Does Camp Fuel Go Bad? (How To Store Camp Fuel)

You might be wondering if that bottle of propane on the shelf from two years ago is still good enough to take on your next camping trip that’s around the corner. Camping fuels can be a bit intimidating for some, and if you’re inexperienced with camping, might make you a bit nervous. 

Whether or not camping fuel goes bad really depends on several factors, primarily the type of fuel you are using. Other factors include how it’s been stored, the integrity of its container, and whether it’s been opened. Some fuels go bad, and some don’t.

More times than not, it’s the container holding the fuel that will expire long before the fuel itself. With a little bit of knowledge and some proper storage techniques, you can ensure that your camp fuel will last as long as you need it to. 

What Is Camp Fuel?

If you’re not a seasoned camper, the term camp fuel might be confusing, as it covers a wide array of products. By definition, fuel is any material used to produce heat or power by burning. Thus, for camping, fuel usually means propane, butane, kerosene, IsoPro, white gas, alcohol, fuel tablets, and even charcoal. Sometimes it’s a combination of different types of fuel like a butane-propane mix.

Camp fuel can come in the form of liquid, solid, or gas. There are so many different types of camp fuels and fuel mixes that the subject matter can be downright confusing. Some fuels come in pressurized containers and some come in liquid form designed to pour into small tanks. 

Propane, isobutane, and butane are the most popular for their use with camp stoves. The camp fuel is usually placed in pressurized aluminum or steel casings. As the fuel is released, it burns to either cook your food or heat your tent. 

White gas, IsoPro, and kerosene are liquids used to fill your camp stove and gradually burn over time. Fuel tablets and charcoal come in solid form. When lit, they burn down over a period of time. 

Each type of camp fuel has its own value, and there’s not necessarily one that’s better than the other although most campers have their preferred choice. Certainly, each fuel type has its advantages over another, but choosing the right fuel largely depends on the type of camping you’re doing, as well as the outdoor temperatures.

Do Camping Fuel Canisters Expire?

The expiration date of fuel canisters will vary depending on the type of fuel and how it is stored. There’s also the official answer, and then there are the answers from personal experiences, which are often very different from one another. It is, of course, recommended that you always adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines. 

The biggest detriment to using bad camp fuel is that it can clog up and ruin your camp stove, or other gear. In most cases, it simply won’t light or won’t stay lit, in which case, there’s no use hanging on to it any longer. 

Propane Canisters

Propane camping fuel, sometimes called LP gas or LPG (liquid petroleum gas), doesn’t ever really expire, degrade, or go bad. Its container, however, can. Over time, propane canisters can rust, corrode, or develop leaks. 

You may have noticed an expiration date on your propane canister that has led you to believe that the fuel itself expires. However, this expiration date is not for the fuel, but rather for the canister.

Canisters are customarily certified to last for 10-12 years. The expiration date tells you when it’s time for the canister to be recertified. In order to get your tank recertified, it needs to be inspected for its structural integrity. Typically, tanks are assessed for any type of physical damage, or corroding rust.  


Butane is very similar to propane in that the fuel itself never goes bad, but the canisters may deteriorate over time. Butane canisters can also last eight to ten years if stored properly, but because butane is a gas and highly explosive, it poses a little more risk than propane. 

Butane canisters become less stable once the valve seal has been broken, and this may lead to deterioration. Always inspect the canister thoroughly before using it.


Kerosene is a liquid fuel that typically has a 5-year shelf life when stored unopened in its original container. The longer kerosene sits, however, the more propensity it has to build up condensation which degrades your fuel over time. Your kerosene also becomes at risk for mold and bacteria. 

Some people will routinely add a fuel stabilizer to their kerosene to prolong its longevity. If your kerosene has been sitting on the shelf for a while, it’s a good idea to do a test light before adding it to your camp stove. This will reduce the risk of gunking up your stove if it’s developed condensation or rust.

