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

May 3, 2021

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.

Which gas cylinder is best for camping?

Best Gas Cylinders for Camping
The best gas cylinders for camping
Camping Gas ComparisonComparison of different gas cylinders
Calor Butane
Calor Propane
Cheapest GasWhich is the cheapest to run?
Best for WinterWhich gas works best in colder weather?
Availability in UKWhich is the easiest to get refills for in the UK?
Availability in EuropeWhich is the easiest to get refills when in Europe?
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 other gas cylinders available and other sizes, but the above gas cylinders are recommended for family camping and the easiest to get refills.

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 are 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
Sizes of different Campingaz 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
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 do I need for family 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.

bigger is not always better.

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
Calor Gas 4.5kg Butane Cylinder
Calor 4.5kg Butane
Height: 340mm
Full Weight: 10kg
Campingaz R907 Refillable Butane Cylinder
Campingaz R907 2.75kg Butane
Height: 250mm
Full Weight: 6.6kg
Calor 3.9kg Propane Cylinder
Calor 3.9kg Propane
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 though 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 totally artificial for comparison only. Real-world use would be different due to all sorts of variable factors, which we cover next.

CylinderRegulator RateTime (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.

CylinderFixed RateTime (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.

CylinderCylinder CostRefill CostTotal NewCost 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
Approximate price comparison – of course, you may find different prices to these.

The Calor 4.5kg Butane provides the cheapest gas

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 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), 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 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.

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 in 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 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?

Campingaz R907 Cylinder
A 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
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 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 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 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).

Next Article

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.

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Gav Grayston
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Gav Grayston Contributor

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.

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  1. Can you answer a question? I live in Spain and can’t get any of the small shops to help me and the big hardware stores suck for DIY. I have a portable BBQ. The regulator has the small Campingaz cans like “350g power Mix” screw directly into it. I would like to connect the regulator to a 907 bottle. Do you know what size adaptor I have to buy to fit into the regulator so I can connect a hose to it from the 907 bottle? Thanks

  2. As Camping gas is so expensive Is there another suppliers cylinder the same dimensions as a camping gas R907 Cheers

  3. Strange question. Can you use a carbon monoxide detector for camping gas bottles in a camper van?

    • You can use a carbon monoxide detector in the living space of a caravan/campervan. It’s recommended to do so if you have gas appliances.

    • Yes, you can put a carbon monoxide detector in your camper van. The CO is given off when you burn the gas I believe, rather than if you have a gas leak from the bottles.

  4. Campingaz refills are incredibly expensive in comparison with Calor!
    We have R07 and R04, one from my parents and my childhood days of camping in France, the other from a car boot sale bought empty for £1 and since replaced with a shinier full one for £40!! Still, £41 is not bad.

    I’d be tempted to move to the Calor Propane, especially if heading out in winter. Though I remember these cylinders do last a long time for normal camp cooking (soups, coffee, simple meals)

  5. I so Imcurrently homeless (do work) I have been given a single gas stove typical camping stove what gas cylinders do I need and how many do I need a month with being homeless need to budget what littlemoney I have to get these

  6. What Campingaz charge for refills is bordering on daylight robbery – currently £35 in the UK for an exchange / refill of 2.75kg; compare and contrast Calor at circa £20-£25 for an exchange / refill of 4.5kg; even more eye-opening is to compare and contrast to the price of Autogas (a butane/propane mix) which currently approximates to £1 per kg…

    I guess one has to pay extra for the pixie-dust but a factor of 10 for Campingaz? Really??

  7. Very useful. Thanks

  8. I have a Campingaz stove that screws straight on top of a R907 cylinder (doesn’t need a regulator). Do Calor cylinders have same kind of screw?
    In Spain our cylinders have different type of regulator. I have a regulator that converts our big cylinders of propane or butane in a screw one ready to put a Campingaz stove on top of the cylinder but I haven’t seen a Calor cylinder yet to compare.
    Usually the refill of a R907 costs about 20 eur whilst the 11/12kg of Repsol cylinders cost between 13 and 20 (price is fixed by gov).

