Refilling small propane tanks - saves money, but is it safe?

Has anyone tried refilling the small (1-pound) propane tanks used for stoves, heaters, lanterns, etc.? They are expensive and seem pretty wasteful. (I don’t even know if they’re recyclable.) You can buy a little adapter to refill them from your grill-size propane tank, but I’ve heard that the little tanks aren’t made to be refilled and the valves can leak/break after a few refills. You can also buy Flame King refillable 1-pound tanks for about $45 dollars. I suppose they would eventually pay for themselves. Curious to hear what others are doing.

I recently looked into this (probably for the exact same reason as you). I found this video ( and all the comments are saying how dangerous it is to refill as you might overfill.

For my two burner coleman campstove I hook it up to my big propane with this converter:


We weighed the tanks with a factory fill and wrote the weight on each tank. When we refill, we fill to the written amount or slightly less.

You have to purge air from the tanks during refilling. Admittedly, it is a PIA to refill them, but it does save money and resources.

We use a large tank with a propane tree. Set the tank on the table, the lantern attaches to the top of the tree and there are two ports for the stove and the grill. Gets the lantern up high which lights the table well for cooking, eating, games, etc. Haven’t bought a disposable bottle in decades.

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Sure, a guy used to fill his off his house supply. They did not find enough of him to bury, And his house was knocked off the foundation.

These are becoming more popular and available as a sustainable option!

I save all mine and refill them. It is neither difficult nor a safety issue if you follow directions. I have picked up some helpful tips along the way. I refrigerate the empty 1lb canisters before filling them to get greater fill capacity.

I’ve had good success. This is the one I received from my kids several years ago as a stocking stuffer.

I do have to tip the 20lb upside down, when filling and I do pre-refrigerate my 1lb canisters before refilling them. Other than that, super easy.

We looked into refling the small ones but settled on a 3 gal tank. The size is very portable. Lasts forever and so cheap to refill.

I switched to an 11# tank last spring and haven’t looked back. I can fill it for~$5, the equivalent of 11 of those cylinders, which will generally run you $33-44 for an equivalent amount. Last year I used it for my Coleman 2 burner stove and lantern. Rather than the stansport tree or equivalent, I just bought a splitter and hoses for those times I am running both. Late last year I added a little red campfire to my gear and use the tank for that as well. It’s light enough to carry and no hassle with refills.

I bought this bag to hold the splitter and 2 hoses:

And I bought a Dozyant splitter:

And 2 hoses like this, in different lengths:

I have been using a 1 gallon./ 5 lb. bottle for years. fits in the small utility trailer I pull behind my motorcycle when camping. Also use it when camping from my truck. Cost about $5 to fill and last several trips. When I do fill it up the person filling it always has to comment: Oh…what a cute little tank.


Wow, I wish I could afford to go camping enough for my 16 oz disposable propane tanks to become a major expense! I paid $4 + tax (each, $8+tax for the two) for the last two I bought, those two may last me a year.

Also part of the reason the little propane tanks last longer for me - in addition to not being able to camp as much as I would like - is that I will sometimes cook on a grill, over the fire pit or using my alcohol stove. I enjoy the variety of cooking types as well as having more options.

DOT regulations that carry the force of law do not allow refilling of the standard DOT39 16.4oz, short, fat green cylinders. There is prison time and a huge pentalty behind this. You’ve been warned.

These cylinders are not considered recycleable as they are never fully empty of flamable, potentially explosive gasses, but rather are considered hazardous waste, which is why I hate them.

Having said that it is a common thing for people to refill these canisters using those cheap bottle adapters from Amazon, Walmart, or any of countless vendors.

As I understand the law, and I could be VERY wrong here as I am no attorney, but as I see it, you CAN refill them, legally, you just are not permitted to transport the refilled cylinders. If we have any attorneys here it would be a good thing to chime in and clarify this point.

So for example if you refilled them for use around the house / farm you are fine as I understand the law / regulation.

Now assume you DID refill one, and transported it, and an accident happened where say a tank blew up in the back of your truck. How would they be able to prove it was refilled? No idea. But the legal exposure is there.

I personally am not willing to risk the legal consequences.

REI has the Flame King refillables going for about $15.00 right now, and the refill kit with one cylinder going for about $45.00

On the issue of being able to afford to camp enough to make camp fuel cost a consideration. It all depends on where you live and camp. When I lived in Arizona I was more or less camping every single weekend that I wasn’t working, or cramming for a test (I was in college). No added cost aside from fuel and ice for the cooler. Here in Texas free camp opportunities are not as abundant, but they exist.

At present, a fill of propane in the Flame King cylinders costs me about $.50,

A factory filled Coleman propane bottle costs me about $4.00, so the cost difference between the factory, and the refill is $3.50 per cylinder, So I am effectively having to use up 4.2 bottles before I break even.

With a buddy heater, it will suck up a full cylinder in 6 hours on low, and 3 hours on high. Running both burners on medium I can cook meals for a group of 6 for 3 days before the cylinder is dry…

Assuming good weather, I can easily get 12 -18 weekends per year camp time. So now, it does NOT take long to make it cost effective to refill.

ONCE the initial cost is recouped of the refillable cylinders, you really start realizing savings.

NOW… Having said that, due to the high costs of propane, and fuel efficiency, I found it far less expensive to go with dual fuel appliances from the used market and run ethanol free unleaded gas…

Assuming no burn ban, you do NOT need a stove, heater, water heater, lantern etc… you do not NEED propane, or white gas, or gasoline.

Just cook on a campfire. However that is way more work than most people are willing to put into it.

However, I have literally spent my first 10 years camping as an adult, while I owned a backpacking stove, and a bottle top propane stove, 90+ % of my camp cooking was literally shoving a bratwurst on a stick and grilling it over a fire…


I looked into refilling the disposable one pounder propane tanks; however I have had leakers even without refilling (hissing when removed) so , being moderately prudent I won’t refill them.
Instead, when I need propane for the genny, heating or cooking I normally use a refillable 10 pound tank.
If I bring a propane fire pit (during fire bans) I bring a couple of 20 pound tanks.

Most of my propane devices are now set up with quick disconnect fittings on the end of the hose that goes to the regulator on the tank.


I opted to not refill. It is probably safe if done responsibly, but decided the law against transporting a refilled container exists for a reason (probably a Darwin awards situation). That being said, I don’t camp enough to make the difference in cost significant. Either way, I’d rather spend the extra money buying new ones than risk injury to my family.

However, I’ve had no luck finding a way to dispose of those little green tanks. My trash pick up says they won’t take them. The local hazardous disposal refused to take it because they were empty (seriously), and pointed me back at trash collection. Does anyone have any suggestions on disposal?

This is the best answer. Facts. Either get the REI refillables by Flame King or cook on a good old fashioned fire. Both options are obviously preferable.