When I go camping I use my 1 lb propane tanks to both cook my food and to use in my camping heater on those chilly nights. But I never know how many propane tanks to take with me.
How many do I need to make my tea and coffee, cook my meals and keep me warm? How long exactly do 1 lb propane tanks last in different scenarios?
A 1lb propane tank lasts between 1.5-5 hours with a stove and 2-6 hours for a camping heater depending on the heat setting you use. It will last for 7 hours with a camping oven, 1 hour with a gas grill and up to 14 hours when it powers a camping lantern. However, this depends on the appliance brand, humidity levels, wind, fuel and tank condition.
Understanding how long a 1lb propane tank will last can help you plan your camping trips better so you don’t run out of heat, warm drinks or cooked food like I have on many camping adventures.
How Long Does a 1lb Propane Tank Last?
Like butane canisters, propane tanks are perfect for camping.
While a 1 lb propane tank can last up to 5 hours with a stove and 6 hours with a heater this varies greatly based on what heat setting you are using and how many burners you have going.
It makes sense that a single burner on low heat will last longer than 2 burners running on high here.
Below is a useful table to give you a rough idea on how long your 1 lb propane tank will last for various applications and temperatures:
|Application||How Long a 1 lb Propane Canister Will Last|
|Stove (single burner, low heat)||5 hours|
|Stove (single burner, medium heat)||4 hours|
|Stove (single burner, high heat)||3 hours|
|Stove (double burner, low heat)||2.5 hours|
|Stove (double burner, medium heat)||2 hours|
|Stove (double burner, high heat)||1.5 hours|
|Camping oven||7 hours|
|Heater (low heat)||6 hours|
|Heater (medium heat)||3 to 4 hours|
|Heater (high heat)||2 to 3 hours|
|Gas grill||1 hour|
|Camping lantern||14 hours|
The Coleman® All-Purpose Propane Camping Gas Cylinder provides 16oz of clean-burning, portable propane fuel.
There are various camping stove and heater brands and, although they all work in more or less the same way, some will use more fuel than others.
The calculations above are averages only but indicate how long your propane tank will last (give or take a few minutes).
Other factors affecting how long your propane tank will last include:
- Tank and fuel line condition
- Fuel quality
How To Check How Much Propane Is Left In Your Tank
The other week I went camping and took my propane tank with me. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how much propane was left and so I had no idea how long I had left too cook.
I ended up using the campfire to boil water so I could use the stove to cook eggs because I was scared I would run out.
And yes, there have been many times where I thought I was set to cook a meal and then the propane tanks runs out on me.
I've even ended up making pasta in my Nalgene bottle on the fire because I ran out of fuel for the stove. Not ideal, but hey I made it work.
Still it's good to know how much is left in your propane tank and it's not too difficult to work out.
Before leaving on a camping trip, I now always check how much propane I have left. Here’s how I measure it:
Weigh The Propane Tank
I love this method because it’s fast and straightforward. All you need to do is check the tare weight (the tank’s empty weight which should be on a label near the handle) and weigh the tank – you can use a regular bathroom scale but you might need to stand on it first then stand on it holding your propane tank for it to register the slight difference.
I have kitchen scales that I use and these are much more accurate and better for smaller items like the 1 lb tank.
Then, subtract the empty weight from your reading (a 1 lb propane tank has 0.236 gallons of propane in it).
The Water Method
I use this method when I’m out camping as it works pretty easily and does the job.
I simply boil some water and then pour it down one side of my propane tank. You need to make sure your tank is completely upright for this to work, don't have it on it's side or on an angle.
I then touch the sides to check where the tank’s wall starts becoming cool, which is roughly where the top of your fuel level is.
This isn’t the most accurate method but it will give you a rough idea of how much propane you have left.
Use a Pressure Gauge
Using an inline pressure gauge is a great method to measure how much propane you have left in your tank. They aren’t expensive and you can fit them to your tank and then connect the fuel line.
Although the pressure gauge won’t indicate the exact amount of propane left, the needle gradually lowers as you use the propane and is color coded:
- Green: full tank of propane.
