Trying to figure out what size and how many propane tanks you need on your boat?
Well, that depends on the size, how much and what types of cooking you do and so on.
A basic rule of thumb is 1 pound per person per week of full-time living.
- “Average” amounts of cooking and baking; few to no electrical appliances such as coffee makers or microwaves
- No particularly cold weather where you cook or bake for long periods to warm up the boat
- No propane refrigeration (with a small propane refrigerator, we used a little over 1 pound a day for two people)
The larger the number of people, the less per person you’re likely to use as cooking time isn’t perfectly proportional to the amount cooked. And single-handers may go through a bit more. But for most families, one pound per person per week is a good starting point.
Many boats use 20-pound tanks, but note that if you do a tank exchange at a store (common in the US), it’s generally only filled with 15 pounds. I get about 2-1/2 months from one of these and just over 3 months with a full 20-pound tank. Some boats use 10-pound tanks to make them easier to carry for refills or exchanges and I’ve seen a couple of boats (who have propane refrigeration, which I really don’t recommend) that have 40-pound tanks.
Whatever size tank you get, I strongly recommend having two so that you can swap tanks instantly when one becomes empty (they always go empty at the least convenient times). The spare tank needs to be kept where any leak will not drain into the boat.
We also do have a gauge on the propane line, which helps us to know that a tank is getting low. A gauge isn’t strictly necessary, but if I’m baking something like bread or a cake where having the tank go empty in the middle would cause funny results (and not just a delay), I’ll check the propane level before lighting the oven and change the tank if it’s virtually empty.
The gauges may not be perfectly accurate, but we’ve had very good luck with them being close to correct (note: some brands get much better reviews than others). Also, when we see the needle starting to drop, we double-check that the spare tank is, in fact, full. All it takes is one morning without coffee and you’ll never forget to check again!