Tired of having trail mix for dinner and cold tea for breakfast? You’re not alone. We all have had at least one exasperating moment of running out of fuel for fire, leaving us with nothing but the tasteless and boring nutrition of granola and dried cereal. Which is why we bring to you this, and a bunch of other articles that deal with the details of camping gas.
If beef jerky and cold tea are your favourite delicacies, then this article might not be for you. But, if like us, even you’d like to wake up with a view and have your steaming, hot cuppa in the tent – then you might just have hit a jackpot.
With this, and a series of other articles, we bring to you the detailed how’s, what’s and why’s of this one invention that could rightly be given the title of The Hungry Camper’s Blessing.
That’s right; we’re talking about none other than the camping gas – the unsung hero of all your experiences in the untamed wildernesses.
Without further ado, let’s jump right in!
#1 Camping Gas? Or Campfire?
Hmpf. You might think. Isn’t living raw the whole point of going camping? And isn’t a campfire the epitome of this rawness? Then, is there a point in going for something luxurious, like a camping gas stove?
Well, to answer your queries in order- Yes. Yes! And, heck yeah!
What we mean to say, is that, yes camping is about embracing your wild side, and being one with the element and what not; and yes, a campfire can be taken as a symbol of that raw awesomeness; but, yes there totally is a point in opting for a camping gas stove!
In fact, a camping gas stove is more of a necessity than a luxurious choice. There are some obvious advantages of a camping gas over campfire –
i. Ease of Availability
We’ve all been there – in that one moment where either the firewood was too damp, or the kindling was too less, or no tinder was to be found anywhere!
Those cursed moments of not being able to set up a campfire are no strange occurrence for seasoned campers; and are a greater risk for the newbs.
This is where the camping gas stove shines. It provides flames when you need ‘em – with no hassle or running around for materials.
ii. Clean Fire
Looking for options that make your stay in the wild comfortable, without suffocating the wild? Avoid campfires. Well, not completely. Obviously – nothing beats the fun dances around a campfire, and toasted marshmallows? Who wouldn’t like s’more of ‘em?
But for the important applications of cooking and heating water – applications and uses that require flames to be up for a longer duration, a camping gas stove provides cleaner alternatives.
As we’ll see ahead, the fuel used in camping gas is in fact composed of few of the cleanest sources of energy found today.
Thus, when it comes to cleanliness and environment-friendliness, camping gas stoves score another point over sooty, polluting flames of a campfire.
Consistency is the key to good coffee … and, well, success. You get the point.
Campfires give flames that sway and cannot exactly be controlled. The max you can do is to move the pan closer or further away from the flames.
This means inconsistent heating – which in turn means wastage of heat and improper heating of water – which, devastatingly, puts your beloved cuppa at the risk of destruction of taste and texture.
With camping gas stoves, you get the ability to simmer the flames and control the heat supplied to the pan – which gives consistent heating – which is good not only for your brew, but also for any and every item you cook.
With factors like control, consistency, ease of availability and ease of usage, camping gas stove is a clear winner in yet another battle of quality, i.e. reliability.
The fuel used in campfire is wood; the fuel used in camping gas stove, as we’ll see further, is LPG. LPG, or liquified petroleum gas, is a much more efficient fuel when compared to wood – which means, another hot score for the stove!
Don’t believe us? Believe the numbers:
The average of the calorific values of 41 wood types was taken = 37717 kJ/kg
The calorific value of LPG = 51000 kJ/kg
To put it into perspective, it requires about 335 kJ of heat to boil one litre of water. So –
In an ideal condition, you’ll need about 9 grams of wood to produce the same amount of heat that you can easily obtain from a mere 6.56 grams of LPG.
Add factors like shelf life, ignition temperature, weather dependence and overall long-term costs – and you’ll see how investing on LPG will save the money you so easily would’ve spent on purchasing firewood and kindling time and again.
#2 What Is Camping Gas?
Now that we have hopefully convinced you why you should bother yourself with the prospect of a camping gas stove, let’s get to the most basic question of all – what is camping gas?
Before we answer that, we’ll look at another, perhaps very basic question:
What is LPG or Liquified Petroleum Gas?
As the name might suggest, it is a by-product of petroleum, in the form of a gas, which is liquified before storing.
Basically, when oil and natural gas, two other petroleum products of immense commercial and economic value, are extracted – another by-product tries to escape. This is none other than our LPG.
LPG is more like an umbrella term that loosely defines the family of hydrocarbons propane, butane, propylene, butylene, isobutane and a blend of these.
