Can I Sleep With a Kerosene Heater On In a Tent?


Can I sleep with a kerosene heater on in a tent

When camping during fall and winter, your tent alone cannot keep you warm. Carrying warm bedding and clothing is one way to make sure that you are warm, but sometimes a heater is essential. Seasoned campers have found innovative ways to stay warm. The use of propane, kerosene and other fuel heaters is popular. But, Can I sleep with a kerosene heater on in a tent?

A kerosene heater can spell disaster if you do not have enough ventilation. Using a kerosene heater creates two risks- carbon monoxide poisoning and fire. It is not advisable to fall asleep with the kerosene heater on in a tent. 

Nobody wants to wake up to a tent that is on fire. Sleeping with a kerosene heater on could mean that your tent overheats or catches a stray spark and is on fire.

If your tent does not have a chimney that is properly connected to the heater, the fumes from the heater could kill you. Carbon monoxide is one of the by-products of a kerosene flame. If this accumulates inside your tent, chances are that you will suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning.  

Reasons that you should keep your kerosene heater off during the night

The most important thing to remember is that no heater is safe. After all, every heater provides heat and could end up heating the inside of the tent beyond the required temperature. The reasons behind putting out your kerosene heater before you go to sleep are

  • They could consume too much oxygen. Oxygen depletion is a common occurrence when campers use kerosene heaters for long periods. Keeping it on for the whole night in your tent could be dangerous. Some heaters use fuels that come with oxygen depletion sensors. But most of them do not, since it is not mandatory to have them. 
  • They could cause carbon monoxide poisoning. The amount of carbon monoxide that gas heaters emit varies. But what remains in common is that gas heaters emit carbon monoxide. It is a product of combustion. If this is in the open air, you do not face much danger of poisoning from this gas. However, when you are in a closed space like your tent, the oxygen depletion combined with excess carbon monoxide could spell disaster for you. 
  • They could pose a fire hazard. Since heaters are a source of heat, the insides of your tent could heat up quickly. If you keep the heater on throughout the night, you increase the risk of ignition of nearby objects or even fallen leaves. 
  • They could tip while you are asleep. Most heaters come with an automatic safety tipping switch. Nevertheless, while you are asleep, the heater could fall or tip because of some movement within the tent. Since the inside of the tent is restricted space, tipping of a kerosene heater is again hazardous. You could bump into it while asleep, and it could fall over.

What are the types of fumes emit from a kerosene heater?

Kerosene heaters give out other gases- carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. All of these gases are not good for the body when inhaled. These affect asthmatic people, causing breathing difficulties. The longer that your heater is on, the more your chances of inhaling the toxic fumes. It could even be fatal as you could die from asphyxiation. 

These fumes could also affect those with cardiovascular disease, pregnant women, and the elderly. They could also damage the nervous system. For those with prior medical issues, inhaling these fumes could make you feel drowsy, dizzy, or even lead to convulsions. 

Since most kerosene heaters do not come with a built-in sensor, it would be a good idea to invest in a carbon monoxide detector

The consensus is that a kerosene heater is not safe for a small tent. Only a large, well-ventilated tent will be safe from the fumes that a kerosene heater emits. 

How much ventilation do we need if we use a kerosene heater?

The fumes from a kerosene heater could even cause death if inhaled for a long period. These fumes should not be allowed to accumulate in a closed space. 

Therefore, adequate ventilation should be there inside your tent. A source of fresh air is required. Keep your chimneys, door, or window open at least for one inch if you’re using a kerosene heater.

Kerosene heaters require a lot of oxygen while burning. If the area in which they are kept is not ventilated properly, the oxygen in the air gets depleted quickly. Without enough oxygen, there is incomplete combustion of fuel. So, carbon monoxide is produced. If this is inhaled for a lengthy duration of time, it could prove fatal for campers. 

Ventilation helps to combat both the issues at hand. It provides a safe outlet for all the harmful gases that are the by-products of burning and combustion. It also ensures the proper flow of oxygen into the tent. 

Many tents come with chimneys. These tents are specially designed to stop the accumulation of gases inside the tent and to make sure that the fumes from the heater are channeled out of the tent. 

Other issues if you have kerosene heaters inside your tent:

Kerosene produces dry heat. Kerosene can effectively heat a small to average-sized tent if the temperature is not below freezing. This is because the heater circulates warm air throughout the tent. 

Some heaters come with a reflector. This can be used to direct heat towards one part of the tent. This is especially useful when the occupants of the tent are seated away from any combustible items that are within the tent. 

It is this dry heat that can be disastrous as well. The heat from the heater can cause combustible substances, including the walls of your tent to catch fire.  

Kerosene vs electric heaters- which one is best to use inside a tent?

In general, whether inside a tent or in a room of a house, electric heaters are better for use. Kerosene heaters are hazardous to the extent that they are illegal in some states. 

The most appealing feature of an electric heater is that it consumes almost no oxygen. Another advantage is that you do not have to carry any fuel for it. This minimizes another risk- the stored fuel catching fire or being tampered with. Electric heaters do not produce carbon monoxide. This makes them safer for use in a confined space like a tent. 

The drawback of an electric heater is that it requires a power outlet. Unless you find one that uses batteries or contrive a way to carry a power source with you, these are practically useless at a campsite. 

Kerosene heaters are preferred because they can be set up easily. You will never run out of heat if you carry enough fuel with you. However, you must store this fuel outside your tent, because it could heat up and catch fire. Kerosene heaters are easily portable and can warm the space up sooner than electric heaters can. 

The downside of using either of these is that you are at high risk. The heating of your tent makes it easier for the objects within it to melt or to catch fire. 

FeatureElectric heaterKerosene heater
Heating of tent5 Star Ratings5 Star Ratings
Portability3 Star Ratings4 Star Ratings
Safety from harmful fumes4 Star Ratings1 Star Ratings
Fire hazard2 Star Ratings2 Star Ratings
Oxygen depletion sensor5 Star Ratings1 Star Ratings
Tip detection5 Star Ratings3 Star Ratings

Final Words

If the proper ventilation is there, sleeping with kerosene tents may not be a serious issue. However, we recommend not to sleep with a kerosene heater inside your tent. Kerosene flames are not good for your health. Be on the safer side, and it is always better to be safer than sorry.

Since you’re a camper, I recommend going through the latest article I’ve written on which is better: folding or stuffing your tent and setting up your tent safely when raining. It will give you some unusual ideas on keeping your tent safe.

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