Winter camping can also be a lot of fun for many, especially if you love the solitude, snow or backcountry skiing and other winter sports. But with winter comes the challenge of staying warm in the backcountry. Surely you would not want to spend your nights shivering the cold! One way to keep yourself warm during winter camping is to get a tent heater. These portable heaters work well in keeping a small to medium tent or camper/RV warm. And some of them also work well with golf carts and cabins!
So, which are the best tent heaters for small and large tents, RV’s and campers?
In this article, we will look at answering exactly the same question and review some of the best tent heaters for camping. We would primarily focus on non-electric, gas-powered camping tent heaters and share our favorite picks for both catalytic and infrared tent heaters. We will also share some of the most important factors and safety considerations to keep in mind before picking the best tent heaters. Read On!
Also, check out our article on the best hand warmers for another product to keep you warm during cold weather.
Some of the best tent heaters for camping and outdoor adventures are listed below:
Before we list out the best tent heaters for camping, let us check out the different types of portable camping tent heaters out there in the market. Typically, there are five common types of camping tent heaters, classified based on the fuel they use:
If you are looking for a wood-burning tent heater for off-the-grid living or outdoor trip then look no further than the TMS Portable Military Camping Wood Stove. It has the most efficient design and performance among wood-burning tent heaters.
From the above discussion, gas-powered propane tent heaters are the most portable, cost-effective types of tent heaters to consider for 1-person to 4-person tent. And if you follow the basic safety precautions, the catalytic propane heaters are pretty safe too. For larger tents and log cabins, you can look at wood-burning, Kerosene or Electric tent heater.
In the next sections, we will list our picks for the best tent heaters for camping and other outdoor adventures and also list out the factors to consider before picking the best camping tent heater for your next outdoor trip.
Type: Catalytic propane heater. Indoor/Outdoor use.
Size and Weight: 7.7″ x 13.4″ x 15″; 10 lbs.
Thermal Output: 4,000 BTU/h or 9,000 BTU/h suitable for tents up to 200 sq. feet.
Fuel: Standard 16.4 oz. propane canister. Lasts 5.5-6.5 hours.
The name Mr. Heater has been synonymous with high-quality, US-made, indoor-safe heaters and their Buddy series is the flagship series for camping tent heaters. The Mr. Heater MH9BX Buddy portable tent heater is the mid-sized model of the series, suitable for tents up to 190-200 sq. feet in area.
The Mr. Heater MH9BX Buddy portable tent heater features a high-quality construction with a large ceramic-coated heating surface that is designed to direct radiant heat over a wide area. The ceramic burner is secured within heat-resistant wire guard and tile-mounted on a stable base with shock-absorbing insulated legs. And if you are concerned about accidental tip-overs, the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy heater is equipped with a tip-over safety shut-off feature.
The Mr. Heater MH9BX Buddy heater is indoor safe as it generates heat through an efficient catalytic heating process. Still, you would need a 4-6 sq. inch opening to let-off any Carbon dioxide and residual exhaust gases. The heater is equipped with a low-oxygen safety shut-off (Oxygen Depletion Sensor – ODS) feature to prevent any CO2 poisoning incidents.
The Mr. Heater Buddy heater is one of the most efficient tent heaters out there with its noiseless fan for even distribution of heat. It supports two heat settings – 4000 BTU (low) and 9000 BTU (high) and offers a four-position control setup (Off, Pilot, High and Low) and a reliable piezo-electric igniter. It can work up to an elevation of 7000 ft. It uses a standard 16.4 oz (1 lbs.) disposable propane tank, though you can get an optional adapter and hose to support larger re-fillable tanks. It has a swivel regulator to simplify fitting this adapter, a big plus for multi-day trips.
The Mr. Heater MH9BX Buddy portable heater has a fold-down handle and with dimensions of 7.7″ x 13.4″ x 15″ and 10 lbs. weight, it truly is a compact, portable choice.
The Buddy heater is available in two colors – the standard Red-Black and the newly introduced grey color and is backed by a one-year manufacturer warranty. The only limitation is that the standard model is not authorized to be sold in Canada and Massachusetts and you would have to get the costlier Canada/MA approved model for use in these regions.
For its excellent quality and superior performance, the Mr. Heater MH9BX Buddy Portable Tent Heater is our Editor’s pick for the best tent heater for indoor/outdoor use during camping and other outdoor adventures. This made in the US portable camping heater is a top-of-the-line product for campers and outdoor enthusiasts who are looking for a sturdy and reliable indoor tent heater for their excursions.
Type: Catalytic propane heater. Indoor/Outdoor use.
Size and Weight:
Fuel: 5-gallon propane tank with a 3/8″ flare valve. Lasts 15-16 hours.
