The Living Clean Guide to Less-Toxic Camping Gear – Tent Companies

 

The view from inside a Nemo Dagger. (Photo Credit: Nemo Equipment.)

June 12, 2020

By Lisa Petrison, Ph.D.

This page lists the information that I have been able to find about the presence of various fire retardants and other chemicals in tents made by different companies.

Following is a list of links to additional articles in this series on non-toxic and less toxic tents and shelters.

Overview

Tents Without Fire Retardants

Lightweight Tents

Heavier Tents

Day Shelters

Affordable Tents & Shelters

Tarps & Supplies

Tent Companies

Choosing A Tent

Tent Contamination

 

I think that at least for me, tents that carry a Proposition 65 warning (due to their containing Tris or other chemicals thought to be particularly hazardous) tend to be especially problematic and thus ones that I personally prefer to avoid.

The fact that tents with this warning now are supposed to reveal at least one of the relevant toxic chemicals covered by Proposition 65 does make it slightly easier to know what we are dealing with.

REI, Walmart and L.L. Bean seem to have been fairly conscientious about collecting the relevant Proposition 65 information about their vendors’ tents and presenting it on their websites.

Amazon seems much more hit-or-miss about displaying this information, and some tent manufacturers still refuse to discuss the topic at all.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time collecting information from various sources (including writing to companies personally) to try to determine what kinds of chemicals companies are using in their tents and to learn how well especially sensitized individuals do with different tents that are on the market.

That information is summarized on this page.

 

The Amazon Basics 8-Person Tent.

Amazon Basics

Amazon Basics is a line of reasonably priced products offered by Amazon.

Currently, they offer 4-person and 8-person tents.

Although Amazon lists Proposition 65 warnings for many other tents, they do not list any warnings for these tents.

I don’t have any reports from any mold-sensitized people about whether these tents are tolerable for them.

However, I’ve had some good experiences with other Amazon Basics products, and I see that these tents get pretty good consumer reviews on the Amazon site.

Therefore, if I were looking for a low-priced tent, I might give one of these a try.

Amazon is headquartered in Seattle, Washington.

 

Amazon Website

 

The Big Agnes Big House.

Big Agnes

Big Agnes (which is located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado) offers a variety of relatively high-priced camping equipment.

The company does not bring up flame retardants or Proposition 65 on its website, and I have not found any Big Agnes tent listings on the REI or Amazon sites that carry a Prop 65 warning.

In response to my query about fire retardant usage, a Big Agnes representative responded (10/31/18) as follows:

By California law, any product that contains a chemical which appears on the state maintained list must have a warning tag. We’ve included this tag to make sure we fully comply with state law. We do not have information on what chemical was used in the production process.

Our Fly and floor Polyurethane coatings are silicone treated and seam taped with solvent free polyurethane to keep you dry. There is no Polyvinyl Chloride or Volatile Organic Compounds in our materials. 

Many of the listings for Big Agnes tents carry the description: “All seams taped with waterproof, solvent-free polyurethane tape (No PVC or VOC’s).”

Big Agnes does seem to have a fairly good reputation among individuals with chemical sensitivities, but I’ve heard more mixed reports from mold-sensitized individuals.

Recently I had a chance to check out a few Big Agnes tents (including one set up on display) when I was in an REI store. I thought that they felt reasonably okay – similar to the REI tents.

 

Big Agnes Website

Big Agnes on Amazon

Big Agnes on Moosejaw

Big Agnes on REI

 

A Cabela’s Alaskan Guide tent.

Cabela’s

Cabela’s is a chain of outdoor stores focusing largely on hunting and camping.

They are based in Sidney, Nebraska (but were purchased a few years ago by Bass Pro Shops of Springfield, Missouri).

The Cabela’s website lists the following Proposition 65 warning for all of the company’s tents and tent cots: “WARNINGS – Cancer and Reproductive Harm- www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.”

I have not found any information about exactly which chemicals these might be on the website, however.

On my last Cabela’s visit, I spent some time in a tent that they had set up in the store. Although I did not react to it as much as I have to some tents, I did not feel very good about spending time in it and definitely would not have been interested in purchasing it.

However, the Cabela’s Tent Cot (which is reportedly made by Kamp-Rite) felt quite good to me. I would seriously consider buying one if I had enough room in my car.

I do wonder how long the display item had been sitting in the store and whether a new tent cot would be less tolerable, but even if that is the case, I still think a new item would be okay after some off-gassing.

A Kamp-Rite customer service representative stated to me in Fall 2017 that the company’s products did  not include any fire retardants.

 

Cabela’s Website

 

The Coleman Day Tripper Beach Shade

Coleman

Coleman makes a wide line of moderately priced and widely available tents and other shelters. The company is based in Wichita, Kansas.

Coleman tents carry a Proposition 65 warning on the Walmart website and are stated as containing the fire retardant Tris.

Coleman discussed the Proposition 65 issue in a blog article (originally published in 2010 and updated in 2015) on its website:

In 1986, the State of California passed the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 “Prop 65”.  The Act was interesting in that it was passed by a vote of the people of California rather than through the legislative process.  Prop 65 relies on disclosure rather than regulatory requirements to create a market based incentive for manufacturers to remove listed chemicals from their products.  An unfortunate aspect of Prop 65 is that it lists chemicals that in their pure form may well be dangerous but that when used as intended or as components of finished products may present a risk we, as consumers, accept.  For example, aspirin, lead, tobacco, and gasoline are all listed.  

The Act was also interesting in that it established “safe” levels of certain chemicals based on the quantity of the chemical required to result in one excess case of cancer in an exposed population of 100,000, assuming lifetime (70-year) exposure at the level in question.  As is relatively obvious, determining how much of a raw chemical to which a consumer may be exposed in his or her environment is difficult because the environment is different for each consumer.  As a result, many companies, including Coleman, elect to display a common warning, “This product contains chemicals known to the State of California . . ..” on their consumer products and pharmaceuticals sold in the US.  Many places of business located in California including hospitals also display the warning.  

