How to Use a Wood-Burning Stove in Your Tent Safely

wood burning tent stove

When you’re camping and cooking outside, anything from a wind or rainstorm to a swarm of mosquitos overwhelming you could make you wish you had a wood-burning stove in your tent. However, you might have questions about how to use a wood-burning stove in your tent safely. If so, then this article is for you. We will discuss the dangers and then give you step-by-step guidelines on using a wood-burning stove safely.

Note: Looking for the best wood-burning tent stove for your next camping trip? Check out this review of the 3 best wood-burning tent stoves!

Is it safe to use a wood-burning stove in your tent?

There is no getting away from the fact that a burning stove in a tent is extremely dangerous. However, that only applies when the necessary safety steps are disregarded. That means the risk level is in your hands, and understanding the dangers is essential before choosing and using your wood-burning stove in your tent.

How much do you know about the silent killer?

The silent killer is a term referring to carbon monoxide poisoning. The CDC says approximately 50,000 people are hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning each year, and between 400 and 500 do not survive the poisoning. The term silent killer refers to the gas carbon monoxide, which is colorless, tasteless and odorless. It causes no irritation, and if an affected person does not know and identify the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and fails to seek immediate medical treatment, unconsciousness and death could follow quickly.

Cooking outside allows the carbon monoxide to become less concentrated as it mixes with other gasses in the air, eliminating the dangers. However, in the enclosed space of a tent, the risks are exacerbated if the essential precautions are disregarded.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

As carbon monoxide is inhaled, it replaces the oxygen in the victim’s blood. When CO level in the blood becomes overabundant, tissue damage begins, and death can follow quickly.

Symptoms indicating the imminent carbon monoxide poisoning onset include headache, dizziness, breath shortness, feeling tired and weak, and vomiting. In high CO conditions, death can happen within minutes!

How flame-resistant is your tent?

Do not be fooled; no tent is entirely fireproof. Regardless of labels indicating the fabric is flame-resistant or treated with chemicals to make it flame retardant, enough exposure to flames will ignite it. Canvas, polyester and nylon are all flammable. Other hazards in a tent include potential explosives like aerosol bug spray. Becoming familiar with everything that could happen while using a wood-burning stove in a tent is crucial. When catastrophe strikes, there will not be time to think about how to react; instead, it will immediately put the lives of the campers on the line.

Step-by-step instructions for using a wood-burning stove in a tent safely?

Before anything else, note the importance of ensuring the tent is properly ventilated before lighting the fire.

Step 1

These safety precautions begin when you choose your campsite. Avoid sites with overhanging dead tree branches or other flammable materials above the tent. Keep in mind that the wood fire will send sparks up the vent pipe, and before you know it, your life will be in danger.

Step 2

Manufacturers use thin metal for making wood-burning tent stoves, making them vulnerable to weakening by the hot coals. Therefore, this step is crucial for providing insulation between the metal and the burning coals. It is an easy process, requiring you to put one inch of sand on the bottom metal layer of the stove.

Step 3

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to fit the spark arrester. It goes into the vent pipe of the stove to cool down any sparks that shot up the chimney before they reach the air outside. Without a spark arrester, you have to do the next best thing. Use a sharp object to poke multiple holes into the top part of the vent pipe. Most importantly, do not skip this step!

Step 4

When choosing your primary fuel source, avoid using wood that produces many sparks, like pine, larch, cedar and other softwoods. The volumes of sparks these wood types give off will be too much for the spark arrester to cool down. However, you could safely use small amounts of them as tinder.

Step 5

When choosing where to put the wood-burning stove in your tent, place it near the door for easy access to stacked wood outside. Ensure it is not closer than two feet to the tent fabric of the wall. Put it close to the floor for optimal heating.

One final tip

Never become complacent. Even with all these precautions, a fire burning inside a tent will remain a massive risk. Therefore, never have the fire in the stove burning when there is no one there. Furthermore, allocate one responsible person to keep a close watch on the wood-burning stove in the tent whenever the fire is lit. Never assume that someone will notice if something goes wrong.

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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.