Everything you need to know about cooking with gas
When heading out in your Land Rover the easiest way to cook food, BBQ some meat or just boil water is by using gas of course. On the whole, camping with gas is fairly straightforward, but there are some things that are important to know before you get started. Some of the advantages if cooking with gas is it is quick, clean, safe and simple.
There are a few different types of gas and containers for use in camping equipment, and the one you choose will generally depend on the type of appliance you plan on using.
Camping stoves are an essential part of your camping kit. They come in a variety of different styles, sizes and fuel types, all with different benefits depending on the type of trip you’re planning.
Cookers like Campingaz's classic single burner Camp Bistro stoves use disposable cartridges which clip and lock into place and can be disconnected when not in use.
Small camping stoves for backpacking and lightweight camping, use disposable cartridges that screw or clip on to the equipment. Jetboil and the Primus Plus are popular amongst the Land Rover community as they don’t take much space.
Larger appliances such as double burner stoves and barbecues generally use refillable bottles and need a regulator to control the gas pressure delivered to the appliance, although there are now some double burners that also operate off disposable cartridges such as the Campingaz Camping Cook CV and Camping Kitchen CV.
The type of gas that you will need to power your camping stove will vary depending on the brand and type, and you will need to ensure that you purchase the correct gas for your specific stove. This can be propane, butane or a mixture of both.
Both are liquid petroleum gases (LPG) and although they have different properties, many appliances can be used with either without any problem. However, as propane is used at a higher pressure than butane, it is not possible to change from one gas to the other without also changing to a different regulator.
Check with your gas supplier or retailer which type of regulator you will need for the gas you have chosen as they need to be bought separately.
Propane vs butane?
The key difference between propane and butane is that propane has a lower boiling point and as a result can be used in colder temperatures without compromising on performance – which makes it useful for winter and high altitude camping.
Butane burns more efficiently than propane and is slightly cheaper so it can work out better value for money. The downside is its poor performance in colder weather, with problems starting when the temperature drops below 5°C.
Types of cartridges
After deciding on the type of gas you need, you need to choose whether to go for a refillable cylinder or a disposable cartridge, and again this will largely depend on the type of camping trips you take and how much cooking you plan to do.
Large steel bottles
Large steel gas bottles come in various sizes and are generally for use with bigger appliances such as double burner stoves and gas barbecues. The most popular brands are Campingaz and Calor Gas and they are both available filled with either butane or propane.
Calor is generally unavailable on the Continent so if you camp abroad, Campingaz would be a better option. These bottles connect to your cooker with a rubber hose and regulator and it is essential that you get the correct regulator for the gas bottle you have bought. Retailers usually stock a variety of regulators and they should be able to advise on which one you need.
This is generally the most cost-effective fuel source for camping and large bottles are the best option for longer family holidays when you are likely to get through a lot of gas. However they are extremely bulky and heavy items so you should take that into account.
As gas cylinders are refillable, they are, in fact, really only hired, with a fairly high initial cost compared to the cost of the gas only. Not so with Campingaz where you buy the cylinder and only pay for refills.
Don't be fooled by the term "refill". When the gas in the bottle runs out, you simply take the old cylinder back to your local retailer and exchange it for a new one rather than have the old bottle refilled. The cost of the refill will be much less than the initial outlay for the cylinder.
Disposable Gas Cartridges
These are the cheapest and lightest option available so are perfect for shorter camping holidays or for backpacking trips. Generally they are for smaller camping stoves although there are some models of double burners and grills that work with cartridges. The great thing about this option is size and safety.
There are several types of gas cartridges available: threadable, click-on, piercable and resealable ‘aerosol’-style’ cans.
Threadable cartridges either attach to your stove with the supplied metal hose or screw directly onto the cooker. They are lightweight and will self-seal when disconnected from the stove, so can be used on multiple camping trips. They are easy to find, with availability in most outdoor stores. Although it is sensible to use the same gas brand as your stove, they are basically interchangeable with other compatible appliances.
Campingaz CV Plus cartridges only work the with the brand's own appliances. They look almost identical to threadable cartridges but feature a special Easy Clic connection rather than a screw thread. You simply push the cartridge onto the appliance until it clicks, then turn 45 deg to lock it in place. It is important to know that these cartridges won't work with other brand's appliances - and likewise you can't use a different make of gas cartridge with a Campingaz cartridge stove.
Pierceable gas cartridges are often the cheapest option, but only fix to specific stoves. Once they are attached they cannot be removed until they are empty, which makes them less practical and these days are less common.
'Aerosol-style' gas cartridges are lightweight, easy to use and widely available, these are the sort of cartridges that are used in the classic, single burner Campingaz Bistro stove. They simply click and lock into place and can be changed in a matter of seconds. You can remove or disconnect them when they are not in use or switch to a different appliance. Resembling an aerosol can, they are the most simple type to use and dispose of. Once the canister is completely empty, pierce it with a sharp tool and put in the recycling.
