How to use a Wood Burning Stove in your Tent

February 7, 2021

Ever wondered about how to use a wood-burning stove in your tent? We try to answer that question…


To keep warm when camping at the cooler times of the year, we typically rely on blankets, suitable clothing, and higher spec sleeping bags.

You could, of course, use an Electric Hook-up with something like a fan heater or the little Bambino radiator, but there is another way to heat your tent: a wood-burning stove.

Using a Woodburning Stove in your Tent

Smoke coming out of the flue
Smoke coming out of the flue on our Robens Kiowa Tent

Using a stove in your tent is known as ‘Hot Tenting’, and believe me, a good stove can make your tent very warm.

However, you can’t put a stove in just any tent.

The tent will typically need to be canvas or polycotton and have an opening for the hot flue pipe (the ‘chimney’).

Take sensible precautions with fire
Take sensible precautions with fire

Isn’t using a stove in your tent dangerous?

Yes, you need to take sensible precautions.

Sensible fire precautions when using a stove in your tent

  • You’ll need to protect around the stove with a flame retardant mat in case hot embers escape. Many manufacturers recommend rolling back the tent’s groundsheet and placing the stove directly on the ground.
  • You’ll want a spark arrester on the top of the flue to prevent hot sparks landing on the tent.
  • You’ll need to keep combustible items away from the stove as they do get very hot.
  • You’ll need to keep at hand a way of extinguishing any fire.
The stove with the groundsheet rolled back
The stove with the groundsheet rolled back

In addition to fire, you’ll want to make sure any little hands are kept well away from the hot stove surface.

The dangers of Carbon Monoxide when using a tent stove

We have a long-running campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of carbon monoxide when camping after several tragic deaths where people brought BBQs that were still warm into the tent.

The big difference with a proper tent stove is that the majority of the fumes should be directed out of the tent up the flue. However, there are some precautions you need to take.

  • Your tent must be well ventilated. It won’t matter that you have the door open when the stove is hot. Ideally, your tent should be designed to let the airflow through the tent, so you have a supply of fresh air.
  • Don’t leave your stove on through the night. I know of some campers that do without any issues, but I’m not taking any chances with my family and advise you don’t too.

If you do want to leave your stove on through the night, you’ll need someone to stay up on fire watch to man the stove and make sure there’s still adequate ventilation.

Not having it on at night isn’t too much of a problem since you should still have good sleeping bags, clothes, and insulation. Your tent may still have some residual heat when you get into your sleeping bag anyway.

So with all the precautions, why would you want to put a stove in your tent?

Warmth. Cosiness. Ability to cook.

Starting the fire in the stove
Starting the fire in the stove

You can make your canvas or polycotton tent very warm and inviting with a stove. We found it too warm at times when we recently tested the new Robens Volcano stove. It was the first time we’ve ever been sweltering in the tent despite it being wet, windy, and cold outside.

The stove can generate a lot more heat than a little electric fan heater or oil-filled radiator.

Cooking on the stove
Cooking on the stove

Then there’s the cooking.

If your tent stove has a hot surface, it’s a great place to put a kettle, and even a skillet, griddle, or pot.

And yes it does get hot enough to boil water.

So when the weather is not great outside, a stove can make your tent a refuge in the storm.

Which tent stove did we use?

As mentioned before, it was a Robens Volcano Stove, which comes with all the accessories needed to fit the tall Robens tipi tents.

There are several similar stoves, noticeably the Frontier Stove, but you may need to purchase additional accessories, such as additional flue sections, spark arrester, and heat guard.

Here’s the full review of the Robens Volcano StoveUpdate: We are now using the Robens Kobuk Stove.


Adapting your tent to use a Wood-Burning Stove

Please note that this is not something we have done, as we have tents that come with everything necessary to use a stove. However, we have put some notes together below for you to investigate this topic further if you wish to adapt your tent for a stove.

The tents we have come with a fabric sleeve for the flue pipe. However, the flue pipe must have a heat shield. These suspend from the top of the flue pipe with chains, that attach to the spark arrester – which is another essential piece of your stove kit.

You can see that in our photo below.

Smoke coming out of the flue
The heat shield and spark arrestor help protect the tent.

