So, you’ve finally noticed how many of those 1-lb green Coleman fuel tanks that you’ve gone through, and you’ve decided enough is enough! You’re going to save money, and save resources by getting one of those big 15-lb propane tanks. But now what?
How do you connect a camp stove to a big propane tank? Since you can’t attach a camp stove directly to a big propane tank, you will need a high pressure hose rated for the higher gas pressure, as well as adapter connecting the Type-1 connection on the big propane tank to the male threaded connection used by disposable 1-lb canisters. Using any hose that fits is not safe as the hose must be rated to the pressure required for a large 15-lb propane tank.
So what do you need to hook up a camp stove to a Big Propane Tank?
Requirements for Hooking up a Big Propane Tank to a Camp Stove
Here’s a list of all the things you need to start cutting out those 1-lb propane tanks so you can save money and save resources. We’ll go into detail on each item so you will know exactly what you need and whether you have what you need already.
- A filled 20-lb propane tank
- A camp stove!
- A gas pressure regulator (We explain this further on)
- A high pressure hose long enough to connect your camp stove and the propane tank and an adapter (The hose often will come with one. Jump below to see more details)
- A flat surface
- A lighter or matches (unless your stove self-ignites)
Choosing a Big Propane Tank/Bottle
There are many different propane tank sizes out there, but for any tank bigger than a 1-lb propane tank, the process is the same.
Does a 20-lb propane tank weigh 20 lbs? A 20-lb gas container weighs more than 20-lbs. The weight rating isn’t for the container, it’s for the gas inside. Furthermore, even though a tank is rated to 15-lbs, they are often under-filled to around 80% of their rated capacity in case the propane tank expands from heat.
What are the different propane tanks for camping? The key characteristic that we’re looking at is whether a propane tank is refillable. The most common tank is the 20-lb propane tank–these tanks are the ones you can exchange at several gas stations with the Blue Rhino tank exchange program.
|Capacity||Weight Full||Weight Empty (Tare weight)|
|30-lbs / ~7.1 gallons of Propane||At 80% capacity: 46-50 lbs||~22 lbs|
|20-lbs / ~4.7 Gallons of Propane||At 80% capacity: 31-36 lbs||18 lbs.|
|5-lbs/ ~1.2 gallon of propane||At 80% capacity: ~14 lbs||10 lbs|
|1-lb / ~.2 gallon||At 80% capacity: ~6lbs||5 lbs|
As you can see, you can get any tank size to fit your situation. Remember, though, the traditional green Coleman 1-lb propane tanks are not made to be refilled! Flame King makes a 1-lb refillable propane tank (check it out on Amazon if you’re interested in something like that) These 1-lb tanks do not require any adapters or hoses because they will attach directly to a low pressure gas stove.
Choosing a Camp Stove to Use with a Big Propane Tank
If you’re looking for a camp stove to use with a big propane tank, or perhaps you already have a camp stove and are wondering whether it will work. See the following for a list of things that your camp stove must have to work with a big propane tank:
- Ensure your camp stove burns propane. This may seem obvious, but many camp stoves burn other gasses such as butane, or isobutane. If you want to learn about all the different fuels for camp stoves, check out our in-depth article on camping stove fuels here.
- If stove burns at low gas pressure, then camp stove needs a high pressure to low pressure adapter hose.
- If stove burns at high gas pressures, then camp stove needs a hose with a high pressure regulator— many high pressure gas stoves come with a hose and pressure regulator already
Why would you care if your stove is high or low pressure?
A high gas pressure stove is meant to be able to burn more gas in a given amount of time because the gas pressure is higher. Higher pressure means that you can burn more at any given time than a low pressure gas stove.
High pressure is just not necessary for a camp stove that is made to work with 1-lb propane tanks. Bigger stoves with more burners need more gas, but a small camp stove with 2-burners can work with low pressure with no issues.
What Is a Gas Pressure Regulator?
A gas pressure regulator makes sure that the right amount of gas is used for the gas appliance. For an analogy, imagine drinking from a fire hose. You’re not able to drink the water fast enough, and likely you’ll get plowed over. Regulating gas pressure is extremely important.
In fact, if you provide too much gas to a device that can’t support it, you can cause damage to your appliance, and even damage to yourself! Always use the correct gas pressure for your appliance.
A high pressure stove can operate at a low pressure, but you may experience performance issues. A high pressure stove cooking at low pressure won’t be able to cook as hot as it’s designed to.
Low pressure is considered: 11 inches or 6 oz of pressure. (1/2 psi). Burners that support a maximum of around 50,000 BTUs can be low-pressure.
High pressure is considered: Anything higher than 6 oz per square inch (1/2 psi). High pressure stoves burn hotter than 50,000 BTUs.
