What Exactly Is White Gas? (Coleman Fuel/Shellite/Naphtha)

If you’re new to camping you’ve probably heard about camping lanterns and stoves that use white gas or Coleman fuel. Before investing in a camping appliance that uses white gas, it’s a good idea to understand what exactly it is and how it works and why anyone would want to use them when propane and butane are so readily available and more popular.

White gas is a liquid petroleum fuel with petroleum naphtha as the active ingredient. It’s a common and inexpensive fuel for many camping lanterns and stoves and its high hydrocarbon levels mean it burns cleanly and leaves very little soot. 

Coleman fuel is the most popular brand of white gas (or Shellite in Australia) but both are essentially the same thing. 

After understanding what white gas is below, you’ll understand why many people love buying camping appliances that run off it and why in some cases it’s actually better than propane or butane. 

What Is White Gas Used For?

White gas (the generic name for Coleman fuel) is used for a wide range of camping appliances including stoves and lanterns. Common examples include: 

Coleman Premium Dual Fuel Lantern with Carry Case
$114.99 $102.26

Extra-bright 700 lumens on high with adjustable dimmer knob for perfect outdoor lighting. Dual fuel technology runs on Coleman Liquid Fuel or unleaded gasoline.

Runtime of 7 hours on high using 1 tank of fuel. Comes with a durable carry case and 3-year limited warranty.

Buy Now at Amazon
03/07/2024 04:37 am GMT

Pros and Cons of Using White Gas

There are many advantages of using white gas or Coleman Fuel: 

To illustrate the price difference, a 1 Gallon can of White Gas costs around $7.64 ($0.06/oz) while an 8-oz butane canister is around $2.97 ($0.37/oz). 

This makes white gas roughly 6x cheaper than butane for the same weight. They also burn at similar rates with similar heat outputs – so it’s not like butane is more efficient than white gas.

Crown White Gas Camp Fuel (1 Gallon)
$7.64

Crown White Gas Camp Fuel is specially blended for outdoor use of portable gasoline camping applications including gas stoves and lanterns. Manufactured with an added rust inhibitor for rust and corrosion protection. Crown White Gas Camp Fuel is carefully checked to maintain the highest level of quality for a cleaner burn and longer life.

See Latest Price at Walmart
07/23/2024 12:06 am GMT
  • It doesn’t produce a lot of smoke or black residue. Due to its high hydrocarbon content, white gas burns cleanly and doesn’t leave lots of unsightly soot on your stove. This is why white gas is better than unleaded gasoline when used in stoves or lanterns.
  • It has a long shelf life. White gas expires but has a long shelf of between 5-7 years when unopened and 6-24 months when opened. 
  • White gas is great for very cold weather. Since it’s already in liquid form, isn’t pressurized in a canister and the appliance vaporizes it, unlike pressurized fuel (e.g. butane) it burns efficiently in cold temperatures. 
  • You can use other liquid fuel if you run out. Although you can sometimes use an adaptor (an extra expense) if you want to use butane instead of propane for example, it’s easier to substitute white gas with another liquid fuel like unleaded gas or even kerosene if you can’t get access to white gas. 

White gas has a few disadvantages: 

White gas appliances are generally heavier. This can be an issue for hikers when space and weight is at a premium. 

  • You need to prime and pump white gas appliances. Since the fuel tanks aren’t pressurized, you need to pump the tank a few times and getting the stove working takes more time than butane or propane stoves because you first need to heat the generator before the fuel vaporizes and burns cleanly. This can be tedious and time consuming.
  • You can easily spill some if you’re not careful when refilling your appliance’s fuel tank. 

Is White Gas the Same as Coleman Fuel?

White gas is essentially the same as Coleman Fuel and both don’t contain additives. However, Coleman Fuel is generally a little more expensive than generic white gas and not as widely available. 

Also, if you buy Coleman Fuel in the US it will have stabilizers and anti-corrosive agents to keep the fuel fresher for longer and protect your appliance’s internal parts. Many generic white gas brands also include their own anti-corrosive agents and stabilizers. 

That said, white gas and Coleman Fuel both contain the following ingredients: 

  • Petroleum naphtha (active ingredient)
  • Nonane
  • Octane
  • Heptane 
  • Cyclohexane 
  • Pentane 
Coleman Camp Fuel (1 Gallon)
$14.47

Also called white gas or camping fuel, you can't beat Coleman Fuel for camping. Coleman Fuel is very refined, and burns hotter and cleaner than other liquid fuels.

See Latest Price at Walmart
07/19/2024 12:04 am GMT