How to Attach a Propane Tank to a Camping Stove (2022)

A camping stove with a propane tank.
Table of Contents

    Many of us turn to camp stoves to prepare our meals in the backcountry, and why not? Camping stoves are a simple, convenient, and effective way to cook meals and heat water while you’re away from your kitchen at home. There’s a surprising amount you can cook using a camping stove, food that’s just as delicious as what you might cook normally. There are so many options from backcountry dining, from dehydrated backpacking recipes to five-star backcountry cuisine. 

    A camping stove is a wonderful solution for outdoor dining, no matter if you’re on a camping or fishing trip, on the road in an RV, or hosting an outdoor event. BBQ grills and delicious hot meals will make you the next top camp chef. The best camping stoves allow you to have a hot and nutritious meal even when you’re far from home. However, in order to make the most of this tool, you’ll need to know how to use it. 

    Using a camping stove can be a little confusing if you aren’t used to using a gas stove, as many of us now have electric cookers in our homes. Some campers may be wary of using flammable and potentially dangerous gas. It’s natural to have a few concerns, but we’re here to iron out the details. We’ll explain how to safely and properly attach a propane tank to a camping stove, so you’ll be ready to cook up some delicious camping meals in no time. Also included is some safety information about camp stoves, as well as some tips to get the most out of your gear. 


    Cooking pot on a camp stove.

    Gas fuelled camping stoves are the best way to get a hot meal in the backcountry.


    Camping stoves v.s. campfires

    Camping stoves share their popularity on campsites with campfires, both offering campers a hot meal at the end of the day. Nowadays, burner stoves have great popularity, but campfires hold on as the traditional choice. Each has its benefits and disadvantages, depending on your situation. 

    Campfires make for a great vacation photo and are wonderful for roasting smores, they’re one of the many ways you can have fun while camping. On the other hand, they’re highly regulated and many national parks don’t allow campfires at all. Campfires are time-consuming to light and put out, you have to wait until all embers are cold before vacating your campsite. Regarding fuel, you’ll either need to gather it, which relies heavily on there being enough material available. If you can’t find enough fuel, you might go cold and hungry. Alternatively, heavy firewood can be packed into your campsite, or purchased when you get there at a steep price. Either way, it’s not ideal. 

    Camping stoves, on the other hand, are much more versatile than a simple BBQ grill. A camp stove is compact, easily transportable, and will allow you to cook as you would at home. They light and extinguish in an instant, and there’s no need to build the flames. Fuel for camp stoves comes in either a solid or liquid form. Gas camping stoves use propane bottles or a propane canister, or some use dual fuel. 


    Propane v.s. butane gas

    Camp stoves use two main types of gas fuel; propane and butane. An iso-butane mix is also available, but this is usually used for small and lightweight backpacking stoves. Propane and butane both come from petroleum and are both highly combustible fuels. However, the two are not interchangeable, each has its own upsides and downsides so every camper must decide for themselves.

    Propane and butane have the same level of heat output, but butane offers 12% more energy. This means a butane canister will last longer than a propane tank of the same size. Butane stoves are generally smaller and cheaper, but butane can be hard to attain as fuel. When you do manage to locate a canister of butane, it’s likely to be expensive and non-refillable. Lastly, butane doesn’t work in colder temperatures, which is highly inconvenient. 

    Propane, however, works perfectly fine when it’s colder outside. Because it’s also cheaper and easier to find, we prefer propane as the fuel for camping stoves. Available anywhere, and you can refill your propane canister from a 20lb propane tank, making it the more eco-friendly option. 


    Person lighting a stove.

    Camping stoves come in many forms, some heavy car camping appliances, and others, lightweight backpacking tools.


    One reason we don’t like propane camp stoves

    Propane gas camping stoves are a super-convenient way to cook in the backcountry. Propane is an efficient fuel, ideal for camping use, however, there’s one thing we don’t like about it. Unfortunately, the standard 1lb propane gas canisters which power most camp stoves are built to be disposable, while being seriously challenging to actually dispose of properly. Empty propane tanks are considered hazardous waste and are challenging to recycle. Most used propane tanks end up piling up in garages, dumped near campsites or abandoned somewhere else as trash. 

