Best Camping Heater

Best Camping Heater: Stay Warm Outdoors When the Temperatures Drop

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Introduction

Just because the days have gotten shorter and the temperatures are getting a bit more arctic doesn’t mean you have to pack away your tent and call it a wrap on the summer camping season. While many people choose to stay indoors during the winter months, camping in the spring, fall, and winter can be a great way to enjoy the beauty of nature without the crowds or bugs.

But, when you camp out in the off season, you have to be ready for those colder temperatures. While you can invest in a good sleeping bag and some solid insulating weather jackets, these might not always be enough to keep you warm in the dead of winter. The answer? One of the best camping heaters.

Of course, we understand how tricky it is to find the best heater for tent camping with all of the great options on the market today. So, to help you get started, we've put together the ultimate guide to the best portable camping heaters, complete with reviews of all of the top models and advice on choosing the right one for your needs.

Let’s get started!

The Benefits of a Camping Heater

If you spend enough time camping in the off season, at some point, you'll experience a freezing night. While a cold night is nothing to worry about when you’re in the comfort of your own home, when you sleep out under the stars or in a tent, a cold night can be incredibly uncomfortable or even dangerous.

That being said, a winter sleeping bag, four-season tent, and some warm jackets can only do so much. If you really want to get cozy and toasty warm while camping in the winter months, you’ll need a camping heater.

Why do you need a camping heater, you might ask? Well, here are some of the main benefits of having one on your next trip:

  • Warmth. Okay, this one might be self-explanatory. A camping heater is designed, first and foremost, to keep you warm. But, what's great about a camping heater is that it's designed to warm up an entire space (like your tent) rather than just insulate your body. Thus, a camping heater makes space much more cozy and livable, so you don’t have to stay all bundled up in your puffy jackets like the Michelin man.
  • Safety-conscious. If you buy one of the best camping heaters, you can be confident that the manufacturers had your safety in mind. Many modern camping heaters have systems that shut them off if they overheat or tip over, which protects you from a potentially catastrophic situation. Plus, the best propane heaters come with a carbon monoxide alarm built-in so you can sleep easy at night.
  • Portability. Who said that having a warm tent at night requires a lot of heavy gear? Thankfully the best heaters for car camping are small and portable, making it easy to carry them to camp with minimal hassle. Oh, and most heaters take up very little room in your tent, so they certainly put out a lot of heat in one small package.
  • Easy to use. These days, the vast majority of camping tent heaters are easy to use. You simply plug them into their desired energy source (usually propane or batteries) and switch them on. No special skills, tools, or effort needed to stay warm at night. What else could you ask for?

Reviews of the Best Gas and Propane Heaters

Here are our reviews of the best gas and propane heaters:

Mr. Heater Buddy F232000 - Best Camping Heater

Mr. Heater Buddy F232000
3,103 Reviews
Mr. Heater Buddy F232000
  • 4,000- to 9,000-BTU radiant heater for spaces up to 225 square feet. Approved for indoor/outdoor use; clean-burning; nearly 100-percent efficient
  • When operating the heater at altitudes over 7,000 FT above sea level the heater may shut off.
  • Auto shut-off if tipped over, if pilot light goes out, or if detects low oxygen levels. Fuel Consumption/Burn Rate (Gal/Hr) at 4000 BTU = 0.044 Gal/Hr, at 9000 BTU = 0.099 Gal/Hr
  • Fold-down handle; swivel-out regulator; connects to propane tank (not included); Run Time (Hrs at Max BTU): 3 Hours
  • THE USE OF UN-AUTHORIZED ACCESSORIES/ATTACHMENTS WITH THIS HEATER ARE EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED, MAY CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY, AND WILL VOID THE WARRANTY.

With the ability to pump out an impressive 4,000 – 9,000 BTU of thermal energy, the Mr. Heater F232000 Buddy is out top pick for the best camping heater around. Designed specifically for use both indoors and outdoors, the Mr. Heater Buddy is one of the most versatile camping heaters in our line up.

