There are quite a few things that many of us enjoy about camping. One of these is taking to the wild, opening up the stove, and then cooking some good food. Some of the best memories involve sitting around the campsite grilling smoke-flavored food and eating s’mores.
But that doesn’t mean that bringing a stove with you to cook with is as simple as it might sound. There are multiple factors that you’ll have to consider, such as the types of camping stoves on offer, what features they have, and your budget. You’ll also have to decide between a butane vs propane stove.
While both of these can be portable stoves and great for camping, there are quite a few differences between them.
These differences could make a significant impact on which one you decide to choose. While they’d both make a great portable camping stove, you probably won’t want to buy one of each. But, how do you decide between these two types of stoves?
Chapter One: Butane Vs Propane Stove Differences
The main reason that the propane vs butane debate has been ongoing for so long is that both have their benefits. These are best seen in their differences, as they can both be excellent in certain areas. For example, propane burns quite well in colder weather.
That makes it perfect for cooking during the cold months, such as the fall and winter. It’s also recommended if you’re going to be mountaineering or going somewhere at a high altitude, where lower temperatures are more likely to be a factor in your trip. Propane stoves have a much lower boiling point, making them easier to light.
It’s also much more readily available, making it easy to stock up for a camping trip when you’re running low. On the other hand, butane comes in much more lightweight canisters and burners. That makes them much more portable, especially over longer trips.
That’s primarily because it’s much less compressed than its alternative. However, this won’t work in chilly temperatures, and won’t burn too well when it’s cold, making it somewhat unreliable in the winter months. That could have an impact on how well it will cook your food.
If you’re going to be out in more extreme weather conditions, then the propane tanks might be the better option. Alternatively, if you’re going for distance, then butane will be the better-recommended option, as is the case if you’re sticking to a relatively tight budget.
However, this is more difficult to find, as fewer retailers stock it when compared to its alternative. The tanks are also typically sold in packs. While this could make them more expensive per purchase, though you’ll get more volume than you would elsewhere. That should make it the more economical source of fuel.
If you are buying butane, make sure to stock up on a lot of it beforehand. That’s because it can often be difficult to find, so there might not be any in stores close to your campsite.
Butane Vs Propane Stove: Are There Any Similarities?
Based on the above, you might assume that there aren’t any similarities between a propane camping stove and butane camping stoves. There are more of these than you’d previously have thought, though.
As they’re both combustible gases, they both come from petroleum and are quite common in portable camping stoves. The reason behind this is that they’re both known to cook food faster and better than most campfires.
They’re also both easy to use, although this could vary depending on the brand and model that you buy. Compared to a campsite, you should also be reducing your carbon footprint, as you’ll need to burn much less to cook your food and you release less carbon dioxide.
There will also be a few similarities in the features that they have, such as controlling temperatures. What features are available, however, will depend drastically on the model that you buy. The more features it has, the more it will cost.
Chapter Two: Factors to Consider When Choosing Between a Butane vs Propane Stove
The differences between butane and propane might be enough to persuade you to buy one over the other. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some factors that you’ll need to consider. The similarities between then might also play a role, though others can be discarded.
The heat output of both, for example, is identical. When you’re comparing them, though, you’ll need to look at:
- Cooking Capacity: If you were to look at the two by volume, propane stoves give off about 12 percent less energy than their butane counterparts. That results in butane tanks lasting longer than propane ones.
- Connectors: Connecting a tank to a stove can be much easier from one type to another. Butane stoves typically use a clip-on style connector, which is often quite easy to use. Propane stoves, on the other hand, use a screw-type connector. That’s harder to use and can often take more time.
- Boiling Points: There’s a drastic difference in the boiling points of butane and propane. Propane has the typical -43°F (approx. -42°C) while butane has 31 degrees Fahrenheit (approx. -1°C). Since 32°F (0°C) is the freezing point, butane becomes liquid just under the freezing point.
Considering the points above, there can be a clear winner, depending on your perspective. However, that depends on what factors you see as more important. Given how much more efficient it seems, the butane stove can seem much more attractive.
Number of Burners
Regardless of whether you’re choosing a propane or butane stove, you’ll still need to look at the number of burners that the grills have. While the majority of us will have preferences, there can be a difference between them beyond the actual burner itself.
