Naphtha

Naphtha a.k.a White Gas, Naphthalene, Mineral Spirits

Coleman Camp Fuel.jpeg

Naphtha is comprised of shorter chain hydrocarbons (c5-c7), can be aromatic (sweet smelling and carcinogenic), and can contain sulfuric compounds or other impurities. It most often consists of paraffins with colorants and a thiol for scent. It has the lowest boiling point of all the petrols, which gives it the highest vapor pressure. This means that it will produce flammable vapors whenever it’s not contained in a vapor-seal container, but those vapors will disperse quickly if well ventilated.

Naphtha is very easy to light (it’s always producing fumes), burns on many surfaces (including ice), will evaporate quickly (in about 15 minutes) from most surfaces, and must be very carefully contained at all times. Unfortunately, since it can contain a high percentage of aromatics, it can also be smoky, toxic and carcinogenic. Some naphtha-based fuels (Coleman) have a somewhat reduced aromatic content, but many are naturally high or augmented in aromatics. Because few makers are willing or able to purify naphtha products down to strictly alkanes and naphthanes, avoid internal use unless you have a very specific knowledge and understanding of the aromatic content.

From a performance standpoint, you can’t ever trust this fuel in open containers. If you have a dip can, make sure it has a vapor-seal lid. Make sure your dip cans are closed when fire is around, don’t allow smoking near any large quantity of Naphtha, and try to keep your fuel station well ventilated.

On the other hand, this fuel is one of the few that can be used for contact fire (raking), will burn off the ground for spin-out tricks, and produces the biggest, brightest flames possible. It’s hard to extinguish while spinning so you can go absolutely crazy when you spin it. Camp fuel sources of naphtha tend to be fairly consistent in quality within a given brand, but may vary greatly between different brands.

The North American Fire Arts Association