How To Store Camp Stove Fuel


Different types of camp stove fuels require different storage conditions and solutions. Keeping a supply on hand while also preventing accidents with these flammable liquids and gasses is essential.

How do you store camp stove fuels? Camp stove fuels should be stored:

  • Between 50-75F (10-25C) for safety and best shelf life.
  • In the original container or a worthy alternative.
  • Away from potential dangers.

Let’s get into the details of how Iso-Butane, white gas, and camp stove alcohol should be stored. This includes while at home and out on the trails. We’ll also identify the risks that can come from storing them improperly.

Storing Camp Stove Fuel

Iso-Butane Canisters

IsoButane canisters should be stored at room temperature 72oF (21oC) and never exceed 125oF (52oC). Canisters should be dry and kept away from electrical outlets, heat sources and light fixtures. Never leave a butane canister in direct sunlight, and of course, smoking around them should be avoided unless in a well ventilated area.

Manufacturers are legally required to print storage directions on the side of iso-butane canisters so be sure to read over the guidelines carefully. Consulting the MSDS for any butane canister product before use is the best way to get prepared.

IsoButane Canisters

Storing Iso-Butane Canisters In A Car

Storing butane canisters in your car while on a camping trip is not recommended. The inside of your car can reach temperatures above 125oF in the summer which is the line in the sand for safety. At extreme heat like this, the canister can become over pressured due to the expansion of the gas inside.

Most of the time the bottom will bubble out and eventually burst. This won’t necessarily cause a fireball if there are no open flames or sparks around but it will still do a lot of damage and can be deadly to anyone close by.

Even if the expansion causes a small leak and does not explode butane is toxic to inhale and odorless unless mixed with sulfides so a leak can go undetected. A small leak undetected can cause the driver and passengers to become unconscious and even die.

The best option is to stash your canisters in a nearby shady spot, even buried and wrapped in a towel or in a box would be good. The ground will remain at a near constant temperature and protect the canisters from direct sunlight.   

If keeping the canisters in your car is the only option then wrap them in a wet towel and place them in a cooler in the trunk. Note that over time your canisters may rust if left wet which will weaken their integrity so don’t leave them in the towel for a prolonged period.

If you are in a hatchback or truck then place the cooler at the lowest possible level inside the vehicle and install sun visors on all the windows to help block the sun from heating the interior.

Never put a butane canister in a glove box or console for storage. This can be one of the hottest areas of the car because the sun shines directly on the dashboard and heats it up.

To avoid having to store your butane canisters in your car while camping, only bring the amount of fuel needed for your trip. Calculating the amount you’ll need is easy. See How Much Fuel Do I Need For Backpacking for more info.

car on fire
ID 24548101 © Martin Kucera | Dreamstime.com

Storing Iso-Butane Canisters At Home

Butane canisters can be safely stored indoors as long as the areas don’t get exposed to extreme temperatures.

Attics can get very hot in the summer and reach temperatures near the limits of a butane canister. Depending on your geographic region, attics can also get extremely cold which can cause the sides and bottom of your canisters to condense and begin to rust. This will weaken the integrity of the canisters and can lead to failure.

Garages are a popular place to store butane canisters although they can suffer from the same temperature effects of an attic. Another issue with storing your canisters in a garage is that there are typically a lot of other flammable products kept in garages creating the possibility of a larger incident.

Many of the tasks done in a garage or shop tend to cause sparks and sometimes involve open flames. This should always be avoided in any area that is being used for butane canister storage.

Basements can be a good place to store your camp stove canisters because they typically remain at a stable cool temperature year round. There is also plenty of space out of direct sunlight in a basement.

When storing your canisters indoors always keep them elevated off the ground and out of reach of children and animals who may knock them over causing dents or cracks. Keeping them elevated should also ensure that they are not exposed to moist conditions either.

Canister in storage

Storing Iso-Butane Canisters While Camping

Hiking out on the trail with your butane canister in your pack will protect it from direct sunlight and extreme heat. It’s important to keep your fire starting materials separated from them in case they accidentally create sparks or heat.

