If you're getting a gas cylinder for camping, you need to read this guide. We uncover the best gas cylinder to get for the type different types of camping.
Choose the appropriate gas cylinder if you've just bought a gas camping stove. This article continues our series on helping you get up and running with your gas stove and shows you which cylinder is best depending on what camping you wish to do.
Which gas cylinder is best for camping?
|Calor Butane||Campingaz||Calor Propane|
|Best for Colder Temperatures||No||No||Yes|
|Availability in the UK||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Availability in Europe||No||Yes||No|
The Best Gas Cylinders for Camping
- If you are camping in winter, get the Calor 3.9kg Propane gas cylinder.
- If you plan camping in Europe, get the Campingaz R907 gas cylinder.
- Otherwise, get the
Calor 4.5kg Butane gas cylinder(see note below on the Calor 4.5 kg)
Other gas cylinders are available, and other sizes, but the above gas cylinders are recommended for family camping and are the easiest to get refills.
Read the rest of this article to find out why and how to save a few pounds on buying a gas cylinder.
Which is best for camping, Propane or Butane?
Generally, two types of gas are used for outdoor stoves: Butane or Propane.
These are both Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) types, often used in camping gas stoves.
If you're looking at buying gas cylinders in the UK, you'll notice some are blue (butane) and some a red (propane).
But what's the difference between butane and propane?
Propane works when it gets cold. Unfortunately for Butane, the gas condenses when it gets cold and won't flow (no early morning brew!). So, if you are planning on any winter camping, propane gas is the only way to go.
But if propane works all year round, why bother with butane?
Butane burns more efficiently, so you can get more gas from a smaller bottle than from a bigger propane one.
Plus, propane cylinders are heavier, making butane easier to transport when you have lots of camping gear.
You must also check your intended camping stove to see what gas it officially supports.
Many camping stoves work with either gas, but it's best to check.
We go camping earlier and later in the year than most families in the UK, but we've gone for butane gas and had no problems in spring or mornings after a slight frost, but that's pushing the limits of butane.
Campingaz vs Calor gas, which is better?
The Campingaz Cylinders, such as the R907 we use, are very popular.
Campingaz cylinders have a really easy screw-fit mechanism for their regulators.
This type of cylinder is in use across Europe, so if you plan to tour and camp in Europe, you can easily find Campingaz refills there.
However, if your camping is only ever going to be in the UK, then some local firms, such as Calor, are a cheaper alternative.
Calor stops the 4.5 kg
Calor have discontinued the 4.5kg
Unfortunately, Calor has discontinued its 4.5 kg Butane cylinder. This is a huge blow for campers. Calor now recommend their 7 kg bottle. This is much bigger, heavier, and harder to transport to the campsite.
Our Recommended Gas Cylinder for Camping Stoves
We now recommend the Campingaz R907 gas cylinder. Although slightly more expensive, it is easier to manage.
What size gas cylinder do I need for family camping?
You can get some very large cylinders.
Big cylinders are typically for large patio heaters or houses not on the gas mains.
In other words, attached to things that don't move much.
Large cylinders are too heavy to transport and can increase the safety risk. You may find that large cylinders are banned on campsites for safety reasons.
bigger is not always better.
The amount of gas most people use when camping can easily be accommodated with smaller gas cylinders, so aim to get a cylinder less than 15kg (and a 15kg cylinder is still a big cylinder for camping).
Calor 4.5kg Butane Cylinder is a recommended size.
We've cooked many meals on our Campingaz R907 cylinder with less gas than the Calor 4.5kg version. They do last a long time.
Calor Gas 4.5kg Butane Cylinder
- Height: 340mm
- Full Weight: 10kg
Calor Gas 7kg Butane Cylinder
- Height: 495mm
- Full Weight: 15-17kg
Campingaz R907 2.75kg Butane
- Height: 250mm
- Full Weight: 6.6kg
Calor 3.9kg Propane Cylinder
- Height: 340mm
- Full Weight: 10.5kg
How long does a gas cylinder last?
How long a cylinder lasts in the real world depends on so many things: how often you are cooking, how many hobs you have, how long you use the gas on full, and even the weather conditions such as being cold and windy.
Each cylinder holds a different amount of gas, and each regulator has a flow rate, so assuming you burn the gas on full flow, the following table gives a rough guide - but note that is artificial for comparison only.
Real-world use would be different due to many variable factors.
|Cylinder||Regulator Rate||Time (at full)|
|Campingaz R907 (2.75kg)||0.8kg/hr||3.5 hours|
|Calor 3.9kg Propane||1.5kg/hr||2.5 hours|
As you can see from the above table, the Calor 4.5kg and Campingaz R907 last a similar amount of time, despite the Campingaz holding less gas.
This is because the Campingaz regulator lets less gas out of the cylinder.
