Carrying Propane - exchangeable 20lb tank versus 2 smaller tanks

Titan_Bow

Member
Hey guys, got a M101a2 I been working on. I want propane on board, and have been weighing the pro's and con's of doing 2 smaller 11lbs tanks or just going with one standard 20lb tank. I like the flexibility of just swapping tanks out at a Walmart or gas station if we are on the road, but I like the clean look that 2 smaller tanks provide. Probably obvious to go with the 20lbs. tank, but are there benefits to 2 smaller tanks that I need to be aware of? What about running multiple things, say a Mr. Heater and a hot water heater, or grill, etc. Would 2 tanks be better there versus the one, with just a splitter?
 

high-and-dry

Active member
Cooking will take next to nothing, like a lb a day maybe. The water heater if an on demand is about 43000 btu is 2 lbs an hour. but honestly it might run 30 mins a day doing dishes and short shower ( limited to water storage ). propane is 21000 btu per pound

Mr heater depends on which one. the normal one is 4000 or 9000 btu. At 9000 btu you will get a little over 2 hours per pound.

So 3 lbs a day for cooking and hot water, say 2 lbs a day on heat ( 4000 btu for 5 hours ) you will use 5 lbs a day worse case.

My vote is the 2 tanks, just one hooked up at a time running lines to each item. Then you can take the empty to get filled while still running one. If you need you can always bring a 20 as a back up for very cold weather.

edit I mean one tank connection with a tee to run to each item that needs gas. You dont want to keep switching lines around.
 

john61ct

Adventurer
No, bigger is always better if you have the carrying capacity.

Nothing is as cheap and convenient as the 20#ers in the US.

I decant from primary storage plumbed tanks to smaller portable ones in the field when desired, but they do get pricey.

Sometimes can get a good deal on CL or eBay, last year I got a dozen aluminum 5#ers and refitted with standard QCC1 1-5/16″ male ACME with OPD for about $30 each

Don't re-use the 1# disposables in a mobile situation.
 

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old_CWO

Active member
I dabbled with the "cool guy" smaller tanks for a while. At the end of the day the ubiquity of the 20 LB BBQ tank just overwhelmed the size and weight convenience of the smaller tanks. I also found that when the little ones needed re certification, the local place wanted almost as much as a new tank to inspect and tag. Phoey on that! If your BBQ tank is expired just take it to the tank exchange and problem solved, no fuss no muss. You can usually pick up used tanks cheap to free from people who are moving. Once again, take to tank exchange and presto! you now have a currently certified tank full of fuel. Is your 20 LB tank skunky looking or rusty? Don't waste your time sanding and painting; tank exchange. Finally, if someone swipes your BBQ tank it's far less of a financial hit than a smaller tank to replace. The only way I would stray from the 20 LB is if I absolutely did not have the room to carry it safely.

As far as multiple appliances: I have never had a problem with the tee/tree except being irritated with hoses all over the place. At my house I use a Y adapter for running the grill and smoker at the same time. I don't have any temperature variations running both vs one or the other at the same settings so I assume flow and pressure are fine.

They're as common as dirt, fit perfect in a milk crate and carry enough fuel for many people's entire camping season. What's not to like?
 

high-and-dry

Active member
I dabbled with the "cool guy" smaller tanks for a while.
No we must be the cool guy.

I like the thought of smaller tanks but would not buy one. I was given a 5lb tank. I love the easy of throwing in the truck. If someone gave me one of the 11 lb tanks I would probably use it, except cold weather because of heat reasons.
 

john61ct

Adventurer
I have never had a problem with the tee/tree except being irritated with hoses all over the place. At my house I use a Y adapter for running the grill and smoker at the same time. I don't have any temperature variations running both vs one or the other at the same settings so I assume flow and pressure are fine.
In a large well-ventilated living space is one thing

In a small tight one, knowledge and discipline is required for safety

plus of course appropriate gas / fume / CO detectors.
 

kb1ejh

Member
Something to consider with the exchange a tank places is that they are only 3/4 filled, 15# in a 20# tank. They do this to keep the price down. If you need to swap an old expired tired tank they might be a good choice but if you are calculating burn rate/usage at a 20# tank size you might come up short. With 2 11# tanks if you run one dry you at least know you're half empty if you have two of them. 20# are still a better value in the long run especially if you get them filled and not exchanged.
 

john61ct

Adventurer
Yes exchanges are a ripoff, only to be used for refreshing your 20#ers.

