June 12, 2020
By Lisa Petrison, Ph.D.
This page provides details on affordable tents and shelters that may have potential for those who are trying to avoid or minimize their exposure to fire retardants and other toxic chemicals.
Some of the tents on this page carry Proposition 65 warnings, which means that they may include the chemical Tris or other chemicals that are thought to be relatively hazardous. Those are marked with a number sign (#) in the listings.
Tents and shelters that do not include any fire retardants at all are marked with an asterisk (*) in the listings.
Following is a list of links to additional articles in this series on non-toxic and less-toxic tents and shelters.
There are many circumstances in which people want to go tent camping, but when they cannot or do not wish to spend a great deal of money on equipment.
For instance, those who are just starting out with camping may want to see if they like it or to learn more about their own needs and desires before making a big investment.
Individuals who are pursuing mold avoidance may fear that their equipment will become moldy or cross-contaminated, and therefore need to be discarded or given to someone who is not as sensitized.
Some people simply cannot afford to spend a lot of money on expensive equipment or do not feel it is worth it to them.
Unfortunately, though, finding reasonably priced tents that do not present problems with regard to being factory-contaminated with hazardous fire retardants has been a real challenge for me.
For the pages of this series discussing premium tents and shelters, my policy has been to include only tents that a) contain fire retardants that do not require a Proposition 65 disclosure or b) contain no fire retardants at all.
Although I do not think that Proposition 65 warnings are necessarily of particular concern in every product category, I do think that they are relevant with regard to camping tents and shelters because – as far as I have seen – they virtually always indicate that a fire retardant that I know to be especially problematic (such as Tris, PBDE’s or antimony) has been used in them.
Unfortunately, very few inexpensive tents meet these criteria since most of them are treated with Tris or other chemicals covered by Proposition 65.
Apparently, with tents as with so many other areas of life, being wealthy provides a great advantage in terms toxicity avoidance, with people who are not very well-off seeming to be expected to just accept the fact that they are going to be poisoned and that there is nothing that they can do about it.
An additional complicating factor is that even though a 2019 California law requires that companies disclose at least one of the chemicals that have been used when providing a Proposition 65 disclosure, most companies have not yet done this.
(An exception is Walmart, which does seem to have made a conscientious effort to gather this information and post it on its website for products that it is selling itself. This is how I finally learned for sure that the chemical in Walmart Ozark Trail and Coleman tents that I have found to be objectionable is Tris, for instance. Note that products being sold by third parties through the Walmart site do not yet necessarily provide this information though.)
In order to give people looking for affordable tents more choices, I broadened my criteria for this page to include tents brands that carry Proposition 65 disclosures but that have been reported as tolerable – either right out of the box or after some off-gassing in the sun – by at least a few experienced mold avoiders.
It also is my intention to limit the tents mentioned on this page to those that include fire retardants – such as Tris – that seem to be somewhat less damaging and that have the potential to be remediated.
In practice, though, I have found very few tents that have revealed through Proposition 65 disclosures that they were using more dangerous chemicals such as antimony or PBDE’s. So that may be some small bit of progress, perhaps.
One affordable tent brand that I think does have some promise for campers who are trying to avoid toxic chemicals is Winterial.
The supplier, Marketfleet, states on its website that it does not include any Proposition 65 chemicals in its tents, and company representatives have stated repeatedly (including in response to consumer queries on the Amazon site and in personal correspondence to me) that they do not use any fire retardants at all in their tents.
The few comments that I have heard about Winterial tents from people who are especially sensitive to mold and chemicals have suggested that these tents have been well-tolerated.
Unfortunately, most of Winterial’s tents currently are listed as being out of stock on the company’s website and do not seem widely available elsewhere either, and so I am wondering now if they are going to continue to make tents at all into the future.
I have yet to get any reports from sensitized people about those tents and so would be interested in hearing from those who have tried them.
I also am interested in products from Lightspeed, which makes a wide variety of small shade shelters as well as a few privacy tents and sleeping tents.
Although I have not gotten a response from the company in terms of which fire retardants they are using, there is no discussion of Proposition 65 on the company website or in Lightspeed listings that I have seen on the Walmart website.