- Yellow: low on fuel (a third or less left).
- Red: almost empty (less than a quarter left).
You can buy inline pressure gauges from outdoor stores, Home Depot or from Amazon.
This Propane Tank Gauge and Refiller from Amazon has hundreds of great reviews and is easy to install. Having the valve in the off position allows you to measure the pressure or your 1 lb propane bottle.
Check the pressure of propane tanks from 1 lb all the way up to 20 lbs. Can also be used to refill propane tanks
For Larger Tanks: Use a Propane Scale
For larger propane tanks you can use a propane scale. It gives you a pretty accurate propane reading for your tank.
Simply attach the hook to the top of your tank, lift it, and you’ll see how much propane you have left.
I bought the Grill Gauge Propane Scale from Amazon because it’s compact enough to bring with me camping and set me back less than $20. It’s also helped me to cater for my camping trips better.
Quickly and accurately check your tank's propane and see how much you have left. Works for 20 lb and 15 lb exchange tanks. Just lift it and you'll see exactly how much propane you have left.
How Long Do Propane Tanks Last in Storage?
If you don’t go camping that often, you might worry how long you can store your propane tank. I once went 2-3 years without using my propane camping stove and I still had some tanks left over and I wanted to know if they were still good or not.
Propane lasts for up to 3 decades in storage as long as the tank isn’t damaged and the valve is closed and in good condition.
Propane has a very long shelf life and doesn’t go bad, even if it’s continuously exposed to air.
However, the main issue is with the storage tank itself.
For larger tanks, according to federal law, for safety reasons you must either replace or recertify your propane tank 12 years after the manufacture date.
A damaged tank or faulty valve may cause the propane to leak out so it’s a good idea to check it over and replace it if you notice any concerning signs.
Propane is highly flammable and a leak can easily cause a fire. It isn’t considered toxic but if you store it in a poorly-ventilated space and there’s a leak, it can cause asphyxiation in those with asthma or respiratory conditions.
This is unlikely to happen with a single 1 lb propane tank but if you're storing a lot of them in a small space it could cause issues. So it's always a good idea to store your 1 lb propane tanks in an area that receives regular ventilation.
How Many Times Can You Refill a 1lb Propane Tank?
You should not refill disposable 1 lb propane tanks because there’s a significant safety risk to doing so. However, you can refill a refillable 1lb propane tank as long as the tank and valve is in good condition.
Flame King’s Refillable 1lb Propane Tank from Amazon (or Flame King directly) is currently the only DOT-certified and legally refillable tank.
Stop wasting money on disposable 1 lb propane tanks and get this reusable tank. Compatible with 1 lb propane appliances and refillable from your own home.
Safe to use and certified by the DOT as legally and lawfully refillable and transportable.
You’ll need to invest in a Flame King Refill Kit (which you can also buy from Amazon) but you can save a lot of money in the long run by not having to constantly buy new 1lb propane tanks.
Easily refill your 1 lb propane canister from a larger 15-20 lb propane bottle to save money and reduce waste.
Features a 1 lb cylinder, cylinder cap, refill adapter device and refill stand (which can hold 20 lb tanks)
What To Do If a 1lb Propane Tank Isn’t Enough
Last year, I went camping with a big group of friends and realized that my 2 little 1 lb propane tanks wouldn’t be enough for all the cooking.
Instead of getting multiple disposible 1 lb tanks, I grabbed my 5lb tank and invested in an adaptor hose so I could connect it to my camping stove. I made sure it was full (or mostly full) before heading on my trip and I had more than enough propane to last the whole trip and cook for everyone.
The DozyAnt Adaptor from Amazon does the job. It’s easy to install and allows you to use your camping equipment with different-sized propane tanks.
Use this converter to connect a 1 lb portable appliance to a larger propane tank. Sturdy construction with brass fitting and a durable rubber hose.
When I go on short 1-2 night camping trips, I preserve my propane by preparing hot drinks in an insulated flask ahead of time.