I have updated this post after having spent two years of close to full-time camping.
The focus is still on avoiding chemicals, but I am adding more unusual camping equipment and techniques for avoiding mold, updating new gear I really like, and some new tricks.
This post contains affiliate links wherever the brands I like have an affiliate program. Upon purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Choosing a Tent Style
A Cheap and Easy Start – Pop Up Tents
I bought a pop-up tent as my first tent. I went for one of the cheapest options here just to get started quickly. I was able to use it after one week (with the doors all open at first for air) but it was about 1 month before I found it offgassed the chemical smell, and I could close up the doors. I was super sensitive at that time.
A number of brands have pop-up tents in this style which are super easy and quick to put up and have a decent design in terms of the amount of ventilation (more on the style I prefer with ventilation below).
Mine leaked in heavy rain so I don’t like this style of tent, other than the fact that it is very easy to pop up and if you get a good tarp over it you will be waterproof – I always put a tarp over tents now anyway, more on that later.
Anyone super challenged with putting up tents might want to start here.
Rain Fly Styles – Preventing Mold and Avoiding Chemicals
For heavy rain, a tent with a really good rainfly is needed that comes down almost all the way to the ground like many of the REI or MEC brands and this Backpacking tent (pictured left).
I used the Winterial version of this style for many months and was very happy with it. (This brand claims no flame retardants).
When it comes to tents on the ground, this is the main style I look for because of the good rainfall, which keeps it more waterproof.
Having mostly mesh on the inside also reduces your exposure to chemical offgassing and helps to prevent condensation on the walls.
Technically you don’t need a tarp over it, but I always add one. Water that soaks the tent walls will then soak anything that is touching the walls inside. The tarp is also needed so you can get in and out when it’s raining.
I just don’t trust any tent enough to not put a tarp over top. More on setting up tarps later in the post.
Tent Styles and Offgassing
Sometimes the rainfly smells stronger than the tent and sometimes it smells less. Sometimes a super beefy tent bottom is the hardest part to offgas. It depends on the brand.
Some who are trying to reduce exposure to chemical offgassing wash the tents to remove some of the treatments, but this also removes some of the waterproof coating. That can still work if you have a good tarp over.
The more mesh you have the more airflow and the less exposure to offgassing.
Bivy Tents or One Person or Stealth Camping
For stealth camping on patios and balconies of hotels or Airbnbs I have used a one-person tent like this Winterial brand. I also like this Tenton brand (I like that it comes with straps to strap it to a camping cot below to raise it up).
You can also look for tents called bevy tents.
I have tried just a mat with a mosquito net over it (this one is not treated with pesticides), and I have also strung up just the rain fly (with no tent) over a camping cot and Thermarest if there are no bugs.
Otherwise, you can cut out the bottom. Never put a tent with a bottom right over outdoor tiles, bricks, or concrete for long, you will have a recipe for mold fast.
You can put up a tent on top of a camping cot like in the pictures of the Tenton one-person tent linked to above. But to keep a low profile I prefer to use a camping cot and then string up the rainfly or mosquito net so it does not go higher than the balcony rails.
If you have a stable place and are not on the move, I like these garage/deck tiles to lift you off the concrete. I’m trying them out now.
Choosing a Tent Style if you are Putting up a Tent when Disabled
Make sure you know how (and that you can) put up your tent alone (as well as set up other supplies like a stove) before you get to the campsite. I have shown up to campsites with tents that are defective or missing parts more than once, so I would do a trial run for that reason as well.
For those who are disabled and limited, I made this video on Camping for Those Who Can’t Camp, to try and give some examples of how camping might still be possible for you.
Brands of Tents that are Low in Offgassing
I like putting tents in the sun to offgas them. Smell them to test, and also touch them to make sure they don’t cause skin irritation. You may have to test them by sleeping in them to test for tolerance.
Brands that seem to be the lowest in offgassing are:
There is no consensus on which brand is the best for those with chemical sensitivities. Everyone is so different, no tent is perfect, and for some less sensitive there might not even be a big difference between the brands. You have to test them out for yourself if extremely sensitive.
For the mild-moderately sensitive:
- Lightspeed (polyesters with PU coating)
- REI (polyester, rainfly, and floor coated with PU) has been used by some very sensitive folks.
- LL Bean (polyester with PU from what I have seen).
- Big Agnes (nylon, polyester with PU and some silicone).
- The jury is out on Coleman, some people tolerate it and others don’t.
- Some people find cheap Walmart tents especially Ozark brand is more tolerable than ones for hundreds of dollars. I have found Ozark tents to be very tolerable myself.
- Winterial may work for some folks. I used this as I was becoming less sensitive. I like that it is affordable and doesn’t contain flame retardants.
- Nemo Aurora
For the moderately to extremely sensitive:
- Cuben fiber tents – Cuben Fibre is PET, this can be more tolerable for the very sensitive but they are more expensive. Many have said these don’t contain FR, but Zpacks failed to get back to me on that.
- Moonlight by Tent Lab – All FR-free and coated with silicone on the outside and polyurethane (PU) on the inside. This brand is often touted as being better for the chemically sensitive but I have found there is not enough consensus on this. With many not tolerating it. At a steeper price than your average tent, you should test it out first. They send fabric samples.
- Six Moon Designs – silicone nylon fabrics, very low odor,.
Silicone-treated tents might be more tolerable for some, others may prioritize avoiding flame retardants.
If you are too sensitive for any of these brands there are more options further down in this post for those who have to go more extreme.
