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cookstove propane gas cylinders - recycling, disposing, & refilling

Last June, we were preparing for some fun times camping out; and discovered there was this shortage of the one-pound compressed-gas cylinders for our trusty old Coleman stove. Luckily, I happened to find a few left at an out-of-the-way, tiny hardware store where we went to exchange a 5-pound bottle for a friend's barbeque, just a couple days before leaving on our trip. Along the search, however; I discovered the small 1-lb. disposable bottles are an environmental hazard, and create a logistical issue for the various agencies that empty the trash dumpsters in campsites. This translates into higher fees for staying at said campsites.

Some of the alternatives I explored... you can buy an adapter that allows use of a typical 5 lb. exchangeable/legally refillable propane tank. This would work if we were going camping in a large vehicle with lots of cargo space... but we're not doing that.

There exist YouTube videos that show how to refill the 1 lb. disposable bottles; however, doing so is illegal in many places, and against federal law to transport them after they have been refilled. (I wonder why... are they dangerous or something?)

There is also something called a "Green Key" tool, made by Coleman, that somehow allows all the remaining gas to escape, enabling the canisters to be recycled, and identifying them as such in the waste stream from campground refuse removal.

I also found a local company (Little Kamper) that deals with 1-lb. propane tank exchanges... nice, considering these steel containers are more valuable than the fuel content. (I'm hoping REI with hook up a deal with this company!)

This brings me to the really small canisters for the little backpacking stoves. Now these mostly contain isobutane blended with propane, so an adapter is not possible unless the stove is designed to handle straight propane... "multi-fuel." The only compact stove that can perform this feat, that I was able to find, is called a "Camp Chef Stryker." Now REI sells other Camp-Chef-brand outdoor stoves... why not this model?

Is there any possibility of offering an exchange service for refillable versions of ultralight (4 oz.) backpacking stove canisters?

1 Reply

Hi @DanielRay - Thanks for reaching out and sharing this with us! There is a lot to look into in regards to fuel storage, usage, and disposal and it seems like you have really dug into the research. 

The Green Keys are a good option for recycling/disposing of those canisters, though we hear your desire for a refillable solution. We don't have plans to carry the Camp Chef Stryker this year, but will pass your note along to our buying team for future consideration.

It's great to hear that you found a local company to exchange your 1lb canisters! Hopefully that will ease the availability constraints for your upcoming camping trips. While we don't offer a refilling service for stove canisters right now, we are always happy to hear customer feedback on what they would like to see in the future.

Thank you for taking the time to share this feedback with us!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.