Official Test Results: Five Ways to Heat a Tent

jacobconroy

Hillbilly of Leisure
So, it's that time of year again. I set up my Eezi-Awn Globetrotter in the driveway yesterday and used a larger Buddy Heater to heat it before bedtime. I was curious about the carbon monoxide levels that the Buddy Heater might produce. To check the levels I used a SensorCon that I always keep in any space that I am sleeping in while using any kind of combustion heater.

Google indicates that OSHA considers the maximum safe level for CM is 50 PPM over an eight hour period. For this simple test, I fired up the Buddy Heater on a table in the vestibule and let it run on "low" for an hour before bed time. When I came back the SensorCon was showing 7 PPM in the tent. I would guess that the upper sleeping portion of the tent was about 60ºF. Plenty warm enough for climbing into the bed.

The reason I'm testing the Buddy Heater is that I'm going to permanently install my Propex in the Jeep...which means that I won't be able to use in the AT Chaser/Globetrotter and I wanted to know how the Buddy Heater will work. I gotta be honest, the Buddy Heater is much easier to use than the Propex and I'll bet it's more reliable too. At 7 PPM I feel that it is indeed safe, but I still wouldn't run it while sleeping.

When I've done these tests with the Propex the SensorCon always reads 0 PPM. The Propex should be installed in the Jeep this week and I'll test that config again as well. The combustion exhaust for the Propex will only be about 12 inches away from the tent (the minimum per Propex)...so we will see if I can pick up any CM in the tent.

Though that some of you folks might be interested. :)
 

chet6.7

Explorer
Thanks for the CM data. I have read reports on the Buddy H claiming it is not all that reliable,is the Propex unreliable enough to be considered less reliable than a BH?
 

jacobconroy

Hillbilly of Leisure
Thanks for the CM data. I have read reports on the Buddy H claiming it is not all that reliable,is the Propex unreliable enough to be considered less reliable than a BH?
Well...I dunno if it's "straight up unreliable"...but my testing matches MattJs'. The Propex seems to work when it wants to. My theory is that a Propex that is setup as a portable unit just has too many variables to be reliable. On different trips I've blocked the combustion outlet, had propane lockouts that I couldn't manage to reset, and when it was new there was a loose wire between the thermostat and the system board (and that took a lot of messing around to find and fix). Overall, I wouldn't consider mine to be reliable. I realize that at least half of the problems were user error, but regardless of the reasons, it just hasn't been a "dream to use".

This is why I'm going to try to permanently install the Propex on my roof rack for this season. Hopefully it will become reliable once I stop moving it around and connecting/disconnecting everything constantly. When it works, it rocks. When it doesn't, there is a lot of cursing involved.

Also, Webasto makes some 60mm ducting parts that can be used as a bulkhead connector for ducting. I've collected these parts and am going to setup my Propex tool box so that I have quick and easy "snap on" ducting on the outside of the box. This should be pretty cool and I'll post the results later this week. The power will be permanently run, the thermostat will be permanently in the RTT, and the propane will be permanently run. In short, I'm trying to set it up like it lives in a VW van (but on the roof rack).

I read through the entire thread again today. The condensation issue with the Buddy Heater is a deal breaker. I did notice that my down comforter and pillows were pretty damp last night, but since it rained hard all night I assumed it was general humidity instead of the Buddy Heater.

On that note, I'm toying with the idea of buying a small, portable wood stove to use in the vestibule of my Globe Trotter. I think the Eezi Awn is a "real" canvas tent, so it would be as safe as any hunting base camp setup. My plan is to set it on the steel table in the pictures below and install a wall jack to run the chimney through the vestibule wall at an angle. I sleep in the RTT, not the Eezy Awn, so this would just be a place to hang out when the weather is crappy, change clothes, etc. I think it would be fun to hole up in there during a storm, feed the fire, and sip some bourbon while reading a good book. Hanging out in an RTT kinda sucks IMO.

Feel free to tell me honestly, is putting a wood stove in the Globe Trotter a dumb idea?


Tentative plan is to run the chimney (or flu?) out the wall just above the table.
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This is the other side of that wall.
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MattJ

Adventurer
First of all, thank you for contributing your thoughts, ideas and experiences to this thread! I know from experience that the challenges of trying new ideas in the field is both fun and frustrating at the same time. Documenting and posting about the process adds another layer of work, so thank you!

I totally agree with you on both the Propex and the Buddy. Experience has taught me that it takes three or four repetitions with a new system or piece of equipment before I can use it efficiently and know how to avoid problems. So I’m hoping next winter my Propex setup is finally hassle free . . .