The Mr. Heater Buddy even comes chock full of safety features, such as an auto shut off function if the device gets tipped over. Or, if the pilot light goes out, the Mr. Heater Buddy will automatically shut off to protect you from dangerous gas fumes.

When connected to a standard 1 pound propane tank, the Mr. Heater Buddy can run for three hours at the maximum BTU output, so it's pretty darn efficient. Plus, it has a fold-down handle for easy transport between your car and your tent.

Oh, and with a built-in Piezo igniter and two heat settings, it’s easy to get the Mr. Heater Buddy up and running to warm your tent in no time flat, which is why it’s our top pick as the best heater for car camping.

Pros:

  • ​Two heat settings (4,000 or 9,000 BTU)
  • ​Auto shut off safety feature if tipped over or pilot light goes out
  • ​Lasts 3 hours on high heat with a single propane tank
  • ​Folding handle for ease of transport
  • ​Built-in Piezo igniter

Cons:

  • ​Won’t work well at altitudes over 7,000 feet
  • ​Somewhat large and heavy
Mr. Heater Big Buddy
360 Reviews
Mr. Heater Big Buddy
  • 4, 000- to 18, 000-BTU radiant heater for spaces up to 450 square feet. Approved for indoor/outdoor use; clean-burning; nearly 100-percent efficient
  • When operating the heater at altitudes over 7, 000 FT above sea level the heater may shut off.
  • Auto shut-off if tipped over, if pilot light goes out, or if detects low oxygen levels
  • Low, medium and high heat level control knob for steady temperatures; connects to propane tank (not included)
  • THE USE OF UN-AUTHORIZED ACCESSORIES/ATTACHMENTS WITH THIS HEATER ARE EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED, MAY CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY, AND WILL VOID THE .

If you won’t settle for anything other than a super toasty tent at night, the Mr. Heater Big Buddy is your go-to camping heater. As one of the best heaters for car camping, the Mr. Heater Big Buddy can put out an impressive 4,000 to 18,000 BTUs and is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.

One of the best parts about the Mr. Heater Big Buddy is that the device is easily customizable to meet your heating needs. With three different heat levels – high, medium, and low – you can be more efficient with your fuel use by heating your tent up only to your desired comfort level.

No good tent heater would be complete without a plethora of safety features, however, and the Mr. Heater Big Buddy doesn’t let us down in this regard. With an auto shut off system that cuts out the heat if the device is tipped over or detects low oxygen levels in your tent, you can enjoy your camping trip without worrying about your heater.

An easy-carry handle makes transporting the hefty Big Buddy a breeze, too, while a built-in blower fan helps circulate heat around your tent. The Mr. Heater Big Buddy even has a built-in Piezo ignitor and a heavy-duty safety wire guard for durability and protection. What's not to love?

Pros:

  • ​An amazing output of 18,000 BTUs for extra warmth
  • ​Three different heat levels for customization and comfort
  • ​Auto shut off safety systems when tipped over or low oxygen
  • ​Easy carry handle
  • ​Built-in blower fan and Piezo ignitor

Cons:

  • ​Expensive
  • ​Heavy
Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater
401 Reviews
Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater
  • Durable Stainless steel burner
  • Individual regulator on/off control knob adjusts burner up to 2, 890 BTUs
  • Auto shut off valve shuts off Fuel if flame goes out
  • Large fold-away paddle foot plastic base for greater stability
  • Aluminum reflector with safety grid

Small and compact, the Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater is a no-frills warmth machine that’s designed for use outdoors. One of the best portable camping heaters around, this device from Texsport is made out of durable stainless steel so it can come along on all of your adventures.

The heater itself has an on/off control knob and can provide warmth with up to nearly 3,000 BTUs, which is pretty impressive when you consider the device’s small size. An auto shut off the valve immediately turns off the gas supply if the flame goes out to protect you from dangerous carbon monoxide build-up.

Plus, the Texport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater has an oversized plastic base to help increase the device’s stability in the backcountry. With a steel reflector and safety grid, as well as a steel carry handle, this heater is ready for whatever life throws at it.