Back To Camping Gas:
Now that we have a rough idea of what LPG is, we can focus on the burning question in our hand – what is camping gas?
Camping gas forms that part of the LPG family which contains a blend of propane, butane, propylene and other hydrocarbons in small quantities.
Worthwhile to note – camping gas is a mixture of hydrocarbons; it is not pure propane or pure butane.
It is important to remember this difference because while superficially the names of ingredients look the same, the chemistry changes drastically when we go from pure propane to a propane-butane mix to pure butane.
Let us look at the chemical composition of a common cylinder:
Chemical Composition Of An Average 20-pound cylinder
While compositions can vary with brand, size and type, the following table provides a rough estimate of the composition. Although, it is advisable that you always read the company’s datasheet before purchasing a gas cylinder.
|Propane||Ranges from 10 to 95 percent|
|Butane||Ranges from 10 to 95 percent|
|i-Butane||Ranges from 20 to 80 percent|
|Propylene||Less than 5 percent|
|Ethane||Less than 6 percent|
|Ethyl Mercaptan||Less than 0.1 percent|
It is useful to note here that ethyl mercaptan has no much role in burning or combustion; yet, it has one of the most important roles to play – i.e. safety.
The smell of rotten eggs you get when there is a gas leak, it’s the courtesy of ethyl mercaptan.
The other hydrocarbons, i.e. propane, butane, etc are odourless, colourless, and thus do not give any indication of leakage. This is precisely why a small amount of ethyl mercaptan is added so that we are alerted in case of a leakage.
Properties Of Camping Gas
Given the variety of compositions available in camping gas cylinders, pin-pointing a single set of properties won’t paint an accurate picture.
However, there is a certain generalized set of properties for a mixture of propane/butane that sets it apart from pure propane and pure butane:
Boiling Point: ~ 10.94 degrees Fahrenheit (mid-way between Propane & Butane)
Burning time: 2.5 to 3 hours in ideal conditions
Ease of carrying: lightweight, very portable
For a detailed description of properties of various compositions of propane and butane, click here.
#3 Camping Gas VS Propane
We’ve mentioned multiple times now, that camping gas is different from pure propane. But how different is it? And in what ways? Why choose pure propane at all, when camping gas has pretty attractive properties?
Let’s clear these doubts too!
There is no doubt in the fact that propane is one of the cleanest most versatile fuel there is. However, one of it’s major drawbacks is that it cannot be used as a pure substance in warm weathers – it will explode.
Propane has high volatility, which means –
- You need high pressure vessels to store propane; these can sometimes be heavy to carry.
- Propane will vaporize and be flammable at temperatures found on a nice, bright sunny day; this makes it a high-risk material to carry.
Camping gas, on the other hand, has a combination of butane and propane. Here’s how it comes in handy:
- For starters, the high volatility of propane is actually used to a benefit here: camping gas can be used in cold temperatures where butane tends to fail.
- Next, thanks to the sluggish vaporization of butane, the pressure over propane is maintained – which reduces the explosion risks associated with pure propane.
Basically, propane/butane form a sort of a yin/yang duo for camping gas stoves. The properties of one enhances those of another.
#4 Camping Propane VS Torch Propane
A propane torch is a tool used for many purposes such as brazing, welding, annealing, soldering, and if you’re skilled enough – cooking some s’mores in the backyard!
As the name suggests, the torch uses the hydrocarbon Propane as its fuel. Propane seems like the star of the show here – from stoves to blowtorches.
Now coming to whether or not there is a difference between the propane used for camping stoves and propane used for blowtorches –
The short answer is, there is no difference as such.
The slightly longer answer is, the only difference you might find will be in the slight variations here and there in the compositions of additives like ethane and propylene. Other than that, it is really the same propane being used.
#5 Can I Use Camping Propane For Torch?
Again, the short answer is – yes, you can.
The slightly longer answer will be to check for parameters like fitting, dimensions, compositions – if the nozzle fits the torch dimensions, you can use the camping propane canister for your blowtorch too!
The major precaution to take here is to keep clumsiness out of the room. Once you manage that, you’re pretty much good to go.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now, unless you’re trying to recreate your very own version of Man Vs Wild while camping, it is better you invest in a camping gas stove.
Whether you like it or not, a campfire is not the ultimate solution to all your cooking needs.
So, what are you waiting for? Get Google-ing and find that perfect partner for your perfect cuppa and perfect meal in the tents.
If you are confused regarding which camping gas is best for you, check out this complete guide Propane Vs Butane? – Know Which Camping Stove Is Better For You