While camping is a seasonal endeavor for some, it’s a year-round passion for many of us! So when the dead of winter approaches and we get that familiar urge to venture into the Great Outdoors, only the best heaters for tent camping will do. The right heater will turn any tent into an insulated, comfy haven in even the most frigid of conditions!
Not just any heater will do. The wrong heater may not circulate heat the way you need it when you need it, and some heaters not made for tent camping could serve as fire hazards if left unattended. There are dozens of heaters for tent camping which have hit the market, but there’s only a select few we trust to warm us up safely and soundly for the coldest of our winter camping excursions.
If you’re in the market for the right tent heater, we’ve got you covered. We’ve parsed through all available options to create our definitive list of The 3 Best Heaters For Tent Camping. We’ve also included a list of frequently asked questions to give you all the information you need to make an informed purchasing decision!
What to Look for Before Buying a Heater for Tent Camping
Before you go browsing the internet or your local department (or hardware) store for a new portable heater, you need to know exactly what to look for. Not all portable heaters are the same and so, it is important to find one that is designed specifically for tents and the outdoors.
So you’re planning your camping trip and expecting some chills overnight. Well, a heater will help keep you warm inside your tent, but you want to make sure that you have the right type of heater that can be powered to operate. There are two main types of heaters available on the market: propane and electric.
When it comes to propane heaters, these are powered by burning propane and using the radiant heat that is pushed out from the heating element. You’ll almost always want to get a ventless propane heater, as they are much safer for indoor use.
Ventless propane heaters don’t require any ventilations to work or maintain their safety. Instead, they intake oxygen from the surrounding air in the room and expels that air back out after it has been heated.
Propane heaters will usually be more compact, portable, and lighter in weight. These characteristics make it a great option for using while camping. However, keep in mind that while the physical heater might weigh less overall, you still have to bring a propane tank to keep this unit powered up.
Many people prefer electric heaters to use on a camping trip, as they are easier to set up and can be considered “less dangerous.” The danger aspect of a portable heater is usually a non-factor in our buying decision, however propane tanks always pose more of a risk than electric so it is still worth mentioning here.
Electric heaters are great if you have an electrical outlet available on the campsite or you are able to park your vehicle near your tent and have an outlet built into the truck or SUV. Remember to bring an extension cord as most electric heaters will come up cord lengths of about 5 ft at most.
How much heat do you need?
Another very important feature that you want to look at on the box or product details of your heater is how much heat can be produced by the portable heater. If you are camping in a larger tent, you’ll definitely want to find a heater that can fill the space sufficiently and efficiently.
When you look at your portable heater, the BTUs is usually what’s advertised on the packaging for how much heat is being output. Check out the two options below to calculate how many BTUs you should be looking for, or use our general guide that will cover the BTU calculation for most campers.
How to calculate the amount of BTUs you need
If you want to be very specific and technical (after all, we are Techie Campers), then use the calculation below to figure out exactly how many BTUs you are going to need:
Tent Area * 20 BTUs = Needed BTUs
- Tent Area = Width of tent vs Length of tent
- 1 BTU = 0.293 watts
Tent Heating Guide
BTUs Needed to Heat Tent
1-2 person tent
4-6 person Tent
8-10 person tent
3,000 – 3,500 BTUs
You’ll also want to make sure that you’re not pushing your heater too hard during your trip, or else you might run into the device shutting down or overheating.
Many times, you’ll find that a portable heater won’t directly say how loud the heater is. Some do include specific decibels in the manuals, however you’ll have to purchase and open the packaging to get this information. Just know that propane heaters tend to be a little bit noisier than electric and you will be hearing it all night if it is turned on. Meanwhile, electric heaters are usually more quiet but some do emit a ringing or metallic noise.
We’ve included noise levels for most of the propane heaters we’ve tested so that you can find the right one for you.
The 3 Best Heaters For Tent Camping
1) Mr. Heater Little Buddy Indoor Safe Propane Heater
- 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). Perfect solution for heating small...
- 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...
- 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...
What makes it special?
One of two Mr. Heater products on our list, the Little Buddy Indoor Safe Propane Heater is a true marvel of portability and heating power! Featuring a tipping sensor and low oxygen monitor, this amazing heater for tent camping puts out a crazy amount of BTUs for such a small model. One pound of propane gets you 5.6 hours of heating regardless of the BTUs expended – an efficient expenditure which will save you money while warming up your entire tent with ease!
- Provides odor-free heating which can be controlled with a zero-fuss on/off button. It’s one of the simplest and most effective portable heaters for tent camping ever created!
- The inclusion of a low oxygen sensor and anti-tipping feature will give you peace of mind when falling asleep with this heater running.
- Durable body coupled with efficient propane usage for a cost-efficient heating combination!
- You need to be careful where you set this heater up. It needs a minimum ventilation area of 4 square inches for safe usage.
- There isn’t an adjustable thermostat and the heater is set at a fixed 45-degree angle. There are more adjustable heating options out there for those who need it.
2) TRUSTECH Portable Space Heater
- 💡Fast Warm-Up & Wide Heat Coverage💡 Are you feeling freezing in the cold dorm or office? This portable room heater is made for those chilly days. The...
- 💡Easy to Use with 3 Modes & Thermostat💡 1500W High heat, 750W Low heat, and Natural Wind Fan Mode are all included in 1 portable heater, providing...
- 💡Multi-Protection Safety Control💡 Automatic Overheat Protection system will shut the personal heater off when the parts of the space heater overheat and...
- 💡Light & Portable Room Heater💡 Dimensions: 7.1 in x 6.3 in x 9.1 in. Built-in carrying handle and lightweight (2.8lbs) allow the desk heater for office...
What makes it special?
