Choosing a gas cylinder for camping – Which one is best?

If you’ve just bought a gas camping stove you now need to choose the appropriate gas cylinder. 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…

Best Gas Cylinders for Camping

Which gas cylinder is best for camping?

The picture above sums it up.

  • If you are camping in winter, get the Calor 3.9kg Propane gas cylinder.
  • If you plan on camping in Europe, get the Campingaz R907 gas cylinder.
  • Otherwise, get the Calor 4.5kg Butane gas cylinder.

There are of course other gas cylinders available, and other sizes, but the above gas cylinders are recommended for family camping.

Read the rest of this article if you wish to find out why, and how to perhaps save a few pounds on buying the gas cylinder…

Which is best for camping, Propane or Butane?

There’s generally two types of gas in use for outdoor stoves: Butane or Propane.

These are both types of Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), which is 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? Well, butane burns more efficiently, so you can get more gas out of a smaller butane bottle than a bigger propane one, plus propane cylinders tend to be 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. Stoves such as the Campingaz 400 ST work with both Butane and Propane.

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 that we use, are very popular.

Campingaz Refillable Gas Cylinders

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 ever go touring and camping in Europe, you can easily find Campingaz refills there.

Calor Gas 4.5kg Butane Cylinder
However, if your camping is only ever going to be in the UK, then some local firms, such as Calor, are a cheaper alternative.

What size gas cylinder for camping?

You can get some very large cylinders.

Big cylinders are typically for large patio heaters or for houses that aren’t on the gas mains. In other words, attached to things that don’t move much.

Large cylinders are just too heavy to transport, and can also increase the safety risk. In fact, you may find that large cylinders are banned on campsites for safety reasons.

So 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). A Calor 4.5kg Butane Cylinder is a recommended size.

We’ve cooked many meals on our Campingaz R907 cylinder, which has less gas than the Calor 4.5kg version. They do last a long time.

Compare Gas Cylinders

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 though holds a different amount of gas and each regulator has a flow rate, some assuming you have burn the gas on full, the following table gives a rough guide – but this is totally artificial. Real world use would be different.

Cylinder Regulator Rate Time (at full)
 Calor 4.5kg Butane  1.3kg/hr  3.5 hours
 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, both 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.

The Calor 4.5kg Butane Gas Cylinder will last the longest
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)
 Calor 4.5kg Butane  0.5kg/hr  9 hours
 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 actually 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 that has already been refilled.

Calor and Campingaz have different prices.

Cylinder Cylinder Cost Refill Cost Total New Cost per kg
Calor 4.5kg Butane   £39.99 £16.75  £56.74  £3.72
Campingaz R907 (2.75kg)  £50.00 £30.00  £80.00  £10.90
Calor 3.9kg Propane  £39.99 £15.99  £55.98  £4.10
The Calor 4.5kg Butane provides the cheapest gas
The prices here are based on RRP (December 2014 – see here and here), and so if you shop around, you may get things cheaper (or more expensive), but from that guide, the Calor 4.5kg Butane is cheaper than the Campingaz Butane.

The Calor 4.5kg Butane should also last longer, requiring fewer refills.

Using our previous calculation, for 18 hours of full on use, Calor refills would cost you around £33.50 (for two refills), whereas the Campingaz would cost you around £90 (as you would be partly on your third refill).

Where to buy gas cylinders for camping?

This is one item that 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, ones typically found in 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), and often larger campsites will stock a selection of 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 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.

The thing is, you don’t ‘buy’ a gas bottle but ‘hire’, and the price you pay is for the cylinder plus gas.

When you’ve run out of gas you exchange your gas cylinder for a refill, which should just 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 the corner of their garage. Many people will 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 the fraction of the price, and it may even still have some gas in it.

Obviously, only buy something that looks in good condition and hasn’t been tampered with. For gas cylinders such as the Campingaz R907, make sure it still has its handle/cap. Without it, you may find it difficult doing 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?

Campingaz R907 Cylinder
Because gas cylinders are exchanged, you could end up with an old and battered one (like us), right next to your new and shiny camping stove.

If this bothers you, you can get covers for the old cylinder, such as this one for a Campingaz R907 Cylinder.

Campingaz R907 Cover
It may also keep the gas a fraction warmer, which is a good thing when it gets cold. Plus the cover can prevent any rust from a really old cylinder 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 just screw the cylinder and regulator together.

The Campingaz cylinders do 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.

It’s important that you don’t loose 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).

Cooking with Gas – Your guide to getting started with cooking with gas at the campsite

This is the second article in a series to help you get up and running with a camping stove.

The next article will help you get the right gas regulator and hose for your new stove.

<< Gas Camping Stoves Fitting a Gas Regulator >>

Be in the know!

Join thousands of other parents and receive our regular newsletter containing a round up of the latest articles, days out, campsites, and reviews for helping you get your family outside and active.

Powered by ConvertKit
Gav Grayston
Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.
Gav Grayston

@getoutkids

Family adventures, activities, camping, holidays,days out OS #GetOutSide champions 2017 #DofE brand ambassador @Craghoppers Partnership @campandcarvan @_elddis_
@DebLudford Yay! Spring really is the season of hope. Lol will have to get a lot warmer for me to get the flip-flops out! - 5 hours ago
Gav Grayston
7 Comments
  1. Thanks for the information here, got a 7kg butane bottle off eBay for £11.50 and £22 refill 🙂

    8:16 pm on March 19, 2017
  2. Thank’s for the information!!

    I’ve got one vague question to ask if I may,
    How many weeks would you assume the 4.5kg to last if I’m camping on my own, out most of the day, and assume to cook 5 evening meals a week on it, plus the odd extra bit (toast etc)
    The stove in question is a little double burner with grill!!

    Thanks in advance

    (PS I won’t hold you to it)

    7:00 pm on April 15, 2015
    • Hi James,

      I guess you would be cooking for less than an hour a day, and so I would estimate you would get at least 2 weeks out of it – but I would expect much longer.

      A lot depends on things like wind conditions. Protect your burner from even the slightest breeze and you’ll use a lot less gas.

      Also watch your grill and try to judge how much gas it is using. We’ve stopped using our grill in favour of our hob-top toaster, since that cooks in a fraction of the time compared to the grill, and so appeared to be using a lot less gas.

      The gas cylinder will feel lighter as it uses up the gas. This will give you some indication when you are getting lower.

      Hope that helps.
      Cheers,
      Gav

      7:11 pm on April 15, 2015
  3. Oops! You have mixed up the Cylinder cost and the Refill cost columns in the table above. The Calor Butane 4.5kgs still wins out but the cost/kg is £3.72 not £7.61 as you stated.
    Apart from that, this is a very informative and well designed article, thanks.

    In the UK a Campingaz 2.75kg refill alone costs more than buying a whole brand new Calor gas 4.5kg bottle with it’s gas. £12.73/kg against £3.78/kg for the gas – it’s crazy!
    A new regulator to change from Campingaz to Calor costs £10, you’d get that back in savings on the first refill.

    7:22 pm on December 30, 2014
  4. Great tips!! Valuable information! Thank you 🙂

    9:00 pm on July 29, 2014

Leave a Reply