Lightspeed’s air mattresses are well-regarded among many people with multiple chemical sensitivities, and I have heard a few positive comments about their shade shelters as well.
It was my own experience when camping that tents that were treated with this chemical generally felt okay to me after I rinsed them and let them sit in the sun for a few weeks, and I have similar reports from some other individuals who have become sensitized to mold or chemicals as well.
Therefore, that could be a strategy to try with these tents, which otherwise get pretty good reviews in terms of quality and value.
Another popular and widely available brand of inexpensive tents is Wenzel.
This tent brand carries a Proposition 65 warning on its website, but unfortunately it has not yet complied with the new Proposition 65 change requiring at least one of the hazardous substances being used to be revealed.
I have heard some reports that suggest that these tents may be more immediately tolerable than Coleman and Walmart Ozark trail tents but that their general construction may not be as good.
The Quick Set by Clam day shelters carry a Proposition 65 warning without mentioning the particular chemicals involved, and I do not have any reports with regard to the tolerability of those shelters from mold-sensitized people.
However, the shelters get such good reports in general that I am still listing them here as a possibility for those who are looking for a screenroom type shelter.
I also found a few other reasonably priced tents and shelters that made no mention in their materials of Proposition 65 and that seem that they may have some potential for people to try out.
I would be interested in hearing reports on these products and on others as well, in order to be able to improve this article in the future.
Tents in this section are stated as sleeping a maximum of 1-3 people (meaning that they are going to be fairly uncomfortable for more than one person).
Individuals who are camping on their own and who are looking to spend a minimum amount of money on their tent may want to look first to the basic tents described here.
Small tents like these also may be a good “Plan B” to have on hand, in case the usual residence (whether it be a building, recreational vehicle or other tent) becomes temporarily or permanently unusable.
In addition to being inexpensive, small tents like these are relatively easy to wash by hand and dry fairly quickly.
This can be helpful in reducing the extent to which contamination with Tris or other problematic chemicals are present when the tent is new, as well as reducing cross-contamination that may occur later on.
For those looking to spend a minimum amount of money for a maximum amount of space, a simple dome-shaped small tent may be a good option.
The Walmart Ozark Trail Camping Dome is a three-person tent available for less than $30 that also gets good user reviews.
An option for those looking for a small tent are those that are stated as being “backpacking tents.”
These tents are lighter weight than standard dome tents, but they also have a larger quantity of mesh that (once toxicity issues have died down) may make them more appealing for those who prefer larger amounts of air flow.
The backpacking tents made by Winterial are one possible alternative.
According to the company, these tents do not contain fire retardants, and I have heard a few good comments regarding their being tolerable by those sensitive to mold and chemicals.
Winterial tents also get really good user ratings on the Amazon and Walmart sites, especially when used for backpacking purposes.
The Coleman Hooligan line of tents is another popular choice.
I especially like the fact that the two-person version of the Hooligan has enough mesh and is tall enough across (with a 4’7″ center height) that it might serve as a small screen room for me to be able to sit in a low chair and do work when bugs are an issue.
In addition, the reviews of this two-person tent suggest that it packs down small, which could make it a good choice to have on hand for emergencies.
The Walmart Ozark Trail Hiker is a one-person backpacking tent available for around $30 that could be another choice worth considering.
Naturehike makes a number of smaller tents that do not contain fire retardants and that – despite being a little more expensive than some of the other tents listed in this section – may be worth considering for budget-conscious consumers.
They are discussed in more detail on the Backpacking Tents page of this article series.
Walmart Ozark Trail:
This section lists several straightforward dome-shaped tents that sleep a maximum of 4-6 people.
In my experience, a four-person tent may be appropriate for car camping purposes for two people who are using the tent just for sleeping purposes and may provide some extra comfort for an individual camping alone for a more extended period of time.
Six-person tents may be large enough for small families to camp comfortably for shorter periods of time.
The Coleman Sundome is a popular basic tent available in a range of sizes (from 2-person to 6-person) and that is reported to be durable and functional.
