June 12, 2020
By Lisa Petrison, Ph.D.
This page provides information on tents available in the U.S. that have not been treated with fire retardants.
Following is a list of links to additional articles in this series on non-toxic and less-toxic tents and shelters.
While almost all the tents sold in the U.S. still contain some kind of chemical fire retardants, an increasing number of choices are now available to those who want to avoid such chemicals entirely.
Some basic information on those tents is provided on this page.
Many of these tents do not include waterproofing chemicals either and therefore may require the user to take some time in order to seal the seams with silicone.
In some cases these tents are available only via mail order since some state regulations forbid the selling of tents that do not meet certain flammability standards through retail stores.
In addition, REI recently made an announcement that they were going to be working toward eliminating all fire retardants from their entire line of tents, starting in Fall 2020.
It’s my hope that once that happens, other companies will be eliminating the chemicals from their own tents as well.
The Diamond Brand FreeDome 2 1/2 is a moderately priced tent that is advertised as being “eco-friendly” and as containing no fire retardants.
It weighs over 5 pounds and thus may be more appropriate for car camping than backpacking.
The tent is manufactured in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
I haven’t gotten any reports on it yet from people pursuing mold avoidance but would be interested in trying it out.
Diamond Brand also manufactures some large canvas wall tents that do not contain fire retardants.
On the high end are tents from Fjällräven, a Swedish outdoor company whose products have become increasingly popular in the U.S. over the past few years.
All of the Fjällräven tents are stated as being “entirely without PVC plastic and toxic flame retardants, and the impregnation is fluorocarbon free.”
I had a chance to check out a few of the tents from this company in a Fjällräven retail store and was extremely impressed by how they felt to me as well as by the obvious quality of the construction.
A basic smaller three-season tent from Fjällräven will set you back around $700-900, and so these tents are by no means affordable to everyone.
While most of the company’s tents seem made to withstand colder weather and harsh conditions, the Fjällräven View is much more open, with ample ventilation that would make it appropriate for summertime use.
Despite how expensive these tents are, I think that if I were going to be camping again on a frequent basis, I likely would splurge on one.
Hilleberg is another Swedish company that has a good reputation for making very high-quality tents, with a particular focus on ones appropriate for winter use.
My understanding from reading comments from users online is that this company does not use fire retardants in its tents.
One concern that I have with Hilleberg tents is that they seem to be more focused on keeping users warm in cold weather than on supplying ample ventilation for warmer months of the year.
I would definitely look into buying a tent from this company if I found myself in a situation where I was going to need to do winter camping, though.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Hyperlite makes a collection of ultralightweight tents and tarps from the high-tech fabric Dyneema, designed for backpacking use.
Mesh inserts are sold separately, allowing the user to mix-and-match styles.
The products are said not to include any fire retardants and are made in Maine.
Prices start at $695, not including mesh inserts or ground cloths.
Kamp-Rite manufacturers a variety of tent cots that the company says are free of fire retardants.
The company is rumored to also manufacture Cabela’s Tent Cots, which I found to be tolerable on a store visit and therefore that I suspect may also not contain fire retardants (even though they carry a Proposition 65 warning).
Unfortunately I have gotten some reports from sensitized people that Kamp-Rite tent cots have had a strong chemical odor. Whether that would die down in time, I’m not sure.
Mountain Hardwear makes a variety of tents that are primarily designed for use by mountain climbers.
In 2019, Mountain Hardwear announced that all of its tents in the future would not include any fire retardants.
At present, the company offers one moderately priced tent for general backpacking and car camping use (the Mountain King) as well as a more expensive highly ventilated tent for summer use (the Aspect).
The company also offers several tents designed for difficult weather conditions such as wind or cold, as well as two large group shelters.
Naturehike is a Chinese company making a very wide range of reasonably priced tents for backpacking and car camping purposes.
Some of the lighter tents are made of a combination of silicone and nylon, while others (including some intended for winter camping) are made of polyester.
According to a blog article on the website My Chemical-Free House, Naturehike has responded in emails that flame retardants are not used in their tents.