12 Tent Brands Without Flame Retardants 2022
- Mountain Hard Ware tents made after 2019 are FR-free ($200-310 price range)
- TarpTents ($270-500 range)
- Fjällräven tents ($500-1000 range)
- Diamond Brand tents ($300-350)
- Nemo Chogori and Aurora tents don’t have FR ($700-850 and $250-300)
- Moonlight All FR-free and coated with silicone on the outside and polyurethane (PU) on the inside. ($430-600)
- Winterial does claim no flame retardants in discussions, although they don’t have an official statement on this. ($100-300)
- NatureHike has claimed no flame retardants in private emails and confirmed by factory reps who sell to wholesalers. ($100-200)
- Six Moon Designs none of their tents are treated with flame retardants and they have many silicone nylon options (Silnylon) ($270-340)
- TETON Mesa Canvas Tents and the Sierra Canvas Tents do not contain flame retardants. The company has given contradictory info on whether ALTOS Backpacking Tents are FR-free ($100-$600)
- The North Face all tents free of flame retardants as indicated by their chat (though it’s not clear that is accurate) ($150-$1000)
Some canvas tents do not have flame retardants.
Cuben fibre from what I have seen is FR-free.
I have not found any evidence that many flame retardants can be adequately washed out, but it can’t hurt to try.
Camping Gear without Flame Retardants 2022
- Thermarest Camping pads don’t contain FR. Some have the Prop 65 warning (but for chromium).
- The Exped mats are FR free since the 2015 lot.
- REI brand sleeping mats are not treated with FR.
- TETON sleeping bags, camp pads, and pillows have been tested to verify that they do meet CPAI-75 standard without adding any fire-retardant treatment to the materials
- Wildkin sleeping mats and sleeping bags are also FR free.
- Other sleeping bags that are FR free are Holy Lamb Organics (but they use cotton), Kelty, Wiggy’s, and the down quilts by Jacks ‘R’ Better.
- All wool sleeping bags by Lucky Sheep (ask them for all wool with no cotton).
Unconventional Tents for the Extremely Sensitive
Aluminum Insulated Tents
These tents have the benefit of insulation, and the aluminum coating reduces offgassing. They don’t do well with humidity inside the tent if there is a warmer inside.
WeatherHyde tents are insulated and the foil on the inside will also block most of the VOCs from the fabric on the outside. They say you can sleep in them down to 0 degrees Celsius. They are 269 USD. They do not have any mesh for ventilation which I imagine would be quite the problem for condensation and I do not know how you would get fresh air.
The Shift Pod is another version of an insulated aluminum tent made for Burning Man. The benefit to the aluminum on the outside is it’s reflective of sun and heat. I would think it would have similar problems with condensation in most situations. It’s pricey at 1300 USD.
For 18 USD you can get this aluminum-lined small sleeping tent (that might work for balcony sleeping or in an emergency, otherwise it’s difficult with a lack of ventilation). The aluminum on the inside is more tolerable than the usual plastic.
Home Made Tents
Others have made homemade tents with materials they can tolerate like Tyvek, Reflectix or XPS sheets. You can also make a more typical tent from untreated nylon.
More info on that in this post here.
Some folks who cannot handle the chemicals in the synthetic tents have tried canvas tents.
Some companies people like are Reliable Tent, Kodiak Tents, Davis Tents.
Are they Mold-Prone?
These do not hold up well to rain and high humidity and I would not use them in rainy or humid conditions nor expect them to last very long at all.
I have seen canvas tents, specifically, Davis tents hold up for quite a long time in a dry climate and with a woodstove inside. It can take rain and even snow, as long as it can dry out. For long-term living a gravel floor or a raised-up wooden platform is best.
For those who don’t tolerate cotton or who want the tent to hold up a little longer than cotton canvas, you can make one out of hemp fabric, like this one. You can expect cotton and hemp to last a short while in dry non-humid climates where you are expecting very little or no rain for a while.
If you are making your own tent out of canvas or nylon you can use the tube structure of a conventional tent and build it around that.
Large Wall Tents
Wall tents can be canvas or conventional nylon/polyester. They have straight walls and are generally larger. Barebones makes a nylon polyester wall tent. Often this type has more weather poofing and will have flame retardants because they are set up for wood-burning stores.
This can be a good solution for a longer-term camping tent. Though you should take care to keep the base dry (cut out or raised up) if you want it to last.
How to Stay Dry and Prevent Mold when Camping
How to Set up Tarps Underneath and Over Tents
I bought a tarp for underneath to keep dew from getting the tent wet from below (also called a footprint), and later I added a tarp for over the tent to stay dry.
At first, the bottom of my tent stayed nice and dry with the tarp underneath. I would take out and turn over the sleeping mat every day.
If the bottom of the tent gets wet you will want to dry it in the sun within 24 hours (flip it and then put it back and maybe move spots).
You can use the footprints made for underneath tents but tarps are generally cheaper (your tent may come with a footprint).
You want the tarp underneath to be a little smaller and tucked in so that it is under the tent. No water should get between the two. Some people tuck it and then raise it a little with sticks or rocks so that no water gets in between. I tried that but in the end tent bottoms still went moldy on me if I had damp soil.
Putting a tarp overtop helped a lot. I found regular tarps from the hardware store has a strong smell but offgassed within a few days.
I now use a silnylon tarp which has a less offensive odor, and is more durable but is more expensive. Over most tents, you need 12 x 10 or 12 x 12.
Some people find they still do have to move the tent every couple of days due to condensation or the earth going funky underneath.
