In the news today is a story of a man in Styria who was found dead in his tent recently with his gas stove still lit:
The article suggests that he died as a result of lack of oxygen, but I can’t help but think it was actually due to carbon monoxide poisoning. I know there was an issue with a new MSR gas stove a while back that produced quite alarming levels of carbon monoxide; although in fairness to MSR, the issue was quickly acknowledged and remedied. However, with more and more cheap Chinese stoves coming on the market, with no testing whatsoever, the risk is not getting any smaller. It’s a shame, because some of the Chinese stoves work well and are very cheap. Whatever stove you have, you should only ever cook in the tent as a last resort, and then with as much ventilation as possible. It seems the man in question had left the stove running in order to heat the tent. I think if you are cold in your tent, the received wisdom is that you need a bigger sleeping bag; leaving the stove running overnight is definitely not the answer! It’s just another instance where the consumer operates on the basis of some pretty big, and in this case deadly, assumptions. Stay safe
Matt, the page you linked to takes FAR too long to load (5 minutes and waiting) which frankly is typical of Microsoft’s web products, so I didn’t get to read the article.
Shame about the poor fellow who died in his tent, and your remarks are spot on. But I would add another - that camping gas stoves in colder weather are virtually useless, since the gas - which is liquefied in the can - needs a heat source to allow the liquefied gas to vaporize such that it can be used by the stove, or lamp, whatever. In such cold conditions, the stove becomes so sluggish in performance, that it can take 1/2 hour to boil enough water for a single cup of tea!
Much better for such conditions would be a stove which uses a liquid fuel such as alcohol (Brit. meths) to burn, which provides heat regardless of the ambient temperature, and will provide you with a cup of tea in just a few minutes. My personal favourite stove for the outdoors is the Trangia, but YMMV.
I have been cooking with gas since the little Bluet stoves hit the high street in the late '50’s and made a million Primus stoves obsolete at a stroke! I have never had a tent where the ventilation is so poor that cooking inside it causes a risk of asphyxiation. Cooking inside the tent is practically essential in British weather conditions unless you are an extreme fair weather camper…otherwise bacon and eggs quickly drowns and becomes soup! This is not to say that one should be cavalier about the risk of carbon monoxide, nowadays all the campsites have warning posters about barbecues inside the tent, and we all know the warning signs of the gas flames turning yellow, and that is what it takes, a little knowledge and a little observation to stay safe.
Sorry if the link is slow, below is the original story:
Ein 35-jähriger Leibnitzer ist am Samstagvormittag tot in einem Einmannzelt an einem Teich in St. Veit in der Südsteiermark aufgefunden worden. Der Mann hatte gemeinsam mit einem Freund bei dem Schotterteich gefischt und sein Zelt mit einem Gaskocher beheizt, teilte die Polizei in einer Aussendung mit.
Der 35-Jährige und sein Freund hatten jeweils in einem Zelt übernachtetet - als der Mann gefunden wurde, war der Gaskocher in seinem Zelt noch in Betrieb. “Die Vermutung, dass durch diesen Heizvorgang der Sauerstoff im Zelt des 35-jährigen Leibnitzers entzogen wurde und der Fischer deshalb zu Tode kam liegt nahe und wurde auch durch die Totenbeschau bestätigt”, hieß es dazu am Samstag von der Polizei. Fremdverschulden wurde ausgeschlossen.
English, courtesy of Google translate:
A 35-year-old Leibnitzer was found dead on Saturday morning in a one-man tent at a pond in St. Veit in southern Styria. The man had fished together with a friend at the Schotterteich and heated his tent with a gas stove, the police said in a release.
The 35-year-old and his friend had each slept in a tent - when the man was found, the gas stove in his tent was still in operation. “The assumption that by this heating process the oxygen in the tent of the 35-year-old Leibnitzers was withdrawn and the fisherman therefore came to death is close and was also confirmed by the Totenbeschau”, it was said on Saturday by the police. Third party debt was excluded.
You are quite right about the performance of canister stoves in winter, but there is a good solution, which is a remote canister with ‘pre-heat’ tube:
These stoves function just like a normal liquid fuel stove, vaporising the fuel in the tube, so that ambient temperature does not affect performance. As can be seen, the canister even has a neat stand so that it can be inverted, allowing liquid fuel to flow down the hose, whilst leaving the valve in a good position for operation. The weight of these stoves is also very competitive compared to standard canister top stoves.
Which is why, in this case, I suspect carbon monoxide rather than asphyxiation as the cause of death. And as I said, whilst tried and trusted brands may have been properly tested, with the addition of cheap imports, that situation is changing. There are other risks, such as fire and explosion. I seem to remember a story in the past few years where a stove exploded, seriously injuring the occupants of the tent. I almost set my Hilleberg Akto on fire whilst using a liquid fuel stove, but then perhaps I shouldn’t have been using petroleum ether as the fuel.
Or you have a stove which is designed to be used outdoors, even in below-zero conditions, or rain, or high winds: like the Trangia I mentioned, which performs beautifully in such conditions as I can attest from many backpacking expeditions in the mountains of North Wales, Lake district and Scotland, also Alta Via 1&2 in the Dolomites. A gas stove in such conditions is a very poor performer.
EDIT: just seen the post from Matt re the gas stove with pre-heater, which appears to alleviate some of the problems with a gas stove, but would still be a poor performer in high winds unless you build a wind-break. The Trangia has its’ own wind-break built in.
Yep very dangerous to use in Tent especially for heating of.
But not quite as dangerous as ME.
Used suit case cookers in past with gas cartage bottles, Trouble is when you replace the cart, some times gas can come out in its liquid form. Strong advise here let is dissipate and vapor off unlike me and friend was a bloody great thud/woof and 5ft fireball. With pair of us leaping back shouting a few profound words disturbing others in camp around us.
Thank god we were not inside the tent at the time would be far worse than dying from CO poisoning.
Best laugh on another part of the camping area spotted a woman about to make the same mistake and showed her how to do it proper like no woof bang there. So little gas liquid split and such big fire ball.
So take care when using any form of cooker from wood to gas. Best lessons in life are HARSH