  9. Hi
    Been looking at the gas options having just bought a cadac, went for the conversion which allows you to use the relevant cannister rather than a gas bottle. I was surprised to work out that it’s a lot cheaper to buy cannisters, 3 cannisters hold the same as a 904 and are a lot easier to carry around,

    • Reply
      ChristineWeekend Wanderers
      Chat Badge
      September 16, 2018 at 8:33 pm

      Hi Thank you I brought the big one but will look into changing the pipe to the smaller bottles.

      • Reply
        Chris veseyWeekend Wanderers
        Chat Badge
        September 16, 2018 at 9:22 pm

        Hi, I just bought a pack of 6 440 gram cartridges from wow camping for under £20 including postage, the special hose was £12.50. So… I got 3.1 kg of gas. To refill the camping gas smaller bottle costs around £25 and only gets you 1.8kg of gas, simples, 

  10. Hi
    Can I use any size gas on a stove ? I brought a second hand stove with a rather large empty gas bottle I think it’s a size 4.
    Thank you

  11. Do you have to use a certain gas with a stove or can buy the regulater for the gas you want to use i would like to use calor
    I went into Halfords as they have a two burner stove with grill on sale for £29.95 beside it was a regulator and canister of gas 907 I asked how much they were all together (weren’t all priced but the fellow advised me not to pay as getting the bottle refilled here in Northern Ireland would be very difficult as only 2 or 3 shops stock it but is easily got in England

    • Reply
      ThomasWeekend Wanderers
      Chat Badge
      August 12, 2018 at 7:36 pm

      Hi Angela.

      By all means- get calor.

      the only thing that matters is is it Butane or propane, and even then most of the stoves or barbecues will work on both.

      It is, when not difficult, then at least expensive to refill campingas north of English Channel.

      What I did, maybe it will help you (prices in my area- London):

      found out price for empty campingas (around £30) found out price of refill (around £30 for 3 kg of butane) found out price for empty calor 4.5kg bottle (around £20) cost of refill (around £16 for 4.5kg)

      went to my local reuse centre/dump, looked in the cage, asked guy can i have a bottle or two..
      got 2 bottles, one campingaz, one calor, for a guys tip (lucky dip in my pocket, i think around £4 in coins) campingaz turned out to be full!

      bought both regulators.

      from now on i use calor when Im in UK, campingaz when i camp in France (refill there much much cheaper, and they dont to calor there anyway) all with one and same campingaz barbecue/stove

      I  hope this helps at least a little bit, if you have more questions, just ask.
      good luck

    • Yes, you can. Just get the regulator for the Caller gas bottle.

  12. Hi, I’ve seen some people cook on top of the cylinder. but mine does t have a burner or any pan holder on top. Can I get this installed?

  13. Thanks for these tips. I had a 2nd hand twin burner with a Campngaz regulator on it (originally from Aldi). After reading this I went to the local tip and got 2 r907 canisters and a Calor Butane 4.5kg one which actually has some gas left (>1kg) – all the guys at the tip wanted was teabags, preferably PG apparently. So I bought them the biggest box my local supermarket did (approx £6) for three canisters. Very pleased. Will be reading a lot more advice from this site now as I get ready to get out there this summer.

  14. Hello, can I use a calor gas bottle and regulator with my camping gaz stove


  15. I went to local dump. I went for rusty, but somewhat heavier than others campingaz 907 cylinder (there was loads) and the only Calor 4.5 bottle. Cost: £5 tip for guy who opened cage. At home it was straight to scales, turned out that calor has 0.5, and campingaz 2.3kg (!!) of gas left in it.

  16. One more snag to add to article: bottle cover isn’t really that good (apart from visual).
    LPG (liquid) needs to absorb heat from surroundings to turn into gas. Cover on the cylinder will work as insulation, slowing down the process. Sure, its a good idea to use it when its very, very, very hot, but if you have flow problems when its cold, you’ll be better off taking cover off and setting cylinder in sunlight (if possible) or heat it up by (almost) any other means. No. Don’t use blowtorch. Trust me- you don’t miss your eyebrows (if you’re lucky) or arms (unlucky) until they’re gone.

  17. Thanks for the information here, got a 7kg butane bottle off eBay for £11.50 and £22 refill 🙂

  18. 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)

    • 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.

  19. 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.

  20. Great tips!! Valuable information! Thank you 🙂

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