So you love camping – but hate being cold? This post is exactly what you need, you'll learn about the best heaters for tents. There is also a detailed guide to choosing (and using) safe tent heaters.
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:
- Combustion tent heaters: Gas (propane, butane) and Wood fuel (jump to section)
- Electric tent heaters: Perfect for backyard camping and campgrounds with electric service (jump to section)
- Guide to Tent Heater Safety and Buyers Guide (jump to section)
I should mention, 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:
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. In addition, this heater will shut off when the pilot light goes out, or if low oxygen levels are detected.
The Vivreal Mini Space Heater has two heating settings, low at 750 Watts and high at 1,500 Watts. Additionally, there is a cool setting in case you get a little too warm too quickly!
There is also a thermostat, so you can control the temperature inside the tent. To give you even more control over your temperature, this heater for tents features 90-degree oscillation.
Need a tent for the winter? Check out our guide to winter tent camping.
9 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 nine heaters all burn either gas (propane or butane) or wood.
Let's get started!
1. Mr. Heater Portable Radiant Heater
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.
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.
2. Mr. Heater Little Buddy
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.
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.
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.
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.
4. Mr. Heater Buddy
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.
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.
5. Camco Olympian Wave-6
If you are looking for an interesting propane heater, look no further than the Camco Olympian Wave-6. This tent heater for camping produces between 3,200 and 6,000 BTUs, depending on your temperature preference. That is a whole 230 square feet of space.
Camco is almost 100 percent efficient, meaning you don’t have to worry about losing propane to leaks or cracks. However, if there is any propane getting out where it shouldn’t be, your Olympian Wave-6 will automatically shut off.
You can use your Camco Olympian outside as well as inside in your office, home or workshop. If you do decide to use this heater inside, it includes a wall mount for maximum location control.
In addition, there is an automatic sparker (Piezo electric sparker) that will work for up to 20,000 starts. This makes the Camco perfect for taking on long backcountry adventures.
As additions, you can purchase heating legs that will push the air up and out instead of simply forward. Camco also sells the required low pressure hoses and valve separately.
Using 1/8 pound of propane per hour, this heater should last for up to 15 hours on a small cylinder of propane.
6. 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.
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.
7. Mr. Heater MH12B Hunting Buddy Heater
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.
Comes with an Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS) and tip-over safety shut-off, features will will keep you safe and give you peace of mind.
8. 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 outfitters 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!
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.
9. Martin Portable Butane Camping Heater
A little different than the rest of the tent heaters for camping, the Martin Butane Camping Heater uses butane as opposed to propane! The Martin burns 100gm of butane per hour, and rises up to 600 BTUs of power. Additionally, this heater boasts a CE certificate.
Another fact that makes the Martin different than any heater on this list is that is made of ceramics. This means the outside of the heater will never get hot enough to burn you. In addition, the bottom is sturdy and includes extra weight to prevent tipping.
One potential issue is the small amount of fumes put off by the butane. This means you will need to ventilate your tent in order to use it safely.
One standard can of butane will last 2 hours in this camping heater. However, that ensures even if you fall asleep with the unit on, you won’t have to worry about it running all night.
Is rain in the forecast? Here's how to setup 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.
Here's how to make coffee while camping
10. Broan-NuTone Big Heat Heater
The Broan-NuTone is not as large as it is for no reason. It is made of steel, and made to last through extreme conditions, including drops and scrapes. There are also built on bumpers to protect your heater, and integrated handles to carry it.
If safety is a concern, this Big Heat Heater has you covered. This unit features shut off protection in the case of overheating, as well as a caution light to let you know what is happening. Also, the 6-foot long cord includes a safety-flanged plug in case of surges or wire damage.
There is more! The manufacturer built in an instant shut-off if the heater has tipped on its front or back. In addition, the heating elements are ceramic for more efficient and safer heating.
The Broan-NuTone features a 1500-watt warm-up, and a 1200 watt maintenance setting.
11. VIVREAL Mini Portable Space Heater
Here is another mini electric heater, this time from VIVREAL. This mini ceramic space heater is compact, electric, and lightweight at 3.8 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! There is also a thermostat, so you can control the temperature inside the tent. To give you even more control over your temperature, this heater for tents features 90-degree oscillation.
In terms of safety, you don’t have to worry with the VIVREAL. This heater has automatic overheat protections so the unit doesn’t get unsafely hot.
Furthermore, there is a tip-over switch that shuts the heater off when it leaves the upright position. These safety features give you peace of mind so you can let life happen.
12. Stanley ST-SSSA-120 Heavy Duty Electric Heater
Weighing only 3.8 pounds, this small personal space heater packs a punch! Included on this portable space heater is a 2 setting thermostat so you can heat your structure to the desired temperature.
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.
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 safety.
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 amount of BTUs required to heat your tent can be found in a few steps:
- Multiply together length x width x height to find the cubic feet of the tent.
- 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 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 RV’s were at the site. However, if a campsite has their electric turned on in the winter months, they most likely serve RVs year around.
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 setup 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.
6 Important Tent Heater Safety Features
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Follow 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.
Read more about the best camping gear for beginners
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!
How do you stay warm while tenting? Let me know in the comments!
Dena Haines is a co-founder and blogger on GudGear – and is working to make it the best resource for outside gear. She also blogs about travel at Storyteller.Travel and photography at Click Like This. Dena is partner at Storyteller Media, a publishing company she started with her husband, Bryan.