It’s one of those age-old questions asked by Overlanders, campers, and backpackers alike: how much camping fuel do you really need to bring with you on a trip? After all, no one wants to run out of fuel and have to resort to a cold breakfast or dinner – especially after a long day outdoors.
How to know how much camping fuel you need? Generally, you should bring enough fuel to boil .5 to 1 liter of water per person per cooked meal. You can find out exactly how much camping fuel you need by:
- Making a detailed meal plan for the trip
- Knowing the total amount of water you will need
- Finding your camp stove’s boil time and burn time
- Doing the math to find out how many grams of fuel are needed
Knowing how much camping fuel you need will take some planning and calculating, but when it comes to bringing the right amount of fuel, it’s worth it. We’ll walk you through every step for knowing just how much camping fuel you need, so no one will have to sacrifice a nice hot meal.
Step by Step: How to Know How Much Camping Fuel You Need
When it comes to fuel, planning how much you need is well worth it. The classic saying “better safe than sorry” really applies here.
So, what should you plan for and calculate to find out how much fuel you need? It comes down to some simple steps and considerations.
Make a Meal Plan
Camping fuel, especially when backpacking and Overlanding, is mostly centered around preparing food. Since cooking and heating food is going to be the primary source of your fuel use (if not the only use), it’s only logical to start by making a detailed meal plan for your trip.
As a general rule of thumb, you should bring enough fuel to boil .5 to 1 liter of water per person per cooked meal.
That’s where your meal plan comes in – if you know how many meals you’re going to prepare and how they’re going to be prepared (boiled or simmered), you’ll know how much water you’ll need to make those meals.
Knowing how much water you need is one of the significant steps of calculating the exact amount of fuel you will need for your trip. It’s important!
Meal Plan Sample
Whether it’s scribbled on a notepad or entered into a spreadsheet, here’s a sample of a meal plan with an estimated amount of water needed.
If you are not sure how much water you need per meal, you should stay with a baseline of 1 liter of water per meal. If you’re not handy with converting from the metric system, a liter is a little more than 4 cups.
Remember to total up the amount of water needed at the end of your meal plan!
|Thursday||Dinner||Freeze-dried beef stroganoff||1 liter|
|Friday||Breakfast||Instant oatmeal and coffee||.5 liters|
|Lunch||Tuna pouch and granola bar||0|
|Dinner||Freeze-dried chili||1 liter|
|Saturday||Breakfast||Instant oatmeal and coffee||.5 liters|
|Lunch||Crackers, hummus, cheese, trail mix||0|
|Total: 3 liters of water|
Find Your Camp Stove’s Boil Time and Burn Time
Now that you have your detailed meal plan and know exactly how much water you plan on using, it’s time to find out your camp stove’s boil time and burn time.
It’s important to note that each camp stove is different. Therefore, the way each camp stove works varies. This can affect the amount of fuel you need.
Boil Time vs. Burn Time
Boil time means the amount of time it takes for your stove to bring water to a boil. For example, your camp stove may take 2 minutes to boil .5 liters of water.
Burn time means the amount of time that the gas can be burned before fuel runs out. For example, it may take an hour for a full 230g canister to run out.
Burn time can be extended by simmering meals if your camp stove has a simmer option.
Finding Your Stove’s Boil Time and Burn Time
The best way to find your camp stove’s boil time and burn time is right from the source: your stove’s manufacturer instructions.
If you cannot find your stove’s boil time and burn time with its manufacturer instructions, online, or from another source, some estimated boil times for a standard camp stove are:
- Wood stoves – 10 minutes
- Open gas stoves – 4 minutes
- Integrated gas stoves – 2 minutes
Additionally, an 8-ounce canister of fuel has been said to burn for 3 hours continuously. If you’re unable to find your stove’s burn rate, you can use that timeline as a rough estimate.
If you are still unsure, you can conduct your own test at home before you go on your trip. Not sure where to start with that? Take a look at this video from REI that demonstrates how to conduct your home test.
Do the Math
It’s time to bring together your water amounts, boil time, and burn time to do the math and calculate how much camping fuel you need. It will take a few steps and simple calculations – don’t worry, you won’t need to pull out your old algebra textbook or Google any tutorials.
Total Boil Time
First, you need to find the total boil time for your trip. To find that number, multiply the total amount of water needed by your camp stove’s boil time.
Using the numbers we have previously discussed, that would look like:
3 liters (total water) X 2 minutes (boil time) = 6 (total boil time in minutes).
Burn Time Needed
Next, it’s time to find the total amount of burn time you will need for your trip. To find that number, divide your total boil time by your stove’s burn time. You will end up with a number to turn into a percentage.
6 (total boil time) / 60 minutes (stove’s burn time) = .1 (10% of total burn time)
Your Exact Fuel Amount Needed
It’s all coming together – it is time to find the exact amount of fuel you need for your trip using the calculations you have done so far. We will find the exact amount of fuel you need in grams.
To keep things simple, let us say you have a 100g fuel canister.
To find the amount of fuel you need for your trip, you will multiply the total burn time by total fuel amount. That looks like:
.1 (10% total burn time) X 100g (fuel canister contents) = 10 (grams of fuel)
So, following all those calculations, for the meal plan and trip we have outlined, you would need exactly 10 grams of fuel.
Factors like wind, cold temperatures, and altitude can all cause you to use more fuel. Because of that and other factors that may arise, it’s always smart to bring a bit more fuel than you need.
In the example we outlined, you would need 10 grams of fuel. With a 100-gram fuel canister, you’d have plenty left over in case you needed it!
How Much Propane Does a Camp Stove Use?
You may be wondering how much propane your camp stove uses, and you would not be the only one. How much propane does a camp stove use?
Because camp stoves differ in size, make, and features, every camp stove will use a different amount of propane.
However, when it comes down to it, the amount of propane a camp stove will use depends on the propane’s burner output (in millimeters).
If you’ve got a 16oz propane tank with a 32mm burner output, it should last around 2 hours. You can expect propane tanks with larger burner outputs to burn through more propane more quickly. Additionally, larger propane tanks typically last longer.
Other factors that influence how much propane a camp stove will use are:
- The size of the stove
- The number of burners on the stove (more burners equals more propane)
- The amount of cooking time (cooking for longer equals more propane)
So, simply put, the amount of propane a camp stove uses will always differ depending on certain factors. However, you can still expect at least a few hours of burn time, even from smaller propane tanks.
The amount of camping fuel you need comes down to planning and calculation. While it may seem like a lot to take into consideration, it’ll be worth it.
After all, knowing the amount of camping fuel you need and being prepared for it can be the difference between eating a nice, hot meal and an unsavory cold one.
When you plan for and calculate the amount of camping fuel you need, you can be comforted knowing you likely won’t have to sacrifice any hot meals or drinks – which is probably just what you’ll want after a long day in the outdoors.