How to Use a Coleman Propane Stove and Calculating Cook Time

So you bought yourself your first new or used Coleman camp stove and now you’re wondering how to properly hook-up the propane and how long it will last you. Maybe you want to boil some water to make some coffee in a French press,  make some stew, or just cook up a pack of hot dogs for everybody in a pot of boiling water.

To do any of this you need to first successfully and safely hook up your propane to your Coleman camp stove.  If this is your first time, don’t worry it’s not that difficult!  In just a few simple steps will have you off and running, er, I mean cooking!

To use a Coleman Propane Stove you’ll need to first connect one end of the regulator to the stove and a propane canister into the other side. Apply soapy dishwater to all of the connection points to ensure a proper seal. Place a flame next to the burner and slowly turn on the corresponding knob to release propane.

Let’s get into the details below!

Steps to hook up the 1lb propane cylinder

  • When you first open your Coleman camp stove from the box remove the foam inserts that keep it protected and open the stove to expose the grill area.  There’s likely a latch or a clasp that keeps it together depending on the model that you have.  You can check out the price for the model that I use and trust with this link here that will take you over to Amazon.

Loose inside the stove you should find a regulator which is basically a kinked piece of metal tubing with attachment points at both ends.  If you bought your item used and it does not have this piece (and it’s not already be attached to the side) you will not be able to get your stove running until you buy a model-specific replacement.  

  • If you’re facing the stove you will need to hook up the regulator to the back, right-hand corner. You should see a  recessed area with a nipple protruding.  One of the ends of the regulator piece should have a hexagonal brass fitting with a cylindrical brass fitting that can slide around it and screw onto something.

Gently push the hexagonal piece against the nipple. You should get a loose fit to where it will give you a little tension if you try to separate them.  Now, bring the cylindrical part over the hexagonal part and push it into the stove while turning clockwise.  Twist until you get it snug.  

  • The other end of the kinked metal tube is larger and is where the propane cylinder will attach.  Now the regulator tube is attached to the stove, keep in mind that it can now twist freely from that attachment point.  I don’t like to twist it any more than necessary so that I don’t wear out the seal and run the risk of leaking propane.  I generally will place the regulator bottom on the ground so that the threads and the nipple are facing up.
  • Next, remove the cap from your 1 pound propane cylinder. The cap should just pull straight off it is not threaded.

Screw the propane tank into the regulator after first aligning the nipple from the regulator into the top of the 1 pound propane cylinder.  Twist clockwise until it is seated firmly.  By twisting it slowly, you may get a little blowback from the propane escaping because you’ve tapped into the propane but you haven’t Twisted it quickly enough to close the seal again.

  • Congratulations your propane is now hooked up and almost ready to go!  Before we light that match, we’re going to check that we have done this safely.

The first thing I do is turn on each of the burners separately from one another for a second or two to confirm that I can hear the propane flowing.  That tells me that the path to each burner is allowing propane to flow through without obstruction and that there are no blockages.

The second thing I do is I take a drop or two of Dawn dish soap and place it in a cup and add some water.  Mix it up well so that the soap is fully dissolved in the water and then apply the soapy water to all of the connection points where you screwed into the camp stove and screwed the propane into the regulator.

If you have a leak you will notice that the soapy water on the fittings is now creating a constant series of bubbles. Disconnect and reconnect your attachment points and try again until you get it correct.  Do not operate the stove until you can fix the leak.  This may involve purchasing a new regulator tube.  

If you have no leaks we’ll proceed to the last step!

  • The final step is to ignite the propane in the camp stove.  To accomplish this, turn one of the knobs for the burners on at a very low level (just to where you hear the flow of propane) and put your lighter with the long neck right beside the burner and light.

If you don’t have a lighter you can use a match.  I recommend striking the match first, placing it in a pair of pliers to keep your hands away from the flame and then turn the knob.  If you don’t necessarily care for the little hairs on your hand then don’t worry about using the pliers.

