3 alternatives to a butane gas stove

No doubt you heard the news a couple of weeks ago that the 'lunchbox' style butane powered gas cookers had been banned from sale in NSW by the NSW Office of Fair Trading.

I published an article about the issue only hours after it was announced and shared a link on Facebook and it went viral!

Over the following 72 hours we had over 300,000 visitors to this site (which I'm happy to say stood up to the massive spike in volume quite well).

Clearly this is an issue that people are concerned about - although based on the comments on the Facebook post and this website, most are more concerned about the ban than the potential danger.

You can read it for yourself here BANNED – Portable Butane Gas Stoves

Banned-portable-lunchbox-type-cookers

In a nutshell, “Testing, undertaken at the request of NSW Fair Trading and other State gas regulators, has found a fault with the cookers’ shut-off valves, posing a risk that the devices may overheat and could explode.”

This followed the death of a 33 year old man at Casino's Glen Villa Resort, Nathan Kliendienst who sustained burns to 100% of his body when the cooker he was using in his caravan annex exploded.

NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe recommends that consumers “do not buy portable cookers of this type” and goes so far as to urge consumers to dispose of any currently in use.

While many people commenting are angry that we are becoming a 'Nanny State' and that people need to take more personal responsibility, it has since come to light that accidents with these stoves may happen more often than people realise.

Placing a pot, pan or hotplate that is too wide on the stove can cause the gas cartridge to overheat and explode.

Likewise, cartridges that are not seated correctly in the stove can leak and cause fires.

I contacted one of the largest importers of the stoves who sell them under a number of brands and asked them whether they anticipated the issues being fixed and a new 'approved' version being available at any point - unfortunately they were not prepared to comment.

So this leaves me wondering - now what?

It looks like most retailers have withdrawn the stoves from sale but I notice that many are still selling the butane cartridges. So those of us with stoves already can continue to use them if we chose (against the recommendation of the NSW Office of Fair Trading).

But how long will this last?

I suspect that if these butane cartridge powered stoves are discontinued permanently then it's only a matter of time before current stocks of the cartridges run out and are not replenished.

The bottom line is that we are going to need to buy new stoves.

Update: New compliant butane stoves now available

 

What are the alternatives?

The things that made the butane stoves so popular were:

  • Low cost - usually under $20
  • Simplicity - piezo ignition, disposable cartridges, no hassles with gas bottles
  • Compact - easy to throw a couple in the back of the 4WD or camper trailer
  • Ubiquity - you could buy them everywhere
  • Adjustability - for a cheap cooker they have a pretty good and adjustable flame, especially for low heat applications

Environmentally though they are not great - you would use and dispose of around 36 cartridges for the equivalent of a 8.5kg gas bottle which can be refilled. That's a lot of waste.

The last LPG powered gas stove I bought was back in the 1990's and it cost around $150 - nothing special, just a simple 2 burner unit.

We used this stove on our Big Lap trip and when that trip was over it basically got retired to the corner of the garage and replaced by the three butane stoves we'd bought along the way.

So I jumped online and had another look around to see what is currently available that would be a good replacement for the butane powered stove.

Here's what I found:

Companion Single Burner Stove

Single-burner-companion-stove

RRP: $34.95
Sale Price: $27.90 (at time of writing)
Supplier: Snowys Outdoors

This is a great replacement for a butane stove and at under 30 bucks, easy on the hip pocket. You still need a small gas bottle but no hoses necessary and the bottle doubles as a firm base.


 Primus 2-Burner Deluxe Stove

2-burner-primus-stove

RRP: $129.00
Sale Price: $99.90 (at time of writing)
Supplier: Snowys Outdoors

With 2 burners and piezo ignition, wind deflectors and a gas hose supplied, this is pretty capable and relatively economical unit - about half the price of the one I bought 20 years ago.

This will work well with a small to medium sized gas bottle that has a 3/8" connector. It's also roughly the size of two of the butane stoves so aside from the gas bottle, no real extra space.


