Can Camping Propane Tanks Be Refilled?

A blue camping propane tank, next to a red lighter.

There’s nothing in the world that can compare to a wholesome camper’s breakfast. Needless to say, such a thing isn’t possible without a good old portable propane tank. That’s because frying some eggs, bacon, and/or veggies on your RV’s hood isn’t a process you’d wish to conduct. Anyway, we guess that you’re wondering whether or not can camping propane tanks be refilled?

If we’ve got that last one right, you’re in for a treat. In the text you’re about to read, we’ll show you if camping propane tanks are meant to be refilled, and if they are – just how you’ll go about it. Stay tuned for some useful camping info!

Whether or not you’ll be able to refill a camping propane tank, depends on the nature of the canister itself. Some folks say tank when they actually mean cylinder. If you’ve bought a 1lb propane cylinder, make sure it has a “refillable” sign on the packaging. 

Two to three lines of a preview are enough. Said no one ever. That’s why you should always settle for more!

Table of Contents

Camping propane tanks 101

Before we tackle our main subject for today, it’s best if we first answer some of the most frequently asked questions concerning camping propane tanks. That way, the answer to the main question of this article (can camping propane tanks be refilled?) might appear by itself. Let’s take a closer look!

Is there a difference between camping propane and regular propane?

There are some of you that might wonder: what’s so special about camping propane tanks? In other words: is camping propane somehow different from regular propane? You’ll want to know that camping propane is exactly the same as regular propane, there’s no doubt about it!

However, there’s a little difference between camping propane tanks and regular propane tanks. Usually, camping propane tanks are smaller than their regular counterparts. It’s only natural that things are the way they are: camping propane tanks should be easy to carry. Also, they need to be more suitable to match your average camper’s stove or to power some basic camping gear for a short period of time.

Which is better for camping: butane or propane?

You’re probably already familiar with this if you’ve used to camp in extremely cold climates, but some types of fuel just won’t work below a certain temperature. There’s a little something called a flash point. It describes the temperature above which the fuel is flammable.

You’ll want to know that the flash point of propane is – 43.6°F (- 42°C), while butane’s flash point is 30.2°F (- 1°C). That means that, unless you’re camping at the South Pole, your propane tanks should get the job done. However, if you’re camping at temperatures that are a bit cold, but not too cold (like camping in Scotland during April), your butane tanks won’t work. Not to mention the fact they’re also unusable at higher altitudes (above 5000 ft. (1524 m)).

To sum it all up: propane’s your better option for all-seasons outdoor adventuring. There’s no way one can deny that after reading the lines above.

How long does Coleman 16oz propane last?

Coleman propane cylinders are probably the most popular pieces of camping equipment out there, and a 16oz (1lb) cylinder is quite renowned in outdoor enthusiasts’ circles. Anyway, the answer to the question above depends on what you’ll use your Coleman propane cylinder with. In other words: what will you power using your camping propane tank.

Let’s provide an example. If you’re using your Coleman 16oz propane cylinder to power a small 75,00 BTU stove (using both burners on high flame), it’ll last you for (nearly) two hours. Now, you’ll probably want to calculate this yourself. Here’s how you’ll do it:

  • Okay, so a 16oz propane cylinder contains about 22,000 BTUs. In order to figure out how long will it last you, simply divide the 22K by your equipment’s BTU consumption per hour. That way, you’ll get an approximate number of hours your cylinder will last you.

However, keep in mind that the template above is used to provide you with a rough calculation. Much of it will, of course, depend on the efficiency of your propane-powered gear. Alright, so now that we’ve shown you some basic camping-propane-tanks info, it’s about time we consider the issue everyone’s eager to tackle: can camping propane tanks be refilled? 

A person cooking beans on a propane camping stove.

Can camping propane tanks be refilled?

As we’ve said earlier, the answer might sometimes appear by itself. Here, that wasn’t the case. Even though it seems absurd to throw away something you’ve used only for only two hours, it’s nevertheless the truth. Let’s elaborate!

So, we’ve mentioned that Coleman propane cylinders can last you for about two hours of cooking food. Most of them are what you’d call disposable gas canisters. While you’re able to re-use them once they’re emptied out, it’s best you throw them away after usage. Also, see that your method of disposal fits the condition proposed by your government’s environmental agency.

Now, if you notice there’s a sign on the gas cylinder itself telling you it’s refillable, then, of course, you’ll be able to refill it without any scary thoughts in your mind. These are meant to be refilled, so you won’t do anything bad if you choose to do so. Also, are you wondering where you’ll find them? Just click on the link we’ve highlighted in green.

Now that we’ve answered the most troubling issue of this article, let’s consider how should one handle the process of refilling a (refillable) camping propane tank!

How to refill a camping propane tank?

Here we’ll show a little step-by-step guide on refilling a (refillable) camping propane tank/canister/bottle. First, let’s find out what you’ll need:

  • Propane refill adapter. You’ll need it to connect the 20lb tank to your 1lb canister. 
  • Propane tank (20lb). Not empty. 
  • Propane canister (1lb). Empty. 
  • A kitchen scale that has gram/ounce measurements. You’ll have to weigh the empty canister. 
  • Work gloves & safety glasses. Both of them aren’t required, but you should use them nevertheless. 

Okay, that’s that about “the ingredients”. Let’s see that guide!

#1 Make sure that your 1lb canister is in good condition

You’ll need to check your 1lb propane canister to see if it’s in good condition. In other words: you’ll want to make sure that it ain’t rusty or dented and that the threads are totally fine. If you notice something’s awry, it’s best you avoid re-using your canister.

Also, make sure that the canister is completely empty before moving on to the next step. You can do this by attaching it to a grill or a camping lantern (if you’re not in favor of using a camping candle) until there’s no more flame.

#2 Put the empty canister in the freezer

Next up, you’ll want to put the empty camping propane canister into your freezer. Anyway, you’ll need to find a way to lower its interior temperature. Let it sit in the cold for about 15 minutes. That way, you’ll make sure that the transfer of propane from a 20lb to a 1lb tank is done in the correct manner.

#3 Remember that kitchen scale?

If you do, now it’s time to utilize it. That’s because you don’t want to refill your 1lb cylinder above the allowable weight. To know how much propane you’ve got inside your propane canister once you’re done filling, simply weigh the empty bottle before filling it.

#4 Where’s that adapter?

Once you’ve finished measuring the empty canister, attach the propane refill adapter to the valve of the 20lb tank. Keep in mind that it has left-handed threads. This means you should turn it to the left in order to tighten it. Use a wrench or your trusty pair of gloves for this step.

Next up, connect your 1lb canister to the refill adapter. Needless to say, just make sure you don’t cross-thread.

#5 It’s inversion time

Once the two are connected by the adapter, you’ll want to invert the entire thing on a flat surface. In other words: place your 20lb propane tank so that its bottom goes up. It’ll make things a lot easier in the process of transferring propane from one tank to another.

#6 Open the valve

We’re almost near the end of this tutorial. Once you’ve got everything in inversion mode, you’ll want to open the valve very slowly (on the 20lb propane tank) until you hear that the transfer has started.

#7 Shut off the valve

Once the transfer’s over (it’ll stop automatically once the pressure in both tanks is equalized), shut off the larger tank’s valve and re-invert the tanks. That’s about it!

The bottom line

Okay, dear outdoor-loving folks. That’s all there’s to the subject of whether or not can camping propane tanks be refilled! To give you something of a conclusion: just watch out for the sign on the packaging. If it says refillable, then you should re-use it. Otherwise, dispose of it.

For more tips on enjoying the outdoors and related info, pay a visit to our blog page.

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