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Danger: Rusted Isobutane Canisters

Snowpeak and JetBoil isobutane canisters have a tendency to rust more than canisters from MSR
Snow Peak and JetBoil isobutane canisters have a tendency to rust more than canisters from MSR (in my experience)

Don’t throw away the plastic cap that comes with an isobutane canister and don’t lose it. It’s the only thing that will keep the Lindal valve from rusting.

When the valve rusts, it can start to leak gas. I had this happen to me last year after a backpacking trip. I was packing up my car to drive home and I heard a hissing sound, like gas escaping from a can. I pulled out my stove and saw that the valve on my gas canister was badly corroded. I’d misplaced the plastic cap that comes with the canister and suspect that the valve was damaged somehow or rusted open. I’m glad I caught it before closing up the trunk of my car because the leaking gas could have caused me to pass out on the highway or ignited. Boom.

Rusted JetBoil Canister
Rusted JetBoil Canister

How to Dispose of Rusted Isobutane Canisters

If you have old gas canisters in your house that aren’t empty yet, check to make sure that their valves haven’t rusted. If they have you might want to dispose of them, just to be on the safe side. Vent them by screwing on a canister stove and burning any remaining fuel, outdoors, to empty the canisters of flammable contents. When empty, puncture the cans and recycle them. This is more environmentally friendly than releasing the uncombusted gas and and added safety measure, so you don’t accidentally burn yourself by creating a spark when you puncture the can, using a screwdriver, for instance.

Rusty Cook Pots

If you pack a gas canister in your cook pot, which is probably still wet after use, the plastic canister cap helps keep the canister valve dry and will prevent a rusting valve from staining your cook pot where it comes in contact with the metal. Eating rust is probably not good for you and it also takes some scrubbing to get rid of the rust.

Keep the plastic valve covers that protect your isobutane canister valves
Keep the plastic valve covers that protect your isobutane canister valves

Keep the Plastic Caps

Develop a habit of keeping track of the plastic cap when cooking in camp, so you don’t lose it. You might even consider carrying a spare in your gear repair kit if you have a habit of misplacing them. Most backpackers don’t use an entire canister over a 2-3 day weekend trip, so you’ll be able to use the canister for several trips if you protect the valve with the cap.

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25 comments

  1. I use an MSR Pocket Rocket, and keep track of the canister cap while cooking by storing it in the stove’s plastic case.

  2. When ’emptying’ old canisters you should burn the gas not just vent it, it’s more environmentally friendly.

    • Mind explaining that to me? How is the burning of fossil fuels better than their re-release into the atmosphere?

      • Joshua Rousselow

        Instead of just releasing the nervy rich hydrocarbons, you are combusting them and breaking that. The exhaust released is much cleaner then the pure gas. It is also why the vent/flare in the oil fields.

      • Joshua Rousselow

        *energy rich. Apologies for typos, no morning coffee yet! Thank you for this article, I always lose those caps in my pack so it’s something I need to improve on.

      • Noted and revised in the post. Learning is 2 way on SH.

      • I’d like to see a reference for this. Burning changes the isobutane (not a greenhouse gas) into CO2 & other products. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. I don’t see how this gives a long term positive environmental impact.

        The oil field flare is a bad analogy. In the oilfield flare they are burning mostly methane which is a greenhouse gas and a much worse GHG than CO2. Also they are burning other oilfield byproducts like sulphur dioxide, which is a major air pollutant.

  3. I guess it would also depend on where you store your spares. I have half a case stored in my workshop away from the house for over 8 years and no rust on anything yet…But thanks for the information…

  4. Dennis A. Cooley

    They could rust in your basement if it’s damp. :) Thanks for the tip, Philip.

  5. Although as an RN I would encourage anyone who spends time in the outdoors to get a tetanus shot (a booster every 10 years), you can’t get tetanus from eating rust. The bacteria has to enter through the skin.

  6. Just a point of education on tetanus (aka lockjaw). Generally, you will not be at risk of tetanus by eating rust. Tetanus is caused by the spores of an abundant environmental bacterium (Clostridium tetani) found primarily in rich soils in places where it gets warm. The “rusty nail” causes tetanus because it has dirt and spores on it, which are left in your skin and tissues when it punctures your skin, where the spores start to grow. Bottom line for highest risk: soil-contaminated sharp objects that puncture or cut the skin. The highly effective preventative measure, Tetanus shots (TdaP or similar) every 10 years at minimum, and every 5 years if you get a high risk exposure such as the above!! Happy backpacking all!!

    • Also, Clostridium tetani is anaerobic (does not like oxygen), hence the deep puncture wound from a nail rather than a cut from a razor blade, rusty or otherwise, being the example people always mention.

  7. To counter losing the lid, I took a couple lids from old canisters and did one of two things:
    1. I cut out a circular magnet tab with adhesive on one side stuck to the top of the cap. This allows me to magnetically stick the cap to the canister or other medal object while cooking.

    2. Same magnet as above but this time I stick a piece of adhesive velcro to the magnet. The cap gets a circular piece of velcro (obviously the opposite of the magnet piece). This allows me to move magnet to new canister and attach cap.

    These methods have worked well for me. Well enough I haven’t lost a cap since using. I use a cap that can go can to can instead of remaking system with every new can. Happy backpacking see you on the trail.

    ~Fuzzy

  8. I have noticed that it does not take much time at all for them to rust. I have several that are that way that I just have not disposed of yet. Thanks for the great article!

  9. Great safety article! thanks!!

  10. Brendan McNally

    This is a great tip. I had often noticed this rusting and wondered if it had any impact on the performance of the stove. Now I know!

  11. Over in the UK it’s very rare to find cannisters sold with their plastic caps. I always complain and mention rusting. Shop assistants just stare blankly.
    The shop managers don’t give a stuff either.
    I’ve held on to my last plastic cap not for over three years.

  12. Get in the habit of putting the cap in the container your stove comes in when not using it.

  13. where can you get those plastic caps

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