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fred johnson

Yearning to ditch propane and return to white gas

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The trailer discussion has made me reflect on our adoption of propane.  IMHO, I think our troop is worse off because we switched to propane.  

  • Bad for cooking ... Poor temperature control continually causes burnt food.  They either burn food quick or you need to run them so low that a bump of the knob puts it out.  
  • Bad for environment ... at least the small containers.  I'd argue the large ones are too as you need multiple, need to drive somewhere to refill and they are heavy to carry causing other waste.
  • Expensive ...
    • Gallon of white gas can run a troop for months.  
    • Gallon of white gas costs about the same as two small propane containers
    • Three or more gallon of white gas costs about the same as one refill of a large propane tank.
  • Promotes bad habits
    • Larger tanks used to avoid the waste of the smaller non-refillable expensive containers
    • --> Promotes using multiple tap extensions
    • --> --> Promotes everyone working in the same area
    • --> --> --> Subverts working separately as patrols.
  • Loud .... Propane is loud, like a small jet engine. ... Hard to have a quiet night with them around.
  • Fails in cold weather ...
    • Propane loses pressure in the cold.
    • If you camp in colder weather, propane is a problem ... always.
    • If you camp in freezing weather, propane fails.
  • Space ... Backpack or trailer, propane takes up too much space.  A week of camping would require two or more large propane tanks and six to twelve small contailers.  White gas would be just one gallon.
  • Conntections ... Propane has rubber tubs, pipe extensions and external tanks.  Most white gas is packed in the stove or lantern.  
  • Two sets of gear ... Desire to use propane, but still need white gas for other situations.

 

White gas was no panacea, but if you knew how to use it well, it was great to work with.  

 

Personally, our family is moving back to white gas.  

 

... other than blowing up and some difficulty with generators ... I'm trying to remember why everyone rushed to propane ?  Just easier ???

Edited by fred johnson

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No answer to your question of why - my Troop still uses white gas.  A couple of additions to your list:

  • consistency - we use white gas backpacking stoves so it makes sense to use white gas camp stoves and camp lanterns.   
  • disposal - when the gallon of white gas is empty, I leave the lid off to evaporate the remainders, stomp on the can and put it in the recycling.  Cant do that with a propane tank.

 

The only downside in my opinion is that some of them can be finicky to get started.  We usually prime our camp stoves same way we do our backpacking stoves - that gets them running well without the danger of a fireball.

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When our family got back into camping a few years ago, I had to make the decision on white gas or propane.  After doing the research, white gas was the clear winner.  One plus you didn't mention is that the white gas stoves can be adapated to use propane (and actually do a better job than the propane stoves because of their larger burners).  I don't know if this is still true, but when we bought our stove the white gas models from Coleman were still being made in the US, but the propane were all made in China, so that was another plus at that time.

 

As much as I like the white gas, learning to use it can be tricky, there's certainly more involved than with propane.  Propane can be as simple as turning it on and lighting it.  However, I think the big reason is that the BSA discouraged white gas for a period of time.  I don't know if this is fact or rumor, but when I went through BALOO they told us white gas wasn't allowed because the flames burn too clearly - you can't tell it is lit as easily as you can with propane.

 

I know that now the BSA doesn't necessarily have a position on the matter, but if it were up to me the clear choice would be white gas, not propane.

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isn't white gas a bit harder to find these days?

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My understanding is that the switch to propane is because it's easier and safer to use. I got a 2 burner propane stove, and I got a Whisperlight International, which burns white gas, among other things. Yes the propane is easier and  I've had some issues with it. Also one of my buddies had issues with his white gas stove. It was an interesting fireball. thankfully we had a second, propane backpacking stove.

 

be advised, it's illegal to transport those little canisters if you refill them. And you can't recycle them unless there is a whole in the canister, at least in my neck of the woods. So I got a bunch being collected for when I can arrange to have teh holes placed in them

 

As for finding white gas, in my neck of the woods it's easier to find it than the isopropyl alcohol canisters.

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I am fortunate to be in an area where wood fire cooking is available. IMHO, cooking on the fire while camping is better than any chemical fuels. Even in winter.

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If I were to do it again I'd go with white gas. They do take some training but they are much more reliable. I don't know what the cost of white gas stoves are compared to propane stoves.

