10/12/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/11/2020 20:55

Making Camping Safe: Tent and Sleeping Bag Flammability

An independent online price comparison site reported a 126% increase in sales of tents between June and July 2020. This was matched by an 86% increase in the sales of sleeping mats and 25% increase in sleeping bag sales. Across the sector, companies are reporting massive increases in the sale of all items associated with camping.2 At a time when people are hyperaware of the safety implications of their actions, camping seems like the ideal solution for families and individuals looking for a safe holiday.

While being in the great outdoors is certainly healthy, it is not a pursuit without risk. Primary among these threats is the risk of fire.3 It should not be forgotten, tents and sleeping bags can restrict movement, making them difficult to escape from in the event of a fire.

Modern tents are manufactured with flammability in mind. Comparisons between older canvas tents and a modern tent show how flame-retardant technology has considerably increased the amount of time occupants have to escape a fire. Old canvas tents are quickly engulfed in flames, making them difficult to escape without injury.4

Safety First

Whatever technology is employed in the construction of the tent, it is always sensible to follow a few simple rules:

  • Never use fuel-burning devices (e.g. disposable barbecues, camping stoves, camping heaters, lanterns, and charcoal grills) inside a tent
  • Never use candles in or near a tent
  • Flammable liquids and liquefied petroleum gas cylinders should be kept outside
  • Avoid oil burning appliances
  • Always cook outside and away from the tent
  • Do not smoke inside the tent
  • Consider an escape plan5

North American Flammability Standards

Manufacturers of camping equipment need to ensure the products they market comply with relevant legislation. In some regions, there may be no specific legislation for flammability in tents or sleeping bags, instead these items will come under general safety requirements. This does not mean they will not be recalled if they are found to be dangerous.6

Item 31.1 of Part II of Schedule I of Canada's Hazardous Products Act defines the tent as a shelter made in whole or in part of fabric or other pliable materials.7 In April 2020, the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) published a new Canadian national standard for tent flammability and labeling requirements - CAN/CGSB-182.1-2020. This will replace Tent Regulation (SOR/2016-185), although the new standard remains voluntary until amendments are made to both the Tent Regulation and Toy Regulation.8

In the US, there is no specific legislation covering tent flammability at a national level. However, several states, including California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey, mandate CPAI-84 - Flammability of Camping tents.

It should be noted that, while CPAI-84 is mandated in some territories, this is now outdated for most modern materials. A preferable standard for manufacturers to follow is ASTM F3431-29 - Standard Specification for Determining Flammability of Materials for Recreational Camping Tents and Warning Labels for Associated Hazards. This is a revision of CPAI-84 and it follows the test methods and flammability requirements in CAN/CGSB-182.1-2020.

California also makes a distinction between small (less than ten people) and large tents. The fire marshal's office states that the materials used in a tent must comply with the Title 19 small scale test, which does not differentiate between the materials used for flooring, walls and roof materials. For large tents, the Californian code can also be interpreted as requiring compliance with NFPA 701 - applicable when the tent functions as a public assembly space.

For sleeping bags, the relevant standards are:

  • Canada: ASTM F1955-15 Standard Test Method for Flammability of Sleeping Bags
  • USA: CPAI-75:1976A Rate of Burn Standard for Sleeping Bags

These are technically equivalent standards.

It is important for manufacturers to ensure they understand the relevant standards enforced in their target market(s). This might require an understanding of the purpose of the tent or the area of the tent. For example, BS 5576-1998 Specification for fire safety features of camping tents, awnings, trailer tents and caravan awnings, includes a clause which states that 'the walls, roof and all other materials of a specifically designated cooking area shall be of flame-retardant material conforming to grade 5 of BS 6341'.

SGS Solution

The full effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is still being felt around the world and its positive impact on camping equipment sales will probably continue into 2021. Manufacturers need to be ready to ensure the tents and sleeping bags they supply are safe and conform to the right fire safety regulations enforced in their target markets.

SGS provides a comprehensive range of services to help manufacturers ensure their products comply with flammability legislation for a wide range of products, including tents and sleeping bags.

Watch our Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films video.

Learn more about SGS Fire Safety Testing Services.

Alex Mao
SGS Consumer and Retail Services
t: +86 21 61072906

Bobby Brown
SGS Consumer and Retail Services
t: +1 631 293 8944


1Coronavirus: campsite bookings soar in UK after Spain quarantine & Camping offers a chance to enjoy great outdoors
2UK staycation boom lifts sales of camping gear
3Father, 3 children die after tent fire in Pond Inlet, Nunavut
4Fire Safety Cubs Tent Burning Test
5Camping safety - fire safety tips
6Active Leisure Tents Recalled Due to Fire Hazard & The Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Products
7Industry Guide to Canadian Requirements for Tents
8Safeguards 070/20