    While refill kits are available, it’s, unfortunately, illegal to transport refilled single-use bottles commercially. Improper refilling can be dangerous, so it’s not recommended by manufacturers, however, many campers still choose to do so. To minimize your negative impact, you can make sure your bottles are completely empty of gas before disposing of them, this makes propane canisters considerably less dangerous. 

    Alternatively, refillable propane tanks are available if you can stand the extra weight. Car campers can easily use a 5-pound propane tank and propane adaptor hose to hook up to their stove. These 5-pound tanks are refillable, and will also save you money in the long run by eliminating the disposable bottle waste. Refillable 1lb bottles are also available at a decreased weight and are still much cheaper and eco-friendly than disposable alternatives. 


    How to attach a propane tank to a camping stove

    The first thing to do when setting up your camping stove is to check the instructions. Most newly-purchased camping stoves will include in instruction booklet detailing everything you need to know. Be sure to refer to these instructions for model-specific requirements, so make sure you get the most out of your camping stove. 


    1. Prepare to set up your camping stove by making sure you have everything you need. You should have your camping stove unit, as well as a propane gas tank, as well as a connection or hose to join the two.


    2. Ensure you have an appropriate surface on which to set up. When setting up your camping stove, it’s imperative that you do so on a level and stable surface. You can’t risk your stove toppling over while you use it, this is obviously dangerous. If you’re camping on particularly uneven terrain, you may need to dig into the ground to create a level space. Make sure you’re happy that the environment is secure, then you can continue with setting up your stove. 


    3. Before completing the next step, make sure your camp stove is switched off completely and all settings are firmly in the off position. This will prevent dangerous leaks once we attach the gas pipe. Now, your connecting hose should twist easily onto the camping stove, make sure it’s tight and secure so there’s no danger of leakage, connected to the propane cylinder at the other end. 


    4. At this point, it’s a good idea to check for leaks, before you add any spark or flame into the mix. Once you see that all connections are securely sealed, you’ll be able to go on cooking with peace of mind. An easy way to check for leaks is to fill a spray bottle with a soapy solution and spray it on the connector points. If you see any bubbles form, it’s a sign of a loose connection or faulty equipment, so you’ll need to solve any problems before continuing. If there are no bubbles, you can carry on to the next step.


    5. It’s time to test your work, so release the gas and you should hear it running into your stove. Light up one ring on your camping stove, either using a lighter, match, or the stove’s ignition. Once you have a steady flame, you can adjust the temperature to suit your needs, and you have a ready to use camping stove!


    Two pink propane tanks and a white wall.

    Propane gas bottles are the ideal camping fuel, just attach them with an adaptor hose and get cooking!


    If your stove doesn’t work…

    If one or all of the burners on your camping stove isn’t working correctly, there are a few common troubleshooting issues to go over. Firstly, you should check for anything blocking the vents on your stove. If the regulator becomes clogged with food and other debris, then it may prevent your camping stove from functioning properly. To remove the blockage, you can just tap at the stove to dislodge pieces, otherwise, a can of compressed air will remove stubborn debris. 

    Damage to the hose which connects your propane canister and the camp stove is also a common problem. Unfortunately, this usually means a replacement is required for the hose. However, replacements aren’t too expensive, and with them, you’ll have full use of your two-burner or single burner stove. 

    Coleman propane camping stoves

    Coleman produces ever-popular and highly recommended classic camping stoves, like this one on Amazon. Coleman uses propane gas canisters for their camping lanterns and outdoor cooking stoves. These canisters can be refilled using a twenty-pound propane tank. To connect the canister to the 20lb propane tank, you can use an adaptor. Follow these instructions to refill your Coleman propane canisters. 


    1. Ensure your 20lb propane tank is in a temperature-controlled room and has adjusted to room temperature. Meanwhile, put your Coleman propane gas canister in a freezer to chill for 15 minutes. 


    2. Attach your propane bottle refill adaptor to the twenty-pound propane tank.


    3. Take the Coleman propane bottle from the freezer and screw it into the other side of the adaptor.


    4. Turn the propane tank upside down, and open the valve to allow the gas to rush into the smaller container. Once it is full, you won’t hear the gas anymore. 


    5. Close the valve on the propane tank and secure it, then set the tank down upright. You can now detach the Coleman canister. 


    Then, simply reattach your gas bottle to your Coleman camp stove, and you’re ready to cook!


