Camping has generally been thought of as a fair weather activity until recently.
The modern innovations in cold weather clothing systems, vastly improved sleeping bags and tents, low emission space heaters, and cold weather optimized RVs, have turned camping into a truly 4 season activity in all but the very harshest environments. These same advances have made it possible for many more people to quite comfortably pursue sports such as hunting, fishing, snowshoeing, ski touring, and snowmobiling during the coldest winter months.
Using any type of auxiliary combustible heating source while cold weather camping requires diligence, common sense and a reliable way to monitor Carbon Monoxide levels.
Tragically, every year, this odorless and invisible gas kills or severely sickens unsuspecting campers, hunters, and ice fishermen just trying to stay warm while pursuing their outdoor passion. Unfortunately, in September 2013, this fact was driven home for a small town here in Western Colorado when three male high school students were overcome by this deadly gas while hanging out in the family camper. Although this situation happened in a closed garage, with the RV’s generator running, had this camper been equipped with an inexpensive carbon monoxide detector, this tragedy would have been avoided. Sadly one of the young men, a star running back on the high school’s football team, died a few days later. One of the other teenagers, also on the football team, spent well over a week hospitalized and may suffer long term health consequences from this ordeal.
Recreation vehicle type campers vent the gases from their heaters (air and hot water), generators, and refrigerators to the outside via some form of exhaust or stove pipe so that these gases are prevented from entering the living space. If proper maintenance is performed to make sure all these exhaust pipes are intact and not plugged by debris or small animals, nor obstructed on the outside by piles of vegetation, other camping equipment, or snow and ice; then it should be a safe situation. But sometimes things get neglected or overlooked and it is for this reason that carbon monoxide detectors are installed at the factory on practically all new RVs. If an older RV type camper (or cabin boat) doesn’t have one, then the small expense of adding one (less than $70) can be a lifesaving upgrade.
It is important to recognize some of the common symptoms of Carbon monoxide poisoning:
1. Dizziness usually accompanied by a dull headache
3. Confusion and irritability
4. Sleepiness, loss of energy
5. Unexplained weakness or loss of coordination
6. Nausea and vomiting
7. Facial flushing
If these symptoms occur while in an enclosed area, evacuate the premises and seek fresh outside air.
These somewhat mimic flu symptoms, except for fever, and are rapid onset.