 Companion Heavy Duty Single Burner

comapnion-heavy-duty-single-burner

RRP: $109.00
Sale Price: $84.90 (at time of writing)
Supplier: Snowys Outdoors

If your cooking needs are more industrial then this unit looks like the way to go. I heard a number of comments over the past couple of weeks about people using their butane stoves for wok cooking but realistically a burner like this one that puts out up to 13,500 btu is going to do a better job without the risk of overheating.

It does need a regulated gas hose as well which will cost around $35 and a gas bottle.

Conclusion

Replacing your butane gas cooker(s) with a conventional LPG unit like one of the ones above is going to cost you some dollars and you'll need to go back to the days of refilling the gas bottle (get two so you always have a spare one that's full).

However they are simple proven technology that is ultimately safer and also better for the environment.

I'll be investing in a new two burner before the next trip and will relegate the butane burner to the camping museum on the top shelf of the garage.

31 thoughts on “3 alternatives to a butane gas stove

  1. Avatar
    Lucy says:

    So where am I supposed to put the gas tank if I'm planning to do some grey nomading in the back of the car. On the road rack? I can't afford a trailer

  2. Avatar
    john Torv says:

    Department of Fair Trading are academics they cant get a proper job! I find they give silly advice on body corporate complaints on home unit residental strata,their words are "contact them by email" weve already been there and done that!! so when it comes to a portable cooking stoves they wouldnt have a clue themselves how the stove functions answer is read the instructions and dont put out silly videos jt.

  3. Avatar
    Alegria says:

    Hi, what about electric hot plates - if you have a battery system or are on AC at a powered campsite? I am trying to find out if any are efficient enough. There is a lot of promotion for induction type, but what about cast iron electric?

  4. Avatar
    Annelise says:

    I know I that the new lunch box burners are now available however I'm steering clear of them for personal reasons. My old one ( yes I was foolish to think it was o.k) exploded on the weekend. It wasn't even being used at the time but was on the side metal plate attached to the bbq I was using. My son and I had a lucky escape. Yes we are burnt but we will recover. It could have been a lot worse. Im going to have to think about what we will take next time and your article has been helpful. Personally I'd rather eat salads and sandwiches for a while. Gas scares me just now. Please toss out your old stoves people.

    • Avatar
      Paul says:

      Do you think it may have exploded because the gas can was right next to a hot BBQ? Nothing to do with the lunch box burner. More to do with the idiot who put it right next to a hot BBQ!

      • Avatar
        Chuck says:

        Wow Paul... That's a massive assumption and sledge that clearly portrays extreme ignorance, but hey on the upside you've factually proven beyond any doubt to all readers what a classic knuckle dragging key board warrior wanker you must be! 😂 Good job 👍

  5. Avatar
    David says:

    I think your website should point out that yes the stoves were banned,however new versions have become available (certainly from Bunnings) that have been upgraded with i understand with an overheat thermostat./pressure valve.
    I couldnt find any reference in the text to an upgraded version available.

    The packaging clearly states New model with safety features and i was assured by a Bunnings Manager that the batch delivered was in response to the recent ban.I can also note that if this new stove is left in the midday sun in WA it wont light.(which in its self could be problematic).This seems to confirm that some changes have been made.
    Note: I dont have any gas expertise only a experienced 4wd/camper

    • Steve Baile
      Steve Baile says:

      Thanks for pointing that out David - I published this article just after they were banned last year and there was no clues at that stage as to if or when we'd see new butane stoves. Since then new ones have come out and I've written a couple of posts about them so I have added a link in this article to the newer post. Cheers, Steve

    • Avatar
      david says:

      bcf sells 2 versions campmaster & ptimus single burners according too department of fair trading longe as they have the new approved safety product they are ok can check on equipment.gtrc.com.au

  6. Avatar
    JD says:

    The 220g butane canisters are not sold exclusively for the Lunchbox style burners (Stoves), as someone who works in the business, I can tell you there are a thousand different appliances and tools that use the elongated 220g Butane canisters.