For the most part, small camping stoves will be low pressure gas appliances. If your camp stove is large with multiple burners, and perhaps it’s own stand, then you may be using a camp stove that supports high pressure gas. The biggest clue to finding what kind of stove you have is finding out what kind of regulator comes with your stove.
Most stoves will come with a regulator. Some regulators are internal to the stove itself, and others are built-in. The traditional 2-burner Coleman camp stoves, for example, come with a pipe that connects from the camp stove to the 1-lb propane tank. This pipe is a low-pressure regulator, regulating the incoming gas pressure to around 1/2 psi.
The regulator that comes with the stove, high or low, is typically what pressure the stove is intended to be operated at.
High Pressure Hose With an Adapter
To connect a high pressure 20-lb propane tank to a low gas pressure camping stove you need a high pressure hose, and an adapter from “A Type 1” or ACME fitting to a male disposable cylinder port, also called a throwaway fitting.
In other words, you need an adapter that will convert a typical hose that connects to a standard propane tank (not the Coleman 1-lb disposable kind) to the fitting such is used on a disposable propane tank.
Besides the adapter, you need a high pressure hose. High pressure hoses are intended for higher gas pressures. If you use a hose not suited for its purpose, bad things can happen!
Steps to Hooking up a Big Propane Tank to a Camp Stove
These instructions are assuming that you have a low-pressure camp stove.
- Place your camp stove on a level surface
- Open your camp stove and make sure that all dials are off so no gas is flowing.
- Place your big propane tank near your camp stove
- Ensure that the propane tank valve is closed completely (righty tighty, lefty loosey)
- Take off any caps covering the valve connections on the stove and the tank
- Connect the hose’s big end to the propane tank, and connect the hose’s small end with the camp stove.
- Slowly pressurize the camp stove by loosening the valve on the big propane tank. (Do not proceed if you hear gas leaking!)
- Now, with your lighter or matches lit and ready at the burner, loosen the valve until gas is hissing a little bit on the camp stove to allow gas to reach the burner
- You should see flames!
- Once you are done, you should depressurize your camp stove by turning off your gas tank first, and allowing all the gas in the hose to run out. (You don’t need to do this if you are going to keep your stove hooked up to the tank)
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Low Flow Gas Pressure Hose Syndrome
A common problem associated with propane stoves is low flow. It turns out that these gas regulators have a safety trip that are set off when they detect too high of flow. If you open the tank valve too fast, you can trip this safety feature.
To fix this, follow the instructions below:
- Turn off gas at all points, the stove, side burners, and the tank itself.
- Disconnect hose from the gas tank
- Wait 30-60 seconds
- Reconnect hose
- Pressurize the tank by very slowly opening the valve (listen for leaks)
- Try your stove again
To see an excellent explanation of this safety feature, check out this video:
This problem is more for high pressure gas stoves, since high pressure lines are more dangerous than low pressure gas lines, these safety features are more critical in that case.
Differences Between Hooking Up a 1-lb and a 20-lb Propane Tank to a Camp Stove
If your propane camp stove is low pressure (typically if it’s designed to be used with 1-lb propane tanks), there are a couple differences to be noted. (For reference, you can see the steps I wrote above to see how to hook up a big propane tank to a low-pressure camp stove.)
- Screwing in a 1-lb propane tank directly into the camp stove does not require any additional hoses or adapters
- When connecting to a 20-lb propane tank, you control the gas flow by the propane tank itself as well as the burners. With a 1-lb propane tank, you control the flow of the gas flow only with the burner knobs.
- When detaching the propane tank, there is often no way to depressurize, so you will have some propane escape when you unscrew the 1-lb propane canister
Besides these differences in the steps, the main difference that’s important to this discussion is how long a propane tank will last.
A 1-lb propane canister can last for 2 days for every meal (depending on how long you use it), or, about 2 hours on high.
A 20-lb propane canister will last about 40 hours using the same burner. Remember though that if you’re using a 20-lb propane canister with a high pressure gas stove, that it won’t last as long as you are burning more propane.
There are lots of general questions about the subject that I thought that I’d include for convenience.
Is a 20-LB Propane Tank High or Low Pressure?
A 20-lb propane tank is considered high pressure. If a tank is following standards, a full 20-lbs container at 70 degrees Fahrenheit would have a pressure of 145 psi. (pounds per square inch)
Can I Use a 20-lb Propane Tank to Refill a 1-lb Disposable Propane Tank?
This is a controversial topic. I’ll just say that doing so is dangerous as the canisters are not meant to be refilled in this way. It’s definitely possible–people do it, but people also have seen bulging tanks and failing valves, both of which could be extremely dangerous.
I’m with you though, refilling a 1-lb tank is tempting to save money. But it isn’t worth it since we’re dealing with propane gas. You can buy a refillable 1-lb container such as is made by Flame King, though–which is a better option.
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