Home Beginners Camping Guide Is it Safe to Use a Catalytic Heater in a Tent?

Is it Safe to Use a Catalytic Heater in a Tent?

by Rayhan
Catalytic Heater in a Tent

Catalytic heaters require no fire to keep you warm on cold-weather camping. But is it safe to use a catalytic heater in a tent?

In general, a catalytic camping heater is safe as long as you maintain safety guidelines. Each heater comes customized with safety measures that are to be maintained by the consumer when operated.

If you end up running a malfunctioned catalytic heater or fail to keep up with the precautions, your tent can get on fire within minutes, or worse, it can affect you with Carbon Monoxide poisoning or other chemical reaction. 

Therefore, in this comprehensive guide, we have shared a detailed guideline on catalytic heaters’ pros & cons and how their safety precautions should be maintained. It is better to learn about the secure use of a tent safe heater before getting oneself abducted in the brutality of natural trauma. 

Catalytic Tent Heater: Definition and Usage

As previously mentioned, catalytic heaters require no additional heat source, such as fire to keep your tent warm. Instead, it requires only three things: Oxygen, Catalyst, and Fuel. Fuel as propane or natural gas upholds the heater’s proper execution. And a catalyst is anything that speeds up a chemical reaction for generating heat.

A catalytic heater is a definite solution for campers afraid of using fire. It technically uses a chemical reaction that eventually heats up the temperature of a tent’s enclosed space.

However, even though these heaters require no flame in use, they can inflict dangerous catastrophes if used inadequately. And this is not only applicable for plain heaters; but rather to any other heaters, including a catalytic propane heater or gas heater.

These heaters are designed to operate in a ventilated area. Without proper ventilation, the enclosed space of a tent can get too heated up, and the oxygen levels can get tremendously low. Besides, even though it’s claimed that these heaters are unable to cause carbon monoxide poisoning, at a certain point, they might be able to produce distinctive amounts of carbon monoxide. 

Why keep yourself at risk of carbon monoxide on purpose?

While choosing a heater, always check to ensure that it conforms to product safety standards. This means that the heater is safe in its heating process and won’t cause any chemical poisoning. You can also buy a carbon monoxide detector or oxygen depletion sensor for additional alert benchmarks.

I have tried some camping heaters and figured out that no technical machine is supposed to be flawless as its claims. With so many functionalities and features, I have found the Coleman Catalytic Heater the best in this case. However, it still imposes the risk of rapidly lowering the levels of Oxygen in a tent space. 

In honesty, this is somewhat common for every other portable heater. The chemical reaction that the catalyst plate uses to forge warmth causes depletion of Oxygen. Especially when you place such heaters in a tiny tent, it gets pretty hot inside. It doesn’t receive proper ventilation to keep the oxygen level at a good tier. 

More so, when you have set up your tent, it’s better to have different placement for the heater. Even though the heater will not run on fire consumption, there is a high chance that any flammable objects can ignite flame when in touch with the catalyst plate. Thus, make sure to keep at least a 3″x3″ distance around the area of these heaters while keeping away the ignition stuff.

Storing your catalytic heater too close to your sleeping bag can burn it in ashes. In addition, unattended heaters have a significant possibility of getting knocked over. If you’re inside a closed tent and the weather gets particularly nasty, use the heater outside to warm up rather than risking a fire indoors.

Catalytic Heaters Best Safety Practices

Learning about a catalytic heater’s safety practices works excellent to avoid any implicit dangers. It will not only safeguard the safety of your tent but will also function to provide a heat output that is free of unpleasant threats. Below are the crucial points mentioned regarding the heaters’ safe practices. Forgoing these tips will not be a good idea unless you are ready to bid on an unsafe camping trip

1. Read The Manufacturer’s Guidelines

I know it’s the most obvious safety tip to suggest, but many campers forget to check on that. Every heater includes a user manual, whether a catalytic or propane tent heater. The manual guide has all the safety features and maintenance crafted by the manufacturer. 

You should not avoid this action even if you are already familiar with the usage of catalytic heaters. Remember, each model comes with distinct heat settings. And that’s one of the main reasons every heater model holds an owner manual. 

2. Purchase Extra Protective Models

The catalytic heater is a flameless heater that produces no carbon monoxide emissions. However, still be sure to check the product description for any additional safety features like oxygen depletion sensors (ODS), over-heat protection, or spark arrestors.

Some advanced heating machine includes a tip-over protection system. Its job is to shut down the fuel supply immediately once the heater gets tipped over. 

On the other hand, the ODS (Oxygen Depletion System) should be in place to keep the occupants safe. The ODS is a high-precision, professional-grade oxygen sensor that reacts to changes in oxygen levels and triggers an alarm when it detects a drop below a safe level.

