Gasoline vs. Propane appliances? Which is a better way to go?

dbhost

New member
So for the most part, I am considering using my pre existing camping appliances, stove, heater etc.... but I am not sure which to go with. I have the following....

Gasoline / Coleman fuel appliances....
#1. Coleman 424 Dual Fuel 2 burner liquid fuel stove.
#2. Coleman Dual Fuel premium 2 mantle lantern for use outside.
#3. Coleman 5K-9K white gas catalytic heater. No real safety features to speak of.
#4. Home brewed water heat exchanger for use on stove, with Zodi shower pump and shower head.

Propane appliances.
#1. Coleman classic 2 burner propane stove.
#2. Coleman 2 mantle basic propane lantern for use outside.
#3. Mr. Heater Portable Buddy 5-9K BTU propane catalytic heater with a mess of safety features.
#4. Currently Zodi Hot Tap with bag. My water vessel is a 7 gallon AquaTainer currently. Looking at alternatives. Probably go with something like a Camp Chef 5 liter with some sort of dedicated pump.

My initial thoughts are to go with the propane appliances and plumb propane. The big issue however either way I go, is fuel availability.

My intent is to build the camper for use travelling pretty much anywhere from Panama, to Alaska. At this point in my life, there is enough of North America for me to explore that I don't have a need or desire to go beyond that. If I were a much younger guy the answer would be different.

My big concern would be availability of Propane, particularly in Mexico. However if I go liquid fuel, some of the appliances are not multi fuel and Coleman fuel is even harder to find...

So that begs the questions of which is a better option for my use, and what other alternatives are there where use is as easy, and safe or safer, and fuel is readily avaialble where I am planning on being?
 

john61ct

Adventurer
LPG is available everywhere.

The relative proportions of butane and propane can vary and still be used, it's just getting filled vs exchange, carrying adapters so you can decant yourself.

I would not mess with gasoline/benzine/white gas.

For tiny camp stoves maybe alcohol but really LGP is better.
 

shade

Well-known member
Is use at high elevations a consideration? Some propane fueled devices don't operate well with limited oxygen, and built-in sensors will prevent them from working at all.

Unless you really like using those lanterns, I'd leave both behind and opt for an LED based light source. Buy one with a diffuser, and if you can find it, a lower colour temperature for more natural light. They're more reliable without the safety concerns of a lantern that burns fuel, more compact, and easy to recharge. Adding some LED strips to your camper can also help a lot.

For your hot water options, if you need an easy way to add pressure, it's often possible to add a schrader valve to a container and use compressed air. Depending on the container, some already have pressure relief valves built in.

I'm not suggesting that you start from scratch, but the more I consider power sources, I keep coming back to a full electric setup, with an efficient heater burning the same fuel as the main engine. It's the most flexible power source, and a well designed system can operate independent of additional fuel beyond what a vehicle needs for motive power & heat. With an appropriately sized solar array, battery, and a powerful alternator, it's about as self-sustaining as can be had.
 

dreadlocks

Well-known member
LP works fine at altitude, better than other liquid fuels since your running rich and LP wont build up carbon on stuff and foul itself out anything like diesel/gasoline/kerosene would..

Only things Ive encountered low oxygen shutoffs on are crap like Buddy heaters.. however my Propex and Wave heaters work fine at 10k+ so just keep it in mind if your a high altitude traveler, but I realize now that Buddy heaters are smelly garbage after using a Wave heater and I gave mine away.

I'm converting my genset to LP, because in the summer I dont need the big 30# tank for cooking.. but I can run the AirCon for a few days off it no problemo and not have to carry plain gasoline anymore.. it wont go in my tow vehicle or in my 2 stroke dirt bikes so carrying gas just for MEBE using generator is getting old.
 

Photomike

Explorer
I have had propane plumbed in on my tcer and my motor homeand it was nice. With the van build I went with a Espar furnace pulling off of the vehicle gas system for heat. A true 12v fridge without propane. A Buddy with the 1lb cylinders for emergency/portable heat and a Coleman stove using the 1lb cylinders for cooking. I may add a 5lb cylinder for extra fuel and not to have to buy those 1lb ones so often. I did not want propane plumbed in as to me it is a waste of money for what I have and I HATE propane furnaces as they are soooo loud!! Also having a tank under the van is more things hanging off my underside to get damaged.

So far I have not even used my stove after two years as I eat a lot more salads, sandwiches & trail mix then hot meals.
 

luthj

Engineer In Residence
LPG can be found in Mexico. There are a couple websites devoted to finding fill locations in the Americas. You may need an adapter for fixed tanks. Portable tanks can be found readily, though sizes can vary. They are used by many for cooking at home. Truma and Propex offer good quality forced air heaters. They are MUCH better than the bulky/loud RV units.
 

VerMonsterRV

Traveler
If you are looking for propane anywhere near an ocean, ask around where you see sailboats tied up. We filled our American tanks all over the world, though sometimes it was butane. Some modern regulators are set in between propane and butane requirements, allowing either to be used. We never had trouble burning butane in our propane stove. We will be fitting a propane tank in our truck.
 

shade

Well-known member
LP works fine at altitude, better than other liquid fuels since your running rich and LP wont build up carbon on stuff and foul itself out anything like diesel/gasoline/kerosene would..

Only things Ive encountered low oxygen shutoffs on are crap like Buddy heaters.. however my Propex and Wave heaters work fine at 10k+ so just keep it in mind if your a high altitude traveler, but I realize now that Buddy heaters are smelly garbage after using a Wave heater and I gave mine away.

