June 16, 2020
By Lisa Petrison, Ph.D.
This page provides an overview of issues related to tent camping for those who are concerned about toxicity issues and includes some quick suggestions of tents that may be especially worth considering for particular camping needs.
More detailed information on particular types of tents and on tent companies is presented on the following linked supplementary pages.
Some of the best nights of my life have been spent tent camping.
Especially for those who are dealing with toxicity-related illness issues – but really for everyone – sleeping outdoors in a good location, in a good tent, can be a wonderful thing.
No vehicle or building ever will allow for as much air circulation as sleeping in a good tent, and being able to look up at the stars at night and feel more a part of nature can be a very nice bonus.
Unfortunately, however, obtaining a non-toxic tent or other camping shelter can be a challenging and frustrating endeavor.
The biggest problem with tents seems to be treatment with fire retardants, which can be extremely toxic (and also are now thought to do very little to actually prevent fires).
Other chemicals in tents, such as waterproofing materials or smelly plastics, also may be irritating to some individuals, especially when tents are new.
In addition, the synthetic fabrics in tents are reported to have particular potential of becoming cross-contaminated with mold or cyanobacteria toxins, causing problems for those who are especially reactive to those substances.
Mold – in some cases quite toxic mold – also may have the potential of growing on tents.
Many of these toxic substances – especially the fire retardants – will not come out if tents are washed, and many tents are too large to be easily washed anyway.
Tents often are quite expensive, meaning that buying one and then losing it due to – say – mold growth or cross-contamination can be a big financial loss.
Figuring out where to sleep if a relied-upon tent becomes contaminated can be particularly frustrating problem.
Especially for those who – like me – have had little experience camping prior to trying it for health reasons, all of these issues can sometimes make it seem like it may be better to skip tent camping altogether.
That would be a mistake though, I think.
For instance, even though I had many problems with tents myself, I also feel that some of the best healing that I did early on in my recovery from mold-related illness was when I was sleeping in a tent in pristine places.
The fact that spending time in wilderness areas while tent camping can be done relatively easily and inexpensively is another good reason to give it a try.
Fortunately, over the past several years, several tent manufacturers have become focused on the issue of the toxic hazards of fire retardants in tents.
A number of tents use much less hazardous fire retardants that many people recovering from mold-related illness have reported being able to tolerate, and some tents now use no chemical fire retardants at all.
This article series is designed to be of help to individuals who are concerned about toxicity issues and who are trying to find a tent that will meet their needs.
Although it is written with the needs of chronic illness sufferers who are pursuing mold avoidance in order to try to improve their health in mind, individuals who want to avoid toxicity in order to prevent future health problems or to protect the environment also may find it useful.
For those who just want to get to the bottom line, the first section of the article provides some quick suggestions of tents appropriate for specific camping needs.
The article also provides some basic information about tent companies that seem to be especially worthy of consideration and discusses some popular tent retailers.
More detailed information about specific types of tents and tent companies, as well as some information about tent maintenance, may be found by clicking on the links at the top of this page.
Those who are new to camping and are not sure what kind of tent might be appropriate for their needs may want to read the supplementary article Choosing A Tent.
People who have become sensitized to mold or chemicals also may want to check out the article from My Chemical-Free House called “A Guide to Non-Toxic Camping Gear (And Keeping It Mold Free).”
For those who just want to get to the bottom line of “What tent should I buy?,” this section provides some quick suggestions for several different categories of tents.
The suggestions are subdivided by price tier, so that people can easily find tents that are consistent with their needs and their budgets.
In these groups, the “Top Tier,” “Upgrade” and “Standard” tents are from companies (including Big Agnes, Fjällräven, Hilleberg, L.L. Bean, Mountain Hardwear, Nemo, REI, Tarptent, The Tent Lab and Zpacks) that appear to be relatively low in toxicity.
None of these tents include chemicals covered by California Proposition 65, and all of them have been reported to be tolerable by at least a substantial percentage of Mold Avoiders members who have tried them.
I have experience with many of these brands myself and have done well with them.
On the other hand, the “Budget” and “Disposable” categories include some tents (such as ones made by Coleman and Walmart Ozark Trail) that contain the fire retardant Tris, which is classified as hazardous by Proposition 65.
While I think it is preferable to avoid Tris altogether, it’s been my experience that tents treated with this chemical may become more tolerable after they are washed and spend some time in the sun.
