Diesel powered cooktops/water heating

There's only 2 problems with propane:
Shippers that run RORO ships don't want propane in the vehicle
The necessity to buy tanks on the "other side of the pond" that will adapt to your fittings; requires some research.
But once you have new tanks, filling in some unpredicatable place isn't really problematic due to the 16 month capacity. I carry 3 filling adapters to the POL thread. Dish, bayonet and German Acme.



Expedition Leader
in preparation for a trip through South America.
Here's some info on propane in expedition vehicles, with some specific info on South America: http://www.hackneys.com/travel/docs/propane4xvehicles.pdf

While we were on the South America panel at OvEx 12, Rob Blackwell mentioned that he'd created additional LP/Propane info to supplement mine while they were in South America, but I don't know where he's got it. His web site is: http://www.whiteacorn.com/

There are >1,500 waypoints for South America here, including places to refill Propane: http://www.hackneys.com/travel/index-gpssawaypoints.htm

Propane is quick, easy, clean and it's great when you can easily find it. You can almost always find each country's portable LPG/LP/Propane portable tanks, at least in market towns, as most people use that for home cooking fuel. It can be much more challenging to impossible to refill a fixed tank in a specific country. Or, it can be done at a gas station, it varies depending on the country you are in.

Conversely, you can find diesel anywhere on the planet.

It's always best to have multiple ways to do the same thing, e.g. heat water, cook food, etc.

My goal was to build a 12/24VDC and diesel only vehicle, but due to the timeline, we ended up with propane.

We made it work in South America, but it wasn't always easy: http://www.hackneys.com/travel/argentina/docs/thegasman.pdf

As Charlie mentioned, it is very important to build a storage compartment that will contain the bottles/cylinders that are local to the country you are in. Those bottles/cylinders are not the same size as the U.S. market and vary with each country.

Secondly, you'll need to carry a good kit of LP grade hose, fittings and adapters.

The easiest possible route for propane is to just use the bottles that are available in each country. Buy local fittings to connect to that country's bottle and adapt them onto your feed hose. The local connections are widely available.

Refilling a fixed tank can be problematic, so at a minimum, if you have a fixed tank, build your truck to accommodate a local portable tank, a two-way valve, and your fixed tank.

Using the engine cooling system + diesel for heat and hot water and propane only for cooking would be a very efficient path. Heating with propane goes through a lot of fuel.

Based on our experience, the single biggest reason to go to the trouble of rigging for propane is for an exterior grill. We used ours constantly and would struggle to give up that capability.

Chile vs. U.S. portable tank
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If anyone is interested - heres my write up on propane in Central South America (as referenced by Doug ).


I have a diesel cook-top in my new vehicle have not used it a high altitude yet, but already I see that it is slow to heat up and slow to cool down.

I plan on carrying 2 Coleman gasoline stoves for the majority of cooking duties for our Russia to Europe trip next year.
Cool, thanks for the info. Sounds like propane is perfectly viable for south america as long as you have somewhere to store a removable tank. We're in a van, so there's not a lot of exterior storage available in our vehicle.

Rob, any particular reason you're planning to use gasoline for most of your cooking when you have a diesel cooktop? Are you planning to cook outside on the gas stove, and use the diesel only when you need to cook indoors?

(Incidently, we used a coleman dual fuel running on gasoline almost every day for a year in africa - it worked great for the majority of the trip, but toward the end it started getting clogged/dirty, and you couldn't get a nice blue flame out of it.)

I've been trying to contact Webasto to ask them some of these altitude related questions, but haven't heard back from them, which doesn't give me a warm fuzzy feeling about buying multiple-thousands of dollars worth of kit from them. I'll post here if I learn anything useful.

Thanks again for the extremely helpful links!
I never did get a good answer from Webasto on the altitude issue; the customer service from their US division seems pretty poor (at least the person that I was trying to work with was unhelpful).

However, the good people at Global Expedition Vehicles were kind enough to help me out, even though I can't afford their trucks! In their experience the Webasto X100 works up to about 12,000 feet. Above that you need another solution.

Our current plan is to go ahead and install the diesel cooktop and heater, and bring a coleman dual fuel along as a backup / outdoor option.

Fortunately Marc from XPCamper is a Webasto distributor and is very helpful, which makes me feel a little better about the lack of response from Webasto.

Thanks for the input!

I was wondering how things have progressed with your heat and cooking choice?

I'm facing the same decision of whether to go with a Webasto solution for cabin, water and cooking heat or simply go all propane.

Thanks for any updates / extra insight you might provide!

The appliances (Webasto cooktop and dualtop) are being installed as we speak, so I can't yet say how well they work. For the price, I'm expecting they'll work flawlessly! :)

After reading a lot of really good articles and discussion (linked up-thread), I'd summarize as follows:

If you're staying in the USA/Canada, go with propane.

