Why You Need a 5 lb Propane Tank for Camping

Why You Need a 5 lb Propane Tank for Camping

Many campers need propane to fuel their stoves, grills, and lanterns. For a lot of people, the small 1 lb propane tanks are the main solution to power these devices. It’s time to consider getting a 5 lb propane tank for camping instead. Here’s why:

First, one 5 lb propane tank holds enough fuel for a multiple-day camping trip, so you don’t have to deal with multiple tanks.

Second, the 5 lb propane tanks can be refilled countless times, while most of the 1 lb camping propane tanks are single-use items.

And third, they are much cheaper to fill and can save money in the long run.

Let’s talk more about how and why you should ditch your 1 lb propane tanks and buy a 5 lb camping propane tank.

The Off Path Travels lightweight camping cooking set up, including a small Worthington propane tank and Camp Chef stove

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Camping Propane Tank Adapter Hose

Before we discuss why you should get a 5 lb (1 gallon) propane tank, you need to understand how you can use it.

A lot of camping stoves and grills use the 1 lb (16 oz) propane tanks. These are often small, green canisters (usually made by Coleman) which screw into the grill, stove, lantern, or other propane-using device. The threads are small and fit perfectly on the 1 lb tanks, but do not fit large 5 lb or 20 lb propane tanks.

So how can you use a 5 lb propane tank when your device is built for the small threads of the 1 lb propane tanks?

A Dozyant propane adapter hose

Easy, a propane adapter hose for 1 lb to 5 lb tanks. Since most 5 lb tanks use the same fitting as 20 lb tanks, a propane adapter for 1 lb to 20 lb tanks will work as well. The 5 lb tanks hold about 1 gallon (sometimes 1.2 gallons) of propane while the 20 lb tanks hold about 4.5 gallons. If you can fit a 20 lb tank in your camping gear, then get an adapter hose and bring that for your camping needs!

There are many different options for propane adapters and the best options are at the end of the article.

Commonly sold in a 3-5 foot length, the propane adapter hose will connect on one side to your device and the other side to the full-size fitting found on the 5 lb propane tanks. You can find longer hoses, ones made from rubber or stainless steel, and some with built-in regulators and/or gauges needed for specific low/high pressure devices.

It is not difficult to find a propane adapter for 1 lb to 20 lb (or 5 lb) tanks. Don’t let this stop you from using a large, refillable tank while camping.

Worthington 5 lb 1 gal propane tank

Tank Capacity and Storage Size

It’s obvious that a 5 lb propane tank is larger than a 1 lb propane tank. But let’s apply that to camping needs.

A lot of people use around 1/2 lb of propane per day while camping. If you use a furnace or lantern, your usage may be higher.

As a result, it is common to bring multiple 1 lb propane tanks camping. After all, it’s a recipe for disaster to run out of fuel in the backcountry. I used to always bring at least 2, sometimes up to 4 or 5.

How many do you usually bring?

An Off Path Travels camping trip near Crested Butte

Rather than lugging around a handful of the small tanks, get one 5 lb tank to last through your entire trip! You should be able to fit a 5 lb tank in the same area you would put 3-4 1 lb tanks.

Worried about having an emergency backup? Bring a small backpacking stove (or one 1 lb propane tank as a backup if you prefer). The MSR WhisperLite Universal has been my backpacking stove for years because it can run off of nearly any fuel source available. I usually run it with white gas, avoiding the single-use canisters that have become popular with backpacking stoves.

Kristina and Michael enjoying the Narros hike in Zion National Park in Utah

One Time Use Versus Refillable

One of the absolute worst aspects of the 1 lb propane tanks is that the majority of them are meant for one-time-use and should be disposed of properly after use.

This means that if use around 1/2 lb of propane per day (like a lot of people), then you go can easily go through two 1 lb canisters over a long weekend. Think about all of that waste for your camping trips alone! How much each season? How much each decade? In Yosemite National Park, they collected about 23,000 1 lb propane tanks in 2014 alone.