Of the other more affordable tent brands listed in those categories, one (Winterial) claims to use no fire retardants at all; another (Wenzel) carries a Proposition 65 warning but has yet to disclose the exact chemicals used; and several have avoided discussing the topic of fire retardants entirely.
Because it has been difficult to obtain such information about these brands, I am including ones that at least a few sensitized people have said have worked for them, either right away or after some off-gassing, even if I do not have details about the specific chemicals that are used in them.
Tents listed with an asterisk (*) are stated by the manufacturers as not including any fire retardants at all.
Tents listed with a number sign (#) are stated by the manufacturers as including chemicals such as Tris that are regulated by California Proposition 65.
In general, in most cases I would suggest the “Top Tier,” “Standard” or “Upgrade” tents mentioned for the relevant camping situations, since I think they will be better in terms of toxicity issues as well as higher quality.
Those who are on tighter budgets may consider the less expensive tents in the “Budget” category as possible alternatives.
While tents that are listed as “Disposable” may end up lasting for quite a while, they may not be constructed as well as other listed tents and are inexpensive enough that it would not be a tremendous financial loss if they needed to be discarded for some reason.
Please note that regardless of whether the listed tents are stated as having been treated with fire retardants, they may not be tolerable to some individuals due to other issues, such as other kinds of toxic chemicals or cross-contamination with mold toxins.
I therefore encourage people to pay close attention to return policies, so that they do not end up losing a lot of money on a tent that turns out to be unusable for them.
Smaller Beginner Tents
People who have never camped before often feel quite nervous about the prospect.
For the most part, they are looking for a tent that is not terribly expensive; that will be easy to put up and then to take down again; that will give them a comfortable camping experience; and that they will be able to continue to use in the future if they decide they like camping.
In many cases, those new to camping prefer a tent that gives them a little bit of privacy while inside, even when the rainfly is off.
In addition, those who are going camping specifically to find out if they are reactive to toxic mold or chemicals may be especially interested in tents that have worked well for other sensitized individuals.
Tents listed in this section are stated as holding a maximum of two or three people on a backpacking trip, and therefore likely will be appropriate for just one individual when car camping.
I am feeling especially hopeful about the new Nemo Aurora, which is moderately priced and is said by the company to contain no fire retardants or other toxic chemicals at all.
The first report that I got on this tent from a toxicity-sensitized person was fantastic and so I am really looking forward to trying it out myself.
The Naturehike Star River (which is sold by a Chinese company) also could be a very good choice, based on my own experiences with another one of the company’s tents.
Those who are especially sensitive may also do well with the Tarptent Double Rainbow or another tent from this company.
While I’ve heard some positive reports from sensitized people with regard to The Tent Lab’s MoonLight tent, I also have heard from some people who have not been able to tolerate them. I therefore would want to confirm that the tent could be returned if necessary before purchasing one.
For those who are less worried about privacy, the REI Half Dome (used successfully by many people pursuing mold avoidance) or the Naturehike Mongar in the “Highly Ventilated Tents” section below also could be worth considering.
Larger Beginner Tents
While solo campers may do fine in the 2- or 3-person tents discussed above, a 4-person tent will provide more generous floor space and in most cases some extra headroom as well.
In some cases, people camping on their own may even want to invest in a 6-person tent, in order to have some extra space for relaxing, working or socializing.
When two people are planning to sleep in the same tent, I definitely would suggest a 4- or 6-person model.
My top choice here would be the REI Base Camp, which is a sturdy tent that goes up easily and would work well as a sitting area or for sleeping.
The REI Grand Hut is a taller, home-like tent that has gotten some very good reviews from couples or families pursuing mold avoidance for the first time.
Those who tend to have difficulties tolerating tents may consider the Tarptent Hogback, which does not contain fire retardants or other problematic chemicals. (It is listed in the “Highly Ventilated Tents” section below.)
Highly Ventilated Tents
One of the reasons to go tent camping is to be able to breathe as much fresh air as possible while sleeping.
Tents with a high percentage of mesh can contribute to the amount of air circulation achieved during the night, aiding in this goal.
Although such tents do not provide a great deal of privacy (unless the rainfly is used), for many people and in many situations the larger amounts of fresh air can make up for that.
For a small well-ventilated tent when money is no object, I probably would choose the Fjällräven Abisko View. It seemed really well-constructed and felt great to me on a visit to a Fjällräven store.
By far the most popular tent in this category among people in the Mold Avoiders group has been the REI Half Dome. Although it does contain fire retardants, many of these individuals have reported doing well with it.
