I had a reader contact me recently asking me how he could cook dinner in the rain, inside a double walled tent with an MSR Whisperlite stove. He wanted to know whether he should get rid of his tent and replace it with a tarp that could be pitched higher and had better air flow.
You really don’t want to cook in any kind of tent with a Whisperlite, which is a liquid fuel stove designed to burn Coleman white gas. The danger of a fuel flare up and burning your tent down, actually melting it around you is simply too high. There’s also the very real danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
It is usually possible to cook in rain outside of a tent with a liquid fuel or canister gas backpacking stove because the cook pot covers the stove burner and protects the flame from going out. You just can’t rely on lighting your stove with matches and it’s best to use some kind of sparking tool like a Light My Fire or a Bic lighter if your stove doesn’t have a built in piezo igniter.
I also make a point of packing cold dinners in my food bag or enough food that doesn’t have to be cooked to eat well even if it is raining outside. Cheese, tortillas, nutella, peanut butter, granola, fast cake, etc. can easily substitute for a hot dinner.
There’s really no need to replace your tent.
While I have cooked under a tarp in the rain, I’ve only done so in places that don’t have any animals that would be attracted to lingering food scents and only with a canister gas stove (like a Jetboil), where the flame height has been very easy to control. When doing so, I was very careful to make sure my tarp was extremely well ventilated so I wouldn’t pass out and suffocate from carbon monoxide, although I’ve also spent nights under that same shelter eating cold food quite happily in the rain.
You just need to plan for rain when you pack your food bag.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
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