Best places actually weigh before and after, use the overflow valve to ensure they're full.

That way you can top up all your tanks when convenient, or just before heading out, even if some are only down a little.
 

Graton

Member
Go with the two 11lb tanks - main reason is that you like the look. Never underestimate the value of aesthetics, I have an AT Habitat and had it painted because I didn't like the looks of the aluminum on my black tacoma - of course it doesn't work any better than bare metal. 20 lb tanks are clunky and look like you just grabbed it from your grill. Despite the "cool guy" disparaging comments, you're putting a lot of effort into your build and when you look out at all your hard work, you want say "damn, that's a good looking off-road trailer".

I worked in a large industrial design consulting company for a few years, and you have to be happy with how a product looks - you don't run down to the hardware store and buy bright orange paint that was someone's mistake if you are painting your house because it was the cheapest way to go. Aesthetics shouldn't be the ultimate deciding factor, but it is not irrelevant.

All that said, I have a variety of tank sizes and prefer to take the smaller tanks - I have a five pound that goes with the stove and one for my Propex heater when it is cold. I actually hate lugging around the 20lb tanks. I've never had any issue getting them filled and have gone out for weeks with them.
 

Buddha.

Lurker
I had 30 pounders on my old travel trailer and wished I had 20 pounders instead. Being able to exchange a tank in a small town, any day off the week, any time of day, seems like enough of an advantage.
They were due for recertification last time I filled but the guy looked the other way, not sure how long that was going to last. Also easy to keep an extra in the back of the truck.
 

old_CWO

Active member
No we must be the cool guy.

I like the thought of smaller tanks but would not buy one. I was given a 5lb tank. I love the easy of throwing in the truck. If someone gave me one of the 11 lb tanks I would probably use it, except cold weather because of heat reasons.
The small ones are for sure nicer to carry and load and are great if all you do is run a stove or grill for a couple meals - super convenient. They beat the heck out of the little green bottles for space utilization vs. fuel capacity.

As far as space savings with the 11 LB tanks it depends. One brand is taller and thin but the other is same diameter as the 20 (Manchester?) so it doesn't seem much handier to store than the BBQ tank aside from being a little lighter. It's true the smaller than 20 LB tanks are expensive for size and that rankles me a bit even if I understand why. I got a 5 LB for free and ended up selling it for a good price after I decided to stop using them. Demand for them tends to be consistent.

I have one of those LP fake campfire setups for when carrying wood is inconvenient or required for fire safety and on the 5 LB tank it wouldn't run right. Plus that thing gobbles so much fuel the small tank wouldn't last the evening. For that piece of kit, I just use my non-aesthetically pleasing BBQ tanks that in fact also get used on my backyard grill. I'm such a piker...
 

1leglance

2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
I have played with every size and type of perm & port propane tank over the years....
Nothing beats the cost & ease of the standard 20lb tank.
Even in the smallest towns I can swap or fill, never an issue.
 

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Teardropper

Active member
An 11 pounder gets us through about 25 nights. That's with a Propex heater and a Partner stove.



Do you really need 20 pounds?

Tony
 

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
I think everyone has covered all the clear answers.

20#ers win for ubiquity and maximum # of options for getting fuel. Yes, swapping is a losing deal, but at least TWICE I have needed fuel for the grill on a holiday weekend and all the local fill stations were closed, so tank-exchange at the local megamart was my only option. (I have since acquired extra tanks so this is no longer a problem.)

Smaller tanks easier to store and transport. If you're going to be lifting the tank out of a storage place to carry it to a cooking place (picnic table, etc.) then that's a real advantage. If the tanks will stay mounted except during fills, maybe it doesn't matter as much.


Technically speaking, 2x small tanks might have a slight advantage operating in very cold temperatures, since you'll have more surface area from which to absorb heat to keep the gas vaporized. We do this with 2x 20# tanks when we're running the blacksmith's forge with multiple burners - running two tanks at half the rate each does a better job of keeping them from freezing up. (With heavy gas draw, we can freeze up a single tank even on a "warm" day!)
 
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