If you’re a camper or prepper and like to have extra fuel on hand, you might be wondering if camp fuel goes bad. Does it have a shelf life and is it still good to use after expiration?
There’s actually a lot of mixed information here. While manufactures will say one thing, a lot of people will have different experiences.
Does white gas go bad? White gas can last for a very long time when stored properly. Some people had white gas last as much as 30 years. However, Coleman recommends a shelf life of 5-7 years unopened and 2 years opened. Always store your white gas in a proper container and inspect for leaks and rust.
Does Coleman Fuel Go Bad?
Coleman camp fuel is one of the more widely used fuels. It’s fairly accessible and can be picked up at pretty much any Walmart.
For an official answer on Coleman Fuel shelf life, Coleman says:
An un-opened container of Coleman® Fuel stored in a dry area with no rapid extreme changes in temperature will remain viable for five to seven years. An opened container stored in the same area will remain viable for up to two years though will be at its best if used within a year. Coleman® Propane Cylinders can be stored indefinitely in a dry area. The propane fuel inside the cylinder will not break down.Source: Coleman
So when you are talking about Coleman fuel (white gas) that comes in a can, the official recommendation for shelf life will be 5-7 years unopened and 2 years opened.
However, some people had had Coleman fuel last a lot longer:
Coleman fuel in a sealed container will last almost indefinitely. I’ve got a peak-1 stove that fired right up after 20 years of storage. On the other hand, I also have a peak-1 lantern that does not make a good seal…the fuel in that would not light.
I bought several metal one gallon cans of Coleman fuel 30 years ago to stash for emergencies. I’m still using it without any problems.
The above experiences are quite common. While Coleman does put a shelf life on their fuel, I suspect it will last much longer in the right conditions.
If you are talking about the propane cylinders, then it will last indefinitely.
White Gas Shelf Life
White gas, unlike gasoline, is much more highly refined. There aren’t any additives in white gas that can break down and go bad.
Many people have had white gas for a long time, even decades. Of course, you should always inspect your own fuel.
The biggest concern is contamination from moisture or from rust. It’s always best to filter white gas that’s been sitting around for a while. What you don’t want happening is having the fuel gunking up your stove or lantern.
If you are concerned, pick up some new fuel. A 32oz can is relatively cheap and probably cheaper than your stove if anything should happen.
One thing you can do is inspect the gas. If it passes the smell test and looks clear, it probably is okay.
White Gas Contamination
One concern about storing fuel in cans is contamination. This can happen with metal containers.
When fuel is removed from the can, it is replaced by air that contains water vapor. This moisture can condense inside the can and cause rust. Once the can is rusted, it can flake off and contaminate the fuel.
The best way to prevent contamination of white gas is to store it properly. If you have fuel that has been stored in a can for a long time, it’s not a bad idea to filter it first before use. Coleman actually has a filter to use on their stoves and lanterns. You can check out this Coleman Filter Funnel on Amazon.
Storing White Gas
White gas should be stored in a cool dry place away from heat sources. It’s not a bad idea to inspect the can regularly for rust and leaks.
One option is to store the white gas in a rust-proof container made from aluminum. There are manufactures that create aluminum containers specifically for storage and transportation.
One option is the MSR Liquid Fuel Bottle. This bottle is made from a single piece of aluminum to prevent leaks. It’s designed to minimize fuel degradation and to handle the pressure required to operate liquid fuel stoves. Depending on how much fuel you want to store, it comes in 11oz, 20oz, and 30oz sizes.
What about Butane-mix and Propane Canisters?
Butane-mix and propane canisters won’t go bad and can last indefinitely. These are the disposable canisters that are typically used with camp stoves.
I even looked at my Coleman propane canister and could not find any hint of an expiration date labeled.
What to Do With Old Fuel
When you have leftover fuel that you know you aren’t going to use, the next question is “how do I get rid of it?”
A lot of people add this stuff to their car gas tank. It’s probably best to have a decent amount of gasoline in your tank first. Once everything is mixed, it shouldn’t be a problem. Some people claim to even have run their cars on white gas alone in emergency situations.
Another option to get rid of your white gas is to check your local fire department, recycling center, or call around to a few garages.