Non Toxic Tents: The Best Tents Without Flame Retardants Harmful to Human Health [2022]

Flame retardant chemicals are commonly used in camping tents, even though scientists have discovered that they have the potential to cause dangerous health effects in humans. Non toxic tents are made without flame retardant chemicals.
North Face Wawona 6 Non Toxic Tent Without Flame Retardants

Camping is a timeless activity enjoyed by people of all ages and walks of life, from children to retirees. A camping trip with family and friends is a time to commune with nature and unplug from the hectic pace of urban and suburban life. However, immersing yourself in nature could also mean exposing yourself to dangerous chemicals, depending on your choice of tent.

Flame retardant chemicals are commonly used in camping tents, even though scientists have discovered that they have the potential to cause serious health effects in humans. Non toxic tents are made without these chemicals.

While the amount of exposure the average person has to flame retardants via a camping tent during a single outing is not enough to cause immediate problems, repeated long-term exposure is cause for concern.

Health experts are sounding the alarm that these chemicals should be removed from consumer products completely because they are persistent and bioaccumulate. This is means they continue to build up in the human body and natural environment over time with each exposure.

What exactly are flame-retardants?

The term “flame retardants” , also known as “fr chemicals”, refers to a variety of substances added to flammable materials to prevent or delay the spread of fire. These chemicals are added to fabric in different parts of the tent, including the rainfly, canopy and floor.

Why should you buy a non toxic tent?

The health risk of fire retardants may significantly outweigh any protection these chemicals offer. Health effects of flame retardants used in tent fabrics may include kidney and liver cancers, neurological damage, respiratory illnesses, reproductive toxicity and fetal development problems.


Non Toxic Tents Without Flame Retardants

The eco friendly tents in our list range from 2-person to 6-person tents. All of the tents are made without flame retardants, however, some of the tents do include waterproofing chemicals and dyes.


Best Storage Space: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3

Big Agnes is a sustainable brand that does not use fire retardants in any of their tents. The Copper Spur is ultralight, sturdy, and waterproof, with generous livable space and tons of storage compartments.

Big Agnes Copper Spur Non Toxic Tent
Big Agnes Copper Spur Tent Mesh Body

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FEATURES

Design: Freestanding

Capacity: 3 person

Seasons: 3

Doors / Vestibules: 2

Poles: 2

Minimum Trail Weight:  3 pounds, 8 ounces (~1.5 kilograms)

Packed Size: 21 x 6 inches (53.34 x 15.24 centimeters)

Floor Dimensions: 90 x 70 inches (228.6 x 177.8 centimeters)

Vestibule Area: 33 square feet (3 square meters)

Peak Height: 43 inches (109.22 centimeters)

Material: Ripstop nylon

PROS

Lots of large storage compartments in the ceiling

Pre-bent tent poles and high-volume angle hubs significantly boosts the tent’s space and stability

1200mm waterproof rated rainfly and floor and waterproof taped seams keep the moisture out

Breathable mesh body and high / low vents provide excellent air flow

Two awning-style vestibules provide protection from the sun and rain

DAC NFL tent pole are sturdy and lightweight

Rainfly is attached to precut, highly visible reflective guylines and tensioners – makes nighttime setup easy

Door stoppers to keep entrances open

CONS

Footprint not included

Poles that support the vestibule awnings can fall easily in wind


Best Waterproof Tent: NEMO Dagger OSMO

The Dagger OSMO’s spacious design and superior ventilation make it pleasantly livable and well-suited for long excursions.