For those of you who live in California, you probably receive a Prop 65 warning notice annually from your utility company about natural gas and see signs at gas stations, medical facilities, grocery stores and everywhere else a hazardous substance may be present in everyday items or in the nearby environment. Additional information in plain language is available from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment at http://oehha.ca.gov/Prop65/background/p65plain.html.

In this regard, the Act has served its purpose – notification to consumers that many of the products they use each day contain chemicals that at certain concentrations can be dangerous.  There are now over 800 chemicals on the Prop 65 list including many chemicals that are components of a wide array of consumer goods. You should know that Prop 65 does not establish acceptable concentrations for any listed chemical in any given product. There are “safe harbor” exposure levels for about 300 of the chemicals. Products that create exposure below that level do not need a warning.

We at The Coleman Company, Inc. take the safety of our consumers very seriously. We believe our products do not create an unreasonable health and safety risk from chemical exposure when used properly as demonstrated in applicable user manuals and operating instructions. We place a Prop 65 warning on products that may contain a Prop 65 listed chemical. This allows us to comply with California law and provide our California consumers with data required by Prop 65.

I was not very happy about this vigorous defense by Coleman of a chemical that I believe to be inappropriate for use in camping equipment, and it seems that the blog article since has been removed from the website.

I never have purchased a Coleman tent and would guess based on the way that that Coleman tents have felt to me in  stores that it would take a good wash as well as a few weeks of sitting in the sun before those tents felt okay to me.

A few members of the Mold Avoiders group have reported having successful experiences with Coleman tents, though.

 

Coleman Website

Coleman on Amazon

Coleman on Walmart.com

 

Colorado Yurt Company

The Colorado Yurt Company makes a variety of teepees and tents from cotton canvas, as well as yurts.

The tents and teepees are treated with a waterproofing substance called Sunforger in order to prevent mold growth.

Fire retardants are optional.

 

Colorado Yurt Company Website

 

Crua Outdoors

Crua Outdoors makes a line of highly insulated tents that are said to be warm in winter and cool in summer, and that conceivably could be appropriate for those with sound or light sensitivities.

The company appears to be based in Ireland but has a U.S. office.

Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to find out any information on the types of fire retardants that the versions of these tents that are sold in the U.S. might contain.

 

Crua Outdoors Website

Crua Outdoors on Moosejaw

 

Denver Tent

Denver Tent sells a variety of tents made from cotton canvas, as well as other products.

Some of the tents are available with a choice of fabric that is either treated or not treated with fire retardants.

Other tents are available only with the fabric that is treated with fire retardants.

Denver Tent is based in Denver, Colorado.

 

Denver Tent Website

 

The Diamond Brand Freedome 2 1/2 Tent.

Diamond Brand

Diamond Brand was founded in the 1800’s and has been making recreational tents since the 1970’s.

The company is based in Philadelphia and manufactures small casual tents as well as large canvas wall tents (both available without fire retardants).

I have yet to hear any reports from individuals about the tolerability of these products.

 

Diamond Brand Website

Diamond Brand on Amazon

 

The Eureka Midori tent that I gave up on.

Eureka

Eureka (which is a sister company to Jetboil and located in Binghamton, New York) is a manufacturer of stoves, tents and other camping products.

A little less than a year ago, I purchased a Eureka Midori 4-person tent, with the intention of using it as a little screen room while on the road.

Even though most of my reactivities to chemicals and most molds already had faded, I reacted really strongly to this tent.

I liked this tent otherwise enough that I decided to try to remediate the inside part of the tent by washing it a bunch of times, including with vinegar and an oxy-type product.

The tent was less obviously bothersome after I being washed a few times, but still would not have been something that I would have wanted to sit in while spending time in a pristine location.

I don’t have any reports from other people with mold sensitivities about Eureka tents.

Although a few Eureka tents were listed in the closeout section of the REI website, there were no mentions of Proposition 65 warnings in the information section.

I also do not see any Proposition 65 warnings for that tent or any of the company’s other tents on Amazon or on other retailers.

The Eureka site does not seem to bring up anything at all related to fire retardants or Proposition 65.

In general, although Eureka and its sister company Jetboil make very nice stoves, I am not convinced that they have any interest in toxicity issues at all.

For instance, the Jetboil camping stoves currently offer only anodized aluminum cups – an apparently terrible idea since cups used over and over again for backpacking cooking seem likely to get scratched and then to release aluminum into food. (A titanium cup option was withdrawn from the marketplace a few years ago.)

In short, while it’s possible that the Eureka tent I purchased was cross-contaminated with mold toxin rather than fire retardant, and therefore that a different tent from this company might be okay, I still would be hesitant to buy a tent from them again.

 

Eureka Website

Eureka on Amazon

Eureka on Moosejaw

Eureka on Walmart.com

 

A Fjällräven tent from Sweden.

Fjällräven

Fjällräven is an outdoor equipment manufacturer from Sweden that sells many of its products in the U.S.

Among the products is a series of expensive tents (almost all of them in the price range of nearly $1,000), designed for mostly for use on expeditions or other use in demanding weather conditions.

None of the company’s tents include fire retardants.

The description of one of the company’s tents reads, “Just like all of Fjällräven’s tents, Keb Endurance 2 is made entirely without PVC plastic and toxic flame retardants, and the impregnation is fluorocarbon free.”

I had a chance to check out some of the company’s tents in one of their retail stores, and they felt fantastic to me.

They also seem to be extremely well-made and likely to last a long time.

On the other hand, these expensive tents are on the small side and for the most part are not very well-ventilated.

They therefore may be most appropriate for specific uses, such as camping in difficult weather conditions.

I do believe that they would be great from a toxicity standpoint though.

 

Fjällräven

 

Hilleberg

Hilleberg is another company from Sweden that makes expensive tents for difficult weather conditions, including winter camping.

Reportedly, their tents do not include any fire retardants or other toxic chemicals.