Other fuel options available as an alternative to gas include alcohol and methylated spirits. Unleaded petrol and even aviation fuel can be used in some cookers for longer trips in cold climates but are less common for family camping.
When do you need a gas regulator?
LPG is stored in bottles at high pressure and when it is released, it turns into gas and passes through a regulator to ensure that it’s at the right pressure for the appliance it is being supplied to.
Different suppliers and types of LPG require different regulators to control the flow of fuel to the appliance so it is vitally important that your gas supplier or retailer tells you the exactly the type of regulator you need for the gas you have.
Gas bottles are connected to appliances with a tough flexible 8mm rubber hose. In the UK, hoses are made to British Standard 3212 and feature the date of manufacture.
Hoses should be checked regularly for damage, splitting and perishing and replaced every three to four years. Fit the hose to the regulator first as it is easier to manoeuvre than a stove.
Make sure the hose is on the pipe as far as it will go before tightening the jubilee clips.
The rigidity of the hose means attaching it to the regulator and stove can sometimes be difficult. Coating the gas pipes with washing up liquid will help and another trick is to soften the hose rubber by dipping it in hot water before connecting it. You’ll need to do this at home before you set off as you’ll need a way to heat the water!
When you are choosing a stove, the biggest factor you need to consider when making your decision is the type of camping you plan to do.
If you are hiking, cycling or canoeing, you will be carrying your stove – and fuel – while you're on the move, so it will need to be lightweight and compact.
Land Rovers and off-road trailers can carry more than you can and this is where the much bigger cookers and heavier gas bottles.
However if you expect to eat out for most of your camping holiday and only use a cooker for boiling a kettle or simple, one-pot meals then a single-burner stove might be fine for you.
Single burner stoves
Simple, compact and relatively lightweight, single burner camping cookers are inexpensive, costing as little as £10, and can be found in all camping shops and many supermarkets. They come in their own carry case and run on gas cartridges, which easily clip into place and can be replaced in seconds.
For one-pot cooking and brews, they are absolutely fine. They’re rather limiting for anything too ambitious but for frying bacon or sausages or heating up a tin of beans they are really all you need.
If buying one of these gas cookers online, make sure the brand is reliable and from a trustworthy source, there have been examples of cheap, sub-standard models bought from overseas that have exploded, causing serious injuries.
Double burner stoves
With a double burner gas cooker and the right pots, you can tackle almost any meal that you would cook at home. Some double ring cookers sit on a table top or a specialist kitchen unit. More advanced camping cookers come with their own foldable legs and built-in windshields.
A grill option means you don’t need to fry everything and makes toast much easier than relying on burner-top camp toasters. Double burner cookers use the larger gas bottles and you will need a suitable hose and regulator to control the gas pressure.
Lightweight camping stoves
For solo campers, lightweight stoves are the way to go. These are lightweight and compact and basically screw directly into the gas bottle. They can be quite unstable in rugged ground but are ideal for lightweight camping.
Cooking ‘systems’ such as Jetboil and MSR’s Reactor, where the pot is integrated with the cooker, have become really popular in recent years although, of course, Trangia led the way decades ago.
The Biolite stove lets you use twigs and other natural fuel sources and at the same time, generates enough energy to recharge your mobile phone.
Electric camping cookers
Cooking inside your tent on a gas stove is generally not recommended. Not only does it pose a fire risk, but you face the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Unfortunately, the great British weather means cooking outdoors is not always possible – so an electric stove could be the answer.
Electric camping cookers are less common than gas and obviously it relies on you having access to an electric hook-up on the campsite. But they are safer than gas, especially if you have young children in the tent.
Remember that induction hobs require pans that contain iron to work so make sure your cook set is compatible.
Windshields for camping cookers
A good windshield is essential when you are cooking outdoors. Some bigger cookers come with them built-in, but even then it’s worth buying a standalone shield, to really protect the flames.
Without a windshield, water takes ages to boil and food takes longer to cook, using up more gas than necessary. And if the wind is too strong it might never be ready.
Gas safety essentials
- Most manufacturers advise against cooking inside tents and we would agree with that advice, but if you do decide to go against that advice, make sure the cooking area is very well ventilated and the burners can’t come into contact with the tent sides
- Always change bottles and cylinders in the open air
- Turn off cylinders at the valve when travelling
- Never attempt to refill a gas cylinder
- NEVER use a naked flame to look for leaks
- Inspect all hoses and hose clamps regularly for signs of deterioration
- Be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and consider using a CO alarm
If in doubt – get expert help.
Based on an original article by outandaboutlive.co.uk