Pros:

  • ​Very light and compact
  • ​Automatic shut off function if the flame goes out
  • ​Can burn nearly 3,000 BTU
  • ​Large plastic base for stability
  • ​Affordable
  • ​Durable stainless steel

Cons:

  • ​Only for use outdoors (don’t put it in your tent)
  • ​Only one heat output
  • ​Can’t be connected to larger fuel tanks
  • ​No auto-shut off if the device tips over

Camco Olympian Wave-3 3000 BTU LP Gas Catalytic Heater - Best Catalytic Heater for Camping

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Camco Olympian Wave-3 3000 BTU LP Gas Catalytic Heater
793 Reviews
Camco Olympian Wave-3 3000 BTU LP Gas Catalytic Heater
  • Adjustable from 1600 to 3000 BTU/hr allow it to be used as a secondary heating source
  • Wave heaters operate on low pressure gas, and can be wall mounted or used as a portable unit
  • No electrial drain or battery connection make it the ideal solution for boondocking and dry camping
  • Wave heaters operate silently no fan or blower noise
  • Equipped with a safety shut off valve to help prevent accidental non ignition fuel discharge

If you want all the benefits of a propane camping heater without the dangers of an open flame, the Camco Olympian Wave-3 just might be for you. The Camco Olympian Wave-3 is one of the best catalytic heaters for camping thanks to its simple design and effective heating power.

This heater can be adjusted to provide anywhere from 1,600 to 3,000 BTU, which makes it great for use in your tent. The device’s wave heaters are highly effective while maintaining relatively portable for camping purposes.

The Camco Olympian Wave-3 has a safety shut-off valve that stops fuel from leaking through when the device isn’t producing heat to protect you from dangerous chemicals. Plus, the Camco Olympian Wave-3’s Piezo electric sparker can last for up to 20,000 uses, so you don’t have to worry about durability with this heater.

Pros:

  • ​Very efficient catalytic heater
  • ​Up to 3,000 BTUs of heat
  • ​No fan noise for a more relaxing experience
  • ​Piezo sparker works up to 20,000 times
  • ​Piezo sparker works up to 20,000 times

Cons:

  • ​Very expensive
  • ​Not very compact

Mr. Heater Little Buddy - Best Portable Camping Heater

Mr. Heater Little Buddy
965 Reviews
Mr. Heater Little Buddy
  • Indoor-safe portable propane heater for rooms up to 95 square feet. THIS UNIT IS NOT INTENDED FOR GOLF CART USE OR FOR MOTORIZED VEHICLES.
  • Continuous odor-free, 45-degree heating angle. Maximum Elevation (Ft) 7000 Feet. Automatic low oxygen shut-off system (ODS)
  • Simple on/off buttons; uses 1-pound disposable propane cylinder (not included). Run time at minimum btu and maximum btu is 5.6 hours. Do­ not­ operate­ heater­ in­ any ­moving­ vehicle. This ­heater ­requires ­a­ vent­ area­ of­ 4­ square­ inches­ minimum ­for­ adequate ventilation ­during­ operation
  • Low-oxygen sensor and accidental tip-over switch with auto shut-off for safety.THE USE OF UN-AUTHORIZED ACCESSORIES/ATTACHMENTS WITH THIS HEATER ARE EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED, MAY CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY, AND WILL VOID THE WARRANTY.
  • Recommended for emergency heat, tents, campers, workshops, job sites, porches, patios, decks, garages, storage buildings, picnics, tailgate parties, construction trailers, sporting events, barns, sheds, hunting blinds, shelters and ice fishing shanties

Built to pump out lots of heat in a tiny package, the Mr. Heater Little Buddy wins our award as the best portable camping heater. The Little Buddy is designed to warm up areas up to 95 square feet in area, which is perfect for even the largest of tents.

With a 45 degree heating angle and up to 3,800 BTU courtesy of an easily attachable 1 pound propane tank, the Little Buddy can keep you warm without taking up the whole tent. Perfect for warming small spaces, the Little Buddy has an integrated handle that’s awesome for transporting as well as an 8-inch diameter that can fit in the smallest of spaces.

