There are many reasons that a camper may want to bring their stove into a tent.
Maybe it is cold outside and you want a source of heat other than your sleeping bag. Maybe the weather is crummy and you’re looking to cook under some coverage. Or maybe it sounds cozy to boil some water and drink a cup of tea in the comfort of your tent.
Camping can be very uncomfortable in general and warmth is an easy go-to element to focus on and improve the quality of your camping trip. It is never fun to arrive at a campsite in the rain at dinnertime, forced to cook in the elements.
However, it is not safe under any circumstances to bring a stove into a regular nylon tent—or any other material tent, for that matter. Using a camping stove in a tent releases high levels of carbon monoxide that remain inside and vastly increase your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It only takes around 10-15 minutes for the gas buildup to become toxic.
It should be noted that there are a handful of “hot tents” designed for the use of a wood stove. They come equipped with stove jacks, which are openings for exhaust pipes that release gases into the atmosphere instead of trapping them inside. These tents also have a more open design that allows for better air flow. If you are looking for a night by campfire, you should ensure you purchase a tent stove for use in a hot tent.
But as far as bringing a regular camping stove into a tent designed purely for sleeping in, campers should steer clear.
Stove in a Nylon Tent
It is not safe to use a stove in a nylon tent with the tent door open, nor is it safe to use it underneath a rainfly as you sit in your tent. Gas ventilation is not a given when you open the tent for some air.
Tents are designed to hold in as much warmth as possible; there is not good air circulation in a tent because tents provide shelter from cold winds and drafts. Using a stove in a tent is akin to using a stove inside of a vehicle with the windows up.
Every year there are new reports of campers becoming gravely ill or passing away from tent-confined stove emissions. Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a frequent cause of accidental death globally. It is tragic, but preventable, given you only use devices with CO output in well-ventilated areas.
In most buildings that follow building codes, there is a CO detector that alerts residents of toxic levels of gas in their spaces.
While camping, you do not have the luxury of a system that tests for CO. The symptoms of CO poisoning also can easily be conflated with typical camping complaints like exhaustion, light-headedness, nausea, and headaches.
Altitude sickness feels an awful lot like CO poisoning, but the former is merely uncomfortable—the latter is lethal.
Additionally, CO poisoning is not the only threat to campers when bringing a stove into a tent.
What Else Could Go Wrong?
Using any sort of device with an open flame in a nylon tent risks damage to the tent material. With many portable stove models, sparks are a given, which would immediately burn holes in nylon. Open flames also bring a much larger risk of tent fires.
Dependent on the area that you are camping, it is generally advised to not bring any sort of food or cooking equipment into your tent. Wildlife (bears in particular) have keen senses of smell that will sniff out any food and any traces of food in the area. Bringing a stove into your tent risks an encounter with wildlife that could put you in danger.
It is generally advised that campers set up their kitchen areas at least 150 feet away from their campsites in order to divert the attraction of bears. Proper food storage involves either putting your food into a bag that you hang high up in a tree or storing food in a bear bin that is specifically designed to prevent bears from opening.
In fact, all items that carry any scent whatsoever should be kept in bear-safe food storage. This includes deodorant, toothpaste, medicine, and soap. Bears have strong senses of smell, but they are not typically strong enough to discern what is edible and inedible.
What are Some Options To Stay Warm while Cooking?
A common way to avoid cooking in the rain is a secondary rain tarp. Instead of relying only on your tent’s rain tarp, many campers opt to bring a tarp to set up near their kitchen. These rain tarps usually have straps or cords that can be tied to nearby trees, holding them up and giving campers another area of shelter.
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Using a kitchen tarp ensures you are covered from rainfall and can still operate your stove when your surroundings are wet. The airflow underneath the tarp ensures CO does not get trapped in a confined space and you are free to breathe without concern of poisoning.
Layering your camping clothes is also vital to staying warm at camp regardless of the conditions. You do not want to wear wet hiking clothes during a cold night cooking at camp. Having base layers, long underwear, and a good fleece or jacket allows you so stay outside of your tent longer and retain more of your warmth. Avoiding the dangerous temptation of cooking in your tent necessitates strong preparation for comfort outside of the protection of the tent. If you pack wisely and have multiple means of rain protection and warmth, there will be no need to think of bringing a stove inside.
Alex Mwangi is the creator of Outdoor Right and an outdoor enthusiast. During his free time he enjoys riding his road bike or traveling the world looking for his next adventure.