We sometimes suffer from propane anxiety. We use propane to heat our trailer and to cook. Unless we are hooked up to shorepower, we also use it to heat our water and to run our refrigerator/freezer. And we have a propane-fueled campfire. We use a lot of propane. And how much we use depends largely on the weather. Cold weather means more propane for heat. Warm weather means less for heat but more to keep food cold.
We spend a lot of time thinking about propane. And thinking about what could go wrong if we run out of it. Probably the worst scenario would be camping in sub-freezing temperatures with no heat. We would be uncomfortable but could stay warm enough without too much effort. The real risk would be water freezing in the convoluted systems of tanks, valves, hoses, pipes, pumps, and fittings that manage our fresh and waste water. Ice does bad things to those systems.
If we run out of propane in hot weather the food in our fridge could spoil. Not the end of the world, but certainly a big inconvenience.
Fortunately, propane is pretty easy to find, especially in rural areas. It’s a staple commodity at just about every general store in most small towns.
We have two 20-pound propane bottles on the tongue of our trailer, plus another one to fuel our campfire. This system has worked well to help curb propane anxiety. We usually go into town for propane when we have one bottle completely empty and the other two still about half full. We’ll leave one half-full bottle on the trailer to power the fridge while we’re gone.
A 20-pound bottle holds five gallons of liquid propane. When empty it will usually take about 4.7 gallons before the overfill protection system kicks in and the bottle won’t take any more. So filling our one and a half empty bottles usually takes about seven to eight gallons of fuel and costs about 15 to 18 dollars.
When we get back to camp after a propane (and bourbon) run, we put the two newly filled cylinders back on the trailer and repurpose the half-full one to fuel the campfire.
In summer, we typically need to refill about every week to ten days. In winter, it might be as often as twice a week.
We’ve considered upgrading to 30-pound bottles. That would give us 50 percent more fuel storage capacity than we have now. So, 50 percent more time between needing to refill. But a full 30-pound bottle weighs about 55 pounds. A full 20-pound bottle only weighs about 40 pounds. It’s much easier to wrestle the smaller bottles in and out of the truck.
And besides, if we had enough propane to last two weeks, we would be worried about running out of bourbon.