emergency fuels

Emergency Fuel To Store For Survival

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My favorite emergency fuel to store for survival is also one of my favorite topics to talk about, just so you know. I have a small yard, so I am not able to store as much as someone with a large piece of property. If I had a large parcel of land I would have a large truckload of my favorite charcoal/coal delivered. (I don’t own a truck). Emergency fuel is an important topic, so that’s why I decided to update this post from a few years ago. I’ve updated this post to get the word out about storing fuel.

Emergency Fuel

I purchased several red five-gallon buckets with red Gamma lids to store my Ozark Oak hardwood lump charcoal. The reason I chose to purchase this brand of charcoal is that I read about the chemicals in the barbecue charcoal briquettes you buy at grocery stores or large box stores. I’m not a scientist, but I’ll give you some tips on what to buy based on what I’ve researched.

I started buying Ozark Oak hardwood lump charcoal several years ago. They have now closed their doors and are no longer in business. Dang! For years, I have had to order it online, but now I’m seeing other brands of lump charcoal at major hardware stores. I haven’t done any research on those companies because I have so much Ozark product on hand, I’m set for my lifetime.

If you store your fuel properly it will last indefinitely, with the exception of butane. I store only about 12 canisters of that product. Propane must be stored upright and stored several feet away from your home. I store all my propane outside, not in the garage. Remember it is combustible. As long as the propane containers don’t rust, they’ll store indefinitely, if you keep them upright.

I store my charcoal briquettes in blue-colored Gamma lid 5-gallon buckets. Anyone who knows me is aware of my organizational skills, or whatever you want to call them. I have my washed and baked pinecones (to get rid of bugs and sap) in black 5-gallon containers with black Gamma lids. The freshly cut wood pieces in need stored are in 5-gallon green containers with green Gamma lids.

There is no question regarding how much fuel I have available because I have the colored containers lined up in my garage. Please note, I don’t buy charcoal briquettes with the lighter fluid imbeded in them. The regular charcoal briquettes without the fluid will last indefinitely if stored in air-tight containers. I realize some people just store the briquette bags all stacked up, but I prefer air-tight containers. Gamma Lids and Colored 5-gallon buckets store and stack so easily, they are a lifesaver for me.

Emergency Fuel To Store For Survival

Emergency Fuels


Stores indefinitely if the containers are stored upright and don’t rust.  I can use propane with my Volcano Stove. If you buy one, make sure you have the right size adapter for the large tanks or the smaller canisters of propane, depending on which size your prefer. Different Volcano stoves are sold with different size adaptors. Propane Tanks I would check Sam’s Club, Walmart, or Costco to buy your tanks. Don’t be surprised if you notice the prices have gone up. Welcome to today’s supply chain issues!

Read More of My Articles  What is the Best Firewood for Home Heating?

If you have a Costco near you, sometimes they sell the tanks at a good price. Buy one every month and stock up on propane. Be careful of your local laws because some locations only let you store so many containers of propane at any given time.


Doesn’t store indefinitely. It’s a great and relatively inexpensive way to boil water or cook a few meals after a disaster. They are also really handy when used for camping. You will love it! I bought one for all four of my daughters for emergencies. Butane Stoves and Butane Fuel

We actually used a butane stove for a few months while we waited to have our new natural gas stove to be installed. It was just too hot in the attic to run the gas line, so our plumber friend waited for cooler fall temps. We cooked all our “stove top” meals on the small butane stove. We could only cook one meal item at a time, but we planned ahead and things worked out well for us.

Hardwood Charcoal:

Low ash, burns hotter, burns faster, and less evenly because you are burning blackened wood, usually oak, pecan, etc. The pieces are not formed by a machine to be the same exact size. They are pieces of cut wood from all different sizes and shapes of lumber. They look like pieces of blackened wood because they are wood.

Hardwood Lump Charcoal  I can use these in my Volcano Stove or firepit in the backyard.

Charcoal Briquettes:

These burn longer and more evenly because they are all pieces of uniformly manufactured pieces of briquettes. Some manufacturers use chemicals, fillers, and add sawdust to make perfectly formed briquettes. Be sure and check the brand you are buying. Some briquettes are made with little or no chemicals. Some have several fillers and chemicals in them. These produce more ash than hardwood charcoal.

There are many disputes as to whether the ash leftover is safe or not safe to add to your garden. I don’t add it to my garden since I’m not confident what they might have in them chemical wise. Kingsford Charocal Briquettes   I can use these in my Volcano Stove or firepit in the backyard.

