How to transport gas canisters safely and dispose them properly

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Besides liquid fuel stoves and alcohol stoves, canister stoves are among the most widespread fuel-burning products for mobile outdoor stoves. The gas canisters are available in different sizes, all of which weigh different amounts. Canisters usually come in sizes as small as 100g, but go up in size to 230g and as much as approximately 450g.

They are usually filled with a liquid mixture of butane and propane. These two types of gases have the advantage that they condense into a liquid when you compress it and will stay that way at low pressure. Thus, the canisters don’t have to withstand high levels of pressure, so the mixture in the cartridges is much safer to transport and handle. The liquid gas used for camping stoves is often identical to the mixture used in lighters.

Screw-on cartridges and puncture/pierceable canisters for camping stoves

Gas cartridge and fitting stove
Screw-on canisters have a valve. The stove can be demounted after use.

Depending on your stove’s design, you can either use pierceable or screw-on gas canisters. Older stoves in particular tend to use pierceable canisters. The seal on the stove ensures that the gas doesn’t leak out unintentionally. The downside to these is that once the canister has been pierced, it may not be removed from the stove until it has been completely used up and emptied.

The screw-on canisters don’t have this problem. Equipped with an integrated valve and thread, this gas canister can be unscrewed from the stove as often as required and screwed back on when you’re ready to cook. Another great thing about the screw-on variant is that it can be disassembled and easily packed for transport in a backpack, on your bike or in your car. Plus, there’s no risk of gas leaking from the canister during transport.

Transporting gas canisters in a car

Usually, you can transport gas canisters in a car without any problems. For safety reasons, however, be sure that the canisters are never exposed to temperatures exceeding 50°C. Since the 50°C limit can be reached rather quickly in a car when it’s hot out, it is better to pack the canisters in the boot to protect them from direct sunlight. If you don’t store your gas canisters directly behind the windscreen, you won’t have to worry about too much exposure to the sun and hot temperatures.

If the canister gets too hot for any reason, it usually starts to expand at the base. However, a gas canister can only become explosive if it’s lying in a fire and is ignited in the process. That being said, gas canisters are very safe and can be used without any hesitation.

For longer trips, it’s definitely better to unscrew them for transport in a car. Even though the canister won’t unscrew itself while you’re driving, gas could leak from the cartridge inside the car if the valve on the stove isn’t closed properly or comes loose on a bumpy road. In other words, it’s better not to take any risks. Simply unscrew the canisters and store them in a cool place away from sunlight.

Transporting gas canisters in an aircraft

Two persons in a tent cooking with a gas stove - A gas stove is definitely something that shouldn't be missed in your outdoor gear.
An idyllic trekking adventure – thanks the gas stove!

Gas canisters are not permitted in your carry-on luggage or your checked baggage. This applies not only to gas canisters but to all other flammable gases and liquids as well. Fuel is an absolute no-no on an aircraft. The only exception is a single (gas) lighter, but this must be carried on your person (it is not permitted in luggage). Petrol and windproof lighters as well as lighter refills for lighters of any kind are prohibited as well.

Fortunately, the rules that apply gas canisters and fuel do not apply to the stoves themselves. Regardless of whether it’s a gas stove, multi-fuel stove or alcohol stove, all outdoor and camping stoves may be carried in checked luggage. However, this only applies if the stove has been emptied of its fuel, cleaned thoroughly and is a free of any residues. This is especially important when it comes to fuel containers, which can still contain flammable vapours. If this is the case, the airline can refuse to transport it. So, be sure to clean everything thoroughly before check-in to avoid running into any problems at the airport.

Availability of gas canisters at your destination

Gas canisters for outdoor stoves are not available in all regions of the world. Sometimes there are no pierceable canisters, sometimes no screw-on canisters. In fact, it’s not unlikely to find no gas canisters at all. So, depending on your destination, think about availability in advance and consider using a multi-fuel or petrol stove. If screw-on cartridges are available, they’re a great option because of the uncomplicated transport via aircraft (no time-consuming cleaning).

If you’re travelling around Europe, you’ll be happy to know that camping gas is available almost everywhere. However, there are different regions that prefer pierceable canisters, while others opt for screw-on gas canisters. So, if you can estimate what you’re going to need before the trip and are travelling by car, you save time (and usually money) by buying the necessary canisters with some backups before the trip.

Recycling and disposing of gas canisters

Gas cooker - One needs to be caution when it comes to disposing the gas cartridges.
If empty, dispose of it properly!

Hopefully, this goes without saying: Never leave your empty fuel containers out in nature! Empty gas canisters are not just regular old rubbish you can toss in the bin – they must be properly recycled. In Germany, you can just stick in the yellow sack (Gelber Sack), as it’s so lovingly called, while other countries have systems for collecting recyclable materials. Oftentimes, the empty containers are just disposed of with normal household waste and sorted out later to be recycled.

Before disposing of an old gas canister, it must be completely emptied. If you’re using liquid fuel, be sure to empty every last drop, as there tends to be some left over after use. For pierceable cartridges, all you have to do is remove the stove and wait a few seconds until the fuel has evaporated. Emptying screw-on canisters is not quite as easy. Fortunately, Jetboil has developed the CrunchIt, a practical recycling tool that completely empties fuel canisters. In order to get every last drop out of the canister, it is punctured with a sharp object, which allows the last remaining bit of fuel to evaporate through a small hole. When canisters are emptied in this way, they are ready for the recycling bin. However, be careful with canisters that haven’t been completely emptied: they are still considered hazardous waste and must not be disposed of using the regular recycling collection service.

If you have any questions to this effect, ask your local council to see when and where you can dispose of hazardous materials.

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Alpinetrek-Expert Guest author

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  1. Thank you so much for this article, been looking for information on hiking stoves and their gas canisters for a while as I am a beginner hiker, this article really answered all my questions about them, thanks alot.

  2. Thanks for the really useful article.
    In the case of multi-fuel stoves, airport scanner or bag checkers can pick up fuel vapour inside empty fuel bottles.
    So the bottle can get confiscated prior to boarding. It happened to me at Geneva which was extremely annoying to say the least. So the fuel bottle has to be absolutely clean and washed out with soap before you check in. The lighter alternative is to take a gas stove and one or two adapters so it can run on whichever gas canisters they have at the destination.

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