BWCA Use of stove inside tent? Boundary Waters Listening Point - General Discussion
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Michwall2
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05/22/2022 11:04PM  
In one of the “CAPSIZED” threads, a survivor described one of their survival techniques as the use of a stove inside a tent to heat fluids for ingestion. I have been waiting for someone (anyone) else to pick up on this as a mistake. I believe that any kind of flaming heat source produces carbon monoxide. The OP did not indicate how long they ran the stove, but i think they escaped a danger at least as deadly as hypothermia.

Am i wrong in this analysis?
 
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Gaidin53
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05/22/2022 11:15PM  
Pretty sure it was the wise choice in the moment! Is it something you should normally do? Absolutely not! A burning tent with you in it would be horrible. I’m sure they just heated liquids and then turned it off. I felt like I could also tell in the writing that it was done very carefully! I did not get the sense they were using it for heating. In the situation they we’re in I had no issue with what they did!

In fact they really seemed to work through the problem methodically from point to point and decision to decision.

Ryan
 
therreid
 
05/23/2022 08:38AM  
Years ago, we were canoeing the Little Missouri River in North Dakota. It was early April and we were catching the high water with runoff. One of the days started with sun and highs in the mid 70s. By mid afternoon, it started to rain and then turned to thunder snow and a snow storm.

A friend in another canoe started to get hypothermia. She had not gotten her rain gear on in time and was soaked underneath her Gore-Tex. When we realized what was happening, we stopped, made camp and got her in a tent with a sleeping bag and fleece liner.

We did heat the tent with a Peak 1 lantern (now I am dating myself). It was a good move. She recovered and came out to say hi before the rest of us went to bed that night. She had previously been hypothermic enough that she was struggling to speak and had difficulty walking.

In retrospect, I would handle it the same today. A life was in danger and we were many hours from a road. And, by the way, yes, I am old enough that I still cook on SVEA 123R when canoeing. ;)
 
05/23/2022 11:29AM  
I definitely noticed it when I read the story, but my thinking aligns with Gaidin53 - a poor choice under normal circumstances but perhaps needed in an emergency. Sometimes it may be wise to increase one risk to mitigate another. We also don’t know a few variables which would affect the risk, like was the door of the tent open or closed, how well ventilated (mesh) was the tent, or how much wind was there. Any amount of wind would worsen the risk of hypothermia and somewhat lessen the risk of CO poisoning in a tent that has ventilation. I can imagine an extreme scenario where I would do the same.
 
05/23/2022 03:20PM  
We run wood stoves in tents during winter. Sometimes, we will use MSR Whisperlites to heat water fast. As long as you don't melt/burn the tent and make sure you are bringing in fresh air, the risk is low.

Getting wet and cold will always pose a greater risk in my opinion.
 
Savage Voyageur
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05/23/2022 05:38PM  
I used to have Frostline mountain tent. It had a zip away floor section at the vestibule that was made for cooking food inside the tent. No worries about food smells in a tent used for winter camping and critters are hibernating.

I also have a Eskimo ice fishing shelter, basically a tent on the ice. I cook inside it all the time. I also run a big buddy heater and a sunflower heater. I do have a portable detector I use also. The main thing with heaters inside is to have plenty of fresh air coming in. I open all available vents and a few windows too. This is never an issue on a frozen windy lake, but could be in a tent in the woods. If you try this in an emergency in the BWCA, use caution and open vents to get a cross flow ventilation.
 
nooneuno
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05/23/2022 07:56PM  
Most tents used in the bdub are likely the 3 season variety, basically a screen roof with a rain fly over the top, I doubt enough co2 could collect enough to cause problems.
 
cyclones30
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05/23/2022 08:53PM  
nooneuno: "Most tents used in the bdub are likely the 3 season variety, basically a screen roof with a rain fly over the top, I doubt enough co2 could collect enough to cause problems."


This ^^^^^

Or they've got air flaps you can open or close or velcro or whatnot. People run heaters and such in portable ice shacks all the time, they're made for it. Unless you've got one that's super well sealed and stay in there for hours on end you won't have a problem.
 
PeaceFrog
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05/23/2022 10:04PM  
Not wrong but many variables to consider. If I have a choice between certain death from hypothermia or possible CO2 poisoning; I’m firing up the stove. Gotta do what you gotta do in the moment.
 
Banksiana
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05/24/2022 10:34AM  
It's CO poisoning you have to fear, not CO2. I remember Will Steger saying they used Whisperlite stoves to warm their tents during the North Pole expedition.
 