Blocks of wood:

They store indefinitely as well. I can use these in my Volcano Stove or firepit in the backyard. We visited a cabinet shop every week for a few months and bought their scrap wood that they sold by the bag. To help them fit better in the Gamma lid buctets, Mark took our miter/chop saw and tried to make the pieces a little smaller and uniform in size. They light fairly easily and burn pretty quickly, faster than a log of wood.

Read More of My Articles  Being Prepared: These Are My Favorite Things

Pine Cones:

My friend, Lisa, mentioned to me that it’s a good idea to bake the pine cones on some aluminum foil when baking them in my oven. If there is a lot of sap, you won’t have all the clean-up after baking them. It worked. I baked the pine cones at 200 degrees for 2 hours. In the first batch, I was a bit nervous because I have never baked pine cones. No problems with baking them. I made sure that I had zero pine cones hanging over the edge of the cookie sheet because I didn’t want any drips of sap in my oven. My favorite cooking stove where I use pine cones to cook is the Kelly Kettle!! Kelly Kettle Stove

In case you missed this post, How To Use A Kelly Kettle

I have enough emergency cooking fuel stored to cook one meal a day for several years. I have propane, wood, pine cones, lump charcoal, charcoal briquettes (without the starter fluid), and butane as well. As mentioned above, I store small pieces of pine wood (not painted or varnished) that I buy for $1.50 a bag that I fill as full as I can. Plus, I don’t need a hot meal every day, so my fuel choices that are stored will last me a longer time than I originally expected.

I can use different fuels for my Volcano II stove and in the firepit that I have in my backyard. I can also use charcoal or lump coal to cook with my Dutch ovens in my Dutch oven stand. Please remember, these are all outside cooking fuels only. I have used a butane stove at stores where I teach classes and in my home. I crack the door or a window for a little ventilation when using my butane stove in my home. Do your homework before using the butane indoors.

The instructions in my butane stove suggest using the stove outside only. Just giving you the heads-up here. As mentioned above, I used one for a number of weeks in my home while I waited for a gas line to be installed for my new gas stove. This is why storing different emergency fuels is critica since each emergency is different and may require an approach to meal prep.

Final Word

I read on the Emergency Essentials website: “We need approximately fifteen-20 pound bags of charcoal in order to cook one hot meal a day for one year.” It’s all about emergency fuels that are ready to use when we need them. Thanks for being prepared for the unexpected. You never know when a disaster or unforeseen emergency may hit your community. May God Bless this world, Linda

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  1. Hi, Linda! I have a question… why bake the pine cones? I have a half dozen enormous spruce trees around my house that shed cones like crazy. I just pick up what I need, off the ground, when I want to use them in my EcoZoom. When I camp, I often do the same with pine cones. What would be the advantage of baking the cones, rather than just using them directly?

    Thanks, my friend!

    Hugs, Mare

    1. Hi Mare, you are so lucky to have six enormous spruce trees where you live. I want to make sure the pine cones do not have termites or other critters hiding that would infest my emergency preparedness items in my garage. This is why I bake them to store for years to come. Plus I do not want the sap in my Kelly Kettle or Volcano stove. Oh, what we do to be prepared for the unexpected. Hugs to you my friend, Linda

  2. Hello Linda. I live in Africa,so our situation and environment is obviously a bit different. Obviously in this part of the world trouble is always round the corner. Having lived through a terrible economic meltdown, there is one fuel that made life bearable…kerosene…we call it paraffin. We run our deep freezers on it, cook over pressure cookers ( primus type) and use pressure lanterns ( mantle type) for our lighting.We also run our old British Lister Diesel generators on it. Believe it or not some older automotive diesel motors run faultlessly on paraffin too. That takes care of our transport fuels too,our light trucks and tractors can run on paraffin too! Solar power here is reliable, but the battery packs are problematic ,but solar water heaters are fantastic. We are considering building a bio gas generator,but one needs a good supply of animal manure. If you live in an urban setting thats a problem.So now we stock pile 1000 of litres of paraffin. Of course, I prefer on grid power,diesel from the filling station. Propane is fantastic,but once your stocks run out,that’s that. The facilities needed to refill your tanks will be non existent. .Remember specialist transport is needed for bulk gas supplies….that we found was quickly all abandoned.Fuel for thought!

    1. Hi Realist, thank you so much for your comment. This is a great comment and I’m adding it to my post. I have two SunOvens so I can get by without any fuel to cook meals or boil water. If the sun is shining. I wrote about kerosene in my book, thank you so much for the reminder. Linda

  3. How long of a shelf life does the butane have? I am looking for long term but you state it does not have a long shelf life. I am thinking maybe five years.