Oh, and with a single button, the Little Buddy’s integrated Piezo lighter can quickly start the heater, so you don't have to wait for warmth. If that wasn't enough, the Mr. Heater Little buddy has a plethora of safety features, such as an accidental tip-over shut off sensor and automatic low oxygen shut off system, so you don’t have to worry about your heater while camping.

Pros:

  • ​Very small – just 8 inches in diameter
  • ​Easy to transport and very lightweight
  • ​Integrated Piezo lighter
  • ​Great safety features

Cons:

  • ​Relatively expensive for the size
  • ​Not great for large spaces

Martin Portable Gas Catalytic Heater - Best Catalytic Portable Heater for Camping

Martin Portable Gas Catalytic Heater
22 Reviews
Martin Portable Gas Catalytic Heater
  • Flameless: the martin catalytic heater provides comfortable and flameless warmth so you can stay cozy in the cold while maintaining efficiency; foldable legs makes it easy for you to use this portable heater anywhere
  • Advanced catalytic technology: the catalytic technology used in this heating tool is the most efficient in the industrial gas heating market, the versatility and reliability of the martin have made it the heater of choice for many
  • 7 hours on 1 lb propane cylinder: delivers up provides 3000 btu and this safe portable heater can work up to 7 hours with the help of a single lb propane cylinder; suitable for camping use
  • Efficient: catalytic heating is 99;98% efficient (flame type heaters waste up to 45% of all heat produced), resulting in a more efficient and low-cost heat
  • Safe heating tool: also, because it uses safe, clean and efficient propane, this propane heater is highly recommended for families with kids who love to camp often; a silent catalytic heater, safe, and provides great cozy heat without battery drain

The Martin Portable Gas Catalytic Heater is an excellent option for anyone that needs flameless heat in a small package. As the best catalytic portable heater for camping, this device from Martin can produce up to 3,000 BTU of warmth with ease for up to seven hours on just a single one pound propane canister.

The catalytic heating technology in this heater is some of the most advanced on the market today, offering super-efficient warmth with minimal effort. The best part about the Martin Portable Gas Catalytic Heater? It’s so small and compact you can use it anywhere.

Perfect for small tents where you want a bit of extra heat without the hassle of a traditional gas heater, the Martin Portable Gas Catalytic Heater is a great way to stay warm during those colder winter months.

Pros:

  • ​Very compact with foldable legs for storage
  • ​Automatic safety shut off systems
  • ​Up to 3,000 BTU of heat
  • ​Easy to transport
  • ​Perfect for small tents
  • ​Very energy efficient

Cons:

  • ​Not as great for larger tents

Reviews of the Best Electric Heaters​​​​​

Here are our reviews of the best electric heaters:

Andily Space Heater Electric Heater
951 Reviews
Andily Space Heater Electric Heater
  • SMALL HEATER MEASURES: 6.2" X 4.74" x 8.3" . Manual controls. Fully Assembled. Carrying handle for easy transport. Adjustable thermostat for comfortable warmth—ideal for home or office
  • THREE MODES HEATER WITH FAN: 1.High Heat (1500-watt), 2. Low Heat(750-watt ), 3. Fan Only. Power indicator light lets you know when it’s plugged in
  • CERAMIC HEATER ELEMENTS: Ceramic space heaters are fast to heat, produce abundant heat without open coils, and are long lasting
  • SPACE HEATER WITH THERMOSTAT :The thermostat system can according to the thermostat setting let your room remain at a comfortable temperature.This heater can be used in small area (such as warming your feet),meanwhile warms up your surroundings
  • FOR SAFETY: 1.Automatic overheat system will shuts the unit off when the parts of the heater overheat. 2.TIP-OVER SWITCH will shut off unite when tipped forward or backward.3. Power indicate light can lets you know at a glance that it’s plugged in. 4.ETL certified

When it comes to warming up a tent on a cold winter night, there aren’t many better options than the Andily Space Heater. The best electric heater in our review, this compact space heater comes with three heating modes – high (1500 watts), low (750 watts), and fan only.

The Andily Space Heater features a ceramic heating element, which quickly heats up to provide you with maximum comfort in the winter months. Plus, this heater has a thermostat setting that allows you to set a given temperature for your environment, eliminating the need to finagle with the controls constantly.