Now multiply that by the number of people exploring and enjoying the great outdoors. Many of us are passionate about conserving the beauty of this world, yet somehow we’ve been convinced that single-use canisters are acceptable.

It’s time to change that. There is no reason to use these wasteful products when better, cheaper alternatives are readily available.

Some trees in Colorado near Buena Vista, a great camping spot

Should You Refill 1 lb Propane Tanks?

There are people who refill the 1 lb tanks at home. And they do make products which can aide in doing so.

While I understand the drive to avoid excess trash, refilling most of the 1 lb tanks is outside of their intended usage and dangerous. They are created with a thin sidewall which can degrade over time. Why risk it when you can get a tank which is properly designed for reusing?

The 5 lb propane tanks are meant to be refilled. And since they use the same adapter as the 20 lb propane tanks, you can get them refilled anywhere that the 20 lb tanks can be filled.

If you prefer 1 lb propane tanks, then take a look at the truly refillable 1 lb propane tank from Flame King. However, these tanks are not cheap and you will most likely need multiple ones for any serious camping. Plus, why deal with multiple tanks when you can find one that will give you enough fuel?

The view from the summit hut at Hanh's Peak near Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Where to Fill 5 lb Propane Tanks

In most cities and towns where camping or RVs are prevalent, it is not hard to find a propane refill station. Loads of RVers, vandwellers, and overlanders use refillable tanks. You are not breaking new ground here and you should not be discouraged because you think it will be too hard to find places to fill them.

Many gas stations, repair shops, hardware stores, and even U-Haul locations have the ability to fill the propane tank. Look for options along major transportation routes for your best chance.

Most new propane tanks must be purged before they can be filled with propane. Call ahead to make sure they can provide this service when filling your new tank for the first time.

So what if you just simply don’t have any refueling stations nearby but you want to stop using the single-use tanks? You can either (A) bring a 20 lb tank camping or (B) buy the Flame King refillable 1 lb propane tank mentioned above, which can be safely refilled at home with a 20 lb tank.

Cost Savings with a 5 lb Propane Tank

Now the thing that matters the most: money.

Good news! The 5 lb propane tanks are a cheaper way to bring propane camping! How can that be? Don’t you have to buy an expensive tank, adapter, and get them filled? That surely must be more expensive, right?

Not at all. For most people, a 5 lb propane tank will pay for itself rather quickly and will actually decrease your propane costs over time.

Price Comparison: 1 lb Tanks Versus 5 lb Tanks

The cheapest 1 lb propane tank is usually sold for around $4 in the United States. At that price, 5 lbs of propane costs $20 ($4 x 5 tanks = $20). And this is basically the lowest price possible; I’ve seen them sold for nearly $8 each in popular camping areas!

Meanwhile, filling up a 5 lb propane tank is usually less than $4. Or about the same cost as a single 1 lb tank.

$4 can get you one 1 lb single-use propane tank or 5 lbs of propane if you have the 5 lb tank. Which sounds better?

You save a minimum of $16 each time you fill up the 5 lb propane tank! And that’s if you are buying the 1 lb tanks at the lowest price possible.

Yes, you have to invest in the refillable tank and adapter. But by saving $16 each fill, you will likely breakeven after one or two camping seasons if you camp often. Plus, you still have a valuable propane tank which could be sold if you no longer have a use for it.

Rolling hills and beautiful sky at dispersed camping areas near Winter Park

How to Score Free Propane

Here’s the really cool part.

Since a lot of places charge by the gallon, sometimes they won’t charge you to fill up a 5 lb tank! Yes, you read that right. I’ve been to plenty of places where people won’t bother charging for less than a gallon of propane. And I’ve talked to many others who have had this same experience.

Free energy! How often can you get anything like that? Well, unless you’re talking about using camping solar panels (which are awesome too).

If cost is your ultimate concern, then going with a 5 lb tank is still a better idea in the long run.

Kristina cooking with our small propane tank

Which 5 lb Propane Tank Should You Buy?

