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11 Best Heaters for Tents: Safe Camping Guide (Gas / Electric Space Heaters)

So you love camping – but hate being cold? This is the guide you’re looking for. You’ll learn about the best heaters for tents. There is also a detailed guide to choosing (and safely using) tent heaters to stay warm. These tent heaters for camping will even make winter camping comfortable.

heaters for tents

If you’re going camping in the winter, you’ll want to keep all that heat inside your tent. Here’s how to insulate your tent for winter camping.

Tent Heaters for Camping: Buyers Guide

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you have to stop camping! Don’t miss out on outdoor fun because of the snow and the cold! Instead, buy a heater.

With the addition of a tent heater you can be comfortable in the coldest of temperatures. To figure out the best heaters for tents and extend your camping season, stay tuned! I will review the 12 best heaters for tents and tell you how to heat your tent safely.

There are three main sections to this guide:

  1. Combustion tent heaters: Gas (propane, butane) and Wood fuel
  2. Electric tent heaters: Perfect for backyard camping and campgrounds with electric service
  3. Guide to Tent Heater Safety and Buyers Guide

I should mention, that this is a pretty big guide. If you’re just looking to buy the best heater, I’ve put together this quick guide. Here are our top picks for the best gas and electric heaters for tents:

Our Top Pick: Gas Tent Heater

If you want a heater that burns clean, the Mr. Heater Buddy is 100% clean burning.

Another safety feature is the auto shut-off, just in case the product gets tipped over in your tent.

Check out Mr. Heater Buddy

In addition, this heater will shut off when the pilot light goes out, or if low oxygen levels are detected.

Our Top Pick: Electric Tent Heater

The GiveBest Mini Space Heater has two heating settings, low at 750W and high at 1,500W. And it has one cool setting – with the fan only. 

It comes with two auto shut-off features:

  • overheat protection that will auto shut off the unit if it reaches 158 °F (70°C)
  • auto-off feature if it tips over. 

Check out this electric mini space heater

There is also a thermostat, so you can control the temperature inside the tent. The heater has a 3-second quick heat function, so you don’t have to wait for it to warm up.

Safe heaters for tents

Need a tent for the winter? Check out our guide to winter tent camping.

8 Heaters for Tent Camping (Gas and Wood)

In the first section, we’ll cover nine heaters for tent camping in the winter – or at least in colder temperatures. These eight heaters all burn either gas (propane or butane) or wood.

Let’s get started!

1. Mr. Heater Portable Radiant Heater

The Mr. Heater Portable Radiant Heater is one of the best tent heaters for camping. The Radiant features BTUs from 4,000 to 9,000. This means you can heat a space up to 225 square feet.

In terms of safety, this portable heater features an auto shut-off to ensure there will be no fires if you fall asleep. In addition, the Radiant shuts off if the pilot light goes out or it detects low levels of oxygen. Therefore, you don’t have to worry like you did with the older heaters.

Check current price.

In terms of fuel, you will want to buy those little green jugs of propane fuel. One will handily attach up into the back, offering even more stability. You can hook up a large propane tank to this sucker, but you will need to purchase an additional extension hose and filter kit.

When using the small propane cylinders on low, you will go through 1 container of fuel every 4 hours.

Why You Want It: The heating surface on this radiant heater is huge! That means maximum warmth in minimal time!

2. Mr. Heater Little Buddy

Another of the best heaters for tents is the Mr. Heater Little Buddy. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Mr. Heater is a reliable company that makes dependable, quality products.

This heater is smaller than the Radiant, and is made to heat tent space up to 95 square feet. Therefore, the Little Buddy would be great for one-person, and small two-person tents. Not only that, but this Mr. Heater product can be used to heat tight spaces due to its small stand and 45 degree heating angle.

Check current price.

We all know accidents happen, like falling asleep early. That is why this Mr. Heater includes a tip-over switch and auto shut-off. Another safety feature is the sensor that will turn off the heater in case of low oxygen.

This manufacturer has the ODS (automatic low oxygen shut-off system). You no longer have to worry about the worst-case scenario while winter camping!

The Little Buddy boasts up to 5 ½ hours of running time, odor-free.

Why You Want It: If you have a hard time working electronics, don’t worry. This Mr. Heater only has an on and off switch!

3. Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater

If you want a durable tent heater for camping made of metals, look no further than the Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater. In fact, this product is made of copper and steel, and finished with stainless steel.

In terms of stability, the base seems to be one of the most stable of the longer, skinny neck heaters. In fact, the small propane cylinder fits into the base and supports the top where the actual heat comes out.

Check current price.

The Texsport also features some impressive safety features. The aluminum reflector is covered with a safety grid to prevent burning, and the safety valve will shut off the propane in case of a flame outage.

This heater offers up to 2,890 BTUs. At the lowest setting, the fuel will last up to 5 hours. The only downside to this heater I see is that the head is not adjustable, so it will forever be at its 45-degree angle.

Why You Want It: The Texsport weighs 1 pound, so it would be a great lightweight heater to take backpacking.

4. Mr. Heater Buddy

The Mr. Heater Buddy is another one of the best tent heaters for camping in the winter. With a BTU rating of 4,000 to 9,000, this heater can be used in spaces up to 225 square feet.

If you want a heater that burns clean, the Buddy is 100 percent clean burning. Another safety feature is the auto shut-off, just in case the product gets tipped over in your tent. In addition, this heater will shut off when the pilot light goes out, or if low oxygen levels are detected.

Check current price.

The green propane cylinders screw on in the back, and that adds to the stability of the Buddy.

When it comes to using propane heaters, make sure you allow ventilation in your tent. You won’t run out of oxygen, and you won’t get too much unnecessary condensation in your shelter.

With one panel running on low, you can get anywhere from 8-10 hours of heat.

Why You Want It: This big guy is indoor-safe. That means you can use your Buddy in your tent, and your shop or shed!

5. Texsport Sportsmate Portable Propane Heater

Back to propane heaters for tents, the Texsport Sportmate Portable Propane Heater is great for not only camping, but other activities needing an on-the-go heater as well. If you have around 100 square feet to warm, the Sportmate’s 2,890 BTU’s will do the job!

Weighing in at a measly 3 pounds, this is one of the lightest heaters on the list. Why? The Sportmate is made primarily of stainless steel and aluminum. Not only do the manufacturing materials make this Texsport durable, they make it strong as well.

Check current price.

Similar to the Texsport before, this heater has a sturdy foot base and extends 10.5 inches into the air. This makes it great for tent spaces that can get a little crowded.

Additionally, a safety grid surrounds the heating element. Further, the Sportmate puts the campers’ safety first by including an auto shut-off if the pilot light flame goes out.

On a low setting, this portable propane unit can run up to 8 hours.

Why You Want It: Because it’s super light, and comes with a molded plastic cup holder – just in case you want to keep it nice and close on those cold campsite mornings.

6. Mr. Heater MH12B Hunting Buddy Heater

This is the most popular portable propane heater in North America.

It produces 6000 to 12,000 BTU’s and connects directly to a 1 lb propane cylinder. Perfect for heating enclosed spaces up to 300 sq. ft.

Check current price.

Comes with an Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS) and tip-over safety shut-off, features will keep you safe and give you peace of mind.

7. TRM Portable Military Camping Stove (Wood)

The first and only wood stove on the list is the TRM Portable Military Camping Stove. Do not attempt to use a wood stove unless you have a large tent such as an outfitter’s tent. You also need to have a flue for adequate ventilation.

It is extremely convenient to have a wood stove inside your tent in the winter. Not only does it heat the place up quickly and efficiently, the TRM stove includes removable dual side cooking tubes. These are great for foil meals all around!

Check current price.

Although this is a wood camping stove, it has safety features similar to other types of heaters for tents. You probably will never need it, but there is a spark arrestor just in case. In addition, there are airflow regulators in the front and rear to keep everything burning smoothly.

Why You Want It: This heat source includes foldable grates to dry smaller items such as socks, shoes, and gloves. If you are climbing, hunting, or backpacking party, you might want to consider using a wood-burning stove in an outfitter’s tent.

8. Mr. Heater Little Buddy (Indoor Safe Heater)

This small heater burns propane and is rated for safe indoor use. It screws directly on a mini propane tank. Heats up to 95 sq ft.

The base is sturdy to prevent tipping. It has a low-oxygen sensor and accidental tip-over switch with auto-shutoff.

Check current price.

