I've been picking up some bits and pieces of information, and I'm hoping maybe some of you who are in the retail business or have contacts in the industry can clear this up.
As far as I can tell, no online retailer will now ship fuel canisters (federal regulations are usually cited as the reason.) I didn't figure that would be a problem until last weekend, when I noticed that my local retailer was sold out of MSR and Jetboil cylinders, and had only a few Optimus cylinders left. I overheard the salesman say that they were having trouble getting canisters shipped to them (and I have no reason to believe he was covering up possible problems at the store - they were stocking shelves with new inventory, and had just expanded store space; there were lots of customers there, and they were buying things.)
So, if we can't buy canisters online, and can't get them at retail stores - does this mean that someday in the not-too-distant future, we won't be able to use our canister stoves anymore?
Like I say, I'm probably blowing this out of proportion, but I thought I'd at least bring the subject up, and let those of you with solid information clear things up.
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
One small retailer I talked to a couple years ago, said the large Gigapower canisters were cheaper than the small MSR canisters as freight ate things up. He did not say anything about supply problems, but then that was two years ago or so.
Loc: The State of Jefferson
I don't think you're "blowing this out of proportion". This is a major problem for those of us living in rural areas. I don't have a store within 100 miles that sells fuel canisters. I have a few in stock, I hope they last until I make a trip to a city where I can buy more. If the stores can't get them I guess that's the end of that little game. I suppose this is intended to make us safer from some unspeakable threat. Funny I don't feel safer...
The new shipping ban--which I'd completely missed--seems ridiculous. There was already a surface-freight-only mandate that itself seemed like an overreach, but I suppose after the Jet Blue crash the word "canister" took on a whole new meaning. I can't think of any reason why one shouldn't be able to surface-ship a fuel canister; how do they get them to the store--mule? Can you still ship a can of hairspray?
I'll peruse the in-store supplies on future shopping trips to see whether there's any trend in stocking canisters. I'm not expecting any reductions given that the fuel is on the shelves next to the...canister stoves.
I'll also note in passing that the price increases they put on canisters when oil was $150/bbl have never been rolled back. The big Primus canister is stubbornly stuck at ten bucks.
Not to take the unpopular position here, but I completely understand them not allowing normal shipment of canisters.
Before I'm shunned and banninated, let me explain. I work in the material handling industry, specifically with conveyor systems, predominantly in the bulk/parcel handling side of things. Having seen what conveyors can do to packages that get snagged or otherwise hung-up near drive components, I'd hate to see something pressurized and flammable thrown into the mix.
If you have a package get snagged on a drive, inches from an energized electric motor, and it happens to contain a fuel canister, there's a pretty decent chance that the canister could get sucked under the drive pulley, ruptured, and boom. Whether or not that's an outside chance, 1 in a million type of scenario, I can't blame anyone for feeling it's not worth the liability, or property loss risk of a big fire.
Freight shipping/LTL shipments of these things is likely going to consist of full pallets of canisters, that are never going to see a conveyor that could chew them up and light a fire.
Sucks for those out in the sticks that can't get their hands on canisters, but alas, alcohol is available damn near everywhere!
Light, Cheap, Durable... pick two
I didn't really intend to start a discussion of whether the shipping ban was justified; the rules are what they are. My concern was whether there would come a day in the not too distant future when, as a practical matter, those lovely little canister stoves we've all come to know and love might be rendered obsolete by a lack of fuel.
You're right about alcohol being readily available; white gas doesn't appear to be a problem yet, either. Both are sold online, and stores have a ready supply of both. (Just out of curiousity, would a can of white gas or alcohol pose the same fire/explosion hazard if forcibly ruptured in machinery?)
And, who knows - maybe they'll figure out a way to re-use the cylinders, like we do our patio grill tanks. We'd end up buying an empty cylinder, and taking it to a local store to be filled and refilled. Jimshaw - you're an engineer - if you wanna get rich quick...
I suppose the question becomes what's an unreasonable risk and why are some products singled out while like products are not? I wasn't kidding about hairspray, which remains eminantly shippable and is a favorite fuel of spud cannon fanatics.
My concern was whether there would come a day in the not too distant future when, as a practical matter, those lovely little canister stoves we've all come to know and love might be rendered obsolete by a lack of fuel.
I worked in a camping/kayaking store for a couple of summers, and I actually don't see this as being a problem. We got 95% of all our shipments via truck or UPS ground, and not via the USPS. My guess would be that stores would still be able to get the canisters via freight or UPS ground. Mail order though it sounds like for the most part it may become rare.
Chip yeah! What I would like to see is refilling the cannisters at your local store just like they do for barbecues. Great idea huh? You could specify a little higher propane component is were going to get cold!
Listen to the trees in the wind
# Flammables less than one Gallon are available to certain areas within Canada via UPS Ground. Please call to see if your city qualifies. # Please call for details on shipping flammables to areas outside of the United States or Canada. # Butane Canisters are an exception, all canisters may only ship UPS ground and only to the lower 48 states. 8oz canisters incur a $35 HAZMAT fee for shipping. NRS can ship 1-4 eight oz butane canisters in one hazardous materials box, which would incur only one $35 fee. Each additional box will incur a $35 fee.
We need to gather some real facts before too long. The UPS website indicates that in the recent years, the shipping regulations have been updated. Particularly for "Hazardous Materials" and liquified petroleum gas (butane, propane) such as our backpacking stove fuel falls squarely in that category. UN 1075 is that category(its on the canister, along with the DOT number for the container and the shipping restrictions and labeling).
