Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why Cook in a Tent?

I filmed my silnylon tent on fire, burning to the ground. Inside a "dummy" had been placed upon the floor, simulating a sleeping hiker. In this scenario, the hiker had elected to use the soda can stove inside her tiny tent, and while laying down, and had fallen asleep for whatever reason.

The entire video is posted at

Several questions and many opinions have been offered. I love it. Being ignored is worse than being questioned.

Now why would a person ever cook in or so near their tent or tarp that it could conceivably catch fire? The time has come to deal with this in depth.


Several of us hiking just north of Forester Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail were preparing to camp for the night. It was mid June. We'd forded streams, slid down snow pack, were tired and hot. All soloists, we'd somehow ended up in the same campsite.

The mosquitoes were ferocious. A camp spot was chosen but due to the blood sucking intensity, everyone was looking for a way to deal. Alexa threw down her bivy and crawled inside. She just lay there, safe, hot, but relieved. Her health store insect repellent wasn't worth shit, she told us.

Rambo John made a smudge fire and sat in the smoke. His tarp wouldn't keep mosquitoes off him, and his deet was running low.

I set up my tent and jumped inside with everything I had, including enough water for supper. Cobweb did the same with his tent. He said he was staying inside. He set his little soda can stove just outside in the vestibule and reached out as needed til supper was cooked and ready. Then, he ate inside.

I cooked in my tent, aware that it was incredibly dangerous. Silnylon will burn, you don't even need a flame for the heat to melt the fabric. Mosquitoes in the Sierras in June through first frost will drive one to near insanity.

Mist and Rain

After a long hard day walking in mist and rain, all we wanted was to get the tent up, some place that wasn't flooded, some place relatively flat so we didn't end up in each other's face. We'd trudged 22 miles, over the pass, through the sand, through the overgrowth. As dusk settled in, the trail wound into an old roadbed, very firm, but wide enough for the silnylon tent. Somehow we managed to get the stakes in. Then we climbed in, mud and wet gear left in each vestibule. Tomorrow we would be in town, so tonight we could cook and eat anything we wanted, use as much fuel as we felt like, drink coffee til we could hold no more. Life is good.

Wind Chill Factors

A winter hike and overnight on the Bartram Trail proved colder than anticipated. The sun shone, it was Georgia, but the temps kept dropping. The wind picked up. My car was just ten miles away and it crossed my mind to just continue the trail and not stop for the night . But, the GATC group leader said we would camp at Wilson Gap. That's fine, tomorrow we'd get out early. As everyone set up their shelters, donned their puff jackets and sat in the wind to cook, I realized my best comfort zone lay inside the tent, out of the wind, in the sleeping bag.
It dropped to 17 degrees that night, water froze in the cook pot I left outside the tent. I had dumped my water bottles to prevent loosing carrying capacity next morning. Another hiker slept with his camel back, but now even the hose was frozen. He carried out 2 quarts of ice, and had nothing to drink out or pick up water with. I cooked my oatmeal from the warmth of my bag, in the vestibule of my ultralight tent.

So, bottom line, I'm guessing anyone who doesn't know why a person would ever want to cook in their silnylon tent just hasn't been out enough. Basically its an individual survival decision. Having the right information helps make that decision.

I edited the film for impact and shared it as a courtesy.

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