If you love outdoor excursions – backpacking, trekking, camping, or hiking – you may wonder which the best method of preparing your food is while on your trip. Choosing your camping stove comes down to knowing your needs and then picking what suits them best. When you have more than one option, sometimes personal preference wins the day.
Making a campfire for cooking may be easy, but there are places where making fires is inadvisable or impractical. Camp stoves provide safe fuel without the risk of fires. They are compressed fuels which means they are portable but can go a long way when cooking out.
So, when it comes to butane vs propane camp stove: which one to choose? Read on.
Butane and Propane Similarities
Regarding stove fuel, propane and butane camp stoves are the most popular options, although there are also hybrid fuels. They are both combustible gases that come from petroleum, and they are common in portable camping stoves.
They cook food faster and more efficiently than any campfire, and reduce the carbon footprint of your actions. Compressed fuel stoves are also easier to use, provided you have the right stove according to your travel plans, group size, destination, and outdoor activities.
Butane and Propane Differences
Propane-filled camping stoves are popular because they provide an economical source of fuel. Propane burns better in cold weather; therefore, it is ideal for use during fall and winter when temperatures are low. You can also use propane when traveling to high-altitude destinations, where temperatures are lower.
Propane has a lower boiling point than butane, and it is more readily available in stores and gas stations throughout the country. A propane stove is sturdy and reliable – one propane stove can easily last you a lifetime of regular camping.
Conversely, butane-filled camping stoves are more popular because they come with lightweight burners and canisters, compared to their propane counterparts. This is because butane gas is compressed at a lower pressure than propane.
Butane’s greatest disadvantage is that the burner doesn’t work below freezing point and it doesn’t burn very well in cold temperatures or high altitudes. Therefore, if you are hiking a mountainous trail you’ll want to go with a propane burner. Butane camp stoves are neither suited for nor designed for operation during extreme weather conditions.
That said, long-distance campers or backpackers and trekkers would prefer butane to propane camp stoves because they are lighter in weight and hence more portable. They are more compact and easier to use than propane stoves – ideal for long-distance trekking or hiking. Butane camp stoves are also cheaper, therefore ideal for camping on a small budget.
Regrettably, butane gas is harder to find around gas stations and stores compared with propane gas. Where it is available, it is often sold in packs, which is more costly than propane. Before planning your trip while using a butane camp stove, be sure about the amount of gas you need and make sure you have a refill center should refilling become necessary.
Other Attributes of Butane and Propane
Butane and propane are both petroleum products, but they burn cleanly and almost completely to give greater efficiency. Their ability to be compressed is the main reason they are used as cooking fuels for portable stoves when camping. Check out how butane and propane compare considering the different attributes below:
Both propane and butane gas have identical heat output – there’s no truth to the idea that propane burns a little hotter than butane. Heat output is measured in British thermal units (BTUs), and they have the same BTU value. This implies that neither fuel will cook food or boil water faster than its counterpart.
Compared volume by volume, a butane stove gives off about 12% more energy than propane stoves. Hence, one liter of butane gas will cook for longer than a similar amount of propane gas.
Connecting butane camp stoves to butane compressed gas containers is easier because it comes with a clip-on style connector. The propane stove has a screw-type connector, which is harder to set up.
Propane has a standard boiling point of -43°F (approx. -42°C), while butane has a boiling point of 31 degrees Fahrenheit (approx. -1°C). Given that the freezing point is 32°F (0°C), butane liquefies just below freezing point.
Cooking fuels can only burn when in a gaseous state, therefore butane won’t work if you’re cooking in freezing temperatures. Therefore, you’d have to warm the fuel first to allow it to evaporate before using it for cooking, which is counter-intuitive and much harder than just using a propane stove.
What about Hybrid Fuels?
Today’s portable camping stoves can be used with either propane or butane gas, but there are others made to burn hybrid mixtures of both gases. Even if you have hybrid fuel in your stove, note that the same rules will apply – propane gas will burn off faster than butane and butane will still liquefy below freezing, leaving gaseous propane. What you’re likely to be left with after cooking for a while is butane gas.
Whether or not you will use a butane or propane stove really depends on the prevailing conditions of your trip. If you’re mountaineering or traveling in late fall or winter, propane is a safer choice because it will burn below the freezing point if needed.
For backpacking or trekking in the summer or spring and at low altitudes, you can choose butane stoves, which are smaller and more compact. For butane, however, you must have a clear idea about where you’ll refill your tank when you run out – butane isn’t as readily available as propane. You may have to buy in packs for a long trip which can be more expensive than refilling the gas tank as you go.
Butane is a little more expensive than propane, but it burns for a little longer, which makes the two even out on cost.
Consider what’s most important to you depending on when you’re traveling and where you will go, and then choose the better one for your needs.