A standard mini propane tank will last 5.6 hours at a minimum heat setting

Why You Want It: This heater swivels back and forth which is really nice when everyone in the tent wants to feel the warmth directly on them!

Electric camping heaters for camping

Is rain in the forecast? Here’s how to set up your tent in the rain.

3 Best Electric Tent Heaters

If you’re camping in your backyard, a heavy gauge extension cord is all you’ll need to make these next three options work.

Or if you’re staying at a campground with electrical service on your site, these heaters are a great idea. Don’t forget the extension cord.

Safe camping heaters for tents

Here’s how to make coffee while camping

9. GiveBest Electric Tent Heater

The GiveBest Mini Space Heater has two heating settings, low at 750W and high at 1,500W. And it has one cool setting – with the fan only. 

It comes with two auto shut-off features:

  • overheat protection that will auto shut off the unit if it reaches 158 °F (70°C)
  • auto-off feature if it tips over. 

Check out this electric mini space heater

There is also a thermostat, so you can control the temperature inside the tent. The heater has a 3-second quick heat function, so you don’t have to wait for it to warm up.

Why You Want It: If you prioritize safety and you have access to an electrical outlet.

10. andily Compact Ceramic Space Heater

Here is another mini electric heater, this time from andily. This mini ceramic space heater is compact (just 9.64″ high), electric, and lightweight at 2.76 pounds.

Don’t let the small size fool you! The VIVREAL heater can warm tents up to 190 square feet.

There are two heating settings, low at 750 Watts and high at 1,500 Watts. Additionally, there is also a cool setting in case you get a little too warm too quickly! 

Check current price.

This comes with two safety features: overheat auto-shutoff and tip-over auto-shutoff. These safety features give you peace of mind so you can let life happen.

11. Stanley ST-SSSA-120 Heavy-Duty Electric Heater

This 1500 Watt / 12.5 amp heater easily heats up to 165 sq. ft. with 5100 BTUs.

Weighing only 3.8 pounds, this small personal space heater packs a punch! Included in this portable space heater is a 2 setting thermostat so you can heat your structure to the desired temperature.

Check current price.

In terms of safety features, the Multifun does not disappoint. First, the feet and handle are made of plastic, so they won’t get too hot to handle. Additionally, the built-in tip switch shuts it off immediately if it gets knocked over.

Tent heaters for camping

Check out our full Guide to Winter Camping

Staying Safe: A Guide to Safe Heaters for Tents

The best way to stay safe while camping with a heater is to arm yourself with knowledge. The more you know about your heat source, the more peace of mind you will have.

In this section, I’ll cover what to do and what not to do with the 3 primary types of heaters for tents: catalytic propane gas heaters, electric heaters, and portable stoves.

Additionally, I will tell you what safety features to look for when shopping around. By the time you are through reading, you will be an expert on how to use a tent heater safely.

Tent Heater Size

Heater Size: One of the top tips when choosing a tent heater for camping is to buy the right size. Take the area of your tent into account. From the size of your tent, you should be able to tell if you need something compact, or something larger.

If you have a 1 or 2 person tent, you obviously don’t want the largest, hottest heater. If you are camping with a multi-room shelter, chances are you will need to buy bigger and more BTUs. The estimation gets a bit trickier with medium-sized tents.

However, the main goals are to avoid frostbite and catching on fire. On to the next step to figure out exactly how much heat you need!

Figure Out How Many BTUs You Need: BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. The number of BTUs required to heat your tent can be found in a few steps:

  1. Multiply together length x width x height to find the cubic feet of the tent.
  2. Subtract the temperature outside of your tent from the desired temperature of the inside of your tent. This will give you the temperature your heater has to work to rise to.
  • If measuring in Fahrenheit, you will need to solve the following equation: Cubic Feet x Temperature Increase x 0.133 = BTUs needed
  • If Celsius is your unit of choice, figure this out: Cubic Feet x Temperature Increase x 0.2394 = BTUs needed

If math isn’t your strong point, head over to this BTU calculator.

Gas Tent Heater Safety Concerns

Stance / Stability: We all know the floor of our tent is not the most level place. That is why you should make sure the heater looks stable before you make the purchase.

It sounds easy enough, but quality manufacturing can be the difference between catching your stuff on fire and having a fun evening. Furthermore, make sure your heater has a tilt safety shut-off.

