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Genius Camp Stove Tube Extension

For a couple years now, I've been using a Coleman Camp Grill/Stove. While the stove isn't perfect, I don't consider its drawbacks to be that big a deal, and as far as camp stoves go, I think its one of the better values out there.

In fact - both of my (only) complaints about it are related to its fuel system: first, the burners aren't adjustable enough - they tend to be fully on, or off. This is annoying, but not really that big a deal for what I do on the trail, primarily boiling water or reheating food I've previously prepared. The second issue however, has been bothersome. The propane connection - on this particular model - is on the back right corner, and the propane neck situates the propane bottle diagonally behind the stove.

This positioning of the propane bottle means that the entire setup needs a bunch more room. It can't easily sit on a bench or narrow table like most stoves - which generally situate the bottle next to the grill, by having the connection in the front right corner.

But, I recently discovered and ingenious solution. And by discovered, I mean that @Dirty Pool over on TacomaWorld suggested it to me after I complained a bit (not to him, just in general).

The solution is to cut the neck (replacement part 5430) on the propane regulator using a small tubing cutter, and then clean up the ends with a reamer. Once that's done, you can use a length of ¼-inch inside diameter vinyl tubing to extend the regulator line by any length you'd like - in my case, 2 feet. I used a hair drier to heat the tubing enough to slip it over the ends of the steel pipe - and no need to worry about clamps on the connections here; the regulator that's connected to the propane cylinder keeps the line pressures at 5 psi.

Now, for the price of $0.69/foot of vinyl tubing, the propane cylinder can sit anywhere I please. And that makes this stove even better.

Oh, and one final thing - for all those keyboard commandos of the internet... Yes, I know that the vinyl tube I'm using isn't technically fuel-grade tubing and might harden over time. But that's the key - over time. This tube will see use maybe 100 nights/year for about 10 minutes per night. I'll get dozens of years out of it before it degrades, and if it ever does, I'm sure I'll see it coming. The cost and weight savings of going this route are totally worth it for me, but if you're one who wants to tell me to use something different - by all means, go that route yourself; the design idea is the important bit.

13 Comments

  1. James Garvey
    James Garvey October 29, 2020

    Spend a few extra bucks and do yourself and everyone else a favor and buy a rated hose. Not only will this harden overtime but it has the potential to leak or melt very easily leading to a massive fire risk and after the wild fires we have seen this year why would you want to risk being the source of the next one? This is not a good idea.

    • turbodb
      turbodb October 29, 2020

      James, I appreciate that you're concerned but I'm going to have to disagree with you, in practice. You made a couple points and I'll address each of them.

      • When you suggest that vinyl will harden over time, you are correct - but what is that timeframe? It is not minutes or hours of exposure to fuel, it's hundreds of hours. Very few (if any) stoves are used for hundreds of hours over their entire lifespan. And, even if they are, that timeframe provides ample ability to see the hardness coming, and replace the tubing.
      • With regard to leaking - there is very little chance of this. The flexible tubing is stretched nearly 50% over the metal pipe; heating it to allow expansion is require just to get it to fit (as I noted). Propane, from a camp stove regulator, is regulated at less than 5psi. In fact, it's usually regulated around the same as low pressure household propane, which is in the ~1psi range. All of these things mean that the leak risk is extremely low.
      • Melting - when propane exits the cylinder, it's actually cooling down (that happens as it converts from a liquid to gas). That's why propane cylinders often freeze up. As such, melting of the hose is not an issue unless you put it over the open flame of the burner. No one does that. At least, no one I know ?
      • Massive fire risks and wild fires this year - as I've noted above, this really isn't an issue when it comes to fire risk. Having the open flame on the stove *at all* is a much higher risk, as are the propane fire pits, etc.

      At any rate, I appreciate your concern for safety, but I think this solution is just fine. However, the genius part of the mod is the idea - that you can use flexible hose to position your propane anywhere. If you'd rather implement that a different way than I chose to, I ? for that as well!

    • Lucrob
      Lucrob May 1, 2021

      Stansport wants $45 for such a hose with ST and postage. I'll give this idea a try. Was already thinking to do it anyway.

      • turbodb
        turbodb May 1, 2021

        Gotta say, this continues to work well. Love this mod. ?

        • Lucrob
          Lucrob May 1, 2021

          Just made my own thanks to your idea, using a flexible air line I got at Harbor Frieght. Super beefy tube that stays coiled up. It's still good as a air hose too, just 2' less in length. The hose from HF was only $6.50 "Stsbsoietc wanted $45 with ST and Shipping.