Nemo Dagger OSMO non toxic tent
nemo dagger osmo 2 Non Toxic Tents: The Best Tents Without Flame Retardants Harmful to Human Health [2022]

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FEATURES

Design: Freestanding

Capacity: 2 person

Seasons: 3

Doors / Vestibules: 2

Poles: 1

Minimum Trail Weight:  3 pounds, 6 ounces (~1.3 kilograms)

Packed Size: 19.5 x 6.5 x 3.5 inches (49.53 x 16.51 x 8.89 centimeters)

Floor Dimensions: 90 x 50 inches (228.6 x 127 centimeters)

Floor Area: 31.3 square feet (2.9 square feet)

Vestibule Area: 11.4 + 11.4 square feet (1.02 + 1.02 square meters)

Peak Height: 42 inches (106.68 centimeters)

Material: Ripstop nylon

PROS

Generous volume to weight ratio makes this tent extra spacious while still being lightweight

Vertical walls create extra floor space

Protected strutted vents for continuous ventilation, even during rainstorms

Large doors and trapezoidal vestibules increase interior living and storage space

No-See-Um mesh canopy for bug-free star gazing

“Landing Zone” vestibule storage bin keeps gear clean and dry

Aluminum poleset

Footprint included

Overhead light compartment

Internal pockets for gear storage

DSL Featherlite NSL tent poles

CONS

Less headroom than other comparable tents

Footprint not included


Best Value: Mineral King 2 Tent

The Mineral King 2 is budget-friendly tent lightweight enough for short backpacking trips, and spacious enough for longer excursions.

Mountain Hardwear Mineral King Non Toxic Tent
Mineral King Tent Mesh Body

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FEATURES

Design: Freestanding

Capacity: 2 person

Seasons: 3

Doors / Vestibules: 2

Poles: 2

Minimum Trail Weight:  6 pounds

Packed Size: 6 x 24 inches (15.24 x 60.96 centimeters)

Floor Dimensions: 88 x 54 inches (223.52 x 137.16 centimeters)

Vestibule Area: 18.3 square feet (1.7 square meters)

Peak Height: 43 inches (109.22 centimeters)

Material: Polyester

PROS

Rectangular design increases internal space

Mesh canopy for air flow

Includes footprint

Full-size, protected vestibule for storage

DAC Pressfit™ poles

Interior storage pockets

Bathtub shaped floor to waterproof foundation

Waterproof taped seams

CONS

Rainfly is difficult to tension

Needs more ventilation when rainfly is attached


Top Pick: REI Co-Op Half Dome Tent

The REI Half-Dome backpacking tent is a best-in-class product that checks all the boxes – it’s lightweight with large interior space, superior ventilation and plenty of storage.

REI Co-op Half Dome Non Toxic Tent
REI Half Dome Tent Mesh Body

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FEATURES

Design: Freestanding

Capacity: 3 Person

Seasons: 3

Doors / Vestibule: 2

Poles: 1 hubbed

Minimum Trail Weight: 4 pounds, 13 ounces (~2.1 kilgrams)

Packed Weight: 5 pounds, 12 ounces (~2.5 kilograms)

Peak Height: 44 inches (112 centimeters)

Floor Dimensions: 90 x 78 inches (227 x 198 centimeters)

Vestibule Dimensions: 22.5 square feet (2 square meters)

Material: Nylon

PROS

Generous length of more than 7 feet makes the tent ideal for tall campers

Pre-bent poles creates extra internal space

Vertical sidewalls and tension-truss system create extra head room

Adjustable mesh panels for air flow and star gazing

Rainfly with adjustable ceiling vents to prevent condensation

Covered vestibule storage area

Large D-shaped doors

Aluminum pole

Footprint included

Guylines included for extra stability

Color-coded pole assembly for easy setup

bluesign certified free of toxic chemicals

CONS

None – this tent provides a wonderful suite of features at a great value


Best for Families: North Face Wawona 6

The North Face Wawona 6 is one of the best family tents on the market, with a double-wall design, generous interior space, great ventilation and extra storage space, it feels more like a house than a tent.