The best electric heater for tent camping by far, the TRUSTECH Portable Space Heater comes complete with an adjustable thermostat and three preset modes which will heat up your tent in an effective (and quick) fashion! This tent heater standout also comes with several different overheating safeguard functions to ensure the safety of your entire camping party.
- PTC ceramic heating technology will heat up your tent within seconds while also maintaining peak energy efficiency and a long usage life.
- Most electric heaters struggle to maintain their effectiveness over longer spans of time, but this one keeps its power and heating range for camping trips of all lengths!
- Automatically shuts off when the heater begins to overheat. In addition, the entire heater is constructed of specialized anti-high temperature materials which protects the heater from body damage when used for prolonged periods.
- No tipping safety feature other than its normal overheating shutoff safeguards. Be careful where you place this heater while sleeping.
- Several customers have complained about the noise this heater puts out at its highest settings. Others claim that it’s one of the quieter heaters they’ve used, though, so your mileage may vary.
3) Mr. Heater Portable Propane Heater
- Pack of 2 portable, compact heaters are ideal for decks, patios, campsites, and other indoor or emergency situations
- Powerful heater with 3800 BTU of heat which provides heat to any space of up to 95 square feet; Adjust the heater up to 45 degrees to help direct the radiant...
- Push to start button with a single control gas valve and Piezo spark igniter to make heating up as easy as could be
- Safe features include a tip-over shut-off, heavy-duty wire guard, and oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) to provide you with ultimate protection
What makes it special?
If the first Mr. Heater model on our list was a small appetizer, the Mr. Heater Corporation Portable Propane Heater is the main course! This heater can adequately cover a whopping 450 square feet, 355 more than the Mr. Heater Little Buddy we covered earlier! Featuring all of the aforementioned safeguards such as a low oxygen sensor and tipping feature, the Portable Propane Heater has an adjustable BTU output of 4,000, 9,000, or an eye-popping 18,000 per hour!
- This is, by far, one of the most powerful heaters for tent camping ever released. It’s no wonder why this is one of the best-selling portable propane heaters in all of North America!
- Complete with two swivel regulators which will allow you to change supply usage from disposable propane cylinders to a remote gas supply if you have a compatible hose and filter.
- Adjustable BTU output and huge heating range allow you to warm up any tent quickly without overdoing it!
- Because this unit is so powerful, it can burn through propane pretty quickly on its highest setting.
- May be overkill for smaller tents. Some customers complain that it makes things way too warm in small tents even at its lowest BTU output setting.
What are the most important features to look for in a heater for tent camping?
While there are definitely parallels between the best heaters for tent camping and the best portable heaters currently for sale, there are some key features and variances to consider in your search for the perfect heater for your camping adventures.
- Overheating Safeguards – Most quality heaters for tent camping have a tipping feature which will turn your heater off if you kick it over in your sleep. They also usually have an overheating safeguard which will automatically shut the heater down when it starts to verge on becoming dangerously hot. Most tents are extremely flammable and such safety features in a tent heater are not only recommended, but necessary.
- Portability – Are you a backpacker? Do you have limited pack space for all of your camping accessories? The top heaters for tent camping pack a ton of warming punch into a small constitution, making them easy to carry to and from your favorite campsites.
- Reduced Noise – If you’re someone who goes camping for the peace and quiet it provides, the wrong heater for tent camping will serve as a major annoyance. Pay attention to how many decibels of sound a heater puts out, especially if you’re a light sleeper. You may get all toasty warm, but it won’t improve your mood much if you can’t sleep.
What are the different types of tent heaters available for sale?
There are three main types of tent heaters to choose from. Each has their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, so be sure to choose the type of heater for tent camping which best suits your particular needs and wants.
- Electric – An electric heater for tent camping is perfect for short camping trips, but you could run into problems on longer journeys into the wilderness unless your heater has a power adapter and you’re adjacent to a steady power supply. Electric tent heaters can be just as powerful as their fuel-powered counterparts, so they’re definitely a worthwhile option under the right circumstances.
- Butane – Butane heaters are the longer-lasting of the two fuel-powered heaters on this list. Since butane requires extremely high temperatures to convert from liquid to gas, however, they can be a bit of a struggle to get going in the coldest of winter settings. Once you do get your butane heater fired up, you’ll be extremely happy you did! Butane heaters offer prime heating coverage and usually put out ample BTUs to warm a tent up quickly and efficiently!
- Propane – A propane heater for tent camping is the perfect match for the coldest winter locales. It burns quicker than butane and will keep its liquid form in the chilliest of weather. Conversely, butane becomes nearly useless in extremely cold weather. While you’ll end up using more propane and costing yourself a bit more in the process, there isn’t a better heating option for tent camping when temperatures dip below freezing.
How many BTUs do I need to warm up my tent?
The best way to get a solid estimate of the right BTU output for heating your tent is first to calculate the cubic footage of your tent by multiplying its height, length, and width.
Gauge the weather you’re going to be encountering while also paying attention to your tent’s particular insulation rating. Assign the conditions a multiplier from two to eight, with eight being a situation where temperatures will dip below freezing and maximum warmth is needed.
Multiply your tent’s cubic footage by this multiplier. If your tent spans 80 cubic feet and conditions are at a legit freezing eight, you’ll need a BTU output of at least 640. However, this is simply a rule of thumb. Pay attention to your own comfort level and the comfort of your camping buddies, adjust your heater to cater to what feels best for the group.
Serious campers don’t wait until the weather’s ideal to do their thing. If you’ve got a love for camping which simply can’t be satiated by a seasonal approach, purchasing one of the best heaters for tent camping will ensure you can camp in absolute comfort at any time of the year!
Regardless of how cold it gets when the sun goes down at your favorite campground, grab one of the three tent heaters listed above and you’ll be as comfy and cozy as can be!