Everyone’s needs are different. But this list is curated with the best options for nearly everyone looking for a camping propane tank and adapter hose. Starting with the best options around, then giving you a full list of alternatives for special-needs uses.

I’ve also compiled a short list of brackets and other storage aides. Maybe you can install these in your truck bed or to another secure location to improve the safety of transporting your propane tank.

Top Choices for Small Propane Tanks and Adapter Hoses

Let’s talk about what you should actually get. You want something from a reliable brand that will last a long time and will serve you well while camping.

The Worthington 5 lb 1-gallon propane tank

You can’t go wrong with a Worthington 5 lb propane tank. This trusted brand sells the 20 lb tanks at many major retailers. It also includes an overflow prevention device so you can be certain that safety is in mind. The prices on this fluctuate wildly, so if it seems overpriced, check out the below options.

We have used a Worthington 5 lb propane tank for years and are extremely satisfied with it. We’re not the only ones. It has hundreds of extremely positive reviews online. Which is why I decided to buy this myself after doing tons of research.

Dozyant 4 foot long propane tank adapter hose

As far as propane tank adapter hoses go, the Dozyant 4 Feet Propane Adapter Hose is a top choice in the market and our recommended option. Dozyant is a reputable brand with multiple products that have over a thousand Amazon reviews, resulting in overall ratings well above 4 stars!

We purchased the Dozyant adapter along with the Worthington tank years ago and have used it camping countless times. The fitting has flawlessly connected to multiple stoves and grills without any issues whatsoever – while I’ve had some of the 1 lb tanks nearly strip the threads.

If you’re looking for the top choice in 5 lb propane tanks, go with Worthington. And for the ultimate propane adapter hose, use Dozyant!

Other Small Propane Tank Options

There are plenty of other options for smaller propane tanks. Maybe a 10 lb tank suits your needs better. Or perhaps your storage area is a slightly different dimension. There are many choices for quality propane tanks and adapter hoses.

Here are some of the best small propane tanks on the market:

Flame King 5 lb Propane Tank – Another trusted brand which many campers and overlanders use. Very high reviews across the board.

Flame King 11 lb Propane Tank – If you need more than 1 gallon of propane, then check out this alternative. Worthington also makes a 10 lb tank, but it is fairly new to the market.

Manchester Tank Equipment 5 lb Propane Tank – This 5 lb propane tank has a shorter, wider design which may fit some applications better.

Doyzant's stainless steel braided propane adapter hose

Other Propane Adapter Hose Options

Before we go over this list, I want to make sure you’re aware of one thing. It may seem obvious, but a longer adapter hose requires more propane to fill it up and reach the grill or stove. Each time you disconnect the hose, that propane escapes and is lost. You can decrease the amount of waste by turning off the tank early and burning the residual amount as you finish cooking/heating, but it will always waste a bit. And the longer the hose, the more the waste.

So while a 20′ propane adapter hose might sound convenient, I recommend sticking with as short of a hose as possible to minimize waste and to let your tank last longer.

KIBOW Propane Tank Hose Adapter – Not quite as popular as the Dozyant, but another solid option for a 4 foot propane adapter.

Dozyant 12 Feet Stainless Steel Braided Propane Adapter Hose 1 lb to 20 lb – A longer version from my recommended brand, made with stainless steel braided hose.

GASPRO 18 Feet Propane Adapter Hose 1 lb to 20 lb – An even longer hose for those who really need to stretch things out! I recommend only using this with a 20 lb propane tank due to the fuel needed to fill the line. Perfect for those with a 20 lb tank in a secure location on your rig!

Tanksetter tank base for improved transportation

Bracket and Storage Options

Make sure to be aware of the rules and safety regulations regarding the transportation of propane tanks. Here are some storage solutions for keeping propane tanks secure.

Tanksetter Compact Portable Cylinder Propane Tank Base – A lightweight option (which does NOT require bolting down) to give nearly any propane tank a bit more stability during transit.

