Refilling Stove Canisters: Butane and Propane
The biggest annoyance resulting from using a butane stove whether it be MSR or Jetboil, is the collection of partially full canisters you end up with. Even if you resolve to use them up on day trips, you inevitably end up running out just before your brew boils. This serves the retail industry well, but it certainly is not in the best interest of your pocketbook, or the environment.
Once you know how, completely filling a partially full canister from other depleted canisters can be accomplished safely and easily. Once you have done that, then the next step is to purchase domestic Butane that costs much less, and use that to fill your canisters. Then finally, when winter rolls around, you'll want to blend your own winter mix of Butane/Propane that will allow you to melt snow even when the temps are less than -20C. That means using 1lb Propane bottles, and perhaps even going as far as using a 20lb Propane bottle to refill your 1lb bottles. Many dedicated backcountry professionals are familiar with these practices, but you have to know what you're doing, and do it right. Therefore it comes with the obligatory caveat that it can be dangerous, has the potential to result in the loss of life or property, and is therefore to be undertaken at your own risk.
Before proceeding you must observe all the safety precautions associated with working with inflammable compressed gas. In this case you will be working outside in a well ventilated area away from any distractions, children, pets, and open flames or ignition sources: you cannot do this inside, (which is where you left your cell phone before you got started).
Refill options are separated into sections for refilling procedures for Butane and Propane, and sections for adapters for each. Navigate to the next section of interest to you using the sub menus on the left. For a video of the various adapter options refer to the video on the Refill Adapters Page.
• If you use your stove a lot in the winter and want to refill canisters often, you can simplify life by getting a 5lb propane bottle and using it as a reservoir for your winter mix. To make an approximate 35/65 winter mix you'd take 7 bottles of the Asian Market butane and empty them into your 5lb propane tank. Then drain a couple of the 1lb propane bottles into the 5lb propane tank. While this will take you a bit over a 5lb fill, as approx 65% of that is butane, which has a much lower expansion than propane, it will not stress the tank. This will cost about .65 cents/canister to give you the equivalent of 23 of the smaller camp stove canisters, which at $5.50 each, would end up saving you $110.00. When it's time to top up your small stove canisters, just fill them directly from your 5lb bottle (requires a different fill adapter than the 1lb bottle does).
• Finding empty canisters. The campgrounds in the Mountain Parks collect hundreds of all sizes of the butane canisters throughout the summer, and thousands of the propane 1lb bottles. A quick visit to their recycling bins before the recycling truck visits, and you can have as many as you want for free.
• Get an adapter, and refill the 1lb propane bottles from a 20lb bottle, as the former can cost $4.00 each, while you can refill a 20lb bottle for $11.00, which in theory means it will run you about $.55 cents to refill a 1lb bottle.