Do I Need Larger Propane Tanks for RV Boondocking?

Darren asked a great question about propane tank size for boondocking…


Should I upgrade to 30lbs tanks? People tell me I need bigger propane tanks if I want to go boondocking. Seems like 20lbs tanks might be fine, but I’ve never gone off-grid for more than 3 or 4 days.


Well first off I won’t judge you by the size of your propane tanks! There are many people out here boondocking just fine with 20# tanks. I personally have two 30# tanks on my trailer with a 20# tank that I carry for a spare. A 20# tank on my trailer will last about a week when the temperatures get down to the 30’s at night and up into the 50’s during the day. There is nothing worse than running completely out of propane on a cold night in the perfect boondocking site.

The 20# tanks hold just over 4 gallons of propane and weigh 37# when full. The 30# tanks hold just over 7 gallons of propane weigh 55# when full, confusing right? An interesting fact, propane weighs 4.2# at 60 degrees. The 20’s are lighter to haul to town for a fill and you can exchange them at most gas stations.The exchange is a great way to get rid of a tank that is close to the end of certification date. When you do exchange a 20# tank, it typically will only have 15# of propane, a marketing gimmick I think. The 30# tanks are not exchangeable, only refillable. If you can lift the 30# tanks, the only negative I can think of is the extra weight that it will put on the hitch of your tow vehicle.

All propane tanks greater than 4# have to be certified and dated with either a stamp or sticker to let you know when the certification expires. A new tank will be certified for 12 years, re certified tanks are good for 5 years. You would be wise to check the date before you purchase new tanks, you might find old stock. No one is allowed to fill a tank out of certification so it is a great idea to check the end of certification date. The cost to recertify propane tanks vary quite a bit, I have seen some advertised at $9 and some at $80. There seems to be contradicting information about if the valve is required so I would suggest shopping around before your tank is out of certification.

The best price on propane is filling vs exchanging. Costco and Tractor Supply have had the best price per gallon that I have seen, but not all locations have propane. Every campground that I have seen fills propane tanks or has a truck that comes one day a week to fill your tanks, not the best price but it is very convenient.

I prefer the 30# tanks so that I don’t have to worry about them or fill them as much. With my 80# total of propane, I typically get 4 weeks wintering in AZ and several months in the summer. I do supplement with a buddy heater which is more efficient. Your mileage will definitely vary with your living habits and climate you are enjoying.

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