When I go camping, I always take my trusty dual fuel Coleman camping stove. It's done me well over the years but I’ve recently been finding that Coleman fuel has become expensive.
I also don’t always have access to buying it in more remote areas and I sometimes forget to bring enough with me.
Luckily there are a variety of safe and suitable alternatives that won’t ruin my Coleman stove and will do the job effectively.
The best Coleman fuel substitutes are generic white gas (or naphtha fuel), kerosene, unleaded gas, diesel or 97% isopropyl alcohol. You can also make your own DIY Coleman fuel alternative by combining a few simple products.
Knowing what you can use instead of Coleman fuel is important if you ever run out or find that it’s too expensive.
Below you can see the current price of Coleman Camp Fuel at Walmart and can compare other options in the article to it.
1. Generic White Gas
Generic white gas (or petroleum naphtha) is my top pick as a Coleman fuel substitute because it’s basically the same thing but usually a little cheaper.
Apparently Coleman fuel does have something in it to act as a rust inhibitor but for me white gas seems to work just as well.
Coleman fuel and white gas consist of the following ingredients:
Like Coleman fuel, naphtha gas is easy to ignite, won’t clog your stove’s fuel lines and reservoir and is the most efficient fuel type for camping stoves.
It’s highly flammable and produces a lot of heat to cook your food quickly and efficiently. Since it burns clean and doesn’t produce much smoke, it’s a great environmentally-friendly option and won’t make your camping gear smell like fuel.
If you have a Coleman camping stove, Coleman naturally recommends using their own brand white gas. However, if your stove is out of warranty, you might consider generic white gas because it’s slightly cheaper.
You can buy naphtha gas from outdoor stores, Home Depot, Walmart Lowes and online.
Crown White Gas from Walmart is a great high-quality but affordable option and will save you a decent amount compared to Coleman fuel.
Crown White Gas Camp Fuel is specially blended for outdoor use of portable gasoline camping applications including gas stoves and lanterns. Manufactured with an added rust inhibitor for rust and corrosion protection. Crown White Gas Camp Fuel is carefully checked to maintain the highest level of quality for a cleaner burn and longer life.
MSR White Gas from Amazon is another example of generic white gas you can buy online. It comes in a conveniently-sized can and is made in the USA.
Designed to improve stove performance, with fewer cleanings and less maintenance. Made in the USA
2. Unleaded Gas
Unleaded gas is a convenient substitute for Coleman gas because all gas stations offer it.
However, like kerosene, it burns “dirty”, can produce a lot of dark smoke and will eventually clog your fuel tank valve. This is serviceable and cleanable so it's not a huge issue but it is something to be aware of..
When the unleaded gas enters the stove’s fuel generator (which converts the fuel into a vapor), some of the additives don’t get dissolved, leaving residue.
If you have no choice but to use unleaded gas, choose a cheaper low-octane option, like 87. Low-octane gas has fewer additives, which can damage your fuel tank’s walls and clog the fuel lines and other stove parts.
You’ll need a large empty jerry can or container to get unleaded gas from a gas station.
Unleaded gas is a good alternative if you’re in a bind but you should avoid using it long-term in your stove due to its clogging and damage potential. When using unleaded gas in your camping stove, you’ll likely need to do more maintenance and DIY.
Although you can always clean your camping stove thoroughly after using it, you can only do this so many times before the generator gets damaged and needs replacement.
Kerosene is another good alternative to Coleman fuel but it does require a bit more prep and fiddling to get it burning clean. This is because kerosene has a high boiling point than Coleman fuel or white gas.
Kerosene is also called paraffin or lamp oil and you can find it at many general stores and some gas stations.
You can use kerosene in dual burner stoves as a backup source of fuel if you need to.
You will need to heat up the preheater tube with a lighter, priming paste, alcohol or propane torch (or similar tool), which can be tedious and most people don’t bring these with when camping.