North Face Wawona 6 Non Toxic Tent Without Flame Retardants
North Face Wawona 6 Tent

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FEATURES

Design: Freestanding

Capacity: 6 Person

Seasons: 3

Doors / Vestibules: 2

Poles: 4

Minimum Trail Weight: 20 pounds (9.07 kilograms)

Packed Weight: 20 pounds, 15 ounces (9.1 kilograms)

Peak Height: 78 inches (199 centimeters)

Floor Dimensions: 120 x 96 inches (305 x 244 centimeters)

Vestibule Area: 44.7 square feet (4.15 square meters)

Material: Polyester

PROS

20+ extra inches of headroom, double the height of most tents

Extra large vestibule

Two-wall construction and mesh door for superior air flow

DAC MX poles are lightweight and extremely durable

Precut guy lines for extra stability

Color-coded poles for easy pitching

Internal storage pockets, including ceiling storage compartments

CONS

Heavy

Vestibule and rainfly are a bit confusing to setup

1 door

Footprint not included


Best for Backpacking: Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid

The Hyperlite UltraMid is one of the lightest backpacking tents, at only 1.7 pounds, with a shell made from 100% waterproof Dyneema® composite fabric, a fabric that is stronger and longer lasting that carbon fiber.

Hyperlite Ultamid 4 Non Toxic Tent
Hyperlite Ultamid 4 Non Toxic Tent

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FEATURES

Capacity: 2 person

Seasons: 3

Doors / Vestibule: 1

Poles: 1

Minimum Trail Weight:  1 pound, 7.7 ounces

Peak Height: 5 feet, 4 inches

Floor Dimensions: 83 x 107 inches (211 x 272 centimeters)

Material: Dyneema Composite Fiber (DCF) fabric

PROS

Ultralight, great for backpackers, cyclists and mountain climbers

Larger floor dimensions than most ultralight tents

Rectangular-shaped interior is exceptionally tall for a tent of this weight

100% Waterproof shell

Dyneema® Composite Fabric helps repel mosquitoes

Dual vents provide superior ventilation

Bathtub-shaped floor to prevent leaks

Ideal for distance cyclists and alpine climbers

CONS

Cramped for 2 people and gear, but ideal for 1 person and gear

1 door

Footprint not included


Best Air Quality and Ventilation: Alpkit Roundhouse Organic Cotton Canvas Tent

Alpkit Roundhouse Non Toxic Tent

The Roundhouse has a luxurious, spacious environment that feels like a permanent structure, with an organic poly-cotton shell that significantly improves air quality and ventilation inside the tent.

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FEATURES

Capacity: 6 person

Seasons: 3

Minimum Trail Weight:  26.94 pounds (12.21 kilograms)

Doors / Vestibules: 2

Peak Height: 9.84 feet (299.9 centimeters)

Floor Area: 6.56 feet diameter (199.9 centimeters)

Material: 65% polyester and 35% organic cotton eco friendly materials

PROS

The interior is tall and wide enough to stand upright and walk around freely

Heavy duty organic cotton canvas breathes far better than polyester or nylon

Good air quality and less condensation

Temperate regulating

CONS

Heavy

Difficult setup

Not suited for rain


Best Headroom: NEMO Aurora Highrise

The NEMO Aurora has a large, comfortable living space, with extra headspace for upright standing, and large, protected side windows for great ventilation and beautiful views of nature.

Nemo Aurora Highrise Non Toxic Tent
Nemo Aurora Highrise Tent Mesh Body

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FEATURES

Capacity: 6 person

Seasons: 3

Minimum Trail Weight:  18 pounds, 14 ounces

Doors / Vestibules: 2

Peak Height: 6.1 feet

Floor Dimensions: 120 x 100 inches (305 x 254 centimeters)

Material: Polyester

PROS

Extra headroom

Large windows with awnings

CONS

Heavy, difficult to carry


Alpkit Tetri

The Alpkit Tetri’s unique geodesic, three-pole design make it sturdy and well-equipped for all types of weather.