Dangers of punctures and damage to your canisters should also be a consideration when packing your bags. Keep your canisters wrapped in clothes or a towel to protect them from sharp and pointy objects. It’s not likely that they will be damaged from a hike, but a heavy bag tends to drop hard and any sharp objects inside or pointy rocks on the ground can quickly cause damage.

Around camp in the summer heat it’s best to remove your canisters from your pack and leave them in a shaded area whether under a tarp, towel or some dense brush. Keeping them in a dish of water temporarily will also prevent them from overheating just don’t do it for too long or they will start to rust.

Tents can get really hot under the intense sun of a mid-summer day preventing it from being a good storage area. However, in the winter it may be necessary to shelter your canisters from the cold and even huddle with them in your sleeping bag to keep them functional. Use your best judgement and aim to keep them at a stable temperature well above freezing and below 100oF to prevent damage.

Cooking with a butane canister stove is a balancing act between blocking the wind from your flame while also allowing airflow around your fuel canister. Try to cook in the shade if possible and monitor the temperature of your canister closely if you are using something to shield the wind. 

White Gas

Storing White Gas For Liquid Fuel Stoves

White gas is a liquid fuel often called naptha that comes in various blends from different manufacturers including MSR and Coleman. These fuels are similar to gasoline but have lower octane levels and ideally fewer additives.

White gas should be stored in a cool dry place away from sources of heat.  The container needs to have a tight seal to prevent leaks and be kept in a well ventilated area. Smoking or having open flames around white gas is very dangerous and should be avoided at all times.

When transferred out of the manufacturer’s original container, the new bottle should be clearly labeled with the blend and stored out of reach of children and animals. Add the date that it was opened as well to help better track the age of the fuel. Many manufacturers give it a 1 year shelf life once opened but this stat is highly debated in the camping community.

White gas is usually sold in 1 gallon and ¼ gallon metal cans. These have a shelf life of 2-3 years if unopened or even longer if kept at temperatures below 60oF. In fact, many campers report finding old cans laying around more than 10 years and the fuel still burns without issue.

If you are burning older fuel it’s not a bad idea to run it through a filter to remove any rust particles. Any water, gum or contaminants will collect at the bottom. Avoid running the last few inches from the can through your stove or it may clog up the burner. pump or valves. Using stabilizers and additives can cause corrosion and clogging as well.

white gas canister

Best Containers For Storing White Gas

Since liquid fuel stoves don’t burn a lot of gas when boiling water or cooking, it can take a while to go through a full gallon. This makes having a resealable smaller size bottle a popular choice for most backpackers.

The metal cans that white gas is purchased in are designed to hold the liquid for the life of the fuel. As long as they are kept in a cool dry location and the seal on the cap is in good condition there should be no problem leaving it in this type of container.

If you would like to use a smaller container than purchasing a ¼ gallon size will work great as storage and can be topped up with the larger can as it’s emptied.

Buying the smaller size is more expensive than the 1 gallon size so using this method is more cost effective. It also prevents the fuel from sitting in any one container for too long and blends any older fuel with newer fuel to keep it fresh.

These cans tend to rust on the bottom if left sitting on concrete or dirt floors so it’s best to store them off of the ground on a shelf or in a cabinet. Keeping fuel in the original can will also prevent anybody from accidentally confusing it with a different liquid as well.

Liquid Fuel Camp Stove Bottles

Stove manufacturers sell lightweight rugged bottles made of extruded aluminum. The bottles like the BRS Fuel Bottle are available in different high visible colors from camping stores and online retailers like amazon. They commonly come in 11oz, 20oz and 30oz capacities with high quality leak proof caps to keep the fuel fresh.

It is a good idea to inspect the rubber seal regularly for cracks, pitting and other signs of damage. The seal (o-ring) should last 5 or more years but replacing it every 2 years is cheap insurance.

These are the best style of bottles to use for storing white gas because they are already labeled and designed for the fuel. Liquid fuel stoves also require this style of bottle for operation as well making it even more obvious as a storage option. Just ensure the bottles you buy match the threads on your stove’s fuel line.

