If you’re a prepper, there’s a high chance you’ll be using tools and gadgets that require liquid fuel to function. It might be a car, a generator, a power tool, even a stove or light source.
Whatever it is, no fuel means no-go for anything. That simply implies that gathering, storing, and rotating your fuel resources is one more item on your weekly and quarterly inspection lists.
Unfortunately, most of us will not be able to survive on only one type of fuel. It might be the minimum requirement of having numerous automobiles and equipment that use various fuels, or it may be diversification as a safeguard against the loss of capability.
The fact is that when it comes to fuels, your job will most likely be more difficult than you assume.
However, there’s no need to be concerned. With the information in this article, you’ll be up to speed on the best fuels for preppers in no time. Here’s a list of all nine of the most popular and essential prepper fuel sources.
Table of Contents
Every Fuel Type has Its Own Advantages
Before we get into the list, I’d like to outline some of the characteristics, advantages, and drawbacks of various liquid fuels.
It’s worth noting that there is no such thing as a superior option. You simply have a different set of trade-offs if you pick one fuel supply over another.
Yes, much of the time what you’ll need to store will be predetermined based on what your vehicle, generator, and other tools consume.
For some of us, however, we’ll have more options in the matter. We’ll be purchasing and selecting our fuel sources, which may be difficult.
Do you want a fuel that is widely available, inexpensive, and energetic but one that has a short shelf life owing to volatility, or would you like a more expensive fuel with a long shelf life that is difficult to get and largely obsolete for most applications? Other comparisons abound.
Yes, some fuels will be auto-includes, while others will be optional or simply available as a backup.
However, keep in mind that the post-apocalyptic landscape may differ significantly from what we know in today’s world. Consider this as you go through the list below.
The Best Types of Fuel for Preppers
Shelf Life: 1-2 Years
Handling and Storage Considerations: Keep cool (appx 70°F), highly combustible, and keep in an approved container away from ignition sources. Will gel in extremely cold weather.
Diesel fuel, as we know it, is not a certain type of petroleum fuel. It refers to any liquid fuel designed for use in a diesel engine or compression ignition system.
Diesel fuel isn’t as powerful as gasoline and the engines are more challenging to build, but they’re also more durable and commercial diesel oil is much more stable over time and gasoline. However, it does struggle in certain circumstances, such as very cold weather.
Modern diesel fuels, like gasoline, are being increasingly experimented with and sold with a variety of additives that have slightly reduced the previously renowned long shelf life.
Diesel, nevertheless, is a fantastic choice for long-term storage compared to gasoline because of its dramatically longer shelf life.
Compared to corner-station gasoline; you’ll easily get a year out of diesel if it is kept cool, and you can make it up to 2 years with stabilizers.
One oddity of diesel fuel is that strange algae may grow and survive in the mix at the border of water separation within the solution.
These algae colonies are similar to those that develop in your home’s pond or pool, and if left unaddressed, they can severely clog fuel lines and ruin your day.
Despite these problems, diesel is an excellent liquid fuel choice as long as your vehicle and generator infrastructure takes it.
Shelf Life: 1-2 Years
Handling and Storage Considerations: Combustible. Keep in an approved container. Breaks down rapidly in extreme temperatures.
Biodiesel is a diesel fuel replacement made from vegetable oils or animal fats and recycled restaurant grease. It is safe to use in any diesel engine and compatible with most “regular” diesel fuel storage, distribution, and handling infrastructure.
Biodiesel has many benefits over traditional petroleum-based diesel fuel. It is renewable, non-toxic, biodegradable, and creates significantly less air pollution than traditional fuels. It also reduces our dependence on foreign oil.
The ready availability of the ingredients and the comparative ease of the chemical processes and reactions required to create usable biodiesel means that this is a legitimate DIY fuel for diesel engines that individuals can at least plausibly make themselves from scavenged supplies.
It is worth noting, however, that only specialty engines can run on pure biodiesel but a usable biodiesel fuel mixture (one compatible with standard engines) is easily made by combining a large quantity of biodiesel with a much smaller quantity of standard diesel fuel. Sort of cutting the product, if you will!
On the downside, biodiesel production currently requires more energy than the fuel produces when burned, though this imbalance is decreasing as biodiesel production technology improves.
Also, while biodiesel can be produced in small quantities at home using simple methods, commercial-scale production needs specialized equipment and is currently more expensive than petroleum-based diesel fuel.
Biodiesel is an excellent fuel choice for preppers and should be one of your top considerations.
Shelf Life: 1-3 months if ethanol blend, up to 6 months if pure gasoline.
Handling and Storage Considerations: Extremely combustible, significant vapor ignition hazard. Keep in approved containers away from all sources of heat and ignition.
The most popular type of fuel in the world, gasoline is a mixture of various hydrocarbons that are derived from crude oil.
