Best Carbon Monoxide Detector (for Camping, Tent and Travel)

Carbon Monoxide Detector, CO Alarm, CO Detector -

Best Carbon Monoxide Detector (for Camping, Tent and Travel)

When camping in tents, people typically do not think of dangers associated with carbon monoxide gas. However, carbon monoxide gas has killed tent campers in the past and should be taken as a serious threat by campers. CO accumulates due to propane and butane appliances such as cookers, lanterns and heaters. The use of a carbon monoxide detector is advised in order to better protect campers from potentially tragic outcomes. 

 Pros

Cons

  • Carbon monoxide detectors are inexpensive.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors last for several years.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors alert campers of potentially dangerous carbon monoxide build up.
  • CO Detectors from big box stores alarm at 70ppm, too high for campers.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors are not waterproof, and may not withstand the outdoor life - campers much select wisely. 

Is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous in a Tent?

Yes. In fact, carbon monoxide levels can build up to dangerous levels that are able to kill individuals relatively quickly within tents. Due to this, campers should take care to protect themselves and monitor the level of carbon monoxide present in their enclosed tent.

tent camping carbon monoxide

What Produces Carbon Monoxide when Camping in a Tent?

The carbon monoxide producing appliances include cookers, grills, heaters and propane lanterns.

Especially, when it is cold, campers often close all doors and tent openings to prevent heat escape. In doing so, one is actually creating a gas chamber, a volume of space where no fresh air can enter. So when propane is used as a fuel source carbon monoxide emissions cannot escape, ventilation is diminished, and therefore carbon monoxide can quickly accumulate to dangerous levels within a tent - which by the way is a small volume and confined space.

Also since carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, it makes this a significant threat to campers in a tent.

Is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous when Camping?

Yes.

Carbon monoxide is dangerous and can even lead to death in some cases. It functions in this dangerous capacity by displacing oxygen molecules in the body upon exposure.

Carbon monoxide continues to be a threat due to people's inability to detect it using their senses alone. When concentrations build up, people are unaware of the dangerous presence of carbon monoxide and may fall ill as a result of this exposure. Tragically, carbon monoxide contributes to roughly 400 deaths of people in the United States each year.

Carbon Monoxide is produced by camping items such as a simple propane lantern or heater.

propane lantern carbon monoxide

What Are Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Exposure?

There are a variety of symptoms that people suffering from carbon monoxide exposure may experience. Many describe them as being similar to symptoms experiences during the flu. Just a few are outlined below:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Stomach irritation

Of course, carbon monoxide poisoning may lead to serious complications as well, including death.

How Can You Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in a Tent?

Carbon monoxide poisoning does pose a threat to those using tents for camping, however there are ways to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Propane Burning Appliances

Stoves and fuel-burning heaters can release carbon monoxide gas which quickly builds up in an enclosed space such as a tent. Propane lanterns are also a problem and so too are charcoal grills. 


Ventilation & External Sources

Ensure you have good air flow and ventilation in your tent. Also, ensure your tent is not in the line of emissions from a down wind that has picked up carbon monoxide from a nearby outdoor cook, nearby RV exhaust, nearby portable generator, nearby vehicle exhaust.

Carbon Monoxide Monitor

A carbon monoxide monitor can save lives of people camping in tents. These can be placed in the tent at all time so that users can continuously monitor the carbon monoxide and ensure that it stays at safe levels.

    Why Isn't it Safe to Use a Camping Stove Inside of a Tent?

    It is unsafe to use a camping stove inside of a tent because they can release dangerous levels of carbon monoxide gas that build up in enclosed spaces such as tents. These devices require effective ventilation-- ventilation that tents simply do not offer.

    Has Anyone Died from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning while Camping in a Tent?

    Yes. Several tragedies are outline below:

    • In 1999, six people were found dead in their tents with a propane gas stove in one tent and a charcoal grill in the other tent in Georgia. Carbon monoxide poisoning was determined postmortem.
    • In 2013, four people were found unconscious in a tent with a grill in it in the U.K., and one of those four people died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
    • In 2020, four people were found dead in a tent with a propane heater attached to it in Stanton, Delaware. Carbon monoxide poisoning was suspected. 
    carbon monoxide tent

    Do I Need a Carbon Monoxide Detector in a Tent?

    Yes.

    The presence of a carbon monoxide detector in a tent may prevent accidental deaths as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. These devices will alert the user if unsafe levels of carbon monoxide gas are reached.

    Where Should I Place my Carbon Monoxide Detector in a Tent?

    The carbon monoxide detector can be placed anywhere in the tent, as long as the detector is not covered with material or blankets. Hence, always best to mount off the ground.

    What is a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

    Carbon monoxide detectors or carbon monoxide alarms are monitoring devices designed to alarm users of potentially harmful levels of carbon monoxide gas. They are recommended for use in the home and also recommended for use in tents. There are portable devices that work well in tents.

    How Does a Carbon Monoxide Detector Work?

    Carbon monoxide detectors are used to monitor the concentration of carbon monoxide gas in the air. They function through three different sensing principles:

    • Biomimetic sensor: In this sensor, a color-changing gel sets off an alarm when pre-set carbon monoxide levels have been reached.
    • Metal oxide semiconductor: In this sensor, an electric circuit is used to monitor the presence of carbon monoxide.
    • Electrochemical sensor: In this sensor, electrodes monitor changes in electrical currents caused by increasing levels of carbon monoxide.

