Safety Procedures for Liquid Fuel Stoves

Safety Procedures for Liquid Fuel Stoves. Liquid fuel stoves are a welcomed addition to outdoor activities like camping, backpacking and traveling in an RV. Portable models are designed to lighten the load while backpacking and permanent cooktop stoves give RVs the cooking comforts of a home on the road. When you shop for liquid fuel stoves always look for models that have approval labels from established testing agencies such as Underwriter’s Laboratory. Read your stove manual and follow instructions to the letter to make using your liquid fuel stove a safe and pleasurable experience.

Propane, kerosene and diesel are types of liquid fuels used for portable stoves.

Camping and Backpacking Stoves

Match your stove to your activity. Manufacturers make stoves specifically designed for camping with different types of stoves for backpacking. Before you head off to the great outdoors, test your stove to confirm that all the parts and mechanics are working properly. Inspect the rings and seals for wear and cracking and replace them if needed. Check connection hoses for any signs of leaks, and tilt the stove in all directions to check for leaks or loose screws. The last thing you’d want is a leaking stove in your backpack or a propane spill on your camping gear. Pack a funnel for pouring liquid fuels and to aid in spill prevention. When cooking, place the stove on a flat and stable surface, and set up a metal windshield behind the stove to prevent flames from reaching flammable objects.

Pre-Season Inspections

Before you begin using the cooking appliance for seasonal use, have your stove and fuel canisters inspected for possible leaks or malfunctioning parts, such as the pilot light. If you use the equipment frequently, inspect it periodically during the season, such as once at the beginning of summer and at another set time, like before the Fourth of July, as a safety measure.

OPD Device

In April 2002, manufacturers were required to install an Overfilling Prevention Device on all propane canisters from 4 to 40 gallons. The new designed automatically shuts off the flow of gas once the cylinder reaches 80 percent capacity. This prevents the cylinder from releasing gas, if it heats up. This aids in avoiding fires and injury. Always check the propane cylinder to ensure it has an OPD device. If you rent a cylinder that does not have an OPD device, return it immediately to the retailer, as using it would be a violation of National Fire Protection Agency codes and guidelines. If you own a cylinder or tank without a device, contact a retailer to have it retrofitted with an approved OPD device.

Fuel Odors

Most liquid fuels are specifically processed and refined to emit an odor easily detectable if the fuel leaks from the canister. If you smell fuel odors, have all humans and pets leave the area immediately, and don’t light any matches. Go indoors and shut all windows and doors to prevent any fumes from entering the home. Once everyone is in a safer area, call the fire department to inspect the stove, the liquid fuel canisters and your premises for leaks.

Cylinder and Canister Storage

If you are using cylinder tanks or canisters for indoor cooking with liquid fuels, the tank should never be larger than one gallon. Do not store liquid fuel tanks or canisters indoors or inside a vehicle. Select a dry spot outdoors that is away from exterior surfaces and combustible items such as wooden patio furniture and cloth umbrellas, or secure the cylinder to the top rack of an RV.


  • U.S. Fire Administration: Cooking Fire Safety
  • National Fire Protection Association: Propane Safety
  • Free Outdoors: 16 Safety Tips for Using Backpacking Stoves
  • Propane Education and Research Council: New Propane Safety Device on the Menu for This Summer’s Cookout Season
  • Scouting Magazine; Outdoor Smarts Camp Stoves; Karen Berger; Spring 2003
  • Propane 101: Propane Grills and Gas Grilling