 

The green tanks don't work in cold temps and the 5 gallon tanks are huge and heavy. Our solution was to buy 1 gallon refillable tanks that are used in boats and campers. They are small enough for patrols to split up (we also ditched the chuck boxes). But that also means we had to buy hoses and adapters. Those are where the problems show up. A little bit of dirt in a hose and it doesn't work. And the tanks have some sort of safety valve that gets stuck.

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White gas for us in the winter.  It gets COLD up heah in New England! Propane just don't work, ayuh.

 

White gas is plentiful here in hardware stores and in most department store sporting goods sections.

Edited by frankpalazzi
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Here's my take on the whole business.

 

There are white gas backpacking stoves and lanterns that are grey instead of green that burn both white gas and unleaded gas.  In a pinch I use the unleaded gas.  The only drawback is that if one leaks or spills on the outside of the container white gas has no odor, unleaded gasoline DOES!

 

I have an adapter for my Colman stove that converts it from white gas to propane so I can go either way on that when I plop camp.  Otherwise I stick with the white gas.  I haven't the nerve to experiment with burning unleaded gas in a white gas stove.  I don't know what it would do.  I think they use white gas instead of the old leaded gasoline because of the lead fumes.  Now that it's unleaded, I don't know if it will work.  Maybe do a research to find out.  Still don't like the odor issue with unleaded gasoline.  The octane levels offered at the gas stations may make a difference in that the higher the octane, the quicker the evaporation.  That might make a big difference.  I'll have to go back to the manuals on my white gas/unleaded gas stoves to see what the manufacturers recommend.

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The trailer discussion has made me reflect on our adoption of propane.  IMHO, I think our troop is worse off because we switched to propane.  

  • Bad for cooking ... Poor temperature control continually causes burnt food.  They either burn food quick or you need to run them so low that a bump of the knob puts it out.  
  • Bad for environment ... at least the small containers.  I'd argue the large ones are too as you need multiple, need to drive somewhere to refill and they are heavy to carry causing other waste.
  • Expensive ...
    • Gallon of white gas can run a troop for months.  
    • Gallon of white gas costs about the same as two small propane containers
    • Three or more gallon of white gas costs about the same as one refill of a large propane tank.
  • Promotes bad habits
    • Larger tanks used to avoid the waste of the smaller non-refillable expensive containers
    • --> Promotes using multiple tap extensions
    • --> --> Promotes everyone working in the same area
    • --> --> --> Subverts working separately as patrols.
  • Loud .... Propane is loud, like a small jet engine. ... Hard to have a quiet night with them around.
  • Fails in cold weather ...
    • Propane loses pressure in the cold.
    • If you camp in colder weather, propane is a problem ... always.
    • If you camp in freezing weather, propane fails.
  • Space ... Backpack or trailer, propane takes up too much space.  A week of camping would require two or more large propane tanks and six to twelve small contailers.  White gas would be just one gallon.
  • Conntections ... Propane has rubber tubs, pipe extensions and external tanks.  Most white gas is packed in the stove or lantern.  
  • Two sets of gear ... Desire to use propane, but still need white gas for other situations.

 

White gas was no panacea, but if you knew how to use it well, it was great to work with.  

 

Personally, our family is moving back to white gas.  

 

... other than blowing up and some difficulty with generators ... I'm trying to remember why everyone rushed to propane ?  Just easier ???

I'm in NW Florida, so we don't have the temperature problems.  I remember white gas, and still have a white gas backpacking stove. I much prefer propane for safety and ease of use.  We carry one 20-lb propane tank per patrol (and an extra for the Troop, just in case), with a tree for the lantern, and with  extensions to the stove.  All we use propane for is stoves and lanterns. We don't usually carry lanterns--they are the equivalent of a kitchen light.  For around camp light, the boys use flashlights or headlamps. 

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When our family got back into camping a few years ago, I had to make the decision on white gas or propane.  After doing the research, white gas was the clear winner.  One plus you didn't mention is that the white gas stoves can be adapated to use propane (and actually do a better job than the propane stoves because of their larger burners).  I don't know if this is still true, but when we bought our stove the white gas models from Coleman were still being made in the US, but the propane were all made in China, so that was another plus at that time.

 

As much as I like the white gas, learning to use it can be tricky, there's certainly more involved than with propane.  Propane can be as simple as turning it on and lighting it.  However, I think the big reason is that the BSA discouraged white gas for a period of time.  I don't know if this is fact or rumor, but when I went through BALOO they told us white gas wasn't allowed because the flames burn too clearly - you can't tell it is lit as easily as you can with propane.