For a well-ventilated tent with more living space, I might consider the Tarptent Hogback.
To my understanding, mosquito net is not required by law to contain fire retardants and may be sufficient (on its own or in connection with a tarp) to serve as a highly ventilated short-term sleeping tent.
Inexpensive mosquito net tents come and go on Amazon, but I have listed a few here as starting points.
More detailed comments about mosquito net tents are in the Tarps & Supplies section of this article series.
I have never been backpacking, but the idea has recently started to seem increasingly appealing to me. Perhaps one day I will get a chance to go.
The main difference between ultralight backpacking tents and other smaller tents is that in backpacking, weight is extremely important.
High-tech, lightweight fabrics are usually used to decrease the weight, adding to the cost of the tent.
In some cases, backpacking tents also make use of hiking poles so that weight can be saved by not having to carry as many tent poles.
Tents made of a material called Dyneema – including the Tarptent Notch Li, the Tarptent Stratospire Li, the Six Moon Designs Zero Gravity tents, and the Zpacks tents – are especially lightweight and durable, as well as reportedly well-tolerated.
In some environments (especially when a tent is left in one place for more than a day), mold may grow on the bottom of conventional tents.
Because tent cots have ample air circulation between the bottom of the tent and the ground, they can prevent that problem from occurring.
Some people also find it more comfortable to sleep on a cot rather than on the ground.
The main disadvantages of tent cots are that they take up a good deal of room in the car and that they may have toxicity issues.
For instance, although Kamp-Rite states that their tent cots are free of fire retardants, I’ve heard some negative reports from chemically sensitized people who were not able to tolerate them.
Although I found the floor model of a Cabela’s Tent Cot (which is rumored to be made by Kamp-Rite) to feel really good to me, I’m not sure how long it had been sitting out before my visit to the store.
Another possibility is the very large Winterial Double Tent Cot, which is stated by the manufacturer as not including any fire retardants but which would take up a lot of room in the car.
Because I think that tent cots can be very helpful for some camping situations, I would like to hear some more reports on ones that have worked for people.
Not infrequently, those pursuing mold avoidance end up in apartments or hotels with balconies and where the outside air feels better than the inside air.
Especially insofar as bugs are an issue, a small ventilated sleeping tent intended for one person may be helpful.
A few possible options for sleeping on the ground are listed below.
I would plan to have some bricks or fairly large rocks to place inside the tent so that it is not blown away by the wind, since staking the tent down likely will be impossible on most balconies.
In addition, when camping on a balcony or patio, I would suggest removing the tent from the ground each morning and hanging it up to dry to reduce the likelihood that mold growth will occur.
Some people cut the bottoms out of their tents when camping on balconies or other places where mold growth may be a problem as well.
Since sleeping on a balcony would provide some shelter from rain and wind, protection from insects seems like it would be the main purpose of a balcony tent.
I therefore would be disinclined to spend too much money on this and might start with the Kamp-Rite Insect Protection System to see if I could tolerate it.
Another good option for sleeping on balconies could be one of the tent cots listed above.
Wind is an enemy of all tents, but some stand up to it better than others.
This section lists a few tents that have been reported to be particularly well-suited for camping in strong desert winds or other winds, and that may provide a sturdier camping experience in general.
Although I think that a Fjällräven tent might be ideal for wind conditions, those are pretty expensive.
For a tent without any fire retardants, the Tarptent Stratospire could be a good choice.
Although I’ve camped in the mountains on a few occasions when the temperatures have gone down into the teens, I have never done any serious winter tent camping.
Mountaineering tents such as the others listed in this section also may be worth considering.
While none of these tents is inexpensive, winter camping is such a specialized endeavor that spending the money in order to be comfortable seems like it would be worthwhile.
Home Sweet Home Tents
This section provides a selection of base camp tents that are designed to be a little roomier and more comfortable than standard sleeping tents.
They are stated as sleeping 4-6 people, which means that they may provide a roomy setup for one or two people to be able to feel at home.
The pioneer in this category was Big Agnes Big House, which has been popular among some individuals who enjoy camping in comfort.
The REI Grand Hut is the same concept, and I have heard some good reports about it in terms of toxicity and livability.
Although the Nemo Wagontop is quite expensive, I’m a fan of Nemo products in general and the videos that I have seen of it make it look potentially very appealing.
Really large tents have some inherent disadvantages. They are usually difficult to wash, can be challenging to put up, and generally so expensive that losing one (such as due to cross-contamination) can be frustrating.
