With so many different camping stoves and fuels to choose from, the common question is, “Can I use propane instead of butane?” When buying a new camping stove, it’s essential to understand the difference between propane and butane and choose the type of gas best for your needs. While both come from natural gas production, they have similarities and differences.
Many portable stoves are designed solely for butane canisters, while larger propane camping stoves connect to refillable tanks. Gas stoves that can use either propane or butane fuel offer versatility. But you can’t safely use propane in a stove built for butane. The fuel tank, nozzle, and regulator are calibrated for butane’s lower pressure. Putting pressurized propane gas in a butane stove could lead to a dangerous gas leak or combustion hazard.
So what’s the difference between these commonly used camping fuels? While both are flammable liquefied petroleum gases, propane produces more heat and works better in cold weather. Butane is more energy efficient in warm environments.
In our guide, you can learn more about if you want to use propane camping stoves for improved cold-weather cooking. By the end, you’ll better understand the use of your butane camping stove and if you can use different types of fuel on your camping trips. (Read Fun Camping Activities For Adults)
Can I Use Propane Instead Of Butane
If you enjoy camping, grilling outdoors, or have a propane or butane-fueled appliance, you may wonder if you can use butane or propane or vice versa.
Many portable stoves, gas barbecue, and heaters are designed for a specific fuel type- propane or butane. So can you interchange them? Are there differences between propane and butane that make one better for particular uses?
In later sections, you can find all you need to know about the fuel that can be used and the gas you shouldn’t use between propane VS butane stoves.
Can I Use LPG In My Propane Stove?
LPG stands for liquefied petroleum gas. This covers both propane and butane gas supply fuels which are commonly used as a fuel or as a pressurized gas. So yes, you can use commercially available propane or butane LPG in a type of camping stove made for LPG.
However, just because a stove is labeled for LPG does not necessarily mean you can use any type of LPG gas canisters in it. You need to consider the essential differences between propane and butane, which we’ll cover.
Can I Use Propane In My Butane Stove?
This depends on the type of butane stove you have. Many small portable butane stoves are only designed for butane canisters. The nozzle and regulator are explicitly made for the type of fuel in butane canisters. As a result, you should not use propane in a stove that is only made for butane canisters. The nozzle size and regulator pressure differ, leading to flame problems or dangerous gas leaks.
However, some larger butane stoves and heaters have adjustable regulators and nozzles that accommodate both butane and propane. If your butane appliance has fittings for a hose and adjustable regulator, you can likely use a propane tank with the proper attachments. Check the manufacturer guidelines to be sure.
What Kind Of Camping Fuel Does A Jetboil Use?
Jetboil stoves are designed for isobutane-propane gas bottle and won’t work safely or efficiently with straight propane or butane fuel in your camping stove. Isobutane has properties between normal butane and propane. It has a higher vapor pressure than butane, so it performs better in cold weather. But it’s not as high pressure as propane.
The Jetboil system is engineered specifically for isobutane-propane blend canisters. For safe operation, only use the exact type of fuel the manufacturer recommends. (Learn How To Read Date On Propane Tank)
Are There Camp Stoves That Can Use Propane or Butane?
Some camp stoves are true multi-fuel systems designed to work as propane and butane stoves. They will have fittings to connect both propane tanks and butane canisters and adjustable regulator to handle different pressures of each gas at cold temperatures.
Small backpacking stoves are more limited in the type of fuel they accept. But larger car camping stoves may allow you to use propane or butane fuel sources.
What Are The Similarities Between Propane And Butane?
Propane and butane have several similarities:
- They are both liquified petroleum gases (LPG).
- Both gases are by-products of natural gas processing.
- Store as liquids under pressure but vaporize into flammable gases.
- They are used as fuels for stoves, lanterns, and heaters that are better for the environment.
- It is sold in portable pressurized tanks and canisters.
- Give off heat when burned with oxygen.
- Colorless and odorless in pure form.
- Have an odorant added so gas leaks can be detected.
What Is The Difference Between Butane and Propane?
While propane and butane share many traits, they differ in a few key ways:
- Propane has a higher vapor pressure than butane. This means it turns from liquid to vapor at lower temperatures, where propane vaporizes at -44°F vs. butane at +31°F.
- Propane remains gaseous at temperatures below -280°F, and butane can become liquid below 32°F.
- Propane has more energy per unit of weight, so propane burns hotter than butane.
- Butane is more fuel efficient for its energy output when vaporizing. But propane is more efficient once in gas form.
- Propane is non-corrosive and has less risk of gumming up an engine over time.
What Is the Difference Between Propane And Butane Regulator
The regulators on propane and butane tanks and appliances differ to accommodate the pressures of the two gases.
- Propane has a higher vapor pressure than butane and needs a higher-pressure regulator. Most propane regulators output 11 inches of water column pressure.