The Coleman Moraine Park tents are a “fast pitch” alternative, which go up more quickly because they use “pre-attached, color-coded poles and hub.”
Whether this makes the tents more difficult to wash, I’m not sure.
The Amazon Basics four-person tent is sold for a relatively low price and gets pretty good general reviews, although I’m not sure how it would feel in terms of toxicity issues.
Wenzel makes a few tents that also get pretty good reviews, with toxicity issues again being a question mark.
On the low end, Walmart Ozark Trail tents get fairly good reviews from some people pursuing mold avoidance and could be another option.
Walmart Ozark Trail:
As a general rule, I am not a big fan of large tents for people who are pursuing camping for mold avoidance reasons.
While they may be comfortable, tents this large tend to be difficult to wash and take up a lot of space in the vehicle.
In addition, they tend to be relatively expensive, meaning that there is more potential for financial loss if they get moldy or cross-contaminated.
Because they are higher profile, larger tents also may have problems when used in heavy winds and may be time-consuming to put up.
Nevertheless, especially when it comes to family camping, the advantages of larger tents may outweigh the disadvantages in some situations.
One popular choice is the Coleman Tanaya Lake series.
These are cabin-style tents sleeping a maximum of six or eight people, with tall ceilings and a variety of features (such as room dividers, indoor storage areas and a hinged door) that make camping with a family a little easier.
The Coleman Octagon 98 is a basically circular (octagon) shaped tent with a spacious feel (13’x 13′ with a 6’10” center height).
Large windows provide lots of ventilation, and the tent is reported to be very easy to assemble.
Wenzel sells several different mid-priced larger tents that also might be options.
Walmart Ozark Trail offers a good selection of larger tents at low prices, most of which get very good customer reviews on the Walmart website.
Another value-oriented tent that seems to get pretty good reviews is the AmazonBasics eight-person tent.
Walmart Ozark Trail:
Virtually all the tents in the marketplace look, at least to my eyes, very similar to one another.
This may be for good functional reasons, but it also makes me feel more inclined to wake up and take notice when something different is presented.
A tent style that I have yet to see in a campground but that is pretty appealing to me are teepees (also known as “tipis”).
Although the teepee may not be the most functional style of tent out there, many other people seem to find them appealing too (with most online reviews being quite positive).
My guess would be that children might especially find this kind of tent to be much more fun than standard tents.
I am especially interested in the Winterial Teepee Tent, which seems to get very good user reviews and is stated by the company as not including fire retardants.
The main objection to the tent that I heard from reviewers is that the way that the tent is ventilated at the top allows bugs to easily get in.
Maybe it would be possible to sew some insect netting to the area to prevent this, however.
The Wenzel Shenanigan (available in five-person and eight-person models) is another teepee-style tent that also gets pretty good reviews.
Walmart offers for a little more than fifty bucks the Ozark Trail Teepee Tent, with floor space to (in theory) sleep seven.
This teepee uses poles on the sides of the tent rather than a center pole, providing a larger amount of open floor space.
The more expensive Walmart Ozark Trail Instant Teepee has the poles permanently attached to the outside of the tent so that it can be erected quickly (with an estimate of as little as two minutes).
This teepee also sleeps a maximum of seven and gets good reviews from users, many of whom say it feels more like a tent than a teepee to them.
Although all of these teepee-style tents are fun, I question whether they would be good to use on an everyday basis since they do not seem especially suited to poor weather.
The shape of the tents and the lack of a rain fly make me feel like water is likely to get in and that they probably would not be very well-suited for windy conditions.
They seem more like a novelty, to use in good weather when spirits are low (and maybe as a backup to have on hand in case the more substantial tent gets contaminated or otherwise ruined).
Another option that seems cheerful but not especially suited for regular use is the Wezdel Ballyhoo series.
These rectangular tents have a large awning (providing a veranda-style porch) and a huge front door (serving as a nice picture window).
Cross-ventilation looks like it would be really good in these tents, and the relatively high ceilings seem like they also would be pretty good at letting heat dissipate easily.