Mold Avoiders! Keep a backup tent that is offgassed in case of mold or damage to your primary tent. Keep backup gear especially if you are out in the wilderness, if you need geat to offgas before using, or you cannot easily drive somewhere and buy new gear within one day.
Generally, you string up the tarp up in an “A shape” so that it’s touching neither the tent nor the ground, you can also string it up with a shed slant like the photo above.
Some people dig a small trench around so that the water that drips off does not go towards the tent.
Without a tarp, I had a lot of problems including saturation of the tent and water coming through especially where anything was touching the tent. I would not attempt camping without a tarp overhead again.
In a major storm, a larger tarp overhead helps, as well as a deep trench, and if things are going swampy you need to raise it up. I have used XPS sheets to raise up a tent in a storm before I found the Cot Tents.
The Solution to Tent Bottoms Going Moldy – The Best Tents For Avoiding Mold
After throwing out many tents and then moving on to cutting out the bottoms, I finally found what seems like the perfect tent: the Ozark Trail Two-Person Cot Tent. Unfortunately, it looks like it was discontinued in 2020.
This style of integrated camping cot tent (pictured) is really the most ideal setup in my experience This is off the ground so the bottom will not mold.
This had a very low odor rainfly and a brilliant design with the rainfly coming down way past the cot to protect water from getting in between.
Although I didn’t like the more common style of tent cot (I had trouble with ventilation and even dangerously spiked my C02 levels one night).
It was the Kamp Rite brand that I tried in this style. The Camp Rite brand does have a two-person version.
I quite like the Tenton tent that is made to strap on to their XXL camping cots.
You will, as always, want a tarp over this whole setup since this rainfly does not come past the cot (though on their website they sell a larger rainfly which would).
These cot tent brands are coming and going. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of demand which is a shame because for mold prevention these are ideal.
Other Raised off the Ground Tents
The tree tents look interesting, as they are raised off the ground, but you have to keep in mind these are really just for sleeping as they don’t look very conducive to hanging out all day. I wonder how much they sag in the middle, and they are not as easy to put up.
For those who are less picky about their sleeping environment resembling a regular bed, the hammocks with nets are interesting options that are affordable and easy to travel with.
Downsides of Cot Tents
Cot Tents are Bulky
While I would never want to go with anything other than the raised off the ground tent again, this won’t work when I travel overseas. When I travel I need to fit a tent, sleeping mat, and sleeping bag into a duffel bag.
The sleeping mats I use are huge and unless I can send a tent ahead I would have to go back to cutting out the bottom. I would use plastic bags to encase the sleeping mat, instead of the thick tarps I mention.
Cot Tents are Colder
It is cooler when you are raised off the ground. But I don’t find it any worse than cutting out a bottom and using a camping cot (in fact I find it warmer than tents with the bottom cut out).
Ozark is a very tolerable brand for MCS. I don’t like the flame retardants they use. I have not seen a flame retardant free brand in this style.
Should you Buy a Cheap Tent or Tent that Lasts?
For those doing mold avoidance or living somewhere very damp, you might want to go with the more disposable option.
Expensive tents from REI and MEC tend to pack smaller and lighter and should be of higher quality, however, if they do go moldy it is a bigger loss.
On the other hand, if I am traveling with a tent I want one that’s not going to break unexpectedly as many places around the world do not have stores that sell tents. Check also how much wind and rain they say they can withstand. You pay more for quality wind and rain protection.
But all of that said, I would never spend more than 150 on a tent unless I’m sure it’s going to last me a long time (like the ones raised off the ground).
Camping Mats – Low Offgassing
I started with the Lightspeed air mattress made of TPU, which is the one the folks most sensitive to chemicals use.
It offgassed quickly (2 days in the sun) and felt comfortable. It’s good quality, but I had back problems with it. This can happen to some people on air mattresses.
Many with chemical sensitivities prefer the Intex polyester air mattresses.
Inflatable Sleeping Mats
Other very sensitive folks have tolerated the small air mats. I was very impressed with how little this one smelled (less than the air mattress), and it’s a WAY better option to travel with, but I did not find it comfortable enough.
Someone much more sensitive than me recommended the Klymit Static v which comes uninsulated and insulated (with what looks like polyester fiber, not foam).
Go with the simplest, most compact option that is still comfortable for you.
Open Cell Foam Self Inflating
I ended up buying the thickest Thermarest instead and LOVING it. This is as comfortable as a bed to me, though many people put Thermarests over a camping cot, that seemed excessive with the MondoKing (though cots can also help you get off the ground which is a benefit when you have cut out the bottom or are preventing mold under the bed).
I’m not that picky about beds so I was surprised that the airbed hurt. The Thermarest has a decent R-value to keep you warm, the more insulation you have under you in the cold the better.
The MondoKing is very comfortable and I usually wake up forgetting I’m in a tent. It has polyurethane in it but it offgassed quickly in my experience. I used it after 2 days of airing out (not ideal), in one week I found it to be really good, and one month to be near odorless to me.
This is a super good mat for a trailer or other tiny home as well. It does not contain flame retardants.
I bought the repair kit for the Thermarest as well because this is going to be my main bed in the trailer, I also carry the repair kit when traveling.
I still prefer the MondoKing, but another good and more affordable (but thinner option) I use is the Lightspeed version.
Camping Beds and Moisture
When it was hot and sunny (and I was not self-contaminating) I had no problems with condensation if I turned it every couple of days and some days left it standing up to air out.
You will want to flip or air out your sleeping bag as well in the day to prevent mold.
As it got cold and I moved it into a trailer it became very challenging to keep a sleeping pad dry and mold-free. It needs to have slats underneath and a waterproof cover without a doubt in a cold or damp environment.
