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The GO Outdoors Guide To Fuel and Gas

Can’t decide whether to get a gas or liquid fuel stove? Or battery or gas lantern? Or perhaps you want to know why you should get a low wattage kettle for your caravan and not just take your home one? 

We’ve asked our experts to explain the key points in powered camping to help you choose the best product for you.

Gas Cartridges

What is a Gas Cartridge?

A gas cartridge is a mixture of two liquid petroleum gases (propane and butane) contained under pressure in a metal cartridge. They are used worldwide for their lightweight, portable nature, and the accuracy with which the flame produced can be adjusted. 

 How is it lit? 

When the pressure in the cartridge is released by opening the stove valve the fuel emerges as a vapour. Lights instantly, without flaring. How long do the cartridges last? 

Most stoves burn at around 150g/h (grams per hour). This is the rate at which the stove consumes fuel. This information will be found on either the packaging or the information booklet inside.

 By doing a simple conversion i.e. a stove burns 150g/h, a gas cartridge has 450g of gas, you will be able to extract a rough estimate of how long the cartridge will last.

 1 litre of water should take around 3-6 minutes to boil. This is longer in colder temperatures, but shorter at altitude as all gas cartridges work better as altitude increases and air pressure is lower. Heat output declines as cartridge empties and pressure drops. This can be counteracted by using fresh cartridges to bring liquids to the boil and quickly swapping with near-empty ones for simmering (re-sealable cartridges only). 

Liquid Fuel

Why Liquid Fuel?

  • Ignites instantly.
  •  Unlike other fuels, it burns as a liquid not as a gas and so does not need to be pressurised.
  •  It is unaffected by temperature. Spilt fuel quickly evaporates, but until it has done so it will burn in both liquid and vapour form if ignited, so great care is needed when refilling. 
  • Easily obtained worldwide. 

What Liquid Fuels are available?

Methylated Spirits (Meths) 

 Meths is a form of ethanol (ethyl alcohol) that has been made unsuitable for drinking by the addition of about 9.5% of methanol (methyl alcohol), about 0.5% of pyridine, and a methyl violet dye (it is this dye that gives Meths its distinctive purple colour). Meths burns at half the heat of other fuels so twice as much is needed, leading to more bulk and weight in the rucksack. 

 Coleman fuel 

Coleman fuel is a distilled form of petrol without the additives that can block fuel lines and jets causing stoves to flare and smoke. However it does need to be pressurised and burned as a vapour to ignite. Unleaded petrol This is the most widely used vehicle fuel in the UK, Europe and the USA. It is not as clean as Coleman fuel as it contains additives for preventing vehicle pre-ignition which are not burned off at stove temperatures. This means generator tubes, fuel lines and jets will need constant cleaning to avoid clogging.


Paraffin is a distillation of crude oil and is harder to light than Coleman Fuel. This makes it safer to use than Coleman fuel or petrol. A separate fuel is usually needed for preheating the stove for about 30 seconds before it reaches effective burning temperature - most common are meths or broken up solid fuel tablets. You will find though that some stoves have a wick or pad that absorbs paraffin so that separate fuels are not needed. Paraffin burns hotter than any other fuel and is easy to control but it smells and does not evaporate when spilled, leaving a greasy stain. Paraffin also produces a lot of soot when burning so similarly to petrol, stoves need frequent cleaning.


 This is another form of Paraffin and works in the same way. Diesel Diesel is best only used with multi-fuel stoves if no other fuel is available, since burning temperature is not high enough to burn off all impurities and fuel lines can quickly become blocked with ash. 

How long does 1litre of fuel last?

This varies between stoves, but very approximately: 

Methylated spirits – ½ hour
 Unleaded petrol/White gas – 2½ hours
Paraffin – 2½ hours 
Diesel – 3 ½ hours 

Solid Fuel

Solid fuel, more commonly known as Hexamine tablets is a widely available, lightweight fuel. 

Solid Fuel is highly inefficient as it is very susceptible to wind, has no way of controlling the heat output and is relatively expensive when compared to other fuels, it does however have an indefinite shelf life if stored correctly and makes for an excellent back up heat source. 

Gas Cylinders

Which gas should I use, Propane or Butane?

The physical properties of the two gases are similar, and when regulated to the correct pressure, they will perform almost identically. However there are some important differences. Of the two gases, Butane has the most advantages.

 It is less toxic and so can legally be used and stored indoors. Litre for litre, it contains around 12% more energy than Propane and so you can squeeze more running time into the same sized bottle. (Butane is heavier than Propane though, so weight for weight it's a pretty close call.) 