Considering the alternative of using multiple smaller tents rather than one larger one may be worthwhile, therefore.
However, in some circumstances (such as when camping with multiple young children), a larger tent may be desirable.
Here are a couple of options that I would consider if I were in that situation.
Having a place to sit down while being shielded from the sun can make a big difference in comfort when camping in warmer weather.
It also can facilitate the use of the computers or other electronic devices due to protection from the glare.
The sunshades in this category are smaller and are designed for use by one or two people sitting in low chairs.
I am especially partial to Lightspeed shelters, which are reasonably priced and have felt good to me.
I suggest purchasing a large mosquito net to have on hand as well, since this may be draped over these shelters to provide protection from bugs when necessary.
These larger sun shelters are designed primarily to fit over a picnic table or to host a group of several people sitting in regular camping chairs.
They also could be useful to contain and shield possessions such as kitchen equipment for a longer stay in the wilderness.
In addition, some individuals who are particularly environmentally sensitive may choose to sleep under this kind of shelter (either with or without mosquito net protection) rather than in a regular tent, since they provide some shelter from rain without limiting air flow.
I think that for most situations, the Big Agnes Three Forks shelter likely would be pretty easy to put up and would work well.
These screen room shelters are designed to protect larger groups from insects and fit over a picnic table.
They also may provide nice outdoor living areas for one or two people who are spending extended periods of time in areas where bugs are an issue.
I’m really interested in the new Nemo Victory Screen House and am looking forward to taking a look at it (or at least reading some more user reviews) soon.
For those who usually camp in areas with trees, the Nemo Bugout could be a good choice since it gets good reviews and would take up a minimal amount of room in the car.
This section provides a brief overview of the manufacturers of the tents and shelters listed above (excluding the companies manufacturing mosquito net tents).
Additional details about these and other tent companies (including the specific information that I have been able to find about their use of fire retardants) are provided on a separate page of the Living Clean website:
Big Agnes is a specialty camping equipment company manufacturing a variety of high-end tents.
The company is especially known for its lightweight backpacking tents; its cabin-like base camp tents; and its wide range of day shelters.
Big Agnes seems to have decided not to discuss the issue of fire retardants in its tents at all, but the tents do not carry a Proposition 65 disclosure on the REI site or anywhere else that I have found.
I have heard mixed reports from sensitized people in terms of their ability to tolerate Big Agnes tents.
They have seemed to me to be fairly acceptable when I have tried them out in REI stores.
The company is based in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Coleman makes a variety of reasonably priced tents and shelters that are reported by many people to be fairly well-constructed.
The tents are sold in Walmart and in many other camping-oriented stores.
However, Coleman tents contain Tris, a gene-altering chemical associated with increased cancer risk.
While some people who are sensitized to toxic mold report being able to tolerate this chemical (which is present in both Coleman and Walmart Ozark Trails tents), others have major problems with it.
My own experience with this chemical is that it feels quite offensive to me when are tents are new.
However, when I have rinsed my tents in water and then allowed them to sit in the hot desert sun for a few weeks, it has been my experience that the issue has mellowed out to the point that it did not bother me any more.
I therefore might consider doing this again, if I were not in a hurry and if there were a specific tent from this manufacturer that interested me.
Coleman is located in Wichita, Kansas.
Diamond Brand makes a few models of tents without fire retardants, including the lightweight Freedome 2 1/2 and some large canvas wall tents.
I have yet to receive any reports on how well people tolerate these tents.
The company is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Fjällräven is a Swedish outdoor products company that sells its very expensive, high-quality, heavy-duty tents through its own stores and by mail order in the United States.
The company is especially known for making tents appropriate for mountaineering and winter camping, but some of their tents are appropriate for general use as well.
I had a chance to evaluate some tents from Fjällräven in one of their stores and was extremely impressed by them, in terms of both how they felt to me from a toxicity perspective and the apparent quality.
Unfortunately their tents are quite pricey, but I can see them lasting for quite a long time and being a joy to use.
Fjällräven states on almost every tent-oriented page of its website that all of its tents are made entirely without PVC, plastic or toxic flame retardants.
Hilleberg is a Swedish company that sells very expensive tents for mountaineering and winter camping, available through mail order and a few high-end retail stores (including Moosejaw) in the U.S.
Although the tents are said to be very well-made, most of the models appear to be lacking in ventilation that would make them optimal for summer use.