- Butane has a lower vapor pressure and needs a lower pressure regulator, around 4 inches of water column.
- Using the wrong regulator can lead to too much or too little gas flow.
So, for example, you should not use a butane regulator with a propane tank, which would be the wrong type of fuel. It cannot provide the proper pressure to vaporize the propane, leading to performance issues when using a camping stove.
Check manufacturer guidelines for your appliance’s correct gas regulator needs the stoves use. (Read Shelf Life Of Propane Guide)
Use Butane vs. Propane Gas Safety Tips
Both propane and butane are highly flammable gases that warrant certain safety precautions:
- Store and transport tanks securely in an upright position. Protect valves from damage.
- Avoid heat, sparks, and open flames when not in use.
- Use only approved containers, connectors, and regulators for the specific stove fuel.
- Inspect for leaks using soapy water. Fix any worn seals or hoses.
- Follow instructions for proper tank refilling procedures.
- Use only in well-ventilated areas – vapors are heavier than air.
- Turn off appliance valves and tanks completely when finished using.
- Don’t try to use propane canisters in a butane stove.
Understanding how to handle propane fuel and butane will help keep you safe. Follow usage and storage recommendations from the manufacturer.
Pros and Cons of Propane Vs. Butane
The question of butane and propane, and which for your stove is best. Both gases have plusses and minuses when used as a fuel source:
- Butane is also more energy efficient in warm weather.
- Lower vapor pressure is safer for small containers.
- Widely available in small canisters for portable appliances.
Butane Gas Cons:
- Butane or Isobutane does not vaporize well below 32°F and won’t work for cold weather use in stoves or portable gas heaters.
- Butane in a propane stove isn’t as hot as propane.
- It works well in all temperatures down to -40°F in winter, whereas butane is actually a worse performer.
- Use propane when you need a hotter burning flame; it’s better for high heat output.
- Better than butane at preventing fouling.
- Not as energy efficient when you use butane in warmer weather.
- Higher vapor pressure, so propane needs more caution in tank handling.
- Not readily available in very small containers.
So in cold weather, propane has a clear advantage. But in warm conditions, butane can be more efficient.
Can You Use Propane in a Butane Stove?
As covered earlier, you can’t use propane in a stove designed for butane cartridges. But for adaptable stoves that connect propane tanks, propane will work fine if you use the proper fittings and adjust regulators to account for propane’s higher pressure.
The key is understanding the right stove is to follow the manufacturer guidelines. An adjustable multi-fuel stove can safely use propane. But swapping in propane for a butane cartridge stove can be hazardous.
Are there Butane and Propane Alternatives?
While less common, there are some fuel alternatives to traditional propane and butane:
- White gas (Coleman fuel) – clean burning option for camp stoves.
- Electricity – convenient for RV appliances and indoor stoves.
- Natural gas hookups – available at many campsites and great for grilling.
- Wood pellets – can be used in specialized grills and stoves.
- Solar power – for illuminating outdoor lighting and electronics.
- Charcoal – a traditional favorite for grilling flavor.
So you’re not necessarily limited to just propane or butane. Consider the convenience and costs of alternative fuel options for your specific needs.
Is Butane Gas or Propane Better for Cold Camping?
For cold-weather camping scenarios, propane is the clear winner over butane. Reasons propane excels in cold conditions:
- Propane remains fully gaseous down to -40°F vs. butane gelling up below 32°F.
- Propane has a hotter flame temperature, providing more heating output per unit of fuel.
- Propane’s higher pressure makes it less likely to have flow issues in freezing temperatures.
- Propane regulators are designed to provide consistent gas flow even in very cold climates.
Butane is poorly suited for winter camping and cold weather in general. Its lower vapor pressure leads to regulator and performance problems once temperatures drop. Propane has the reliability cold weather campers need. (Learn How Many Gallons Of Gas Does A RV Hold)
Can I use propane in place of butane in my portable stove?
You cannot safely use propane in a stove made exclusively for butane cartridges. But propane will typically work with the proper fittings for adaptable multi-fuel stoves that can connect propane tanks.
Is it dangerous to put the wrong gas in a stove or appliance?
Using the improper type of gas can be very dangerous and lead to leaks or combustion issues. Always use the exact fuel your appliance specifies.
Which is better for cold weather – propane or butane?
Due to its higher vapor pressure, propane allows it to remain fully gaseous even in frigid temperatures. Butane can turn back into a liquid and stop working correctly below 32°F.
Can I use a propane tank with a butane stove if I adjust the regulator?
No, the regulator on a butane appliance is designed for the much lower pressure of butane. Connecting it directly to high-pressure propane can damage the regulator. Use only as specified.
How can I get propane-level performance from butane in cold weather?
Look for isobutane-propane blend canisters. The isobutane component has improved vaporization in cold temps, although not as good as pure propane. Using these canisters in a compatible stove will give better results than straight butane.