White Gas/Coleman Fuel Vs Kerosene: Which Fuel Works Best?

White gas is the gold standard when it comes to Coleman dual fuel lanterns and stoves. However, you might wonder how it stacks up when used in other camping appliances and how it compares to kerosene. 

White gas is more fuel efficient than kerosene, burns cleaner and doesn’t produce the dark smoke, odor and sooty residue that kerosene does. This makes it a better choice for stoves. 

Kerosene is generally cheaper than white gas and much more readily available. It’s a popular fuel for camping lanterns and heaters and a great back-up fuel if you run out of white gas in the middle of nowhere. 

If you’re wondering which fuel is best to use in your multi-fuel camping appliance, it’s a good idea to compare white gas and kerosene and understand how effective each one is. 

White Gas and Kerosene: The Differences Explained

Below is a helpful table showing the key differences between white gas and kerosene:

White GasKerosene
Alternative NamesColeman fuel
Naphtha gas
Parrafin
Lamp oil
Active IngredientsPetroleum naphthaNaphthenes
Paraffins
Aromatic hydrocarbons
Efficacy in Coleman Camping AppliancesHighly effectiveRelatively effective
Boiling Point117℉575℉
Burns Cleanly?YesNo
PriceAverageInexpensive
AvailabilityNot Widely AvailableWidely Available
Shelf Life5-7 years when unopened6 months if opened5 years if unopened6 months once opened

Active Ingredients

White gas has only 1 active ingredient (petroleum naphtha) while kerosene has 3 key ingredients: 

  • Naphthenes
  • Paraffins
  • Aromatic hydrocarbons

White gas doesn’t contain any alcohol. In contrast, kerosene contains varying amounts of ethanol and anything between 10% and 30%. 

Since ethanol is hygroscopic and attracts water, you shouldn’t leave kerosene in your stove or lantern’s fuel reservoir for extended periods (like many people do with white gas) as it can cause the inner parts to corrode. 

Efficacy in Coleman Camping Appliances

Source: JIUJITSU2000

If you have access to white gas/Coleman fuel or unleaded gas, I highly recommend using that instead of kerosene because it works better, burns cleaner and there’s less prep work involved with Coleman dual fuel appliances. 

The YouTube video below demonstrates how effective a Coleman stove is using various fuel types, including Coleman fuel and kerosene:

The Coleman fuel took 4 minutes and 12 seconds to boil a pot of water while the kerosene took 4 minutes and 28 seconds.

This isn’t a huge difference but you need more kerosene than Coleman, you may need to prep your generator and there will be more residue to clean up. 

The below video as well as my guide on how to use kerosene in a Coleman stove shows you exactly how to run your stove off kerosene. It does take longer to get started and get a good flame going, but once it’s running it tends to burn rather well.

Efficacy in Other Appliances

If you have a multi-fuel appliance that can use kerosene or white gas, you’ll notice that it’s easier to light if you use white gas. This is because white gas has a flash point of 25℉, while kerosene ignites between 99℉ and 149℉. 

You also don’t need to worry too much about using white gas in an appliance outside or in a well-ventilated area as it produces very little carbon monoxide or smoke.  

Since white gas doesn’t leave a strong odor or soot on your food, it’s a more popular fuel for camping stoves. Also with white gas, you can clean your pots and stove more easily than with kerosene, making it more convenient. 

Kerosene is cheaper, fuel efficient and is more popular in camping lanterns and heaters. 

Boiling Point 

Kerosene burns hotter than white gas but it takes much longer for it to reach the optimal high temperature and you’ll use more fuel than white gas.  

Although not necessary, you may need to prep your camping stove’s generator with priming paste or alcohol before using kerosene to help it ignite faster. 

The video below demonstrates how to use kerosene in a Coleman stove and how to prep it for best results: 

Burns Cleanly?

White gas is the clear winner when it comes to clean burning as it produces practically no odor or smoke. 

In contrast, kerosene burns very hot and produces a strong smell when burning and lots of dark smoke. Unlike white gas, it tends to leave a lot of sooty residue, and you’ll need to clean your appliance much more regularly and thoroughly to prevent clogging. 

If you’ve run out of white gas, you might consider using unleaded gasoline in your Coleman stove instead of kerosene as it produces less smoke and you can get it from your car or a gas station. 

If you use kerosene in your camping stove, I recommend bringing a compact appliance maintenance kit on camping trips in case your fuel line gets clogged and you can’t use it.

MSR Annual Maintenance Kit for Liquid Fuel Camping Stoves
$29.95

Everything you need to perform annual maintenance on your liquid fuel stove and pump to ensure lasting reliability in the field.

Kit Includes: O-Rings, Safety Pin, Jet & Cable Tool, Pump Cup Oil and is made in the USA.

Buy Now at Amazon
03/07/2024 12:07 pm GMT

Price

Kerosene is generally cheaper than white gas/Coleman fuel, which explains why it’s more popular and readily available in developing countries. 

Though depending on where you buy it from it could be a similar price or even more expensive than white gas.

For example, this 1-gallon bottle of kerosene from Walmart is around $11-$12 a the time of writing while this 1 gallon bottle of white gas from Walmart is only around $8 and this 1 gallon of Coleman fuel from Walmart (also white gas but the most popular brand) is around $14-$15.

You can see the updated prices below:

Crown 1-K Kerosene (1 Gallon)
$11.77

Crown Kerosene is a fuel grade 1-K Kerosene ideally suited for all outdoor kerosene fueled appliances including kerosene-burning heaters, lanterns and stoves. Crown K-1 Kerosene is a reliable and long-lasting fuel grade kerosene.

See Latest Price at Walmart
07/23/2024 01:47 am GMT
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
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

Availability

Availability is another area where kerosene is generally better than white gas because you can find it at most gas stations, general stores and online. 

In developing countries kerosene is widely available whereas white gas could potentially be difficult to find.

If you’re camping in the middle of nowhere and run out of white gas, you’ll be hard pressed to find a place that sells it and may need to use a fuel alternative (like kerosene or unleaded gas) instead. 

Shelf Life

White gas’s shelf life is between 5 and 7 years when unopened (but I know of people who have successfully used unopened white gas they’ve had lying around for 2 or more decades).

An opened bottle of white gas will typically last 6 months before going bad. 

Kerosene has a slightly shorter shelf life and an unopened container has a shelf life of 5 years. However, if your unopened kerosene has expired and it still looks and smells fine, doesn’t have bubbles and hasn’t turned to sludge, it’s generally good to use. 

An opened container of kerosene will go bad faster due to condensation, resulting in water vapor that gradually dilutes it. If it’s continuously exposed to air, it may attract bacteria and fungi, which degrades the active ingredients and makes it sludge like.