 

I know that now the BSA doesn't necessarily have a position on the matter, but if it were up to me the clear choice would be white gas, not propane.

 

Whenever somebody tells you a "rule" look it up.  There are so many mythical Scouting rules.

 

http://www.scouting.org/Home/HealthandSafety/GSS/gss06.aspx

 

 

Definitions

Chemical fuels—Liquid, gaseous, or gelled fuels.

Approved chemical-fueled equipment—Commercially manufactured equipment, including stoves, grills, burners, heaters, and lanterns that are designed to be used with chemical fuels.

Prohibited chemical-fueled equipment—Equipment that is handcrafted, homemade, modified, or installed beyond the manufacturer’s stated design limitations or use. Examples include alcohol-burning “can†stoves, smudge pots, improperly installed heaters, and propane burners with their regulators removed.

Recommended chemical fuels—White gas (Coleman fuel); kerosene; liquefied petroleum gas fuels, including propane, butane, and isobutane; vegetable oil fuels; biodiesel fuel; and commercially prepared gelled-alcohol fuel in original containers.

Chemical fuels not recommended—Unleaded gasoline; liquid alcohol fuels, including isopropyl alcohol, denatured ethyl alcohol, and ethanol; and other flammable chemicals that are not in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for chemical-fueled equipment.

Storing, Handling, and Using Chemical Fuels and Equipment

An adult knowledgeable about chemical fuels and equipment should always supervise youths involved in the storage, handling, and use of chemical fuels and equipment.

Operate and maintain chemical-fueled equipment according to the manufacturer’s instructions and in facilities or areas only where and when permitted.

Using liquid fuels for starting any type of fire—including lighting damp wood, charcoal, and ceremonial campfires or displays—is prohibited.

No flames in tents. This includes burning any solid, liquid, gel, or gas fuel—including tents or teepees that feature or support stoves or fires; and any chemical-fueled equipment or catalytic heaters.

Store chemical fuels in their original containers or in containers designed for immediate use. Securely store any spare fuel away from sources of ignition, buildings, and tents.

During transport and storage, properly secure chemical fuel containers in an upright, vertical position.

Edited by perdidochas

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I'm in NW Florida, so we don't have the temperature problems.  I remember white gas, and still have a white gas backpacking stove. I much prefer propane for safety and ease of use.  We carry one 20-lb propane tank per patrol (and an extra for the Troop, just in case), with a tree for the lantern, and with  extensions to the stove.  All we use propane for is stoves and lanterns. We don't usually carry lanterns--they are the equivalent of a kitchen light.  For around camp light, the boys use flashlights or headlamps. 

 

That sounds like a lot of propane cylinders.  I wonder how many Troops are properly transporting their propane.  My understanding is that propane cylinders should never be transported in an unventilated, enclosed vehicle.  Propane tanks are now required to have an Overfill Protection Device valve, and if the tank is too full that valve will release propane from the tank into the surrounding air.  In an enclosed vehicle like a Troop trailer, that could result in an explosion if enough propane is released.  That's why campers have the propane tanks mounted outside on the trailer tongue.  The overfill condition might not happen immediately, as temperature changes a cylinder that was fine might start to release propane.  Most reputable propane dealers know to leave propane tanks underfilled to allow room for expansion, but you're taking a chance if you fill at a gas station or retailer that only dabbles in propane.

 

Also, I believe if you transport more than five cylinders that the vehicle must have a placard.

 

So again, how many of your Troops are properly transporting it, less than five total cylinders, upright and secured, in a properly ventilated vehicle?  Watching Troops pull propane out of unventilated Troop trailers makes me think not many.

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Whenever somebody tells you a "rule" look it up.  There are so many mythical Scouting rules.

 

http://www.scouting.org/Home/HealthandSafety/GSS/gss06.aspx

 

That's what the G2SS states now, but what was it 10 or 15 years ago?  I know that my Troop growing up switched from white gas to propane, and I swear it was required, not optional, because it was a significant investment to replace equipment - money our Troop didn't really have at the time, so I doubt this was done on a whim.  Anyone have a hard copy G2SS from ten or fifteen years ago to see whether this was fact or myth?

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