If you are into glamping, RVing or boondocking and looking for a premium tent heater that can help you in staying comfortably warm, then the Camco Olympian Wave Gas Catalytic Heater is the option worth checking out.
The Camco Olympian Wave Gas Catalytic Heater is truly a high-quality, compact catalytic gas-powered heater. It can be can be wall-mounted or used as a portable unit. You can get the optional leg stands to radiate the heat up when using it as a portable unit. Unlike most other tent heaters which can have plastic bodies, the Camco Olympian heater features a full metal construction which is extremely durable and reliable.
The Olympian catalytic heaters are available in three sizes Wave-3, Wave-6 and Wave-8. Wave-3 is suitable for up to 100 sq. ft. space, while Wave-6 and Wave-8 both support 200+ sq. ft. space of an RV or camper. These heaters produce mostly radiant heat because of a flameless catalytic combustion process and the efficiency is high because combustion takes place at relatively low temperatures.
The radiant heat produced by Olympian heaters is particularly effective for creating a feeling of warm comfort similar to solar radiation. The only limitation of this type of heating process is that it takes about 20-30 minutes for the heater to warm up the surroundings compared to Mr. Heater which can warm the surroundings in 2-3 minutes. The Olympian is off-course more fuel efficient and has more adjustable heat settings – high, medium and low.
The Camco Olympian Wave heater uses an automatic piezo-electric sparker that can last for up to 20,000 starts. Starting this heater is a slight hassle and the whole process can take a minute or so. The heater is equipped with a safety shut-off valve to prevent accidental non-ignition fuel discharge.
The Camco Olympian Wave Gas Catalytic Heater is backed by a one-year manufacturer warranty. The installation and setup are easy, and it comes with all the accessories needed for the same.
For its premium quality, comfortable heat and compact design, the Camco Olympian Wave Gas Catalytic Heater is our Editor’s pick for the best premium camping tent heater. It is considerably costlier than other camping heaters but produces the most comfortable heating for long-term indoor use in an RV, camper, tent or cabin.
Type: Infrared propane heater. Primarily for outdoor use and well-ventilated areas only.
Size and Weight: 6.75″ x 6.75″ x 20″ ; 1 lbs.
Thermal Output: 2890 BTU/h max. suitable for tents up to 75 – 90 sq. feet.
Fuel: Standard 14.1 oz. or 16.4 oz. propane canister. Lasts 6-7 hours.
If you are looking for a reliable, lightweight outdoor camping heater that does not cost a fortune, then look no further than the Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater. Designed specifically for camping, hunting or cold weather outdoor activities, this portable camping heater is an excellent value-for-money product. The heater is manufactured in Canada.
The Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater features a durable stainless-steel burner that is securely placed within the heat-resistant nickel-plated safety grid. All the valves and regulators are made of high-grade copper. The Texsport heater comes with a large plastic paddle foot base to provide additional stability while in use. It comes with a carry handle for easy transportation.
The Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater has a maximum thermal output of 2890 BTU/hour and can heat an area of around 75-90 sq. feet. The heat level is controllable through an adjustable valve. At only 1 lbs. for the heater, it is pretty lightweight and portable to carry in trips. The heater uses standard 16.4-ounce (1 lbs.) or 14.1-ounce disposable propane fuel cylinders and can last for up to 6-7 hours on the 1 lbs. fuel cylinder.
Since it uses infra-red radiant heating which produces Carbon Monoxide, the Texsport portable camping heater is only suitable for outdoor use or heating the tent with the door open. The heater is equipped with an auto shut-off valve that turns it off when the flame goes out. It does not have a CO or Low-oxygen sensor.
The Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater is also available in a higher output (3000 BTU) Texsport SportMate design. You can check it out if you are looking for a higher thermal output. The Texsport heater is backed by a one-year manufacturer warranty.
For its decent quality and value-for-money, the Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater is our pick for the best camping heater for outdoor use.
Type: Catalytic propane heater. Indoor/Outdoor use.
Size and Weight: 7.5″ x 6.25″ x 6.25″; 2.7 lbs.
Thermal Output: 1,500 BTU/h max. suitable for small <100 sq. ft. tents and spaces.
Fuel: Standard 16.4 oz. propane canister. Lasts 10-14 hours.
Type: Catalytic propane heater. Indoor/Outdoor use.
Size and Weight: 12.0″ x 9.75″ x 5″; 5.85 lbs.
Thermal Output: 3,800 BTU/h max. suitable for small spaces up to 95 sq. ft.
Fuel: Standard 16.4 oz. propane canister. Lasts 5-6 hours.
Type: Infrared Butane heater. Primarily for outdoor use and well-ventilated areas only.