Propane is still workable overseas (at least in central/south america) but you need space in your vehicle for a bulky propane tank (as opposed to a frame-mounted one), and you'll need to be prepared to spend some time locating the right fittings to hook up new tanks to your on-board systems.

Since space/water heating uses much more fuel than cooking, we discussed a propane stove and a diesel furnace/water heater, thinking that a 20lb tank of propane would last a LONG time if we only cooked with it. The dualtop was the more expensive of the two appliances, though, and we decided to just go all diesel.

Good luck!
We have a Webasto / Wallas diesel cooktop as well as an Espar hydronic D5 furnace. They both draw their fuel from one of the camper's 2 30 gallon fuel tanks.

The convience of a single fuel that is added automatically everytime we stop for fuel is certainly one reason to use diesel appliances. But cooking without an exposed flame and reducing the condensation that forms in the camper during cold weather is more important. And being able to use the engine cooling system to heat the hot water and camper while driving and then to utilize most of that same equipment to heat when parked was an important reason to choose the Espar.

And it turns out my wife loves to cook on the diesel cooktop. There is infinite heat control provided not only by the controls but by sliding the pans anywhere between the hot burner on the left and the cooler burner on the right. And when you consider the total time to make coffee in a stove top percolator from turning the stove on to pouring the first cup it's not much different than any other fuel source.

The Espar has been installed since 2006. It is plumbed to heat the camper through 2 heat exchangers, heat hot water stored in a 6 gallon Indel marine hot water heater and preheat the engine if necessary. Because of the connection between the Espar and the engine, the engine can heat the camper and / or the hot water as we drive. The water stored in the hot water heater is engine temperature so a very little is needed to provide washing / shower temperature water and we have hot water available for 2 or 3 days after driving before we would need to run the Espar for 10 - 15 minutes to heat up enough for showers and washing dishes. To prevent scalding the marine hot water heater has a mechanical thermostatic mixing valve that limits the temperature at the outlet by mixing it with cold inlet water.

An altitude compensator wasn't available at the time of purchase but we have used it regularly above 8000 ft and several times in Colorado above 12,000 ft and it has always worked fine. My guess is at that altitude it operates a little rich and probably creates extra soot in the combustion chamber, but it always started and produced plenty of heat above 12000 ft. Now that an altitude compensator is available, I will probably install one and service the burner at the same time.

While parked at home, we leave the furnace thermostat set at 40F during the winter months to keep the camper above freezing. It's worked flawlessly for 6 years.

We installed a Wallas cooktop that didn't have altitude compensation at the same time and have used it at the same altitudes. While it always worked it was certainly more tempermental than the Espar at high altitudes and had to be serviced after 4 years to clean the burner and replace the fan.

Most problems occured when the battery voltage was low and the camper was positioned to allow wind to blow directly into the exhaust pipe. Most of the rich mixture was caused by a poor fan design using a 'brush' motor that, according to the distributor in Seattle, started loosing efficiency almost as soon as it was used.

This summer we had trouble lighting the stove that was probably caused by high altitude, low voltage (now fixed with a larger gauge leads and a better ground) and my misguided attempt to clean the fan blades which damaged the brushes in the fan motor.

Instead of having the stove serviced again, we purchased a replacement Webasto / Wallas cooktop that in addition to the altitude compensation, had a redesigned brushless fan motor and a much more sophisticated and rugged control board with a greatly reduced part count.

The stove performs night and day better than the previous model. We haven't used the stove above 12,000 ft yet but for most of 2 months this summer we camped between 6,000 and 9,000 feet at which the high altitude mode is required. When the high altitude switch is on the control board increases the fan speed and alters the start proceedure but doesn't reduce the fuel so there isn't any decline in heat output.

We met a couple from Belgium this summer who had built a custom fiberglass camper on a Mercedes Benz 4wd chasis. They had started 2 years ago in Iceland, Newfoundland, Labrador, eastern American, etc and were then in western US on their way to Mexico.

They had a Webasto diesel cooktop and a Webasto Dualtop for heat and hot water. The only problem with the cooktop was something dropping out of the overhead cabinet that cracked the glass cooktop. They had temporarily replaced it with an aluminum plate, but after I told them about the distributor in Seattle, I think they were going to make a detour before heading south.

There is a version of the cooktop that comes with an aluminum lid that folds down over the cooktop to convert it into a heater that would protect the stove while not in use. We have never had anything drop out of the cabinets onto to the cooktop in 6 years but now we our paranoid and in addition to keeping the overhead cabinet locked during travel and covering the stove with a towel while not in use, I am designing a fold down cutting board for permanent protection.

Their biggest complaint was the Dualtop. They didn't like starting the Dualtop everytime they wanted any hot water and would have preferred something that used the engine to heat hot water while they drove like our Espar / engine coolant system.

