A camping stove is one of those classic camping accessories– and for good reason! After a sleeping bag and tent, it’s one of the most important items to bring on a camping trip.
And for those staycation-style home “camping trips” (especially as of Covid), you may feel tempted to set up your camping stove indoors.
However, before doing so, there are some important safety precautions to keep in mind. While your kitchen stove works fine indoors, throwing up a camping stove needs to be done correctly to remain safe.
If your gut instinct is that indoor + fire = bad, you’re on the right track. Still, there are some exceptions.
In today’s article, we go over whether you can use a camping stove indoors, and how to stay safe. Enjoy!
Can You Use a Camping Stove Indoors?
In general, no.
Due to the carbon monoxide that camping stoves emit, whether a propane stove or gas stove, not to mention the risk of fire, most camping stoves are not safe to use indoors without proper ventilation.
Read below for more details on the two potential dangers.
1. The Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Due to the carbon monoxide that camping stoves emit, whether a propane stove or gas stove, they are not safe to use indoors for two separate reasons that we’ll outline below.
Carbon monoxide (CO) binds with the oxygen cells in our blood, making it difficult to breathe. If you remain in the environment for long enough, like if you’re asleep, it can even be fatal.
However, there are specific cases where certain camping stoves are safe to use indoors. We’ll outline those below.
2. The Risk of Fire
For most people, a camping stove being a fire risk likely comes to mind sooner than than the dangers from carbon monoxide exposure.
And indeed, using a butane or propane camp stove indoors can have fire safety risks associated with it. The stove has an open flame, after all.
To maximize safety, never put camping stoves on a flammable surface like wood, carpet, or synthetic materials. Ideally, elevate the stove above the ground entirely, and always follow the stove’s operating instructions.
Additional Warning About Tent Usage
In our view, there is no reason to use a camp stove inside your tent. Compared to a house, tents can go up in flames in seconds. Clearly, this is a huge safety risk.
As if that wasn’t enough, the carbon monoxide emissions will, as we discussed above, bind with the oxygen in your blood cells and lead to difficulty breathing.
Most campers agree that about 40 feet of distance between your tent and your stove is a safe distance to avoid any fire hazards.
5 Safer Alternatives to Using Camping Stoves indoors
Even when done is a safer way, whenever you use a camping stove indoors, you’re putting yourself at a certain level of risk. To help minimize this, we’ve compiled some alternatives you can use to cook food, or at least minimize cold food.
Some of these tips are more focused on camping trips, while others can also be used in your backyard if you’re thinking about using a camp stove indoors.
1. Use an Open-sided and Fire-rated Canopy
When fabric like a pavilion is over an open fire, there’s always a chance that the fabric will catch light. That said, an open canopy is much safer than cooking inside your tent.
You can also use a canopy that is specifically fire-rated, like this E-Z Up, to have an extra layer of safety. But as always with a fire, make sure to attend the stove the entire time it’s active.
2. Use a Safer Type of Stove
White Gas Stoves
White gas is colorless, hence the name, and burns brightly and quickly. It also produces a lot of heat, making it excellent for many camping situations.
For camp stoves in a ventilated pavilion or a room with nearby open windows, white gas is generally safe to use.
However, the gas is highly flammable (hence it burning so well), so any leakage can become dangerous. Make sure to monitor your can, just like any other liquid gas.
Denatured Alcohol Stoves
Denatured alcohol, also called methylated spirits, is a type of ethyl alcohol that has additives to make it “unsuitable for consumption” according to Healthline (hopefully you weren’t thinking about ingesting any of these fuels!).
For our purposes, this kind of alcohol is an affordable and reasonably clean-burning gas. And most importantly, denatured alcohol produces less carbon monoxide than other forms of fuel.
You may have also heard about methylated spirits in terms of comparing it to isopropyl alcohol. Sometimes the terms and used interchangeably. For our indoor camp stove purposes, the terms effectively the same.
Propane stoves are some of the most common outdoor camping stoves. Propane is affordable, and doesn’t emit an odor like other common gases.
What’s more, propane burns brightly, is lightweight (even in large propane tanks), and is generally safe. In part, this last point is because propane leaking is easy to detect due to the bad smell that’s added to propane to make it easy to detect.
Specifically for our purposes, using propane indoors is considered safe. Like the other gases on our list, make sure to have proper ventilation by opening a window.
As a final note, isobutane-propane mixes like the MSR IsoPro fall under the same safety advice as using a propane stove indoors. Which is to say, once again, ensure proper ventilation if you’re using isobutane-propane or propane stoves.
3. Consider Trying Canned Heat
Canned heat is similar to an alcohol burner, but in a more portable form. The cans are, unfortunately, single-use, but can be a good option instead of using a camping equipment indoors without adequate ventilation.
A specific variant of canned heat is Safe Heat, which is actually designed for indoor use.
In addition, Safe Heat produces far fewer CO and CO2 emissions, making it an excellent option to be used indoors.
However, the risk of fire is still present, so make sure to have the burner away from fire sources.
4. Keep Food Warm In Your Pack
There are other ways to get a hot meal without using a gas- or wood-burning camping stove.
Insulated bags or totes, for example, help keep food warm longer. If you keep it snug in a backpack or bag, it just might stay warm enough through your whole camping trip.
5. Cook Under Natural Cover Like Trees
One of the safest alternatives to using camping stoves inside is to use them outside!
As you already know by now, one of the biggest dangers of using a camping stove indoors is that they emit carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide. When you’re outside, you automatically have more than enough ventilation to be much safer.
Camping stoves are excellent for staying warm while camping. They can also work for cooking indoors, but there are real risks to keep in mind.
If done safely by having proper ventilation and keeping your stove away from flammable material, you can greatly reduce the potential risks of indoor use.
Whenever possible, though, try one of our safer alternatives to help prevent anything from happening. And as always, enjoy the trip!