Although they seem to have a very good reputation in general, I have not had a chance to try out any of the tents and do not have any reports about them from people who have become sensitized to mold or chemicals.

 

Hilleberg Website

Hilleberg on Moosejaw

 

The Kamp-Rite Collapsible Tent Cot.

Kamp-Rite

Kamp-Rite (headquartered in Sacramento, California) makes a line of tent cots that allow the user to sleep in a tent-like structure well above the ground.

This may be especially useful for those pursuing mold avoidance in damp or rainy areas, since it eliminates the issue of the tent sitting right on the ground and then growing mold underneath it.

Rumor has it that Kamp-Rite also makes the Cabela’s line of particularly sturdy tent cots.

Although Kamp-Rite does not seem to bring up flame retardants or Proposition 65 on its website, a few of the listings for the Kamp-Rite tent cots on the Amazon website make reference to Prop 65.

A few other Kamp-Rite listings on Amazon do not mention Prop 65.

In response to a Mold Avoiders group member’s query (10/2/2017), a Kamp-Rite representative responded as follows:

We do not add flame retardants to any of our items. Our tent cots are sprayed with a waterproofing called Polyurethane but those are the only products that have that substance. 

Although I haven’t seen one of the tent cots with the Kamp-Rite name on it, I did have a chance to try out a display model of a Cabela’s cot.

It felt really good to me, although it is possible that this was just because it had been sitting out in the store for a long time.

I’ve heard mixed reports with regard to the tolerability of Kamp-Rite tent cots from other mold-sensitized people.

 

Kamp-Rite Website

Kamp-Rite on Amazon

Kamp-Rite on Walmart.com

 

A Kelty tent and sleeping bag.

Kelty

Kelty sells a line of moderately priced camping shelters and other camping equipment.

They are headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, and are owned by Exxel Outdoors (which also owns Sierra Designs and Wenzel).

Many of Kelty’s products are sold through REI, apparently in order to fill the needs of the chain’s budget-oriented customers.

About a year ago, I ordered through REI a Kelty sleeping bag that I thought looked comfortable and that was being sold at a good price.

However, I reacted strongly to the bag (similarly to how I have reacted to a Eureka tent and certain other camping tents) and so decided to return it to REI.

Two other individuals in the Mold Avoiders group reported reacting very strongly to those same sleeping bags.

Since that time, I have heard numerous other reports of mold-sensitized people reacting negatively to other Kelty products, including tents, tarps and other sleeping bags.

I have found only three mold-sensitized individuals who have reported good experiences with any Kelty products (two with sleeping bags and one with a cot).

It is unclear to me whether the issues that people are having with Kelty products are due to mold issues in a manufacturing or storage facility or to the use of unusually bad chemicals in the manufacturing process.

The fact that Kelty is located in Boulder (which experienced severe flooding in 2013 and is often reported by mold-sensitized individuals as being a problem location) makes me especially suspicious that mold could be a problem.

The REI website includes Proposition 65 warnings on all of Kelty’s tents, tarps and sleeping bags, but without stating the specific chemicals at issue.

A page of the Kelty website discusses the Proposition 65 issue.

 

Kelty Website

Kelty on Amazon

Kelty on Moosejaw

Kelty on REI

Kelty on Walmart.com

 

Kodiak 

Although Kodiak does not talk much about fire retardancy on its website, the company did state in 2016 in a response to a question on this page that one of its tents is not treated with flame retardants.

In 2017, the company wrote the following in response to a question on the Amazon site:

We do not apply flame retardant chemicals to our tents. We recommend keeping all flame and heat sources away from the tent fabric. Never place a stove, campfire, or any other flame source in or near your tent. Never use, light, or refuel a stove, lantern, heater, or any other heat source inside your tent. 

Kodiak is based in Layton, Utah.

 

Kodiak Website

Kodiak on Moosejaw

 

The Lightspeed Tall Canopy.

Lightspeed

Lightspeed (headquartered in San Diego, California) is a manufacturer of a variety of outdoor products.

Lightspeed air mattresses are especially popular among those with chemical sensitivities, since off-gassing issues are reportedly less than with most other air mattress brands.

Air mattresses are not required by any laws to contain fire retardants.

Lightspeed also makes a variety of beach-type shade shelters as well as a couple of regular tents, and these are required in some states to contain fire retardants.

I was not able to find anything at all about flame retardants or Proposition 65 on the company’s website, and I do not see any mention of Proposition 65 on the Lightspeed listings on the Amazon or Walmart sites.

L.L. Bean sells a few products that are made by Lightspeed that felt okay to me in one of the company’s stores, and an L.L. representative informed me that these items do not include Proposition 65 chemicals.

Those products are priced fairly high compared to similar products sold under the Lightspeed name, however.

 

Lightspeed Website

Lightspeed on Amazon

Lightspeed on Walmart.com

 

The LL Bean Mountain Light Tent.

L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean (based in Freeport, Maine) manufactures a wide variety of outdoor-oriented clothing and recreational products, including a number of mid-priced tents.

I purchased a couple of L.L. Bean tents about nine years ago, when I was camping full-time. Although they were nice quality, I did react to them in the way that I have reacted to other tents treated with Tris.

In order to make them tolerable for me, I needed to rinse them in water and then to let them sit in the desert sun for an extended period of time (such as a couple of weeks).

A couple of years later, REI tents started to feel more tolerable to me and I stopped purchasing L.L. Bean tents.

Recently I evaluated some L.L. Bean tents at the store closest to me (Madison, Wisconsin).

I don’t think that their tents felt nearly as good to me as (say) Nemo tents do, but – especially with some offgassing – I think that they might be at least okay for me.

An L.L. Bean representative wrote to a Mold Avoiders group member (9/30/2017):

Our tents have a 1500mm polyurethane coating on the floors and flies which provides waterproofing. In addition the outer fabric is generally treated with a DWR (Durable water repellent) to repel water. All of our coatings meet CPS guidelines for safety. We do not have a breakdown of those chemicals. 

