Cooking in tents, huts, snow caves and other confined or crowded spaces

Using a stove in a confined space is dangerous, and should be avoided if at all possible. However, if there is no alternative, absolute concentration and extreme care is required. Accidents happen more easily, and more people can be injured or affected when cooking in confined spaces than when cooking in the open. As a leader, you should ensure that your group members are experienced enough with their stoves for them to be safe cooking inside. If you have any doubts about group members’ experience, you could arrange for all cooking to be done in the open, perhaps with a group shelter set up, or ask that some members cook first, while others wait to reduce crowding.

In the snow, building an open air communal kitchen from snow blocks can boost a sense of the group working together and can help you to unobtrusively assist those who need it. You can also observe what people eat to make sure that the food is adequate. This approach will also extend the time before you all move into tents for the night.

When you do have to cook inside a tent vestibule, a hut, a snow cave or other confined space, as leader you can do much to improve the safety of your group.

  • Set up the area for cooking and clear away all other non-essential items, such as clothing, equipment and food.
  • Designate specific areas in the hut or cave for cooking.
  • Have as few people as possible near the stoves.
  • Always light the stove right outside and cook with the stove either right outside, or in the vestibule.
  • Most tent fabrics are highly flammable, and great care is needed if cooking in a vestibule.
  • Plan ahead to keep all movements to a minimum.
  • If there are children in the group, keep them well away from the stove in any confined space.,/li>

Be aware of the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning when using stoves in poorly ventilated spaces. As leader, when your group is cooking inside tent vestibules, move among the group and check that tents are not completely closed. Carbon monoxide poisoning is insidious and tent occupants are unlikely to be aware if affected. Emphasise to everyone that stoves need constant observation and attention. Never leave a lighted stove (or a candle for that matter) unattended.