Copperdog
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05/24/2022 06:52PM  
I think if they or anyone else needed the heat source in an emergency they should be ok with plenty of fresh air. In that situation I’d be overly cautious not to catch the tent on fire. CO2 concentrations can lead to death if allowed to build up in an enclosure, but more likely one would succumb to CO poisoning first. If there’s not enough fresh Oxygen coming in the by product of combustion, CO2, recirculates and when it burns the second time the CO2 drops one “O” and becomes CO….carbon monoxide.

I’ve dealt with hypothermia twice in the Bdub, once with my Dad, and once on my own solo trip. Getting out of the weather, into dry clothes and a sleeping bag worked both times. I waited out a sleet storm for hours under a tarp till dad emerged from his tent to announce that he could use a hot cup of tea and some soup.

Barry
 
LaVirginienne
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05/25/2022 04:40PM  
Paddling mountaineer here. WFR (WMA). Quite a bit of experience in the cold and wet backcountry.

Hot drinks and hot water bottles (held as close to the skin as possible) are what the stove is used for in these situations. Do not think of a stove as anything more than that. If you want a major heat source, you will have to build a fire. This is ABSOLUTELY the first thing you should do after being plunged in freezing or even cold water or being soaked to the bone in cold temperatures. Do nothing else before building a fire to warm your core temperature and dry your wet clothes. In every account I’ve been reading in this forum, this rule has not been followed.

Sometimes it is not possible to build a fire. You will need your stove, your thermos (you should have a thermos on shoulder season trips), and all your dry insulation. Make sure you do not sit on the ground. Even a wet pack between you and the cold ground is better than sitting on the ground.

Cooking inside the tent is always dangerous for two reasons. (1) A malfunction could set the tent on fire with little chance of getting out uninjured. And (2) if there’s inadequate ventilation, you can absolutely die from this. Seriously. Tentbound climbers die every year from this. However, it can be done carefully and safely when necessary.

The problem for us paddlers in shoulder season is hypothermia. When your brain is shocky, you are NOT generally thinking clearly enough to prevent a stove fire in your tent. Unless it is a matter of life and death, only bring the stove into the tent when you are 100 percent sure of your judgment.

For this reason, we are trained as WFRs to build a fire when people in the party are hypothermic. First, we offer hot drinks from a thermos and put every piece of warm clothing we can find on the victim/s and insulate them from the ground using sleeping pads, packs, whatever we can find. Then we build a fire as fast as possible. I can attest to several real world examples when I have watched hypothermic people revive magically within 15 or 20 minutes before a raging fire.

When you’re ready to make the transition to your shelter, or if you must do this because you are hypothermic in cold wind or rain, keep your stove in the vestibule with the flap open EVEN IF IT IS RAINING OR SNOWING OR BLOWONG HARD OUTSIDE and be ready to shove or kick the stove away from the tent. Do not bring the stove into the body of your tent. Ever. Vestibule, vestibule, vestibule.

If you have a stove with a hang kit, I’m assuming you have trained for this and know how to do it safely. Cooking with a stove hanging in your tent is for experts only. Do not go out and buy a hang kit until you have learned how to use one properly. They involve disciplined procedures that must be learned and practiced for the setup to be safe.

Hope this helps!
 
Banksiana
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05/26/2022 01:14PM  
Copperdog: "I think if they or anyone else needed the heat source in an emergency they should be ok with plenty of fresh air. In that situation I’d be overly cautious not to catch the tent on fire. CO2 concentrations can lead to death if allowed to build up in an enclosure, but more likely one would succumb to CO poisoning first. If there’s not enough fresh Oxygen coming in the by product of combustion, CO2, recirculates and when it burns the second time the CO2 drops one “O” and becomes CO….carbon monoxide.



Barry"


Not correct. Burning is the process of oxidation, combining oxygen (from atmosphere) with a carbon based substance to produce CO2 and heat. CO2 does not break down to CO through combustion (combustion is the addition of oxygen, not the subtraction). CO forms in combustion if the supply of oxygen is limited- it is incomplete combustion, not enough oxygen is present to combine 2 to 1 with the carbon.
 
Copperdog
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05/27/2022 04:15AM  
Banksiana,

Thanks for the correction, I may remember things wrong. I last took chemistry in 1986.
 
LaVirginienne
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05/27/2022 06:27AM  
Barry, so glad that you and your Dad got through it ok with warm, dry clothes and shelters! But nobody should wait hours for drinks or hot soup when hypothermic. Get hot fluids into the body as soon as possible. Hot drinks raise the core temperature fastest. In many cases, you need to introduce a heat source inside your insulation to rewarm the body effectively. Best is to have hot drinks in your Thermos, which should be in your day bag/grab bag/ditch bag.
 
gravelroad
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05/27/2022 10:04AM  
Gaidin53: "A burning tent with you in it would be horrible."

Been there, nearly participated in that. It was at least horrible to contemplate at the time, right up until its owner kicked an out-of-control stove out the tent door and down the hill ...
 
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