Camping gas: How to use gas on the campsite
- Introduction to camping with gas
- Watch our camping with gas video
- Camping fuel options
- Propane or butane?
- Which type of gas canister should I go for?
- Gas regulators explained
- Camping stove options
- Windshields for camping cookers
- Gas safety essentials
Introduction to camping with gas
Camping gas is easy to use and is the most effective way of cooking on the campsite.
On the whole, camping with gas is fairly straightforward, but there are some things that are important to know before you get started.
There are a few different types of gas and containers for use with camping equipment, and the one you choose will generally depend on the type of appliance you have.
See also: Quick guide to connecting camping gas
Camping stoves are an essential part of your camping kit. They come in a variety of different styles, sizes and fuel types, all with different benefits depending on the type of trip you’re planning.
Cookers like Campingaz's classic single-burner Camp Bistro 2 stoves use disposable cartridges which clip and lock into place and can be disconnected when not in use.
Small camping stoves for backpacking and lightweight camping use disposable cartridges that screw or clip onto the equipment.
Larger appliances such as double-burner stoves and barbecues generally use refillable bottles and need a regulator to control the gas pressure delivered to the appliance, although there are now some double-burner stoves that also operate off disposable cartridges such as the Campingaz Camping Cook CV and Camping Kitchen 2 CV.
Camping stove fuel options
The type of gas that you will need to power your camping stove will vary depending on the brand and type, and you will need to ensure that you purchase the correct gas for your specific stove. You have a choice of butane, propane or a mixture of both, either in a cartridge or cylinder.
Butane and propane are liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) and although they have different properties, many appliances can be used with either without any problem. However, with gas cylinders you must ensure that you have the correct regulator for the type of gas you choose.
Check with your gas supplier or retailer which type of regulator you will need for the gas you have chosen as they need to be bought separately.
Should I choose propane or butane?
Propane can be used in colder temperatures without compromising on performance – which makes it useful for winter and high-altitude camping.
Butane burns more efficiently than propane and is slightly cheaper so it can work out better value for money. The downside is its poor performance in colder weather, with problems starting when the temperature drops below 5°C.
Which type of gas canister should I go for?
Whichever type of gas you choose, you will also need to decide whether to go for a refillable cylinder or a disposable cartridge, and again this will largely depend on the type of stove you have, the type of camping trips you take and how much cooking you plan to do.
Option 1: Refillable gas cylinders
Large steel gas bottles come in various sizes and are generally for use with bigger appliances such as double-burner stoves and gas barbecues. The most popular brands are Campingaz and Calor Gas and they are both available filled with either butane or propane.
Calor is generally unavailable on the Continent so if you camp abroad, Campingaz would be a better option.
These bottles connect to your cooker with a rubber hose and regulator and it is essential that you get the correct regulator for the gas bottle you have bought. Retailers usually stock a variety of regulators and they should be able to advise on which one you need.
This is generally the most cost-effective fuel source for camping and large bottles are the best option for longer family holidays when you are likely to get through a lot of gas. However, they are bulkier than gas cartridges, so you should take that into account.Don't be confused by the term "refill". When the gas in the bottle runs out, you simply take the old cylinder back to your local retailer and exchange it for a new one rather than have the old bottle refilled. The cost of a refill will be much less than the initial outlay for the cylinder.
Option 2: Disposable gas cartridges
These are the cheapest and lightest option available so are perfect for shorter camping holidays or for backpacking trips. Generally, they are for smaller stoves, although there are some models of double-burners and grills that work with cartridges.
There are several types of gas cartridge available: threaded, click-on, piercable and ‘aerosol-style’ cans.
• Threaded gas cartridges
Threaded cartridges either attach to your stove with the supplied metal hose or screw directly onto the cooker. They are lightweight and will self-seal when disconnected from the stove, so can be used on multiple camping trips. They are easy to find, with availability in most outdoor stores. Although it is sensible to use the same gas brand as your stove, they are basically interchangeable with other compatible appliances.
• Click-on gas cartridges
Campingaz CV Plus cartridges only work with the brand's own Easy Clic Plus appliances. They look almost identical to threaded cartridges but feature a special Easy Clic connection rather than a screw thread. You simply push the cartridge onto the appliance until it clicks, then turn 45 degrees to lock it in place. It is important to know that these cartridges won't work with other brands' appliances - and likewise you can't use a different make of gas cartridge with a Campingaz cartridge stove.
• Pierceable gas cartridges
Often the cheapest option, these look similar to threadable and click-on cartridges, but only fix to specific stoves. Once they are attached they cannot be removed until they are empty, which makes them less practical and these days are less common.
• 'Aerosol-style' gas cartridges
Lightweight, easy to use and widely available, these are the sort of cartridges that are used in the classic, single-burner Campingaz Camp Bistro 2 stove. They simply lock into place and can be changed in a matter of seconds. You can remove or disconnect them when they are not in use or switch to a different appliance. Resembling an aerosol can, they are very simple to use and dispose of.