Our Robens stove came with everything needed in one kit. However, if you don’t have such a kit, you can find various options for different stoves, such as the example spark arrestor from Amazon below, or the tent heat shield sleeve, also from Amazon.

Spark Arrestor (Image Credit: Amazon)
A spark arrestor stops any large sparks or hot ash falling onto your tent and burning a hole (Image credit: Amazon)
Tent flue pipe heat shield sleeve. (Image credit: Amazon)
This heat shield sleeve helps keep the hot stove pipe away from your tent’s fabric (Image credit: Amazon)

Making the hole in your tent for the flue pipe

Once again, I’d like to repeat, this is not something we’ve done. However, for those of you brave enough to do it yourself, here are a few options.

1

Solid Flashing (or ‘Stove Jacks’ as called in the US)

A solid fixture to you tent with a silicon-rubber exit where you poke your flue through.

These bolt around an opening you make in your tent. You can get them at different angles to match the pitch of your tent’s roof.

Below is an example I found on Amazon.

Solid tent flashing for stove flue (Image credit: Amazon)
This is an example solid flashing it for a tent. (Image credit: Amazon)

I did also find this tent stove kit on Amazon, that came with all the flue pipe accessories and the flashing kit. I can’t vouch for this stove though, as I’ve not tried it.

This tent stove kit from Amazon looks like it has everything you need (Image credit: Amazon)

You can get some of these with a number of silicon rubber folds, which might be a better option so that the flue flashing can fold flat when not in use.

Here’s a great video on YouTube that shows you how to fit one of these.

2

Fire-Resistant Fabric

An alternative is to make a hole and secure with fire-resistant fabric.

For this type of flue exit, you cut a larger hole in your tent – yikes! However, I think it has a number of advantages:

  1. It has a flap to cover the opening when not in use. We don’t use our stove in summer generally, and so this solution would be ideal to keep the tent usable all year round.
  2. You can adjust the whole size to what you need and it doesn’t matter what the angle of your tent roof is.
  3. The example below can be used with or without the fire-retardant fabric, which can be velcro’d in or out.
  4. There’s no lumpy metal on your tent, which might cause issues (or damage) when packing away, transporting, or storing your tent.

Here’s the example I found on Amazon. Search around, there are lots of different options for this.

A flexible stove flue option (Image credit: Amazon)
This option gives you plenty of flexibility in where you place your stove and keeps your tent functional all year round. (Image credit: Amazon)
Remember that making a hole in your tent for a flue pipe could invalidate your tent’s warranty.
3

Through an open window

This might be an option without having to make a hole in your tent

Depending on your tent’s design, you might be able to take the flue pipe through an open window.

To help with this, you might need to get a flue pipe that doesn’t just go straight up. However, note that you need to make sure that this doesn’t make your stove unstable, and you might not find the up-draft as good.

Here’s another good video from CanvasCamp, which gives you an idea on this alternative option.


Getting someone else to fit your stove flue

If you don’t wish to make the hole in your tent yourself, there are a number of companies that do canvas tent repairs and customisations. Here are a few that you might want to reach out to.


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Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

15 Comments
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  1. Hi Arlen, I agree with your comment about no need for a spark arrestor with a stove that has a good baffle. Do you have blog/website with details on your coffee tin stove design as I would like to see it and see if it is similar to my biscuit tin stove.

    In my best tent stoves the baffle also makes the stovetop get hotter and the stove pipe less hot at the same time.
    https://timtinker.com/the-kiss-tent-stove-for-alpine-tent-heating/
    https://timtinker.com/tent-stove-from-a-biscuit-tin/

    I also have a post on how to make a very simple DIY stove jack for any tent.
    https://timtinker.com/diy-ultralight-stove-jack-for-hot-tents/
    Tim

  2. Thanks for these tips! We’ve got a 4ft polycotton bell tent and would like to fit a small stove. There’s 4 of us in the tent so it would need to go in the middle with a long flue. Can you recommend a stove set for this? Also, a bit nervous about cutting our tent to fit the port, are there companies that would convert our tent for us?

