The easy and safe way to recycle backpacking fuel canisters without needing to buy extra tools.
Fuel canisters for backpacking can be convenient. Screw on the stove, turn the nozzle, light and off you go. Though not the stove I use for every trip I take, canister type stoves do come in handy for when I am doing lower mileage trips and/or sharing a stove with a past partner for backpacking trips we have done together.
A major downside to canister stoves is that they can not be refilled.
However, unlike the one pound steel propane canisters, the iso-butane backpacking fuel canisters are made of thin metal and can be easily recycled in most municipalities (call your local recycling center to double check).
So how to recycle backpacking fuel canisters?
You can puncture the sidewall of the canister with a hammer and a screwdriver. However, that is not a slow and gradual puncture and leaves the (very) slight chance of sparking any residual gas in the canister. Not necessarily the best idea. And, frankly, not needed when you can use a safer and easier method.
Jetboil sells a Crunchit tool for safely emptying and puncturing a fuel canister. But any tool that has a promotional video seems bit complicated and over engineered to me. Alternatively you can buy something from Snopeak that costs $13 and is not much more advanced than the awl on your old Boy Scout Pocket Knife. Also seems a bit overkill.
So how does a green friendly dirtbagger recycle iso-butane canisters?
With these simple steps!
Make sure you perform these steps in a well ventilated area.
- Take the empty or near empty canister, attach to your stove, open the valve to full blast but do not light stove. Wait about 15 minutes.
- Take a ‘church-key’ style can opener and place on bottom of canister with the pointy part against wall of canister
- Gently make a puncture in the canister. You can also use a pocket knife or Leatherman can opener to make a puncture. Make punctures along the canister.
- Let the canister air out a bit. When that is done, not a bad idea to write EMPTY and/or USED on the canister with a permanent marker
- Place canister in recycling. Open a beer with your church key and finish unpacking the rest of your stinky and dirty gear! 🙂
UPDATE AUGUST 2016: Is it me, or do these steps from Snow Peak look a tad familiar? 😀
UPDATE NOV 2016: I’ve since become aware of a nifty little device for safely refilling canisters. Obviously, use the proper precautions.