We do not add flame retardants to our tents or sleeping bags. The fibers and materials used all comply with California’s regulations which are pretty strict but the materials are flame retardant in that they tend to smolder rather than burn.

Another L.L. Bean representative responded to my own query about fire retardants (2/8/2018) as follows:

The following information was given to me regarding fire retardants used with our tents. They are treated with a Halogen Free Flame retardant additive. The product name is ICAPSIL FU5658- Please Note:  No need to provide the name (alpha numeric of the treatment), as it has different names based on who the supplier is. Different MFG facilities use different suppliers of this same additive/treatment. This product is not Hazardous per the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling (GHS). The use of this product means that the tent meets All Prop 65 standards including  CPAI-84.

Recently, in early 2020, I asked an L.L. Bean representative about Proposition 65 chemicals. I was informed that if such chemicals were present in any of their products, they would be listed on the website, and none of the tent listings make such a disclosure.

A good thing about L.L. Bean is that despite the recent changes in their warranty program, they still seem to be willing to take back used merchandise that does not meet customers’ standards for a full year after purchase.

Therefore, if people buy a tent and wash it and let it sit in the sun, and then it still doesn’t work for them in terms of toxicity issues, hopefully they will be able to return it and get their money back.

 

L.L. Bean Website

 

A Mountain Hardwear tent.

Mountain Hardwear

Mountain Hardwear makes a variety of recreational products – including some camping gear – that is in large part designed to be used by mountain climbers.

It was one of the three company sponsors of the 2016 Duke University study on consumer exposure to fire retardants through camping tents.

In May 2019, the online blog Adventure Journal reported that all Mountain Hardwear tents starting in 2019 would be free of fire retardants:

“We studied the chemicals and all looked around at each other sitting at a table and asked if any of us wanted to sleep in tents coated in those chemicals,” Mountain Hardwear president Joe Vernachio told me over the phone, referring to a company meeting where they decided to commit to ditching flame retardants. “We all said no.”

“We’ve had little to no consumer request for a change like this,” he said. “We redesigned these tents based on our values. These chemicals aren’t good for anybody, not the people making the tents and not for the end user either.”

Unfortunately, the one mold-sensitized person that I have heard from in the past year who purchased a Mountain Hardwear tent was unable to tolerate it.

I wonder if this could be due to the company being located in Richmond, California, since that is a location where mold-sensitized people generally do quite poorly.

I’m interested in hearing some more reports about this product line.

 

Mountain Hardwear Website

Mountain Hardwear on Moosejaw

Mountain Hardwear on REI

 

An MSR Tent.

Mountain Safety Research (MSR)

MSR manufactures a variety of high-performance, high-priced sporting equipment products, including a line of tents.

The company was one of the three company sponsors of the 2016 Duke University study on the exposure of consumers to flame retardants through the use of camping equipment.

MSR published a blog article about the company’s participation in the study, stating:

As a brand founded with the purpose of making outdoor gear safer, we are working with governmental and industry organizations to find better solutions to FRs within markets that require them, work to remove FRs from markets that don’t, and change and improve the regulations so that we can continue to concentrate on designing the best and safest gear available.

The company discusses Proposition 65 in an article on its website, and lists the following statement for most of the tents on its website: “WARNING: Cancer and reproductive harm – P65Warnings.ca.gov

I have not had a chance to check out any of MSR’s tents, and I have not yet gotten any reports about them from mold-sensitized people.

MSR is headquartered in Seattle, Washington.

 

MSR Website

MSR on Moosejaw

MSR on REI

 

Naturehike

Naturehike is a Chinese company manufaturing a variety of affordable lightweight camping and hiking products, including several tents.

The blog My Chemical-Free House stated, “Naturehike has claimed no fire retardants, but it’s not written anywhere except private emails.”

I do not yet have any reports about this brand from people pursuing mold avoidance and hope to hear from some people on their experiences with the products soon.

 

Naturehike Website

Naturehike on Amazon

 

The Nemo Chogori

Nemo Equipment

Nemo is a camping equipment manufacturer that has won praise for the design of its products.

The company also seems to be on a bit of a crusade to try to eliminate regulations requiring the use of fire retardants in tents, and says it is currently using only the safest ones available.

A company representative wrote to me as follows (10/31/2018):

Thank you for your interest in NEMO Equipment. Seven US states and Canada require that all tents sold or shipped there require an FR coating. As a result, most of our tents do have an FR coating. Currently, only the Spike series does not use any FR chemicals. On all of our other tents, we use the minimum amount required to be sold in the seven US states that require FR chemicals. Canada recently increased the standard for fire retardancy and meeting the standard requires using more FR chemicals in our tent fabrics. We met the previous standard in Canada and we meet the standard in the US (CPAI-84), but we are unwilling to add more chemicals into our fabrics, even though we are losing sales in Canada. These laws are outdated–they were originally created back in the day when tents were made of heavy canvas materials and treated with wax and oil–and we don’t believe they are appropriate for modern lightweight backpacking tents. Our unwillingness to add more of them into our tents is our way of protesting the recent change in the standard. We are actively involved with several committees in the Outdoor Industry Association working to update the laws in the US and Canada to reflect the needs of modern tents and eliminate the requirements for FR chemicals. We are hoping to see this change within the next 1-3 years and will remove our FR coatings as soon as the laws are updated to allow sales of tents without FR coatings throughout the entire US.

I just spoke with our tent designer, and he gave me the following list of the FR chemistry that we use on our tents:

Ammonium Polyphosphate                  
Polyurethane Resin                                  
N.N-Dimethyl Formamide                      
Toluene
 
These chemicals can be considered the standard in the industry because many shelter manufacturers source their fabric from the same production facilities we use. We believe it’s also important to note that we use the absolute bare minimum we can to comply with the CA legislation that requires us to use them. We’re working to find solutions to take chemicals out of our tents all together. 

