It’s a small-yet-mighty device that tackles a backpacker’s greatest fear: how much fuel is left for my stove? We took a look at the FlipFuel to see if it’s worth the hype.
In our house, we have a large bin tucked in the corner of our shed, filled with half-empty fuel canisters. On any given trip, it’s like a lottery: which canister do we take? Do we think it has enough fuel to get us through the weekend? Running out of fuel is my biggest fear and my biggest pet peeve—so I bring ‘em all.
After 20 years of backpacking with my wife, she still gives me the evil eye as I load my pack with three partial canisters for our multi-day treks. Not only am I worried we’ll run out and be forced to eat cold rehydrated backpacking meals, I’m also admittedly cheap. I don’t want to waste a single penny on unused fuel. I even carried backup fuel cans on New Zealand’s Te Araroa because we were worried about the remoteness of the trail and the opportunity to buy the specific canisters we needed.
I’m willing to bet I’m not alone, and most folks would find more cans than they thought they had. Instead of risking it on a half-empty canister, we all head to the store to buy a new one… only to chuck into that garage bin yet again. Wash, rinse, repeat.
That’s why I was stoked to check out the FlipFuel Fuel Transfer Device that claims to solve a lot of these headaches. I spent the last year testing it out in Alaska where I live. Here’s what I found.Buy on Amazon Buy at FlipFuel
What is the FlipFuel?
The FlipFuel is a palm-sized metal device that allows the user to transfer fuel from one canister to another. It’s simple in concept, and in execution.
Here’s how it works: The FlipFuel has two threaded nozzles that thread into any brand of standard isobutane/propane canisters. These aren’t fancy; just the usual fuel canisters most of us take on backpacking or camping trips. Once you have two canisters attached to the device—the ‘giving’ canister and the ‘receiving’ canister—turn the metal lever to transfer the fuel. This consolidates all of the fuel into the ‘receiving’ canister so you aren’t stuck packing both into the backcountry. And, you won’t have all those partial fuel canisters laying around your house.
Bonus: Not only is this less wasteful, but it also saves you money.
What works well
The FlipFuel solves a universal problem amongst backpackers: how do we carry what we need without wasting the extra? I love that you can use the product with any brand of isobutane/propane fuel canisters in the backpacking world. It doesn’t matter whether you personally prefer a Jetboil or an MSR Pocket Rocket (or any other type of stove): the FlipFuel is compatible with your canisters. And, it’s flexible. You can easily move fuel from bigger cans to smaller cans, or the other way around. When it comes to ease of transfer, the FlipFuel plays nice with everyone.
The process takes fewer than five steps and less than 10 minutes (although there is some initial science involved. Keep reading for more on that). The device itself is very intuitive; just screw the canisters to the ends of it and turn the valve. Once connected, you turn the wire handle to move the fuel. You’ll actually hear the gas moving, which is a great auditory cue that it’s working the way you want. From my testing experience, the FlipFuel usually takes less than 15 seconds to completely transfer the fuel.
Pro tip: Don’t overfill the canisters. At best, this prevents them from functioning properly. At worst, you’ll have an explosion on your hands. If you think you have overfilled a can, the device has a button on the side to release pressure. I learned that a scale comes in handy while doing this as it’s helpful to weigh the canisters before and after the process to make sure everything matches up. If you can’t find it, the gross weight should be on the side of the canister. If you can’t find it, this information is easily found online.
Not only does the FlipFuel save you money, but it’s also cost-effective from the beginning. For me, spending $35 upfront is a no-brainer, especially if you add up all the wasted fuel over the years. Bonus: Free shipping in the United States.
What we didn’t like about it
When I first got my hands on the product more than a year ago, I quickly realized there would be an initial learning curve. It was like a science project from elementary school: I had to deal with temperatures. To make a safe fuel transfer, one canister needs to be cold and the other warm. At home, this translates to putting the receiving canister in the freezer for at least 5 minutes (I suggest longer) and the giving canister in the sun or a warm spot. Once you get the process down, it is not a big deal—but I haven’t yet been able to master this step in the field. To be fair, I can’t imagine a scenario where I would even bring the product on a backpacking trip, but it’s worth noting.
Another bummer for this cheapskate: leftover fuel. Sometimes there is still remnant fuel in the sending canister even after the transfer. There is absolutely nothing that can be done about this, as it does depend on the temperature differential between the sending and receiving canisters. It’s not that much effort to burn off that remaining fuel or use it at home to make a cozy cup of tea, but it does feel a bit counterproductive.
Lastly, FlipFuel puts plastic screw-on end caps on the device’s in/out ports. These are designed to prevent dirt and debris from getting in them during storage, but I found they constantly fall off. In fact, I already lost one. I’ve started storing my FlipFuel in a baggie and that solves the problem.
This is not a new concept so you can find cheaper versions online. While the product itself is not made in America, FlipFuel is a US-based company founded in 2021 by two backpackers from Arizona. Their goal was to reduce the waste going into our landfills, and that’s a story I can get behind. In this industry, it’s always impressive to work with a small company where you talk to real people via email or phone (no automatons here) in the United States.
Among the cheaper competitors, FlipFuel has a 30-day money-back guarantee with a lifetime manufacture replacement guarantee. It is stocked and shipped for free from Arizona to anywhere in the United States. It has also been tested by real backpackers and thru-hikers alike.
If you’re someone who desperately wants to clear the clutter and consolidate all the fuel canisters in your gear shed, the FlipFuel is a great camping gadget for you. Or, if you’re someone like me who thrives on saving money, definitely consider this purchase. Above all else: the FlipFuel is better for the environment. And that is something we can all get behind.Buy on Amazon Buy at FlipFuel
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