Save some money by refilling your gas canisters…..
The price of gas (butane / propane rather than petrol / gasoline) is a constant pre-occupation for the budget conscious camper. I can’t bring myself to buy a nice lightweight 125 g canister when I could buy a 250 g canister for about a pound more. And then I feel bad about my purchase because I could have bought 500 g for only another pound, but I don’t want to be lugging an enormous canister and all that excess gas around with me. The end result of this cost / weight tradeoff is a cupboard which always has about a dozen 250 g canisters with under 100 g of gas remaining. I weigh them and write the amount of gas remaining on the base of the canister (doesn’t everyone?). For some trips I’ll take 120 g of gas split between 3 almost empty canisters – that’s over 500 g including the gas!
It would be much cheaper to refill from a large LPG cylinder, but the reloading operation requires a special valve and much care to prevent overfilling and possible explosions, so I’ve never bothered. But there is another way. One of my mates, who is even more cost-sensitive than me, has worked out how to refill his canisters with butane lighter gas. Butane is less volatile than propane so safer to work with, but unsuitable for temperatures below 4 C. I thought he’d run into issues with the pressures balancing before the lighter gas was empty, but he has developed a cunning process. By placing the empty camping gas canister in the freezer and heating up the lighter fluid on a radiator he creates a temperature gradient that permits the gas to transfer fully.
The operation sounds rather comical. He described his wife interrupting him mid-transfer, in a gas-stinking kitchen. A white mist of butane surrounded him and he was cackling cheerfully to himself at the thought of all the pounds that his efforts would save him.
….or save even more by switching to a Bushbuddy wood burning camping stove
There is a way to avoid all this gas canister hassle, expense and risk. A few years ago I got a Bushbuddy wood burning camp stove. I’ve treated it mostly as a novelty item and have only relied upon it for one trip. It’s a bit too flamey for cooking inside the fly of a tent, and the prospect of cooking outdoors isn’t appealing in wet conditions. Now I am the proud owner of a tarp, these disadvantages are no longer relevant. A tarp provides a sheltered cooking area on a rainy day and can be arranged high enough to be out of the way of even the biggest flames. So this spring has seen a renaissance of wood stove cookery.
Part of the attraction of sleeping outdoors every month was the peace and quiet that it would bring. It hasn’t worked out that way. I was joined in January and March by my eldest daughter and in this month’s more clement weather, by the whole family, including dog. I didn’t fancy being badgered by three hungry people as I fiddled with a smoky stove so I decided to hone my skills.
I spent a few happy hours on Youtube, watching an amazing range of boil tests using the Bushbuddy and other wood burning camp stoves, including some innovative home made units. It takes a particular personality type to record and upload a boil test. During my own (unrecorded) practise, my best boil time for a pint of water was 12 minutes from cold. I reckon that under 10 minutes is easily possible. The practise session also re-iterated the importance of having extremely dry wood, so I took some wood with me. This isn’t as absurd as it sounds: I haven’t yet gone so far as to measure the Bushbuddy’s wood consumption, but my kindred spirit stove-filming weirdos on the internet reckon that about an ounce of wood will do a boil. This means that for the weight of an empty 250 g canister (133 g) I could carry enough wood for 5 boils.
With my confidence boosted by my practise session, I was ready to commit to feeding my family using the Bushbuddy. We were down in Argyll for the Easter weekend, and found a nice spot on the shores of West Loch Tarbert. Thanks to my practise I was able to run it continuously in the morning until everyone was full of coffee, tea and porridge. It was a delight to walk away from the camp without having generated yet another partially empty gas canister to add to my collection.