The Risks of Using A Heater In A Tent

a heater and a CO-detector in a tent

This appliance produces carbon monoxide which has no odor, using it in an enclosed space can kill you. never use in a place such as a camper, tent, car, or home.

taken from the back of mr Heater’s (company that makes portable heaters) product.

Maximizing comfort is every living thing’s instinct, which got me thinking is it worth sleeping inside a tent when it is cold when I can be sleeping on my latex bed coved with my cozy down blanket.

This led me to discover tent heaters, they were a quite surprising thing to me because tents are made from very flammable material, so I asked a natural question anyone will ask, can you use a heater in a tent?

It is possible to use heaters inside a tent if carefully regulated, but it’s best to monitor the levels of carbon monoxide nearby just to make sure. The best practice is to install a carbon monoxide detector near where you have the heater.

Besides carbon monoxide poisoning our biggest concern is fire-breakout and oxygen depletion, now let me explain how to prevent both and I will also compare electric heaters and gas heaters.

what are the risks of using a heater in a tent

The first risk is CO-poisoning– Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is dangerous, sadly whenever there is a hydrocarbon like propane burning incompletely carbon monoxide is formed, in other words when propane burns without enough oxygen it creates carbon monoxide.

If you’re exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide it can be fatal, lower levels can cause headache, fatigue and nausea.

The second risk is oxygen depletion– For anything to burn it needs oxygen, in our case, it is propane reacting with oxygen that gives us heat, which means the heater is using our oxygen to give us heat in return and this is not safe in an unventilated space because it can use a great deal of oxygen.

The third risk is fire– As I have mentioned tents are made of very flammable materials like Nylon and Polyester, not only that most objects inside a tent are most likely flammable, take sleeping pads, sleeping bags, backpacks they all are flammable so you have to watch out.

If the heater is too close to the tent fabric it can damage it and it is also possible that it might catch fire, the easiest and the most effective way to avoid this is to put the heater as far from the tent fabric as possible.

Also avoid heaters that move around, if you dont know what they are they are like regular heaters but they move in a circular motion to spread the heat throughout the space, avoid those because they might fall over and cause a fire-breakout.

I also like to put the heater on the tallest part of the tent so the heat have space to dissipate or it can cause the tent fabric directly on top to get damaged.

The heater I own has an automatic turn off, this means when it is overheated or if tip-over it tuns off automatically which is important because I have a very active dog that moving around the tent a lot and he might push it over. but even if turns off the front grill will stay hot for a long time and that could easily burn my tent so I put fabric under it.

How to Avoid CO-poisoning

If you decide to use your heater in your tent the easiest way to avoid way to CO-poisoning by using carbon-monoxide monitoring kits.

A `CO-monitoring kit is a device that makes a sound when there is an unsafe amount of carbon monoxide is present in the air. they are very cheap, very lightweight and very useful so I highly advocate getting them.

The second way to prevent CO-poisoning is by is investing on a high end heater.

High-end heaters tend to have a lower CO emission, one heater I use for family camping trips Mr. Heater MH11BFLEX which I got from amazon, took 15 days to ship but it has almost 0 CO emission from what I have tested with my monitoring kit.

The third way to prevent CO-poising is by getting an electric heater

Electric heaters are like teslas they don’t need fuel and they don’t produce harmful gases, then why not get this? because they obviously need an electrical outlet and many campsites don’t have one, even if there are outlets they are few and most of the time other campers would have taken them.

The easiest way to avoid CO-poisoning and oxygen depletion is by allowing fresh air to enter to your tent:

The most straightforward way to overcome CO-poisoning is by ventilating your tent, introducing new air to an unventilated place can feel refreshing and it is also healthy, the easiest way to introduce new air into your tent is by opening the window or the door, but this can be difficult to do on a rainy season unless you have a tent with a rainfly, also if your tent doesn’t have a screen it is not wise to open the door because mosquitoes might trouble you.

What About Catalytic heaters- are they safer?

A catalytic heater is a flameless heater which relies on catalyzed chemical reactions to break down molecules and produce califaction. When the catalyst, natural gas, and oxygen combine together they ignite at a low enough temperatures that a flame is not needed.


I have seen people saying catalytic heaters are safer which is not completely true, just like a normal propane heater, they works by the chemical reaction of propane and oxygen the difference is they react at a low temprature but this doesnt chnage the fact that it there is going to be CO

People have also tested that catalytic heaters produce more CO than normal propane heaters which make them more dangerous in an unventilated space

These heaters also produce significantly lower heat than both electric heaters and normal propane heater so if you ask me there are not worth.


Are solar tent heaters effective?

Solar heaters are not as effective as gas heaters because the surface area of the solar panel on heaters is so small it is not capable of providing the high power heaters require. furthermore, since it has to store energy to function it doesn’t last a long time.

Is it ok to leave heater on overnight in a tent?

leaving a heater overnight is not a good practice, because it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, fire breakout, or oxygen depletion. the best practice is to run the heater 30 minutes before sleep and turn it off right before you sleep.

Electric heater vs Gas Heater: Which is better?

Despite electric heaters being safer, they are not capable of producing the amount of heat gas heaters produce, and unlike electric heaters, gas heaters don’t need an electrical outlet which makes them usable in any place


If you dont feel comfortable with heaters there are bunch of other ways to keep your self wanm while camping. here are few examples

  • Investing on a better sleeping pad
  • Getting a warmer sleeping pad
  • Got water bottles

like I said ventilation is crucial, you can avoid both CO-poisoning and oxygen depletion if you allow new air to your tent.

Similar Posts