 Butane also burns cleaner than Propane (although this isn't normally a serious issue in caravanning.) Finally, while it's not strictly a property of the gas, Butane canisters generally use clip-on type connections. These are far more convenient than the Propane screw type connections, especially if you swap bottles around regularly (as you might if you also use your caravan bottle to run a barbecue.) 

 Conversely, Propane has only one advantage over Butane - but it's a big one! In order to be usable, the liquid in the bottle must be able to boil into a gas. In the case of Butane, this will happen at any temperature above -2C, whereas with Propane, this figure is much lower, at -42C. In the real world, it's not so clear cut. Whenever some of the liquid boils into gas, the remaining liquid cools.

 It is therefore possible for the temperature of the liquid to drop to several degrees below ambient. This can easily prevent a Butane canister from producing a useful gas supply, even when the outside temperature is several degrees above 0C. 

A compromise can be reached by mixing Propane with Butane, however none of the UK 'big bottle' suppliers actually do this. The small gas cartridges that are produced for camping stoves and gas lamps are often Propane/Butane mixes. 

 So choosing the right gas pretty much boils down to whether you need to use it in freezing (or near freezing) conditions. If this is likely, then Propane is a must. If not, then Butane has the edge. 


Backpacking Stoves- What To Look For

  • All-metal stoves are stronger, and can be used in all weather conditions. 
  • Those containing plastic are fragile and can be damaged in sub-zero temperatures. 
  • Aluminium is lighter, and more corrosion resistant.
  • The bigger the burner, the quicker it will boil water, but the more gas it will use.
  • 'Quick Start" Piezo-electric igniters are completely windproof, unlike matches and work by compressing a quartz crystal, which produces an electric spark.
  • Smaller pan-blades make the stove more unstable, but save on pack-size.
  • Stoves with the canister not directly beneath the flame are safer to use as they are more stable.
  • Stoves featuring a Generator Tube can be used in colder conditions. This leads incoming fuel through the flame, meaning the fuel is pre-heated, and thus easier to ignite. 

Gas Cartridge Stoves- What are the advantages?

  •  Instant lighting.
  • Very easy to control.
  • Safe.
  • Re-sealable cartridges can be removed from the stove when partially full for easier packing and to prevent stove being turned on accidentally.
  • Virtually maintenance-free and long-lasting
  •  1 litre of water should take around 3-6 minutes to boil. 

What are the disadvantages? •Efficiency declines as cartridge empties and efficiency can be affected by cold weather.

Meths Stoves - What are the advantages?

What are the advantages? 

  • Simple construction and operation.
  •  Reliable and virtually maintenance-free.
  • Compact and lightweight.
  • Safe and easy to use for inexperienced users.
  • Can be adapted with a gas conversion kit to increase efficiency. 

What are the disadvantages?

 Low burning temperature, and lack of flame control. 

Multi-Fuel Stoves- What are the advantages?

  • Burn very hot and very fuel-efficient. 
  • Run on various forms of pressurised liquid fuel.
  • Some will work with various fuels, including diesel.

 What are the disadvantages?

 Quite complex construction. Expensive. Do not light instantly. Some fuels are volatile and need great care in use. Unless clean fuels are used regular cleaning will be required to maintain performance. 

Why choose multi-fuel stoves over gas?

  • They use the most common forms of fuel, wherever you are in the world you can guarantee that fuel will be readily obtainable.
  • They can operate at lower temperatures.
  • They can operate at higher altitudes.
  • They burn much hotter than gas stoves.
  • 1 litre of water should boil in around 2 mins 30 secs.

What fuels can be used? Depending on which model:

  • Unleaded Petrol.
  • White Gas (AKA Coleman Fuel)
  • Paraffin.
  • Kerosene (AKA Aviation Fuel. Interchangeable with Paraffin)
  • Diesel
  • Methylated Spirits.

What parts do multi-fuel stoves have?

Fuel Bottle (sold separately)  -This must be a single piece of metal (including the screw-thread) to be suitable for pressurised use. Liquid fuels (other than alcohol) must be pressurised as they burn as gases, not as liquids.

Pump-A directional valve that compresses air into the fuel bottle, and lets fuel-loaded vapour into the fuel line. Built-in shut-off valve.
 Fuel Line- Leads vapour through to the generator tube. 

Generator Tube -Passes over the flame to pre-heat incoming fuel, permitting its use in colder conditions. • Priming Cup o Allows generator tube to be heated before the first ignition, often uses a wick to absorb the priming fluid.

