane will typically cost a person lesser than the same appliance that works on White Gas.

Additionally, those campers that are short on or have constraints with space and weight will generally prefer to use White Gas whereas the campers that do not face such constraints prefer to go with Propane. Thus, those campers that carry just a backpack would generally prefer a White Gas camping stove as their best choice over other kinds of gas stoves such as Propane, Butane or Multi fuel gas stoves.

Some stark differences that can be noted when making the choice between White Gas and Propane for camping are:

White Gas:

  • Safe to store as well as transport than most other fuels and products.
  • It burns clean and does not affect the food with its odor or taste
  • If White Gas is accidentally leaked all over the place, it is not a huge concern as White Gas evaporates very quickly and does not leave any odor too.
  • However, since White Gas evaporates very quickly, it also means that it is highly flammable and this must be remembered when handling White Gas.

Propane:

  • A Propane based gas stove would in all probability be of a canister kind which means that it contains pressurized fuel, which could be a source of danger if the canister is leaky.  
  • Most products or gas stoves available for the purposes of camping are generally Propane based or Isobutane based. Both Propane and Isobutane burn clean.
  • Since Propane is a pressurized fuel, there is no requirement to pump or preheat the fuel before using it.
  • Propane based camping gas stoves are much safer to use than White Gas appliances because the canisters that hold the pressurized Propane usually get sealed by themselves once they are detached which negates the possibility of spilling the Propane fuel.
  • However, it can be difficult to gauge or assess the amount of fuel left in the canister.
  • Propane as a fuel is more expensive than White Gas
  • The performance of a camping stove based on Propane goes on decreasing with the reduction in the fuel levels and most of the time the very last portions of the Propane fuel are nearly useless which leads to a waste of fuel. This happens due to the constant release of pressure as the Propane fuel is being used up.  

Alternative: Butane Camping Stove

Another increasingly popular type of camping gas stove is the Butane based camping stove. Let us look at it in comparison with a Propane camping gas stove:

  • Butane camping stoves are generally much smaller and lighter than Propane camping gas stoves and come with single or double burner options for the gas stove.
  • Storing Butane is much easier than Propane and it even takes up lesser room than Propane.
  • Butane is a fuel that is relatively cheaper than Propane. Additionally, Butane is also a fuel that is less toxic to the user’s health when compared to Propane based camping gas stoves.
  • However, unlike Propane, Butane can cause a considerable amount of difficulty in colder temperatures and climates. At the 40 degrees Fahrenheit mark, the efficiency of the Butane fuel drops to a significantly low standard and at around the 30 degrees Fahrenheit mark, Butane as a fuel cannot even vaporize.
  • Butane is quite a dangerous fuel to use as a lighter fuel in camping gas stoves because it is only safe as long as it is contained within the fuel tank. Most camping gas stoves that are based on Butane fuel possess a valve to shut off, which is called the shut off valve and is responsible for turning off the fuel in case the gas stove overheats. Thus, if the shut off valve is in any way even slightly defective, it increases the probability of a fuel gas stove explosion.

Multi Fuel Camping Stove: Why Choose When You can Have Them All!

Like the Butane fuel camping gas stove, another popular kind of fuel powered gas stove for camping is the Multi Fuel camping gas stove.

Multi Fuel camping gas stoves is small and lightweight, and just like its name suggests can burn up pretty much all kinds of fuels, including unleaded Gasoline and Petrol, White Gas, Kerosene or Jet Fuel and even Propane or Butane.

When compared with regular camping stoves, Multi fuel camping stoves have two distinct advantages over the others in the sense that first, since they are so versatile in their usage, it makes the process of obtaining usable fuel to power it a lot easier. Second, unlike the usual camping gases, these work pretty comfortably even in colder temperatures, making them perfect for all kinds of camping trips. 

Additionally, Multi fuel camping gas stoves feature the ability to adjust the heat output to some extent. That is, from a state of full power to lower heat, just like a gas stove at home. This control is done with the help of a valve or a dial that is present on the camping stove which controls the amount of fuel that is allowed out of the storage tank or canister. Some even have the choice of a second valve which provides for simmering at a finer level to boil water.

In Summary

Each of the camping gas stoves has its own advantages and disadvantages and picking the best kind of fuel powered camping gas stove would more so depend on the camper, the amount  of experience he/she has with camping, the requirements that the camping gas stove has to fulfill, the size, the cost and other factors. Another factor to be considered is the weight of the fuels and how they will be stored and handled in the required manner. This will also affect the overall budget one might have set aside to invest in a camping gas stove for their camping trips. Upon deciding on these factors, it becomes a whole lot easier to decide what kind of fuel camping gas stove is best for you, whether it is  White Gas stove, a Propane or Butane stove or a Multi Fuel camping gas stove.

About The Author

TheCampingStoves

We are a group of friends who are passionate about camping related stuff, gym rats, Netflix subscribers and also enthusiasts of outdoor equipment and tools. "Get out there and play!" they said, and they are right!

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