If that wasn’t enough, the Andily Space Heater even has an automatic overheating control system that’s designed to shut off whenever the unit is in danger of overheating. The device also has an automatic tip-over switch that shuts it off if the heater gets knocked over to protect you from burns, which helps make it our choice as the best electric heater for tent camping.

Pros:

  • ​Affordable
  • ​Three heating modes
  • ​Ceramic heating elements for quick warmth
  • ​Thermostat controls
  • ​Thermostat controls

Cons:

  • ​Needs to be plugged in
  • ​Not ideal for tent camping in certain campgrounds
Portable Ceramic Space Heater
226 Reviews
Portable Ceramic Space Heater
  • FAST WARM UP FOR STAYING COMFORTABLE: Are you still afraid of staying cool rooms when the winter comes around? The VIVREAL KPT-150 0586B mini heater is made for those chilly days in your house or at the office. The compact size provides effective, consistent warmth for small rooms up to 190 SQ. FT and won't get in the way. Stay warm and comfortable in nearly any small space when the weather turns for the worst once you pick up this portable space heater!
  • EASY CONTROL WITH 3 SETTINGS: The mini ceramic heater has two heat settings, 750W and 1,500W, and also cool fan function. So you can set the control switch to low, high and cool fan to achieve the desired heat and dispersal, depending on the room temperature. This home heater comes with an adjustable thermostat so you can control how warm you are. NOTE: Please put this heater in your front for warming up your personal space quickly and evenly!
  • OVERHEATING & TIP-OVER PROTECTION: This portable indoor heater has a self-regulating element and automatic overheating protection for added safety. The space heater will automatically shut it off once it gets too hot and back to work once it gets to a safe temperature inside. This ceramic heater also has a tip-over safety switch, which shuts the heater off if it gets knocked over accidentally to help prevent accidents.
  • OSCILLATING FUNCTION & EASY TO MOVE: This energy efficient space heater is equipped with 90 degrees oscillation function for reliable heating performance. The multi-purpose ceramic heater also features integrated carry-handles, making it very easy to carry, take it from the floor to the table or wherever it is needed the most. Besides, this desk heater body can stay cool except the metal mesh during operation.
  • IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICES: VIVREAL offers 2-YEAR WARRANTY and 100% Satisfaction Guarantee for this portable space heater. Please note these for 100% safety: 1. To avoid burns, do not let bare skin touch hot surfaces. 2. Do not use the heater outdoors. 3. In order to avoid overheating, do not cover the heater. 4. Do not use the heater in the immediate surroundings of a bath, a shower or a swimming pool.

If you just can’t wait for warmth while camping, the Portable Ceramic Space Heater might be for you. This compact electric heater can pump out 1500 watts of heat with three easy-to-control settings: high, low, and fan only. Plus, the Portable Ceramic Space Heater has a built-in thermostat to make it easy to customize your tent’s warmth to your individual needs.

The best part about the Portable Ceramic Space Heater? It features a 90-degree oscillating mechanism to allow you to easily heat an entire space evenly, without cold spots. The Portable Ceramic Space Heater even has safety precautions built-in, with overheating and tip-over automatic switch-off functions for your protection.

Thanks to the Portable Ceramic Space Heater’s integrated carry handles, it’s easy to take with you on your next camping trip. With a design this awesome, it’s hard to find a reason not to take the Portable Ceramic Heater with you into the woods.

Pros:

  • ​Small and compact
  • ​90 degree oscillating mechanism to completely warm up a space
  • ​Safety features for your protection
  • ​Integrated carry handles for ease of transport

Cons:

  • ​Relatively expensive
  • ​Needs to be plugged in

Brightown Ceramic Space Heater - Best Portable Electric Heater for Camping

Brightown Ceramic Space Heater
3 Reviews
Brightown Ceramic Space Heater
  • Overheat Protection and ETL Listed - When the quiet heater‘s internal components reach a certain temperature that cause overheating , the heater will automatically shut off. Safe for families with kids or pets who may knock it down.
  • Energy Smart- Uses only 250-watt. The portable heater allows you to heat up the spaces you are in to reduce energy consumption.
  • Quiet and powerful soothing radiant heat. The mini heater is perfect for medium small rooms, table, office, dorm, desktop
  • ETL Listed for safe use. Mini size: 4.3 x 4.13 x 6.69 inches.
  • SHOULD NOT BE USED IN A WET OR DAMP LOCATIONS LIKE BATHROOM. The dampness/humidity from showers and tubs causes the heating element to corrode - causing the heater to permanently stop working.