My offhand feeling about these tents is that although they look like they would not do all that well in wind, rain or cold, they might be just the ticket for hot summer desert camping.
A downside to these tents is that they are not freestanding and therefore need to be secured with the (attached) guy-lines. I do not have much experience using those.
I also am not seeing many reviews of the tent online yet, and I also only have a few reports (mostly positive) about Wenzel from mold-sensitized people.
I therefore am not sure what these tents would be like, from either a functionality standpoint or a toxicity standpoint.
They sure are cute though.
Walmart Ozark Trail:
Instant Setup Tents
Instant setup tents are designed to go up quickly and easily, due to the poles being permanently attached to the outside.
The downside to these kinds of tents is that they may be more difficult to wash, since they likely will not be able to be immersed in even the largest size bin.
It may be that a hose setup would do an adequate job in rinsing away some of the loose fire retardants that are contaminating the tent, especially if soap is used, however.
Both Coleman and Walmart Ozark Trail make a variety of instant setup tents that get good reviews and are fairly reasonably priced.
Lightspeed, which generally gets very good ratings on Amazon and Walmart for its pop-up day shelters, currently offers one instant tent designed for sleeping purposes as well.
Walmart Ozark Trail:
Tents with Screen/Shade Porches
While I am a big fan of having a day shelter available while camping, I think it often is better to have this be separate from the regular sleeping tent.
Combining the two together generally results in a tent that is very large – and therefore that can be difficult to wash, handle and store.
However, for those who would like to have a large tent, Coleman offers several different models that include screen room areas.
Wenzel also offers a few combination sleeping tents with screen rooms.
Quite a few reasonably priced options are available to those wanting some protection from the sun.
In particular, a company called Lightspeed makes a wide range of pop-up shade shelters, sold on the Amazon and Walmart websites as well as on their own website.
For instance, the Lightspeed Outdoors Tripod Instant Canopy (at 75″ high) is the tallest of the bunch and is currently priced at $40 on Amazon.
Lightspeed receives high marks from chemically sensitzed people with regard to the tolerability of its inflatable air mattresses, and I also felt good about the Lightspeed products being sold in an L.L. Bean store with the L.L. Bean name on them.
In addition, I do not see a Proposition 65 disclosure on the company’s website or on any product listings.
Whether that means that the Lightspeed shelters being sold via Amazon or the Lightspeed website would be okay for me, I’m not sure though.
The Pacific Breeze Easy Setup Beach Tent – available through Amazon Prime for $100 – also gets good ratings and seems that it could be another good choice.
Walmart Ozark Trail offers a somewhat larger pop-up shade shelter measuring 8×8′, with a center height of 59″.
The shelter is large enough to comfortably shelter several people in camping chairs.
The shelter is said to be easy to put up and gets good reviews on the Walmart site.
Like other Walmart Ozark Trail tents and shelters, it contains the fire retardant Tris.
The Wenzel Moonshine Shade is a larger shade shelter with floor dimensions of 12×9′ and a peak height of 84″.
It is a little more expensive (around $100).
Another possibility for a bit of shade is the Quick Shade Go Hybrid Instant Canopy, which gets good reviews and seems reasonably stable.
The dimensions are 7×7′, with a maximum center height of 70″.
To accompany all of these shelters, I would consider purchasing a large mosquito net that could be draped over the entire shelter if bugs become an issue.
A variety of mosquito nets are discussed on the Tarps & Supplies page of this article series.
Walmart Ozark Trail:
Screen rooms can make it much more enjoyable to spend extended periods of time in the wilderness.
I therefore suggest that regardless of whether people are planning to sleep in a tent or an RV, they consider bringing along a screen shelter to have on hand as a room for relaxing, working, socializing or kitchen prep.
Some people also report that using a portable screen shelter in their own backyard at home has been helpful for them.
The instant pop-up shelters from Coleman have traditionally been very popular, but it seems to me that the smaller one (which is 10′ x 10′) may no longer be in production.
Even if that is the case, it still may be possible to find it for sale in stores or on the Internet, however.