Propane Tank Bracket for 9″ Diameter Cylinder – An adjustable bracket that fits a lot of the 5, 10, and 11 lb propane tanks. Great option for secure transportation.

Amerex 810 Heavy Duty Vehicle Bracket – This is meant for fire extinguishers, but can fit most tanks up to about 7″ diameter (good for tall/skinny tanks). Throwing this out there to show another world of brackets which might be of use to some serious overlanders.

A small propane tank being used while camping near Hahn's Peak in Colorado

5 lb Camping Propane Tank Overview

Hopefully you’re convinced to stop using the 1 lb propane tanks. They are wasteful, overpriced, and far too often don’t even cover the basic needs of most campers. If you really want to stick with them, get the Flame King 1 lb refillable tank.

But for most people, ditch the 1 lb tanks, get as short of an adapter hose as you can, and get a small 5 lb propane tank for camping. You will be ready to tackle the great outdoors without having the headache of using the small green bottles ever again.

Interested in more camping gear? Read our post on camping solar panels and cool camping gadgets!

Do you have any advice for getting rid of single use camping or travel items? Share your sustainable ideas by leaving a comment below!

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31 thoughts on “Why You Need a 5 lb Propane Tank for Camping”

  1. I have an 8×13 5lb tank mounted on the rear bumper.. where can I get a cover for it? I’ve searched for an hour and can’t find one.

    1. The best covers I could locate are the Ignik Carry Case and the RitPin Backpack. Both are soft-sided cases which might not be appropriate for you.

      If you want a hard-sided case, a custom route is likely your best bet. You could find a local fabricator who can use lightweight metal to create a cover. Or perhaps you could construct one yourself using treated wood and/or lightweight metals that you can work with at home.

  2. Hi, there,

    Just for reference, I bought a Worthington 1 gal propane canister (4.5 lbs) and had it flushed and filled at my local Ferrellgas location. Because I didn’t buy the canister from them, they charged $5 to flush the 5 lb canister, and then $16 to fill it. (By comparison, the current rate to fill a 20 lb canister is $20.) I prefer the size and weight of the 1 gal canister but I think I’ll look into refilling it myself from one of my 20 lb canisters. Thanks for the help!

    1. $16 for approximately one gallon of propane is an EXTREMELY high price. I have never paid more than $4 per gallon, even in remote areas. Hopefully you can find more reasonable stations to fill in the future because it should not be that high.

  3. Learning how to hook up external propane tank to RV is as straightforward as replacing the propane tank for your backyard barbecue grill fuel cylinder. You only need the right tools and a reputable energy company to make the connection. You can barbecue outdoors or enjoy a warm shower outside your motorhome.

  4. Steps to Hook Up an External Propane Tank to Your RV: The first step is  looking for your motorhome’s permanent propane cylinder. Turn off the propane gas and remove the regulator cover (if any) before disconnecting the gas regulator from the tank. The next step, you should install a propane kit to connect a cylinder to your RV tank if your camper or trailer doesn’t have one. The third step is connecting a hose between the tank and the propane adapter to hook up an external tank. The last step is to connect your fuel-powered appliance (a grill or an outdoor shower) to the correct port. Run a hose long enough to hook the fuel-powered appliance to the system. Ensure there are no leaks to prevent any accidents.

    1. Hi there! Our roof bin is packed full, so it just rests quite snugly between other gear up top. Another option is to get a an open roof rack with a cage-like base (similar to chicken wire; very popular in 4WD groups). Then you can use ratchet straps or a specific tank mount to secure the tank to the cage. Best of luck!

    1. It depends on your fire pit and its consumption rate, usually given by the “BTU’s” of the unit. 5 pounds of propane has around 100,000 BTU’s worth of energy. If your fire pit has a 20,000 BTU burner, then it will last about 5 hours. If your fire pit has a 100,000 BTU burner, it will last about one hour. Check out this article to learn more.