    1. Hi Mary, I cannot find the shelf life of the brand of butane canisters I have stored. I never buy more than 12 at a time. I have had mine at least five years. I know they still work but for how long, I do not know. I looked for other shelf life on any brands of butane. I’m sure it would have a lot to do with the temperature where it is stored, etc. This is why I always recommend more than one type of emergency cooking devices. Linda

      1. I have canisters of butane that I’ve stored for over 20 years and mostly in an unheated outdoor shed in the humid conditions of the mid-Atlantic. I’ve been using them off and on recently and they are working quite well. So I would say that they store just fine for a long time!

  4. Interesting that you mention having a load of coal delivered – revives a memory that gets jogged to the front on these occasions …

    Wayyyy back in the 1970s an old “survivalist”, that lived thru the Depression wrote – he had a gully to fill in on his rural property – locally coal was as cheap a fill as any other solids – had a few loads delivered and capped over lightly with gravel for parking – eazy to dig thru for that emergency cache of coal ….

    he’s long time gone – been wondering if the new property owners know what they park over every day …..

    1. Hi Illini Warrior, it’s so funny because I can still picture the black dust blowing from the truck after it dropped our coal in the driveway!!! I miss having a wood burning stove. Happy Wednesday, Linda

  5. I’ve been looking at your past articles (from before I found your site). This one about fuels is particularly good, and very pertinent recently across our nation. I have a wood stove and fireplace as my backups. Love your idea of storing different hard fuels in buckets. I actually put in my fireplace and stove as we used to have times in winter when electricity went out during snow/ice storms. I could have a full tank of propane but furnace doesn’t work without electricity, lol. Thank gawd, my co-op put all electric lines underground, so it’s much more reliable now. I still Had to use these heaters for 4 days straight this winter as my propane tank neared empty. Literally, my propane truck couldn’t make it down my driveway for over 2 weeks. A lot of my neighbors were using electric heaters solely! Life would be real hard if those trucks were totally unable to run or they couldn’t get new supply. This happened too one winter. That year, I was even more prepared than now: I had all my kindling stored in a little 7×7 greenhouse so it was dry all winter. I also used to twist newspaper/junk mail, then stick it thru toilet paper rolls, and it stored easily in smaller cardboard boxes, like the ones ramen noodles come in or shoeboxes. I’d also put in some sticks, pine cones to finish filling to top of box. It was pretty easy to carry to house that way. Lol, especially as sometimes I was walking thru snow. I put bigger kindling pieces also in cardboard boxes. I think I had over 150 of these firestarter boxes before winter started. (My logs are under my deck and on one end of deck covered by tarps.) One of my neighbors stopped by one day as I was making some of my twists, thought it was funny. ‘Preparing for the end of Civilization?’ was his laugh. I just shrugged. When a Canadian pipeline broke, our propane supply was rationed by our local suppliers and prices went north of $6/gal; I was dang glad to have my 2 woodburners for primary heat. Yea, I heard that same neighbor complaining about spending $600 for a hundred gallons (the most we were allowed to buy) which would only last him 2-3 weeks, so he was also using electric heaters which made his electric bill High…I wondered if he remembered laughing at me with my little twists…

    1. Hi Wendy, I bet your neighbor is thinking about making those twists now!! What a great story! Wow, you can see how high propane went up when they had to ration. That alone should make all of us be aware of what can happen! Great comment! Linda

  6. Haven’t seen my reply (processed by word press) but here’s something I forgot to mention about propane rationing. There were very well-off people who offered to pay $10/gal if they could have their tank filled. That was why the suppliers set up rules. There was one company in WI who did do this. They ran out entirely within a month so No One could get it from them.

    1. Hi Wendy, wow that propane rationing was interesting. I’m glad the companies set up rules. I remember a reader telling me a few people were trying to sell a case of water for $20.00 in Florida as I remember after a huge storm. Then the police or county stopped it, thank goodness. I’m so glad you and I are prepared for what comes our way. Linda

  7. Great and timely article on different fuels. I am curious what you find is the best way to light charcoal when using it in a long term situation? John

    1. Hi John, that is a very good question. I have matches, lighters, butane lighters and if all else fails, I have flint strikers and a magnifying glass deal. We need so many options in case one fails. We can do this! Linda

  8. In this time of social distancing and self isolation, we may have issues getting some of these fuels now! BUT, when we are able to get out and about again and there is good stock again, “fuel up”!!!

    I have butane, propane and charcoal stored but don’t have room for any more fuels. Well, I do have a little bit (small box) of firewood for when I go camping!

    I have always felt that it was important to have fuel to use my butane burner for coffee and soup if the power goes out – not often but it has done! I also have a propane heater for my canvas tent when I camp out so I always have propane but nothing else like a bbq to use it with! The charcoal is what I use when I cook in a camp dutch oven.

