I love my butane stove because it’s lightweight and the fuel canisters and compact and easy to transport when I’m camping. It's the perfect little stove for single nights or weekends away with my partner.
However, I recently encountered a situation where I ran out of butane and all I had was a can of white gas (which is the same thing as Coleman fuel). I didn't know whether or not I could find a way to use it with my butane stove and so I ended up using the fire pit to cook which wasn't ideal.
After doing some research into whether or not I could use white gas instead of butane, the results surprised me.
You can’t use white gas instead of butane unless you have a multi-fuel appliance that runs on both fuels. There are many fuel adaptors and converters on the market that allow you to use butane on a propane stove, or propane on a butane stove, but none that let you use white gas/liquid fuels instead of butane.
Theoretically it's possible to use white gas instead of butane, but it would require you to do some major conversions to your butane stove or device and the effort just wouldn't be worth it. You're better off simply buying a stove or device that runs on white gas or liquid fuel.
Propane, isobutane and butane are more interchangeable with each other than they are with white gas or unleaded gas.
Why You Can’t Use White Gas Instead of Butane
If you have an appliance that runs on white gas/Coleman fuel, you can’t use butane instead because there are currently no adaptors available to facilitate this.
There are adaptors and converters available to use butane (and even isobutane) instead of white gas but not the other way around.
White gas and liquid fuel stoves feature a ‘generator' which is a metal pipe that runs directly over the flame and heats up the liquid fuel to it's vaporization point so it can burn efficiently.
Butane stoves and appliances don't have this generator and so there is no easy way to heat up the liquid fuel to it's vaporization point unless you completely convert the stove/device to run on liquid fuel – it which case it would then be difficult (if not impossible) to use butane on it.
There are some multi-fuel devices that can run on both butane and white gas. The MSR WhisperLite is a great little stove that can run on canister fuels like butane and propane as well as white gas, kerosene and unleaded fuels.
This hybrid fuel stove generates top-notch performance with canister fuel, white gas, kerosene and unleaded gasoline.
But these devices don't come cheaper.
Whereas the MRS WhisperLite might set you back around $200 you can get a cheap butane stove for $20-$40.
This Gas One Butane and Propane from Amazon is under $40 and has adapters for both butane and propane.
Although you can’t use white gas on a butane appliance, the good news is that you still have other fuel options available to you.
What To Use Instead of Butane
If you’ve run out of butane and your appliance only runs on that fuel, there are various fuel alternatives you could consider:
These tanks come in many sizes, from the 1 lb Coleman tanks (which have Coleman-style fittings) to larger tanks that have acme fittings with a POL connection inside.
You can use propane instead of butane if you purchase the right adapters. I've created a full detailed guide on exactly how to use propane instead of butane as well as some of the considerations you need to take into account.
One of those considerations is that propane burns hotter than butane and also exerts more pressure on its canister, the reason propane tanks have thicker walls.
These are small squat-looking canisters with Lindal fittings.
Since butane canisters have bayonet fittings and your appliance is designed to accommodate them, you’ll need an adaptor to run propane or isobutane on it.
Just as you use butane appliances in well-ventilated spaces or outdoors, you should do the same with propane and isobutane.
If you find yourself camping and running out of butane and you don't have the correct adapters for using butane or propane with your butane stove then using a fire pit can be a good way to get your cooking done even without fuel.
Your pots and pans might get a bit dirty in the process, but at least you won't be hungry.