  5. Great article! One thing that’s not clear to me: it seems like 1-lb tanks hold 16oz of propane, whereas a 5-lb tanks hold a gallon. That’s only 2x the amount of propane, not 5x, right? This really confuses me, and it makes the math seem to not work as well in favor of the 5-lb option. Am I calculating this wrong?

    1. Hi Stevie! The calculations can be a challenge to understand, but they really do show that the 5-lb tank is a better deal. This is a bit complicated, but here are two different ways of doing it, one which really should show the real-world-application numbers.

      Looking at it in terms of fluid ounces, the 1-lb tank holds 16oz while the 5-lb holds 1 gallon, which is 128oz. So based on this calculation, it’s actually closer to 8 times more! But that doesn’t really tell the whole story.

      BTU can also be used to compare, with propane having about 21,500 BTU in one pound and 91,500 BTU in a gallon, according to this gas supplier. This equates to about 4.25 times the difference. But this isn’t the real-world comparison due to overfilling concerns and slight size difference.

      The 1-lb tank shouldn’t be filled to more than about 80% of its capacity, so it’s more like 17,200 BTU (80% of 21,500). And usually the 5-lb tanks have an actual capacity of 1.2 gallons (153.6oz), so that means at 100% full, it holds about 109,800 BTU. At 80% capacity, the 5-lb tank holds 87,840 BTU.

      This means that the 5-lb holds about 5.1 times more than the 1-lb tank under real-world conditions (87,840 BTU / 17,200 BTU). Still a better deal!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and I hope this information helps.

  6. I was hoping to keep my 5lb tank inside my roof cargo box as well, secured upright in a milk crate. My only worry was the potential for the box to heat up in the sun to a temperature that is bad for the tank. Any worries about this on your end?

    1. I was concerned about the heat as well, and ideally, a cooler spot without so much sunlight is preferable when possible.

      But consider how campers and other RV’s handle propane tank storage. It’s quite common for them to be mounted with or without a plastic shell right in front of the camper, over the hitch area. Plenty of overlanders keep them outside of their rigs too, both inside plastic shells and simply mounted. Since so many people and manufacturers find it acceptable, seems like a decent path to follow.

      Good luck with yours! Hope it works out the way you want.

  7. Hi, we are planning to have our Campervan shipped from Europe to the USA next year and trying to tackle a few of the expected ‘problems’. The biggest problem so far is to buy a Propane gastank/cylinder that fits in the space of our current (and in Europe most common used) Campinggaz (Butane) tank (20cm wide x 26 cm high/30cm with the connection thing assembled). As far as I know at this moment only the 5lb tank from the brand MANCHESTER might fit, but not 100% sure and it seems almost impossible to find a store near Baltimore MD or Fredericksburg VA that sells these. It makes no sense to us to order online. We need to try if it fits, ’cause if not it’s useless. Could you helpus to find a store that actually sells these in their shops (not online)? Thans ahead.

    1. That is a tough size to find. The closest I could find at a reasonable price is the Flame King 5 pound, but it seems to be slightly too large. Defender.com (whom I’ve never used before) has a wide array of tanks, but they’re expensive and you’ll have to buy it before seeing if it fits.

      It might be a good idea to find out what others have done in your place. It’s tough to find much on overlanding forums, but I’m sure tons of others have dealt with this exact issue; I haven’t yet gone off of this continent with mine so I don’t have first-hand knowledge. However, I discovered this sailing-focused forum that has a few discussions on using UK propane systems in the US and vice-versa.

      Do you have to leave yours behind or could you have it purged and shipped? Since a lot of vehicles have tanks they can’t easily remove, they must permit some to ship. Maybe since you have a designated “mounting” area, which is truly causing you a problem, you could get an exception as well. But then you’ll definitely need a fitting to refill in the US.

      If you must get one here, it will be tough to do so without pre-ordering it. While you can find the 20 lbs propane tank at nearly every gas station and convenience/grocery store, it is much more difficult to find smaller sizes stocked in stores. And most of the propane-specific businesses in the area will be large trucks filling up residential/commercial tanks.

