White Gas vs Propane – Which One is Better for Camping?

Summer is here and the warm season is just right for camping in the woods, tailgating or picnicking. If you’re a dry camping fan and really want to make the best of your outdoors experience, one of the things that must be in your kit is a camp stove. But before you purchase a camping stove, one of the factors you should consider is the type of fuel that will power the appliance.

The most popular types of fuel used by campers are white gas and propane. But what are the significant differences between these two sources of fuel for camping? Which one is better for camping?

Read on to find out more.


What are the Similarities Between these Sources of Fuel?

Both of them are petroleum distillates. They are usually used for camping, mostly for lighting and cooking. Although white gas is in liquid form at room temperature, propane is gaseous. However, propane is usually compressed, stored, and transported as a liquid.


What are the Differences Between White Gas and Propane?

The differences between them will be discussed base on camping perspectives:


White Gas

White gas – also referred to as Coleman fuel – is a liquid fuel that looks very similar to gasoline. The only difference is that it comes without additives, though it is handled just like gasoline. It is generally produced by Coleman, the popular camping gear, manufacturing small and large camping tents, camp chairs, first-aid kits for camping and so on.


In order to use it, you have to pump up the container, heat a bit of the fuel, and then set fire to it. This means that it takes a bit more time to fix and start up a white gas stove compared to a propane stove.

Here are some points to take note of about white gas:

  • It burns cleanly and leaves no smell behind. It also does not affect the taste of the food;
  • It is safer and easier to store and transport compared to other petroleum products;
  • It evaporates quickly when spilled accidentally, thereby making it safe for use. It does not leave any odor behind as well;
  • Although it evaporates quickly when spilled, it is still highly flammable. So, care must be taken when making use of the product;
  • It is usually inexpensive per unit of fuel output, and users can carry more fuel in less volume. Users can also make use of different shapes/sizes of containers that fit their individual needs;
  • Appliances that use it are more complex and trickier to use.



It’s a gas that when pressurized, turns to liquid form and returns to its natural state when depressurized. It is usually treated the same way that natural gas – methane – is handled, though they have somewhat different properties.


What Makes Propane Easier to Use When Compared with White Gas?

It has large containers which are generally fixed in shape and size, though the appliances are significantly easier to operate compared to that of white gas. As a result of the simple nature of propane appliances, they are less expensive than the white gas variety of the same thing.

Here are some points to take note of as regards using propane during camping:

  • Due to the fact that is usually pressurized, pumping is not required;
  • A propane gas stove looks more like a canister- type, which means it will come pressurized. However, this could be potentially dangerous if the canister leaks.
  • The canister that holds propane in pressurized form has self-seals which make it safe to use when the stove is disconnected. This means the chances of getting spilled is substantially minimized;
  • It is relatively more expensive than white gas;
  • It is somewhat difficult to gauge the level of the fuel remaining in the canister after use since propane cannot be poured into its container;
  • As it is consumed, its performance degrades gradually as a result of the release of pressure. Therefore, the remaining fuel – when the canister is nearly empty – becomes superficially useless;
  • Most of the products on the market today work primarily on propane as well as Isobutane. They burn clean and hot;
  • It is possible for propane to work under temperature conditions of around -320C, though it is extremely rare.

It is one of the most uncomplicated sources of fuel to use since all you need to do is to screw on the container, switch on the valve, and then light up the gas that exits the burners. That fact that it is already pressurized and does not call for pumping or anything like it makes it preferable to some campers.


Which is Easier to Transport: White Gas or Propane?

Propane is also easier to transport, meaning that there is no need to worry about filling up the canister, spilling or priming fuel. These are the factors that make it an ideal source of fuel for people who are new to camping or outdoor activities.


Is It Advisable to Use Propane at Low Temperatures?

It’s not popular for working at exceedingly low temperatures, e.g. at 400C. This is why it is advisable to have an alternative source of fuel whenever you are camping out during winter. The best fuel source that could work at zero degrees Celsius is white gas.


What Can Other Issues Be Associated with Propane or White Gas?

#1: If you go backpacking, you are bound to face the problem of the heaviness of the containers. The canisters used are not only cumbersome but are not disposable as well. You will have no choice than to pack the containers down with you when you leave camp. Moreover, you cannot refill small propane canisters, meaning that you will have to discard them at a landfill.

You may face the same issue of packing white gas containers down the mountainside. The only difference is that the canisters are smaller and lighter. This makes it ideal for backpackers. Additionally, you can always refill the containers of white gas stoves.

#2: Propane has another issue associated with cooking. When it burns, it produces light, heat, water, and carbon dioxide. The water vapor thus comes in contact with the food you are cooking and has significant impacts on how the food turns out at the end of the day.

But white gas stoves do not have this problem.


Which Fuel Source burns Hotter: White Gas or Propane?

White gas is a hot fuel source that works at zero degrees Celsius, making it the best source of fuel for individuals camping in the snow. This means you will end up using less fuel to heat the same amount of water if a propane stove is used.


Which one of them is Better?

This is subjective and depends on individual use and season. In all fairness, propane provides less of a hassle and is easier to use. But if you intend to go backpacking, it is recommended that you get a white gas stove (single burner). If the weather turns all of a sudden, you will not be caught unprepared in a cold environment or worry about lighting your stove.

Your turn now!

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3 thoughts on “White Gas vs Propane – Which One is Better for Camping?”

  1. As a chemistry and physics teacher I would like to comment on this article that provides excellent and useful general information regarding backpacking stoves.

    Combusting (burning) either fuel source produces carbon dioxide, water, light and heat. In each case some uncombusted fuel is always released to the environment since combustion efficiency is never 100% due to the specific conditions (fuel:air ratio, gas pressure, humidity, temperature and atmospheric pressure. It is the uncombusted fuel byproducts that flavor the food since CO2 & H2O are both tasteless and odorless.

    Amount of fuel burned to heat a known volume of water” would provide a useful comparison. For example, “how many grams of fuel must be combusted to heat 500 ml of water at room temperature (~22 oC) to boiling (100 oC)” would be another, and I suggest better, way to compare the fuel sources.

  2. “Propane has another issue associated with cooking. When it burns, it produces light, heat, water, and carbon dioxide. The water vapor thus comes in contact with the food you are cooking and has significant impacts on how the food turns out at the end of the day.
    But white gas stoves do not have this problem.”

    White gas also produces the same byproducts when it burns. Can you better explain what you are taking about?

  3. Butane is the most preferred gas for cooking, heating, barbecue grills for outdoor camping, hiking , trekking, parties. It burns quickly and used in milder weather conditions. Propane gas is also used by some during cold winter conditions. If you are looking to buy Barbecue gases in Dubai, then shop at GasNtools, a leading gas supplier in Dubai.


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