I wouldn’t recommend leaving this on any flat surface without a waterproof cover anymore. As I got more sensitive I was not able to keep this clean without an encasement.
If you are very sensitive to mold, very unmasked, or detoxing through your sweat, encase the sleeping mat right away. You can use plastic but I prefer these thick aluminized tarps as they also block the smell.
I used those tarps if I needed to block the smell but if I just needed to encase it I used contractor bags that are thicker than the usual garbage bags. I taped it airtight.
Closed Cell Foam Pads
For those ultra-sensitive to chemicals, an aluminized Thermarest is the safest camping mat.
People usually go with the solid foam or the small inflatable ones as they pack much smaller than the deluxe one I bought (and these are more affordable). They offgas less as well.
You can wash these unlike many of the other options. Some even pour boiling water on them to clean them and kill bacteria. You can’t do that with all camping mats.
I like this style of camping cot the best because it packs really small, it is relatively flat, works well with a Thermarest over it, and it’s low to the ground but high enough to have airflow.
I never put a camping mat straight on the ground anymore. I always want that airflow under the sleeping mat (if you are not using an integrated cot tent).
I would not say this style of camping cot is easy to take apart and put back if you are physically disabled.
The Coleman polyester camping cots do not have a water-resistant coating so they may be safer for the very sensitive.
Bedding – Low Offgassing
I’m extremely pleased with this Teton sleeping bag which is warm and offgassed after sitting in the sun for a week or so. I never even washed it.
I used this in the summer and some days it was too warm.
Many who are super sensitive to mold and chemicals use the Suisse Sport Alpine sleeping bag.
Sleeping Bag Liners
Others like a silk sleeping bag liner which keeps you warm and keeps your sleeping bag cleaner. It is much easier to wash a liner than the sleeping bag. I’m using this silk one and it’s quick to dry (surprised by how chemically it smelled, needed more washes than most fabrics).
You can also make a liner by sewing a queen flat sheet in half. You can either use a liner to get inside of first or to encase a blanket. This will keep the sleeping bag good for longer. The polyester liners can work too.
Blankets instead of sleeping bags
In warmer weather, I skipped sleeping bags and used heated blankets as my only blanket. As I started to detox through my sweat things got trickier.
Now I like a warm but washable option like these Pendleton Blankets. But, when it is very cold, a sleeping bag is really the warmest option.
I use these AmazonBasics polyester sheets. But there are specific sheets for Thermarests and other brands of sleeping mats. They are also polyester, the only difference is they are fitted exactly for the Thermarest.
You don’t want any cotton in your tent – it doesn’t do well outside for long if it’s humid, and it’s terrible when wet.
I bought a polyester camping pillow which is small (and it has cotton on the outside!)
I use waterproof pillowcases to prevent mold which I aired out and washed before using. They do smell at first, but polyurethane coating does offgas (to most people’s standards).
I have tried lots of camping pillows from the air and foam ones to the polyester ones, to just using a towel.
Someone super sensitive recommended the inflatable Klymit Pillow X.
You have to figure out which is the most comfortable for you. Some are very small. The air ones can be easy to roll off of. A towel is easy to wash if you need to wash gear often.
I keep backups of everything.
Staying Warm and Cool
I use a heating blanket in almost every climate. I thought the biggest problem for me would be stabilizing my temperature, but that ended up not being that difficult at all.
This is the Sunbeam heating blanket I use. After going through a lot of these, the trick is I want one big enough to cover me and I want the 10-hour shut off not the 3-hour shut-off, to keep me warm all night.
They are challenging in how strong they smell when new and since they can’t go in a dryer they can be difficult to clean in cold weather camping.
I encase my current one in these liners and wash the liner every 3 days.
For those concerned about EMFs, you can use this to heat the tent without putting it on your body. It won’t be as warm, but it is likely safer than a stand-alone heater in a tent. Or, the fancier and supposedly healthier option is an infrared mat.
This 60-watt heated blanket (the smaller throw size) will run for most of the night off this solar kit. I always have an extension cord running to my tent. A small heated blanket tucked into a sleeping bag provides a lot of warmth.
Using a Heater in a Tent
I have set up many a small heater in a tent. I check the wattage and if it has temperature control (I make sure my tent is big enough, note: read the tent dimensions carefully, they run small).
It’s safer to place the heater up on a small table or round of wood to keep it from knocking over or blowing directly onto something that could melt or burn. I make sure my tent is big enough to accommodate a heater with lots of space around it and it has an auto shut off when it falls over.
I use this little Honeywell heater because it’s super low wattage (250 watts).
I find it easy to accidentally shove this when sleeping and it can turn towards the tent fabric easily. That is just one reason why this is not technically recommended. It is a fire risk. This is what I have done, but I cannot officially recommend it.
If my tent is on the ground and I have a thick Thermarest, I can be warm enough with a heated blanket and that little heater down to 5 degrees C. I don’t sleep well when I’m cold, but everyone is different, so you will have to work out those details.
Other Heating Options
- Hot water bottles can be put inside the sleeping bag at night. This thermoplastic one has been reported to be very tolerable by many.
- Hand warmers work well when you don’t have electricity. Hand warmers in your sleeping bag can be a big help. The same company also makes sock liners. I have used these in power outages, they seem totally non-toxic.
- Heated clothes like battery-powered heated jackets, socks, and gloves can be a huge help as well.
- Wood stoves are used by some. I’m getting the Cubic Mini for the cargo trailer but I do not have experience setting up a wood stove in a tent.
