Small propane tanks: Learn what size you need for camping

Are you looking for a small propane tank that will be easy to carry with your camping gear? If so, this blog post is for you! We’ll go through the best models of small propane tanks for camping and give you some guidance on how to store and use them safely.

Small Propane Tanks
Propane Tank Sizes

Hiking trips and camping can be fun, but they require planning. You might not think about it, but the propane tanks used to fuel a camp stove are heavy and bulky. This post will offer tips on how to lighten your load by choosing smaller propane tanks for camping, suggest several options, and advise on how to choose the best one.

Propane is a gas that is used for many outdoor purposes including grills, patio heaters, water heaters, generators, fireplaces, and others. The most common container for propane is called a propane cylinder, or propane tank.

Propane tanks generally aren’t measured in their shape or type of propane but in the weight, which includes the weight of the tank and the gas.

What Size of Propane Cylinder Do I Need?

The first step is knowing which size of propane cylinder you need. Here are some of the most common propane tank sizes and their typical uses with the best propane camping gear available to make camping safe, comfortable, and fun.

The following list contains a selection of common sizes of propane cylinders.

  • 100-pound. This big propane cylinder holds nearly 25 gallons. It is a great choice for heating devices, such as indoor fireplaces or gas cooking ranges.
  • 40 pound. Good for RV campers.
  • 30-pound. At two feet tall, the 30-pound propane bottles hold approximately eight gallons of propane and can be transported easily.
  • 20-pound. A popular residential propane cylinder size, these tanks are typically used on propane gas grills, fireplaces and modest household appliances. They are light and compact, holding approximately five gallons.
  • 5 pound
  • 1 pound: These small propane bottles are often used for fueling items like tabletop grills and propane torches.

A “small” propane tank can refer to any tank smaller than the standard 20 lb propane tank.

We’ll start by comparing the largest propane tanks that can be used for camping. For campers who want to travel lighter, we’ll be able to get you the smallest tank possible.

Now, let’s look deeper into each size.

100 Pound Propane Tank

Although they are much more in demand, they aren’t very practical for campers due to their heavyweight and large size.

They are approximately 15 x 48 x 15 inches.

They weight approximately 80 pounds empty, and approximately 177 pounds (23 gallons) when filled with propane.

The weight of propane is 23 gallons or 97 pounds approximately.

This size of portable propane tank can be used for extended length camping trips in remote locations.

You can also use this propane tank even while staying at home in some emergency situations when the normal power supply is disrupted by natural disasters (e.g hurricanes). A 100-pound propane tank can power the propane-powered generator for approximately 40 hours of continuous use.

40 Pound Propane Tank

40-pound propane tanks are popular among RV campers.

They are approximately 12 x 12, x 29, inches.

They weight approximately 30 pounds when empty, and 68 when filled in with propane.

They can contain approximately 9 gallons of gas.

A normal setup will include two 40-pound propane tanks that are secured to the RV using a Dual RV Propane Tank Cylinder Rack.

30 Pound Propane Tank

30-pound propane tanks are also great for RV campers.

They are approximately 12 x12 x 24 inches.

They weight approximately 23 pounds empty, and 52 when filled in with gas.

They contain approximately 7 gallons.

A typical setup will include two 30-pound propane tanks that are protected with a molded assembled propane tank cover that is designed to shield the tanks from flying debris.

20 Pound Propane Tank

20-pound propane tanks are great for backyard grills.

They are approximately 12 x 13 x 18 inches

They weigh approximately 14 pounds empty.

They have approximately 4 gallons of propane(Weighs approximately 17 lbs).

They weigh approximately 31 lb when filled with propane

This is the most common size of a propane tank for camping. This volume would be enough for using larger camp cooking equipment that has more cooking surface space and is floor-standing.

5 Pound Propane Cylinders

5-pound propane tanks would be sufficient for short weekend camping trips.

They are approximately 8 x 8 x12 inches.

They weigh in at approximately 9 pounds empty.

They hold slightly more than approximately 1 gallon of propane.

They weigh in at approximately 13 lbs when filled up with propane.

1 Pound Propane Cylinders

There are 2 types of 1 lb camping propane tanks: Pre-Filled Coleman Propane Cylinders And Flame King Refillable 1lb Propane Cylinders.

They are approximately4 x 4 inches x 8 in.

They are approximately 1 lb.1 pound empty

They contain approximately a quarter of a gallon (250ml) of propane(which weighs in at 1 pound).

They weigh approximately 2 lb when filled with propane

1 pound cylinders are common for small camping equipment, like tabletop propane grills/stoves and small portable propane heaters.

As a 1lb propane bottle is the most popular size for camping, let me now explain how to calculate the consumption of propane by most common camping gear.

1 lb Propane Consumption For Common Camping Gear

If your own an RV, you may use a simple formula to calculate the fuel consumption by your main appliances.

One 1 lb propane cylinder holds enough fuel to produce approximately 21,000 BTUs. Divide this number by the BTU rating of your appliances, and you will get the number of hours you can get from a single 1 lb propane tank.

Here’s an example:

A camping stove with 10,000 BTU consumption per hour will last:

1lb cylinder’s 21,000 BTUs / camping stove’s 10,000 BTUs consumption per hour = 2.1 hours. Your propane can lasts for 2.1 hours before it runs out of fuel.