White Gas

White gas, also known as Coleman camp fuel has a variety of opinions from five years to indefinite shelf life, but with the caveat of being unopened. Once opened, however, it has a substantially shorter shelf life lasting only a couple of years. Most experts suggest disposing of white gas after approximately seven years. 

Does Coleman Camp Fuel Expire?

Coleman Camp Fuel, or white gas, is a naphtha-based fuel, which is a highly flammable hydrocarbon mixture. According to manufacturing standards, when left unopened, it can last 5-7 years. Although, many campers have testified that their fuel has lasted twenty to thirty years. 

There aren’t any additives in white gas that will cause it to break down, but the main concern is moisture building up in the fuel, or rust contaminant from its container. As fuel is poured out of the container, it is replaced with air that causes condensation. 

Because white gas is usually kept in metal containers, the condensation poses a risk for rust, which can then subsequently add debris to your fuel. Many campers recommend filtering white gas before adding it to any of your valuable gear as a way of sifting any particles that might have built up inside the container. 

As a matter of fact, Coleman even offers its own filtering funnel for this very reason. It contains a replaceable filter at the base of the funnel that catches any debris so it doesn’t land in your stove. 

How Should You Store Camping Fuel?

The majority of camping fuels are stored in a similar manner. Storing your camp fuel properly not only increases the longevity of your fuel, but also decreases risks for fires, explosions, inhalation issues, or any other negative impacts that fuel can cause.


Propane should be kept upright, in a cool, dry space with plenty of space around them. You can prolong the shelf life of your propane canister by storing it properly, first and foremost, away from the elements and any flames. Leaving your tanks outdoors will lead them to rust and degrade faster thereby shortening the lifespan of the casing. 

On its own, propane isn’t explosive, and thus requires an external ignition source. Keeping your propane tanks away from any such source isimperative for proper storage. 

Propane should be stored in a well-ventilated area. Should your tanks ever spring a leak, propane can cause asphyxiation when exposed to high levels. Having an area with good ventilation and breathability will help disperse the gas alleviating any significant risk of suffocation. 

In its most natural state, propane is colorless and odorless. However, manufacturers add a skunk-like smell to help identify leaks. It’s also a good idea to have propane and carbon monoxide protectors wherever you are storing your camp fuel. 


Unlike propane, butane is actually highly explosive. So obviously, you shouldn’t store your butane anywhere near a heat source or flame. Butane also becomes unstable over 110 degrees, which is normal summer temperatures for some parts of the world. If you ever go hiking through parts of Arizona or Nevada in the middle of summer, I wouldn’t advise taking butane.

Butane should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place, but not too cold. Butane ceases to function in freezing temperatures. When the temperatures become too cold outside, the pressure in the tank decreases, making it difficult to ignite. 

It’s a good idea to always visually inspect your canisters for any damage prior to placing them in storage, as well as checking them routinely for any kind of degradation. Always keep a carbon monoxide monitor in the vicinity of your tanks. 

White Gas

Store in the usual cool, dry place away from any types of heat sources. You could opt to store your fuel in a rust-proof container, which would help prevent debris. MSR, for example, makes a specially designed container specifically for white gas to assist in minimizing fuel degradation. 

If you choose not to store your Coleman Camp Fuel in a specially designed container, then you should inspect its original container frequently. Since white gas is colorless and odorless, any leaks won’t be obvious. For this reason, you should visually check your containers routinely.


Kerosene can be stored in non-transparent, durable plastic containers or metal drums. Opaque plastic containers can be purchased specifically for kerosene just like what you can purchase for gas cans. They are typically blue and come in both metal and plastic. Just don’t confuse your kerosene containers with your water containers. Their appearances can be very similar. 

Additives like biocides and water disbursement treatments can be added to kerosene to extend its shelf life during storage. Like most other fuels, kerosene should be kept in a well-ventilated, cool, dry place.

Kerosene should not be kept indoors as it produces fumes that can cause substantial health issues that are extremely hazardous to your health such as neurological issues or kidney problems. You should check your kerosene at least once a year and do a test burn. If it doesn’t burn, then you can dispose of it accordingly.

