White Gas vs Propane

Portable gas powered stoves and lanterns are available in two fuel types: (1) propane and (2) white gas. Propane devices normally use one pound propane canisters. You can often use an adapter hose to connect these devices to larger propane tanks or to RV propane. White gas devices use the highly purified white gas and some can use a variety of other liquid fuels such as kerosene, alcohol, unleaded gas, and diesel (check the device instructions for details). White gas devices normally use the old-school pump to provide the pressure used to feed the fuel into the device.

Here are some basic comparisons between propane and liquid fuels:

  • Device Size/Cost
    Propane devices are normally smaller and less expensive to purchase.
    White Gas devices are normally larger and more expensive to purchase.
  • Fuel Availability
    Propane is readily available in a variety of formats. Larger canisters can be refilled or exchanged at a variety of retail stores. One pound canisters can be refilled from larger canisters using a refill adapter (details).
    White gas is readily available at a variety of retail stores. Some device can use alternate fuels such as unleaded gas, kerosene, etc.
  • Operating Cost
    Propane is affordable but generally more expensive than white gas.
    White gas is more economical to use especially for high-use applications.
  • Maintenance
    Propane devices are generally very low maintenance.
    White gas devices have more moving parts and require more maintenance.
  • Operation
    Propane devices are very easy to use.
    White gas devices can require a bit of practice to operate (normally require pumping, priming, lighting, etc.). They are not difficult to operate but they generally take a bit more effort.

For casual users propane is probably the better choice. For more experienced users or for more sustained use then the white gas option may be better.

Alternate Fuels

Some white gas devices such as stoves and heaters can use a variety of fuels. Check with your device manufacturer before using alternate fuels. For example, Coleman has a camp stove that can use either white gas or unleaded gas. Some white gas backpacking stoves can also use one of more of these kerosene, unleaded gas, diesel, alcohol, etc. Again, check with the device manufacturer and do NOT use an alternate fuel unless you device was designed to operate with those fuel.