Apart from insurance policies and bus time tables few things in life are as confusing as cylinder gas. Trying to choose a refillable gas bottle can feel like ordering from a foreign menu. For starters there are the different suppliers, such as, Campingaz, Calor Gas, Flogas, and Gaslight. For the main course you have the baffling choice between propane and butane, and for desert (if you can stomach it) the option between the different specialist bottles on offer from Calor Gas and Flogas. It’s a recipe guaranteed to give you a head ache, belly ache, and maybe if you are lucky some gas too.
But, before you decide against using a gas stove or barbeque I’ll let you into a little secret. All these gasses are the same! That’s right, they are all a type of fuel called liquid petroleum gas or LPG for short. Unless you have a very unusual or specialist appliance it will run on any of the different types of LPG perfectly well. So, why all the palaver then? Well some of the complexity comes from brand marketing, but there are practical advantages to be had as well. If you have this choice looming on the horizon and want to know your propane from you butane please read on.
Gas brands are like mobile phone manufacturers. They all sell you something that does the same job, it just comes in different packaging (cylinders in this case) and has its own connectors (the regulators). There are advantages to some of the different cylinders.
For starters Gaslight bottles are made from fibre glass making them the lightest and also allow you to see how much fuel remains inside. On the down side buying the bottle initially is expensive but once you’re setup refilling is competitive. Campingaz offers the most compact range of bottles ideal for those with limited space. In addition, Campingaz are the only bottles available in the UK that can be refilled in Europe. This time the down side is the refill price with Campingaz being the most expensive gas gram for gram. Finally, both Calor and Flogas use traditional steel cylinders. Flogas usually has the edge all round on cost, however, Calor has a wider range of specialist bottles on offer - more on these later. As for regulators (the thing that connects the pipe to the bottle), some are interchangeable between brands and some are not, so be sure to work this out before you leave the shop.
The final thing on brands is to say that both price and availability vary, so also look into this before you commit.
The great propane v butane debate
Well it’s not much of a debate, it’s actually pretty simple. Propane is both higher pressure and has a lower boiling point. The extra pressure means it burns hotter which helps reduced cooking times, and the lower boiling point means it can be use throughout the winter without compromised performance. Butane on the other hand is slightly better value for money, however, the gap has narrowed in recent years. Its downfall is poor performance in cold weather with major issues starting below 5°C. In terms of availability, Calor and Flogas offer both propane and butane options, whereas Gaslight offers only propane, and Campingaz only butane. All the brands offer a wide range of bottle sizes, but for car camping something with a gas fill weight between 2kg and 7kg should be sufficient depending on your appliances and duration of trip.
The final areas to demystify are the specialist bottle options offered by Calor Gas and Flogas. Despite the slightly confusing name Calor’s Patio Gas is an extremely versatile option. Firstly, the gas inside is propane which can be used all year round. In addition, the bottle comes in two handy sizes (5kg & 13kg) both of which come equipped with fill level gauges. They also use a quick and easy 27mm clip on regulator which is far easier to use than the traditional screw on propane regulators. Flogas also offers a similar bottle, the only difference is theirs is called Leisure Gas and comes in 11kg but doesn’t have a fill level indicator. Finally, Calor Gas offers their own lightweight bottle in the form of their 6kg Calor Lite. The bottle is a lighter weight steel and plastic construction with a fill level indicator. At the time of writing the Calor Lite is more expensive to refill gram for gram when compared to Gaslight.
Well we hope that’s made the whole gas debate a little easier to digest. With so many options available personal preference is key so if you’re using a refillable cylinder on the campsite already please let us know in the comments box below which option you prefer and why.