Camping stoves are great for cooking or boiling water while enjoying the great outdoors, but what about indoors?
Ross and I pondered this once when our power went out right before dinner.
“We can still make food with our camping stove!” I said to him.
We had a thunderstorm and it was pouring rain, so we didn’t exactly feel like venturing out with our camp stove just to boil some water for the pasta we had planned.
But can you use a camping stove indoors safely?
There are big risks with using camping stoves indoors
The short answer is no, you shouldn’t use a camping stove indoors, or any confined space with little ventilation for that matter.
Because when camping stoves burn, they can produce carbon monoxide (CO)—an odourless and colourless gas that can cause serious health problems, including death.
In addition to this risk, the use of a camping stove can also pose other risks as well.
For example, if the space isn’t properly ventilated, there’s a risk of fire or explosion.
The long answer is—it sometimes depends on the stove you’re using.
Most camping stoves are called camping stoves because they’re designed to use exactly for that—camping—which involves being outdoors.
In general, there are four different types of camp stoves:
Butane/propane stoves typically come in the form of hot plate/burner stoves or small stove pieces that can be hooked up to a fuel canister.
These stoves allow clean-burning vaporized gas to be released, which create the flame and can easily be controlled by tightening or loosening the fuel-adjuster knob (similar to your barbecue).
Alcohol stoves, like the Trangia stove, are clean-burning and colourless, however they can be finicky to light.
They also tend to burn quick since you have no control over the flame (unlike butane/propane stoves).
White gas stoves
Stick/wood-burning stoves, like our Bushbox XL titanium (which also works as an alcohol stove), use natural debris like twigs, sticks, small pieces of wood, and leaves as tinder, kindling, and fuel to build a small fire in a small burning chamber.
Which types of camp stoves can you actually use indoors?
It’s possible to use butane/propane, alcohol, and white gas stoves indoors, however they must be used with extreme caution in a well-ventilated space with no combustible materials nearby.
An example of a well-ventilated area can be a kitchen with the windows and doors open, underneath a kitchen stove vent, or right outside your front or back door.
Stick/wood-burning stoves should never be used indoors, unless you’re able to place it directly inside a working fireplace to allow the smoke to escape through the chimney.
Keep in mind that butane/propane and white gas stoves can also leak if not properly hooked up and can flare up if not adjusted correctly.
Can you use a camping stoves inside your tent?
Sorry, but this is a big no-no.
Even well-ventilated tents with all the vents, windows, and doors open can become a death trap in just minutes if you’re using a camping stove inside.
The danger lies in the fact that tents are small spaces that can easily catch fire and can fill up with CO quickly, making it difficult to escape before succumbing to the poisonous gas.
If the weather is bad and you don’t want to get out of your tent to cook or boil water, consider using a tent with an extra large vestibule or rainfly to safely cook under.
That said, you still have to be extra careful when cooking under a tent vestibule.
Make sure to place your stove a safe distance away from the tent walls and fly, never leave it unattended, and be sure to turn off the fuel canister when finished.
Be sure to open all the vents, windows, and doors of your tent to completely minimize the risk of any fumes accumulating inside.
Always use your camp stove outdoors whenever possible
Just because it’s possible to safely use a camp stove indoors doesn’t mean that you should.
The risks just aren’t worth it.
In our case, when our power went out, we were able to use our Bushbox and Trangia stove right outside our front door, which was protected from the rain by the awning on our porch.
Better to be safe than sorry!
If you do decide to use a camp stove indoors, you need to understand that you’re taking a risk.
Here are some tips to stay safe when using a camp stove indoors:
- Plan to use your camp stove in a large room where there are lots of windows and doors you can open.
- Place your camp stove on a flat, stable, and heat-safe surface—away from any flammable material or items.
- If using a butane/propane or white gas-powered stove, be sure to inspect it for any gas or fuel leaks before using it.
- If you suspect a leak, avoid using the stove and fuel. You may need to do some troubleshooting to get it working again (such as by clearing dirt from the seal area) or you may need to replace it.
- Monitor your camp stove the entire time you use it and never leave it unattended.
- Turn your camp stove off as soon as you’re done using it and allow it to cool completely before putting it away.
- Be sure to have a CO detector installed in your home as well as an extinguisher on hand in case of fire or explosion.
Camping stove alternatives that can be safely used indoors
It’s best to save your camping stove for outdoor use only.
But if you really want a safe and convenient way to cook or boil water indoors without the use of conventional kitchen appliances, you do have some other options.
Electric hot plates/burners are basically portable stovetop burners (single or double) that can be used as long as you can plug it into an electrical outlet.
If your power is out, this may not be of any use to you, but if you have access to a generator/power bank with an AC outlet, then you should be able to use it no problem.
Heat fuel cans (or canned heat) are cans that you can pop open and light safely indoors, which burn clean bioethanol fuel for up to 45 minutes.
They’re mostly used for making s’mores or having fondues, so it may be more difficult to cook over or boil a large pot of water over—especially if you don’t have something to hold your pot in place right over it (similar to the way a twig/alcohol stove does).
Remember to always be safe and go with your gut.
If you’re feeling nervous about using a camping stove indoors, just don’t.
Just set it up right outside your front or back door like we did, or scrap cooking altogether and make yourself a delicious wrap or sandwich instead.
Safety should always be your top priority!
Camping stove FAQ
Can I use a Coleman camp stove indoors?
If the stove uses butane/propane as fuel, you may be able to use it indoors, but it isn’t recommended—even with all the windows and doors open.
Would you use your barbecue indoors?
The answer to this should be no.
Can I use a Solo stove indoors?
No, the Solo stove is a wood-burning stove that can’t be used indoors.
The smoke and fumes can easily accumulate in a closed space, leading to carbon monoxide poisoning.
What’s the safest fuel to burn indoors?
The safest fuel to burn indoors is bioethanol, which can be found in heat fuel cans.
It produces no smoke or smell and can be easily extinguished.
Elise is an experienced backcountry canoe tripper and winter camper from Ontario, Canada. She loves cooking up a storm over the campfire, taking in all the backcountry views, and enjoying a piña colada or two while relaxing at camp. She’s also certified in Whitewater Rescue (WWR) I & II and Wilderness First Aid (WFA).