Fuels Around the World: Finding Stove Fuel In A Foreign Country

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Originally Published on July 25th, 2014.

Planning for an international adventure—whether it’s trekking in the Himalayas, bikepacking the Alps, or hiking through Pakistan—requires extra consideration of gear, especially stove options. While you can fly with your stove, you can’t fly with most common stove fuels. Which may leave you asking:

How do I find the stove fuel I need in a foreign country? And, what other types of fuel can I use?

Multiple things come into consideration when deciding which stove to take in the first place—region, trip duration and season all factor in. And it’s important to thoroughly research the specific locations you’re headed to (travel forums are a great place to start). But here are the basics to know when planning to take your favorite stove abroad with you.

Liquid camping fuel (white gas, naptha,  “Coleman fuel”), and gas fuel canisters are sold in a variety of places worldwide these days. In addition to North America, Europe offers many options. Thus, if you’re on a fast-paced, weight-conscious trek through the Alps, an efficient canister stove like the Reactor is a safe bet and a convenient choice.

But for trips into the developing world, or remote adventures far from the beaten path and re-supply stations, a multi-fuel stove remains the gold standard for world travelers. No matter where you go, you’ll be able to find fuel for a stove such as the XGK EX or WhisperLite Universal.

Gas Canisters: Fuel Availability & Options

Canister fuel (butane, propane, or blend of both) is widely sold, but it’s not everywhere. In places like North America, Europe and popular tourist or climbing regions such as Patagonia and the Khumbu in Nepal, you can expect to find canister fuels for sale. If you can’t locate an outdoor shop, check a hardware store, gas station or convenience store. These days, most canisters use a standard threaded valve, so compatibility is less of a challenge than it used to be.

You can be confident in finding canister fuels in these regions:

  • North America
  • Patagonia
  • Himalayas
  • Pakistan
  • Israel
  • Europe
  • South Africa
  • Parts of Central America

Buy from a reputable source to confirm that you’re never purchasing a refilled canister. We’ve heard stories of canisters being dangerously refilled with 100% propane, the pressure of which most canisters are not designed to withstand.

For MSR canister fuel stoves (other than the SuperFly), you’ll need a threaded, self-sealing canister. MSR IsoPro canisters are sold worldwide. The SuperFly stove works on both threaded and non-threaded self-sealing canisters, like the Campingaz branded canisters, which are popular in Europe (though the older pierce-type canisters won’t work).

Liquid Fuels: Availability, Options & International Names

Like canisters, traditional camping fuel (white gas, such as MSR’s clean-burning blend of SuperFuel) can be found in outdoor stores, hardware stores and gas stations in most developed regions. But if you’re headed into the unknown, there’s a good chance you’ll rely at some point on one of these fuels listed below. There are advantages and disadvantages to each that you’ll want to be aware of, but this is a brief overview. Then, to see a list of the translations of liquid fuel names around the world and their general availability, click on the chart at the bottom.

Kerosene
Even in most remote reaches of the globe, you can count on finding kerosene in markets or shops. Its quality and refinement vary greatly from region to region, and it’s dirty, stinky and can be harder to light. But it’s inexpensive and so widely available that it’s the fuel relied on by many a global vagabond.

Diesel
Many times, diesel is easier to get than white gas. Unfortunately, like kerosene, its quality varies, and it’s foul-smelling and can clog your stove quickly. The XGK EX stove, an expedition powerhouse, can handle diesel better than nearly any other stove on the market, requiring less maintenance with such dirty fuels.

Automotive Gasoline
While auto gas (petrol) may seem like an obvious contingency fuel given the accessibility of gas stations in many parts, you should consider it a last resort. Though it burns hotter than kerosene, it has disadvantages including the fact that the superheating process of backpacking stoves causes the additives and impurities in gasoline to clog your stove quickly.

Denatured Alcohol/ Spirits
You must have a specific alcohol-burning stove to burn spirits; these stoves don’t fall under the typical class of “liquid-fuel” stoves. Alcohol stoves are often homemade and preferred by the fast-and-light crowd as they can be ultralight.

Of course, there are other options for stove fuels out there, but those are the types you’re most likely to encounter. Before your trip, understand the types of fuel your stove accommodates, lest you find yourself miles from the nearest town with a fuel you can’t use.

For fuel name translations, click the chart. And share your own experiences with finding fuels in foreign countries in the comments section below.

stove fuel

 

 

  • You can add New Zealand to the list and parts of Australia, it’s a little pricey down under and I couldn’t find MSR fuel. I noticed you get better gas mileage and better heat with MSR canisters.

