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Old 12-11-2012, 01:49 AM   #31
Ceri JC
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Joined: Sep 2009
Location: All over, usually Wales or England
Oddometer: 2,462
Originally Posted by squish View Post
Kung Fu shoes for camp shoes unless it's really wet
+1. They pack down to nothing and make walking around camp so much nicer. I don't tend to bother if I'm wearing hybrid motorbike/hiking boots (as I do on fairly road-oriented trips). If you're wearing Enduro boots though, they're a great luxury for the size/weight. Word of warning; I once got early stages of hypothermia using them around camp on a hiking trip and I didn't realise until it was too late, how wet /cold my feet were. After this incident, I worked out the solution; by using waterproof socks when it's cold/wet (I like knee length Seal Skinz), you not only waterproof your Enduro boots, but when you put your Kung Fu shoes on, it doesn't matter if they get wet too.

Flames/heat sources in tents is a hugely controversial topic and I fully expect someone will post here about how they've seen youtube videos of modern tents burst into flames in 5 seconds and how their girlfriend's cousin's uncle heard from someone in a bar about a guy who got burnt alive from doing it. Like motorcycling, I cannot deny it is potentially dangerous. Similarly, like motorcycling, I can say from experience that if you're sensible about it, it's nowhere near as dangerous as the general populace tend to imagine and there's a lot you can do to decrease the risk to a level where the benefit outweighs the risk.

I was involved in scouting for almost 20 years of my life. Consequently, I have seen (and slept in) a lot of tents and I have seen huge numbers of other people (often novices) camping close up and making all sort of stupid mistakes. In all that time, there were only two instances where tents caught fire and neither of these resulted in anything more severe than a telling off for the people involved and a bill for some new tents.

One involved someone putting a stick they had used to poke the fire with back in the box where dry wood was stored "because the flame on it had gone out". Unsurprisingly, glowing hot embers on the end of a stick are hot enough to ignite other wood and a large box full of wood burns quite well; well enough to ignite the kitchen tarp-tent it is under, in fact.

The other was the only time I've seen (or met someone with first hand experience of) a flame inside a tent "going wrong" in the real world. Three kids were cooking in the porch of their tent as it was very cold and rain was likely. Everyone on camp was doing the same. Someone didn't put the pan on the stove properly and it started to slide off. In the scramble to grab the pan and prevent dinner winding up on the floor, someone knocked the stove over and the grass and the front of the porch caught alight. It was a modern tent (an early Vaude Ferret, if you're a tent geek/interested) and as youtube videos show, it burnt quickly. Nonetheless, three panicking children (11-14) had the presence of mind to GTFO and stamp out the porch fire from the outside of the tent, quickly enough that the tent was saved and they were able to sleep in it that night with nothing more severe than a leaky porch.

The three biggest dangers relating to heat/fire IMO are:
1. A heat source from outside the tent (fire, someone else's hot cigarette ash, etc.) being blown, dropped or otherwise transferred onto the canvas, when you're inside it. The first you'll know is when the tent is on fire.
2. Being drunk. I had second degree burns and a trip to hospital following an incident involving alcohol. I was sat in a camp chair a long way from the tent and we had some tea lights for light on the ground. The grass caught fire and in my panic and drunkeness, I overlooked the fact I wasn't wearing shoes and proceeded to stamp out the fire barefoot. Unfortunately, I managed to get the metal of the tea light stuck to my foot. I still have some light scarring for my stupidity. I can easily see how if you're drunk*, as opposed to having had a swig from a hip flask or 3-4 beers round the campfire, you can make mistakes that you never would sober, that can be dangerous. Put the flames out before you start drinking.
3. Smoke; one of the reasons why these tent stoves have a stove pipe is to take the smoke outside the tent. If you have a tent with poor ventilation and are burning something that smokes a lot, the smoke can settle on the ground of the tent and kill you in your sleep. Answer: Don't burn anything that smokes more than a candle, in any tent with poor ventilation, when you're going to sleep.

If you don't have a stove or other heat source, survival candles are great for heating a 2-3 man tent. Easy to build for pennies and they burn a long time. If your stove breaks down, you can even cook on them (I've boiled water in a "cup" made of tin foil on top of one).

People can and do sleep with them on all night, warming the tent/shelter. Personally, I wouldn't like to do this; I am quite happy to have one on whilst I'm awake in the tent and keeping an eye on it though.

As safe as I believe cooking/using survival candles in tents to be, I *always* keep a Leatherman inside my tent, within reaching distance of my bag and I know where it is at all times. I know from testing the theory on old/damaged tents that if necessary I can find and open the knife and use it to get out through a wall quicker than they burn (yes, even the modern ones). Canvas tents are harder/slower to cut through, but tend not to have bathtub floors and you can often just crawl under the walls and get out. Similarly, they take a lot longer to burn, so you have more time to escape.

Other things you can do to stack the odds in your favour:
Pitch your tent properly - Seriously, if your tents walls are flapping around in the wind, you're asking for trouble.
Site the heat source sensibly - Away from walls and not on a plastic groundsheet. If camping with other people, don't put it where they'll trip over it, or where the door will fall on it if they come to your tent unannounced and unzip the door.
Don't leave it unattended - If you go outside for a piss, put it out and relight it when you come back in.
Keep an eye on it - position yourself so that you are facing the flame, don't put it out of your field of vision so you have to turn around to check on it. You'll get lazy and not bother.
Keep something to put it out within reaching distance: In the case of a survival candle, the lid is great for this. Other things include water (EG your camelbak/water bag) and some clothes**/your camp towel to smother it.

*I'm talking; don't feel the burn till the following morning when you wake up outside your bag, lying in the porch of your tent, looking at an empty bottle of Lidl's own-brand Tequila

**Not the ultralightweight plasticy walking trousers that go up quicker than a tent, obviously!
I like my bike because I can overtake 4x4s down farm tracks with a week's worth of shopping on the back.
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