3. Keep Combustibles Away

It is essential to keep away these fuel-powered heaters from flammable materials. Keep the heater away from your sleeping bag, and anything else at least two feet away from the wall of your tent. To avoid a severe combustion process, it is highly recommended to check all your equipment when running a catalytic heater.

4. Cover The Heater While Not in Use

Protect your heater when you’re not using it. Make sure to place the heater underneath a glass bowl or place a towel over it to prevent dust and other tiny particulates from settling on its catalytic plate. These will increase your heater’s efficiency and reduce the risk of chemical poisoning.

5. Make Room for Adequate Ventilation

Without ventilation, catalytic heaters can decrease the oxygen levels in a room. Low oxygen levels can have serious health effects, like high blood pressure and decreased cognitive function. If you’re using a catalytic heater in a small room, we recommend opening doors and windows and using a low-emission alternative, such as a ceramic heater.

Since many different factors can contribute to low oxygen levels, the following symptoms indicate a potentially dropping O2 level and prompt immediate treatment.

  • The 20.9% is the average sea concentration level.
  • 12 – 15% can cause slightly increased heart rate and wobbly muscular coordination;
  • 10 – 14% causes emotional distortion, breathing difficulty, fatigue on slight movement;
  • 6 – 10% is hazardous as it triggers the nervous system for the loss of consciousness, nausea, and dizziness.
  • At last, if the oxygen level gets less than 6%, one can face immediate cardiac failure as well as breathing disruption.

Henceforth, make sure you open up the air vents when running your heater. It will let oxygen flow into the tent, replacing the inner hot air from your heater. Keeping this cycle going will keep your tent at a comfortable temperature.

6. Be Wary of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptom

Sometimes you may experience a faint smell of carbon monoxide produced from the heater. It can be due to overuse, overheating, or improper maintenance. Here are the common symptoms of identifying CO poisoning, 

  • Mild headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle pain
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Fatigue

Having a Portable CO Detector on Tent is Important. It can alert you when your high production levels of Carbon Monoxide are cheap and easy to operate.

Why are catalytic heaters better?

 catalytic heaters are better for Camping

Catalytic portable heaters for camping are a superior choice in several aspects.

Firstly, they have a sleek design and burn cleaner. That means they use less fuel and produce less air pollution. Certified by CSA 4.89, these heaters are safe to use indoors. They work faster and more efficiently, producing more heat than an open-flame heater with less CO emissions.

There’s definitely a tradeoff between safety, performance, and cost. You can enjoy warm and dry conditions while winter camping with proper ventilation. Their open flame is replaced by catalytic combustion, which allows the heater to operate at temperatures between 400- and 850 degrees Fahrenheit. 

While non-catalytic and open flame heaters burn propane to produce heat, catalytic heaters cannot operate efficiently with insufficient oxygen. This can result in carbon monoxide poisoning as well as long-term energy loss due to inefficient operation — reducing the overall life expectancy of your propane supply.

Catalytic heaters are more economical and safer than typical open-flame burners. They require around 15% less propane to function and burn for up to 20 hours on one 16.4 oz propane cylinder. Above all, their cost of ownership is lower and lasts much longer because they burn cleaner.

What To Consider While Buying a Catalytic Camping Heater?

Tents require additional safety dealings for the Catalytic heaters, that’s true. But only relying on safety practices can’t help in accident avoidance. If you purchase a faulty machine, you are likely to inflict dangers on yourself and those around you. It can burn the catalyst plate alongside any flammable objects close to it without giving you the time to register the circumstances.

Therefore, you need to purchase the right camping heater that ensures better reliability and security. But what should you consider to finalize a perfect catalytic heater that meets your needs? Nothing much than the functionalities and specifications.

Learning about the different categories of a catalytic heater plays an essential role during its purchase. It allows you to have a thorough understanding of what you need. As every catalytic model doesn’t have every feature in a package, you must figure out a definite specification chart according to your requirements.

Have a clear acknowledgment of which size heater fits your tent. Because once you get the wrong size, it will cover the entire ventilation space, eventually causing severe chemical poisoning inside your tent. So, you must focus on the size during a catalytic heater purchase. It will keep both you and your tent out of danger by providing much space downright.

Another factor to look into when purchasing a catalytic heater is the safety features. Make sure to check whether your desired model has advanced safety features in it. Without ensuring the safety needs, it can be dangerous to purchase a heater. You will not know the heater’s capability to combat Carbon monoxide or other chemical reactive poisonings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Coleman catalytic heaters have been blamed for several house fires in the past. Some people say that they are dangerous because the catalyst can overheat and start a fire. Others say that they are safe if used correctly. Coleman has issued a warning about using their catalytic heaters in unventilated areas and recommends always keeping a window open when the heater is in use.

