Do Camping Propane Tanks Expire?

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It is possible that many of you will be going camping in both the Fall & Winter periods. Due to this, you may very well need to heat up your tent or perhaps cook on a grill. Both of which might use small propane tanks. However, do camping propane tanks expire?

In a word, yes.  The average time an unopened propane tank takes to expire is around 5 to 7 years for the smaller type you’ll take on camping trips. It’ll work its best if you use it within the two years you purchased it, however.

You should be aware that the issue here is not so much the propane but the tank itself.

A lot of these tanks people take with them on camping trips are around 1 pound. It makes sense not to take something incredibly heavy with you since you want to pack as light as you can. Yet if you feel you’ll be out and about for a while, there might be a need to carry something even 5 to 15lbs.

In the case of a bigger propane tank, you will see a much higher potential shelf-life. There are even some types of propane that might not expire for a very long time, if at all. However, this takes knowing what propane is and how certain types are able to last as long as they do.

What Is Propane?

Propane is actually a gas at standard temperature and pressure. Ultimately, it’s a Three-Carbon Alkane…allowing it to differ from things like oil and the type of gas you might use in your car. In fact, it’s a byproduct of two different worlds. Natural gas processing and petroleum refining.

It can be related to things like Butane, Propylene, and Isobutylene. All are liquefied petroleum gases. In spite of their potential destructive power, they are much easier to store and far easier to do things with versus oil. Propane is a liquid like that of water, not the syrupy gunk oil happens to be.

This makes it possible to refuel propane tanks but more importantly, you can have far more of it pound-for-pound versus any other fuel. It also has a low boiling point, which makes it ideal for things like grills. It releases vapor when in use, unlike diesel fuel or oil.

That allows you to be around it for extended periods of time without risking exposure to harmful chemicals. Due to this, you might see it used in factories for forklifts and in some heating units. Yet it has also made its way into the major fuel industry where buses and boats have managed to use it to great success too.

Why Size Matters For Shelf-Life

It is said that just because you have more of something, it does not mean it lasts longer. It comes from the idea that the bigger something is, the harder it falls. Yet in the world of propane, the size does matter quite a lot.

The smaller propane you might use while camping does not last as long potentially due to the type of container it’s in. It could also be due to the smaller ones leaking much easier. Really, a lot of this just comes down to the container. Since it is where the propane is stored, any issues with it can result in exposing the propane inside to the elements.

So when you see “average shelf-life” regarding propane, it really should be more concerned with the shelf-life of the container. Inside, the propane itself does not degrade and will never truly go bad. Remember when we said size mattered?

It seems that the bigger containers are made better. As long as you do not open it or you’re careful to seal it properly when it’s not in use, a 50lb propane tank for instance could last for decades. Those tend to be 10 to 30 years on the minimum side.

Therefore, always remember…it’s not the fuel that you have to think about. It’s always what it’s stored in.

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