Tetri Non Toxic Tent

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FEATURES

Capacity: 2 person

Seasons: 3

Doors / Vestibules: 1

Minimum Trail Weight: 6.6 pounds (3 kilograms)

Floor Dimensions: 126 x 58 x 43 inches (320 x 149 x 110 centimeters) (L x W x H)

Material: Polyester

PROS

Easy to pitch

Can be used as a tent or as a bivvy shelter

Extra large vestibule for storage

Guylines for extra stability

Bathtub shaped floor to keep the foundation dry

CONS

Feels cramped with two people and gear

Only 1 door

Small vestibule for storage

Does not include a footprint


A quick history of flame retardants

The flammability standard for tent safety, known as CPAI-84 , were originally created in 1976 to reduce the risk of fire in paraffin-coated circus tents. Paraffin is highly flammable, so these tents posed a serious risk.

However, the technology behind camping tent fabric has evolved significantly over the past 40+ years, and the quality and construction of tents materials is far superior to what was used in the 1970s. Paraffin is no longer used. In spite the technical advances in tents, fire safety laws have not been updated.

Why flame retardants are dangerous

The health risk of retardants may significantly outweigh any protection they offer. Health effects of flame retardants used in tent fabrics may include kidney and liver cancers, neurological damage, respiratory illnesses, reproductive toxicity and fetal development problems.

These substances can affect your short-term health and cause headaches, diarrhea, nausea, seizures and difficulty breathing, even after using a tent just a few times. If you’ve ever felt strange or unwell after sleeping in a new tent, a FR chemical could be the reason why.

In short, these additives are bad news and are especially dangerous to children and immunocompromised adults. These toxic substances can leech into your hands and lungs when you touch and use the tent.

US states like Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire have started prohibiting specific fr chemicals in consumer products , but oftentimes flame retardants are used to meet regulatory flammability requirements of a specific state. FR chemicals are much more restricted in Europe , and in some cases have been completely banned because of the health risks.

These levels are below what is permitted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, however they far exceed the levels legally allowed in Europe. In fact, several flame retardants have been completely banned in Europe, and a larger ban of chemicals in the EU is planned for 2022.

Why do tents contain flame-retardants?

Flame retardants are used to keep combustible materials from spreading. Regulations for these chemicals in tents stretch back to the 1970s, when they were put in place to safeguard fires from paraffin-treated canvas event tents used at circuses and fairs.

However, most people no longer use these type of old fashioned tents. Tent regulations haven’t been revised since the 1990’s, even though outdoor gear technology has evolved significantly.

In addition, flame retardants do not degrade easily, and can persist in the environment for years. These substances can also build up in the biological systems of people and animals over time.

Do flame retardants stop a tent from becoming flammable?

Flame retardants DO NOT stop a tent from becoming flammable. Regardless of whether they have been sprayed with a fire retardant chemical, all tents exposed to an open flame will burn. No such thing as a fireproof tent exists.

What are the most common types of flame-retardant chemicals?

These come in a large number of variations and are frequently classified according to whether they contain bromine, chlorine, phosphorus, nitrogen, metals, or boron.

Brominated FR chemical (BFRs)

Often found in electronics, furniture, and building materials. BFRs can cause endocrine disruption and other health effects in humans.

Organophosphates FR chemical (OPFRs)

Most commonly found in camping tents, long-term exposure to OPFRs can cause a number of health effects, including neurological problems, depression, headaches, diarrhea, and nausea.

Tetrabromobisphenol A FR chemical (TBBPAs)

Typically used to make computer electronics, TBBPAs can cause toxicity in reproductive organs and the brain, and disruption of the endocrine system.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers FR chemical (PBDEs)

Commonly found in furniture and electronics and easily inhaled in the air and dust. PBDEs may reduce infant birth weight, as well as impact brain development. US manufacturers of these chemicals voluntarily stopped making and importing them in 2004 and 2009. The FDA created a rule in 2012 to completely stop the importation of PBDEs.

Hexabromocyclododecane FR chemical (HBCDs)

Often found in foam products, HBCDs can have negative reproductive, developmental and neurological health effects in humans.

The Duke University 2016 Study on Flame Retardants in Backpacking Tents

A 2016 report conducted by Duke University scientists revealed that humans interact with significant amounts of flame retardants when they use backpacking tents.

