Warm up tips for safe camping on cool nights

bessington 23/04/2014

The spring and early summer months are the perfect time to enjoy the blossoming beauty of the outdoors with family and friends.  But if you’re planning a camping vacation or a weekend getaway, make sure you are prepared for dropping temperatures at night.

While a safely constructed campfire remains one of the best outdoor traditions for warming up outside, weather changes can bring rain and cold spells that drives campers inside tents and RVs to keep warm.

While large tank mounted portable propane heaters can help to take the chill out of a spring night outdoors around the camp or picnic area, CampSafe warns campers to never use any outdoor-only propane heater inside a cabin, tent, truck cap, camper, RV or other enclosure.  Portable propane heaters act like an open flame to burn fuel and rapidly consume oxygen for combustion, which produces carbon monoxide (CO) as a byproduct.  Campers run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when products labeled for outdoor use are used inside, especially overnight while sleeping.

Indoor safe heaterPortable radiant heaters that mount on a 20lb barbeque style propane tank are designed mainly for outdoor and construction use, and not indoor use.

Today, there are heaters available that are approved for safe use indoors or in well-ventilated enclosures if the warnings and instructions accompanying the product are followed.  Indoor-safe heaters are identified as such on the packaging and have built in safety feature that include and oxygen depletion systems(ODS) that shuts off automatically if oxygen levels inside an enclosure start to fall as well as a tip-over safety shut-off. Indoor-safe heaters operate using 1lb propane cylinders or with a hose extension for attaching to a 20lb tank outside of an enclosure for extended use.

The Camp Safe Coalition urges campers to follow these tips to remain safe this camping season:

  • Always read the manufacturers’ packaging and operating instructions for proper use and handling. Be sure to look for, and read information about indoor safe use and safety features.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning, which can easily be mistaken for a cold or flu, is often detected too late.  Know the symptoms: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness and confusion.  Campers who experience any of these symptoms should extinguish any possible source of CO and move to an area with fresh air.
  • No matter how cold, no fuel-burning appliance should be operated overnight in an enclosed area while sleeping, even products labeled indoor-safe.  To keep warm overnight, stick with the basics:
  • Eat a good meal – especially one rich in protein, carbohydrates and fat – to get your inner furnace going.
  • Wear layers of clothing to bed.  Keep your head covered to avoid loss of body heat.
  • Use a foam mat or cot to eliminate ground chill and moisture.
  • Use a sleeping bag designed for cold weather camping.

To request a free copy of the CampSafe’s propane products safety brochure, or for more information, visit www.campsafe.org or write to P.O. Box 45002, Cleveland, OH, 44145.

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