Coleman apparently still makes a larger pop-up shelter (15 x 13′) that also gets good reviews but that may be unnecessarily large for individuals or couples who just want a small sheltered space.
The closest alternative to the smaller Coleman screen room looks to me to be the Walmart Ozark Trail 10′ x 10 Instant Screen House, which is priced at $99 and gets very good reviews on the Walmart website.
This shelter looks so similar to the Coleman shelter that I wonder if it actually is the same item with a different name on it.
Also sold by Walmart is the Ozark Trail 13′ x 9′ Roof Screen House, which gets less good reviews but is more affordably priced at around $50.
Another considerably more expensive option is the Clam Traveler, which is a pop-up shelter that gets fantastic reviews for its quality construction and livability.
Unfortunately, the shelter carries a Proposition 65 warning, and I have been unable to find out what chemicals it includes.
Otherwise, I likely would buy it for my own use, since it is a small shelter (6′ x 6′ with an 82″ center height) that would take up a relatively small amount of room in my cargo minivan and that seems that it would be easy to put up on my own.
The packed size for storage is 53″x7″x7″.
Although the shelter is priced at $250, Bob Wells of Cheap RV Living (who usually is very budget-conscious) made a video giving it a big thumbs-up in terms of its having improved his work efficiency while on the road.
Clam also makes some larger shelters that could be worth considering (but that are not listed individually below).
I’ve yet to hear from any sensitized people in terms of how they have tolerated Clam shelters and so really would be interested in getting some reports on them.
The Gazelle 10’x10′ shelter looks similar to the Clam shelters and also gets very good online reviews.
The shelter also carries a Proposition 65 warning, though.
The King Camp Quick Up Screen House – also known as the King Camp Positano Beach Tent – is not very tall (only 53″), but I think that it still might have potential as a sitting room as well as an emergency sleeping tent if it turned out to be okay on the toxicity front.
It packs down very small (32x7x7″); assembles very easily; has a waterproof roof and waterproof panels that come down on all four sides; is reported by users to do fairly well in the wind; and includes a little awning for use at times when bugs are not an issue.
The floor dimensions are almost 7×7′, though the sloped sides would make this on the cramped side for two people to use at once.
Still, I think that this could be a really useful small space for me to sit in a low chair to work on my computer or relax when camping alone or with my dog, in a variety of weather conditions, without it taking up much extra room in my vehicle.
King Camp is a Chinese company and there do not seem to be any mentions of Proposition 65 chemicals on their website. Whether that means that they actually are not using any, I don’t know.
I would be really interested in buying one of these if I thought that it would be tolerable though.
The Luxe Tempo screen house is a similar design and has about the same amount of floor space, but the maximum height (67″) is a little higher.
This tent is not fully waterpoof and therefore meant to be just an insect and shade shelter.
The screen house also packs up small and gets very good user reviews on Amazon.
I would be very interested in this shelter as well if I knew that sensitized people had been able to tolerate it.
So far, I have not gotten any information from the company about Proposition 65 status or fire retardant usage, unfortunately.
Quick Set by Clam:
Walmart Ozark Trail:
About This Blog
Living Clean in a Dirty World provides useful information for those working to recover from chronic illness through mold avoidance, clean living and related therapies.
It is presented by Paradigm Change.
Previous Living Clean Guides include:
Lisa Petrison is the founder of Paradigm Change and Mold Avoiders. She holds a Ph.D. in marketing/psychology from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Paradigm Change also provides a wide variety of additional information on the topic of the role of mold toxins in chronic illness.
The remarkable life of Erik Johnson (including details about the Lake Tahoe epidemic) is summarized in the book Back from the Edge, written by Lisa Petrison.
A PDF copy of the book is available for free to those signing up for occasional email newsletters from Paradigm Change.
Erik’s approach to mold avoidance is outlined in the book A Beginner’s Guide to Mold Avoidance.
It is available for free in PDF format to those signing up for occasional email newsletters from Mold Avoiders.
The book is also available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.
The Mold Avoiders discussion forum is run by Paradigm Change and is designed to help those who are seriously interested in pursuing the approach to mold avoidance described in the book to get their questions answered.
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