Fall campers need to know the differences between inside-safe and outdoor-only portable propane heaters

bessington 19/08/2015

Enjoying the colorful panoramas of a golden Autumn and those last few days of outdoor fun is an annual draw for Fall campers returning to their favorite campground long after the summer campers have packed it in for the winter. And with over 3,000 campgrounds and RV parks nationwide, there are plenty of choices for planning a weekend getaway to a nearby lake to hike, fish, hunt or kayak

Fall weather also brings colder temperatures and the possibility of a bone-chilling rain, or even snow, that can keep campers huddled inside their tents, truck caps and trailers to keep warm. That’s when campers consider using a portable propane heater to keep out the cold. And if they are operating a portable heater that is not designed for indoor-safe use, there is also a serious risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“There are portable propane heaters specifically designed and approved for temporary indoor use so if you are shopping for a portable heater, the most important step you should considering when purchasing a portable propane heater is to read the packaging and make sure it is identified as “Indoor-Safe” for use indoors in well-ventilated enclosures when instructions and warnings accompanying the product are properly followed.

Today, there are a variety of indoor-safe portable propane heaters available at major retailers of various shapes and sizes. Note that if the heater operates by mounting it on
a 20lb LP tank, like the ones used for barbeque grills, it is most likely not safe for indoor use. Portable propane heaters (like the Portable Mr. Heater Buddy)  use a small 1lb propane cylinder to operate and feature an oxygen depletion system (ODS) that shuts off automatically if fresh air circulation is reduced below a safe level inside a tent or RV.

Carbon monoxide dangers can be avoided by using portable heaters that feature an ODS system and are identified as “Indoor Safe” on the packaging and operating instructions. Campers should be cautious to never use any heaters identified as an “outdoor-only” propane-fueled camping product inside a tent, cabin, camper, truck cap, trailer, RV or other enclosure since they burn oxygen faster than available air even when ventilated.
When air flow is diminished, Carbon Monoxide (CO) remains and can lead to sickness
and even death.

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

  • Always read the manufacturer’s packaging and operating instructions for proper use and proper ventilation.
  • Heaters labeled or identified as “outdoor-use only” must never be used indoors or in enclosed areas such as tents, campers, houses and vehicles.
  • 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. Consumers 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.

About the Author