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M Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not?
Part 5: Laboratory Measurements for Solid Fuels

by Roger Caffin

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Article Summary:

Buy a small stove these days and it is likely to come covered in dire warnings about the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and that you must not use the stove in any sort of confined space. And yet walkers have been using small stoves inside their tent vestibules in bad weather for many, many years with very few instances of trouble. What is the risk, why are all those warnings there, and how seriously should we take them?

This multi-part Series of articles explores the carbon monoxide issue. Part 1 covered the basic theory underlying how stoves work and how they can generate carbon monoxide. A theory was developed as to the cause of carbon monoxide being emitted. Part 2 covered an extensive amount of laboratory testing of a wide range of canister stoves to test this theory. All the results found in Part 2 confirmed the theory for canister stoves: carbon monoxide is generated when the stove flame is quenched by having the burner too close to the pot. Factors such as pot diameter do not affect the result, but burner design does. Keeping the flame from hitting the pot too soon and making sure enough air is available are the keys to low CO emissions.

This Part 5 surveys several solid fuels at different power levels. Once again, problems with significant carbon monoxide emission were found, especially when the fuel tablets are broken up to increase the heating power.

In fact all solid fuels tested can emit a serious amount of CO and may emit other toxic gases, and all should be considered potentially dangerous in any confined space.

ARTICLE OUTLINE

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Part 5: Laboratory Measurements for Solid Fuels"