  7. Pingback: What supplies are needed for a camping trip? | My Blog

  8. Avatar
    Kevin Cameron says:

    Great article and some very relevant replies. You could add to the list a Coleman Single Burner Shellite/Unleaded Petrol stove. These stoves are compact and easy to use. Fuel can be carried in an MSR Fuel Bottle which is very safe and of course if one should run out of shellite then unleaded petrol can be used. I have my stove stored in a Zebra Stainless Steel Billy which is very convenient.

    • Avatar
      Tony Butvila says:

      Have been using both the burner and lights for nearly 40 years with no trouble always have petrol available, the worst problem l have had to do is pull the igniter apart to clean them never replaced them they are great little units

  9. Avatar
    Ed says:

    I recently pulled up at a free stay one night on our way to Darwin, with in 10 minutes a 4 wheel drive pulled up beside us with 4 Swedish girls in it, out with the Companion Single Burner Stove, screwed the burner on by hand, which required a spanner to tighten with, they never had, struck the match, flames 3 feet in the air, they panic, man next van up raced over and turned off tap. I said to the girls where did they have the 5kg cylinder and burner stored, they replied lying in back of vehicle rolling around in the dirt. After cleaning the jet and giving them a lecture on storing the cylinder in the back of vehicle i think i wasted my breath.

    • Avatar
      Spectre of Death says:

      I dunno trying to be safety conscious with stupid people - provided there is NO impairment like language barriers etc., I am prepared to help them once and a bit. But I am also content to let them earn their own Darwin Award, and move my camp a safe distance away. When people, who don't read the instructions, who don't think, who assume nothing about everything because they are just plain stupid, and who dumb things that get THEMSELVES killed, I just think, better them than me, and hopefully far away from everyone else when they do.

  10. Avatar
    Andy G says:

    Becoming a Nanny state????? Hah!!!! We've been one for years now! Can't go anywhere without being micro managed for "our own good!".

    Why can't the just change the disposable cylinders and the stove so they are a screw in fitting. No leaks...

  11. Avatar
    Tim C says:

    Unfortunately none of the suggestions really fit the bill. The butane stoves were great for compactness and ease of use - very little set up time unlike having to connect a gas cylinder with a hose. I could buy the cooker for $15 and for $5 I could get a 4-pack of cartridges (which are recyclable) which would last me a few trips. The canisters were also very easy to get almost anywhere - most supermarkets, department stores, camping shops and hardware stores stocked them.
    You seem to have overlooked the disadvantages of the more traditional set up (eg. twin burner stove, gas bottle connected with a hose) which steered many of us towards the compact cookers in the first place....
    It is becoming increasingly difficult to find places that will refill a gas cylinder (especially when you're on a trip in an unfamiliar and/or remote area). And the cylinders have to be replaced (or retested which costs more than a replacement in many cases) every ten years. And while the cartridge could be popped into the recycle bin (collected fortnightly from my kerb), no one seems to be able to inform me how to legally dispose of a gas cylinder.
    You can get the swap & go cylinders in 4.5kg or 9kg (with most places only stocking the latter) but from what I understand, it is also illegal to carry a gas cylinder with capacity greater than 2kg inside the cabin of your car (anything larger than this must be mounted externally, or in a ventilated compartment which is isolated/sealed from the cabin) - there have also been reported accidents with leaking gas bottles in cars, which then exploded when someone opened the door and the interior light came on. Then there's the issue of a gas cylinder loose in the back of your car, just waiting for an opportunity to become a deadly projectile.
    Add to that the bulk and weight of a standard gas cylinder, plus the spare cylinder that you have to carry.
    Then there is the hose connections which, just like a cartridge, can leak if not properly seated.
    It's a bit difficult to know whether there is a real risk in using the compact stoves sensibly, or if it is our governments being over cautious.

  12. Avatar
    Jenny Minniecon says:

    Interesting reading your comments - I didn't know cold weather affected gas, will have to remember that if we ever travel somewhere cold enough. We used to live and work in Nyirripi, a couple of hours off the Tanami so can just imagine how chilly you all must have been at that time with your cooker not working!