  2. Steve
    Steve October 29, 2020

    I like that mod, but I'm a big fan of the dual fuel stoves like this - Coleman Dual Fuel Stove. I really don't like buying propane tanks. I've had a handed down one for years that's probably older than me. The flame has great control for high heat or simmering. The only maintenance has been to put a drop or two of oil into the pump every couple years to keep the leather diaphragm in shape. I have a 2-burner stove for when space is not an issue, and a single burner model to save space.

    • turbodb
      turbodb October 29, 2020

      I too love those dual fuel stoves, and also had one growing up - with a matching lantern! The convenience of propane finally won out for me though, and the fact that my propane cylinders don't leak when I go from sea level to 10K feet of elevation is a plus too!

  3. Jaime Chriswisser
    Jaime Chriswisser October 31, 2020

    I first wanted to say thank you for taking the time and effort to write these articles. I find many useful, and all entertaining. Please don't let the 'keyboard commandos' get you down. I did, and no longer share most things with an unappreciative group.

    My real question pertains to the functionality of the grill on your coleman. Does it actually 'grill'? Does is sear/make grill lines, which impart char flavor??? I find that most grills don't, mainly because of the thin gauge wire grills that lose their heat too quickly, but the coleman looks a bit beefier in the grill itself, so...? I'm designing a lightweight off road trailer to pull behind my 99 4runner, and still looking at cooking options. I would modify it to work with a 20 lb propane tank, but that's easy enough. I like your method, by the way.

    Thanks in advance, and keep up the great work! I look forward to your work! I live in Boise, and we cover some of the same trails-maybe meet up sometime?

    • turbodb
      turbodb October 31, 2020

      Hey Jaime, as far as the Coleman stove/grill goes, I've been happy with the "grilling" capabilities. But, I can tell from your question that I should caveat it a bit, just so you know how I'm using it, and what you should expect if you buy one.

      I use it to cook three things - hamburgers, hot dogs, and grilled corn on the cob. And, when I do, I cook 2 burgers or ~4 dogs. The corn usually goes with the dogs, so it might be 2 corn and 4 dogs kind-of-thing. In that situation, it works great. I get good grill lines on the burgers, and nice char on the dogs and corn.

      Those quantities mean that I'm not overloading the grill when I cook. There's only one burner that runs under the center of the grill - so 2 burgers take up the entirety of the space that has flame under it. If, for instance, I tried to cook 4 burgers at the same time, it might not work as well - because none of the burgers would be over the hottest spot on the grill - they'd be in the 4 corners.

      So, would something like a steak work? Maybe. For me, it'd be a one-at-a-time operation with a steak. I'd also be a little concerned if it were a thicker steak, because there's no cover for the grill, and when I grill at home, I know it can get to like 500 degrees inside the closed grill when I'm cooking a steak - and that hot air does a lot to heat up and cook the part of the steak that isn't directly on the grate. A lid/stainless bowl might solve this for the little camp stove, but I've never tried it. Of course, if you like your steak "still mooing," then that cover may not be so much of an issue ?.

      Lastly, I think elevation matters. I definitely notice the heat difference from the propane at say, 10K feet as compared to sea level.

      Hope that helps!

      Oh, and as for working with a 20lb tank - this hose works great, I've used it for years with my little Weber Q100 - Propane Hose for 20lb tank.

  4. David Hancock
    David Hancock November 6, 2022

    I worked in fuel systems for more than a decade. This mod is dangerous. When -- when -- that tube fails, gets a pinhole, is stepped on, slips, has UV-related failures, or cracks, there's going to be a flow of propane from that canister that can't be stopped without unscrewing the connector. If you're very lucky, that propane flow won't be ignored but the stove. Don't forget that stove lines on these can hold minutes-worth of fuel (which I learned the first time I used my high-pressure system with my Coleman and it kept running for 20 minutes after I closed the tank valve.)

    If the stream from the canister ignites, there's (to my knowledge) no backflow preventer on the canister to prevent the flames from entering and detonating the fuel in the canister. The only shut off is to unscrew connector. Not fun if it's on fire.