I'm converting my genset to LP, because in the summer I dont need the big 30# tank for cooking.. but I can run the AirCon for a few days off it no problemo and not have to carry plain gasoline anymore.. it wont go in my tow vehicle or in my 2 stroke dirt bikes so carrying gas just for MEBE using generator is getting old.
OP specifically mentioned a Buddy heater, which is why I brought up the elevation concern. I've used propane stoves above 10,000' without issue, but they didn't have low oxygen sensors.
 

dbhost

New member
OP specifically mentioned a Buddy heater, which is why I brought up the elevation concern. I've used propane stoves above 10,000' without issue, but they didn't have low oxygen sensors.
No harm, no foul. I am not wedded to the buddy heater in the slightest.

One thing I didn't make clear is I am not one that cares for the 1lb propane cylinders, which is why I am wanting to plumb off of a 20lb tank. I know they say you can refill the cylinders, but I've seen the results of refilling accidents and I don't want to take that risk.

Advantages of Propane are there, easier to use, in bulk tank availability about the same price, but I am really unsure on how to plumb safely and still use the camping appliances instead of low pressure RV appliances.

The space I will need to heat is actually going to be relatively small. A slide in hard side truck camper, with 1.5" insulated walls. Total floor length of 9 feet. So less than 100sq ft total, and reasonably insulated. The low oxygen shutoff is of interest because I really don't want to die of carbon monoxide poisoning should I want to use the heat.

Alternatively my gas appliances, need to plumbing, and aside from the heater, can and will run unleaded auto fuel. For the most part it is true that gasoline and white gas are the same, but auto gas has a lot of additives and other things that will mess up one of the old white gas catalytic heaters. Now those things have zero safety features in them, just common sense. CO detectors, and sufficient fresh air intake. LIght the thing and get it going OUTSIDE lest ye burn down thy camper... I have used them in a tent for years with no problem, just make sure I have LOTS of fresh air coming in.

I know I can source Coleman fuel, propane, and unleaded gasoline in the U.S., and Canada, Assuming I only need white gas for the heater, if it's legal to bring white gas from the U.S. to Mexico problem solved as I won't be spending months on end in Mexico, but more like 2 weeks of vacation, and not likely to need heat every day. Heck might just be able to heat up the cast iron griddle enough to radiate heat at night so we can get into bed comfortably, do the rest with blankets and snuggling up to a warm co traveller...

And yes, use at high elevations is a consideration. Not so much traveling here in Texas / Oklahoma / Louisiana, but once we point out west, to Oregon, Washington, or even Arizona, so use in the 7K - 11K ft elevation range is something to be considered. I know Propane appliances of any sort over about 8K ft and at colder temps can be flaky. I have personally had to warm a green propane bottle with my body heat prior to being able to use it on my stove before. The pressure drops as the temp drops.

When you think of it, with the issues at elevation are taken into account, and thanks for reminding me of that unpleasantness, but when they are taken into account, gasoline / white gas makes more and more sense...
 
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luthj

Engineer In Residence
I rarely have seen issues with propane units at altitude. Usually its the other fuel types that have issues. Generally only units with an oxygen sensor (like the buddy heater) have issue.

Refilling propane bottles isn't a big deal, and its routinely done.
 

dreadlocks

Well-known member
Catalyst heaters dont emit Carbon Monoxide, they emit carbon dioxide from consuming the oxygen (the same thing you breath out, its not toxic), the risk is getting low oxygen concentration like higher than everest.. as long as you keep a window cracked its fine, Buddy heaters dont burn all the LP and if anything thats less healthy than anything else.. Wave heaters burn 99.9% of the LP gas, leave no smell and output more heat.. the low oxygen cut off on Buddy here in Colorado at best meant getting it going was fiddly, or at worst it just would not start.. Wave heater always starts, as does the propex furnace.. they are entirely safe.. Having Alarms in Trailer is a good idea regardless, I had an old guy in Redwoods nearly kill him self w/his genset, luckily I could hear his monoxide detector across the camp and went to investigate why it was not getting shut off.. he was asleep in his bed after having trouble breathing.
 
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john61ct

Adventurer
Yes to alarms, both CO and hydrocarbons.

I lost a good friend that way.

Wave heaters are great, but not for very dusty / dirty environments, replacing the platinum catalyst is too expensive.

Propex HS2211 installed outside the living space is also excellent for extreme cold, Webasto / Espar type as well, use your vehicle fuel.
 

Darwin

Explorer
I used propane in Mexico for 4 months and didn't have to refill once, but my fridge runs on DC. There is no way I would travel to mexico or anywhere south with a propane fridge. I also wasn't using the heater much if at all, only for cooking. I did meet people who refilled propane in Mexico without issue.

I would suggest, if you are planning on a large solar array or battery bank going with a combo of Colemen multifuel for cooking outside, induction electric cooking for inside, and then using propane for heat and hot water. I believe propane is less finicky than diesel, not sure about gasoline.
 

dreadlocks

Well-known member
Webasto/Espar can foul out at high altitude if not properly equipped, either with a lower volume pump in parallel you manually switch between or an electronic fuel management addon that leans em out.. without them I've heard of em fouling out on just a weekend up in the mountains, well at least on Diesel.. Gasoline is probably better I'd assume.
 

Mwilliamshs

Explorer
Catalyst heaters dont emit Carbon Monoxide...
Well that's not true. Under ideal conditions and during perfect combustion, carbon monoxide production is so low it could be considered nil. That's for essentially true for all fuels in all appliances. Incomplete combustion, however, results in the production of carbon monoxide in quantities that can rapidly move from obnoxious to fatal. Catalytic heaters are especially prone to this due to their reliance on a flameless chemical oxidization of fuel with a catalyst to encourage the reaction. Dust on the mat of catalytic heater is the most common cause of this.
 
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