Easily the smallest and most compact heater in our review, the Brightown Ceramic Space Heater is an excellent option for anyone that just needs a hint of extra warmth during the colder months. This miniature-sized electric ceramic space heater is awesome for heating a small amount of personal space, especially on cool mornings, where you just need that little extra encouragement to get you out of your sleeping bag.

At just over a pound in weight, the Brightown Ceramic Space Heater is small and compact enough for any journey. Plus, it’s super quiet and has an automatic shut off function if it gets tipped over.

At just 250 watts, this heater isn’t exactly a warming superhero, but it does get the job done in an energy efficient manner. It’s also super affordable, so it’s a great piece of gear to pack with you in the shoulder seasons.

Pros:

  • ​Very small and compact
  • ​Very affordable
  • ​Great for heating up personal space
  • ​Quiet
  • ​Built-in safety features

Cons:

  • ​Only 250 watts of energy
  • ​Not great for heating a whole tent

Buyer’s Guide

Although camping heaters are, for the most part, pretty simple to use, they’re not exactly the easiest thing to buy, especially if you’re picky about quality When it comes to selecting the right camping heater, there are quite a few things you ought to look out for. Here’s what to keep in mind:

Fuel type

Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice when buying a camping heater is that there are many different kinds of fuel sources for these devices. This might seem like a minor aspect of a camping heater, but the type of fuel that your device uses can have a huge impact on your experience on a cold night.

In the world of camping heaters, we can split up the fuel types into two distinct categories: electricity and propane/gas.

More: Best Backpack Rain Cover

Electric camping heaters

As the name suggests, electric camping heaters run on, well, electricity. The main advantage of an electric heater is that it has no open flame, which helps reduce the risk of a fire in a tent. Of course, it’s still possible for an electric heater to start a fire, but it’s much less likely than it would be with a heater with an open flame. But, electric heaters are known to be less reliable than gas heaters, especially if you’re using a battery-powered model as these can run out on longer trips.

The simplest version of an electric camping heater is a corded model that you can plug into an outlet at a campground. These corded indoor heaters are ideal for RV camping, where you have hookups to electricity and outlets inside your RV, but are less practical for those of us who like to sleep in tents.

Alternatively, you can get a battery-operated electric heater that has its own power built-in to the device. This means you can take it with you even if you’re going to a campground that doesn’t have hookups, which is the bulk standard for tent sites. Battery-operated heaters tend to be very small and portable, too, which is ideal for tent campers.

However, as you can imagine, battery-operated electric heaters can only run for so long before they run out of juice. Thus, they’re best used on shorter overnight trips, as opposed to a longer multi-day adventure.

Propane heaters

If you’re not using an electric campaign heater on your camping trip, the chances are high that you’re using a propane heater. As you might imagine, propane heaters run on pressurized gas, which means they can pump out a lot of heat relatively easily.

In general, propane heaters are widely considered to be the most reliable of the camping heaters because, so long as you have enough propane tanks, you shouldn’t have a problem staying warm at night. As we’ve previously mentioned, however, propane heaters have a major downside, and that’s the fact that they have an open flame, which is what produces heat.

If you’re careful, the open flame of a propane camping heater is no problem, but carelessness can easily spell disaster. Our advice? If you’re going to choose a propane camping heater, just be sure you follow all of the manufacturer’s guidelines and that you stay extra vigilant to prevent it from tipping over or causing a fire.

More: The Best Sleeping Bag Liner

Catalytic heaters

If you spend enough time searching for the best camping heater, at some point, you’ll come across the term “catalytic heater.” If you’re confused by this phrase, you’re not alone. Many a camping enthusiast has heard the term catalytic heater and walked away without knowing what they were even looking at.

