On short camping trips, I like to take my butane stove because it’s compact and butane canisters are lightweight. The other week I went camping and forgot to bring refills, I had one can in my stove but I wasn't sure how full it was.
Usually, a single 8oz butane canister is usually enough for a weekend camping trip but how much longer can they last and how can you tell how much you have left?
An 8oz butane canister lasts up to 3 hours on low heat, 2 hours on medium and 1.5 hours on high heat for a camping stove. It can last up to 3 hours on high heat for a camping heater, 6 hours on medium and 12 hours on low. A camping barbecue can last 1 hour on an 8oz butane canister.
If I knew this stuff the other week I would have been way more confident cooking my pancakes and making coffee. Luckily, with a combination of fire cooking and using my stove I didn't run out of gas. But I'll now know better for next time.
Understanding how long a butane canister lasts on various camping items can help you to plan how many to bring with you.
How Long Do Butane Canisters Last?
Below is a useful table explaining how long 8oz butane canisters last for various applications:
|8oz Butane Canister|
|Application||How Long the Butane Canister Will Last|
|Stove (single burner, low heat)||3 hours|
|Stove (single burner, medium heat)||2 hours|
|Stove (single burner, high heat)||1.5 hours|
|Heater (low heat)||12 hours|
|Heater (medium heat)||6 hours|
|Heater (high heat)||2.5 – 3 hours|
|Camping barbecue||1 hour|
The figures above are averages only and how much butane you’ll use will also depend on other factors like:
- Altitude (the higher the altitude, the more butane the appliance will use)
- Temperature (butane only works effectively at temperatures above -2°C/28°F)
- Appliance type, output and BTU rating
You don’t have to worry about butane going bad because it doesn’t have an expiry date. However, if the canister is rusted or damaged, it can leak out and potentially cause an explosion because it’s highly flammable.
How To Tell How Much Butane You Have Left
If you're like me and tend to leave the butane can in the stove between uses – or if you've got some cans left over and you aren't sure if they are full, empty or somewhere in between here there are a few different ways to tell how much you have left.
Not sure how much butane is left in your canister? Here are some reliable methods to check:
Do The Water Test
If you’re camping and don’t have access to a scale or magnetic butane level indicator, the water test is the best way of checking how much butane you have left.
However, you’ll also need a completely full and empty one for comparison.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Fill a container or pot with water. You can also use the local lake or river to do this test.
2. Gently submerge the partially-used canister holding it in an upright position. Check where the waterline is once the can has stabilized and started floating and then remove the canister.
3. Submerge the full and empty canisters separately, noting where their waterlines sit so you can compare it to your partially-used one and determine how much butane you have left.
If you do this once then you can get a pretty good idea of where full and empty is in terms of the float line and then when you're away you can use that to estimate how much you have left.
Weigh The Canister
If you’re about to leave on a camping trip and want to check your canister’s butane levels, weighing it is an effective method.
Check the label and subtract the net from the gross weight – this will give you the weight of an empty canister. If your canister has the tare (or empty) weight, take note of that instead.
Weigh your canister and subtract the reading from the canister’s empty weight and this will tell you how much butane is left.
Use a Magnetic Butane Level Indicator
If you have time to spare before you need to use your butane canister, consider investing in a magnetic butane level indicator.
They’re not expensive, automatically display the butane amount and all you need to do is attach it to your canister. However, these are mainly designed for larger tanks and I've never actually personally tried them with the small disposable butane cans.
GrillPro Magnetic Gas Level Indicator from Amazon is a good example as it’s reusable and you can also use it with propane canisters.
Never run out of Gas from now on. Measure your Gas with this level indicator, simply attach it to your gas tank cylinder with this magnetic Gas Level Indicator and it will show you how much gas is left in your tank.
How To Make Your Butane Canister Last Longer
If space and weight is at a premium on your camping trip and you can only bring 1 butane canister, here are some top tips on making it last longer:
- Bring pre-cooked meals. If you’re bringing a cooler box, pre-cook a few meals beforehand and store them in plastic containers. Then, warm them up on your stove at mealtimes. It's much faster than cooking something from scratch.
- Pack freeze-dried camping food. These make fuss-free meals and all you need to add is water. They’re also quick to warm up on your camping stove.
Backpacker’s Pantry Lasagna from Amazon is a delicious meal for camping and you can prepare a hearty meal in minutes.
Whether you’re camping, hiking, backpacking or hunting, take our lightweight, freeze dried and dehydrated Lasagna with you. Just add water to one of our two serving pouches for an easy to prepare and even easier to eat meal.
- Use a campfire instead of your butane heater where possible. Making a campfire when it gets chilly in the evenings also creates a relaxing rustic atmosphere. I personally used a campfire to boil water as that is one of the things that is very heat intensive and uses a lot of butane.
- Use hot water to cook your food. This involves boiling some water and cooking the food in an insulated flask. I like to make pasta in my Nalgene bottle when camping, for example.
- Don’t boil water for hot drinks. When making tea and coffee, heat the water just before it starts bubbling (most people wait a few minutes before drinking boiling hot beverages, anyway). This will save some energy.
- Pre-heat your canister. Butane starts to become less effective at temperatures lower than -2°C/28°F so consider unhooking the canister and warming it up in your sleeping bag or a thick sweater before using it.