      You could try calling around to propane distributors and hardware stores; they might order one for you, but they’ll probably want you to pay first. They’ll want your specifications in inches (20 cm = 7.87”; 26 cm = 10.24”; 30 cm = 11.81”), but I found a few businesses near Baltimore who might be able to help if you give them a call.

      Waverly Ace Hardware

      Canton Ace Hardware

      Suburban Propane

      AmeriGas Propane (one of the largest US suppliers)

      Best of luck!

  8. We use the adapter hose/11 pound tank solution and I simply turn off the propane at the tank a minute or two prior to cooking being done. All propane used up, none escaping into atmosphere.

    You quickly get a feel for how long it takes your stove to flame out after you have turned off the tank….in our case remove bacon, turn off propane and we have enough time to cook the eggs sunny side up medium soft.

  9. Dominick Gallegos

    Great article! One thing that wasn’t mentioned was how a 5lb bottle can last when also paired with a Joolca shower. I have three girls in my family so showing is key for them. I’m concerned that a 5lb wouldn’t last through the weekend if showing, cooking, and cleaning is done.

    1. It’s tough to say since it depends heavily on how much propane the shower uses and how long the showers are. If you’ve been using the 1-lb tanks before, then going for the 5-lb is a pretty big upgrade regardless, but you might want to consider a larger one for endless showers and happy girls.

      You could try to calculate how many BTU’s you need. This site has more information about how to calculate it. It’s a bit complicated, but not impossible to figure out.

  10. Hi! I loved your article and have been on the fence awhile. I just purchased and picked up my 5lb refillable tank today for a camp trip this weekend. The only thing I did not see in your article which would be very helpful is that although my local UHaul fills refillable propane tanks, they do not if they are brand new as they need the air bled out of them. They had no hose/mechanism for that. I am on the hunt for another place in town tomorrow.

    1. Hi Diane! I’m glad you found this article useful. That is a good point: New tanks will need to be properly purged before they will fill up easily. If the local U-Haul can’t provide that service, then you could look at the local hardware stores and gas stations. Ones that are on major transportation routes are more likely to have refilling stations. And of course, you can always look for propane distributors. Most of them offer some type of drive-up refill service.

      Thanks for your comment and I’ll throw this in the article too. Hopefully you found a place capable of taking care of it for you.

    1. Rules and regulations for the transport of propane vary by location, so please check with your local authorities.

      During transportation, propane tanks should always be kept upright and in a secure location.

      Ideally, they are kept outside of the vehicle to separate passengers from any potential leakage. This can be done with the above-mentioned Amerex 810 Heavy Duty Vehicle Bracket. Roof bins, hitch racks, and other external storage options could also serve as a nice solution.

      However, many people transport propane tanks inside of their vehicle for one-off trips. Remember to keep it upright and secured. You’ll also want to keep a window cracked to allow fresh air to flow inside of the vehicle and remove the tank when you arrive at your destination. Never leave a propane tank inside of a hot vehicle or inside of a vehicle without proper ventilation. The Tanksetter Compact Portable Cylinder Propane Tank Base is a nice thing to keep the tank secure in your vehicle’s trunk.

      Propane leaks can be extremely hazardous, so take care to find a solution which minimizes your expose while abiding by your local rules and regulations. You can read more about proper transportation of propane tanks on this safety post from AmeriGas.

  11. Thanks for sharing such valuable information. I had never thought about using a 5 pound tank instead of the 1 pound cylinder. I’m convinced! May I know how do you transport your 5 pound tank safely for camping and road trips?

    1. Hi Steven! Personally, we transport our 5-pount propane tank inside of our Thule roof bin. If you have any external storage options, those are best. But if not, many people use the interior of their vehicle for one-off trips. Keep the bottle upright and secure, put a window or two down allowing airflow, and remove the bottle when you arrive at your destination. Read more about safely transporting propane tanks in this post from AmeriGas.

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