The tents get mostly very good Amazon reviews, but I have yet to hear of any mold-sensitized people who have tried one of them.
Nemo’s director of engineering, Patrick McCluskey, has a Ph.D. in materials science from Harvard University and is strongly opposed to the use of the fire retardants in tents.
The company has been actively campaigning to get laws requiring fire retardants in tents to be repealed and also has made an effort to use only the minimal amounts of least risky fire retardants in its products in the meantime.
The company has chosen to forego sales from Canda due to the fact that its tents are not designed to be consistent with current Canadian fire retardant laws.
In addition, the company currently sells two tents that are entirely free of all fire retardant chemicals.
The first is the Nemo Aurora, a moderately priced tent intended for general backpacking and car camping use that was introduced in 2020.
According to the company website, “This tent is safer for you and the environment as it uses no restricted chemical substances, or other added chemicals for flame-resistance, and meets CGSB-182.1 requirements for flammability.”
The Nemo Chogori is a more expensive mountaineering tent that is designed to be able to handle tough weather conditions such as wind and snow.
Nemo states on its website that it will not ship this product to California, Louisiana, Minnesota or New Jersey due to fire retardant laws in those states.
The company also previously offered a bikepacking tarp without any fire retardants called the Nemo Apollo, but it is not listed on the website this year.
The tarp may still be available through many online retailers, however.
I have felt great about all of the Nemo products that I have encountered, including their regular line of tents.
The fact that the Nemo Aurora does not include fire retardants – and also that there is an Aurora Pawprints blanket available that would protect the tent bottom from being damaged by my dog’s nails – makes me really interested in trying it out.
In 2014, Sierra Designs introduced a backpacking tent called the Tensegrity Elite, which contained no fire retardants and or water repellants other than silicone.
In order to make the tent more lightweight, hiking poles (not included) were used instead of tent poles for the assembly of the tent.
The Tensegrity Elite seems to have been very well-liked among those who tried it, with many people stating in blog articles or online reviews that it was their favorite tent ever.
I had a chance to take a look at the tent and it felt good to me.
Unfortunately, Sierra Designs has removed the tent from the market, but it is possible that it might still be available online.
Note that the Tensegrity FL is a tent that is similar to the Tensegrity Elite, but that does include fire retardants.
Sierra Designs Tensegrity Elite – Articles:
Six Moon Designs
Six Moon Designs offers a collection of small ultralight tents for backpacking use.
The more expensive models are made from the high-tech fabric Dyneema, while the more affordable tents are made from silicone-coated polyester.
All of the tents are free of fire retardants.
Tarptent is a U.S. company selling a variety of lightweight tents primarily for backpacking use.
All of the companies’ tents are free of fire retardants and seem to be very well-tolerated among those individuals who have tried them and reported back to me on their experiences.
Although all of the company’s tents are on the small side, they may be appropriate for campground use as well as for backpacking.
Some of the company’s tents are moderately priced, with a number of nice models available for $300 or so.
The company also offers some tents made of the lightweight fabric Dyneema that are more expensive.
The Tent Lab
For the past several years, a very small Colorado company called The Tent Lab has been using the fact that its MoonLight tents do not include fire retardants as one of the key selling features.
The tents also use silicone rather than other waterproofing treatments and are made of polyester.
Although the tents can be used for backpacking, they are designed to be especially wind-resistant and thus are a little heavier than some backpacking tents on the market.
The tents usually cost significantly less when they are ordered in advance.
I’ve heard mixed reports with regard to the tolerability of these tents, with some sensitized people really liking them and others saying that the tent that they got seemed to be cross-contaminated with something problematic.
I suggest checking to make sure that the tent can be returned if it is not tolerated before ordering it, therefore.
Winterial offers a number of different moderately priced tents that the company says are free of fire retardants.
Included in the Winterial line are straightforward one-person and three-person tents; a family-oriented teepee tent; a double tent cot; and several pet tents.
New for 2020 is a motorcycle tent, which sleeps a maximum of three people and also provides shelter for a motorcycle.
I’ve gotten a couple of good reports about Winterial tents from mold-sensitized people, and they also seem to get pretty good user reviews on Amazon and other online sites.