Cooling a Tent: AC in a tent
For the AC you will need to cut a hole for the exhaust and seal with tape around it.
If I put anything electrical in a tent I make sure I have multiple layers of protection from getting wet from above or flooding from below.
Use heaters, heating blankets AC, or woodstoves at your own risk of fire or electrocution. They are not recommended for tents.
Here is the longer version of my Amazon visual list of my Favorite & my Unusual Camping supplies I bring with me on a Sabbatical.
(See the comment box on each image to see my notes on each one).
A few examples here:
- Pressure Cooker: I cooked everything in an Instant Pot when camping which I could do on my one extension cord.
- Water Filter: Travel Berkey is still on my wish list, this ceramic filter is ideal for well water or any other water where filtering for biological pathogens is the priority (otherwise I buy water).
- Towel: Non-cotton fast drying travel towel, I use this one.
- Earplugs: For really loud situations the “triple down” method of foam + silicone + ear protectors (or noise-canceling headphones). The construction ear protectors do smell quite strong. One benefit of noise-canceling headphones is some noises cannot be blocked without adding white noise.
- Eyemask: The foam contoured eye masks smell a little and need some time to offgas (I put them in the sun). It is still my favorite mask many years later. The fabric ones can be washed to remove chemical treatments. I always keep a backup mask.
- Clothes Dryer: I still love this portable dryer, I got a tonne of use out of that. I used it outside with an extension cord, undercover. If you are in an RV a heated towel rack makes a good indoor dryer.
- Clothes: Washable wool or silk long underwear, wool socks, and wool hat, gloves to stay warm in cold weather.
- Hand Sanitizer: Hand sanitizer (that’s my favorite non-toxic brand) and baby wipes are essential in a tent (unscented of course, for yourself and also if there are bears around).
- My guide to a mold sabbatical
- Avoiding flame retardants
- EI Wellspring Safer Camping – How to choose a campsite with extreme MCS
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
I spent 2 years living outside in tents in order to bring down my chemical and mold sensitivities and get back into regular housing.
Did you find this post helpful? If so you can buy me a coffee to support the research behind this blog. Thank you!
Corinne I’ve enjoyed pouring over your great research.
Two things I might add to staying warm while car camping:
1. https://hotsnapz.com/collections/back-body-packs Have you investigated these rechargeable hand and body warmers? They can be used inside a sleeping bag. I like that they can be recharged simply by boiling in water. That’s something most of us can manage while car camping. They are made of non phthalate PVC. What do you think of that material for MCSers?
2. As for the conventional rubbery hot water bottles used for cramps, etc, I’ve scent tested many and cannot tolerate them. However, a single walled (non-insulated) metal water bottle made for drinking can be filled with hot water and be used in a sleeping bag. “Clean Kanteen” makes some large single walled metal bottles. I have a small drinking bottle by them so I know their caps are indeed quite leak proof. But there are other brands too.
fashy water bottle is quite good. if you don’t tolerate that, chances of tolerating flexible PVC is slim to none.
thank you for the article
Hi! I feel like I’m late to this post but I found it while trying to search for a folding camp chair that didn’t have a prop 65 warning. Do you know of any?
What would you recommend for reducing the DWR (with PFCs) in tent fabric?
Hi there- Thank you for this awesome article. We were able to get some good camping gear but are now up against a new problem :). Do you have any suggestions on cleaning down sleeping bags? You’re supposed to use special down-cleaners but they are all super toxic.
Appreciate the help, we love your site!
You can use soap flakes for sure, https://amzn.to/3bSOZ1X
Maybe soap nuts.
Surprised to see Kelty on your list for FR free bags. Seemed like several of their things I looked at had Prop 65 warnings for DEHP which is equally concerning to me. I’d be surprised if they don’t have that on their bags as well. Would love any details if anyone knows.
Sleeping bags are PVC free coating, so should be no phthalates (like DEHP) there.
Hey! Great article – thanks for all the advice! Don’t suppose you managed to find any changing/privacy/shower tents on your journey?
I am curious how you know that the 12 tent brands on your list of Flame Retardant Free tents for 2022 are actually FR-free?
I emailed Teton directly verifying that their ALTOS tent is indeed flame retardant free and it it NOT.
Allison Neal from Teton emailed me back today with this:
“First, our ALTOS tent does have flame retardants, I’m sorry to say. I’m not sure where it was published that it doesn’t, but unfortunately to meet current regulations, it must be treated with flame retardants. We are looking forward to stopping the use of these treatments where we can as regulations change. Our canvas tents are not treated with flame retardants, but all of our nylon tents are.”
Additionally, she told me that all of their other camping gear is treated with (presumably conventional PFC since she didn’t state otherwise) waterproofing:
“In order to meet the rigorous performance demands of our customers we treat relevant products with DWR coatings. This includes our tents, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and cots. Regarding the specific treatments we use, we always strive to use the best materials possible, both for our customers and our products, but in this instance we are not able to share the specifics of the DWR treatment we use.”
Your website says “”TETON sleeping bags, camp pads, and pillows have been tested to verify that they do meet CPAI-75 standard without adding any fire-retardant treatment to the materials”. Can you tell me where you got this info from? Based on Allison’s email, I would be very surprised if this is accurate.
Teton’s Altos tent is listed on so many “non-toxic camping” blogs/websites, but it seems maybe there was incorrect info published at one point and since then, that info has been copied and pasted by many other sources, which is very frustrating. I am in the process of directly emailing several companies on these non-toxic tent lists, which I suggest other readers do as well if they want to make sure the gear they are spending hundred of dollars on is in fact flame retardant free.