Typically I will use the burner that is farthest away from the propane tank. if I need to use both burners what I typically do is a swivel the propane tank to the back, diagonal-right side of the camp stove to keep it as far away from the Heat and Flames possible.  Though I truly don’t think it poses a high safety risk where it was originally when it was upside down.


When you’re finished cooking and you want to put everything away, make sure both burners are turned off.  Then unscrew the propane cylinder.  Take note that you will experience a small blowback as you unscrew it as the propane is exposed for a for a brief moment and the seal within the propane canister is reset.

If the propane tank continues to leak I recommend screwing it back in immediately to a stove and unscrewing it again to see if you can get a proper seat for the pin that is inside the propane cylinder.

After the propane cylinder is detached you want to remove the regulator piece.  Keep in mind that this will also give a small noise as you detach it as it is releasing the last of the propane that is still pressurized within the tubes.  Put everything back the way you found it end party on with life!

How long will a 1lb canister last you?

To figure this out, it all depends mostly on how many BTU’s your camp stove puts out at high heat.  In the model that I use and link to here, it uses 20,000 BTU’s when both burners are on high.

Luckily, the math is very simple!  We just need to take the total amount of BTU’s of the propane canister and divide it by the number of BTU’s of the stove.

The stove in this example uses a max of 20,000 BTU’s when both burners are on high, and a 1lb (16.4oz to be exact) canister of propane has about 22,000 BTU’s.

22,000 / 20,000 = 1.1 –> or 1 hour and 6 minutes.

If we used only one burner on high, it would be 2 hours and 12 minutes.

If we used it on low or medium, we would get considerably more time out of it.

How to hook up to a 20lb tank

It is certainly possible to hook up a larger 20-pound propane tank that you would normally use under a grill.  However, you need a correct adapter and hose for that.  They are available on Amazon and you can check out a link here to see what the current price is.

Coleman Hose and Adapter to hook up a 20lb propane tank to a camp stove. One end hooks to the propane tank and the other to the regulator that comes with the stove.

To hook it up, you’ll follow essentially the same steps as those listed above.  The difference is that instead of screwing the 1lb propane canister into the regulator, you’ll screw one end of the adapter hose into the 20lb propane tank, and the other end of it into the regulator (the kinked metal piece that screws into the back, right-hand side of the stove).

This youtube video (not mine) has a great, brief demonstration of what to do.

Indoor Use Disclaimer

Before I sign off, I must drop this obligatory disclaimer letting you know that Coleman camp stoves are not intended for indoor use.

There’s a myriad of things that could go wrong by using them indoors.

First and foremost you run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning —  especially in a confined space and without adequate ventilation.  

Secondly, if you’re not used to open-flame cooking with it can be a whole new animal to try to tame.  Accidentally lighting things on fire — including fats, greases, oils, or anything dangling around the cooking area — is a risk that increases significantly.

Even if you’re used to cooking with an open flame you’re probably not used to cooking with a lightweight camp stove that can easily be bumped or moved, thus causing an accident due to things spilling or falling onto the cooking surface and possibly creating a kitchen fire.

Thirdly, if you don’t hook up the propane properly, you run the risk of a propane leak inside your house as well.

Now, with all of that being said, I have used mine indoors but only for small tasks like bringing a small amount of water to a boil or heating up a can or two of soup.  I always had adequate ventilation during and after the use and I was never cooking a gourmet meal where I had things on low simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.

As with all things, use at your own risk and please use a lot of common sense.


So there you have it!  We now know how to fire up a Coleman camp stove (or most other brands to tell the truth) and get those hot dogs boiling to keep everyone fed around the picnic table or the next time the power decides to go out. Just remember to use a lot of common sense and remember that the burner is going to be hot for a little while after you’re done cooking,  so be careful not to burn yourself when putting things away!

Robert Van Nuck

Robert lives in central Michigan and enjoys running, woodworking, and fixing up small engines.

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