Zpacks makes a small line of ultralight backpacking tents (often used by through-hikers on long backpacking trips) that also contain no fire retardants at all.
They are made from the high-tech material called Dyneema, which is very light and strong (but not very breathable).
Although the tents are on the small side and fairly expensive ($550-700), I have gotten some good reports about them from a few people pursuing mold avoidance.
They are made at the company’s facility in West Melbourne, Florida.
Canvas Tents & Tipis
Several companies sell camping shelters made of canvas.
These include smaller camping tents, larger wall tents, and tipis.
Canvas tents tend to be more stable and home-like than most camping tents, and all the companies below offer models without fire retardants.
Because canvas tents have the potential of becoming moldy and need to be thoroughly dried out between uses, they may be more appropriate for camping in drier climates.
Fire Retardant Issues
Just a couple of years ago, there were virtually no choices available in the U.S. for people who wanted to go camping without exposing themselves to toxic flame retardants.
Laws in four U.S. states (including California) require that tents be flame retardant, and virtually all tent manufacturers were using chemicals to ensure that all their tents could pass flame tests so that they could be sold through stores in those states.
A very few companies – including Tarptent and MoonLight – did sell expensive backpacking tents without fire retardants through mail order, but their sales were tiny and most consumers were unaware that the options existed.
This started to change in 2016, after the publication of a Duke University study suggesting that assembling or sleeping in camping tents exposed users to high levels of gene-altering chemicals that had been shown to be cause cancer, reproductive problems, and impeded childhood development.
The chemicals included polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and tris (1,3-dichloroisopropyl) phosphate (TDCPP) – substances that had previously been used routinely in upholstered furniture and children’s pajamas but then eliminated due to the general conclusion that the health hazards were too great.
Following the release of the Duke University study, a number of tent manufacturerers expressed public concern about the presence of fire retardants in tents and began to consider ways to improve the situation.
At first, companies seemed to be trying to move toward the use of supposedly safer fire retardants.
REI, for instance, put together a list of fire retardants that would not be allowed in any tents sold in its stores or through its website.
But an excellent article from December 2019 in Outside magazine suggests that more recently, a number of tent companies have concluded that no fire retardant chemicals are benign in terms of health hazards or environmental impact and also that the risk to campers of experiencing tent fires is extremely small.
According to the article:
In the 1970s, the Canvas Products Association International wrote a flammability standard, CPAI-84, that has become the default standard for most tent makers, but it hasn’t been updated in more than 20 years. It was written for waxed or oiled cotton tents, like those hoisted for big-top circuses, and calls for holding a flame to fabric for 12 seconds without it igniting. Just four states mandate it, including California (Canada does as well), but the Golden State’s purchasing power means the vast majority of tents sold in the United States comply. (California’s laws also require that manufacturers label tents as containing materials that can cause cancer.)
REI worked in partnership with the OIA (Outdoor Industry Association) and officials in Canada to draft a new flammability testing method that is more relevant to modern tent materials. The new test criteria have yet to be finalized, but the latest version suggests it may focus more on how much material burns or sheds “flaming debris,” rather than how quickly tent fabric extinguishes after exposure to flame. The approach will allow REI to phase out flame retardants from its products beginning next year. According to an REI blog post on September 30, when this new testing protocol is finalized, the company hopes to use it in place of compliance with CPAI-84. Heath has suggested the new testing method could be adopted throughout the United States as an update to the old standard.
Based on this article and on other things that I have read, it sounds like certain tent companies and the Outdoor Industry Association as a whole have started to believe that fire retardants in tents are undesirable and to move away from using them even though laws regarding them in a few states have yet to be repealed.
The article suggests that tent fires occur so infrequently that legal liability is expected to be limited and that local fire marshals – the parties responsible for enforcing CPAI-84 – aren’t expected to make it a priority to go after tent manufacturers.
(Of course, regardless of whether tents have been treated with fire retardants, campers should be careful to follow basic fire safety precautions, including not erecting the tent near campfires or grills; not ever using an open flame in the tent; and avoiding using heaters in their tents. For those who feel they do need a source of heat when in their tents, fire marshals seem to most often recommend oil-filled electric space heaters as likely being one of the safest choices.)