Catalytic Propane Gas Heater: Propane gas heaters for tents are much safer than they used to be. Older models used to use full-on combustion and had a tendency to cause flames at best, and explosions at worst.

What’s changed? The newer heaters use catalytic combustion, which is basically the propane fuel and oxygen creating a reaction that can power you warm. The heat you feel is emitted through infrared rays.

However, you should still practice safety as a rule. Keep flammable objects away. This means your tent has to be big enough for your sleeping bags, pads, pillows, and other materials to be clean away from the tent heater. I have found these products heat your tent quickly, annihilate power outage worries, and allow you a quieter experience.

Figure Out How Much Propane You Need: If you plan on using your heater for more than one day in the winter wild, you will need to figure out how much propane will be necessary to keep everyone warm. If you are going on a long trip, you can bring a large, full propane tank with you to ensure you don’t run out of fuel.

If you are only going out for a couple of nights, the tent heater you purchase will tell you how much gas you will burn per hour. From there, figure out how many hours you plan to use your heater per day. Then, add each day’s total.

Remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry. There is no reason to skimp on the fuel. In fact, always bring extra.

Electric Heaters: One major drawback of electric heaters for tents is the fact they must be plugged in to work. In fact, if you are trying to camp with this type of heater you will require electric hookups (EHU).

Unfortunately, these are often only available at RV sites. This wouldn’t be so bad if no RVs were at the site. However, if a campsite has their electricity turned on in the winter months, they most likely serve RVs year round.

This is not optimal, because your neighbors will dwarf you, giving a slightly claustrophobic feel. Additionally, the noise of the generators will drive you batty if you aren’t used to it.

To avoid the aforementioned fate, you can hook your electric heater up to a small generator of your own. Just keep in mind generators are usually on the heavy side. You can also use an inverter with your car battery.

Electric Tent Heater Safety Concerns

There are some potential safety issues when it comes to relying on an electric tent heater for camping. First, if you are depending on a campground, there is the potential you could experience a power outage.

These tend to happen in the worst weather, which is when you need to stay warm the most. If you have to use an extension cable, purchase a heavy-duty cord to minimize the risk of fire. Additionally, you will need to keep drinks, flammable materials, children, and pets away from the front of the hot heater.

As long as you check the weather report or provide your own power source you should be fine using an electric heater. Furthermore, those of you on a budget might be interested to know these are much cheaper than catalytic propane gas heaters for tents.

Portable Stove Safety Concerns

Portable Stove: Portable stoves are great for keeping a large space heated. Also known as wood-burning stoves, these are great tent heaters for camping. However, you can only use these types of stoves in tents that allow for maximum ventilation.

One tent type is the classic tipi style, but any tent with a flue will work. If you are worried, you can purchase a carbon monoxide detector and place it close to the people in your tent.

Additionally, the canvas used in the manufacturing of the tent must be flame-retardant to resist those runaway sparks. Wood-burning stoves are great because there is no need to worry about power outages or running out of gas.

As long as you have wood you are good to go. If this is your first time using a portable stove, follow all directions for set up exactly as they are written. Always take all safety precautions suggested in the manufacturer’s instructions.

It is best to only use your portable stove when someone is awake. In fact, it is recommended that you only use heaters for tents at night to get cozy, and in the morning to get out of your sleeping bag!

That means you still must bring enough insulation to keep you warm at night. Even though most heaters these days are equipped with safety features, nothing is foolproof.

Gas heaters for camping

6 Important Tent Heater Safety Features

  1. You Want a Tip-Over Switch: This switch will automatically turn off your electric heater if it tips over. Stuff happens. Your heater could be tipped over when the last person leaves the tent. You might be sleeping with your heater on (shame on you), and you roll. It is better to be safe than sorry.
  2. Automatic Cut-off is a Necessity: This will ensure you don’t fall asleep with your heater on! Although many manufacturers technically rate their heaters for overnight use, most outdoorsy people I know will tell you not to chance it. An automatic cut-off will turn your device off after a certain amount of hours of uninterrupted use.
  3. Overheat Protection: To keep the heater from getting too hot, you will want to look for an overheat protector feature. When the internal working mechanisms become too hot, a temperature sensor shuts the whole thing down. This potentially life-saving feature is available on both electric and propane gas heaters.
  4. Are Other Appliances Plugged in? If so, you could trip the wire and cause a fire. For your safety, try to plug in one appliance at a time. Heaters for tents should never be plugged in with anything else.
  5. How to Operate: The following instructions are not meant to replace your owner’s manual. Only the manufacturer’s instructions should be followed to a T. This is a quick safety overview on how to operate your heater.
  6. Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions: Do not use the heater in any way other than intended. If a heater says it is for outdoor use only, it is for outdoor use only! Stay safe and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Are propane heaters safe in a tent? Here are 7 tips for using a propane heater in your tent.

