The Club's CO warning poster

The Club’s CO warning poster

In the last week we have been taken to task for the Club’s recommendation not to rely on a carbon monoxide (CO) detector to keep you safe in a tent or awning. As this is such a vital safety subject I thought I’d put our argument online – in the hope someone will prove us wrong and we can change our stance.

At the moment our understanding is as follows:

If you check the instruction leaflet for a CO monitor adhering to the current British and European Standard (EN 50291:2- 2010) you’ll find a specification section. The chances are it will quote a humidity range of 30% to 90% relative humidity (RH) non-condensing, because this reflects the requirements of the Standard.

The reality is, if you’re sleeping in a tent on a rainy night the humidity inside the tent is very likely to be well over 90%. So we’re left with some questions: will the CO monitor still work at these humidity levels over night? And will it still function correctly the next day? Or next week? Or next year?

Last week I persuaded half the Publications Team to stay under canvas overnight at our annual tent testing photoshoot. The temperatures dropped well below freezing. If one of my colleagues had kept a glass of water and a slice of cucumber in his tent porch over night they would both have frozen. The next morning, one would defrost back to a perfectly acceptable drink. The other would have turned to mush.

If a CO detector and humidity can be compared with a freezing item in a tent, after a fortnight’s holiday in the hammering rain, would my detector be a refreshing drink or a pile of mush?

Unfortunately the neat white case of the monitor wouldn’t tell us. Neither would the ‘test alarm’ function as it only tests the function of the electrical circuit that sounds the alarm, not the efficacy of the CO sensor.

There may be data to show I’m wrong and a CO monitor will work perfectly in the conditions found in a tent or awning. If you know of any, please get in touch using the Technical Help and Advice button under the Contact Us section of this website. At the moment, however, I’d prefer to be safe than sorry and we’ll be sticking to our recommendation:

Don’t rely on a carbon monoxide (CO) detector to keep you safe in a tent or awning. They may be useful at home, in a caravan or in a motorhome, but they are not designed for the conditions found in a tent or awning.

First posted on The Camping and Caravanning Club’s blog – dated 27 March 2013