Keeping Propane Tanks Warm

Discussion in 'Cold Weather Camping' started by PopUpSteve, Dec 3, 2018.

  1. PopUpSteve

    PopUpSteve Administrator

    Dec 22, 2002
    Malvern, PA
    Last year I went boondocking on a mountain top in North Central Pennsylvania. It got down into the single digits both nights and never above freezing during the days. Now the colder it gets, the less pressure you’ll get from your propane tanks, especially if the tanks aren’t full. By the second night the tanks were about at half so even less pressure. I ended up using my buddy heater with my emergency 1lbs bottles (nice to have a backup).

    Also, I was killing my batteries because the furnace was running constantly since the inside temperature was never getting high enough for the thermostat to turn off the furnace.

    I figure the only way I could have kept the tanks any warmer would have been to insulate them with a blanket and perhaps put a skirt on the front bunkend to cut back on the wind chill.

    Hopefully will be getting out a few times this Winter but not quite to the “mountain man” extreme level of last year. I’ll stick to state parks and spring for electric sites.

    I’ve seen a few insulated blankets but the use AC power. Others look to be little more than the vinyl tank covers that come with new campers and be purchased at any RV store.

    I’m thinking a wrap and bunkend skirt would be my best option. What do you think?

    Spridle and Halford like this.
  2. PopUpSteve

    PopUpSteve Administrator

    Dec 22, 2002
    Malvern, PA
    BTW, had a great time even though we froze our buts off!
  3. Rudy4536

    Rudy4536 Member

    Jun 13, 2018
    I must have been lucky, a group of us all had sleeper ice shanties. never did anyone have a freeze up in about 10 years of living on the lake.
    Good luck
  4. Balthisar

    Balthisar Active Member

    Jun 26, 2018
    Plymouth, MI USA
    FWIW, wind chill on propane tanks doesn't cause them to become colder than the ambient temperature, i.e., they don't act colder; they just get as cold as they're going to get, faster. It's probably not worth your time protecting propane tanks against it.

    Wrapping them in non-heated blankets or other insulation will also be fruitless in the long run, because they don't insulate very well, and they block the sun during the day. Maybe... you could wrap them that dusk, and they'll stay warm enough to give off gas.

    Wrapping outdoor pipes at home does work, because those pipes are connected inside your house, and the copper conducts heat pretty well. Still, there's a point where insulation on outdoor pipes begins to not work, too.
    kitphantom and tombiasi like this.
  5. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

    Oct 10, 2013
    Northern Virginia
    No clue about how a bunk end skirt would help your propane, but it's bound to help with keeping the drafts seeping in down. I don't know about your camper, but I can feel the drafts and cold seep through the wood on the bunk especially if it's cold and windy. I would be an icicle if I camped In that temperature. All the power to you and for sticking it out, no way I could. I do camp when it's below at night as long as the day gets up above freezing even if at the line and I stick to electric sites where I can supplement the heater with the electric heater.
  6. rabird

    rabird Howdy!

    Mar 3, 2006
    trapping some heat under the buck may be a good idea.

    The container contents get colder and colder with use, the heat needed to vaporize the liquid first comes from the liquid then the container and then from outside the container!
  7. WrkrBee

    WrkrBee Well-Known Member

    May 23, 2018
    South Carolina
    Wind actually helps tanks vaporize by bringing more "heat" to the tanks. Insulating the tanks decreases the amount of "heat" available to them to vaporize the liquid propane. We have an annual Boy Scout BBQ where we use some large cookers. Some years it is cold and humid and the tanks will want to accumulate a thick layer of ice to the point of the grill going out. On two of the grills, that use small 20 lb. tanks, we have had to place the tanks in a tub of water to keep the gas flowing. One year we had to put the water tub on a burner, on low, to keep the grills going.

    So, if you insulate the tanks, you need to supply a heat source for the tanks. Some of the ways I'm thinking of do not sound real safe. But, if you're desperate.
  8. BikeNFish

    BikeNFish Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2017
    Maplewood, MN
    IMHO, outside of bringing the propane tank inside the pup ("Danger, Will Robinson!!"), it will be a tall order to keep the tank warm.

    Outside of the powered tank heater wraps, you may be out of luck. I don't think a skirt would help much unless it is trapping some latent ground heat. A blanket would only delay the inevitable heat loss unless you can use a box-load of hand warmers slapped to the side of the blanket wrapped tank. (I know ... I'm not helping.)

    I would agree that electrical hook ups is the logical answer to the propane problem.
  9. PopUpSteve

    PopUpSteve Administrator

    Dec 22, 2002
    Malvern, PA
    I would never bring anything larger than a 1 lbs bottle into the camper. That's just asking for trouble.

    There must be something to the idea of insulating the tanks. There are enough products on the market devoted to the concept.