Gasoline is more volatile than diesel fuel and has a shorter shelf-life, but it is significantly more energetic per unit volume and much easier to store and transport.
One significant downside to gasoline compared to diesel fuel is that gasoline engines are not as durable as diesel engines and will require more frequent service if used regularly.
Additionally, gasoline engines are more sensitive to fuel contamination than diesels. This means that you need to be especially vigilant when storing or using gasoline in your prepper activities.
Gasoline does, however, perform much more reliably than diesel fuel in cold weather conditions. Only the most blisteringly cold temperatures will adversely affect gasoline.
Gasoline with no ethanol stored correctly will last anywhere from 6 months to a year before the component chemicals separate enough to make it lose potency or even render it completely useless.
However, the growing use of high-percentage ethanol/gasoline mixes has shortened the shelf life even further, with 3 months on the outside and maybe 6 if you use an appropriate stabilizer additive.
On the plus side, gasoline that contains no ethanol should last from a year to 18 months with the appropriate stabilizer formulation added.
Regardless of which one you’re storing, trying to start an engine with gasoline that has gone bad can result in serious problems or even engine destruction.
If you want to keep your gasoline for any length of time, it must be rotated religiously if you don’t want your supply to go sour, which is a pain that many people, including many preppers, will just not be able to handle.
If you need your fuel stores on standby for an extended period of time and rely on crucial tools or vehicles as part of your survival strategy, look into alternative fuel sources if available.
Shelf Life: Indefinite if seal intact.
Handling and Storage Considerations: Keep in a cool, dry place away from sources of ignition. Flame can be difficult to see when lit.
These are small, self-contained fuel blocks that generate heat using a catalytic reaction. They were originally designed as catering fuel and are popular with backpackers, campers, and hunters who need a portable heat source.
Sterno Fuel tabs or gel have the advantage of being compact, lightweight, and easy to use. They also have a long shelf life if properly stored and are available in virtually unlimited supply.
The major drawback is that they don’t generate much heat; you’ll need at least three to four for anything more than a small cooking task.
Another consideration is that the flame from these little fuel blocks gets extremely hot, but so does the container itself, and very quickly! Do not let them get too close to any combustible materials on the ground or other work surfaces! You’ll end up with some scorch marks or an accidental fire.
Although this raises unique safety issues for this sort of fuel, no one can dispute Sterno’s effectiveness based on its convenience, permanence, simplicity of use, and suitability for indoor usage.
Sterno is readily available and relatively inexpensive, making it a great primary fuel while traveling. For a little extra weight and bulk to your pack, a few cans of Sterno provide a lot of heat.
Shelf Life: Indefinite if protected from rot and pests, requires time to season (variable).
Handling and Storage Considerations: Resinous wood can spit and pop when burned, a possible secondary fire hazard. Watch for splinters.
Wood is probably the most basic and fundamental solid fuel. Throughout history, mankind has burned wood for campfires and meals, and it will continue to do so in the future.
In the days before coal, oil, and natural gas, wood was the primary fuel for heating homes and powering machinery.
Even today, in many undeveloped parts of the world or austere environments, wood is still the predominant source of energy.
There are a few things to like about burning wood as your prepper fuel: it’s renewable, abundant, and user-friendly. It also has a long history of use, so you probably have some experience with it.
Wood is special compared to all of the other primary fuels on this list because it requires the least amount of processing, expertise, or effort to produce.
Dry twigs and branches can simply be plucked from the ground and used as soon as possible to yield light and warmth. Even green wood will generally burn, but it does so inefficiently resulting in a lot of smoke.
On the downside, wood is bulky, heavy, vulnerable to rot and consumption by insects and generates a great deal of smoke and soot.
In addition, wood that has been stored to prepare for firewood should be cut into appropriate sizes and then split into smaller pieces to improve efficiency and speed up the drying process.
The majority of hardwoods must be dried or seasoned, which takes several months. If you need to get prepared fast for the approaching winter, remember that this will take a few months.
Also, wood is mostly useless as a fuel for engines and power tools, unless you are able to extract wood gas from its combustion.
Shelf Life: Indefinite.
Handling and Storage Considerations: Avoid inhaling or ingesting coal dust. Coal may seep oils which can pose secondary health and fire hazards.
Coal is an old, dirty standby, once used for heating homes and powering locomotives and steamships for centuries. It’s still in use today as a major power plant fuel, although natural gas and oil are slowly supplanting it.
Although you hardly hear of it being used at an individual or residential level directly, coal does have legitimate advantages for those able to access and make use of it.
Coal has a very long shelf life if stored properly, is abundant, and is relatively easy to ignite. It also produces a great deal of heat, making it an excellent choice for heating your home or cooking food.
The main drawback of coal is its weight; it’s bulky and heavy, which can be a problem if you need to move it around.
