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Backpacker Magazine – October 2011

Survival: Carbon-Dioxide Poisoning

Ventilate your tent to avoid this danger.

by: Shannon Davis





On Colorado’s Mt. Bancroft, I woke up in the middle of a long winter night, heavy-headed and gasping. My heart was beating like a guy who just ran a marathon at 15,000 feet. A snowstorm had buried the perimeter of our small, two-person single-wall tent and covered the vents, cutting off airflow. But I didn’t realize what was happening—or make a move to fix it—until much later, when my buddy went out to pee and a wave of fresh, oxygenated air rolled in the open door reviving us. We laugh about it now—the most lethal part of our climb happening in our sleep—but I could have died of carbon-dioxide poisoning. Ventilate the tent (open a gap in the door, if needed), shake off fresh snow, and don’t always whiz in a pee bottle—poking your head outside once in a while could save your life.



Sea Kayak Flip
Casey Lyons, BACKPACKER associate editor

No Water in the Desert
Annette McGivney, BACKPACKER Southwest editor

Dress for Lightning
Matt Walker, mountaineer,

Sea Kayak Flip
Casey Lyons, BACKPACKER associate editor

Predict a Flash Flood
Ken Phillips, Chief of Emergency Services, Grand Canyon National Park

BYO Survival Gear
Chris Thomas, mountaineer




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READERS COMMENTS

Craig
Jan 19, 2012

Robin - humans exhale carbon dioxide. Carbon monoxide is the biproduct of burning. So yes he means CO2 not CO.

Patrick - what you should learn from this is how toxic your own breath is and how the critical function of your tents venting system can be interrupted by snow, or other obstruction - something that few campers would consider.

Robin
Nov 14, 2011

Perhaps you mean carbon monoxide?

Patrick
Nov 11, 2011

That's it? Open the door? I thought I might learn something by reading this. What a waste of ten seconds.

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