How To Know If Camp Fuel Has Gone Bad

As already mentioned, in most cases the fuel itself doesn’t go bad, but instead, the containers do. There are a few things you can do to check your fuel containers to determine if they’re still good or not.

Pressurized Canisters

The first thing to do is always visually inspect your container. If the fuel containers appear excessively damaged, show any signs of extensive rust, or if the container feels abnormally lighter than it should be, then the shelf life has probably been compromised and you’ll want to dispose of your fuel accordingly.

When dealing with pressurized containers, always thoroughly inspect the valves for any damage. Leaking tanks can be extremely dangerous and should not be used under any circumstances. 

If you’re using tanks that require a pressure regulator, make sure it is working correctly. It is recommended that regulators be inspected annually and replaced every five years. If your regulator, which controls the flow of your fuel, is not working properly, don’t attempt to use it. This could result in calamity.

Liquid Fuels

If you’re dealing with liquid camp fuel, you can always give it a whiff to make sure it doesn’t have any unusual smells. If it has an abnormal smell, it could be a sign of contamination and your best bet is to get rid of it.

Visually inspect your fuel for clarity. If its color is out of the ordinary, or it has any signs of rust this could be an indication of impurities or evidence of rust. If it smells normal and doesn’t appear contaminated with water, rust, or debris, then you shouldn’t have any issues. You can always do a test light before adding it to your stove.

There are rarely any derogatory or dangerous effects of using expired camp fuel, which is often the concern of skeptical campers. In most cases, it simply won’t light or stay lit. Bad fuel doesn’t have the ability to create explosions of any kind, but it can gunk up and ruin your gear, so use it at your own risk. 

However, don’t confuse bad fuel with bad containers. Bad fuels won’t light, but bad containers are highly flammable because good fuel is leaking out of a compromised container. This can lead to dangerous situations. If there’s any doubt, your best bet is to just get rid of it. 

How To Dispose Of Camp Fuel?

Any kind of camp fuel is considered hazardous waste, and therefore there are certain things that you shouldnever do under any circumstances. For instance, never pour fuel down your drain or sewer; and never just pour it onto the ground, especially around a water source. 

Because camp fuel is flammable, you can’t just throw it away with your weekly garbage either. Some places will, however, let you throw away smaller, empty canisters under 1-2 pounds. You will need to contact your local city or county government to determine the legalities of disposing of unstable tanks in your area. 

If you’re dealing with propane or butane, you can contact a local professional to dispose of the tank for you. Many suppliers and retailers will offer an exchange program that will allow you to switch out a bad tank with a good tank. Some companies will even come pick them up for you. If this isn’t available in your area, some scrap metal yards will take expended fuel canisters.

Additionally, many cities offer sites for hazardous waste collection. Contact your local sanitation department to find one near you, or try an Earth911 search, which is an extensive recycling database, to find a facility near you.

Some rural areas will host collection events at various times throughout the year. Where I live, for example, the local garbage pickup schedules a hazardous waste collection once a year. 

If it’s a small amount of liquid fuel you are trying to get rid of, although not recommended, some people take the lid off and just let it evaporate over time. With white gas, in particular, some campers will add it to good unleaded gasoline in their vehicles or small engines like lawnmowers.

As long as you have at least 50% good gasoline, then it shouldn’t harm your engine. Although, I’m not sure I’d be willing to take that risk. Depending on where you live, sometimes local gas stations or mechanic shops will take your camp fuel off your hands. 

When all else fails, contact your local fire department or government entity for guidance. At the very least, they should be able to provide you with legal options for your area. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re an avid camper, you really shouldn’t have any issues with the longevity of your fuel, as you should use it long before the risk of going bad becomes something to deal with. The majority of camp fuels have an indefinite shelf life as long as the structural integrity of their containers remains intact. 

Store your camp fuel in a well-ventilated area that’s cool and dry. Keep out of direct sunlight and away from any open flame or heat source. If you have any doubts about your camp fuel, give it a thorough inspection. If in doubt, then dispose of it properly