See the average propane consumption for standard RV appliances below:

Water heater = 8,800 average BTU consumption per hour

Refrigerator = 900 average BTU consumption per hour

Furnace = 25,000 average BTU consumption per hour

If you are camping in a tent, your propane demands will be much lower than if you are RV camping.

How long does a small propane tank last on a grill?

The actual life expectancy of a small propane tank is dependent on the particular grill. Let’s look at the formula.

A small 1 lb propane tank can hold 0.236 gallons. A gallon of propane is known to produce 92,000 BTU heat. Our small propane tank of 1 lb produces 21,712 BTU heat.

How long does a 1lb propane tank last?

Let’s now take a look at the grill. Let’s assume that your camping propane grill and stove consume 20,000 BTUs of heat per hour. Your tank can produce 21,712 BTUs. That’s 1 hour and 5 min.

However, cooking for an hour on a camping propane grill is not usual. You can think more about how often and how long you grill. A single propane tank of 1 lb would provide enough fuel for 3 meals if your cooking time is about 20 minutes.

How do you measure the propane level in your tank?

The small 1 lb propane tank doesn’t come with a gauge, so without one, you’ll have to resort to the traditional hot water trick.

How to check propane level
  1. Take some hot water and pour it down the side of the tank. The water will drip down the tank.
  2. Use your fingers to feel the tank’s surface for a cold spot. The level of your fuel is at the top of the cold spot.

A propane gauge is a good choice if you need to regularly check your propane levels. These can be reused from tank to tank, and they will show the levels at a glance.

How to refill a small propane tank?

You don’t want an empty propane tank when you are hosting an event or enjoying a family outing. If your propane tank is getting low, it’s time to consider whether you would like to refill it or exchange it for one that has been pre-filled. 

Larger Propane Tanks can be refilled at special services. Search online for companies located near you.

Small propane cylinders are usually disposable or can be refilled using a special propane refill adapter. It looks like this:

Small propane tanks: Learn what size you need for camping

How do you refill a 1 lb propane tank?

It is easy to refill your small propane tank.

  1. Attach the larger end (the one in black) to the propane tank (20 lb).
  2. Attach the cylinder to the opposite end
  3. Turn the tanks upside-down
  4. The 20 lb tank valve can be opened
  5. Listen to the transfer
  6. The valve should be turned off
  7. Take the tanks out of the adapter

Refilling small cylinders is subject to certain restrictions and limitations. Please be careful and adhere to all safety guidelines.

How to store propane tanks?

High temperatures can have a negative impact on propane cylinders. You should keep your camping propane bottles in an airtight container in a temperature-controlled, dry, and well-ventilated place.

It is best to store tanks between -40F (-40degF), and 120F (49degC).

They should be placed in a straight position away from any flammable materials.

Physical damage is also a big risk. Keep the bottles in an area that is easily accessible. and free from any objects that could fall on your camping gas tanks.

How to dispose of a small propane tank?

For smaller tanks that have been damaged or are not serviceable, you can contact a propane supplier or your local household hazardous material collection site.

Propane accessories that maximize safety and performance

To maintain your propane tank, get the best propane tank accessories. 

Propane Hoses

These propane accessories are essential for connecting propane-based devices and propane tanks. There are many sizes of propane hose adapters. It is crucial to choose one that matches your tank.

It is very simple to install propane gas hoses. A high-quality rubber hose is a great choice. You can avoid gas leaks by using strong, durable rubber.

Propane Tank Fittings & Adapters

Propane tank fittings and adapters work the same as propane hoses. These fittings are used to attach propane tanks to propane-based appliances. Each end has propane tank fittings. This allows you to connect smaller propane bottles to larger ones. These are the most popular sizes for propane tank adapters.

  • Acme Vessels. These connections can be tightened by hand easily.
  • POL Vessels. You will need a wrench to tighten the threads of POL vales. These valves allow gas to escape even when no other device is attached.
  • OPD V Valves. Overfill Prevention devices look very similar to Acme vales but come with triangular handwheels. These valves have internal floats that prevent overfilling.

Propane Regulator Kits

Propane regulators play an essential role in any propane tank. Propane regulators regulate gas flow and lower pressure at the appliance. They act as safety barriers and regulate flow and distribution.


What is the Price of a Small Propane tank?

A 1 lb. cylinder can range in price from $15 to $40 depending on which brand you choose. Colemans are usually $15-20.

Can a Small Propane Tank Explode?

There is a possibility of an explosion only if there is a leak in the valve or tank.

Are small propane tanks able to become outdated?

They do.
It all depends on whether or not the tank was opened and how it was stored.

How long do small propane tanks last in storage?

In the best-case scenario (never opened and stored in a dry and cool place), they last for about 7 years.
Gas lasts forever. The expiration date for gas is tied to the tank. Over time, tanks rust and valves fail.
Bottled water is in the same boat.

How do you know if your propane tank is out of date?

You can check the expiration date to find out if your tank is expired.

Is it legal to refill 1lb propane tanks?

Until October 1 1996 this was prohibited under federal law. Only the transport of refilled canisters after this date is illegal.
Now, the US Department of Transportation only cautions to not refill these types of cylinders.

Is it safe to refill a 1lb propane cylinder?

Yes, to a certain extent. Gas is safe.
Some tanks can’t be refilled. They are meant to be used once only. It is possible for them to lose their durability or performance with each refill.

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