    So ultimately it's up to the operator to determine the value of a proper piece of gear versus the potential risks to themselves or their family from a particularly janky "hack", but here is what I did to solve this exact problem:
    1 - bought a high-capacity refillable DOT-rated tank. I went with 10 pound, but I understand that up to 20-pound is safe with Coleman stoves. This cost me $97. Exchangeable pre-filled 20-pounders were $60 at the local Home Depot last month, by comparison.
    2 - bought a five-foot high-pressure-rated house with a Coleman connector. This cost $27 and they're easy to find. I got mine from Camping World. No additional regulator was needed because the Coleman regulator is suitable to the pressure in a 20-pound tank.
    3- use the valve on the tank to control flow, reduce line pressure, and help get the Coleman to a lower flame for simmering. That's just an added benefit of a proper and safe system.

    Bulk propane is cheap. The green pounders are very expensive. The $124 I invested in a safe solution will, with the price of bulk propane vs the cost of green pounders, fully recover the investment cost at around 13.3 pounds of propane -- approx. one season of cooking for me.

    Had I gone with an exchangeable 20-pounder, I would have recouped that cost in about a third of a season and had around seven pounds of propane for winter camping or next year at the end of the summer.

    Propane doesn't spoil so if that 20-pounder lasts 3+ years, awesome. Fuel for years.

    When it comes to explosive, compressed gas, do the thing properly and safely. Your safety is worth more than saving some money.

    • turbodb
      turbodb November 6, 2022

      Hi David, thanks for weighing in. I'll share a few of my thoughts on your comments, and then I've also got a question for you at the bottom, since you've worked in fuel systems for so long.

      First, I think it's important to note that in the post, I've already mentioned that my solution may not be one that others are comfortable with. By all means, if you aren't comfortable with it, don't do it. I fully support that!

      OK, onto the discussion!

      When -- when -- that tube fails, gets a pinhole, is stepped on, slips, has UV-related failures, or cracks, there's going to be a flow of propane from that canister that can't be stopped without unscrewing the connector.

      Certainly, when the tube fails, you're right that the flow can't be stopped without unscrewing the canister. However, as I hope is apparent in the post - the risk of failure is relatively small. I'll reiterate why I think that's the case:

      1. It spends most of its life in an aluminum box (protected from UV and the elements).
      2. It is only actually pressurized for a sum total of about 15 minutes when cooking dinner each night.
      3. When pressurized, the regulator (screwed onto the bottle) keeps the pressure at 1.5psi (quite low).
      4. Each time the adapter is used, it's inspected for leaks prior to the introduction of any flame.

      So, from a "failure perspective," I consider it relatively safe. Not 100%, but nothing is 100%.

      Don't forget that stove lines on these can hold minutes-worth of fuel (which I learned the first time I used my high-pressure system with my Coleman and it kept running for 20 minutes after I closed the tank valve.)

      I think your system (described in your comment) might hold 20 minutes of propane in the line, since the 5-foot line is larger diameter and higher pressure. This little line - at 1.5psi - holds only a few seconds of propane.

      here is what I did to solve this exact problem

      [larger, 10lb propane tank, 5-foot extension hose, use tank valve to control flow]

      This seems like a totally reasonable solution to me, and some of my buddies travel with a similar setup. In fact, I have one of the 5-foot extension hoses already, which I carry in case I run out of 1lb cylinders and need to bum some propane from one of them. (Though, usually, I'd probably just cook on their stove for an evening or two [smile id="biggrin"].)

      For me though, the key is that I don't want to carry around a big, bulky, propane tank - be it 10- or 20-lbs. In fact, I used to carry a 20lb tank which I used with a Weber Q100 grill to cook all my meals. Ultimately I moved away from that setup and to a Coleman Stove to save both space and weight in the Tacoma. Weight is quite important to me, and you can see the extent I've gone to in order to (literally) cut it down.

      Bulk propane is cheap. The green pounders are very expensive. The $124 I invested in a safe solution will, with the price of bulk propane vs the cost of green pounders, fully recover the investment cost at around 13.3 pounds of propane -- approx. one season of cooking for me.

      When it comes to explosive, compressed gas, do the thing properly and safely. Your safety is worth more than saving some money.

      So, as I mentioned previously, saving money isn't the issue for me here. That said, I too like saving money and you are 100% spot on when you say that the 1lb cylinders are expensive.

      In fact, I don't purchase those for exactly that reason. Instead, like you, I get my propane in a refillable 20lb tank for ~$2.99/gal, and then I use that bulk propane to refill the 1lb cylinders. This is easily done with a little care and this refilll adapter.

      (Note: I suspect you may find this to also be more dangerous than you'd like to take on yourself. Again, we each get to define our tolerances. I've found refills with the adapter to be easy and relatively safe, as long as careful attention is paid to the process.)

