Skip to Content

Are Propane Heaters Safe in a Tent? (4 Factors) 7 Safety Tips

Even if you’re a beginner camper, you probably already know some general safety tips. Like you make sure that the fire is out before you head to bed. And storing food properly to keep bears away. But are propane heaters safe in a tent?

It can be safe to use a propane heater in your tent. But you need to follow specific guidelines to stay safe. The most important detail is to only use indoor-safe tent heaters. Here are factors and tips for safely using propane heaters inside a tent.

are propane heaters safe in a tent

Propane Heater in Tent: 4 Safety Factors

When you’re camping in the wilderness with just a tent between you and the great outdoors, you want to make sure that you’re safe. That is why you should only use heaters designed for use in tents.

Here are four factors affecting the safe use of a propane heater in your tent.

  1. One type of safety feature is an oxygen sensor, which is common in propane heaters. This sensor monitors the surrounding area and notices when the oxygen level is too low. The sensor will cause the heater to shut down until the oxygen reaches a safe level again.
  2. Tip-over protection is equally important because you can’t always keep an eye on the heater. If it tips over in the middle of the night while you’re asleep, it can release dangerous levels of propane or cause a fire to start. This type of protection forces the heater to instantly shut down when it tips over.
  3. Some heaters also have large bases that further stop the heaters from falling over and/or overheat protection that turns the heater off when it reaches a high temperature.
  4. The most important factor is to only use heaters rated for indoors. Many “tent heaters” are only rated for outdoor use. Make sure to read the details on the box to make sure it’s actually safe for indoor use.

Need some suggestions for safe tent heaters. Here are our picks for the best tent heaters.

Do you feel as confident when it comes to using a heater in your tent though? There are a few things you can do to keep your group safe when using one of these heaters.

propane heater in tent

7 Tips for Safely Using Propane Heaters in Your Tent

Here are some safety tips for managing a propane heater in your tent.

1. Avoid Placing Objects Nearby

Before you turn on the heater and head to bed, make sure that you find the right place for it in the tent. You need to place it away from any objects, including camping supplies and equipment and clothing.

Though these heaters are safe to use, they can still produce quite a bit of heat. Anything that comes into direct contact with the heater can suffer quite a bit of damage.

Even things left nearby can melt or develop scorch marks due to that high heat. Once you put the heater in your tent, make sure that you remove everything from within a minimum two-foot radius of the heater. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions – the distance might be even greater for some units.

2. Use Ventilation

Leaving any area of your tent open while running a heater might seem counterproductive. You might think that you want to leave the tent sealed up tightly to get the most out of your heater.

Catalytic propane heaters are super efficient and safe. That being said, I’m not a fan of running them while I sleep. And although most can operate safely indoors, I still like to have some fresh air coming in.

You generally want to place the heater near a window or the door of the tent to let that gas escape as needed. It’s helpful to partially leave that opening exposed too.

3. Avoid Flammable Objects

This tip sounds like common sense but is one that you might forget about when camping away from home.

Flammable materials and objects can include fireworks, alcohol, hairspray, and the tent itself. Any type of tent heater can cause a fire when the heat reaches those objects.

keji cold weather camping

4. Be Careful With Liquids

While you can drink as much as you want in your tent, you need to keep all those liquids away from the heater. Of special concern is flammable alcohol. This includes tequila, vodka, overproof rum, and absinthe.

And if you opt for an electric heater, you’ll want to keep all liquids away from it. All it takes is one kick of your foot in the middle of the night for that liquid to spill onto the heater and create a problem.

5. Run the Heater on Low First

This is an important tip that you should use on your first camping trip of the season and whenever you use the heater for the first time after a few weeks or more.

When you store the heater, it can accumulate dust and other debris, including spiderwebs and dead bugs. And if it is a brand new unit, it’s best to burn off the new-heater residue outside – or at least somewhere with good ventilation.

You should let it run on either the fan mode or the lowest setting for at least a few minutes, which gives it time to force out all that debris before you turn it to the highest setting.

tent heater for camping

6. Start the Propane Heater Outdoors

Even when a heater is indoor-rated, I prefer to start it outside. When the heater isn’t ignited, gas can potentially build up. And when you spark a match or lighter, there is the potential to ignite those accumulated fumes.

7. Don’t Leave it Unattended

This means turn it off if you leave the tent. And before going to sleep. It’s just part of being sensible with fire.

Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia, in Autumn

How to Setup Your Tent Heater

Each time that you go camping and use a tent heater, you need to set it up properly.

You should first decide where to place it. Though you might think that you should use it right next to your body, it’s better to place the heater next to the tent’s opening. Cold air can come in through the zipper, but the heater will stop that cold air from reaching you.

You should also make sure that the tent has ventilation, especially when you use a propane or gas model.

best tent heater

What Heater is Safe to Use in a Tent?

All electric heaters and many propane heaters are safe for indoor use.

Make sure that the company that makes the heater recommends it for use indoors. And always be sure to follow the specific usage instructions.

How do you keep your tent warm in cold weather? How do you setup your propane heater in your tent?