Recently I went camping with my partner and forgot to bring a spare propane bottle. We only had a tiny amount left and needed to make it work to cook our meals and make our morning coffee without running out. It was terrifying.
Running out of propane when you’re camping is never a nice experience and if you only have about 10% left in your tank, you might wonder how long it will last and if there’s anything you can do to make it last longer.
10% of 1 lb of propane will last around 10-12 minutes for a heater/stove and around 1-1.5 hours for a refrigerator or water heater. 10% of a 5 lb tank will last between 1-7.5 hours, while 10% of a 30 lb tank will last 6 hours to 1.7 days depending on your usage.
To help your propane last longer cut down your usage by turning off your water heater except when you need it, turning your fridge off or fridge temperature down and use a single stove burner on a lower setting or cook food over a wood fire if possible.
Doing this can really stretch out that 10% of propane and you can even last days before you need to get your tank refilled.
For me and my partner we were camping and had a small 1 lb propane canister. We made it last for our meals by boiling water for our coffee and tea on an open fire rather than using the propane stove and only using the stove for cooking food.
Heating water takes a lot of energy so this method allowed us to stretch to the propane just far enough so we didn't run out.
Understanding how much propane your camping appliances use and taking steps to make it last longer can help you have a better camping experience.
How Long 10% of Propane Will Last in Different Tank Sizes
Here is a table explaining how long 10% of propane in your tank will last in various tank sizes (assuming your tank was filled to 80% capacity):
|BTU Rating for 10% Fuel||Refrigerator||Water Heater||Furnace||Space Heater||Stove|
|1lb Tank||2,159.4||1.4 Hours||0.9 Hours||10-12 min||10-12 min||10-12 min|
|5lb Tank||10,797||7.2 Hours||4.5 Hours||22 min||45 min||35 min|
|20lb Tank||43,188||28.8 Hours (1.2 Days)||18 Hours||2 Hours||2 Hours||2 Hours|
|30lb Tank||64,782||42.7 Hours (1.7 Days)||27.5 Hours (1.2 Days)||2.2 Hours||4.3 Hours||3.6 Hours|
|40lb Tank||86,376||57.6 Hours (2.4 Days)||36 Hours (1.5 Days)||4 Hours||4 Hours||4 Hours|
Bear in mind that the figures above are estimates only and based on the average BTU rating of these appliances.
For example, a regular RV refrigerator has a BTU rating of 1,500 while a single burner stove is usually around 10,000 BTUs. You can get your appliance’s BTU rating by checking the user manual or Googling your appliance’s model name and number.
The figures in the table show how long your tank will last when 10% full. However, if you aren’t sure exactly how much propane you have left, you can get an accurate figure by using a propane scale or inline gauge.
A gauge is the easiest to use as you don’t need to measure the tank’s weight and subtract the tare weight from it to determine how much propane you have left.
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If you’re out camping and don’t have a scale or gauge, you could use the boiling water method (which isn’t that accurate but gives you a rough idea of your propane levels):
1. Boil a few cups of water and throw it down one side of the propane tank.
2. Immediately run your hand down the side of the tank.
3. Where the tank wall starts becoming cooler is your current propane level.
How To Make Your Propane Last Longer
If you run several appliances off your propane, when you only have 10% left in the tank, you’ll need to use it sparingly so you don’t run out.
Here’s how to make your propane last longer:
- Adjust the settings down on your appliances or turn them off. For example, set your water heater to the lowest temperature for a hot shower (or turn it off) and use the lowest setting on your space heater and only use it when you really need it. Turn your fridge down or turn it off and use ice or a cooler to keep things cold until you refill your propane.
- Use a traditional campfire instead of a space heater or propane stove. Campfires are more atmospheric, anyway and can cook food just as well.
- Use blankets and dress warmly at night instead of using your RV’s heater. A good quality wool or fleece blanket can help keep you toasty while sleeping.
- Slow cook or keep food hot in a cooler. If you have a spare cooler, use that to keep your food hot instead of warming it up on the stove.
Alternatively, set your stove on low or use your campfire to slow cook your meals in a camp crock. Only making one hot meal a day can also reduce your propane usage.
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- Use electricity when your RV is parked at a well-equipped campsite. If you can hook your RV up to your campsite’s electricity, run your refrigerator, furnace and water heater off it.