How Long Does a 5 lb Propane Tank Last? [Usage Guide]

When I go camping, I find that a 5 lb propane tank is the perfect capacity because it lasts for several days and I don’t need to pack multiple smaller canisters. But I also don't need to lug around a large 20 lb propane tank which can me more than I need for a weekend away camping.

If you’re planning a camping trip, understanding how long your 5 lb propane tank will last can help you plan better and will make sure that you don't run out of fuel when you need it most.

A 5 lb propane tank will last between 5 and 11 hours when running a camping stove. You can use a Weber grill for 9 hours on a 5 lb propane tank and a camping heater lasts between 17 and 27 hours. You can run a camping lantern for 21 to 22 hours on a 5 lb tank. 

Knowing how long one 5lb propane tank lasts for various applications can help you understand how many to bring with you. 

How Long Do 5lb Propane Tanks Last?

When full, a 5 lb propane tank holds between 1 and 1.2 gallons of propane which equals a total . Below is a helpful table demonstrating how long a 5lb propane tank generally lasts: 

How Long a 5lb Propane Tank Will Last
Camping stove (2 burners)5 to 6 hours
Camping stove (1 burner)10 to 11 hours
Weber grill 8 to 9 hours
Camping heater (low setting)26 to 27 hours
Camping heater (high setting)17 to 18 hours
Camping lantern (medium setting)21 to 22 hours

If you’re going on a short camping trip and considering bringing a 1 lb propane tank with you, check out my guide to how long a 1 lb propane tank lasts. Alternatively, check out this guide for a 20lb tank if you're in an RV or planning on taking more propane with you just in case. 

How To Calculate Your Propane Tank’s Burn Rate

The table above gives general estimates of how long a 5 lb propane tank should last with a variety of different appliances.

But if you want to be more accurate you can work out almost exactly how long it'll last by looking at the burn rate of the particular devices you're using with your 5 lb tank.

However, if you want a more accurate burn or consumption rate, you’ll need to use an accurate formula. 

Here’s how to calculate your propane tank’s consumption rate: 

1. A 5 lb propane tank contains around 1-1.2 gallons of propane. One gallon of propane has a BTU (British Thermal Unit) heat energy rating of 91,502. To calculate how long a gallon will last on your appliance, you’ll need the appliance’s BTU rating per hour.

2. Divide 91,502 by your appliance’s hourly BTU rating. The higher the rating, the more propane it will use and the quicker it will use it. 

3. This will tell you how many hours a gallon of propane will last on your appliance. 

4. If you have a full 5 lb propane tank (1-1.2 gallons), you should then multiply the number of hours by 1.2 or just leave it as is. 

For example:

A Coleman single burner propane stove will burn around 7,500-11,000 BTUs (per hour) when the burner is on full. It'll use less if you've turned the burner down to a simmer. A dual burner stove will use twice as much when both burners are on.

This means it'll take roughly 8-12 hours to burn through the entire 5 lbs of propane when using your camp stove.

91,502 / 7,500 = 12.2 hours

91,502 / 11,000 = 8.3 hours

What Affects How Long a 5lb Propane Tank Lasts?

The main factor affecting how long a 5lb propane tank will last is the appliance’s BTU rating. 

BTU (or British Thermal Unit) is how much energy an appliance needs to cool or heat 1 pound of water at sea level to 1℉. This means that appliances with higher BTU ratings will use more propane and the tank won’t last as long. 

Here is a table demonstrating how long a 5lb propane tank will last when used to run various appliances at different BTU rates: 

Appliance BTU RatingHow Long a 5lb Propane Tank Will Last
10,00011 hours
20,0005.5 hours
30,0004 hours
40,000 2.5 hours
50,0002 hours
60,0001.7 hours
70,0001.5 hours
80,0001.3 hours

Apart from the BTU rating, below are other factors affecting how long a 5lb propane tank will last: 

  • Weather conditions (e.g., humidity and wind)
  • Tank condition (i.e., fuel lines, valves and tank body)
  • How efficiently you use the appliance

To preserve propane when camping, use your heater on the lowest setting comfortable for you and consider using a camping crock to slow cook your meals. Instead of reheating your food on your camping stove, keep it warm by using some clever hacks

Stanley Camp Crock Pot from Amazon retains heat inside for up to 12 hours and is perfect for winter camping. 

Stanley Adventure Vacuum-Insulated Camp Crock (3-Quart)

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03/07/2024 08:22 am GMT

How To Measure How Much Propane You Have Left

If you’re about to leave on a camping trip and want to know how full your propane tank is, there are various ways you can measure it: 

Propane Scale

The most accurate method of checking how much propane you have left is to use a scale. Modern scales are digital and give a precise reading and are worth the small investment if you use propane regularly. 

They’re also compact and simple to use – just attach it to your tank’s handle, lift the tank and read the measurement displayed. 

You can buy them from most outdoor stores or online. Flame King Propane Scale is a great example because you can use it with other size propane tanks as well. 

Flame King Propane Tank Digital Scale for 5LB, 10LB, 20LB, 30LB, 40 LB Propane Tanks

High precision weight sensor compatible with 5 lb, 10 lb, 20 lb, 30 lb and 40 lb propane tanks. Durable, lightweight and easy to use. Works on 2 x AAA batteries.

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03/07/2024 10:07 am GMT

Propane Inline Gauge

If you’re worried that you’ll forget to bring your propane scale with you, consider using an inline gauge instead. These gauges are installed in the fuel line and have a needle to indicate how much propane you have left. 

You can order them online (like this gauge from Amazon) or get them from a camping store. 

Flame King Propane Tank Gauge Level Indicator

Grill, camp, and heat with ease without the worry of running out of propane. Meter will show when you're running low so you never run out. Emergency flow control detects gas leaks and restricts flow ensuring your safety and peace of mind

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Magnetic Level Indicator

If you don’t feel like continuously having to weigh your propane tank, invest in a magnetic level indicator. These devices attach to the tank’s outer wall and detect the propane level inside. 

You can buy these online or from camping stores, such as the GrillPro Magnetic Indicator from Amazon.

GrillPro Magnetic Gas Level Indicator Gauge

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.

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03/07/2024 01:32 am GMT

Boiling Water Test

As a last resort, you could always use the boiling water test. This gives you a rough idea of the propane level in the tank but isn’t as accurate as the methods explained above. However, it will work if you’ve forgotten your scale.

Here’s what you need to do: 

1. Boil 2 to 3 cups of water and position your tank upright. 

2. Throw the boiling water down one side of the tank. 

3. Immediately use your hand to feel where the wall starts to feel cold (this is the propane level).