In real-world use, though, you are unlikely to use it at full, and if you drop the Calor regulator down to 0.8kg/hr (i.e. you don't have your gas hob on full), then the Calor 4.5kg could last over 5.5 hours - an extra 2 hours longer than the largest Campingaz cylinder.
|Cylinder||Fixed Rate||Time (at full)|
|Campingaz R907 (2.75kg)||0.5kg/hr||5.5 hours|
|Calor 3.9kg Propane||0.5kg/hr||8 hours|
Therefore if you want a sensibly sized gas cylinder for camping that lasts the longest (and you're not going to Europe), then the Calor 4.5kg will last the longest.
Which is the cheapest gas cylinder for camping?
When you buy a gas cylinder, you are hiring it.
You pay for the cylinder, and you pay for the gas in it. When it needs a refill, you exchange the empty cylinder for one already refilled.
Calor and Campingaz have different prices.
The prices below are illustrative and were correct when the table was created. However, with recent gas price changes, please check suppliers' current prices.
|Cylinder||Cylinder Cost||Refill Cost||Total New||Cost per kg|
|Campingaz R907 (2.75kg)||£50.00||£30.00||£80.00||£10.90|
|Calor 3.9kg Propane||£39.99||£15.99||£55.98||£4.10|
|Calor 7kg Butane - unavailable for prices|
Where to buy gas cylinders for camping?
This is one item you usually don't purchase on the internet, as most couriers cannot deliver a cylinder full of gas (there are different rules for transporting these gas cylinders for private and commercial vehicles).
Larger camping retailers will stock these gas cylinders. Smaller camping shops on the high street will only stock the small gas canisters.
Where to find refills of camping gas cylinders?
Again, larger camping retailers will also sell refills.
You can often find refills at some petrol stations near popular campsites or camping routes (usually the smaller independent petrol stations). Often, larger campsites will stock a selection of refills.
With the recent gas shortages, do not rely on your campsite to have refills.
If you are camping in Europe, then Campingaz refills will be easy to find, but you won't find refills for Calor gas.
To avoid running out of gas when camping, some people take two cylinders, but this, of course, increases the cost and makes transport more difficult.
How do you know when to get a refill?
When your stove can no longer make a flame 😉
Actually, you do get some indication beforehand, as your gas cylinder gets lighter with the more gas used.
You can also move the cylinder to hear the liquid gas moving around inside (remember, this is liquid petroleum gas), which gives you some idea of how much you have left.
Tip for finding cheaper gas cylinders for camping
Getting a smart new stove, like the Campingaz 400 ST, is only part of the outlay, as you also have to buy a gas cylinder.
You don't buy a gas bottle but hire it and pay the price for the cylinder plus gas.
When you've run out of gas, you exchange your gas cylinder for a refill, which should be the cost of the gas.
So a refill doesn't happen whilst you wait. Your cylinder is just swapped for one that's already been refilled.
Depending on the brand of gas you get (some stoves can run on different gas, you don't have to use Campingaz cylinders with the Campingaz 400 ST for example), the initial hire cost for the bottle could be expensive. A Campingaz R907 gas cylinder plus gas could set you back in the region of £65. Refills could be £30.
In theory, if you're done with the gas bottle and don't need it anymore, you should be able to return it to the supplier and get some of the cost of the bottle back...though this is often at the discretion and goodwill of the supplier.
Many people don't and end up with a gas bottle that's no longer used, sitting in the corner of their garage.
They eventually take these unused gas cylinders to a car boot sale, or even the local tip/recycling centre.
This is where you can buy a bottle for a fraction of the price, and it may still have some gas.
Obviously, only buy something that looks in good condition and hasn't been tampered with. For gas cylinders like the Campingaz R907, ensure it still has its handle/cap. Without it, you may find it difficult to do a refill exchange as you aren't exchanging a complete gas cylinder. (See below for replacing the handle).
If the bottle needs a refill, you can exchange it, and you've still saved yourself some money.
Unfortunately for us, we didn't go down this route (there's never a car boot sale when you need one), but if you know that next season you'll be getting a larger gas stove that will need a gas cylinder, this is something to look out for.
What if your gas cylinder is old and rusty?
Because gas cylinders are exchanged, you could end up with an old and battered one (like us) next to your new shiny camping stove.
If this bothers you, you can get covers for the old cylinder, such as this one for a Campingaz R907 Cylinder.
It may also keep the gas a fraction warmer, which is a good thing when it gets cold.
Plus, the cover can prevent rust from a really old cylinder from getting over your car and other gear when going to and from the campsite.
Replacing a Campingaz Cylinder Carry Handle
The Campingaz cylinders have a very simple connection, where you can screw the cylinder and regulator together.
The Campingaz cylinders tend to be a few pounds more expensive, but this ease of use has made them a firm favourite with family campers.
Your Campingaz cylinder should come with a carry handle that screws into the fitting where the cylinder goes. This not only makes the gas cylinder easier to carry but protects the fitting at the same time.
You mustn't lose this handle as your cylinder may not be accepted as a complete cylinder when you come to exchange for a refill.
You can buy these handles, but they are expensive for what they are (...but a lot cheaper than the cost of a 'new' cylinder).