I’ve read in numerous places that these tents do not include fire retardants or other toxic chemicals but do not have any reports yet on how well they may be tolerated by sensitized people.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Hyperlite is a specialty company making a few models of expensive ultralite tents for backpacking purposes from Dyneema, a high-tech fabric.
The tents are stated as being free of fire retardants and are made in Maine.
Kamp-Rite and Cabela’s Tent Cots
Especially for those people who are especially reactive to mold and who are camping in damp locations, tent cots can be worth considering since they reduce the potential that mold will grow between the tent and the ground underneath.
The leading manufacturer of tent cots is Kamp-Rite, a company that has repeatedly responded to customer queries with the statement that it does not use flame retardants in its products.
Recently I tried a floor model of a Cabela’s tent cot at a local store and was surprised at how good I felt in it, even though the Cabela’s website listing carries a Proposition 65 warning.
I have read in a number of places that Cabela’s tent cots are made by Kamp-Rite but have not managed to get official confirmation on this.
I’ve gotten some mixed reports about Kamp-Rite cots with regard to tolerability issues from sensitized people, and haven’t heard from anyone else who has tried a Cabela’s cot.
Lightspeed has developed a positive reputation among people with MCS with regard to its air mattresses, which are said to have fewer offgassing issues than competitive products.
The company also makes a line of small outdoor shade shelters and a couple of tents, which it sells through its own website as well as through big online retailers such as Amazon and Walmart.
The shelters get good general user reviews and are reasonably priced.
I ordered one of the company’s larger pop-up shelters and thought that it felt good to me.
No Proposition 65 warning was listed and the tent also was attractive and functional.
Lightspeed makes a few models of shelters that do not include Proposition 65 chemicals for L.L. Bean, and the one that I tried out in an L.L. Bean store felt okay to me.
The L.L. Bean shelters are considerably more expensive than the same ones sold by Lightspeed, however.
The company is based in San Diego.
L.L. Bean offers a few tents and shelters appealing to a broad range of campers through its website and stores.
The tents get generally positive user reviews, with durability and weather-resistance seeming to be especially good.
An L.L. Bean representative responded to my query about fire retardants by stating that the tents do not include chemicals listed under Proposition 65 and then providing a list of the exact fire retardant chemicals used.
I examined some of the company’s tents and sat in one of their shelters last year in an L.L. Bean store. I thought that the items felt better to me from a toxicity standpoint than most tents out there, though not as good as Nemo or Fjällräven tents.
Since L.L. Bean will accept returns on unsatisfactory merchandise for any reason within a year from the purchase, it could be worthwhile for folks to try out one of the company’s tents and then to return it if it doesn’t work for them in terms of the toxicity aspects.
The company is located in Freeport, Maine.
Mountain Hardwear is a company that has traditionally offered mostly rather expensive tents for mountaineering use.
In 2019, the company eliminated all the fire retardants from its entire line of tents and also introduced a few new tents that are more moderate in price.
I’ve not yet had a chance to try out the tents myself since that time and have only a few reports from individuals who have purchased them. At least one individual did have problems tolerating one of these tents.
The company is located in Richmond, California.
Naturehike is a Chinese company that sells an extensive line of moderately priced backpacking tents.
Many of their products seem to be very similar in design to the most popular models of tents made by companies like Hilleberg or Big Agnes, but sold at much lower prices.
The company has stated in emails that it does not include any fire retardants in its tents.
I ordered one of this company’s tents – the Naturehike Mongar – and thought that it felt quite good to me and also seemed to be nicely made.
The company’s tents get good reviews on Amazon and also are sold through the company’s website.
Those ordering from the website will get a 5% discount when using the discount code “Lisa001,” and Paradigm Change also will get a small percentage of the sales.
Nemo is an outdoor recreation company offering a wide variety of tents and shelters at moderately high prices, with an emphasis on design functionality and style as well as quality.
I really like Nemo’s products and have had good experiences with all the items that I have tried, from a toxicity standpoint and in general.
I’ve also gotten positive reports about the tolerability of the company’s tents from almost everyone I’ve heard from who has tried them.
This does not seem to be an accident, since Nemo’s director of engineering (who has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Harvard University) is concerned about chemical issues and is actively working to eliminate the existing state laws that require tents to be treated with fire retardants.
The company revealed to me the specific fire retardants that they are currently using, stating that they are using only the minimum amounts possible prior to the laws being repealed.