Simply put, a catalytic heater is a flame-less heat source that uses a catalyzed chemical reaction to produce heat. When you combine a catalyst, gas, and oxygen in the same space, they can actually ignite at an incredibly low temperature, so no flame is needed. The heat production simply continues until there isn’t enough oxygen or fuel in the mixture.

The main advantage of a catalytic heater is that there is no flame. This helps severely reduce the likelihood of a fire, which is ideal. However, the main danger of a catalytic heater is that a gas leakage could cause harmful health effects or even death due to carbon monoxide poisoning, so care is needed to ensure that the heater doesn't tip over or start leaking fuel.

Heat output

After you determine what kind of fuel source you want for your camping heater, it’s time to figure out how much heat a given device pumps out. While a camping heater might look nice and fancy, if it doesn’t produce a lot of heat, it’s sort of useless.

For the most part, camping heaters measure their heat output in terms of BTUs, or British Thermal Units. If you have no idea what a BTU is, then you’re on par with most other people, so not to worry. Basically, a BTU is the amount of energy that’s needed to raise the temperature of a pound (lb) of water from 39 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

That might seem oddly specific, but we, unfortunately, don’t get to decide units of measure around here. It’s worth noting, however, that BTU is a relatively small amount of heat. For example, in 2018, the United States used 101.3 quadrillion BTUs of energy to heat their homes. A quadrillion is a one followed by 15 zeros. That's a lot of BTUs.

Thankfully, if you’re just looking to heat up a tent at night, you don’t actually need that many BTUs. Due to the small size of a tent, a camping heater with 1,000 to 5,000 BTUs is usually more than enough.

Alternatively, if you want to get an electric tent heater, you’ll have to check out each individual model’s wattage. Unlike gas-powered heaters, electric tent heaters express their heat output in terms of watts, with the standard for smaller heaters being around 1,5000 watts.

Of course, if you tend to get very cold, you can look into more powerful heaters for your next trip. Plus, many of the best portable heaters allow you to adjust their temperatures, and, thus, their BTU or wattage output, so you can customize your camping experience.

More: The Best Multi Room Tent

Durability

No one wants to spend their hard-earned money on a camping heater only to have it fall apart after a few days of use. Thus, durability is always of the utmost concern when shopping for a camping heater.

That being said, it can be difficult to judge a camping heater’s durability just from looking at the packaging. This is why choosing a camping heater from a reputable brand, even if it means spending a bit more money, is worth it in the long run.

Size

When you’re tent camping, you don’t have oodles of room. Thus, you need to ensure that you get a camping heater that’s not too terribly large, so it doesn’t take up too much space in your tent at night. Plus, the larger the camping heater, the harder it is to pack into a car, so it’s nice to look for something a bit more portable.

Thankfully, there are plenty of smaller camping heater models out there, with some being incredibly portable. Of course, the smaller the heater, the less amount of heat it can pump out, but if you have a small enough tent, this might not really make much of a difference.

Price

While we would all love to buy gear without worrying about our bank accounts, the reality is that many of us have a budget to work with, so we need to be conscientious about the price of our camping heaters. The good news is that there are plenty of affordable camping heaters out there. Just keep in mind that the cheaper the heater, the less heat it can pump out, and the more likely you are to have durability issues, so we recommend mid-range products at a minimum.

More: The Best Double Sleeping Bag

Heater Safety Tips

At this point, you probably understand that camping heaters, while awesome, can be a safety risk. Especially if you use a heater with an open flame, you have a high risk of a fire inside your tent (not good). Alternatively, you can have a dangerous gas leak or even melt some of your synthetic nylon gear by leaving it too close to a heater.

So, before you head out into the woods for your next winter camping trip, here are some tent heater safety tips:

Only use tent-safe heaters

While there are plenty of space heaters available in today’s market, only some of them are actually labeled for use inside a tent. Fittingly, these are called “tent-safe” heaters or will be rated as an indoor heater for use inside a small, enclosed area.

