ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

How Much Coleman Fuel Do I Need?

Ever wondered how much Coleman camp stove fuel (Coleman® Fuel – white gas, or propane) that you would consume or use under certain conditions?

Many of us have one of these stoves, the brand name of which has been around for decades and is considered to be of good quality. I thought it would be helpful to calculate and list the following Coleman camp stove fuel consumption estimations which will help you decide how much fuel you may wish to stock up on, based on your own needs.

I determined the consumption values based on the Coleman website per-hour usage for their Two-Burner camp stoves (Coleman® Fuel and Propane).

Coleman Guide Series Dual Fuel Stove

Coleman Classic Propane Stove

The statistics are based on both burners running on High and calculated for 1, 2, and 4 hour per day consumption scenarios.

Unless you will be boiling water for drinking (use a filter!) and/or heating water for washing, etc, I would guesstimate that a likely realistic consumption may be 1 hour per day, maybe 2 if cooking foods that require more use of heat or for more than a few people.

I attempt to make no cost comparison between the methods which would include cost differences between Coleman white fuel, unleaded gasoline (which can be used with the Coleman Duel-fuel stove), and propane. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method, which will vary depending on your own circumstances and needs.

 

Two-Burner Camp Stove Fuel Consumption (White Gas)

Coleman dual fuel camp stove
Slightly higher values assumed for unleaded gasoline (burns a bit cooler than white-gas)
Both burners on high
Gallons
(values rounded)

GALLONS day week month year
1hr/day 0.2 1 4 53
2hr/day 0.3 2 9 105
4hr/day 0.6 4 18 210

Two-Burner Camp Stove Fuel Consumption (Propane)

coleman camp stove propane
Both burners on high
1-pound cylinders
(values rounded)

POUNDS day week month year
1hr/day 1 8 31 370
2hr/day 2 15 62 739
4hr/day 4 31 123 1,47

 

Types of Fuel for Coleman Camp Stoves

 

Coleman® Fuel (White Gas)

Also called white gas or camping fuel, you can’t beat it for camping in the winter or at high altitude. Burns hot even at subzero temperatures. And unlike butane and propane, output doesn’t falter as temperatures drop. Coleman® Fuel is very refined, and burns hotter and cleaner than other liquid fuels. It’s not difficult to come by. By carrying the fuel in small refillable fuel bottles, you don’t have the disposal considerations you do with empty propane or butane cylinders. But unlike appliances that use those fuels, you do need to fill liquid-fuel appliances. And for steady output, they need to be pumped occasionally to maintain pressure within the fuel tank.

Shelf Life of Coleman® Fuel (White Gas)

An un-opened container of Coleman® Fuel stored in a dry area with no rapid extreme changes in temperature will remain viable for five to seven years. An opened container stored in the same area will remain viable for up to two years though will be at its best if used within a year. Coleman® Propane Cylinders can be stored indefinitely in a dry area. The propane fuel inside the cylinder will not break down.

 

Unleaded Gasoline

Coleman DualFuel™ appliances are made to accommodate automobile fuel. Coleman’s modified valving even allows for differences between summer and winter blends. At 1/10 of the cost of propane, unleaded gas is the cheapest of all appliance fuels. And it’s available everywhere, of course. In an emergency, you can siphon gas from the tank of your RV or car to use in a DualFuel lantern or stove. Although it’s the most economical fuel to use, you’ll extend the life of your appliance by using purer Coleman™ Fuel most of the time.

 

Propane

More campers use this fuel than any other, probably because of convenience and ease of use. No pouring. No priming. Just attach the fuel cylinder to the appliance and you’re in business. Coleman equipment is pressure-regulated at 15 psi (pounds per square inch) to ensure steady output throughout the life of the cylinder. Propane offers great overall reliability, but be aware that it operates less effectively at subfreezing temperatures than liquid fuels. Cold will cause a pressure drop in the cylinder and output will diminish as a result. If you tend to set up camp and stay for days or weeks, investing in a refillable bulk tank will significantly reduce the overall cost of fuel.

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43 Comments

  1. I’d be more concerned about having the ability to start fires because eventually, all fuel runs out and you’ll need to make a camp fire with whatever will burn.

    1. The point of this article is to simply point out the amount of fuel needed — given the various scenarios of 1, 2, or 4 hours burn time per day coupled with how much you would like to have in reserve.

      I wasn’t sure myself until I did the math. Hopefully this will help others who are curious about this.

      1. Good article. Very helpful. One note, though. I recently went camping and we used a can of Coleman fuel (white gas) that had been opened over 20 years ago. We strained it, as always, and it worked fine.

      2. In a TEOTWAWKI scenario, sometimes what you really need is just something to hold you over till you have the time to create the long term solution. Thanks Ken for doing this math for us.

        1. Exactly. Having a bit of extra fuel is simply a short term solution until:

          Things return to ‘normal’

          or

          You are able to adapt to a new means of procuring or replacing these supplies with an alternative source or method

      3. I have a Coleman Peak 1 backpacking stove that still has fuel in the tank from the 90s. It burned like new fuel last time I tried.