Again it's not just the single fuel, but no exposed flame, no extra moisture from combustion, a more efficient heating system and as an unexpected benefit a cooktop that the cook loves to use. I can almost smell the scrambled eggs, bacon, french toast and coffee now.
We have a Webasto / Wallas diesel cooktop as well as an Espar hydronic D5 furnace. They both draw their fuel from one of the camper's 2 30 gallon fuel tanks.
Wow, FusoFG, thanks for the great write up on your experiences. It sound like you have had no down sides with any reasonable high altitudes. That is great to hear.
I already have a Espar D5 and think I am convinced to go with the Webasto cooktop after your review. I wonder, where did you purchase your ?
Thanks in advance
It sound like you have had no down sides with any reasonable high altitudes. That is great to hear.
I already have a Espar D5 and think I am convinced to go with the Webasto cooktop after your review. I wonder, where did you purchase your ?
Thanks in advance
On the new stove with altitude compensation the manual says to use the low altitude setting for up to 2000 meters or about 6500 ft and to use the high altitude setting over 2000 meters.

Assuming the same 2000 meter range for the high setting the stove should work correctly up to 12,000 or 13,000 ft. And if you go over the optimum altitude on the high setting it won't be as bad as when I used the old stove at 12,000 ft without altitude compensation.

We purchased the original stove from Scan Marine in Seattle, Wa. At the time, Wallas only sold to the marine market and nobody sold a diesel stove for the RV market.

Recently Wallas redesigned the stove including modifications for the RV market like the altitude switch and a different enclosure and double exhaust pipe with the intake surrounding the exhaust pipe and exiting straight out the bottom intended to exit through the floor. I think that would eliminate any chance of wind blowing in the exhaust pipe and fighting the intake blower like I used to have with the old stove and an exhaust exit on the side of the camper.

It's my understanding that redesigned stove is the same from either Wallas or Webasto with Webasto selling to the RV market and Wallas continuing to sell to the marine market.

We purchased our replacement stove from Scan Marine again because they have been so helpful with service and telephone advice on our orginal stove.

We purchased the model without the heater lid - we already had the Espar D5 for heating - and without the under counter shroud, double exhaust or floor exhaust exit because we already had a stove installed with a side exhaust exit and we wanted to something that would just drop in our existing location.

As it was we purchased the stove near the begining of a 10 week vacation and Scan Marine shipped us the stove to a UPS pack and ship location in West Yellowstone, MT. We rented a sabre saw and drill at the local Do It Center hardware store and using an outside electrical outlet in their parking lot, made the minor modifications to the counter top to mount the new stove and control panel.

Scan Marine
2144 Westlake Ave N
Suite D
Seattle, WA 98109



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Has anyone with a Webasto Cooktop had an issue with extreme dust ingress from the vent pipe that surrounds the exhaust tube? I guess you need to travel in "exteme" dust to find out ..... anyone?????

Thanks John
Great to hear others' positive experiences with the diesel appliances, especially at high altitude

I bought my Webasto gear through Marc Wassmann at XPCamper (www.xpcamper.com).

FusoFG, you mentioned that you leave your heater on all winter -

where do you live (how cold does it get), how much fuel does that use each month, and how do you keep your batteries topped up with the Espar running?

FusoFG, you mentioned that you leave your heater on all winter -

where do you live (how cold does it get), how much fuel does that use each month, and how do you keep your batteries topped up with the Espar running?

I live in the Appalachian mountains near the North Carolina / Georgia border at about 2500 feet so it doesn't get that cold. About 2 - 3 months where it could get into the 30's, a month of which it could get into the teens and about 2 weeks of snow.

I fill the tank in the fall and in the spring it never needs more that 1-2 gallons to fill it back up.

I keep the battery charger plugged in all the time (it's parked at home) and I leave the 12v compressor refrigerator running year round as well.

Tony LEE

International Grey Nomad
Has anyone with a Webasto Cooktop had an issue with extreme dust ingress from the vent pipe that surrounds the exhaust tube? I guess you need to travel in "exteme" dust to find out ..... anyone?????

Thanks John
Just finishing Simpson-Gunbarrel - Canning Stock Route - Gibb River road and back to the east coast and there is no sign of dust ingress through the coax tube despite plenty of very dusty sections.
Exhaust exits through the floor just in front of the rear wheels of the OKA so I guess location would be a big factor. We had no travel dust get inside the box and that might be a combination of having no holes up high that could create a suction to pull dust in through holes in the floor, or more likely, because I don't have any sort of skirt that extends below the floor level to act as a dam that keeps dust swirling below the floor.


Can I ask how long a diesel hob stays hot? Does it still pump heat into the camper for a long time after being turned off??
trick is to turn it off before you finish cooking to use most of the residual heat to finish cooking. The top would be too hot to hold your hand on the glass for say 10 minutes after turn-off.
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