  • Gail

    Good article. Some advice on how to dispose of fuel at the end of a trip would also be helpful please. How many of us have ended up at an airport with a full stove and no obvious means of disposal?

  • Rod

    May I recommend the following site for rather more exhaustive reange of fuel names
    http://fuel.papo-art.com/
    The real trouble is that there were no translations for the various types of gaz canister which caused some excitement for us in Turkey as we searched the markets in the town of Serik before starting the St Paul’s Way just down the road in Aspendos. We believe we found the only two ‘bluet’ canisters in a garage discovered for us by a local lad who insisted on driving me round on his scooter. True Turkish hospitalty which we found wherever we went.

  • nina

    …it’s no problem to get “spiritus” / “mineral spirit” in Germany and Sweden.

    You can find it in every bigger supermarket.

  • Jessica Jade Benoit

    I know I can find fuel canisters, but I’m concerned if they’ll fit to my stove. I will be in Switzerland with a US stove; will it screw on to their tanks? Do I need some kind of adapter or are they “one size fits all”?

    • MSR_Staff

      Most places in Europe carry the standard screw on canisters that fit MSR stoves and we also have a distributor in Switzerland that will carry MSR IsoPro fuel.

  • MSR_Staff

    These our distributors in Cork, We recommend that you try contacting them first. If you are unable to resolve your fuel issue, please let us know and we will direct you to someone else.

    CASCADE DESIGNS LTD. WARRANTY/REPAIRS DEPARTMENT (distributor)
    Address: Dwyer Road, Midleton, P25 H582, County Cork, Ireland
    Email: warranty@cascadedesigns.ie
    Phone: +353 (0) 021 4621444
    Fax: +353 (0) 21- 4621422
    distributor

    Cascade Designs Customer service (Distributor) (distributor)
    Address: Dwyer Road, Midleton, P25 H582, County Cork, Ireland
    Email: customerservice@cascadedesigns.ie
    Phone: +353-(0)21-4621400
    Fax: +353 (0) 21- 4613690
    distributor

  • Jay Russell

    On a trip to the Picos de Europa in northern Spain I took my dragon fly. Previously if picked up Coleman fuel in the city (Oviedo) but this trip I want padding through. None of the outdoor shops sold this type of fuel, none of the super markets had anything useful (for comparison in the uk they’d sold BBQ fluid -kerosene). Eventually I tracked down a hardware store which I tried.
    I asked for “something flammable, but not alcohol” the guy had turpentine. It bought it, it was cheap. Tested it before i hit the back country and it was fine.

    So, in a pinch, turps!

    (Previously we’ve used “essence C” which was sold as a dry cleaning fluid in France)

  • Doug

    Does military JP8 burn well in a whisper lite? Do you need to use the “K” nozzle? Does it burn clean?

  • MSR_Staff

    Hey Praufe,

    Solid fuels cannot be used with any MSR stoves.

    -MSR

    • Praufe

      Thanks ! I thought it is a general stove information.

  • Sandra

    Sorry, meant Italy

  • MSR_Staff

    Hello Sandra,

    Have you tried contacting our Italian distributor Outback ’97?
    You can reach them at http://www.outback.it/it/home.htm or serena@outback.it.

    Let us know how it goes!

    -MSR

  • Hunter

    Does anyone know where threaded gas canisters could be found in Portugal? Specifically canisters that are compatible with a PocketRocket. I’ll be in Lisbon for a couple days so any locations there would be very helpful!

  • MSR_Staff

    Hello Ricardo,

    Both kerosene and unleaded fuel will burn in the Whisperlite International as long as the proper jet is installed. Since both of these fuels leave behind more residue than white gas, you may need to service your stove more often. While the quality of kerosene can very, in general it will have less additives than unleaded auto gas.

    Thanks,
    -MSR

  • Martin Heidt

    Hello,

    im from Germany in your list for the names for different Stove fuels, mineral spirits (Brennspiritus in german) is a “no” for available.
    But you can buy “Spiritus” here at every Supermarket at the “cleaning” section. Its mostly used as a universal cleaning alcohol.
    Kerosine is called “Petroleum” not Petrol here you can buy it at Hardware Stores “Baumarkt” or also supermarkets. Theres some different kinds of it designed for oil lamps with perfume and colors, try to use some clear without it.
    Just in case, you may didnt know.