If you have info from Teton stating otherwise (that their Altos tent does NOT contain FR), I would love to see it. Maybe you could post a link somewhere on this page.
First of all the second quote is about sleeping bags, camp pads and pillows. That is stated on their website.
Regarding tents, this is the email I have from them:
Malorie Irvin (TETON Sports)
May 24, 2021, 4:49 PM MDT
Yes. The Mountain Ultra Tents and Outfitter XXL Quick Tent do. All other tents (ALTOS Backpacking Tents, Mesa Canvas Tents, and the Sierra Canvas Tents) do NOT use any type of fire retardant.
Thanks so much and feel free to reach out with more questions, we are happy to help!
Customer Experience Team
Get Outdoors & Enjoy Life!
Do you know of any suppliers in Australia that make tents /sleeping mats for the chemically sensitive?
Thank you for providing great tips. looking for a toxic free sleeping bag.You mentioned the Teton-would washing it help it to off gas quicker do you know.Thanks.
Washing always helps!
Chris Chappell says
I wanted to urge you to included the Nemo Aurora tents in the category of tents that have minimal off-gassing. Based on your list and others last year, I went to REI to investigate tents without FR. I preciously had a moonlight tent which is a good one for little off-gassing, but very expensive and not very durable.
So, at REI I took each tent that had no FR outdoors to test briefly, that included North Face, Mountain Hardware and Nemo Aurora. According to staff last year REI brand still had FR so did not go for them. The Nemo was the hands down winner for the relative lack of chemical smell. Both the North Face and the Mountain Hardware had a strong smell. I have been happy with Nemo Aurora, for me it was completely off-gassed after only one day in the sun – quicker than Moonlight even. I went to Nemo’s website and read that they are trying to not only not use FR, but also trying to minimize use of all toxic materials, it seemed a step beyond what the other companies were doing.
Thank you for the report, I’m sure it will help others! though there are so many opinions on the best tent for offgassing, it really depends on the individual and what they are sensitive to.
A quality backpacking tent will keep you dry without a tarp, but these are becoming harder and harder to find these days. Both of my tents are 1990’s backpacking tents because I couldn’t find anything newer that I liked. Can’t say I could smell any offgassing after they sat in somones garage for 20 years! You can still find used tents on ebay, and there’s a website where people leave reviews of camping equipment that can serve as a fantastic reference to identify what might work for you. I agree that if you are camping in one place for long periods of time that mildew can develop. Setting the tent on a well draining spot is incredibly important. It helps to keep needles and other material away from the edges of the tent where it will have a tendency to build up and hold in moisture; and also to guy out the rainfly at all available points. And, as you mentioned, simply moving the tent periodically can do a world of good, if possible lifting the tent up off the ground (assuming it has a self contained pole structure) to allow it to air out and dry out fully in between moves. And yes, every experienced backpacker knows that you have to keep your items away from the tent perimeter when it’s raining or the water will wick through in those places.
Ian & Alexa Heung says
First, Corrine, thank you for all of this research and information. I just got off the phone with the folks at Davis Tents to learn more about their Canvas tents, but specifically this mold & mildew “Sunforger” treatment on their fabrics. Do you know anything about this treatment?
I *was* able to get the information of the textile company that they have ordered this material from for over 50 years, MF&H Textiles, Inc. and plan to call them to see if I can more materials.
Wondering how we know Kelty sleeping bags are FR free? I know they have listed on their website that it is not added to fabric during finishing but that it meets the
requirement originally. Super confusing. Grateful for any clarity!
We only know based on their word/what they say.
Sarah M Roe says
They are saying that they add it into the fabrics, but not at the end so it sounds to me that they def have flame retardants! – Kelty that is. I just bought one and now I’m disappointed…
Be aware of the political circumstances of Flame Retardants. In the State of California, it is illegal to sell a tent that hasn’t been treated with FR’s. that means that tent manufacturers, even if they don’t treat, don’t want to advertise this because California is probably their biggest market. So understand that you’re dealing with dodgy for this reason and navigate this landscape accordingly
Derek Rubright says
Thanks for all the great information regarding camping equipment here. It helped me find a FR free tent. Have you been able to find any FR free canopy ? I’ve been trying to find something to cover a picnic table at a camp site, and everything seems to have FR in it. Any help would be appreciated.
Where in the 74 page document it states that North Face tents do not contain flame retardants?
An REI customer interested in The North Face Wawona 6P, posed the question: Does this tent contain flame retardant chemicals or any chemicals that require the California Prop 65 warning?
REI response was: To meet the flammability standard in California (CPAI-84), this tent is treated with a flame retardant chemical additive. The warning label is added to comply with California’s Proposition 65. This proposition requires that any products that contain a chemical known to the state of California to potentially cause cancer or reproductive harm are required to be labeled with a warning to consumers.
That might not have been accurate what they said before. I will make a note and hope to hear from them again to confirm. thanks for the info.
Jennifer Nanni says
Do you have a recommendation on A/C for tent camping? And any other detail on setup?? I saw you mention it but don’t see one in the (very helpful) Amazon list. If you free up for a 1hr (or even 30 min) QA call id love the chance. I have TBI so screens are tough.
mycanvas connection says
Very interesting article, I really appreciate it.
Every event and venue can be accommodated by a waterproof gazebo from Gazebo Tent Singapore. They’re not only beautiful, but they’re also really easy to put together.
Corinne, On the Therm-a-Rest Mondoking sleeping pad they do say on their web site a warning with chemicals for Calif. with Prop 65. I wondered your thoughts on that?
