Are you going on a camping holiday during winter and worried about it being too cold in your tent? Or, are you unsure whether a propane heater is safe for your tent?
To answer all of your “burning” questions, you’ve come to the right place!
Can you use a propane heater in a tent? In short: Yes, if it is an indoor-safe model and used according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer. However, there is always a risk of danger and fire hazards involved in doing so that you and your fellow campers need to be aware of.
Stay tuned to learn about:
- The potential risks of using propane heaters in tents,
- How to use a propane heater safely,
- Frequently asked questions.
Let’s get into it!
What is a Propane Heater?
A propane heater uses natural gasses to radiate warmth to the surrounding area. The device itself is powered with a canister filled with propane, a colorless and flammable gas that’s commonly used in LPG tanks.
Propane is known for its efficiency and high heat output, so it’s not surprising to find it in different applications in our daily lives.
For example, propane (alongside other natural gasses) is often used for outdoor heating, furnaces, portable cooking, and more!
All in all, propane is the fuel of choice for many. It’s been used extensively since the 18th century, and nowadays it can even be a great option for indoor heating and enclosed spaces.
Potential Risks of Using a Propane Heater in a Tent
Camping is a classic activity to do with your family and friends, however, if you are planning on taking on the bush for a few nights in a tent and in winter, then there are a few risks you must be aware of if you are planning on using a propane Heater in a tent.
Propane heaters are generally safe to use in a tent. However, make sure you look out for the certified sticker which lets you know that the heater is “indoor-safe”. Below is a list of potential risks that come along with using a propane heater in a tent.
Make sure you are educated and aware of all potential factors before using a propane heater in your tent. This way, you will be able to look for warning signs and take precautions before it’s too late.
When you set up your propane heater in your tent, you need to make sure the heater has sufficient clearance from the tent walls and other objects that could catch fire.
According to health and safety professionals, 18 inches should be clear on each side and the back of the heater and at least 4 feet should be clear from the heater to the top of the tent.
A good tip is to run the heater on low at first to ensure nothing is in danger catching on fire!
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Propane heaters produce a minimal amount of carbon monoxide. Monoxide poisoning is only caused when the heater is faulty, it’s used in unventilated spaces, or if the safety precautions have not been followed correctly.
If you have been cursed with a faulty propane heater, then you will most likely not know this until the heater has been used.
Faulty propane heaters can cause serious harm when it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning, resulting in potentially severe illness and even death.
However, to be safe, there are precautions you can take even when you do not know that your propane heater is faulty such as having a carbon monoxide detector and maintaining an opening in your tent to allow airflow.
Also, be aware of the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning which can include:
- Headache and dizziness
- Pains in your chest or stomach
- Visual problems
- Erratic behavior.
Make sure you always vent your tent when using a propane heater to avoid oxygen depletion. This could be by keeping one of the flaps on the door open or by unzipping it aside.
You may feel like this will cause your tent to lose heat, but propane heaters are designed specifically to work in small areas with good airflow.
Some propane heaters are equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor, which automatically tips over or shuts off the heat it occurs.
However here are some signs to look out for which could indicate oxygen depletion.
- Rapid heart rate (tachycardia).
- Rapid breathing (tachypnea).
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath (dyspnea).
Make sure you set your heater up in a well-ventilated area to minimize the danger of a gas leak. Keep your tent door open, and remember that if you smell propane gas then your heater is leaking!
Propane gas by itself doesn’t have a smell, but professionals have mixed a rotten egg smell with the gas so that you can identify that you have a gas leak more easily.
So if your tent suddenly starts smelling of rotten eggs, then immediately shut off the gas supply and evacuate the area!
Burns and scalds
Make sure no one is situated too close to the heater to avoid burns or scalds.
Keep flammable materials( including yourself) at least a meter away from the heater and apply first aid or seek help if a child or adult is burnt.
Condensation and Moisture Build Up
If you’re using a propane heater on a cold day, the temperature difference is going to create condensation inside your tent.
Moisture build-up can create mildew, ruin your possessions, and make your tent remarkably cold once you turn the heater off. Good airflow will prevent condensation – another reason to keep your tent flaps open.
Make sure you don’t keep your propane heater running when no one is around. If you leave the tent, turn the heater off!
Inadequate ventilation can cause propane to burn less cleanly. When propane burns cleanly, it has a lower output of CO. When there isn’t adequate ventilation, CO can quickly build up!
Propane heaters are immensely efficient at heating small spaces, so you may find your tent overheating shortly after turning it on.
This is another major reason to maintain good ventilation in your tent when running a propane heater.
Proximity to Flammable Materials
Propane heaters generate a lot of heat by burning propane gas. This means they belt out a lot of heat close to the source, so it’s crucial to keep flammable materials at least a meter from the heater to prevent them from getting too hot and melting or catching fire.
How to Use a Propane Heater in a Tent Safely
Millions of people rely on propane for safe, reliable heat, and propane heater risks are entirely manageable when you know what you’re doing!
Your propane heater will come with its own set of instructions that indicate how to operate it effectively and safely. Make sure to follow these instructions, first and foremost.
While every heater is different, there are some guidelines that are always true:
Choose the right propane heater for your tent
When purchasing a heater for your tent, make sure to look for features including an oxygen sensor and tip-over protection.
Make sure to check out the ratings of the heaters and look for ones rated higher for indoor use. I find checking out the reviews from other customers to be very helpful!
Also, feel free to speak to a shop assistant for advice on the best heaters for indoor use in a tent.
Set up your heater properly
Make sure your heater is on a flat surface and a sizeable distance away from any flammable materials.
Also, ensure that there is sufficient ventilation in your tent!
You might think that keeping a tent door open is a catch-22 when having a heater on, but please remember propane heaters have been designed to heat an area quickly while having proper ventilation in the small space.
Invest in a carbon monoxide detector
Carbon monoxide detectors are a great investment for camping (and for everyday situations where gas is involved!). The price of one ranges anywhere from 20 to 200 dollars, so it’s definitely a good move to invest in one to stay safe.
Here are a few more helpful tips to follow when it comes to using a propane heater in a tent:
- Place the heater at a safe distance from flammable items like sleeping bags, clothes, and tent walls
- Set the heater on a stable, level surface to prevent accidental tipping
- Regularly inspect the heater for wear and tear, and perform maintenance as needed
- Secure the propane canister securely, ensuring it won’t tip over
- Never leave the heater unattended while it’s in operation and turn it off when you go to sleep
- Familiarize yourself with the emergency shutdown procedure
- Keep the tent adequately ventilated to prevent excess moisture and condensation
- Consider using a tent designed for heater use to enhance safety and efficiency.
Tent heaters are usually powered by either propane, butane, or electricity. Any tent heater that you use should have safety features such as an automatic shut-off and oxygen sensor.
Certain heaters that have been indoor-safe certified are okay to use in a tent. Make sure you check for a “indoor safe” sticker or a “tent safe” sticker.
No. It’s not safe to sleep while you have a propane heater running because you cannot properly manage it. Always make sure you turn the heater off when sleeping.
Yes. Propane heaters tend to be more versatile and more powerful than their electric counterparts.
Propane has the ability to heat up much faster as it’s more powerful.
To summarize, yes you should invest in a propane heater for your camping trip this year. Not only are they safer to use than other heaters but they will keep your tent nice and cozy for bedtime.
So to ensure a safe camping trip this winter, make sure you follow the safety instructions in this article when heating your tent. Remember, propane heaters are the way to go!