The different type of stoves include:
Single-Burner: If you’re only cooking for one or two people, then a single-burner stove would be perfect. It’s lightweight and shouldn’t take up too much space as you travel. That makes it the better choice for long-distance hikes and mountaineering. If you’re worried about the amount of cooking space, you’d be surprised at how much you can get done.
Cooking will take more time to accomplish for a larger group on a single burner, however, and may not be the ideal option in this senerio.
Two-Burner: These are the most common types of burners that you’ll come across. While it weighs more than a single burner, it’s still relatively lightweight, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to carry on your trip. They also tend to be quite compact, so they wouldn’t take up too much space among your gear.
They’re also relatively versatile, so you should be able to cook a lot of food at once.
Multi-Burner: While a multi-burner stove is somewhat uncommon, there are quite a few of them out there. These are much better at cooking for a family than the alternatives, as you can do the majority of it at once. Typically, these will come with three burners, although you can find models with more.
These will be much less compact than their alternatives, making them difficult to carry around. That makes them recommended for campsites that don’t need a lot of walking to get to. They’re also suited to campervans.
Which one you should pick up depends significantly on what your needs are. Certain stoves will shine in specific situations, so you’ll need to plan ahead to make sure you pick the right one.
Planning can be vital to making sure the camping trip, or any other kind of mountaineering or outdoor trip, is successful. Knowing where you’ll be and what you’ll be cooking in advance can make a significant difference in which stove you choose.
Wind protection is something that many campers overlook when buying a stove. However, the wind can play quite a role in how your stove performs, as it will affect the flames. That can have an impact on your cooking times, especially if you have it at a low heat.
That makes looking for wind protection a necessity. You might assume that this would be built into the design of all stoves, but that isn’t the case. Single-burner stoves, for instance, typically don’t have any.
With others, there can be a different wind protection design, depending on the model. Many two-burner stoves will have a three-wall barrier that folds. That should give you enough protection against the wind to cook your food.
Other models, though, will have recessed burners surrounded by protective sheaths. While it’s typically a choice between one of these options, you could find some that have both. If you’re going to be camping in a particularly windy area, then these are well worth the investment.
If you don’t have a stove with either of these options, then you can take a DIY approach and put up some canopy. Cooking in an area with some natural wind protection can also be helpful. However, it’s worth avoiding any harsh weather conditions when you’re camping, if possible.
Quite a few propane and butane stoves offer simmer control, although there are many that don’t. Whether or not this is an attractive feature depends on your perspective, but it can often be beneficial. With it, you can make risotto, polenta, and other dishes quite easily.
The simmer control makes sure that you do this without burning the bottom of the dish.
Tabletop or Freestanding
Stoves usually either come in a tabletop or freestanding option. These have their obvious benefits when it comes to setup, but you’ll need to consider this when planning your trip. If you have a tabletop stove, for example, will you have somewhere to put it?
At established campsites, this shouldn’t be an issue, as there should be plenty of picnic tables available to put it on. Out in the wilderness, however, you wouldn’t have anything to place it on when cooking, which will be an issue.
Portability will also play a factor in this, although freestanding stoves have been getting much easier to transport in the past few years. However, you should still factor this into your choice when you’re planning your trip.
Chapter Three: Alternative Fuels
Many campers tend to forget about hybrid fuels. Typically called iso-butane, this is essentially a mix of both gases and can be used in both types of stoves. That means that you should see the benefits of both sources of fuel, although you’ll see both disadvantages.
It’s worth noting that the propane will still burn quite fast. That will result in the butane being the only thing that’s left over after a while. If you want the benefits of both gases but tend to prefer propane, then that might be a bit of an issue.
For everyone else, however, that shouldn’t be much of a problem.
The butane vs propane stove debate has raged for years, with campers arguing the benefits of each. What one would be best for you, however, comes down to you and your needs. While the introduction of a hybrid option makes this a little more complicated, you still shouldn’t have any issues choosing between a butane stove and a propane one.
In many ways, propane camp stoves can shine, although their butane counterpart also has areas where it outperforms its competitor. Picking the right one for you comes down to personal preference. With camping season coming up relatively soon, though, it’s time that you start making up your mind about which one you want.
The great thing about these types of stoves and grills is that they can be used almost anywhere. Whether you’re tailgating, cooking in the backyard, or in the middle of nowhere, your outdoor cooking experience should be high-quality.