In addition, it produces a significant amount of ash that has to be disposed of and can pose significant health issues if inhaled.
Perhaps the biggest problem will be finding or adapting appliances, furnaces, and other equipment to utilize it!
Shelf Life: 5-7 years when factory sealed; 2 years or less if opened.
Handling and Storage Considerations: Highly combustible. Has reputation for corroding metal containers. Inspect regularly for damage to storage vessels.
White gas is a term used in the United States for a variety of flammable hydrocarbons, but it usually refers to n-heptane and iso-octane.
White gas has a very high-efficiency rating, making it perfect for use in small devices like those found in camping stoves and lanterns.
It is also possible to buy white gas pre-mixed with other fuels, such as isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or methanol for use in portable stoves and heaters. These mixtures are less volatile and safer than straight white gas, but they don’t store or burn as well.
The shelf life of white gas is considerably greater than gasoline, with a range of five to seven years when kept unopened and up to two years after being opened.
One oddity of white gas to be aware of is that it has a propensity to rust metal containers, particularly those in which it is sold.
You should routinely check the containers in which you store your white gas for signs of rusting and either transfer it or use it as soon as possible.
Another downside of white gas is that it can be difficult to find in some areas and is largely limited in application. Be sure you are familiar with the specific stove or lantern you are using before attempting to use white gas.
Shelf Life: 30+ years.
Handling and Storage Considerations: Extremely combustible. Will sink near floor and low-lying areas when released into the atmosphere. Inhalation hazard. Entirely dependent on high-pressure storage vessels for containment.
LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) is a mixture of hydrocarbons, the most common of which is propane. It is used as a fuel for heating and cooking, as well as in forklift trucks and other industrial vehicles.
LPG has many advantages over gasoline: it is very safe to store due to its high flashpoint, it has a long shelf life, and it is more efficient than gasoline so you can get more power out of a given volume.
Propane is the world’s third most popular fuel for automobiles, used in almost every part of the globe. It comes second only to gasoline and diesel in terms of popularity.
Propane can power anything from buses to forklifts, power tools, grills, and personal heaters. It is simple and safe to transport, readily available and has a low environmental impact when burned correctly.
Propane is rather unusual when compared to other liquid fuels. When under a lot of pressure, propane is a liquid, but its low boiling temperature means it will instantly transform into a gas when released into the atmosphere.
Still, being heavier than air, this explosive vapor will sink close to the ground or floor and represents a dangerous asphyxiation hazard.
The major risk is almost always that of an explosion, which occurs whenever a leaking propane cylinder is kept too near to a flame or spark source.
Although propane is the most outstanding function for preppers, aside from its enormous flexibility, it also has an exceptionally long shelf life.
Propane kept in a correctly maintained and serviced container has a shelf life of more than 30 years with no additives or other meddling required to maintain it.
A large residential propane tank on the premises, for example, may be enough to get us through a lengthy-term survival scenario with fuel to spare and no worries about degradation or spoilage.
Another disadvantage of LPG is that it is more expensive than gasoline and diesel fuel. However, in an emergency scenario in which other energy resources are limited or unavailable, LPG may be one of your best alternatives.
Shelf Life: 2-5 years.
Handling and Storage Considerations: Highly flammable. Responsible for many household fires. Vulnerable to condensation.
Kerosene is a hydrocarbon liquid that is used in lamps, stoves, and heaters. Kerosene was once a very popular fuel, owing to its predominance as lamp fuel in cities all around the world.
Although other liquid fuels have improved in efficiency and accessibility, this usage has mostly been replaced throughout most of the world due to improvements in other forms of energy.
Kerosene remains a major heating and cooking fuel throughout much of the world, particularly Asia, however.
In the prepper context, kerosene has many advantages: it is generally less volatile than gasoline, has a higher flashpoint so is safer to store, and can be stored for significantly longer periods of time than either gasoline or diesel fuel.
Kerosene, once it’s properly stored in an appropriate container that avoids airspace and seeks to prevent condensation from forming, might last anywhere between two and five years.
The main drawback of kerosene is its lower energy density, meaning you will need more of it to achieve the same power output as its main competitor, gasoline.
However, if you have a generator or other tool that runs on kerosene then this might not be much of an issue for you.
Keep it Burning!
When you’re addressing a crisis or the repercussions of a large catastrophe, you’ll need the proper fuels to power your cars, generators, boilers, and other equipment.
All of these liquids are readily available and have a function, so it’s up to you to budget for long-term storage based on what you currently have or arrange your purchases in such a way that makes the greatest sense for you.
Just be sure to keep that fuel in a safe and dry place, stored in appropriate containers so you can continue to keep the lights on and the power flowing when the time comes!
Tom Marlowe grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, He has the experience in helping civilian shooters figure out what firearms work best for them.