Coleman catalytic heaters are a popular choice for camping, as they are small and easy to transport. However, there is some concern that these heaters may produce carbon monoxide (CO), a poisonous gas. CO is produced when any fuel is burned and can be dangerous if breathed in high concentrations.

There have been reports of CO poisoning associated with Coleman catalytic heaters, but it is not clear whether the heaters themselves are responsible or if other factors such as improper use or faulty ventilation are to blame. In order to reduce the risk of CO poisoning, it is important to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and take precautions such as using the heater in a well-ventilated tent.

Catalytic heaters are more energy-efficient than other electric heaters, and they can last longer, too. How long a catalytic heater lasts depends on how often it’s used, the quality of the unit, and the quality of the catalyst. Most catalytic heaters last for around 5,000 hours of use, but some can last for up to 10,000 hours. It’s important to note that the life of a catalytic heater may be shortened if it’s not used regularly.

There is a lot of debate over whether or not a catalytic heater can start a fire. From what we could find, it seems that the answer is yes, it is possible for a catalytic heater to start a fire under the right circumstances. For example, if the tent is not well ventilated or if there is too much oxygen in the tent, it is possible for the catalytic heater to start a fire. It’s important to be aware of these risks and take precautions when using a catalytic heater in a tent.

To start a catalytic heater, you need to place it in an area where there is plenty of oxygen. You should also make sure the heater is placed on a stable surface that will not catch fire. After that, you need to light the burner and wait for the heater to heat up.

Most people know about watts and horsepower, but what about BTUs? BTUs are a measure of energy, specifically heat energy. One BTU is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. The more BTUs a heater produces, the more quickly it will heat up a room.

Catalytic heaters are popular because they produce high levels of BTUs while using very little fuel. A catalytic heater typically produces between 12,000 and 18,000 BTUs per hour, making it an ideal choice for heating a small to medium-sized room. 3,000 and 5,000 BTUs per hour catalytic heater is enough for the tent.

The answer to this question is yes. Catalytic heaters do produce moisture and they are safe to use in a home with children or pets or inside a camping tent. The amount of moisture produced by these heaters is very small and it is not harmful to humans or animals. In fact, the moisture produced by these heaters can actually help to improve the air quality in your home.

Coleman, the well-known outdoor gear company, announced in January of 2019 that they would be ceasing the production of catalytic heaters. The decision was made in the interest of consumer safety, as the company determined that there were potential design flaws in the heaters that could lead to dangerous situations. Coleman stated that they would be providing refunds to all customers who had purchased a catalytic heater within the past five years.

While Coleman has not released detailed information on what specifically led to the decision to stop making these heaters, it is speculated that there were problems with both the construction and operation of the devices. In particular, there were concerns about the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning due to a lack of ventilation.

Catalytic heaters have been around for many years and have been popular among consumers because they are relatively affordable and easy to use.

When you go camping, there are a lot of different things you need to think about in order to make sure your trip is safe and enjoyable. One thing that might not be on your mind is using a catalytic heater in your tent. While these heaters are a great way to stay warm, they can also be dangerous if not used properly. Here are a few safety tips for using a catalytic heater in your tent:

  1. Make sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before using the heater.
  2. Only use the heater in areas with good air circulation.
  3. Keep flammable materials like fuel cans, propane tanks, and matches away from the heater.
  4. Never leave the heater unattended.
  5. Make sure the tent is well ventilated when the heater is turned on.


The need for catalytic heaters is a must when planning to go on winter camping. These heaters are incredibly tent-friendly and come in several designs perfect for every tent size. However, that doesn’t mean you can use them without taking any safety precautions.

Despite being the safest heating device on the market, it’s essential to sustain safety practices using a tent-safe catalytic heater. It will keep both you and your fellow campers out of potential dangers while allowing you to enjoy a camping trip full of peace.

There should be no worries of fire burn or other chemical hazards in any way. These heaters can keep your cold tent warm and let you enjoy a warmth-filled night in the woods.

But be sure to avoid keeping these heaters turned on during your sleep. No matter how safe a tent heater may be, it’s always risky to keep them ignited in case they get knocked over due to your frequent movement in slumber.

Also, be aware of getting a thorough study on the heater model you want to purchase. When you do that, it will help you know whether the model you selected is compatible with your needs. You will also learn if your tent space will fit a tiny-sized heater or a portable one. Furthermore, it will give you a clear understanding of how the heater operations are customized.

You may also like


Elegant Camping Your Extraordinary Camping Companion

Latest Articles

Winter Camping Guide