In addition, Nemo is currently offering two tents without any fire retardants at all – the new Aurora (a moderately priced tent suitable for general campground use) and the more expensive Chogori (a mountaineering tent designed for cold-weather camping).
Nemo’s products include a lifetime warranty with regard to defects in workmanship or materials.
The company is located in Dover, New Hampshire.
REI is an outdoor retailer selling a number of different tents of its own, as well as many other companies’ tents.
REI has discussed the company’s concerns about fire retardants in blog articles and no longer includes any chemicals covered by Proposition 65 in its tents.
The company recently announced that it is planning to phase out of the use of all fire retardants from its tents starting in Fall 2020.
A few of the REI tents – including the Half Dome, Grand Hut and Base Camp lines – have been especially popular among individuals pursuing mold avoidance over the years and have been reported to be tolerated by many people.
The less expensive REI tents have tended to be less well-tolerated, but I am hoping that this will improve as REI continues to focus on addressing the fire retardant issue.
In addition, I’ve heard some reports that certain REI stores or warehouses may have mold issues, with tents that have passed through those locations tending to feel more problematic to people.
REI members may return items purchased from the company for a year if they are not satisfied.
The company is headquartered in Kent, Washington.
Six Moon Designs
Six Moon Designs makes lightweight tents designed for backpacking use.
Included is 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.
Tarptent makes a line of moderately expensive backpacking tents that have been reported to be very well tolerated by the sensitized individuals who have tried them.
Although the tents are small, many of them have been reported to be relatively comfortable for campground use.
No fire retardants or other toxic chemicals are used on the tents. The seams need to be finished by the user with a silicone product for water-resistance.
Those who are planning longer backpacking trips may want to consider the company’s Dyneema tents, which are lightweight and durable (though relatively expensive).
The tents are made in Seattle, Washington, and Nevada City, California.
The Tent Lab
The Tent Lab is a tiny company that manufactures a line of tents called MoonLight, and that was a pioneer in terms of the lack of use of any fire retardants or other toxic chemicals in its tents.
The tents also are engineered to do well in windy conditions and have gotten some good reviews from gear publications.
I’ve heard some mixed reviews from users with regard to their ability to tolerate these tents, with some people saying they appreciated the lack of toxic chemicals and others saying that they suspected that cross-contamination might have been a problem on the tents they received.
The company owner told me in a Facebook discussion that the company would take back tents that purchasers could not tolerate, but I would want to double-check that to be sure before placing an order.
The company is located in Boulder, Colorado. The tents are manufactured in China.
Walmart Ozark Trail
Walmart sells a variety of budget tents under the Ozark Trail name in its retail stores and on its website.
The tents are stated as containing Tris, which is a fire retardant chemical that is covered by California Proposition 65.
While I think that it is better to avoid this chemical if possible, I have heard of a few sensitized people who have been able to tolerate Ozark Trail tents immediately after purchase and many others who have said that the tents felt okay to them after being rinsed and set up in the sun for a few weeks.
Another issue with the tents is that they may not be especially durable.
Still, for those who are looking for inexpensive and readily available camping equipment, Walmart Ozark Trail could be an alternative worth considering.
Wenzel produces a variety of affordably priced tents and shelters, sold through its own website and through various retailers.
The products carry a California Proposition 65 warning, without mentioning the specific chemicals involved.
The reports that I have gotten about this company’s tents suggest that possibly they may be a little more tolerable than Coleman or Walmart Ozark Trail tents, but that they also may not be all that well constructed.
In particular, the seams seem to be an issue. (I wonder if sealing them would help.)
Wenzel is part of Exxel Outdoors, which is located in Boulder, Colorado.
Winterial offers a number of moderately priced camping tents (including a popular teepee and a new motorcycle tent), as well as a two-person tent cot and a few pet tents.
The company has stated a few times (including in personal correspondence to me and in a response to a question on the Amazon site) that it does not use any fire retardants in its tents.
I have not found any Proposition 65 warnings for the company’s tents on its own website or on the Walmart or Amazon sites.
I’ve heard a couple of positive reports about Winterial tents from sensitized individuals and so would be interested in trying one out.
Winterial is run by a company called Marketfleet and headquartered in Chico, California.
Zpacks tents are very popular among individuals doing long-distance “through hikes,” due to the Dyneema material being extremely lightweight as well as very durable.
The material also seems to be well-tolerated by most sensitized people and therefore may be worth considering even though the tents are expensive.
The main downside that I see to these kinds of tents is that the breathability may be less than some other kinds of materials.
