Most campers and backpackers keep a few extra bottles of Coleman Camp Fuel on hand. It seems like I’m always buying fresh camp fuel and never going through the half filled bottles I keep in storage. Some of them are so old that I don’t even remember buying them. Looking at all those half used bottles on my shelf led me to a simple question. Does camp fuel go bad and what’s the the shelf life?
Coleman Camp Fuel (aka White Gas) has a very long shelf life when properly stored. Coleman recommends using camp fuel within 5-7 years, but an unopened bottle will last much longer than that (15-20 years). I would use an open container within 3 years, but you can add fuel stabilizers to extend that.
When I first heard how long camp fuel lasts I couldn’t believe it. I decided had to test out a 20 year old Coleman Fuel bottle that I had in storage. It was an old rusty can from back in my boy scout days. I poured it into my camping stover and it lit up instantly. Maybe the fuel lines would clog up a little bit faster, but it seemed to work perfectly with no noticeable drop in quality.
That made me start to question what happens when camp fuel goes bad. Does it slowly lose it’s potency or is there another issue? Will camp fuel ever get to a point where it needs to be thrown away? Is there any way to make camping fuel last longer? Keep reading to learn the answer to all of those questions.
How Long Does Coleman Camp Fuel Last? What’s The Shelf Life Of Camp Fuel?
Camping fuel last a ridiculously long time! It doesn’t matter if you’re using name brand Coleman camp fuel or generic camp fuel. They all use the same white gas suppliers and fuel stabilizers. Every brand of camping fuel should last close to the same amount of time.
Coleman recommends using camp fuel within 5-7 years, but that’s a low estimate based on how long they’re willing to warranty the product against defects. You should expect to get a 15-20 year shelf life out of any brand of camping fuel. Opening up the bottle will shorten the shelf life to 3-4 years, but there are ways to extend that lifespan (I’ll explain below).
It may last longer than that! I’ve heard of people that have used 20 year old camp fuel without any problems. I wouldn’t recommend that because the fuel stabilizers are likely to separate from the gas, but it should fire right up. Camping stoves are fairly basic appliances when you compare them to other machines that run off gas. The stove will run as long as the fuel can run through the lines and is potent enough to light on fire.
I was worried about using old camping fuel in my stoves for years, but that was foolish. Maybe the quality drops a little bit after a certain point, but it will light up instantly providing ample cooking temperatures. You may need to clean out your fuel lines more frequently, but old camp fuel is good enough for 99% of situations.
How Do I Tell If Camping Fuel Is Bad?
There’s no easy way to tell if camping fuel has gone bad just by looking at it. I’ve used camping fuel that’s way past it’s shelf life without a noticeable change in quality. It actually works really well most of the time, but there’s a certain point where you need to get rid of it.
Old fuel will still work in most situations, but it will quickly clog up your fuel lines. The fuel stabilizers separate from the camping fuel and you end up with a sediment filled gunked up mess. There are ways to bring your old fuel back to life that I’ll get into below. You can always salvage your old fuel so don’t get rid of it.
Camping fuel lasts a long time, but I wouldn’t plan on bringing old questionable camping fuel on a long backpacking trip. It’s not worth the hassle when a brand new bottle only costs like $5. I’ve dealt with excessive clogging issues and that’s not fun. Dissecting your camping stove and cleaning out the fuel lines is a serious hassle.
If you value your time just buy new camping fuel until you can salvage the old stuff by following the directions at the bottom of this post. It’s just mixing the old fuel with fresh stuff so it’s not that difficult.
Air Shortens Camp Fuels Shelf Life
Opening up your fuel container will significantly shorten camp fuels shelf life. Exposing fuel to oxygen will cause the fuel stabilizers to break up. That’s not a big deal over the first couple of years, but it will eventually start to gunk up and clog your fuel lines. Camp fuel is an extremely clean fuel source so you should still get 3-4 years out of an opened bottle of fuel.
Camp fuel will still be usable after that time period, but you will probably end up with gunk floating in the gas. Liquid fuel camping stoves don’t require perfectly clean fuel so I doubt you’ll notice much of a difference, but it will cause premature clogging of your equipment. Camp stoves can run off of diesel and kerosene which are considered dirty fuels so old white gas won’t cause much of a problem.
With that being said, I still recommend using up open bottles of camp fuel as quickly as possible. Try to cycle through your bottles using up the old stuff first. I like to use up my opened bottles before the end of each camping season or early the following season.
How To Make Camp Fuel Last Longer
Camping fuel has a ridiculously long shelf life compared to other fuels, but there are times where you may need to extend the life of your fuel. To extend the shelf life of camp fuel all you need to do is add a fuel stabilizer. Camping fuel is just an ultra-refined version of gasoline so any gasoline stabilizer will work. There are a few additives in gasoline for better mechanical performance, but they’re not important.
I’ve always used Stabil fuel stabilizer to mix with my camping fuel. Stabil is cheap and you can find it everywhere. Pick up a bottle at any gas station, auto parts, Walmart, home improvement store, etc. You probably already have a bottle of Stabil sitting in your garage.
All you need is a little bit of gasoline stabilizer for a gallon of white gas. A bottle of Stabil can treat up to 40 gallons of fuel so one bottle goes a long way. Mix about a half oz of fuel stabilizer for a gallon of camping fuel. Measuring out a half oz can be tricky, but there’s usually a predetermined measuring tool in the bottle.
My bottle has a measuring gauge for 2.5 gallons of gasoline on the side so I use just under half of that for a gallon jug of camp fuel. Don’t worry about getting a perfect measurement. A little bit of extra fuel stabilizer won’t kill you.
What Can I Do With Old Coleman Fuel?
So you have a half filled bottle of Coleman fuel that’s well past its recommended shelf life. You can’t just pour it down the drain, because it’s highly flammable and toxic. So what can you do with old camping fuel?
Don’t get rid of your old bottle of Coleman Camp Fuel. Camping fuel isn’t cheap so there’s no reason to throw your hard earned money away. It doesn’t matter how old the fuel is. It could be well past its shelf life and constantly clogging up your fuel lines. There are lots of ways to use up your old fuel.
If you still go camping the best option is mixing the old fuel with a fresh bottle. Use a little bit of your new fuel and mix in the old stuff at a 4:1 ratio. Mix 1 part of your old problematic fuel with 4 parts of the fresh stuff. That will give you 99% of the performance of fresh fuel and it’s clean enough that it won’t constantly clog your fuel lines. Just make sure you shake up the can and you might want to use a fuel stabilizer so you don’t run into the same problem.
You can also top off your gas can with camping fuel, but make sure there’s a decent amount of gas in the can. Camping fuel is basically just highly refined gasoline so it has a similar performance profile and will mix right in with regular unleaded gasoline. You won’t run into problems using the mix in your car, lawnmower, chainsaw, etc. I’ve poured old bottles straight into my lawnmowers gas tank without any issues.