Size and Weight: 11.1″ x 11.4″ x 14.1″; 1.0 lbs.
Thermal Output: 3500 BTU/h max. suitable for small spaces up to 100 sq. ft.
Fuel: Standard Isobutane canisters. Lasts 3.5 hours on standard 230 gm canisters.
Type: Vent-type catalytic propane heater. Indoor/Outdoor use.
Size and Weight: 22″ x 13″ x 13″ unit with one inflow vent and one exhaust vent ; 34 lbs. total.
Thermal Output: 40,000 BTU/h max. suitable for large tents up to 1000 sq. feet.
Fuel: 5-gallon propane tank. Lasts 7-8 hours. 12-V power battery for the fan. (not included)
Type: Infrared ceramic heater. Primarily for outdoor use and well-ventilated areas only.
Size and Weight: 8.2″ x 12.5″ x 11″; 5.8 lbs.
Thermal Output: 5,800 BTU/h max. suitable for small/medium areas up to 100 sq. feet.
Fuel: 8 oz. butane bottle/cartridges. Lasts 4-5 hours on 8 oz. bottle on low setting.
Type: Infra-red ceramic heater. Primarily for outdoor use and well-ventilated areas only.
Size and Weight: 11.0″ x 10.6″ x 7.7″; 5.4 lbs.
Thermal Output: 3,500 BTU/h max. suitable for small/medium areas up to 100 sq. feet.
Fuel: 8 oz. butane bottle/cartridges or propane tanks with additional regulator/adapter. Lasts 4-6 hours on 8 oz. bottle.
Type: Flame propane heater. Primarily for outdoor use and well-ventilated areas only.
Size and Weight: 11.1″ x 11.4″ x 14.1″; 8.45 lbs.
Thermal Output: 4000-6500 BTU/h. suitable for small spaces up to 125 sq. ft.
Fuel: Standard 16.4 oz. propane canister. Lasts 4 hours.
With so many different types, designs and models available in the market, picking the best tent heater for camping and outdoors can be a challenging task. After all, you would like to pick a camping heater that does not leave you out cold in the wilderness.
Though we have focused only on gas-powered camping heaters only because they do not have any “strings attached to them”, there are still a lot of variations in them that you need to account for before picking the best camping heater for your tent or campsite.
Once you have decided on the broad budget that you have, you need to look at a few important factors before picking the best tent heater for camping or other outdoor adventures. These major considerations are summarized below:
The primary purpose for which you are seeking a camping heater is an important factor as it governs the type of gas heater you should opt for.
If you are looking for a camping heater to use indoors in your tent, then you should only opt for catalytic or vent type tent heaters. Such heaters do not produce Carbon Monoxide, since there is no flame. They only produce a small amount of Carbon Dioxide and only require a small opening of 4-6 sq. inches for safe operation. Mr. Heater Buddy Portable Tent Heater and Camco Olympian Wave Gas Catalytic Heater
are two of the best catalytic gas heaters in the market and are suitable for small to large-sized tents. Zodi Outback Gear X-40 Hot Vent Tent Heater is another extremely safe tent heater to consider for large tents. Most electric heaters by Lasko and Honeywell are also indoor-safe, to they produce a more stuffy kind of heat.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a heater to heat the air around the campsite or when the tent door is open, you can go with Infra-red propane or butane camping tent heaters. You should avoid using these in an enclosed tent (you may be enticed to do so as Infra-red heaters are cheap) and in case you have to use them indoors, you should always have an opening of 20-25 sq. inches. The Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater is our of our favorite Outdoor camping heater.
Keep your primary requirements in mind before deciding upon the type of camping heater you should opt for.
Once you have zeroed in on the type of camping heater, you need to look at the thermal output that you need depending upon the tent or space volume. The more efficient a heater is, the lesser fuel it would need and the lesser weight you would need to carry.
In order to compute your approximate heating or thermal output requirements, you can use the following formula (Courtesy: Mr. Heater)
For Fahrenheit, Required BTUs = cubic feet of space x desired temp. increase x 0.133
For Celsius, Required BTUs = cubic feet of space x desired temp. increase x 0.2394
You can also use the tent heat calculator to compute your minimum heating requirements. Of course, the tent wall insulation, wind or snow conditions etc. would govern the exact heating you would get.
The thermal efficiency of the heater is governed by the quality of the heating element or filament, the shape and design of the heater. You need to take this into account to ascertain the amount of fuel you will need. In our review, we have listed the approximate time a unit of fuel canister would last with the heater which you can take that into account while picking the best camping heater.