        Coleman Sportster II Dual Fuel 1-Burner Stove

        I have a Champion 3500W peak (elcheapo–$200 at Home Despot maybe 10 years ago) generator. Hadn’t been started in at least 2 years. Speedway gas in the tank. Started right up.

        1. Gasoline does not lose its ability to burn with age, but it does slowly crystallize, which means it is full of tiny solids that will clog fuel jets and stick to things, narrowing venturis and such. So the issue wouldn’t be whether a generator starts up, but how long it keeps running and with what fuel efficiency.

          I’ve read this crystallization is a problem after about two months.

    2. I have a Coleman Peak 1 stove from the 80s. Coleman fuel (more probably Wal Mart) from the 90s. Last time I tried (a few years ago), it worked like new.

  2. Nice Article Ken,

    Thank you for doing the research and the theoretical burn-time chart. I would like to remind the viewers of this site that having lived off white gas stoves and lanterns for a number of years, Be sure to replace the rings and seals for the pump on at least an annual basis. Keep plenty of mantles around for the lanterns. Once burned, the mantles are very delicate and not shock proof.

    The hassle of finding spare parts for my white gas stove lead me to switch to propane for extended periods of off-grid living. A reminder that this was not a SHTF scenario. I was living off grid by choice for 1/2 the year and my govt. duty station was off-grid the other 1/2 of the year. I did this for 3.5 years.

    I now enjoy the benefits of living in the land of flush toilets and light switches like most of the readers of this blog. Survive well to all

    1. @sam, The basic difference: purity. Coleman fuel is more ‘highly refined’ and doesn’t include additives that gasoline has. Also, apparently Coleman fuel is very low octane (I’ve read that it is in the 50’s).

      From Coleman:

      Unleaded gas should only be used in Coleman® appliances marked as “Dual Fuel™” or Unleaded Fuel” and only the lowest octane unleaded gas available should be used. Unleaded gas contains additives that are more difficult to vaporize than the gas itself and the higher the octane rating of the fuel, the more additives mixed with the gas. Unleaded gas from Canada should never be used in any Coleman® appliance, even the “Dual Fuel™” and “Unleaded”, as there is an additive in the fuel which will damage the tank, valve, generator and burner assembly.

      Coleman® “Dual Fuel™” and Unleaded” appliances have been designed to handle the additives in unleaded gas. The use of unleaded gas in any Coleman® appliance designed for use only with Coleman® Fuel can result in a rapid build-up of carbon in the generator and damage to the rust-resistant coating inside the fuel tank. The cost savings in using unleaded fuel in a Coleman® Fuel appliance would be rapidly offset by the cost of replacing the generator and eventually the fuel tank or entire appliance.

      1. Using unleaded gas in a coleman fuel only camp stove is not encouraged, I understand that. Could you a time or two, in an emergency? Will an unleaded generator fit the coleman fuel only camp stoves?

          1. I believe I’ve read that it’s okay now and again, however it will apparently ruin the generator if it is not a dual-fuel model. The Coleman web site has information on this.

  3. I’ve heard the shelf life of Coleman fuel is in the range of 5 to 7 years, but I have both a lantern and a single burner stove and both were stored with fuel left in them for the last 12 or 13 years. Recently as a check I pumped up and lit both of them, and voila, both pumps and appliances still worked like a champ, (after replacing the mantles on the lantern), so I just “topped” them off with the same can that I filled them from. I’ve since bought and stashed more fuel but it’s nice to know that the old fuel still works OK.

      1. I wish Coleman would use better cans for fuel. The biggest problem I hear about is the can rusting out and leaking.

      2. I just resurrected a Coleman 415C that has sat untouched since the 60’s ( this is July 2019) with a half tank of fuel and after just brushing out the spider webs it burns just fine.

  4. To Ken and the readers of this blog:

    Having lived off-grid and doing a fair amount of wilderness travel, I would like to suggest that the preppers out there consider white gas appliances made by companies other than Coleman.

    Case in point, my stove was a MSR white gas stove with multi-fuel capacity. I was a GS-5 on the pay scale so I could not afford real expensive stuff. The burner was well away from the fuel tank and it worked every time for over a decade. I had other stoves such as Optimus brand and I tried the first in the series of Coleman stoves in the Grand Canyon. At the end of the week, the only stoves working were the optimus and the MSR. Coleman has done some improvements since then but so has MSR.

    In wilderness settings, the stove is going to be used several times a day, every single day. I used it to boil water and to melt snow. If your water filter craps out and dies on you, you still have a way to make water drinkable at the cost of fuel. The MSR is good for two settings: On or Off. It does not do a good job at simmering things but I was not eating gourmet items in the high/backcountry. I suspect that in a SHTF scenario, most people will not be using chafing dishes or fondue pots.

    The MSR stoves are expensive for what you get. They actually look kind of flimsy. But, they work very well and it was worth every penny of my GS-5 wages when I was hiking for a living. The National Parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon are all high traffic areas so I did and would treat all water prior to ingesting. I burned nothing but white gas in mine. It was plentiful and I always made sure I had adequate supply chain. Each year, I would check or replace the seals on the pump. Contact MSR for the maintenance kit. Survive well to all.

