In this article, we discuss ways to store your portable camping propane tanks safely during and after your camping trip. Although the tips here are specifically for camping they will also help you safely use your propane tanks for non-camping purposes as well.
Propane is one of the most used camping fuels [Butane vs Propane]. It’s affordable, comes in easy-to-carry tanks and canisters, works at lower temperatures, and burns clean. A small 1 lb propane canister can burn your stove for up to 2 hours. As with all combustible material, safe handling of propane is important and should not be overlooked.
Either you are carrying a propane tank on your camping trip or storing your propane during the off-season at home, you have to make sure you are following safety best practices to avoid any incident. Knowing how to store propane tanks when camping can be lifesaving at times.
Propane tanks should be kept outside, away from tents or homes, in a well-ventilated area. The temperature of that area should never exceed 120°F. It is imperative to keep tanks vertically and keep them on a flat, secured base so they don’t fall. Keep any electrical appliances or flammable materials away from propane tanks and keep them under a shaded area.
I have been using propane on most of my trips and have learned from experience to store propane tanks properly. So far, I have not faced any incidents thanks to these precautions. They are simple to follow yet very crucial for safety. Let’s dig in and discuss each one in detail.
How to store Propane tank during camping
Storing a propane tank is pretty easy if you understand the “why” behind every instruction, which makes it easier to follow. Let’s begin.
#1 Turn off the valve and wait
The first step to storing a propane tank involves the obvious; opening the lid and closing the shutoff valve to stop the gas flow.
After that, wait for a few seconds to let the gas disperse in the atmosphere. The gas flow does not instantly stop, so keep the stove open and let it extinguish on its own.
Then, you’re ready to disconnect the tank from the hose and store it. Considering the fact that you are still camping, It is better to detach the grill or stove but even if you don’t do it, it’s safe because the valve is off.
#2 Store the propane tank on flat and ventilated spaces
The next step is to look for a flat and smooth surface on your camping site (outside your tent) for storage.
It would be great if there’s a separate elevated platform away from tents to keep gas tanks. But why is a flat surface necessary?
A flat and even surface prevents tripping which is bad for propane tanks. This is important because these tanks are filled with compressed propane gas, and the compression process increases pressure and decreases the volume of the gas. So, the gas inside the tank already has high-pressure gas.
So, If a compressed propane cylinder falls, there are chances that it will explode, or the safety valve will release some of the gas to keep it from an explosion.
Now, that’s when ventilation comes into play. Ventilation allows the safe dispersion of propane into the air, which prevents mishaps. So, in case the safety valve releases the gas, due to good ventilation, the gas will not accumulate and will diffuse in the atmosphere.
#3 Keep the tanks away from sunlight, heat and electrical appliances
It is advisable to keep your tanks away from sunlight or warm & humid areas. why?
The reason for this is hidden in basic chemistry. When the gas is heated, the heat makes the molecules of a gas move faster. When this happens, the pressure of propane starts increasing inside the tank. (propane gas in tanks is already compressed, remember?)
This makes the gas more volatile than ever, resulting in either pressure release or explosion in the worst cases. It usually happens at temperatures higher than 115-119°F.
Similarly, in cases of a sudden unexpected gas leak or pressure release, the sparks from any electrical appliances can cause ignition, resulting in an accident.
#4 Keep the propane tank in suitable temprature range
Like all volatile compounds, Propane is also prone to high temperatures. The pressurized gas exists as a partial liquid inside the tank. As the temperature of the tank rises, the vapor pressure of the gas increase as more and more liquid propane converts to gaseous form.
Higher vapor pressure means more stress on the cylinder or tank assembly and joints. If your tank is old or the weld seams are fractured, this can result in an explosion.
Therefore, it is advisable to store your propane tank at room temperature (around 25 degrees C). You don’t need to keep it inside a cold room or take extra precautions. Just put it away from direct sunlight and heat and you will be fine.
How to store Propane tanks while travelling
Once you are done with your trip, the next step is to take your propane tank back home.
Transporting a propane tank can be distressing for some campers. But you can’t avoid traveling. So, how do you transport a propane tank safely? Transporting a propane tank is easy. But, first, you need to know the dos and don’ts of it.
#1 Secure your tank with a bungee rope
I’ve already mentioned how dangerous it is to let a tank fall or trip over.
So, before you head on to your home or camping destination, make sure you place your tank in the trunk and make sure that it’s stable. Then, secure it carefully with a bungee cord and hook it onto anything that restricts movement. This will keep the tank from falling in case the road is uneven or bumpy.