    Well, hopefully I won't find myself it a similar conundrum again.
  10. generok

    generok Well-Known Member

    Feb 7, 2013
    Anchorage, AK
    I think the simplest solution to camp where you want is a small generator. If you're boondocking, there's nobody to disturb. This way you can either run off the furnace and plug in a heated tank wrap and keep the battery topped off, or with a slightly bigger genny, run electric heat and an electric blanket.

    Don't underestimate the power of an electric blanket. I survived in a plywood shack in Afghanistan in winter with an electric blanket and one tiny space heater for 6 of us. Why heat the space though, if you have power to heat you?

    Sporty temps, and good on ya! lowest I did in the PUP was 17 degrees with a 20 mph wind. Stayed warm (had power), but tore through LP at night.
    EdZilla, nineoaks2004 and PopUpSteve like this.
  11. MNTCamper

    MNTCamper Active Member

    Jun 14, 2014
    The tanks should be left exposed. There is no problem generating enough pressure with propane down to any reasonable temperature that you will camp in. As noted, exposure to the surroundings will actually help keep the tanks warmer. If completely insulated, they would cool way down due to gas expansion cooling effects.
  12. Snow

    Snow Well-Known Member

    Jul 19, 2007
    Make a bunkend skirt out of something like a tarp, use some reflectix or similar material to wrap around the 20lb tanks and if your on an electrical site, run a secondary extension cord and plug in something like a trouble light or flood light and stick that in under the bunk you skirted..
  13. PopUpSteve

    PopUpSteve Administrator

    Dec 22, 2002
    Malvern, PA
    Excellent point!

    Don't have one but one the short list to get.
  14. WrkrBee

    WrkrBee Well-Known Member

    May 23, 2018
    South Carolina
    Just because a product is on the market, does not mean it was a good idea. Many non-designers are designing products without a clue. Particle board, scotch locks, speedy RV receptacles, EZ lube hubs, cheap tail lights, Masonite siding (paper), thin "wood" paneling used in mobile homes, mobile home interior doors (90 percent paper) come to mind. I'm sure other members have their pet peeve products.
  15. PopUpSteve

    PopUpSteve Administrator

    Dec 22, 2002
    Malvern, PA
    Yup, I know. But it’s on the Internet and they have a YouTube video so it must be good.[LOL][LOL][LOL]
  16. Katskamper

    Katskamper Active Member

    Nov 21, 2015
    Fort Worth, TX
    or a heater like this.
    i changed orifice to propane & the hose from dead stove quick connects to stove hoses inside or out. teeny blue dot flame will keep camper toasty.

    me, i think insulate tent walls. blankets for curtains.
  17. kitphantom

    kitphantom Well-Known Member

    Dec 26, 2009
    Albuquerque, NM
    The bunk end skirt did seem to help, at least to some extent, on the first pup we had. The set I made for the second pup didn't work out, so we just did without.
    I'm assuming that you're doing all you can for insulation of the pup itself - curtaining off the extra bunk, PUG or other bunk end liners, PUGs, etc.
    We camped into the teens, though not on purpose, with highs in the 30s. At least we were able to have power both times it was under 20, with the first pup an electric space heater was the only source of heat. I will fully admit we try to camp places with power when the temps head south of 30, and appreciate it when they're lower than 40. (I don't tolerate cold well anymore.)
  18. JimmyM

    JimmyM Well-Known Member

    Jun 5, 2014
    Franklin, MA
    See the post above about insulating the LP tanks. It'll actually make things worse. 20F seems cold to US, but it will still add heat to an LP tank. Not a lot. But if the tank is vaporizing LP inside, it wants to pull in heat. Even from 20F air. So moving 20F air will add more heat to a tank that would dip below 20F if propane is taken out too fast. You actually want "windchill". That's a term WE use because moving air below out skin temperature feels colder because it speeds heat exchange as if the air were still, but cooler. Now imagine your skin is ~-30F (like the boiling point of LP at pressure). 20F air would seem warm. So moving air would now exchange heat faster.
    gladecreekwy likes this.
  19. Spridle

    Spridle Member

    Jun 6, 2011
    I don't see it mentioned, but perhaps what really killed your pressure was the regulator freezing up. My coldest camping trip ever (11f) became quite the experience when my new dual tank regulator froze up, which turned out to be a design defect and was replaced by the company with a newer model. There are much higher quality valves than that one, but so far so good with this updated model.

    There are other approaches as well. Hose kits to connect two tanks to act as one, so the draw is 1/2 on each, leading to less pressure loss and less freezing. And of course there are 30# and 40# tanks too.

    But again, your primary problem could simply have been the regulator.
  20. PopUpSteve

    PopUpSteve Administrator

    Dec 22, 2002
    Malvern, PA
    Thank you, we have a winner!
    Spridle likes this.

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