  13. Avatar
    Dominic Kitchin says:

    Hey steve
    I to use the butane cookers, they are a great unit but have to be respected, I've had my original unit since they first came out and used it 2 or 3 times a day on a road gang for many years, I use two units side by side,but with 1 stove reversed to use a bigger plate but must admit once when not concentrating I accidentally left both facing forward which placed the gas can under the hot plate, luckily I realised it before it got overheated. I believe that they are safe if used properly and checked for damage. I've seen has lights catch fire and burn tarps and tents and seen people fall into the fire whilst cooking.
    What I do believe is the price factor is to blame, cheap units made with no QA are dangerous in any type of equipment.
    I enjoy your site, you have kept it simple and informative.
    Regards
    Dominic Kitchin
    "It is what it is"

  14. Avatar
    Roger Savage says:

    Steve we had one of these blow up while camping about 2 years ago with my son and his 3year old they were cooking sausages and had finished and just switched it off and stepped back as it was hissing and boom . Mines Dept inspector QLD said they were very lucky that they had switched it off or they would have been enveloped in a cloud of gas that would have exploded with dire results, as it was they only received a few cuts but a big fright.
    Completely destroyed the gas cooker and Inspector took all the bits off me that we gathered up when I reported it.
    Regards Roger.

  15. Avatar
    Greg McCulkin says:

    Steve Baile
    Good day. I used the Spinifex Butane Stove. Ive got 3. Works great. I use common sense though and dont do anything risky. But I definitely see the potential risk. Also got the Single Burner on the 3/8 propane bottle. Works great too. AND. A Gasmate 3 Burner Stove for anything serious. Still in box. Yes, those Butane cans can be environmentally wasteful. I use my Spinifex instead of the electric stove. Man, can it cook up a half decent stockpot size casserole. My traveling days are now history. When I lived in Canberra, I did 194,000 km in 4 1/2 years. Mostly leaving. USA have a hybrid Butane/Propane stove. Not available here.
    Cheers too.
    Greg ..

    • Avatar
      admin says:

      Cheers Greg, I suppose most of us are careful and things generally go okay, but if there is a potential fault in the device itself, due to questionable manufacturing, then things can still go wrong - better to be safe than sorry!

  16. Avatar
    Stephen Bird says:

    Hi Steve,
    A funny story about the butane cookers.
    I teach gasfitting at TAFE. After a lesson on properties of gas, vapourisation rates of various gases and so on. A student speaks up and says' That make sense now", then tells this story. He was camping at Barrington Tops with his mates in winter. It was after midnight and about minus 6 degrees. He had a skinfull under his belt and decided to cook a steak. He couldn't light his cooker. After many non-constructive comments from his mates and much colourful language, he smashed the cooker then through it in the fire to watch it explode.
    You see, butane boils at about 0 degrees Celsius. I know it is under pressure in the canister but with the canister not full and such cold conditions the gas couldn't vaporise quick enough to stay lit. Not knowing this and in his drunken state he ended up blowing the thing up. Probably a good thing, as he may have become one of the butane victims.
    Cheers,
    Stephen.

    • Avatar
      admin says:

      Hi Stephen, yep gas is always a problem at low temperature. When you go hiking and it's going to be freezing you need to take a liquid fuel stove as you're gas burner will stop working. We had the same experience a few times on The Big Lap with our LPG stove in our camper trailer - the morning we were on the Tanami Road at Rabbit Flat Roadhouse (now closed) the gas just wouldn't vapourise enough to get a decent flame going. You could barely warm your hands up let alone boil the kettle! The joys of camping 🙂

  17. Avatar
    Stephen Bird says:

    Hi Steve,
    I use both the first two you showed. I also take a Gasmate compact BBQ almost every time I go camping. I prefer using Propane mainly due to the amount a cylinder holds. A 4kg cylinder holds approx. 200MJ of heat energy. This will run my 16MJ 2 burner cooker about 12.5hrs with both burners on flatout. Since we rarely use the burners flatout it will last much longer. I am a gasfitter and never really trusted the design of the butane cookers, therefore never bought one.
    Cheers,
    Stephen.

    • Avatar
      admin says:

      Yep the conventional propane stoves are certainly more efficient but I think the butane ones became so popular because they are so cheap and compact - throw away society!!

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