    1. HI Leanne, I always admire all you do, my friend! I think sometimes we need to remind others to prep with fuel. You and I were preppers before the word became a word. But I’m aware we have some wonderful newbies in our group now. Life is good when we can share out skills with each other. Linda

  9. Just a funny tidbit, but it really works good. Back when we all BBQ with Charcoal Brackett, My hubby would, after he was done cooking, he would have a bucket of water beside the BBQ grill,then take out each piece of charcoal and put in water bucket until cool, then took them out to dry, when dry he would put in another bucket to use again the next time. They started up even faster than the new ones!!! I found it quite funny when I saw him do this, but quickly stopped when I saw ” Waste not, Want not” lol, It really works!!

  10. I’ve got a handful of butane canisters (need to increase) for the stove and some of the backpack ones for that burner I carry, about 20 small for stove and lanterns and a few adapter hoses for the larger tanks, 6 regular propane with multiple options like bbq grill, Turkey fryer and smoker and 2 larger ones on the camper. I gave my 100gl tank to my son who got a duel fuel generator recently to help him. I’ve got several ricks of seasoned firewood and a green for the fireplace and pit. On charcoal I put 70lbs up with fluid, lighter and a starter in trash cans.
    I’ll make it a while

    1. Hi Matt, you are set for sure! I gave some of my containers to friends that wouldn’t fit on the moving U-Haul truck for my move up north. BOy, have the BBQ propane tanks escalated in price! Of course, what hasn’t, right? I love hearing you have so many types of fuel-ready to go. Love it! Linda

  11. Linda, interesting to read this again, especially after our last year (s). I’m Up North rural so that means a propane tank outside for my furnace and water heater. Something I’d like to suggest for those who want to use a gas grill : a person can ‘rent’ a smaller propane tank (100-200 gals) and have a line run direct to the grill, just like some people have their grill connected to a natural gas line. Here’s the beauty part of doing this… Most towns/cities don’t have a problem with this fuel storage as a person can easily demonstrate the need for it. (Its the same as using propane for a swim pool heater.) The propane supplier sets the tank, runs the line(s), and ‘grounds’ the line to prevent electrical sparks from storms. Most suppliers rent these tanks (less than $20/yr) with an agreement to Only fill using their service. Now, here’s another reason to get one of these bigger grills (which can convert between natural gas or propane) : when buying portable tanks, the fuel is measured/sold in different ways. Some are sold by gallons, some by the pound?! I looked at one of my grill tanks and sure enough, it said 5lbs. That Really is only about 1 gallon plus the weight of the container. If it had been 5 gallons, it would have weighed well over 30 lbs (with the container weight.) Buying a lot of the small round containers is Pricey! I think this tank cost me $20 plus the fuel, which was $15! For a gallon?!? Plus, some town areas frown on storing multiples of these if they find out. These grills that can be hooked to natural gas or propane can be a good way to have that extra fuel stored safely, meanwhile using natural gas for it, while the ‘gettin is good’. Conversion is simply changing out one tiny orific. Sorry this is kinda convoluted but I’m happy to answer questions about storing propane in bigger tanks.

    1. Hi Wendy, I think this is what a friend of ours did in Farmington, Utah. They had to get a permit but they are very happy with it. This is amazing how cheap this can be! Thank you for the information, Wendy. We’re still in the midst of building plans for our small home. Boy, does this take time and patience!! Thank you, Linda

  12. Aw geez, I thought you would have been in your new home at this point. Um, are you using a contractor to build it? If so, you might need to harass that company. If you’ve already purchased the ground, you need to start talking with other contractors, possibly pull the contract from your original contractor. I don’t know your contract terms but I knew mine: when my contractor started hee-humming as to behind schedule my house being built, I threatened with a lawsuit, as in I wouldn’t pay for what had been done, and I had found a law on my side that would make him pay for completion.. Gosh, I hope Things become easier for you.

    1. Hi Wendy, It’s actually okay with my contractor. We are building a small home on my daughter’s property that we bought for her when she was divorced with 4 little ones. Then she remarried, and we knew at some time we would build on the property. It is now THEIR property but we need to get the architect going, then the engineer, then the city to approve it all, then the contractor will be perfect. We moved here right before Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Then a close relative died. My SIL’s mother, it was totally out of the blue. So, hopefully, things will now be more serious going forward now. LOL! Linda

  13. Dear Linda;

    You nee to warn your readers of the high amount of people who are allergic to pine. A lot don’t realize it they just think they are itching from dry skin or something else. The problems with pine is that one type of pine will bother you but another will not. Not knowing the types of pine (and I include ceder) along with that also. Although I don’t have anaphylactic shock from it like I can with others Pine and Ceder can make me sick as a dog

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