The “Sustainability” page of the Nemo website states:

Leading in safe chemistry: We believe in working side-by-side with other companies who share our supply chain, banding our efforts together at a pre-competitive level to solve challenges and remove harmful chemicals from the supply chain. Our Director of Engineering is helping to lead an industry-wide effort to develop safer alternatives for flame retardants and durable water repellent coatings (it’s helpful that he’s armed with a PhD from Harvard in organic chemistry.) We’re also fighting to change outdated state regulations that require the use of toxic chemicals that are unnecessary.  You’ll note that some of our tents made with silicone-treated fabrics do not include these chemicals, and therefore cannot be sold in all states.”

An article in Alternet states that rather than increase the amount of fire retardants used in its tent in order to comply with Canadian regulations, Nemo decided simply not to sell its products in Canada at all.

Whereas many U.S. state laws are old, Canada’s law was enacted in 2011. According to Jim 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.

With regard to waterproofing chemicals, the company website states about the tents that do not use silicone as the waterproofing agent:

We use a C6 based fluorocarbon Durable Water Repellant (DWR) which does not break down into PFOA and is the most environmentally friendly DWR available without PFOA.

I’ve tried out several Nemo tents on visits to REI stores and thought that they all felt really good to me.

Other camping products by Nemo that I have tried all have felt really good to me as well.

I’ve gotten consistently positive reports about Nemo products from other people who have become sensitized to mold or chemicals as well.

Starting in 2019, Nemo has been offering a few tents that have been entirely free of fire retardants. These tents currently include the Aurora and the Chogori.

The sales of these tents may be restricted from being sold in some states.

Nemo tents carry a lifetime warranty against defects in materials or construction. The website states:

We strive to design and build the best outdoor equipment on the planet. We obsess over every design decision and each material we choose, and work tirelessly to ensure the highest level of workmanship. We believe our products should provide you the greatest comfort and protection in the elements, and we proudly stand behind this promise. All NEMO products carry a lifetime warranty against defects in workmanship and materials to the original owner, with proof of purchase from an authorized NEMO dealer.

The company is based in Dover, New Hampshire.

 

Nemo Website

Nemo on Moosejaw

Nemo on REI

 

A tipi from Nomadics Tipi Makers.

Nomadics Tipi Makers

Nomadics Tipi Makers is a teepee manufacturer based in Bend, Oregon.

Although the company may be best known for creating a large number of leather teepees for the movie “Dances with Wolves,” it seems that only cotton canvas tents are sold to the public.

According to the company website, the canvas is made from organic cotton obtained from India:

Our choice to switch our entire product line to 100% certified organic cotton as our base fabric comes from our sense of responsibility towards people and the planet. Our commitment to buy organic will help the farmers in India with their health and their independency from companies such as Monsanto; it will reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizers that are constantly poured into the Earth and it makes a statement against the proliferation of GMO being introduced into nature. This unnatural manipulation is unsustainable and, for instance, is responsible for 250.000 suicides among Indian farmers alone. To learn more about the impact of conventional cotton production, visit www.truecostmovie.com, and watch this eye opening documentary.

The organic cotton we source from India is GOTS certified. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is recognized as the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibers. It defines high-level environmental criteria along the entire organic textiles supply chain and requires compliance with social criteria as well. (www.global-standard.org)

Canvas for the tents is then treated with a water repellant to prevent mold growth:

All our fabrics are treated with a mold, mildew and water resistant finish called Sunforger®. After the raw cotton arrives from India, the finishing plant washes the cotton to pre-shrink it, then runs it through a bath of non-toxic chemicals in order to help the cotton fibers resist deterioration from the natural environment. In addition to this treatment, we add an extra Marine Resistant protective finish. Micro-crystalline paraffin (wax) is added in this process simply to help the fabric shed rain and snow. Please note that Sunforger® does not have a specific UV inhibitor in it.

Unspecified fire retardants are added to some of the company’s products:

A third treatment is used to make some of our canvas flame resistant. All our flame resistant fabrics meet CPAI-84, a recognized specification for flame-resistant materials. All public places such as campgrounds, retreat centers, airbnb’s, schools or events and festivals must have tipis made out of flame resistant fabric.

I’ve been in a few teepees made of cotton canvas that have been used in mountain areas, and they have felt pretty good to me.

I’ve known a couple of mold-sensitized people who have purchased cotton canvas teepees, with reported mixed successes in terms of tolerability.

 

Nomadics Tipi Makers Website

 

The Pahaque Green Mountain 6XD.

PahaQue Wilderness

PahaQue Wilderness (headquartered in Poway, California) sells a variety of larger camping tents through retailers like Amazon and through its own website.

I have heard of one or two mold-sensitized people having successful experiences with PahaQue tents, but have not had a chance to examine one myself.

I asked a company representative if the tents used fire retardants, and he responded:

Yes, our tents (like all tents sold in the US) meet CPAI-84 fire retardant standards. As for specially what products or chemical formulas the materials that are used to make our tent fabric fire retardant are called, I’m not sure we have that info.

PahaQue is one of the only tent companies that I have seen bring up the potential for mold issues. The website states:

Never put your tent in a dryer! Tent materials must be allowed to air dry completely in order to avoid mildew stains. Mildew is a tent’s worst enemy and will cause irreversible damage. Mold and Mildew damage is not covered by warranty.

 

PahaQue Wilderness Website

 

The REI Grand Hut 4.

REI Co-op

REI has been a popular tent brand among members of the Mold Avoiders group.

While many of these individuals have reported good experiences with REI tents, a increasing number in recent  years have suggested that they have had problems tolerating them.

Some people have suggested that their problems may have been due to mold problems or cross-contamination issues in certain REI stores or warehouses, rather than with the tents themselves.

In addition, these reports suggest that some REI tents may have more issues with regard to toxicity than others.

In particular, people in recent years had problems with the company’s inexpensive Camp Dome line.

Although those tents now have been discontinued, I wonder if the problems will be a factor in the company’s newer inexpensive tents, including the Passage and the Groundbreaker.

REI tents do contain fire retardants, but unfortunately the company has declined to state which ones they are.