Although Zpacks does not discuss fire retardants on its website, I have read in a few places that they do not include any (because Dyneema more just shrivels up rather than catching on fire when exposed to flames).
The company is located in West Melbourne, Florida.
Buying A Tent
Tents are so expensive that I always check out a variety of retailers before making a purchase.
Following are some retail outlets selling tents mentioned in this article series that I think are worth checking out.
A number of companies sell their own tents and shelters directly through Amazon.
Companies mentioned in this article series that run their own Amazon stores include the following:
Although it may be possible to buy tents from other companies mentioned in this article series on Amazon as well, these very likely may be offered by small retailers or individuals and possibly may not be covered by company warranties.
For instance, Nemo offers lifetime warranty on its products, but only if they are purchased directly from the company or through authorized retailers.
L.L. Bean sells its own house brand tents as well as a few additional tents – including several Nemo tents at present – on its website.
The company periodically offers site-wide sales of 10-20% on almost everything on its website.
The company also offers a guarantee that reads:
We stand behind all our products and are confident that they will perform as designed. If you are not 100% satisfied with one of our products purchased directly from L.L.Bean, you may return it within one year of purchase for a refund. After one year, we will consider any items for return that are defective due to materials or craftsmanship.
We require proof of purchase to honor a refund or exchange. If you provide us your information when you check out, we will typically have a record of your purchase. Otherwise, we require a physical receipt.
L.L. Bean offers free shipping on purchases of $50 or more. Customers using their L.L. Bean credit card get free shipping for both purchases and returns regardless of the amount of the purchase.
I’ve made many, many purchases from L.L. Bean over the years (including buying camping gear) and am a pretty big fan of theirs.
Moosejaw is an outdoor retailer that was acquired by Walmart in 2017.
The company offers a wide variety of upscale outdoor clothing and gear through its website and through a few retail stores.
The company consistently offers 10% back in credits for additional purchases on all full-priced merchandise as well as periodic events where 30% back in credits can be obtained on most purchases.
Individual items are temporarily put on sale on the site as well.
Considering how expensive camping gear can be and how infrequently the leading brands tend to go on sale, this can lead to considerable savings.
Moosejaw offers a lifetime return policy on all unused products except climbing equipment that it sells:
The Moosejaw Living Will is our Product Guarantee. It means if you aren’t thrilled with your purchase, return it AT ANY TIME as long as IT’S IN SELLABLE CONDITION and as long as you aren’t dead..thus the Living Will.
The company headquarters is just north of Detroit in Madison Heights, Michigan.
Most of the company’s stores are located in Michigan, with additional ones recently having opened in Chicago; the Kansas City area; and Boulder, Colorado.
Tent brands sold by Moosejaw that are mentioned in this article series include Big Agnes, Fjällräven, Hilleberg, Kodiak, Mountain Hardwear, Nemo, Sea to Summit, Snow Peak and The North Face.
I’ve ordered several things from Moosejaw and the packaging has felt okay to me, but I’m not sure how people who are more sensitive than I am at this point would do with them.
Mountain Steals is a website selling outdoor equipment and apparel, mostly at highly discounted prices.
They are a division of Moosejaw (located in Madison Heights, Michigan) and therefore owned by Walmart.
Most items sold on the site are discontinued items or colors from previous seasons, as well as some overstocks.
Tent brands mentioned in this article series that are sold on the site include Big Agnes, Mountain Hardwear, Nemo and The North Face.
I always check this website when I am considering making a camping-related purchase and have bought a few things from them. As with Moosejaw products, I thought that packaging felt okay to me.
In one case, I needed to return an item and didn’t have any problems doing so at all. The company’s return policy reads as follows:
You can return your item(s) within 30 days as long as it’s still in “sellable condition.” This means, the item should be unworn (aside from trying it on), unwashed, devoid of any stains, scuffs, tears, or mysterious smells, and needs to be in its original packaging with the manufacturer tags. All electronic items, except for drones, must be returned within 30 days of receipt. Items such as drones and rooftop tents must be returned within 15 days of receipt. Proof of purchase is required for all returns and exchanges. A receipt, packing slip, or anything referencing your order number will work, and no return merchandise authorization is necessary.
Items that are not in sellable condition because they have been worn or items damaged due to improper use will not be accepted for return or exchange. Load-bearing climbing equipment, such as harnesses, carabiners, and pulleys are final sale and cannot be returned.