Genna Gomes, a doctoral student at Duke and principal author of the research paper Characterizing Flame Retardant Applications and Potential Human Exposure in Backpacking Tents, sought to determine if flame retardant chemicals inhaled while camping could be absorbed into the body.

Twenty volunteers were asked to to erect tents made in 2014 and tested to contain organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs). All the tents used in the study fulfilled the CPAI-84 flame resistance standard.

The participants’ hands were swabbed by the researchers before and after they put up the tents, and each swab was analyzed for OPFRs. They evaluated each tent for four different OPFRs before having volunteers put the tents together.

After erecting the tents, the volunteers had significantly more OPFRs on their hands than before, in some instances up to 29 times more of one particular chemical, TDCIPP. While the quantities of OPFR chemicals found were very small – millionths to hundred-millionths of a gram – consistent exposure can cause these chemicals to accumulate in the body over time. Children in particular appear to absorb these chemicals more readily because they tend to be more tactile, frequently touching surfaces and other objects.

“The researchers tested the air space inside 15 different tents for a set of known flame retardants. Based on their measurements, the researchers estimated that campers sleeping for eight hours inside the tents could potentially inhale compound levels ranging from a few nanograms per kilogram of bodyweight to 400 nanograms per kilogram of bodyweight.” The study was published in Environmental Science & Technology, “Characterizing Flame Retardant Applications and Potential Human Exposure in Tents.”

Why do tents have Prop 65 warning?

“Proposition 65”, also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, is a California legislation that mandates a warning label on items that contain specific chemicals. Tents contain fire retardant chemicals which are banned in the state of California.

There are seven US states and Canada that have rules about how fire retardant chemicals must be used on tents, even if they are made of lightweight synthetic materials. These US states include California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Michigan.

To make matters more confusing, fire retardants have been banned or restricted in 12 states, including New York and California, as well as South Korea, the European Union, and Canada as well. This makes it hard for manufacturers to sell products that can be universally sold in every market.

What is off-gassing?

Off-gassing is what happens when newly made things give off chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere. When you first purchase a tent, you will notice a specific smell inside the tent, especially when the doors are zipped close. The odor is a result of dyes, flame retardants, waterproofing and any other substances that have been added to the tent materials. These materials are emitting chemical particles into the atmosphere as they settle.

Off-gassing is dangerous because toxic chemicals released into the air can be inhaled into your lungs, or settle onto your skin. Scientists have determined that toxic chemicals released during off-gassing can reduce cognitive function by as much as 60%.

What are the components of an 8 person tent?

Tent Vestibule

A tent vestibule is a covered area right outside the main tent. It can be located on the side or at the front of the tent. The vestibule is like a porch or mud room where you can leave your shoes, camping gear, and other dirty things that you don’t want to bring into the main tent. You can also cook and hang out with other people in the vestibule.

Tent Rainfly

A rainfly is an outer layer of fabric that covers the top of a pitched, inner tent. The rainfly is often made of recycled material like polyester or nylon, because these fabrics are inherently waterproof. Additional waterproofing is often added to the rainfly to make it impervious to the elements. The rainfly is usually the strongest protection your tent will have against rain, snow and wind.

Single Wall Tent

As the name suggest, a single-wall tents provide a single layer of protection against the elements. Single-walled tents are constructed from water-resistant and breathable fabric that is usually thicker than typical tent fabric. This sort of material allows water to evaporate, while also being waterproof. The primary benefits of single-wall tents is that they are easy to carry and generally lightweight.

Double Wall Tent

A double-walled tent has two distinct layers: the inner lining material that forms the inner tent and the outer rainfly. When the tent is set, an air gap is formed between the two layers, allowing air to flow and preventing condensation from forming on the tent walls.

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If you like these article, check out our other non toxic product guides to help you find the best camping tent:

Sources:

Kristina M.

Kristina M.

Providing shopping recommendations for organic, sustainable, and eco-friendly products.

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