Cost of Disposable versus Refillable Propane Cylinders


A question I regularly get about Outfitting one of our home-built tent trailers is, Should I add a refillable propane cylinder or use the small disposable ones?

For me there are two primary considerations, cost and reducing waste.  The cost difference is straight forward to quantify, the value of reducing waste is a personal choice.

In my area propane is going for $3.25 a gal at the local gas station.  Measurement of propane is by weight, not volume.  1 gal of propane is 4.25 lbs or 68 oz.  So, it works out at $3.25 a gal,  it is $.048 an oz.

Around here you can pick up the Coleman 16.4 oz disposable cylinders of propane for $2.95 ea.  If propane is $.048 an oz, you’re paying $.79 for the propane and $2.16 for the cylinder that you throw away.

A DOT/OPD 5 lb refillable cylinder and appliance hose runs about $66, $46 for the cylinder and $20 for the hose.  So, if you’re throwing away $2.16 with the purchase of every disposal cylinder, financially you’ll break even after purchasing 30 cylinders.

So you decide which makes the most sense for you.

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3 thoughts on “Cost of Disposable versus Refillable Propane Cylinders

  1. Is there a new regulator for a Colman stove I would have to buy in order to use a 5# cylinder with it. Seems to be more cost efective if you camp alot or need the stove during a power outage.

    1. Hi Jeanne! Are you from Gates? Nice to see you here!

      There is a regulator hose you can purchase from any camp store that will allow you to run your camp stove from a 20# tank – its called an “appliance hose”. Also there is a cool ‘tree’ that you can hook your bigger tank to that will run three ‘appliances’ while camping – lantern, stove, etc. Hope that helps!

      I found them at http://www.backcountry.com/outdoorgear/Coleman-30-inch-Distribution-Tree/CMN0044M.html. There is a vertical one as well that I found at http://www.kodiakoutback.com/detail.aspx?ID=3974&utm_source=nxtg&utm_medium=ppc&utm_campaign=cmp1. Both of these you could probably find at any camping supply store.

      Let us know if we can be of help.

  2. I have a 5 pound cylinder and unfortunately it’s a bit small- especially since the local fill place seems to have trouble getting more than 0.8 gallons in it. Only if I coach them to go real slow do they get the full amount in.

    The nice thing about mine is that it has a pretty wide base so it’s quite stable with a propane tree and lantern- but still light enough to carry around.

    There is a huge advantage to the larger 5# or 20# tanks vs. 1# cylinders- low temperature operation. When it’s about freezing in the morning and you’re trying to get the last pot of coffee out of a 1# cylinder it doesn’t give up much gas. You get a thick coating of ice on the bottom of the propane can but my 11,000 btu stove is barely hissing.

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