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You are off on a camping trip. Everything is packed, except for the most important piece of camping gear — your camp stove. Being able to cook hot food and boil water for coffee makes camping even more enjoyable than it already is. After everything is checked, there are still means of cooking food and water. In nature, it is customary to cook your food on the ground with a base camp set up, and a campfire is going. But that was in the time when our parents went camping.
Nowadays, it is much more convenient to have a portable gas stove to do the cooking. After all, it leaves you with more time to explore nature. So it is decided: a portable gas stove. But which fuel source should you choose? There are a variety of available options, but the two most popular ones are propane and butane gas for your portable camping stove.
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Which One Should I Choose?
Propane and Butane are both combustible fuels derived from petroleum. They are commonly used as cooking fuels, and both are lightweight and come in convenient canisters or cylinders. So it all boils down to comparing the two most popular means of cooking the food. Why can’t everything be just simple? Let’s get a little technical.
What is Butane?
Butane is an alkane natural gas liquid derived from petroleum. It is a highly flammable hydrocarbon that is used in such products as cigarette lighters, and portable camping stoves. As is the case with all-natural gas, butane, in its natural form, butane is a colorless and odorless hydrocarbon. It burns when exposed to oxygen and releases carbon dioxide and water vapor. It boils at 30.2° Fahrenheit.
What is Propane?
Propane is also an alkane natural gas liquid, a byproduct of petroleum and used as a portable energy source. It is used to power trains, buses, and taxis, for small engines such as lawnmowers, and as a primary home heating fuel. Today, more than 15 billion gallons of propane are used every year in America alone.
Comparison of Both Butane and Propane
- Propane: 43 degrees Fahrenheit
- Butane: 31 degrees Fahrenheit
- Propane: Readily
- Butane: Not so readily
- Propane: Lightweight and convenient
- Butane: Lighter than Propane and convenient canisters – more gas per canister
- Propane: Very cheap
- Butane: Cheaper than Propane
- Propane: Works well in low temperatures
- Butane: Does not work in low temperatures and high altitudes lower than 14°F
- Propane: Not so energy efficient
- Butane: Provides 12% more energy per volume burned above freezing
When going camping and deciding on whether to choose a butane stove or a propane stove, take into account what your needs are. If you’re heading to a place that is far from people and will take you a considerable time to reach, a propane stove could be your best bet. It will take up some space and weight though, so keep that in mind.
If you’re just heading to your nearest campsite and need more space for the many folks going with you and their coolers filled with cold beverages, a butane stove will be just fine. However, if you’re heading to a cold area, butane might fail you as it is known not to be the most reliable option in chilly weather.
Another thing to consider is connectors. Butane camp stoves tend to be more convenient when connecting to fuel containers because of the clip-style connectors they are made with. Propane stoves typically have the screw-type connectors that are a little trickier to use.
Why Not Use Both?
If you’re having a hard time choosing between the two, why not consider taking a propane stove as well as a butane stove — if you have the space for it, of course. There are pros and cons to either of the two and when using both, you’ll have all the perks you need during your time in the great outdoors.
There you have it then. From the comparisons above, you can see that butane is cheaper and more efficient than propane if you are not going to camp in cold regions or at high altitudes. It’s also the best option if you have a sufficient supply available. So, if you have a family gathering on a decent camping spot, it is best to use butane as your gas. But if it is only you and your buddy going camping — especially in the winter — it is better to take your propane camping stove with you. When it comes down to butane vs. propane camp stove, the choice really is yours.