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Gear Guy

Is it safe to cook inside my tent vestibule?

Everything I read about tents says not to cook in the vestibule, but then I read gear reviews that say it is large enough to cook in. What's the scoop-is it safe to cook inside your vestibule or not? Shaun Aleda, California

A: Firstly, before anyone reads this, you must sign and notarize a document in which you release me, the Gear Guy, from any responsibility should someone pull a bonehead stunt and, A) vaporize their tent or, B) top their partner with carbon monoxide fumes. All signed? OK, read on.

Here's the deal: As a general rule of thumb, it's not wise to mix combustion and the inside of a tent. Stoves and lanterns burning white gas or propane give off carbon monoxide, an odorless and tasteless gas that is a deadly, deadly, dangerous (did I say it was deadly?) gas. It'll kill you dead, man, without you noticing until you're gone. Then there's always the risk of fire.

Having said that, I have cooked inside a tent—or at least a tent vestibule—on many, many occasions, when winter camping high up on Mount Rainier during a storm or climbing Denali. Any mountaineer will tell you the same thing: The key is ventilation. Vestibules make good places for a kitchen because they can be vented easily and any carbon monoxide trapped inside may stay in the vestibule rather than drifting into the tent. But, when cooking, one should always have at least two doors or windows partially unzipped—ideally, one low and one high so that warm air can rise out of the tent and pull in cold, fresh air from outside.

Prudence is the key. Keep plenty of fresh air in the tent and you should be OK. Remember, though, you didn't read it here.

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