    1. Thanks for your opinion. I have used my Coleman stove off and on for about 10 years without issue. That said, I currently don’t own a MSR stove. I’m sure there are several good alternatives to the Coleman.

    2. I think the Rugby team lost in the Andes mountains used sheets of aluminum (from the plane) and melted snow in the sun.

    1. Although the Coleman fuel I’ve used seems to last for many years, gasoline will begin to ‘go bad’ within months and will require a fuel stabilizer such as PRI-G (apparently the best) or Stabil (works well – costs less).

    2. @Slazmo.

      Both Stabil and the PRI products work well. They basically increase the octane level in the gas (fuel). Gas degrades over time octane wise. Using more, twice as much for example, will increase the amount of time that the gas stays ‘good’. The PRI product costs a great deal more. You get what you pay for.

      In the US, the refineries make different varieties of gas depending on time of year. Thank the EPA. Some times of year are better than others.

      Be well.

      1. Mortimer – some high octane fuels we have here in Aus like 95 – 98 and 100 Pump fuel actually increase in octane with time – must be like a good wine…

    3. I’ve used gasoline from Speedway that was older than that. Hadn’t added anything.

  5. that chart was exactly what i was looking for big help, even though i know you shouldnt use in the house in case tshtf and if your trying to cook outside then the neighbors see you have food. so i was thinking of filling up a 30 gallon barrel with kerosene to cook inside ?

  6. Where can I get white gas. With the latest weather disaster here cans went to $15. I want 25 gallons in my supply.

  7. Here is a summation on 50 years of camping.

    My old svea 123 clogged often, but could be made to work.

    My MSR white gas worked fine, until the day it tried to kill me.
    (Rubber hose leaked).

    Heavier, but bulletproof is the Coleman 502 one burner.

    Used it for more than 20 years- white gas.

    Easy to fix if ignored for a few years.

    White gas- more btu per pound.

    Propane- easier, but runs out unexpectedly, and costlier.

    Used three quarts last year for 5 days, cooking for three people in Canada, carrying gear and canoes from lake to lake.

    Breakfast, dinner and hot water for tea and washing dishes.

  8. I have a 288 lantern that is a 1996, I purchased it new.

    I still have some fuel from the original can that was purchased at the same time as the lantern and it works fine.

    20 years and the only things I had to replace a few times were the mantels and a broken globe.

    I obviously don’t use it much, all the rubber seals and pump work great and that is with fuel being left in the tank all that time. Older Coleman lantern A+++, I cant say how the new ones are quality wise.

    Coleman Premium Dual Fuel Lantern

  9. thanks Ken,,,I only want to know, why a propane stove can be use inside a house and the unleaded don’t, Is that because the the gas fumes are worse?

    1. – James – The proper answer is that you are supposed to use ‘no’ fuel-burning appliances indoors. That’s thanks to our law-suit happy population and an over abundance of lawyers. The correct answer is that you have to apply liberal doses of common sense and allow a good amount of fresh air when you use any fuel-burning appliance, even a fireplace, and watch out for any symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Sleepy, red skin, look it up. The long answer is that gasoline stoves have a tendency to flare up when lit and are a fire hazard because of that. You can light one outdoors and bring it in if you use proper precautions, and that includes having the proper fire extinguisher near at hand. Again, look it up! Propane doesn’t do that, nor does butane or non-pressurized alcohol stoves. I have used all of the above at various times, but be sure that you have an appropriate fire extinguisher at hand and know how to use it! Besides that, it’s a matter of fresh air and Common Sense being applied.
      – Papa S.

  10. Help Needed” I have a 425E Coleman Stove but I live in Central America and I cannot find Coleman Camp Fuel” What else can I use for this stove since I see that for this model Unleaded Gasoline is not an option??

    Thanks.

    1. – Robert L –
      Unleaded Gasoline is not supposed to be usable because it does have additives. If you can get white gas, that can be used in place of Coleman fuel. If all you can find is unleaded, you may be able to use it. Stock up on generators for your stove, though. It will clog the generators on a regular basis.
      It is possible to clean them a few times with Naphtha, but I really don’t know how many times you can get away with that.
      Coleman fuel and white gas are one and the same thing, though. Hope this helps.

      – Papa S.

      1. Thank you for the advice, just one more question , can Kerosene, Butane or lighter fluid be used? Or deff No, No?

        Thanks.

      2. – Robert L –
        Sorry, the answer is absolutely no. Kerosene, Butane (I don’t even have a clue how you could attempt to use that), or Lighter fluid are definite no-no’s.
        – Papa S.

  11. Be easier to compare if you keep it to gallons vs. gallons so the numbers don’t look so skewed.

    A 1 pound bottle of propane is .24 gallons.

    So basic yearly cost for 1 hour a day is technically as follows:

    Coleman Fuel = 73 gallons @ cost $657 using $9 a gallon
    Propane = 87 gallons @ cost $230.55 using $2.65 a gallon

    Burn rates are virtually identical. Since I can get propane for $2.65 a gallon and Coleman fuel is $8-$13 seasonal I feel propane wins.

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