Corinne, On the Therm-a-Rest Mondoking sleeping pad they do say on their web site a warning with chemicals for Calif. with Prop 65. I wondered your thoughts on that?
I still use that one. Thermarest is very liberal with the prop warnings to cover themselves legally. It’s not great if they are using that in the dyes but prop 65 is totally divorced from real life situations of exposure. You can buy a wood table and it will have a prop warning for wood dust which is carcinogenic even though you are probably not going to cut or sand a table you just bought. So I doubt there is any realistic danger in injesting the dyes from the mondo king. For the environment it would be better if companies didn’t use that in production because it’s probably in the e production and in disposal that it is a problem.
Wondering if you looked at Alps Mountaineering air mattress? They have good reviews, and are listed on some sites as a non toxic PVC free yet also have prop 65 warning. I noticed even their sleeping bag has this warning?
That one is polyester too.
Sam K says
Do you know of any low odor awnings, canopies, gazebos?
Do you put a tarp under your tent if on grass or dirt?
I gave up on tarps and only use tents raised off the ground. If thre ground is super dry you can get away with no tarp.
You are an inspiration. Thank you so much <3
Wow thank you so much. Will definitely supply some coffee. What brand do you prefer? I love a local brand that is organic and fair trade but I am concerned about the mold.
Also, why no cotton? Is organic okay?
Finally, what do you think about smoking organic cannabis?
Cotton is just really prone to going moldy in outdoor conditions unless you are in a desert and or are drying it out with a wood stove used inside a canvas tent.
I heard Bullet Proof coffee is mold free. Dave Aspery the owner of Bullet Proof delt with mold illness.
Here is what Sierra states in their FAQ section: “ Do you use fire retardants on your products?”
“…In order for the materials to be fire resistant, we do need to add fire retardants to make them so when making the fabric. So, while there are no additional chemicals added after a fabric is finished, the fabric is made originally with fire retardants to meet or exceed the CPAI-84 standard.”
Updated August 2020.
Can you provide some clarification. Would the Tensegrity model be the exception to this statement? Also, I cannot find the Tensegrity tent on their site. Maybe they discontinued the line?
Thanks for all the research and information you have provided!
The tensegrity was a nylon tent that they claimed was free of FR, it’s no longer made so I just took it off the list. thanks for letting me know.
Ben Farrell says
Hello, thank you for your article. However, I encourage you to recheck the accuracy of your list of flame retardant free (FR) tents. I have just contacted Nemo directly who have advised that currently the only FR free tent in their range is the Chogori. If you look at their website you will also notice that the Chogori is the only tent where they specifically mention that it is FR free together with the message “Restrictions prevent us from shipping this item to CA, LA, MN, and NJ”. I was extremely close to buying a Nemo ‘ Hornet’ tent based on the information on this webpage, thankfully I checked with the manufacturer before purchase.
hi, I haven’t listed the Nemo Hornet, but I do have the Nemo Aurora listed as FR free. They are still saying that it is FR free. I added the Chogori.
Jason Cornish says
I just wanted to say thanks for posting all this information. It is so valuable to check learn from others that have gone before!
I have been to this page several times over the past few days and I just want to say thank you for all of your research and for sharing it! I’d like to add to the list of Flame Retardant free tents, The North Face. I spoke with a representative via chat on their website today who confirmed it. They sent me a link to a page about sustainability within the company which led me to their parent company’s restricted substance list which includes flame retardants. https://s3.amazonaws.com/content.stockpr.com/vfcsustainability/files/pages/resources/policies-standards/VF+2019+RSL+May+edition.pdf
Is there an easy pop-up tent that is smaller than the 4-5 person one you linked to on Amazon?
there are two person ones, but I haven’t tried that style. They always run small too. A 3 person tent is really a 2 person tent.
If you want a truly chemical free tent, Kodiak Canvas does not use flame retardants or Polyurethane in their tents, Their tents are heavy because they are made out of cotton mostly, the floor is PVC but I slept fine in it without a reaction, it is good for bad weather- when we had a really bad rain storm, mine was the only one that did not leak, so no need to rain seam seal with more chemicals. They are expensive but worth it in my book, made camping more enjoyable.
Susan Koeppl says
Can u tell me if polyurethane offgasses quicker than silicone coated tents. This is my first tent and i am clueless. Please help. Which is less toxic and offgasses quicker
I would go with which one is best for your sensitivities. Folks are very different, the most sensitive prefer one over the other. Some could never get a silicone treated tent to offgas. There is such a huge variance in reactivity with tents. You can get a sample of moonlight.
Your heated blanket is the most toxic thing you can put next to your body it confuses the cells in your body…that's any and all electrical and emf gadgets….
I haven’t found that to be true at all. Mold (and some other big toxins like outdoor toxins, pesticides) and flame retardants are the biggest toxins based on who gets better and how. Avoid those and you will most likely heal from EMF sensitivity. Many people have healed and are living normal lives this way.
I had an electric blanket as a child. I had nightmares every night and my waking life was also often nightmarish. I do not doubt that blanket played a role. Some of us humans don’t do well with electric blankets due to the EMF’s emitted. On the contrary, there are now silver strand grounding sheets you can buy that you plug into your ground outlet and can be very healing for people who have troubles staying grounded. They don’t shield from electrosmog; for that you need a crinkly silver-colored blanket. The grounding sheet I’m talking about is mostly a cotton percale with just a grid of silver strand embedded. Very comfortable to have against the skin
Eunos Technolink says
Hey, I just read your article, it was mesmerizing. So if you are seeking for the best tentage Singapore then visit Excellence Canvas and Trading store to purchase the best quality products at the very affordable price.