None of the REI tents are stated on the company’s website as containing Proposition 65 chemicals (even though tents from certain other companies such as Kelty are stated as including such chemicals).

REI was a co-sponsor of the 2016 Duke University study on the potential for people to be exposed to fire retardants as a result of using camping tents.

blog article about the study stated:

At REI we have chosen to eliminate certain additives from REI-branded products and to use better alternatives. The findings of the Duke study have helped us to arrive at that decision. If you are in an REI store, all REI branded tents comply with industry flammability standards. We have also openly shared information with our employees so that they are well informed. More broadly, to drive progress through the industry as a whole, REI and other tent brands partnered with the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) and formed the Flame Retardant Task Force. This task force is working with ASTM, the agency currently responsible for the tent flammability requirements, to re-evaluate the standard.

A company representative answered a reader’s question about their current tents as follows:

REI brand tents that do not have a Prop 65 warning label are free of the Prop 65 listed flame retardants, TDCPP and TCEP, and 21 other flame retardants listed in our Restricted Substances List (RSL), including PBDEs. The REI RSL is based on the bluesign® Technologies AG chemicals management system, current legal restrictions, and additional requirements voluntarily adopted by REI based on modern science. Because REI retails in California and nationally, REI and other brands in our store are required to apply Prop 65 labels on any products where that label would be required by the State of California.

CPAI-84 is outdated. As mentioned in the blog, we are working with industry organizations and regulators to support updating this standard to reflect modern tents. Regulatory change takes time, so in the meantime, we have done, and will continue to do, extensive work with our supply chain partners around flame retardants and chemicals management.

According to a recent article in Outside Magazine, REI is now stating that it will “transition away from flame retardant finishes starting in Fall 2020.”

REI is headquartered near Seattle in Kent, Washington.

 

REI Website

 

The Sierra Designs Tensegrity Elite.

Sierra Designs

Sierra Designs (which is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado) sells a line of mid-priced tents, sleeping bags, backpacks and outdoor clothing.

For a couple of years starting in 2015, the company sold a tent – the Tensegrity Elite – that was entirely free of fire retardants.

The tent (which requires the use of hiking poles to set up) got really good reviews in general, with quite a few people saying that it was the best tent that they ever had used.

Following is a description of the Sierra Designs Tensegrity tents that was shared on a forum in 2014 by a Sierra Designs representative:

The Tensegrity shelters will be available in 1 and 2 person versions, and in two builds. The FL build uses 30D floors and 20D Flys with a 1800mm (fly)/3000mm (floor) PU coatings, fully taped. The ELITE versions use 20D nylon impregnated with Silicone (1400mm (fly) /3000mm (floor) and are not taped. The ELITE tents do not meet CPAI-84 fire retardancy standards and will not be available in states that enforce that standard. They also require user seam sealing. But they also have 4 times the tear resistance, dramatically improved UV resistance, and by eliminating urethane and the associated toxic FR chemicals, they eliminate the main fabric failure point and will truly last a lifetime with normal care.

Unfortunately, Sierra Designs decided to stop making that tent in 2017, but I managed to buy one of the remaining inventory from a discount retailer at a low price.

The tent arrived smelling slightly of perfume but felt really good to me.

I haven’t had a chance to examine any of Sierra Designs’ other tents in recent years and don’t have any reports from other mold-sensitized people who have tried them.

Sierra Designs includes a section on Proposition 65 issues on its website, and the Sierra Designs tents that I have seen listed on the REI website in recent years have had Proposition 65 warnings mentioned.

 

Sierra Designs Website

Sierra Designs on Moosejaw

 

A Six Moon Designs tent.

Six Moon Designs

Six Moon Designs makes lightweight tents designed for backpacking use.

Included are their budget-conscious Ultralight line (made from silicone-coated polyester) and their more expensive Zero Gravity line (made from Dyneema).

The tents are said not to include any flame retardants, though I have not gotten confirmation of this from the company.

The company is headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon.

 

Six Moon Designs Website

Six Moon Designs on Amazon

 

Springbar

The Springbar website suggests that the company’s cotton canvas tents do not generally include fire retardants:

The 100% cotton canvas material used in Springbar® tents is not flammable like synthetic tents, but it will burn if held in extended contact with an open flame. If ignited, our cotton fabric tends to burn very slowly and does not burst into flame.

Currently, there are 7 states (California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York) that have restrictions on sales of tents without a fire retardant treatment. Mostly, these restrictions involve sales to groups and usage in commercial applications. If you live in one of these states, we encourage you to check with your local Fire Marshall prior to ordering a tent so that we can help you to determine whether any legal restrictions apply in your particular situation.

Be aware that even materials treated with flame retardants can become less effective after prolonged use or weather exposure‚ also the fire retardant is typically the first thing to degenerate on any treated fabric. The best measure of safety is to never expose any tent fabric to an open flame or heat source. Keep fuel-based appliances like stoves, heaters and lanterns well away from tent walls. Don’t smoke or use candles inside your tent. Battery lanterns are far safer than gas or propane lanterns for lighting your tent. Pitch your tent a safe distance from your campfire.

If all this seems like common sense, it is. In over a half-century of manufacturing, selling and using tents made of our special cotton material we’ve concluded that our fabrics do not pose any significant safety threat when used in conjunction with common sense.

The synthetic materials in the company’s tents may contain fire retardants, however.

The nylon oxford cloth that we use on Springbar® Screen Houses and in the door panels of the Springbar® expandable tents has a fire retardant applied to it that meets the requirements of all 50 states. However, the same precautions of keeping flame sources at a safe distance apply to this material as well. Any tent fabric will burn if held in contact with a flame long enough.

The company is based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

 

Springbar Website

 

The Tarptent Bowfin 2 Tent.

Tarptent

Tarptent is a small specialty company that makes a line of very lightweight, hiking-oriented tents.

For a few  years now, I have been getting scattered reports from Mold Avoiders members that this company’s tents are free of fire retardants and have been tolerable to them.