Jet-This sprays the vapour upwards into the heating element 

Heating Element- A metal of varying shape that glows when heated, and serves to ignite incoming fuel. 

How do you operate a multi-fuel stove?

1. First, the correct jet (outlet hole) needs to be selected, depending on the capabilities of the stove. If the stove has them: G - (gasoline) – For unleaded petrol and white gas K - (kerosene) – For paraffin X - For Diesel (and everything else) 

2. Connect the pump, shut off the valve and pressurise the MSR bottle (no other bottle is suitable for pressurised use). Pump until it becomes stiff. 

3. Prime the fuel, as this permits vapour, rather than liquid, to be burned.  For touch-light fuels (those flammable at the touch of a flame – e.g. unleaded petrol), bleed a small amount through the fuel line, shut off the supply, and ignite. When the flame begins to die, let the fuel through again gradually.  For non-touch-light fuels (e.g. Diesel), use methylated spirits or burning paste in the fuel bowl, then let the fuel through gradually. Do not soak the priming wick in oil-based fuels!  Dirty fuels will require longer priming, and cold conditions will exaggerate this. 

4. Once the flame is lit, begin cooking. If the flame gets too low, input more pressure by pumping.

Which stove uses which gas?

Family Camping Stoves will run off of any regulated gas cylinder. 

The current exceptions to the rule are: • Campingaz CV Duo o C470 cartridges. • Higear Portable Stove o Butane aerosol cartridges 

These stoves have an inexpensive initial outlay, small size and readily available fuel. This makes them ideal for entry level family camping especially those who are camping for the first time and are unsure about investing in a more expensive stove. Coleman fold and go double burner/Propane cartridges.

Coleman perfect flow burner and grill/ Propane cartridges.

 These stoves run are powered by propane cartridges and have many advantages over standard cylinder stoves. The initial outlay is relatively inexpensive and they will be faster to cook on, however the cartridges will need to be replaced more often as they are smaller than cylinders. 

 Coleman dual fuel 2 Liquid fuel 

 It is important to remember that gas stoves will not work like the hob at home, they do not have the same power output and their efficiency will be affected by the use of all burners at the same time.


Cartridge Gas Products


Gas Cartridges are sold in stores only, but you can find the products they power on the website.

Certain gas types aren’t available outside the UK, and if you’re going on a plane you’re unlikely to be able to take your fuel with you.

Gas Canisters



Suitable for Backpacking and Car Camping


Pierce (worldwide)
Screw-on (US/EU)
Clip-on and Aerosol (EU)


Will power mid output items for finite periods of time.

  • Backpacking stoves
  • Lanterns
  • Occasionally portable heaters and family stoves

Duel Fuel Products


Dual Fuel products are sold in stores only, but you can find the products they power on the website.

Dual Fuel Diagram



Suitable for Backpacking and Car Camping


World wide 
(Any petrol station, hardware store, or outdoor shop)


Will power low output items for finite periods of time.

  • Backpacking and family stoves
  • Lanterns



Gas Cylinders


Gas Cylinders are sold in stores only, but you can find the products they power on the website.

Gas Cylinders


Car Camping and Caravanning


  • Calor (UK)
  • Campingaz (UK / EU)


Will power high output items for long periods of time.


  • Family stoves & BBQ’s
  •  Heaters
  • Fridges
  • Caravan stoves ovens and heating systems




What are the different gasses for?

In general all the gasses will run all the gas appliances we sell, however we make the following recommendations:

Camping Gaz

  • For those travelling in Europe as well as the UK
  • For those wanting a small bottle size
  • We recommend the smallest size for lanterns only
  • Struggle to work below 0°C


  • For summer use
  • For those remaining in the UK
  • Has easy clip-on-off regulator (except 4.5kg)
  • Struggles to work below 0°C


  • For year round use
  • For those remaining in the UK
  • Patio gas has easy clip-on-off regulator
  • Will work all year round



Pipe and Hose Clips*


All Campingaz

Black Hose (Low Pressure)

Screw On (By Hand)

Calor Butane (4.5kg only)

 Black Hose (Low Pressure)

Screw On (Spanner)

All Other Calor Butane & BBG Gas

Black Hose (Low Pressure)

Clip on (By Hand)

All Calor Patio Gas (Propane)

Orange Hose (High Pressure)

Clip On (By Hand)

All Calor Propane

Orange Hose (High Pressure)

Screw On (Spanner)

*1.5m and 5m restrictions.