Quiz - Can a Camping Stove be Used Indoors

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I know, you’re all dying to know. Problem is, there are completely different opinions plus one manufacturer chiming in. I’m not an expert on camp stoves or their use. All I can do is present opinions and recommendations given by blogs and companies that know more than me. Have I personally used a camping stove indoors? Does it count if I used it in my barn when the power was out, with the barn door open? My friends lovingly refer to me as the safety Nazi. I am, I’ll admit it. If there was a 12-step program to get over it, I’d be there.
I have used camping stoves in all kinds of weather, in all kinds of locations but the one place that’s a hard sell for me is, indoors. As a disclaimer here, I do not endorse the use of a camping stove, that is certified for outdoor use, be used indoors. I have to admit that in all my years working in hospitals, I never was called to the ER because of a camping stove being used indoors (fingers chopped off by a snowblower – now that’s a different story). My first thought about this subject is, why would you have no other choice than to cook inside on a camping stove?

  • If your power is out, don’t you have anything non-perishable you can cook?
  • If your power is out at home, aren’t your gas or charcoal grills good enough?
  • If you’re camping and the weather is lousy, refer to the first bullet In an effort to provide you with some info to think about, I’ve have opinions from both sides of this dilemma. Let the debate begin… Since I could not find a gas camping stove in many Google searches for different search terms, that was advertised, certified or described for use as an indoor/outdoor cooker, I’ll assume the manufacturers and certifying agencies don’t think it’s a good idea. Your main concern when using an outdoor camping stove indoors, is the build-up of carbon monoxide in the space where you’re cooking. Here is how OSHA describes what happens to your body when it’s exposed to carbon monoxide or CO: “Carbon monoxide is harmful when breathed because it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain, and other vital organs of oxygen. Large amounts of CO can overcome you in minutes without warning—causing you to lose consciousness and suffocate.” The Center for Disease Control reports that somewhere between 10 and 17 deaths occur a year from misuse of outdoor stoves and lanterns in a closed space. YIKES. I’d say they are good enough reasons to be concerned about carbon monoxide. Before you stop reading though, I will share a few success stories and suggestions that might work in a pinch. Hunker, a company that provided content for folks to improve their homes and Trails, a company that creates info for outdoor enthusiasts, both wrote blogs on how to use camping stoves indoors. I think they make a lot of valid points and I added a few I thought of to the list.

Ventilation is a Huge Concern

Remember that carbon monoxide thing? Your stove should be placed in very close proximity to an open door or window(s). You must have air exchange so the CO doesn’t build up. I would suggest having cross-ventilation. Even if you have the door wide open and the window only open halfway, you’ll get more air flow that with only on item open. If you’re cooking in a kitchen, you could place the camp stove on top of your indoor stove and turn on the vent above. Make sure the vent is ducted to the outside or all you’ll be doing is stirring the pot. If you’re brave enough to be cooking in a tent (I can think of tons of reasons why this is not the best idea), make sure you the peak vents and the door wide open.

No Automatic Shut-Off

Camp stoves are not equipped with an automatic shut-off.
If your flame gets blown our or rained out, the is no automatic shut-off and the gas will continue to pump into the air.
For this reason (and many more), never leave your lit camp stove unattended. Even if you’re just going to check the kids or grab a beer. Potentially deadly gas will build up in your house or tent.

Check ALL Connections

Make sure you tighten all the connections on your stove and gas source. A loose connection can be the source of a leak which could be deadly to breathe, cause an explosion or even a fire.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

Anytime you’re cooking with gas in a closed space you should have a gas detector and a carbon monoxide detector installed with fresh batteries. Detectors in good working order will alert you if there are dangerous levels in the room.

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) – It’s Not a Room Full of Writers

Underwriters Laboratories is a company that certifies products with a UL Approval. This is a certificate that certifies the safety of manufactured products, services, and consumers. Without a UL certificate, you should not even consider using the camp stove indoors

Fire – You Don’t Want a Disco Inferno

Wherever you decide to park your camp stove, make sure it’s far, far away from paper, books, oven mitts, curtains, and anything flammable. It really should be the only item on the counter, table or wherever you place it.

On the Flip Side

There is information aplenty on the Internet warning you not to use a camp stove indoors. Quora has answers to a question about the safety of using a camp stove indoors and it has been read several thousands of times. In my opinion, the best answer is by Eric Hahn.
He does not recommend it but outlines several things to watch out for if you are going to anyway:

  • Use a stove designed for indoor use
  • Have great ventilation
  • Use carbon monoxide detectors
  • If the flame is either really strong or weak it might be a sign of the stove malfunctioning. Production of soot is not a good sign either
  • Weird smell is bad
  • Metallic taste in your mouth is bad
  • Dead plants are really bad
  • Get out of the space if you have a headache, dizziness or nausea The Coleman Company chimes in with their side of the story: “Your Coleman stove and lantern using liquid fuel or propane are designed for outdoor use only. All fuel appliances (Stoves and Lanterns) should be used outdoors in well-ventilated areas clear of combustible materials due to the danger of fire and the emission of carbon monoxide (CO) from burning fuel and the effects of carbon monoxide exposure. “

At the End of the Day

After reading a lot of blogs, manufacturers recommendations, facts, and opinions, We do not think it would ever be absolutely necessary to use a camp stove indoors. Instead always use the stove outside. Or eat food that doesn’t require the use of the camping stove.

feature image credit: Photo by Alex Sumin on Reshot