Efficiency and quality certifications by nationally accredited agencies such as CE and ETL also help in ascertaining that the advertised thermal output is indeed correct. We have only listed the most reliable and field-tested options, so you can safely pick one of those from the list.
Check out the heat output requirements and thermal efficiency considerations before picking the best tent heater for your needs. You can generally get this information from the product specifications, feedback and comparative reviews of the camping heater.
The size, weight and portability of the stove is also something to factor in before zeroing in on the best camping heater, especially if you would like to move the heater around the campsite.
Generally, the size and weight of the tent heater is governed by the overall thermal output – the more the thermal output, the bigger the stove will be. Camping tent heaters are not the lightest camping gear to carry and hence only suitable for RVing, car camping or shared-load backpacking.
Most of the options that we have listed are reasonably compact, lightweight and portable. The Mr. Heater and Coleman tent heaters are especially portable and easy to move around among catalytic tent heaters. Among infra-red outdoor heaters, Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater and Lixada Double Head Outdoor Heater are the lightest at only 1.0 lbs.
Check out the overall size (both open and packed), weight and portability of the heater before picking the best camping heater for your needs. Always remember that you would also need to carry the canisters/bottle of fuel, so every pound saved would be precious.
Any space heating device is prone to causing a fire or other safety concern. So, the presence of safety features in a camping tent heater is an important factor to consider before picking the best tent heater.
As discussed above, catalytic tent heaters are safer than infrared gas-powered heaters as they do not produce a substantial amount of Carbon Monoxide, which is odorless and can even cause death if not properly exhausted. Still, all heaters produce Carbon Dioxide and some other residue gases, so you need to look for any noxious gas safety features in the heater before pulling the plug. Mr. Heater Buddy Portable Tent Heater and Camco Olympian Wave Gas Catalytic Heater both have low oxygen shut-off(ODS) features, so they are the best camping heaters for indoor use.
In addition, you need a heater that has an automatic shut-off and tip-over shut-off. Automatic shut-off means that the heater is designed to turn itself off after running for a certain duration or if the flame goes off. This feature ensures that the heater is not left running if you accidentally doze off or it is overheated. Tip-over shut-off ensures the heater turns-off in case it is tipped over. This is especially important if you have small children or pets.
Check out the safety features in a specific model before picking the best camping heater for your needs. Certifications such as CE and ETL from accredited agencies is also an indication of safe operation. We have indicated the presence of these safety features in our review, so you can check them before picking the most suitable model.
In addition to the major factors discussed above, there are some other miscellaneous considerations that can make a particular camping heater a preferable option over other options.
One such consideration is the accessories and replacement parts that come with the stove (or are available for purchase in the market). Availability of optional valves and attachments that allow the stove to be used with large propane tanks or alternative fuels is also a related factor to check out. Mr. Heater and Coleman heaters score big in this category as they have all kinds of accessories and replacement parts available in the market.
If you decide to pick a tent heater with a fan, you need to be aware of the noise it would produce. Generally, there is no quantifiable measure of the noise produced by a heater and most manufacturers advertise their products to be noise-less, you can look at the reviews from other buyers to ascertain the noise level.
Finally, one of the most important additional consideration is the warranty and after-sales support offered on the heater by the manufacturer. The general rule of thumb is that longer the warranty period, the more reliable and durable the heater would be. Most of the options that we listed are backed by some excellent warranties, so you can use such tent heaters for a long time without worrying about their reliability. Mr. Heater, Coleman, Zodi, Olympian and Texsport heaters are most reputed brands in terms of warranty and after-sales support.
You can look at all these features to determine if they make a specific camping heater a better choice over others.
Though tent heaters can really make your cold weather camping trip a lot more comfortable, you still need to follow certain safety precautions to ensure safety while using such devices. After all, heaters are a major source of domestic fires and the same is true for such devices in the wilderness. Some of the most common safety considerations that you can follow with tent heaters are listed below:
Following these security precautions and sticking to the manufacturer instructions would ensure that you never have a safety mishap while using tent heaters.
No camping season provides more serenity and excitement than the winter camping season. But one of the major challenges with winter camping is to stay warm during cold evenings and night. One way to address this challenge is to get a portable camping tent heater. These heaters are a perfect gear to get for winter camping or adventure sports. And many of them work well for golf carts too!
In this article, we looked at some of the best tent heaters for camping and other outdoor adventures. We only focused on portable propane and butane-based gas-powered tent heaters – both catalytic and infrared heaters. We looked at the underlying science behind these heaters, shared some buying advice and listed our top picks. We also briefly covered some safety guidelines to keep in mind while operating and using these devices.
We hope that you found this article useful and it would help you in picking the best camping heater for your next outdoor trip. Do let us know your feedback by commenting below. Until next time, happy winter camping!