Finding Fuel For Your Campstove

A stove that runs on standard gasoline, like the MSR Whisperlite Internationale, is the best choice for bike tourists planning trips to different parts of the globe.

You can’t always find other types of fuel like white gas, methylated spirits or gas cartridges but there’s always a gas station to serve the cars that are in every country.

But while gas stations are widely available to provide fuel for your hot meal, a question from a reader reminded me of one problem we occasionally run into with our multi-fuel stove. Helen pointed out that while fuel bottles tend to come in sizes of less than a litre (and 600ml is about all you need for 5-7 days of meals), some petrol stations set a minimum of two litres at the pump.

“Did you have any problems in practise just filling up a 590ml bottle?” Helen wanted to know.

The answer is sometimes but we always found a solution. Here are some of the more unusual ways to get fuel for your stove.

1. Ask A Driver For Fuel
Ask a driver if you can give them $1 to fill your bottle, while they’re filling up their car with gas. Most people are very happy to oblige.

2.  Pay For The Minimum But Just Take What You Need
When we asked gas stations why they wouldn’t sell us less than 2 litres, they said it was because the pumps didn’t measure small quantities accurately. If we paid for 2 litres but only took 500ml, they were happy. Yes, we paid over the odds but since we don’t need a lot of fuel it was no hardship.

3. Find Someone Mowing Their Lawn
Anyone with a lawnmower will have a small plastic jug with gas in the garage. Most people have no problem giving you a half litre. We always offered money, though it was rarely accepted.

4. Look For Gas At Roadside Kiosks
This tactic only works in areas like the Middle East and Asia. Whenever you’re out of the developed world, it’s common to see shops selling petrol in small plastic bottles. You can also sometimes find gas being dispensed out of hand pumps and, like the gas in pop bottles, the sellers have no problem selling you just a little bit.

All in all, it wasn’t very often that we had to use these ways of getting fuel for our stove. Most of the time, the standard gas stations were willing to sell us just what we needed. Expect plenty of questions, however, about just what you need fuel for when you’re travelling by bicycle!


  1. Louis-Philippe
    25th March 2010 at 12:00 am #

    Thank you for this great advice. Will surely hepl us in our big trip.


  2. Steve Tober
    25th March 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    Trangia stove is the only way to go 🙂 Clean, quiet and no parts to break/repair, with fuel available in most drug stores. Check this list to find meths around the world.

    • friedel
      26th March 2010 at 5:58 am #

      We didn’t run into anyone using a Trangia on our trip. That said, I did see one in action here in Europe recently and I have to admit it was extremely quiet, clean and simple – as you say. I also like its stability. I think a review of different types of stoves could be a whole other page, but my concern about the Trangia would be getting fuel in the few countries where the meths is harder to find or unavailable. Then there are also Primus stoves to think about. Like I said… it needs a whole space of its own 🙂

      • Steve Tober
        26th March 2010 at 1:55 pm #

        Well….if cyclists add to that meths availability list…it would make the task of getting the alcohol much easier. But also think of the time spent cleaning and fixing stoves that are burning auto fuel…and factor that time spent into the possible extra time spent looking for alcohol. Havinng said that…in all my travels, I’ve always been able to find alcohol for the stove.

  3. friedel
    26th March 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    I think we are just going to have to try one out! For almost all trips, I have no doubt that you could find fuel for a Trangia. I saw a really comprehensive fuel list the other day. I’ll try to track it down again.

    • Stephane
      23rd April 2010 at 7:35 am #

      Hey Friedel, At the beginning of this article I gave a list and a description of pretty much every fuel used for stove. There is even a link with fuels’ name in 19 languages.

  4. Stephen Lord
    4th April 2010 at 11:09 am #

    Hi Friedel, I agree with you on this one, though Trangia & meths is my favourite, I wouldn’t want to depend on it on a bike tour, and Juliette and Mark didn’t depend on it either, it was just their preferred fuel where available. They had trouble in Russia – a very big place – and I’ve heard that it’s practically unobtainable in Muslim countries. Even in Ireland we had to go to a pharmacy on a couple of occasions and answer questions as to why we wanted it! But in other countries, it’s just a matter of learning the local term for meths.

    • Steve Tober
      9th April 2010 at 3:13 pm #

      Re: muslim countries….on the shelf in the UAE….oman we got plenty from a couple of hospitals…same for Libya.

  5. yuen
    4th April 2010 at 5:59 pm #

    Counting out the pennies makes option 2 a no-no for me! I prefer to fill up the fuel bottle, then put the rest of the 2L (or whatever the minimum amount is) into a plastic drink bottle. It´s a bit of extra weight, but hey, it´ll only be for 5 days or so before you use it to refill the fuel bottle again!

  6. James
    1st June 2010 at 3:33 am #

    I was wondering about using both regular unleaded gasoline and methanol/wood alcohol in the MSR international. The manual doesn’t list these as suitable fuels….wondering if maybe gasoline is considered too explosive/unstable compared to white gas?

    I’d prefer to stop buying the $20 4 litre bins of white gas that is stored in my closet forever.

    Is gasoline really that safe?

    • friedel
      1st June 2010 at 6:59 am #

      James, in the MSR International version you can use normal unleaded gasoline (called petrol in Britain). That’s what we started using about 2 months into our world trip and we’ve been using it ever since. In fact, that’s the whole point of the MSR International, that it can burn just about any fuel going, one of its key features for international travel.

    • Tyler & Tara
      7th November 2010 at 6:51 am #

      It is a little sooty when you’re priming it, but beyond that it is great. We’ve been using ours with unleaded for two years!

  7. Ian
    29th July 2011 at 5:12 am #

    1 word……………… has been discussed here already………………TRANGIA !

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