To learn how to use kerosene in your stove watch the video below and follow the following steps:
To use kerosene in your stove use the following steps:
- Fill your Coleman fuel tank with kerosene
- Use bare copper 12 gauge wire and wind it around your generator
- Preheat the generator by putting on some priming paste or alcohol and light it
- Turn your stove on and give it time to warm up
- Once you have a blue flame you are ready to cook
Kerosene contains petroleum hydrocarbons, doesn’t burn as cleanly as Coleman fuel and will produce a lot of strong-smelling dark smoke when cooking. If you're using kerosene make sure you're in a well ventilated area (you likely will be if you're camping).
Unlike white gas, it produces a bright white flame.
It will also leave a sooty residue in and on your stove and fuel lines, making cleaning up more challenging. You’ll need to clean your stove using carburetor fluid to remove the deposits.
The benefit of kerosene is that it’s much cheaper than Coleman fuel but you might find it isn’t worth it after having to spend money on carburetor fluid and time and frustration on cleaning.
If you opt for kerosene, pay attention to the quality. Low-quality kerosene contains inferior ingredients and will produce more smoke and soot.
If you have a kerosene camping lantern, consider stocking up on kerosene just in case you need it for your stove. You can buy it in bulk, like the highly-rated Crown 1-K Kerosene from Walmart, which comes in a handy 1 gallon jug.
Crown Kerosene is a fuel grade 1-K Kerosene ideally suited for all outdoor kerosene fueled appliances including kerosene-burning heaters, lanterns and stoves. Crown K-1 Kerosene is a reliable and long-lasting fuel grade kerosene.
There are some Coleman stoves specifically designed to run on kerosene but these are rare.
Examples of Coleman stoves that can run on kerosene include:
- Coleman 502 stoves
- Coleman Solus 523 stoves
- Coleman 425B stoves
4. 97-99% Isopropyl Alcohol
It's possible to run Coleman burners off alcohol but it isn't the most effective thing to use. It'll use more fuel than other types and will take longer to heat up water or cook your food.
But if you're desperate then this in an option for the smaller Coleman burners, unfortunately not for the larger burners.
You can see below that alcohol doesn't run well on the larger Coleman 2 burner stoves. If you're going to use alcohol make sure it's in the smaller Coleman dual fuel burner.
Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures and if you're out camping in your diesel 4WD you may be wondering if you can cook with diesel fuel.
You can, but it's not easy and it burns dirty.
Diesel produces a strong smell when it burns, creates a lot of dark smoke (more so than unleaded gas) and will leave a lot of dark residue inside your camping stove. It’s also not the best long-term fuel option.
That's if you can get your stove to light in the first place. Diesel has a much higher vaporization point so it can be hard to make work in a burner. The smaller burned seem to work a bit better than the larger Coleman stoves.
You can see someone cooking with diesel in the video below:
You can see an example of cooking with diesel in a Coleman dual fuel stove below:
Check out the video comparison below where the major alternatives to Coleman fuel are tested:
Here are the results of the experiment:
Time To Boil 1 Liter (32 oz) of Water
|Fuel Type||Time To Boil 1 L (32 oz) of Water||Total Fuel Used|
|Rubbing Alcohol 97%||10:13||41 mL|
|Low Octane Gasoline||6:26||22 mL|
|Coleman Premium Blent Fuel|
6. DIY Coleman Fuel Alternative
The final substitute for Coleman white gas is to make your own fuel alternative.
This isn’t the most practical option because it’s time-consuming, you need various equipment, can be dangerous and it may end up costing the same as some of the other easier alternatives.
Only tackle this if you know what you're doing.
If you’re a DIY or chemistry expert you might find it simple and fun but since you’ll be working with a flammable liquid and an open flame, you need to exercise caution and wear safety goggles.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Unleaded gasoline
- Sterilized and shatterproof glass bottles
- Gas distillation apparatus
- Open flame
And below are the instructions to follow:
- Pour the gasoline into the glass bottles and attach it to the distillation apparatus.
- Place the bottle over an open flame and gently heat it.
- Use your thermometer to monitor the temperature and check when the gas gets to boiling point.
- Attach an empty glass bottle to the other end of the distillation apparatus so that the evaporated unleaded fuel can enter it.