Although you may be tempted to get a different heater, likely due to its lower price, outdoor heaters and those not rated for use inside a small area can be dangerous on a camping trip. Our tip? Check out top brands, like Mr. Heater and Coleman, who put their heaters through rigorous safety testing in small spaces to ensure that they’re good for use in your tent.

Go electric

Although technically electric heaters are less efficient than propane heaters when it comes to actual fuel consumption, electric heaters are generally safer for use in a tent than a propane model. Since electric heaters don’t have an open flame, they are less of a fire hazard inside a tent. Of course, you can certainly still start a fire with an electric camping heater, but it’s less likely.

Opt for catalytic

Whenever possible, if you choose to go with a gas-powered heater, it’s best to opt for a catalytic heater. Since catalytic heaters don’t have an open flame, you’re less likely to start a fire in your tent. However, catalytic heaters and regular propane heaters can both leak gas, so you’ll need to be cautious when using them.

Get a carbon monoxide alarm

If you’re going to use a gas-powered heater, it’s a good idea to bring a small carbon monoxide alarm with you. These devices are relatively inexpensive, small, and lightweight. Plus, they’re designed to save your life during a gas leak. So, get a carbon monoxide alarm and place it near your heater while camping.

Position your heater properly

All heaters can get very hot when they’re on (that’s the point!), so you need to use them carefully to avoid burning yourself, melting your gear, or causing a fire. The trick? Proper positioning.

The best place to put your heater is on a very flat surface inside your tent, where you can’t tip it over. It’s a good idea to place a camping heater on top of a baking pan to protect the floor of your tent from melting and to give your heater a nice, stable platform.

Choose a heater with good safety features

The best heaters will come with a variety of safety features that are designed to protect you if something should go wrong. The most popular safety feature is an automatic turn-off sensor that cuts off the energy source to the heater if it tips over.

This is a great added safety feature, but it’s essential to keep in mind that when a heater tips over, the front of it is still very hot, so it can still burn you or melt your gear. So, while these safety features are pretty awesome, don’t let them be a reason to slack off on properly positioning your device.

Ensure your tent is well ventilated

Especially if you’re going to use a gas-powered heater inside your tent, you need to ensure that your living space is exceptionally well ventilated. As we’ve mentioned, these heaters can accidentally leak gas, which can expose you to the toxic fumes of carbon monoxide with no warning.

While a carbon monoxide alarm is a good back up safety system, keeping your tent well-ventilated will reduce the likelihood of this happening in the first place. Plus, it helps prevent condensation from building up in your tent and getting your sleeping bag all wet, which is never fun.

Don’t run your heater at night

While many people think that they can keep their tent heater running at night, it’s not a great idea. Since an unattended tent heater can easily tip over, start a fire, or leak gas, it seems like too much of a gamble to leave one running while you sleep.

A better idea is to run your tent heater for thirty minutes or so before you go to bed. If you're already cozied up in your sleeping bag, you can use that time to read and enjoy some quiet time before turning the heater off and going to sleep. Then, when you wake up in the morning, you can turn it on for a bit before getting out of your sleeping bag, so your tent is toasty warm.

How to Set Up Your Heater

Setting up a tent heater is all about finding the right place in your tent for it to pump out the maximum amount of warmth. Generally, you want to look for a very flat place, so there’s little risk of the tent heater tipping over. Placing a tent heater on a baking tray can help provide some extra sturdiness to the device to help keep it upright.

Then you’ll want to ensure that your tent is well ventilated, so there’s enough airflow to prevent any dangerous gas build-up. Once that’s ensured, you can go ahead and turn on your tent heater and enjoy the warmth!

The Verdict

At the end of the day, you’re probably only going to bring one camping heater with you on your next trip. If we had to choose just one of these great heaters in our review to bring with us into the woods in the winter, we’d have to choose the Mr. Heater Buddy F232000 for its great combination of value, heat output, and portability. What’s not to love?

About the Author Tim Fox

Since the age of 10, Tim, a writer at Outdoor With J, has enjoyed camping in the great outdoors. Although he loves the peace and quiet of the outdoors, he also likes his creature comforts. Tim’s mission is to make camping a fun and comfortable experience for all. You can find more about him here

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