Butane Vs Propane Stove: Which Is Better For Camping?

camp stove with kettle

A camping stove is a convenient item for cooking your meals outdoors.

It’s a safe alternative to campfires in areas with dry vegetation, and it’s a quick and easy way to boil water.

A camping stove can also cook your food more evenly and help you prepare your meals faster compared to a campfire.

The type of fuel is an important consideration when choosing a camping stove. Here’s what you need to know about butane vs propane.

Butane Vs Propane

Both fuels belong to the LPG or Liquefied Petroleum Gas family.

There is a wide range of applications for these fuels, and they’re both flammable hydrocarbon gases that contain carbon and hydrogen molecules.

Both fuels are portable and energy-efficient.

The extraction process for these two gases is similar since they both come from natural gas and manufacturers use a pressurization process to turn these gases into liquid fuel.

Butane

Butane of C4H10 has two isomeric forms, including n-butane and isobutane. You can find fuel canisters that mix n-butane, isobutane, and other LPGs.

Butane is present in natural gas and in petroleum in small amounts.

There is a production process that isolates the different components of natural gas, including ethane, propane, butane, and impurities.

Because these hydrocarbons become liquid at different cooling points, manufacturers can separate ethane, propane, and butane thanks to a process that puts natural gas through different temperatures.

Butane is a common fuel because it’s easy to store and transport in small containers. You can find space heaters and portable stoves that use butane.

There are residential and commercial applications, and butane plays a part in the creation of rubber and other fuels.

It’s a common gasoline additive in cold areas, and it’s also a popular refrigerant.

Propane

Propane or C3H8 is another gas with carbon and hydrogen atoms.

It comes from natural gas, and it’s a popular fuel because it’s energy-efficient, and you can store it in compact containers.

There are many applications for propane, including aerosols, heating, grills, and generators.

A significant portion of propane goes towards producing plastic.

Butane Vs Propane: Boiling Point

The main difference between the two fuels is their respective boiling points.

The boiling point of a gas is the temperature where the liquefied form of the gas turns into a gaseous substance again.

Here are the different boiling points of butane and propane:

  • Butane has a boiling point of 30.2°F.
  • Propane has a boiling point of -43.6°F.

Propane has a much lower boiling point, which makes it a better option for cold climates.

The liquefied form of this fuel will still burn and emit heat even if the temperature drops.

If you’re planning a backpacking trip in a cold and harsh environment, propane is your best option.

Temperature and Efficiency

Butane can reach a maximum temperature of 2,400°F, while propane can reach a temperature of 3,600°F.

Propane produces more heat, which means this fuel has a more effective combustion process.

However, you won’t get that kind of heat output unless you have access to industrial applications like propane torches.

Camping stoves typically have a temperature that doesn’t exceed 400°F. You won’t see a significant difference in heat output within this lower temperature range.

Because propane has a higher heat output, this fuel is slightly more efficient when it burns.

It’s not a significant difference due to the relatively low temperature of a camping stove, but propane is the more energy-efficient fuel compared to butane.

Vapor Pressure

Vapor pressure is the pressure a gas exerts in a closed environment if it’s in contact with a solid or liquid.

When storing propane, you will need a tank with a pressure of about 850 kPa to maintain a stable liquid at room temperature, or approximately 70°F.

Butane has a much lower vapor pressure and only requires 250 kPa of pressure to maintain its liquid form at room temperature.

The higher vapor pressure of propane makes it more suitable for outdoor use, while butane is the best option if you plan on staying at a cabin or another accommodation where you’ll be able to store your fuel inside.

Vapor pressure also has an effect on the weight of the gas. Propane is 1.55 times heavier than air, while butane is twice as heavy as air.

It’s a small difference, but propane will help you save a few ounces when packing, which can make a difference if you’ll be hiking and carrying all your gear.

Storage

Butane has more restrictive storage conditions. It’s best to store butane indoors and keep it away from temperature shifts.

You shouldn’t expose this fuel to direct sunlight, and it can withstand a temperature range of 32°F to 125°F.

Typically, butane containers come with a protective box or sleeve.

This feature protects the fuel from changes in temperature, but it can add some bulk when packing for a camping trip.

You should always store propane outdoors due to its low boiling point.

Exposure to harsh weather conditions isn’t an issue, and propane can withstand temperatures up to 120°F. Like butane, you shouldn’t expose propane to direct sunlight.

Budget Considerations

Your budget is an important consideration when planning a camping trip.

If you’re investing in a new stove, you should know that butane stoves tend to be more affordable.

They also tend to be smaller and lighter compared to propane stoves.

It’s easy to find propane refills. You can hike to a nearby gas station and find a refill for your propane stove whenever you need one.

Butane refills are a little harder to find. You will probably have to buy refills in bulk ahead of your trip and carry them with you.

Butane Vs Propane: Which Fuel Is Best for You?

If you’re planning a camping trip or hike in a cold environment like a mountain range, you will want to invest in a propane stove.

Propane is also a good option if you want slightly lighter canisters or want to find refills more easily.

If you’re going camping in the summer or want a more affordable and compact camping stove, butane is a better choice for you. 

image license: Freepik

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