At present, the vast majority of tents being sold do still include fire retardants, with many tents – including almost all affordable tents – still containing particularly problematic ones such as Tris.
I find it interesting that even though my reactivities to almost all chemicals as well as most molds dissipated long ago, I still react pretty strongly to certain fire retardants such as Tris (and also to the herbicide glyphosate).
That makes me think that there is something especially problematic about these chemicals and that it is a good thing that they are being starting to be removed from tents.
Unfortunately for those living in Canada, laws with regard to fire retardancy are particularly strict in that country. An Alternet article summarizes the situation as follows.
Whereas many U.S. state laws are old, Canada’s law was enacted in 2011. According to Giblin, it “required about a 20% increase in the chemicals that had to be put on the products. That’s a rough estimate.” The amount of chemicals used depends on the fabric of the tent as well as which chemical is used as a flame retardant.
Many companies are not very transparent about which chemicals they use, but it’s likely that those that comply with Canada’s regulations will simply increase the amount of flame retardants used in all of their tents, including those sold in the U.S. One exception is the company Nemo, which dealt with the Canadian law by declining to sell their products in Canada. Nemo’s tents still contain flame retardants to meet U.S. standards, but they did not increase the amount of chemicals used in order to comply in Canada.
To my understanding, countries in other places such as Europe and Asia do not require that tents pass fire retardancy tests.
Whether Canada and the four U.S. states (California, Louisiana, Minnesota and New Jersey) where such requirements are on the books can be persuaded to change their laws with regard to this remains to be seen.
In addition to the problems with the fire retardants, it has been reported by a number of people pursuing mold avoidance that certain tent companies may have mold problems sporadically or consistently associated with their products, due to manufacturing or warehouse facilities being moldy.
Waterproofing chemicals such as Teflon, offgassing from the synthetic materials, and anti-microbial coatings also have been cited as problems by some mold avoiders.
Mold growth also can become a problem on some kinds of tents and in some locations.
All of this is especially problematic considering that mold avoiders who are sleeping in tents need those tents to be especially clean since they will be breathing in whatever problematic substances are present for the entire night.
Still, mold growth and mold cross-contamination are scattered issues, and many tents that are less problematic in terms of VOC’s or other chemical issues exist in the marketplace already.
The fire retardant problem, on the other hand, has been so pervasive and so problematic for so long that it seems a particularly good thing that the situation is starting to change.
All of the information that I have been able to find with regard to current fire retardant usage by specific tent manufacturers is summarized on the following page of this article series:
Following are some additional articles related to the topic of fire retardants in tents.
Outside – December 20, 2019
Outdoor Industry Association – October 11, 2016
Outside – July 8, 2016
ACS – July 4, 2016
Gear Junkie – May 17, 2016
Science Daily – May 11, 2016
Backpacking Light – November 11, 2014
Alternet – August 8, 2014
The New York Times – July 1, 2014
Fire Retardants in Tents – Canada:
Chemical Watch – January 24, 2019
Duke University Study (2016):
Tent Camping & Toxicity-Related Illness:
Proposition 65 Information:
Multichannel Merchant – July 24, 2018
The New York Times – May 3, 2015
Diamond Brand Gear:
The Gearcaster – July 10, 2019
Business Insider – July 9, 2019
Backpacker – July 1, 2019
Adventure Journal – May 2, 2019
Holidays and Travel Ideas – May 1, 2019
Gear Patrol – December 14, 2018
Gear Junkie – July 16, 2018
MSR Journal – May 25, 2016
REI Co-op Journal – September 30, 2019
REI Co-op Journal – April 27, 2016
REI Co-op Journal Discussion – April 27, 2016
The Tent Lab:
Tree Hugger – May 11, 2016
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.
Only those who have been approved as Mold Avoiders Participants can read or post in the forum.
The Mold Avoiders Facebook group is designed for more casual conversations among those who are interested in this approach to mold avoidance.
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