Mountain Hardwear Ditches Flame Retardants in Tents

Mountain Hardwear tent

Starting Spring 2020, Mountain Hardwear is walking away from the use of fire retardant chemicals in all their tents. Over the past few years, there has been growing concern about potential health and environmental impacts of these chemicals in all consumer products. Taking a stand, Mountain Hardwear decided to completely ditch the harmful chemicals and hope to lead the rest of the industry to do the same, regardless the short term business consequences.

”The tent flammability standard that often necessitates the use of fire retardant chemicals—some of which are highly toxic compounds—is based on a decades old rule paraffin-coated cotton circus tents,” explains Joe Vernachio, Mountain Hardware CEO. “We’re challenging the values of applying this outdated standard to our tents in the interest of sustainability and our consumer’s health. We are eliminating their use from all future Mountain Hardwear tents.”

Canada and seven US states have adopted tent flammability standards as mandatory regulatory requirements. Most brands are unable to create separate tents for each market, so the default is to meet the highest applicable standard. This also applies to companies seeking to enter the North American market—there is no global flammability requirement for camping and backpacking tents, so brands based in geographies like Europe must develop fabrics with flame retardant chemicals in order to expand distribution to customers in the US.

By ditching the chemicals, it means Mountain Hardwear will be unable to legally sell the new tents in Canada or the affected states. But given that places like California recently passed a law banning the use of most flame retardants in residential upholstered furniture, children’s products, and mattress foam, I can see the ban for tents and all consumer products in general not far behind, especially if the entire North American outdoor industry gets behind it (Europe does not have the same requirements).

If you want to learn more about the impact of flame retardants, check out Arlene Bloom’s Green Science Policy Institute website.

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