      - - -

      All that said - as someone who has worked in the fuel industry for decades - is there a clear, small-diameter hose that is made of a fuel-safe material that you would be comfortable with in a situation like this? I've been using this setup for nearly three years now (about 300 nights on the trail) - and it's been fabulous - but I'll probably replace the hose soon out of an abundance of caution. If there's a better material to use that's easy to obtain, I'd have no qualms going that route.

      • David Hancock
        David Hancock November 9, 2022

        Hey, and yeah, I'm glad to provide some more info.

        First up, as a favor to future me, the only way I would ever recommend using a camp stove is per the maker's design (so with Coleman, an unmodified regulator and their little green tanks.) My personal approach of using a large tank fits my own comfort level. Also, I would not recommend ever using parts made outside of the U.S. or that are not OEM.

        One quick note on the refill adapters, super dangerous. Green Coleman single-use tanks have much thinner walls than standard propane tanks and no overfill protection valve. Overfilling the green tanks can cause them to rupture. Also, transporting refilled single-use tanks is illegal in some if not many U.S. states.

        Okay, so tubing. The big risk with the vinyl tube is that propane doesn't actually evacuate it when you're done. Proper line evac requires some amount of flushing with inert gas (I forget the exact volume, and it may vary by material.) So when you get that satisfying 'whoosh' when the green tank is disconnected, that's the propane in the line's pressure equalizing with the atmospheric pressure. Air does not replace the propane. The propane left in the line will degrade the tubing as it sits there unused. Because propane is heavier than air, if the tubing is coiled such that it's below the regulator's valves, it will just hang there until the regulator is used again.

        Asterisk: I forget if the Coleman regulators allow atmospheric exchange when not in use; if not, then that propane doesn't leave the tube until the next use.

        It doesn't take a lot of damage for a mod like this to become dangerous. Propane is a small molecule -- three carbon and eight hydrogen atoms. It's larger than water and oxygen, sure, but because it's generally pressurized it can find its way through tiny, tiny bits of damage, potentially even little seeps between the vinyl and steel (though that does strike me as a low risk.) But let's assume that somewhere in the vinyl there's a hole in the line that's the diameter of a sand grain, or even half the diameter of a sand grain. That could be a problem. If the tubing isn't rated for the Coleman psi (15-20 psi, IIRC), then that could cause a failure to occur rapidly. If the vinyl has been weakened by prolonged exposure to propane left in the line and a small fissure breaks due to higher-than-spec pressures exacerbating a weakness, that failure can occur fast.

        There are propane-resistant tubing options. I think Nitrile rubber (NBR) is the standard for home systems (I only had involvement with military and industrial systems, never home systems, so the specifics of residential design are not my strongest area.) NBR is not clear, however. I am unaware of any clear and fuel-safe tubing options. Propane-safe tubes should be rated in bars, 1 bar being 14.5-ish psi. So (in theory, definitely not recommending this) a 10-bar (the lowest rating I'm aware of) NBR tube would be enough to meet the pressure demands of a Coleman system.

        So that's really it from me. I just really want to hammer home as someone who worked in fuel system construction, repair, and safety on API 510, 570, and 653 systems that everyone I worked with in the fuels industry knew someone who was injured or killed because of a seemingly small safety infraction. It takes very little for a small problem to escalate quickly with explosive gasses.

        • turbodb
          turbodb November 9, 2022

          Thanks, this is great info. I especially appreciate the point about the propane remaining in the line after it is disconnected; that's something I hadn't previously considered.

          Of course, one end of the line is the regulator and the other is just a metal fitting, so theoretically if one were careful to ensure that the metal fitting were below the regulator, the propane (being heavier than air) would "fall out" over time, but to suggest that anyone is going to be that careful is ... silly.

          For the propane refills: the danger you mention (pressure tolerance of the disparate cylinders) is certainly a concern and is why I thought it might be beyond your safety tolerance as well. The key - for me anyway - is to ensure that I carefully monitor the amount of propane pushed into the green cans, to ensure that they are not over-filled/pressurized. Generally, for a 1lb bottle, I'll refill it to only 75% or so (12oz), since I tend to use about 1oz each time I cook, and it's easy to take along a second bottle.

          Finally, thanks for the info on the propane resistant tubing options. Given your earlier point about the propane sitting in the line even when it's not in use, I'm probably going to try to find something that's more resilient to replace it. I don't love that it's not clear, but obviously function trumps form in this case.

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