There are a few drawbacks to using these bottles namely the cost. Storing your fuel in these smaller bottles will require having to purchase 2 or 3. Also, the opening of the bottles are small making it awkward to fill them without spilling. Use a funnel and have someone hold onto the canister tightly when transferring fuel to avoid spillage.

Containers To Avoid Storing White Gas In

Plastic bottles are made up of many different mixtures of plastics and are best to avoid using to store white gas. Cheaper plastics will be eaten away over time and even if they appear to hold up there can still be some gum in the bottom that can clog your stove.

Class is a better material to store white gas in because it won’t be affected by the fuel but it will be much easier to knock over and break. For this reason storing your gas in a glass bottle is not a good idea.

fuel cans
ID 162842589 © Péter Gudella | Dreamstime.com

Storing White Gas In A Car

White gas containers are not pressurized and therefore are unlikely to explode in a car however they do need to be properly secured to prevent them from being knocked over. The standard metal cans that white gas comes in can bulge out or cave in with extreme temperature change allowing fumes to escape.

It’s better to use a liquid fuel bottle like the one used with a stove and only keep it in your car as needed. It is not recommended to leave in your car as a longer term solution but is more durable and has a better seal than a manufacturer’s can.

Storing White Gas At Home

It’s not recommended to store white gas inside your home due to the toxic fumes and fire hazards that go along with it. This fuel is petroleum based and extremely flammable and dangerous to have in your living space so avoid having it inside your home at all.

Garages are the place where most white gas cans are found. Due to the ventilation and separation from the living space, campers have been storing white gas in their garage well past its suggested shelf life. The garage tends to have a more stable temperature than a shed as well which keeps the fuel fresher longer.

Storing White Gas While Camping

Hiking with white gas is standard practice for backpackers, especially those who venture to high altitudes and into cold weather. When in aluminum stove bottles it is easily transportable and protected from leaks and punctures.

Keeping your fuel bottles on the outside of your pack is not the best use of an easily accessible pocket but it is recommended to separate from your other gear in case of a leak. Be sure to keep it upright and depressurized when being carried as well. There are custom pockets and covers made for carrying and protecting bottles while on the move like this Molle tactical pouch from amazon.

Around Camp it’s best to keep your gas bottle outside of your tent and backpack. Keep it in a shaded area out of direct sunlight. This will also prevent it from ruining your bag and food if it were to leak.

Keep your fuel out of any foot traffic paths to prevent it from being kicked and knocked over causing dents or damage to the aluminum bottle. On top of a table will keep it safe from being knocked over or damaged but if your table is in direct sunlight you can cover your bottle with a damp towel. This will also lower the risk of it walking off.

Storing Camp Stove Alcohol

There are a few different types of alcohol used in camp stoves. Ethanol, Methanol, grain alcohol and isopropyl alcohol are most common. Some come in small sized bottles while others, like denatured alcohol, usually come in 32oz (946ml) metal canisters.

Containers For Storing Camp Stove Alcohol

Most alcohols can be stored in plastic bottles like the type used for mouthwash or contact lens cleaner. As long as the bottle is air tight and provides a good seal the alcohol should remain usable.

The VARGO 8.5oz Alcohol Fuel Bottle has a leak proof flip top spout and graduated level lines printed on the back to help gage the quantity of fuel left inside. Bottles like these are inexpensive, lightweight and available from online retailers like amazon.

Whenever alcohol is transferred out of its original container be sure to place a label on the new bottle. Especially when poured into reused beverage containers, it’s easy for someone to mistake it for water and drink it by mistake.

If your plastic bottle has a poor seal the alcohol may absorb moisture and reduce its burn efficiency. The other downside to a bad seal is it leaking in your pack and causing a stain and odor that’s difficult to wash out.

Metal cans are ok for storing alcohol as well just a little heavier and more expensive than a free plastic bottle from the recycle bin. 

Containers To Avoid Storing Camp Stove Alcohol In

Aluminum is not a good material to store your camp stove alcohol in because it will corrode ruining both the can and your alcohol. 

Glass bottles won’t be affected by alcohol and they will ensure that no contaminants get into it either. However, glass bottles are heavy and easily broken. Cleaning up alcohol and broken glass equally suck making it a container material to avoid.