Read more about the best camping gear for beginners

heaters for tents winter camping

Stay Warm, Stay Safe, Stay Fun

Some of the most beautiful snow-covered sites to be seen can only be viewed in the cold. When the weather outside is frightful, you can feel delightful inside your tent.

All you need is a heater designed with safety in mind to keep your trip fun and warm. After choosing one of these 12 best heaters for tents, camping year-round will never be out of the question again!

heaters for tents

How do you stay warm while tenting? Let me know in the comments!


Saturday 8th of June 2019

Based on your reviews I bought a Mr Heater Portable Buddy Radiant Heater and have just unpacked it and read the enclosed operating instructions. It has warnings all over it not to use it in an enclosed area but I bought it to use in a tent. Now I'm unsure what to do. Can you please help me decide? Cathy


Thursday 19th of December 2019

Cathy, There are just too many conflicting viewpoints of CO2. YouTube testers have a variety of variables: size of heater, size of room, ventilation and height of CO2 detector that lead to varying results. Bottom line is we breathe 20.9% oxygen and deficiency starts at 19.5%. This is easier to determine with a ~$600 'professional' (there are cheaper versions that may or may not be as reliable) multi-meter. If you can justify spending that much, great; I would still proceed with caution. I'm not a doctor/scientist/astronaut- I have just determined this from hours of research when I should have been doing more productive things. I own two Mr. Heater Big Buddy heaters that I run in a 1,200 sq. ft. shop. Does great if I'm standing next to it. Going to install a small exhaust fan just to be on the safe side. I'm not comfortable with being in an enclosed space with these bad boys running. Too much of a risk with me already sharing oxygen with my wife and three dogs. Hope this helps.

Bryan Haines

Wednesday 12th of June 2019

There seem to be two versions of the similar model. We have one that says it's safe for indoor use - but similar looking Mr Heaters sold at the hardware store advise not to use indoors. I'm looking into it.

Erik I. Supsekens

Tuesday 19th of March 2019

Hello everyone, This thing really saved my butt and perhaps marriage. Tried to sneak in a late season camping trip in Flagstaff, AZ a few weeks ago only to find the temps dropping into the ~25 range as a low. Dog bowls and all bottled water were frozen SOLID each morning. As a tent camper, I was a bit worried about leaving this thing on all night. I bought the Mr. Heater Buddy Series Hose Assembly - 10-ft., Model# F273704 and had a full-sized tank of propane outside my tent. A major worry was the warning that this heater may not work above 7000 feet elevation and where we were was 7300. Regardless it worked like a charm and I even pre-heated the tent before we called it a night and left it on all night while we slept. I did pick up two CO2 alarms just in case because I'll admit we did not have a ton of ventilation. Not even a chirp from them nor did I ever smell any incomplete burning or propane smell. Needless to say, we woke up every morning nice and toasty and slept very well throughout the night. After 4 nights the full-sized propane tank was not even touched speaking tot he efficiency of this unit. Lighting is easy but if using the 10' hose don't forget to hold down the pilot light for about 30 seconds until you smell propane. There is a lot of air in that line that you need to bleed out.

David Von Stowver

Tuesday 14th of May 2019

Very helpful responses to the article. Just one comment CO2 is Carbon Dioxide, the bad stuff that kills you in your sleep is CO or Carbon Monoxide. We are heading up to Yosemite this weekend and possibly heading into storm with lows in the 30's. Living in So Cal has made me soft so I am looking at using this typeof heater. Thank you for your blog and for the responses as well.

boo radley

Thursday 7th of February 2019

Hi just a correction the tooluze butane heater burns 100 GRAMS per hour not 100 mg as stated in the article. 100 mg=1 gram

Bryan Haines

Monday 15th of April 2019

Thanks for catching this - I've fixed this in the article.