To mail the product(s) back to us, click the link below to create a prepaid UPS Ground return label. This offer is available to U.S. customers only, with restrictions to some Alaska residents due to the address location being outside of the UPS service area, and a $7.95 shipping cost will be deducted from your refund. Shipping and processing your return will take 10-15 days. Once processed, we’ll send you a Return Confirmation Email. Your credit card company may take another 2-5 business days to process. It will take anywhere from 12-22 days from the time you ship your return until it shows on your credit card. Offer available to ship within the contiguous U.S. only and on products that do not require freight shipping.
Shipping is stated as being free for orders over $99.
REI Co-op runs about 150 retail stores (mostly located in major metropolitan areas) throughout the U.S.
Products also may be ordered through the company’s online website.
The company sells its own line of tents, many of which get pretty good reviews in terms of tolerability – as well as excellent reviews in terms of functionality and value – from mold-sensitized individuals.
REI has developed a list of chemicals that it does not want to see in any tents sold through its stores and says that it is working to eliminate all of those.
Some tents sold through REI – including the low-priced Kelty line – do still contain Proposition 65 chemicals, however.
Additional tent brands suggested as possibilities in this article series that are sold through REI include Big Agnes, Mountain Hardwear, Nemo, and Sea To Summit.
REI is a co-op retailer and members get 10% back (in cash or store credit) on most full-price purchases at the end of the year.
The company has store-wide sales in May and November, and sells discontinued merchandise through the online REI Outlet.
REI’s return policy reads as follows:
We stand behind everything we sell. If you’re not satisfied with your REI purchase, you can return it for a replacement or refund within one year of purchase — except for outdoor electronics, which must be returned within 90 days of purchase. Outdoor electronics include activity monitors, GPS-enabled devices, bike trainers, emergency-communication devices, and cameras.
A major advantage of REI is that employees tend to be well-versed in the products that they sell and willing to spend time providing information and recommendations to those who are less experienced.
Many of the stores now rent a wide selection of gear so that people can try things out before committing to a purchase.
I’ve heard mixed reports from sensitized people with regard to REI purchases, with some people suggesting that certain stores and certain warehouses have toxic mold issues.
Certain products sold by REI (including Kelty products) also seem to be problematic enough that they have the potential of cross-contaminating other merchandise sold in the stores.
The company is headquartered in Kent, Washington.
Sunny Sports is an online retailer of outdoor gear and clothing, often at significantly discounted prices. They are based in New York City.
Tent brands mentioned in this article that are sold through this company include Big Agnes, Nemo and Mountain Hardwear.
Their return policy reads as follows:
We think you’ll agree that Sunny Sports has the best return policy in the industry. You have 60 days to return the merchandise for full refund and another 60 days (120 days total) to return for store credit. So go ahead shop with ease of mind. After delivery, if you are not fully satisfied with the products you can return it, no questions asked.
In fairness, we will expect you to pay the shipping and handling charges, and we will pay the replacement-shipping fee (only USA). No Restocking Fee will apply to any return meeting the requirements.
I made a purchase once from Sunny Sports and everything seemed to go fine.
Although tent manufacturers rarely offer discounted pricing and sometimes charge shipping, I still always consider buying direct from the company websites when it is an option.
One advantage with this is that since the product is not going through an additional warehouse, there may be less of a chance that the tent will arrive feeling cross-contaminated with mold toxins or other issues.
Usually manufacturers are willing to take an unused tent back without issues if I end up not feeling good about it, and in some cases I feel more confident about having the tent warranty honored if I have a problem with it as well.
Some smaller companies that may be especially appropriate for those pursuing non-toxic tents – including Tarptent, The Tent Lab MoonLight, Zpacks and Fjällräven – sell products mostly or solely themselves rather than through retailers.
Walmart Ozark Trail tents and day shelters can be purchased on the company website as well as in its many stores.
Walmart is also a good place to buy Coleman tents and shelters.
Other moderately priced brands such as Winterial or Wenzel also may be available through the Walmart site.
I have pretty frequently seen Coleman products available on the Walmart site for lower prices than elsewhere, and sometimes that happens with other camping tents as well.
I therefore think that it’s always a good idea to do a price check on the Walmart site to see if any particularly good deals are available (and also sometimes to find out if visiting a nearby Walmart store would allow me to get the item faster than if I ordered it online).
In most cases, items ordered from the Walmart site include free delivery. They also may be picked up at or returned to any Walmart store.
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.
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, Naturehike, 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).