The UPS website tells you a phone number for hazardous materials support as they have a Hazardous Material Support Center at 1(800)554-9964.
If you call be sure to have the UN 1075 number and the DOT number on the canister and be able to describe the container perhaps including the measurement of the diameter and the height and the container capacity.
The reason for this specificity is that the small 4 ounce canisters may fall under considerably different handling regulations than would the large 8 oz or larger canisters. Small pressurized containers are easier to design and prove safe than are larger ones. In addition, the explosions from their failure are smaller and less likely to outright kill someone or to damage the shipping vehicle or aircraft.
There are a variety of specific exemptions for liquid butane containers of less than one ounce capacity, for example.
The text of this document is as follows: _________________________________________
Loss of HazMat Exemption Raising Shipping Costs for Small Fuel Canisters
As published in OIA WebNews 8/12/2009
Retailers may want to bulk up their orders of 4-fluid-ounce isobutane/propane fuel canisters in the wake of a recent Department of Transportation (DOT) decision that raises the cost of small shipments dramatically. They may want to reassess their online sales of the popular canisters for the same reason.
Shipping some isobutane/propane fuel canisters direct to consumers has gotten much more expensive after DOT concluded the industry is not complying with the agency’s 2002 interpretation of hazmat regulations. In an October, 2002 interpretation letter to a manager at Cascade Design’s Mountain Safety Research (MSR), DOT said that “a mixture of liquefied compressed gases in a container of not more than four (4) fluid ounces capacity” could be exempted from hazardous material packaging and labeling requirements except when shipped by air, in part because the small canisters qualified as a “consumer commodity.” This allowed fuel shipped in such containers to be reclassified as “other regulated material –domestic,” or OSM-D, which in turn allowed FedEx, UPS and other carriers to waive hazmat fees.
When a consumer tried to ship a canister containing 4 fluid ounces of gas to Alaska by air earlier this year, however, a DOT inspector measured the canister and found it could accommodate 6 fluid ounces. Manufacturers say they’ve been shipping 4 fluid ounces of gas in containers of at least 6 fluid ounces to allow room for the gas to expand, but DOT has determined the larger canisters are not OSM-D compliant.
DOT has since inspected several manufacturers and retailers and ordered them to start labeling the canisters as a hazardous material. That will add $22.50 in hazmat fees to every case of 4-fluid-ounce MSR IsoPro canisters shipped through FedEx or UPS, according to Cascade Designs. That’s the same fee the small package delivery services charge the company for a case of 8-fluid-ounce IsoPro canisters, which never had ORM-D status.
Manufacturers are now working with Outdoor Industry Association to persuade DOT to reexamine their interpretation.
In the meantime, dealers ordering cases of canisters containing 4-ounces of fuel instead of 8-ounces to avoid hazmat fees, need to reconsider how they do business. Cascade Designs said it may make sense for their dealers to up the size of their orders to ensure the smaller canisters travel by freight. That’s because Cascade Design’s freight providers charge a single hazmat fee whether a shipment contains a single canister or several cases of fuel, said a Cascade Designs spokesperson.
There is a silver lining here for brick-and-mortar retailers as consumers buying canisters online will now incur the hazmat fees. In many instances, it will be less expensive for them to buy those canisters from local stores that have been able to spread the hazmat fee across larger shipments. REI has already stopped shipping butane fuel canisters direct to consumers and is urging customers to instead buy them at its stores. __________________________________________________
I recently fell victim to this very thing. I was looking for some canisters to a) have a few for upcoming planned outings and b)stock up on. Trying to find them online, and cheap, is difficult. Looks like the only viable option is to bite the bullet and order a case of 24 and pay the hazmat fee, but I really don't need 24 canisters.
Funny thing was that I found a place that apparently hasn't heard of the new regs either and is shipping out 4 250g cans for $2.28 shipping!; will take 5-7 days to get here but I'm not in that much of a hurry. Funnier thing was that after I made the purchase, I was in our local "big chain store" which is now stocking and selling 250g Coleman fuel canisters for about a buck less than what I spent hours digging online for.
Such is my life.
EDIT: Looks like I either jinxed myself or lucked out, not sure of which. Just got a email from the company and they said they had to charge a hazmat fee and did I still want the fuel. Guess my luck is holding true so far. Unless I want to drive 45 min to pick up some MSR or Jetpower fuel I'll be stuck with the Coleman fuel, which I guess isn't to bad, it's 80/20 like several "name" brands.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I also check the local "big chain sporting goods" store (not Big Five, though, last I looked they only have Coleman). Their MSR cartridges are definitely cheaper than REI. Yes, REI has the dividend, but the gas for the 45 minute drive (25 minutes actual driving and the rest stuck in traffic, lol) takes care of that.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
I stopped at the local small independent outdoor shop the other day and asked the owner about new regulations and he had not heard about any new rules and he had just received a new shipment of canisters. He did say that there have been different rules for the the bigger canisters for some time already. I was going to buy a stock of canisters if they were going to be a problem in the future but he advised me to just buy them as needed. He said that he would let m know if he found that there was a problem.
I just was at the local outfitter - the one where I noticed the low-stock condition initially. They now had a full supply of canisters.
It's starting to look like there isn't a real problem, but that I may have just hit them as they were learning to live with the rules.
However, there doesn't appear to be any chance of getting canisters online any time soon. I'm lucky - I'm half an hour from the store, and frequently work in the city, so it's not a problem to get them when I need them. But, for anyone who is limited to online supply, it could remain a real PITA.
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