I was not able to find anything about fire retardants or Proposition 65 mentioned on the Tarptents website, but when I wrote to the company to ask if fire retardants were used in their tents, I almost immediately got back a response stating, “We do NOT.”

The fabric is 30d nylon, coated with silicone.

The tents are manufactured in Seattle, Washington.

According to the company website, “Every shelter is assembled, checked and shipped by staff from our workshop in Nevada City, California.”

More information about the company was shared by one of the owners in a Reddit Q&A in 2018.

 

Tarptent Website

 

A Tepui roof-top tent.

Tepui

Tepui makes a line of roof-top tents that allow campers to sleep perched in the air on top of their car.

Conceivably, this could be helpful for those who have experienced mold problems as a result of using their tent on the ground.

The company website states the following on its FAQ page: “Some Tepui products may contain chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive harm.”

I don’t see any Proposition 65 warning notices on the product listings of the Tepui tents on the company’s website, on the REI website or elsewhere on the Internet, however.

I have yet to hear any reports from mold-sensitized individuals who have tried this brand.

The company is located in Soquel, California.

 

Tepui Website

Tepui on Moosejaw

Tepui on REI

 

The North Face Homestead Shelter.

The North Face

The North Face mostly is known for its outdoor clothing but also sells a line of tents, sleeping bags and other camping equipment.

I think that the company’s Homestead Shelter is of particular interest since it gets really good user reviews and since there are not very many similar shelters available.

On a recent trip to REI, I found a tent from The North Face in stock (though not set up).

I was surprised to find that it smelled a little more of chemicals than did the tents from REI and Nemo that also were being sold in the store, but perhaps that would off-gas quickly.

I didn’t feel that I reacted to the tent, but then again, I did not spend much time with it or get a chance to actually sit inside it.

During the past few years, The North Face (along with other high-profile outdoor equipment manufacturers such as Patagonia) have been criticized by Greenpeace and other environmental organizations for using PFC’s in their water-resistant coatings.

Whether the coatings that are used in The North Face tents are worse than coatings used by other tent companies, or whether instead The North Face has just become a target because it is a well-known brand, I am not sure.

The company’s sustainability manager discussed their strategies with regard to the goal of reducing chemicals in their products in an interview in 2016.

The company is headquartered in Alameda, California.

 

The North Face Website

The North Face on Moosejaw

The North Face on REI

 

The Tent Lab MoonLight 2-Person Tent.

The Tent Lab

MoonLight is a line of fairly pricey tents produced by a small Boulder, Colorado, company called The Tent Lab.

The tents have gotten some good reviews with regard to performance from gear journals, but the main reason that people concerned about environmental toxicity may be interested in them is because of their total lack of any fire retardants (except silicone).

The company explains that it is able to do this on the website as follows:

The FR regulations driving this debacle are State regulations which don’t apply outside of the 7 states that have those laws. Colorado, where The Tent Lab is based, is one of the sane states without those regs. Commerce between states is a Federal jurisdiction which doesn’t have those FR tent laws either. So a tent sale from Colorado to anywhere else does not have to be FR. Unfortunately most manufacturers, whether they’re located in one of the 7 states or not, want to sell their tents through retailers that are located in those states, so they make all their products meet the FR regulations rather than trying to manage – or explain – two inventories, one FR and one not. 

The company says that it also has eliminated toxic waterproofing chemicals from its tents:

All our tents have no FR chemicals or fluorinated (“teflon“) water repellency treatments. They’re as chemical-free as we know how to make. That said, new tents do have a faint “milky” odor that goes away quickly with use (from the polyurethane when it’s new). If you’re not especially sensitive, you wouldn’t even notice it. But, if you like, you can give the tent a wash to make it just plain squeaky clean (unlike some, there are no coating durability issues with washing these tents).

The big question with MoonLight tents is whether they are more likely to be moldy – or more likely to go moldy later on – than may be the case with other tents.

This stems from the fact that a mold problem was mentioned as the only downside of the tents in an otherwise glowing review by the Gear Institute (and also because the company is located in Boulder, a town where many mold-sensitized people have experienced problems in recent years).

The Tent Lab discusses the mold issue on its website, stating that it believes that the problem has been addressed.

In the company’s Facebook group, I asked the owner what seemed to have happened to cause the mold issue and also what would happen if a mold-sensitized person bought one of the MoonLight tents and was not able to tolerate it.

He responded as follows:

I don’t think the reviewer or I know exactly how the mold came about. My best theory is that the supplier (who I don’t use any more) shipped the factory some contaminated goods – probably on the outside layers of the fabric roll – and that got made into the prototype that was reviewed. I doubt that the reviewer got the tent moldy but it’s theoretically possible. 

I take it as a good sign that, years and hundreds of tents later, no customer has had a mold issue. At some point is HAS to happen just because someone is going to accidentally leave their tent packed wet some day. Not so far though…

I can guarantee that no new tent has mold. I’ve evolved to accepting back new-condition tents that customers react to. It’s only happened a couple of times so it looks like a risk I can take.

The policy on the website reads:

“Can I return the tent for a refund if it’s still in brand new condition?” – Yes, of course. You can get a refund for the full value of the tent (but not the shipping) if you return the tent within a month and our inspection agrees that the tent is still in like-new condition.

Only a few members of the Mold Avoiders group have purchased MoonLight tents. Those reports, and the ones that I have gotten through the grapevine, have been mixed in terms of whether people have been able to tolerate those tents.

 

The Tent Lab Website

 

The Walmart Ozark Trail Instant Cabin 12.

Walmart Ozark Trail

Ozark Trail is the house brand for many outdoor items at Walmart (headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas).

It offers a wide variety of tents and shelters, including some that are stocked in company stores and others available only through the company’s website.

All of listings on the Walmart website that I have seen for Ozark Trail tents carry Proposition 65 warnings and specifically mention Tris. Here is one example:

Attention California Residents: This product can expose you to chemicals including Tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate(TCEP), which is known to the State of California to cause cancer. For more information, go to: www.p65warnings.ca.gov.