    What is the Best Carbon Monoxide Detector for Camping?

    In selecting a CO detector for tent camping, it is important the detector alarms at a low level of Carbon Monoxide. We do not recommend using a home CO detector because they alarm too high and are too slow for a tent confined space. They alarm at 70ppm at 60 to 240 minutes. For a tent, a fast and responsive carbon monoxide detector is warranted. Some excellent choices include:

    How Expensive Are Carbon Monoxide Detectors?

    Typically, carbon monoxide detectors are inexpensive. Some basic devices can be found and purchased for under $50 and more complex devices often cost below $100, such as the Forensics Detectors' Waterproof Carbon Monoxide Meter.

    How Long Do Carbon Monoxide Detectors Last?

    Most carbon monoxide detectors are able to last between 2 to 10 years. Always double check! Ensure maintenance is kept up with battery replaced regularly. Testing carbon monoxide detectors regularly is recommended to ensure that you are always protected.

    What Are Dangerous Levels of Carbon Monoxide in My Tent?

    No standards for carbon monoxide concentration for camping in tents has been established unfortunately. However, there are some others campers can look at to obtain some guidance.

    It can get confusing since various agencies and organizations have different recommended exposure levels. There are some guidelines that can be extrapolated for personal safety. 

    Agency

    Limits

    WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO)

    9 ppm average over 8 hours

    ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA)

    9 ppm average over 8 hours

    THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF HEATING, REFRIGERATING AND AIR-CONDITIONING ENGINEERS (ASHRAE)

    9 ppm average over 8 hours

    NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH (NIOSH)

    35 ppm average over 10 hours

    200 ppm ceiling value

    OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION (OSHA)

    50 ppm average over 8 hours

    AMERICAN CONFERENCE OF GOVERNMENTAL INDUSTRIAL HYGIENISTS (ACGIH)

    25 ppm average over 8 hours

    CO DETECTOR ALARMING PROTOCOL
    UL2034 (USA)

    > 70 ppm (60 to 240 minutes)

    > 200 ppm (10 to 50 minutes)

    > 400 ppm (4 to 15 minutes)

    CO DETECTOR ALARMING PROTOCOL
    EN 50291:2001 (EUROPE)

    > 50 ppm (60 to 90 minutes)
    > 100 ppm (10 to 40 minutes)
    > 300 ppm (3 minutes)

    FORENSICS LOW LEVEL CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR

    > 25 ppm (1 minute) 

    carbon monoxide monitor camping

    What Gases Does a Carbon Monoxide Detector Detect?

    The vast majority of carbon monoxide detectors are designed to only detect carbon monoxide gas.

    Can I Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector Myself?

    Yes.

    People can install their own carbon monoxide detectors. This makes carbon monoxide detectors even easier to bring on camping trips in the tent. Carbon monoxide monitors will come with an instruction set on their set-up, so users can simply use that to install and start using their carbon monoxide meter.

    Now, some CO detectors come with mounting screws, made for "wall mount" home situations. This will not work in a tent. For a tent, simply leave your CO monitor on the ground, clear from clothing or material that may obstruct air flow through the CO monitor grills. Or, some meters have alligator clips, in which case, you can easily clip it at mid height in the tent to a piece of tent material.

    carbon monoxide detector alarm

    Where Can I Find a Portable Carbon Monoxide Detector?

    Numerous retailers sell portable carbon monoxide detectors that individuals can purchase. Forensics Detectors, in fact, sells a portable carbon monoxide detector that is also waterproof-- very convenient for tent campers.

    How Do I Test my Carbon Monoxide Detector?

    After a new carbon monoxide detector has been installed, testing it is important to ensure it is actually working. 

    • Use carbon monoxide test gas, or bump gas, to ensure proper carbon monoxide detection is taking place and the monitor has the capacity to alert the user of the presence of carbon monoxide gas. 
    • Use the test button on the device to ensure it is able to alarm the user properly.
    • Use our FAST and FREE way to test your carbon monoxide monitor. See video below.

    Final Words

    • When camping, make sure to be safe. Do not use propane appliances inside your tent. Have a carbon monoxide alarm.
    • Carbon monoxide monitors may also be called carbon monoxide detectors, carbon monoxide meters, and carbon monoxide alarms among other names.
    • Campers using tents should bring a portable carbon monoxide detector with them so that they can prevent a potential tragedy from carbon monoxide poisoning.
    • Other CO sources include neighbor exhaust, portable generators, vehicles idling, down wind emissions entering your tent or nearby cooking, coal or fires. However, of all those incidents in tents, indoor propane burning appliances is the biggest problem.

    About the Author

    Dr. Koz is the President of FORENSICS DETECTORS, where the company operates from the scenic Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, California. He is a subject matter expert on gas sensor technology, gas detectors, gas meters, and gas analyzers. He has been designing, building, manufacturing and testing toxic gas detection systems for over 20 years.

    gas detector expert

    Every day is a blessing for Dr. Koz. He loves to help customers solve their unique problems. Dr. Koz also loves spending time with his wife and his three children going to the beach, grilling burgers, and having a cold beer. 

    Read more about Forensics Detectors here.

    Email:  drkoz@forensicsdetectors.com
    Phone: +1 424-341-3886


    1 comment

    • Deborah Trant

      Why have they not developed a EMF wall monitor for homes, so people will know when the level is to high? I think they are very necessary. Thanks

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