As well as extensive UK-wide availability, Campingaz is easily available across the globe at over 14,000 outlets, and you will find your nearest stockist with its gas locator.
Other fuel options available as an alternative to gas include alcohol and methylated spirits. Unleaded petrol and even aviation fuel can be used in some cookers for longer trips in cold climates but are less common for family camping.
Do I need a gas regulator?
LPG is stored in bottles at high pressure and when it is released, it turns into gas and passes through a regulator to ensure that it’s at the right pressure for the appliance it is being supplied to.
Different suppliers and types of LPG require different regulators to control the flow of fuel to the appliance so it is vitally important that your gas supplier or retailer tells you exactly the type of regulator you need for the gas you have.
Gas bottles are connected to appliances with a tough flexible 8mm rubber hose. In the UK, hoses are made to British Standard 3212 and feature the date of manufacture.
Hoses should be checked regularly for damage, splitting and perishing and replaced every three to four years. Fit the hose to the regulator first as it is easier to manoeuvre than a stove.
Make sure the hose is on the pipe as far as it will go before tightening the retainer clips.
The rigidity of the hose means attaching it to the regulator and stove can sometimes be difficult. Coating the gas pipes with washing-up liquid will help and another trick is to soften the hose rubber by dipping it in hot water before connecting it. You’ll need to do this at home before you set off as you’ll need a way to heat the water!
Campingaz regulators have an in-built excess flow valve for safety. This means if your hose became severed or accidentally detached from the stove the flow of gas would automatically be switched off.
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Camping stove options
When you are choosing a stove, the biggest factor you need to consider when making your decision is the type of camping you plan to do.
If you are hiking, cycling or canoeing, you will be carrying your stove – and fuel – while you're on the move, so it will need to be lightweight and compact.
Family campers and those who take longer breaks will usually be travelling by car and will be able to take bigger cookers and heavier gas bottles.
However, if you expect to eat out for most of your camping holiday and only use a cooker for boiling a kettle or simple, one-pot meals then a single-burner stove might be fine.
#1 Single-burner stoves
Simple, compact and relatively lightweight, single-burner camping cookers are inexpensive, costing as little as £10, and can be found in all camping shops and many supermarkets. They come in their own carry case and run on gas cartridges, which easily lock into place and can be replaced in seconds.
For one-pot cooking and brews, they are absolutely fine. They’re rather limiting for anything too ambitious but for frying bacon or sausages or heating up a tin of beans they are really all you need.
If buying one of these gas cookers online, make sure the brand is reliable and from a trustworthy source, as there have been examples of cheap, sub-standard models bought from overseas that have exploded, causing serious injuries.
#2 Double-burner stoves
With a double-burner gas stove and the right pots, you can tackle almost any meal that you would cook at home.
Some double-ring cookers sit on a tabletop or a specialist kitchen unit. You'll find more information about buying camping furniture here.
More advanced camping cookers come with their own foldable legs and built-in windshields.
A grill option means you don’t need to fry everything and makes toast much easier than relying on burner-top camp toasters.
Double-burner stoves mainly use the larger gas bottles and you will need a suitable hose and regulator to control the gas pressure.
#3 Lightweight camping stoves
For solo campers, lightweight stoves are the way to go. These are lightweight and compact and basically screw directly into the gas bottle. They can be quite unstable in rugged ground but are ideal for lightweight camping.
Cooking ‘systems’ such as Jetboil and MSR’s Reactor, where the pot is integrated with the cooker, have become really popular in recent years; although, of course, Trangia led the way decades ago.
The Biolite stove lets you use twigs and other natural fuel sources and, at the same time, generates enough energy to recharge your mobile phone.
#4 Electric camping cookers
Cooking inside your tent on a gas stove is generally not recommended. Not only does it pose a fire risk, but you face the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Unfortunately, the great British weather means cooking outdoors is not always possible – so an electric stove could be the answer.
Electric camping cookers are less common than gas and obviously it relies on you having access to an electric hook-up on the campsite. But they are safer than gas, especially if you have young children in the tent.
Remember that induction hobs require pans that contain iron to work so make sure your cook set is compatible.
Windshields for camping cookers
A good windshield is essential when you are cooking outdoors. Some bigger cookers come with them built in, but even then it’s worth buying a standalone shield, to really protect the flames.
Without a windshield, water takes ages to boil and food takes longer to cook, using up more gas than necessary. And if the wind is too strong it might never be ready.
Gas safety essentials
- Most manufacturers advise against cooking inside tents and we would agree with that advice, but if you do decide to go against that advice, make sure the cooking area is very well ventilated and the burners can’t come into contact with the tent sides
- Always change bottles and cylinders in the open air
- Turn off cylinders at the valve when travelling
- Never attempt to refill a gas cylinder
- NEVER use a naked flame to look for leaks
- Inspect all hoses and hose clamps regularly for signs of deterioration
- Be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and consider using a CO alarm
- If in doubt – get expert help
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