Personally, I react to Coleman and Ozark Trail tents (both of which contain Tris) in similar ways and also am concerned from a theoretical perspective about the use of Tris in tents.

While Tris doesn’t feel as bad to me as the substance(s) that I have encountered on Eureka or Kelty products, it doesn’t seem like something that I want to be breathing while sleeping in the wilderness specifically for mold avoidance reasons.

Although it is my experience that tents that feel this way become more tolerable to me if I wash them and then let them sit in the sun for a few weeks, I would rather just buy a tent that feels better to me from the start even if it is more expensive.

However, I understand that there is a real need among some individuals pursuing mold avoidance to be able to access tents that are minimally expensive, either because they are very short on funds in general or because they are anticipating that the tent may become contaminated and need to be discarded.

I have heard from a number of members of the Mold Avoiders group (especially those on tighter budgets) who have reported that Ozark Trail tents have worked for them, either right after purchase or after some washing and off-gassing.

I therefore list quite a few Ozark Trail tents as viable options throughout this article series, even though I would not purchase one myself.

 

Walmart Ozark Trail Website

 

The Wenzel Pine Ridge Tent.

Wenzel

Wenzel sells a variety of reasonably priced tents, including quite a few larger models.

Wenzel – along with Kelty and Sierra Designs – is owned by Exxel Outdoors.

In response to my quary about fire retardants, a representative for Exxel Outdoors responded:

Exxel will not discuss specific chemicals because Exxel does not manufacture or control chemicals and components which are produced by numerous third parties.  Exxel does comply with all state and federal flammability requirements, which are publicly available.  You can also read about Prop 65 in regards to our products here: https://exxel.com/prop-65-faq/

I have heard from one or two people with mold and chemical sensitivities who reported being able to tolerate tents from Wenzel, at least after washing them and letting them off-gas.

The company is based in Boulder, Colorado.

 

Wenzel Website

Wenzel on Amazon

Wenzel on Walmart.com

 

Winterial

Winterial (headquartered in Chico, CA) manufactures a small line of moderately priced camping shelters, and many of these receive good user reviews on Amazon.

A general Proposition 65 disclosure on the Winterial website states the following:

On marketfleet.com, we provide a Prop 65 link under Other Info for each item that requires the Prop 65 warning. If a Prop 65 link does not appear in the Other Info section for the product you wish to purchase, the supplier of the product has indicated that it does not require the Prop 65 warning.

None of the website pages describing Winterial tents (as of May 2020) provided Proposition 65 warnings.

A company representative responded to my query about fire retardant usage in the company’s tents (10/31/2018) as follows:

Thank you for reaching out! We actually do not use any fire retardants in our tents.

Several company comments on Winterial listings on Amazon also state that the company does not use fire retardants in its tents.

Walmart, which seems to be fairly fastidious about providing the legally required Proposition 65 information on its website, does not list Prop 65 warnings for any Winterial tents.

I have heard of at least one individual who was sensitive to both mold and chemicals being able to tolerate a Winterial tent.

It remains surprising to me that a mainstream tent company based in California would not be using any fire retardants in its tents. It would be interesting to try out one of these tents to see how it feels to me.

 

Winterial Website

Winterial on Amazon

Wenzel on Walmart.com

 

A Yakima tent.

Yakima

Yakima is a competitor of Tepui that produces similar roof-top tents in about the same price range.

I’ve yet to hear any reports about this brand from mold-sensitized individuals.

REI lists Proposition 65 disclosures for all of the Yakima tents (but not for the Tepui tents).

The Yakima website carries the following disclosure with regard to fire retardants.

The Yakima SkyRise Tents and SlimShady can expose you to chemicals including antimony oxide, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov

In my recent article on mattress toxicity, I discussed the concept that certain heavy metals may be transformed into more dangerous forms by mold growth.

In this case, regardless of how the tent felt to me straight out of the box, I would be concerned that any subsequent mold growth on the tent would transform the antimony present into a more toxic gaseous form, which I then would breathe in when I was asleep.

study on this topic suggested that the researchers did not believe that the amount of this toxic gas created by the molds used in the laboratory would be sufficient to cause a SIDS death.

That does not mean that it is not going to be enough to have a negative effect on people, and especially on people who already are sick with mold-related illness, though.

I also think that it’s possible that there are some environmental molds that would be much more effective at volatilizing antimony than the Scopulariopsis brevicaulis and Phaeolus schweinitzii that were used in the study, and therefore that the phenomenon might be more of a concern than the researchers concluded.

Hearing that antimony is being used in this company’s products makes me wonder which other products with Proposition 65 warning also contain it.

That makes me want to avoid all products with that warning on them, just to be on the safe side.

 

Yakima Website

 

The Zpacks Duplex Tent

Zpacks

Zpacks makes lightweight backpacking tents from a material called Dyneema (also known as Cuben Fiber).

The material is said to be more likely to shrivel up rather than catching on fire when exposed to flames, and therefore is not typically treated with fire retardants.

The main problem that I have heard about Dyneema is that it is not very breathable and therefore may cause condensation for individuals who are sleeping in tents made from it.

I have heard some good reports from mold-sensitized people with regard to how the tents made of Dyneema from companies such as Zpacks and Tarptents have felt to them, however.

 

Zpacks Website

 

Camping at Red Rock in Las Vegas in Summer 2009. (Photo Credit: Lisa Petrison.)

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:

The Living Clean Guide to Less Toxic Camping Gear – Vehicles

The Living Clean Guide to Less Toxic Mattress Options

The Living Clean Guide to Avoiding Glyphosate – Produce

 

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.

 

This article series includes affiliate links from the following companies: Amazon, Cabela’s, Gear.com, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, LL Bean, Moosejaw, Mountain Hardwear, Mountain Steals, Outland USA, Sunny Sports, Walmart. Clicking on these links may result in a small percentage of subsequent sales being directed to Paradigm Change and used to develop additional informational resources.

 

Links on this page are in orange (no underlining).