    Fixing a low flame on a camping stove

    Setting up your camping stove, getting prepped to cook, and then igniting to find nothing but a tiny flame is a common and annoying problem for campers. Low flame issues are common with propane stoves due to a safety mechanism that limits gas flow in case of a leak. This safety feature prevents fuel from leaking without you knowing, as you would go to turn on the stove and be faced with a nasty surprise. This safety feature prevents dangerous explosions, but if there’s no emergency then it’s just preventing you from eating your breakfast. 

    To address this problem, start by turning off all your stove burners and closing the propane tank. Disconnect the regulator once everything is in the off position, and give it a few seconds to reset. You can reconnect the regulator to the tank and now you’ll need to perform a leak test using soapy solution. If the propane hose and all the connection points are leak- and bubble-free when you open the tank valve and hear the rushing gas, then you can try lighting the stove once more. If you do see bubbles, then it’s time to asses the damage and fix some leaks. Otherwise, the flame on your burner should now look normal, and your camping stove is ready to use. 


    Tips for using a propane camp stove

    Most of us are used to using electrical stovetops in our homes, so using a propane camping stove might be a bit unfamiliar. That’s why we’ve put together some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your camping stove and to stay safe while doing it. 


    • Propane stoves are for outdoor use only. You should never set up your camp stove inside your tent, no matter how much you’re tempted by the rain. Propane gas stoves need to be used in a well-ventilated area, using one inside a tent carries too high a risk of fire. If the weather is causing you problems, set up a tarp high above the stove’s burners.


    • Protect your burners from the wind. Usually, cooking inside means there’s no wind to worry about, which could blow out the flames of a gas stove. Camp chefs must rise to this additional challenge to make sure their stove stays hot and cooking. An easy trick to block the wind is to create a ring out of aluminum foil, with tall flat sides. You can place this around your stove’s burner, under the cooking grate, and this will shield the flame from wind. It also helps center the heat of your burner so food will cook more evenly. 


    • Store fuel canisters properly. Small propane canisters are under very high pressure, and certain conditions could cause them to explode. This is a serious safety risk, but you can lessen it by storing your fuel canisters properly. Make sure propane bottles are always stored upright, in a well-ventilated area, They should be kept far away from any open flame, such as your stove or campfire, at all times. 
    • Never leave your stove unattended. You should never leave a propane camping stove lit while you aren’t watching, especially if you’re camping with children nearby. Keep flammable materials well away to prevent accidental fires. 


    • Set up your camp stove on a proper surface. You should never sit your stove directly on the ground or another flat surface, air needs to circulate around the whole stove when cooking to prevent fire hazards. Most stoves come with a stand that they should be set on, so make use of this equipment. In the winter, never put your camping stove on ice, snow, or frozen earth. As the metal heats up, your camp stove could melt what it’s set on and become unstable and topple. 


    Person in a red coat holding a green container.

    There’s no better way to brew your morning coffee than using a camp sotve in the wild.


    Final Verdict:

    Propane camping stoves are the most popular way to cook at the campsite, they’re affordable, convenient, and efficient. Now you know how to attach a propane tank to a camping stove, you’re ready to cook up some backcountry delicacies. We’ve explained why camping stoves might be a more suitable choice than campfires, due to their speedy set up and put away. Having a camp stove you brought along yourself is much more reliable than hoping you’ll find enough firewood to fuel a campfire. 

    Butane and propane gas are both good choices for fueling your gas burner stove, with butane being slightly more efficient. However, we recommend propane as it’s much more widely available, with refillable bottles and extra fuel much easier to locate than with butane. Also, butane doesn’t work in colder temperatures, so why not make the choice you know will function all year round? 

    Propane camping stoves create a lot of waste when using disposable gas canisters, but car campers and even backpackers can use a much more eco-friendly propane bottle. These bottles can be found in 1lb or 5lb sizes, and 2lb propane tanks are available for refilling smaller bottles. If you employ a more sustainable approach to camping, including the fuel for your camp stove, you won’t only be making the right choice for the planet. Using refillable bottles is actually a great way to save money; now you can put it towards more new camping gear!

    Attaching your propane tank to your camping stove should go by like a breeze, just follow our simple instructions. Make sure to use a soapy solution to check for leaks, and then you can continue safely with your camping trip.


    Bonus tip: Watch this video for some tips on cleaning your camp stove to make it more effective!



    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.