I used to use a liquid hydrocarbon-fuel stove for backpacking, but I hated it, one of the main reasons being that the stove and/or fuel bottle were always leaking and stinking up my car and pack. Mainly for that reason, I switched to using an alcohol stove for summer backpacking, and I'm very happy with it.

However, the alcohol stove is less than optimal for mountaineering in snow, since it takes a long time to melt snow, and may be difficult to start in very cold conditions. For that reason I've bought a newer, lighter hydrocarbon-fueled stove (MSR XGK).

How do I avoid the noisome leaks? Is this likely to have been a problem with old o-rings? Scratched o-ring grooves? Maybe I need to crank down harder on the seals?

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    What are you using for fuel? I wouldn't use anything but white gas in that stove if you have the option. It's the cleanest and stinks the least.
    – ShemSeger
    Mar 16, 2015 at 2:34
  • "Maybe I need to crank down harder on the seals" No no no........ and just in case.... more no's. The seals need to be soft and pliable. If you crank down on them, they loose it, harden up and the surfaces get damaged from too much pressure. The seal on an XGK should be made within about 1/4 - 1/2 turn of first contact. Keep it clean and keep sharp things and grit away from sealing surfaces.
    – user5330
    Mar 16, 2015 at 4:13
  • Are you storing it under pressure? Or do you release the pressure when you're done using it?
    – ShemSeger
    Mar 16, 2015 at 17:03

4 Answers 4


In my experience, the biggest culprits for leaking fuel are bad o-rings, but replacement o-rings of the wrong size and loose caps have also played a part. Over-tightened caps can also be a problem especially if the o-rings are a bit off size. Another consideration is the amount of fuel spilled on the stove or canister during fueling and use. Especially if one fills the stove and then immediately puts it into the car.

Solutions are to make sure all o-rings are the right size and in good condition. Then make sure everything's tightened down and the outsides of canisters are washed off. (This last is especially true when using unleaded or white gas as fuel because spills are likely.)

For long car trips I also have occasionally put stoves and fuel bottles in a rubbermaid type plastic box. (Also my stoves usually live in the thule when possible.)

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    The biggest stinker for me with my MSR whisperlite is fuel being released from having too much pressure in the bottle when I disassemble it. I try not to over-pump my stove while cooking, and will time it so the stove will start to pitter out just as I'm done cooking, this way there's less pressure to release when disassembling the stove, which releases less fuel and makes less of a mess, which means less stink when you pack it away.
    – ShemSeger
    Mar 16, 2015 at 2:29

One other issue is altitude changes. Even with 'new' gas bottles going from 0 to 10000 feet (or back down) may cause problems. One way I've dealt with this is to put the gas bottle in a zip lock bag (the larger bag sizes sometimes have two "zippers").



To avoid leaks from stove after disconnecting the bottle, you could buy a self clearing stove like Primus Omnifuel or Optimus Polaris, etc. These stoves have ON and OFF marks on the bottle position needed to draw fuel (ON) or air (OFF) from the bottle. To clear the fuel line just reverse the bottle to off, 1-2 minutes before you need the flame to stop. All remaining fuel from the line will be consumed, the remaining pressure in the bottle helping with that. This requires some anticipation of course. Not sure if this trick can be used with a MSR bottle and pump, as I never had a MSR stove.

From the excellent blog Adventures in Stoving:

To turn the stove off, one again rotates the fuel tank around the axis formed by the valve into the "OFF" position. In the "OFF" position, the dip tube, which would normally be in the lowest portion of the tank, submerged in fuel, now points upward and just draws air. This air now flows out through the valve, clearing the fuel line and depressurizing the fuel tank.

When buying O-Rings for the fuel bottle, be sure they are the most flexible type which resists to hydrocarbons and oils, that is Nitrile rubber. The type to avoid is Viton, since this will become more inflexible to cold.

Nitrile vs Viton rubber:

Viton® seals are prone to failure below -15°C in dynamic applications, as they become inflexible and hard.

But remember to change them often, I would say once a year, as Nitrile is more easily degraded by ozone :

Nitrile vs Viton® is not resistant to degradation from weather and ozone exposure. Designed to resist most oils and lubricants, more importantly petroleum based lubricants, these seals have other benefits, such as superior abrasion and tear resistance, making them suitable for heavy duty industrial applications.


Automotive gasoline has a very strong smell which is almost impossible to eliminate entirely, even it it doesn't actually leak as the persistent smell comes from heavier hydrocarbons and other additives which don't evaporate quickly. Many fuels also contain chemicals specifically intended to give an unpleasant taste and smell for safety reasons.

One alternative is panel wipe which is fairly pure naphtha so chemically close to gasoline. Adding ethanol may also help it burn more cleanly by reducing the average molecular weight of the mixture.

  • This seems to be answering a different question entirely. I believe cooking gasoline (aka white gas) and automotive gasoline are quite different.
    – Martin F
    Jul 30, 2018 at 21:27

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