With regard to the wood stove, I’d offer two things to tinker with. First, figure out how finicky the stove is with different qualitIles of wood. I’ve had great results using pre-cut kiln dried hardwood that I split into smaller pieces. And I’ve had poor results with natural firewood that I foraged at camp. An open campfire is fine for typical foraged firewood that might be a bit damp or young, but a wood stove is a bit tougher to manage with that type of wood (especially a smaller wood stove). My second idea is to experiment with some sort of small fan or blower system to accelerate the burn and power through foraged wood. Since your stove will be on a steel table, the chimney will be shorter, which means less airflow draw. Another fan that blows across the outside of the stove would circulate air in the annex nicely. I’ve never seen a wood stove with a blower system, so you’ll need to invent one. The BioLite fire pit is the closest product I’ve seen to this concept. I would think even a small, USB-plug powered fan could really boost the efficiency of small wood stove.
 

jacobconroy

Hillbilly of Leisure
I got my Propex installed on my roof rack and running today. If anyone is interested, check out my build thread. The Propex stuff starts at post #80.
 

MattJ

Adventurer
I got my Propex installed on my roof rack and running today. If anyone is interested, check out my build thread. The Propex stuff starts at post #80.
Dude - that is an awesome project and an awesome build thread. Finally I've met someone who is more nuts than me when it comes to sticking with a crazy I-wonder-if-I-could project until its finally done! That Propex set up should be awesome on cold nights and save you a ton of time at the campsite.

Since you mentioned a road shower . . . I think your next project should be to build a CO2 powered hot water system: https://expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/finally-portable-pressurized-hot-water.199374/
 

jacobconroy

Hillbilly of Leisure
Dude - that is an awesome project and an awesome build thread. Finally I've met someone who is more nuts than me when it comes to sticking with a crazy I-wonder-if-I-could project until its finally done! That Propex set up should be awesome on cold nights and save you a ton of time at the campsite.

Since you mentioned a road shower . . . I think your next project should be to build a CO2 powered hot water system: https://expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/finally-portable-pressurized-hot-water.199374/
Lol...thanks! I have a lot of free time.
 

jacobconroy

Hillbilly of Leisure
So...the Propex!

Two nights ago I "engaged in some drinky" and slept in the RTT that night. When I woke up at about 6 AM I had a "four-blink" error code on the thermostat. I reset the Propex and the heater started to work again. I'm getting pretty good at remembering the reset sequence.

When referencing the owner's manual the next day I found that this was the "combustion outlet blockage" code. Bull. The only thing I can think of is that there was enough condensation in either of the combustion vents (supply or exhaust) that it physically blocked one vent or the other.

Or, this is just more Propex nonsense. So....I dunno what. Both of those lines are curled up within the Propex tool box. Maybe I'll extend them beyond the walls of the tool box and test again for a month.

This has not been my imagination. Owning a Propex is a lot of work.

Edit...to be fair, it is awesome when it works.
 

john61ct

Adventurer
Any chance your hose exceed the maximum length?

They need just the right degree of backpressure, too short also NG I think
 

jacobconroy

Hillbilly of Leisure
Any chance your hose exceed the maximum length?

They need just the right degree of backpressure, too short also NG I think
Maybe. both 26mm hoses are the ones that came with the Propex and they haven't been cut. The Propex specs say that they can be extended, but cannot be shortened.
 

MattJ

Adventurer
I put the roof top tent and tipi tent in storage last year and am now doing a lot of ultra-light backpacking in the mountains instead. Using a trick discussed earlier in this thread, I lit two single-candle lanterns under a tarp shelter in the snow to see if that would cut down on condensation in sub-freezing temperatures.

I learned that candles are good for light, heat and morale, but don't really make too much of a difference with regard to condensation. It seems that the ambient humidity level has much more of an impact. On this recent trek, it was very cold but quite humid (67% I think), so I had a LOT of condensation to deal with.







 

jacobconroy

Hillbilly of Leisure
Nice to see that you are getting out to play. I've been toying with the idea of winter camping too (on the ground). The idea of a heavier tent with a wood stove sounds like it might be fun. Heavy, but fun.
 

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MattJ

Adventurer
I also have a Hilleberg Atko 1-person tent, which is great in the snow. It's actually two tents - an inner tent and outer tarp, which helps a lot with the condensation challenge. But it's 1.5 pounds heavier than the simple tarp. I've learned that hiking in deep snow up into the mountains makes every ounce count!





 

TantoTrailers

Well-known member
I like your thread, I wish I found this before doing all of the same testing you did! I found that the UCO candles actually emit some condensation themselves when I locked them lit inside of my camper that has no condensation built up on the windows only to find it slowly building without anyone inside generating extra moisture!


I ended up with a Chinese Diesel Heater in my rig and cannot say more good things about it. Actually built a small toolbox heater to put in my awning when I use 4 walls on it, will be giving it a good test in a month when I go snowboarding in UT!
 
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