Hi thanks for the useful information and advice
Thermarest sleeping mats are treated with flame retardants… did something change since this article was written??
That's not what I heard from the company. Where did you see they are treated with FR?
I have confirmed with them again, yes thermarests are FR free from when I first wrote this, and still now in 2019.
Wild Swan says
I’d also recommend using wood for the platform. Oiled. The put reflectix on top to lie on. Lift and dry daily. The reflectix might help with EHS. Hope it works for you. Good and cheap. Aluminum sheeting could make a good roof, too. Do not recommend your current idea re insulation exterior and manufactured board due to mold. We tested the materials extensively before redoing the roof due to mold. Btw, we had good luck with embark brand sleeping bags at target. Oddly. Oh, hey, canvas and oil will burn easily w an interior stove. Small fire extinguisher
Wild Swan says
Plywood, OSB, and luan mold easily, sometimes you have to pull the sheeting apart to see it. Wood tongue and groove or overlapped would be better. If the lumber is clean, you can use linseed oil to seal it, it has to be the pure linseed oil from Europe or similar, check the msds. If you go with your current idea, keep an air gap of a few inches between all the materials and make sure you can monitor it. The air gap also keeps you warmer.
If you tolerate reflectix, use under the sleeping bag. And insulation. If urgent, use a blue tarp exterior, then reflectix air gapped like interior tent… no flame inside this.
I'm on my 2nd handmade canvas tent, this time coated with hemp oil and a hemp oil tarp over, silicone on the seams and under the bottom, and on a tent platform. Used it for a few months then we got our seasonal heavy rains (southern Arizona, never though combating molds would be so hard, but we get the really tough molds, as soon as there is any moisture they go to town!), and after a few rains mildew started up at the corners and some water got inside on the bottom and now there are a lot of dark grey streaks. So will probably try one of your tent recommendations next! But in the meantime winter is coming and it gets down to 20s at night. I did a stove in my last canvas tent but had a lot of trouble with temp control and getting cold in the night when it went out and ash and smoke mess, etc. So this winter we were thinking of trying an A frame sleep structure from plywood which has now off gassed for half a year and I don't smell it now and some rigid foam insulation. We heard the insulation could be used on the outside as rain protection and we could silicone the cracks. But I don't know if foam right up against the plywood would cause any moisture and mold issues. I just need something to sleep in. Been sleeping outdoors a few years now because of MCS and EHS, house isn't tolerable enough for good sleep and I sleep really far from the house. But the rain in summer and cold in winter have made this all very challenging because my tents keep getting mold! So I found your site, thanks for all the great info. Just wondering if you know anything about making a small sturdy insulated sleep structure. Oh and btw, I also heat rocks on the kitchen stove, put them in cozies I made and put them in my sleeping bag at night, very helpful! But still need more insulation for those really chilly nights. Thank you!
You could look up the exterior insulation with foam method to see how much you need to not cause dew point in the walls in winter. If you don't use AC in the summer you could put the foam on the inside. This project needs some thought to it though as neither plywood nor foam can brave the elements on their own. I suppose it depends how long you want it to last.
Jeah Kessha says
There is a WAY better way to go. I have invented a complete line of organic natural fiber camping gear at http://www.lucky-sheep.com I use organic cotton and eco wool as the insulation. Also have wool sleeping mat and organic cotton tent with beeswax coating. Do yourself a favor and ditch the plastic!
There is no way I would use cotton in my camping gear that will mould up fast. I wouldn't use wool either personally.
I've tried the beeswax coating on my own homemade canvas tents and it got mold FAST!!! And very extensively AND did not keep water out, my tent flooded a lot!! I found hemp oil to be better but still no good in heavy rains. And I have made alpaca wool stuffed blankets and some have gotten damp and the musty. Right now I use the Exped airmattress (I had also made a wool stuffed small futon which went moldy and had used natural latex, also went moldy!) a synthetic pillow and down sleeping bags.. and need to get a new tent! Loved the feel of the canvas and the look and how quiet it was in the wind, just wish I could make it work. The waxed canvas might work okay, haven't tried it yet, but got a sample of the material and wasn't smelly. (I'm very sensitive btw)
Check out propolis-based Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP used for waterproofing forest firefighting boots. Just try it on a small patch of canvas and see if it works. I’ve been usign this product on my leather boots for 25 years. I don’t know what the results will be with canvas but i have a feeling it will work better than the beeswax
Exped mats are nice, insulted mats that REI sells. Verified they do not have flame retardants on them at all. They have down insulation and work great to keep you warmer. Also Kelty sleeping bags are flame retardant free as are Big Agnes. Other brands may be as well but I'm not sure. For some reason Polyester is better for me than nylon so I go with bags lined with that Kelty. though I also have a REI brand one that seems to be fine as well. (Haven't heard about the flame retardants on that one though. We go with a big agnes tent (only for camping not living) and it's great, though they still do have flame retardants. If you buy a Nemo tent from Colorado they will be Flame R free I read on their website.
Thanks! Some of the exped mats have polyurethane, which works well for me after about a week, but would take a while to offgas for someone super sensitive.
yes Exped is the one I use! Did take a little time to off gas, maybe a week or so, but have been using it for about a year and works great for me! (Big MCS sufferer here) 🙂 Good to know about the Kelty bags since that's one of the ones I've been using for a long time and I also use another REI brand that seems ok. I'm also very reactive to flame retardants, so I was happy to find this site and the links for different tent options. Thank you!
Thomas Venney says