If you’re too paranoid of putting it in the trunk, keep it in between the front and rear seat, where it will be secured and won’t fall over.
#2 Don’t put propane tank in hot vehicle
Putting a propane tank in a hot vehicle is like keeping a match-stick near the fire.
Heat turns liquid propane into gas which expands rapidly in hot temperatures, which is not what you want as a gas release inside the car can be lethal.
So, before putting the tank in the trunk or inside your car, make sure the trunk isn’t hot, or the car’s insides are well ventilated and cool. To ensure ventilation, open both the windows of your car and keep the tank close to the window.
#3 Always secure the propane tank vertically
This step is the most important of all. When I heard it first, it really did not make sense to me. But then, I found out why it is important, and the answer shook me.
It is important to keep the tank upright because of liquid propane. When the temperature increases, the liquid converts into a gaseous form and is released through the safety valve which is present at the top of the tank.
So, when you keep the cylinder on its side, the safety valve gets clogged by the liquid propane, which stops the gaseous vapors from releasing out. This, most of the time ends up in an explosion.
This is why in any situation, it is important to keep the cylinder vertically and keep it from falling.
How to store Propane tank after camping
Now, when you’re back from your camping trip, and you’re still left with a few propane tanks that you want to keep for next season. Here’s what you should do and why.
#1 Avoid keeping propane tank indoors
Indoor does not necessarily mean inside the house; it means anywhere inside, which counts basements and garages as well.
In case of a release, Propane is heavier in mass weight than air, which makes it easier for it to accumulate inside the house (or in the basement) and stay there. Houses are generally not very ventilated. And since it’s an odor-less & colorless gas, you will not be able to differentiate between air and propane.
If that happens, a minimal spark or match stick can light up a fire and can burn down the entire basement. These accidents are quite common and can happen easily if you’re not cautious.
So, it is best to keep tanks outdoor under a shade.
#2 Keep it away from hot and damp spaces
What is the hottest body of the universe? Sun right?
So, make sure you keep your propane tank secured from the rays of the sun. It will heat the tank and will cause the gas to expand, making the safety valve release it in nature.
The average life of a propane tank is 12-30 years, which is quite a lot. So, leaving your tank in damp or wet places may not be as dangerous as leaving it out in hot weather. BUT, it still causes the tank to rust, which decreases the shelf life of these tanks.
So, if you want your tank to be good for years, make sure you keep it clean, rust-free, and dry.
#3 Dispose of old and used propane tanks properly
Some propane tanks are single-use only and others can be refilled multiple times. At times, you will be finding yourself with a disposable propane tank but remember that it is not your normal trash. It is dangerous as well as illegal in many states.
Most waste management companies won’t pick up used propane due to explosion hazards so you will have to turn your used propane canisters or tanks at your local waste station or recycling unit. I have written a detailed article on how to dispose of used propane tanks properly.
Storing Propane tanks – FAQs
Where should I keep my propane tank for the next camping season?
The best place to keep your propane tank is in propane cage storage. These cages are well-ventilated, have a good supporting base that prevents tanks from falling. They usually come with a locking system to prevent stealing and are super sturdy and easy to keep outside the house.
How to know if a propane tank is leaking?
Propane gas is naturally odorless, but manufacturers purposely add chemicals (like Ethyl Mercaptan) in propane that produce a ‘rotten egg’ smell. So if you smell rotten eggs or hear any hissing sound, your propane tank might be leaking.
How to store propane tank in summers?
Propane is prone to hot weather. As the temperature of the tank increases due to hot weather, the gas pressure inside the tank also increases. In summers, store your tank in shadows away from direct sunlight and heat.
How to store propane tank in winters?
Propane tanks are not very sensitive to winter cold weather. As the weather cools down, the gas pressure decreases inside the tank which is good because low pressure means less mechanical stress in the tank walls. In winter, store your propane tank away from rain and snow inside a dry but ventilated room.
How to store propane tank in car?
To safely store a propane tank inside the car, make sure your car is well ventilated and the tank is not near the hot engine or exhaust. Never park your car in hot sunlight with windows closed and a propane tank locked inside as the escalating cabin temperature can cause tank explosion.
To understand where and how to store your propane tanks, it is important to know and learn the nature of propane itself. Once you know how propane reacts in different situations and circumstances, you will know exactly where to keep it. I hope you have a safe camping trip J