    • A simple baffle inside the stove stops all sparks. A coffee can stove is big enough to get the cooking done. Meat can be broiled in a kettle sitting up close to the bottom. Stove smoke exits side through a simple chimney connector. A roof jack can be made with 2 coffee can lids that have been cut off with opener that leaves rim on. Google chimpac

    • Hi Jo, great question. I’ve just updated the article for you. I hope that helps.
      Cheers,
      Gav

  3. One pound of wood is all the wood needed to cook a meal for 2 people if the tent stove is designed right.

  4. The hottest part of a wood burning cook stove for a tent should be the cooktop.
    You can not have a hot cooktop if you do not direct all the flame to the top the cooktop before the flame goes up the chimney.
    No hot sparks will ever come out of tent cookstove if it is designed right. A tent chimney does not have to be much hotter than steam
    The stove should be oriented vertical so the smoke has to travel down to get to the port that the chimney is attached to.
    To do this there has to be a baffle inside the stove.

  5. Hi Gav,

    Thank you for the great article! I’ve been camping for several years, but now that my wife and I had our first baby, you have inspired me to buy my first canvas tent. Ordered it, together with a stove, yesterday!

    As I prepare to go on my first camping trip with my wife and 2-month old baby, I was wondering if you could share some additional advice on:

    What is the best wood to use in the stove. I have heard that some wood produces less CO, but I’m not sure.
    Since my baby cannot yet use a proper sleeping bag, what do you think are the best ways to keep the tent (or at least an inner place surrounding my daughter) warm through the night? As you, I’m not taking any risks with the stove. I’ve read that hanging several blankets creating a small cocoon, and using oven-level bricks previously heated in the stove can keep the heat for much longer. Not sure if you have had any experience with this or anything else.

    Thank you!

    • Congratulations!

      I don’t know if it’s less CO2 but seasoned wood burns with less smoke and soot. And remember even after the fire is out, CO2 is released, so make sure you have good airflow.

      For keeping the little one warm make sure you insulate well underneath them. They’ll need more blankets underneath than on top. With the stove on it will get quite warm in the tent but you’ll still need plenty of ground insulation. A good insulated tent carpet and some rugs can make the world of difference.

      If you can, try it out in your garden first so you can get used to the stove and getting your tent setup just right.

      Hope that helps and happy camping!

  6. The main reason I use a wood burning stove in a tarp shelter is for cooking in all seasons. A vertical oriented stove gives a hot cook top when an inside combustion chamber is used and the smoke exit port is lower on the side of the stove. A kettle can be attached to the bottom of he stove to broil food. The chimney is also center pole for a square tarp pitch shaped by 4 corner pegs 4 side sticks and the center pole chimney. This square tarp pitch is so much better than a tipi.

  7. We want to put a stove in a gazebo.
    We are going to sew on a piece of canvas where the chimney goes through.
    PVC coated polyester roof; and 210D PU coated side panels.

    What do you think?

    Cheers Dan

    • You’ll have to watch the wind of course.  I’ve seen people use a wood burning stove with a tarp shelter (similar to a gazebo). But rather than make a hole, they have it so part of the stove sits just outside and the flue just goes straight up and misses the shelter.  Might be the easiest option?

  8. I’d really like to get a stove to use with a robens klondike tent however, I’m struggling to see how I can use it much in the UK. Every campsite I’ve inquired about using a stove at doesn’t allow them and the weight of the stove would make wild camping a bit hard! How do you get around this?…other than camping in the garden! thanks

    • Hi Lucy,

      Choose campsites that allow campfires. You can search for some here: https://www.getoutwiththekids.co.uk/find-campsites/ 

      It’s also worth mentioning that your tent is designed for stove, and get a stove with a heat shield, tall enough flue, and spark arrester. 

      Hope that helps.

  9. Hi. I liked your article on using a portable wood burning stove in a tent. I was wondering if I could use the frontier stove in a Sunncamp Gites 5 tent since it is cotton? Would you have any advice as to where might be best to place the flu considering I would need to modify the tent to accommodate that? Many thanks!

    • Hi Kim,

      May be towards the back, on the right hand side?
      It should be away from your inner tent fabric, and not too close to the sides of your tent, for obvious reasons 😉

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