That being said, grain alcohol like Everclear is purchased in glass bottles like most consumable alcohols. Keeping it in glass is not an issue as long as there’s no risk of it falling and breaking. When taking it out on a camping trip it should be transferred to a plastic or metal bottle and labeled properly.

Storing Camp Stove Alcohol In Your Car

If you decided to use HEET for your camp stove fuel there should be no issues storing it in your car as its an automotive product. Just be sure to keep it stored upright in the trunk to avoid any leakage that may cause stains and odors in the interior.

Grain alcohol could cause a problem if stored in your car as it is considered a consumable alcohol. If a police officer were to see a half empty bottle of Everclear in your back seat you may be in some trouble, at least temporarily.

Alcohol shouldn’t have any issues in either hot or cold temperatures because it’s a stable liquid. Continual freezing and warming of plastic bottles may cause the seals to degrade allowing the alcohol to leak out and cause a mess.

If you leave consumable alcohol like Everclear in a visible location in your car it may also attract unwanted attention from thieves. Like other alcohols, upright in your trunk is always the best car storage solution.

Storing Camp Stove Alcohol At Home

When storing camp stove alcohol at home it needs to be kept locked away from children and pets. All of the alcohol’s used for camp stoves can be deadly if consumed and they are of course highly flammable.

Never store camp stove alcohol around heating units or anything that may create a spark.

Garage storage is typical for alcohol products like HEET because they are automotive chemicals. Isopropyl and grain alcohol can also be stored in a garage or shed as well.

Medicine Cabinets are not a good place to store your isopropyl stove alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol is used as an antiseptic and can often be found in bathrooms and first aid cabinets however that is 70% iso and your stove requires 90% or higher to efficiently burn. 90% should not be used as an antiseptic and therefore should not be kept with your first aid supplies.

Liquor cabinet

Liquor Cabinets should not store high content alcohols like Everclear or anything in the 190 proof (95%) range. If mistaken for standard vodka, gin or other clear spirits it is very easy to ingest an unsafe amount and be dangerous.

Whenever storing camp stove alcohols like 91% isopropyl or 190 proof grain alcohol be sure to label them camp stove fuel. This will avoid having them mistaken for regular home use liquids.

Storing Camp Stove Alcohol While Camping

Hiking with camp stove alcohol is safe to do but there are a few suggested steps you should take to prevent accidents and damages.

Transitioning to a plastic bottle from metal or glass is a good way to prevent leaks caused by punctured cans and broken bottles. Plastic bottles are lightweight and can be purchased with pouring spouts to prevent leaks and spills.

If you’re a compact packer who likes to store their camp stove alcohol in a cooking pot, it’s a good idea to place it in a Ziploc first. This won’t add any extra weight to your pack but it will help prevent any leaks from ending up in your cookware. Even if the cap is secure there could still be some residue on the outside of the bottle (though most would evaporate).

It’s likely that you’ll have some extra fire starting material inside your cookware as well. Though it’s unlikely anything will create a spark accidentally, it would sure ruin your gear and your camping trip if it did.

The 4 and 8 ounce bottles for stove alcohol fit pretty well in an outer pocket of a pack. Keeping the alcohol outside will reduce any damages caused by a leakage during transportation.

Check out our Guide To Alcohol Stove Designs to get more insight on the benefits of these lightweight camping stoves.

Conclusion

Camp stove fuels are essential to camping but can also be dangerous if stored improperly. By following the guidelines above your fuel will have a longer shelf life, burn better in your stove and be safe to keep on hand for times when it’s needed.

Beau

Beau is an avid backpacker and camper who takes every opportunity to get outdoors and into nature. Having accomplished many different multi-day hiking and camping trips throughout the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia he's always looking for great ways to lighten his pack and get the most out of his gear.

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How you store the fuel for your portable backpacking camp stove is important for the safety and lifespan of your fuel. Improperly stored gas, propane, alcohol and wood can at best make it less effective and at worse cause a serious accident or fire. Learn our tips and guidelines to store your fuel so it will have a longer shelf life, burn better in your stove and be safe to keep on hand for times when it's needed.