Best Camping Tent Heaters

There’s nothing quite as good as waking up on a winter morning to a frosted or snowy landscape. The air is as fresh as it can get, the scenes are beautiful...but it is absolutely freezing.

Sometimes, a high-quality tent, sleep bag, and multiple layers just aren’t enough. You might have lit a fire overnight, but that won’t necessarily stay lit or keep you warm inside your tent. The last thing you want to do on your camping trip is to develop hypothermia or frostbite. 

Luckily for you, I understand the importance of having an appropriate heating source for your camping endeavors. I am a well-seasoned and experienced camper who adores camping in winter.

Waking up at the sight of snow-capped mountains is something we should all experience, just without the freezing temperatures.

This is where camping heaters come in. These heaters are designed specifically for use inside a tent, as they are equipped with all the necessary safety features and can be used in even the most rural of locations.

I have found the best camping tent heaters on the market to suit every camping situation - so let’s get into it. 

BEST ELECTRIC HEATER

This is the best electric heater I found for camping trips. However, as it requires energy, I recommend only using it at campsites that offer Electric Hook-Ups (EHUs). If you have a generator or other energy source, these will work fine, too!

This heavy-duty heater produces an impressive amount of heat for its size. With two heat settings adjustable by a thermostat, this 1500W heater can produce warmth up to 165 square feet. Ideal for single campers and families!

This unit is most suitable for camping trips due to its safety features. Not only can the heat be easily adjusted with the external thermostat (A high setting, low setting, and a fan-only setting), but the heater also comes with an auto-shutoff system.

This system automatically turns off the heater when it is knocked over - which is usually unavoidable in a tent! As people tend to worry about their tent catching fire from a heater, this is an essential feature that is what makes this product so reliable.

Another thing campers worry about is the noise levels and speed of the heat. You don’t want a heater that takes 10 minutes to warm a tent as it produces a loud whirring/vibrating noise.

Camping heaters are mostly used at night to keep the user(s) warm whilst they are sleeping, after all. Luckily, this heater has the ability to warm up a small space within seconds and is virtually silent.

Pros

  • Compact, heavy-duty design - Small footprint is ideal for tent spaces
  • Safety features - Auto-shutoff assures for reliability if the heater is accidentally knocked over
  • Fast and quiet - Heats a space up to 165 square feet without producing any sound

Cons

  • Electric heater - Ideal for campers with an energy source, but not for campsites that don’t have an energy source

BEST PROPANE HEATER

Mr. Heater MH12B Hunting Buddy Portable Space Heater

Not every camper is going to have access to an energy source. This is where the beauty of propane heaters comes in! As long as you bring an appropriately-sized cylinder of gas with you, you’re sorted.

The Mr. Heater Hunting Buddy is an all-rounder for camping propane heaters. With a BTU of 6,000-12,000 per hour, this is ideal for small spaces of up to 300 square feet such as a tent. It is recommended to connect to a 1lb propane cylinder, but can also connect with a 20lb cylinder with its optional hose.

Whilst some may assume that propane heaters are difficult to control, this heater will prove you wrong! This unit features a single control knob with high and low settings to adjust the temperature accordingly, and the cylinders are designed to connect and disconnect quickly with its swivel regulator.

In terms of safety features, this heater comes with an auto-shutoff system for accidental tip-overs. It is also equipped with an Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS), which automatically turns off the heater when oxygen levels have dropped below 21%. The electronic ignition is also silent, which is a bonus for late-night usage.

Pros

  • Powerful propane heater - Produces warm air up to 300 square feet with a control knob to adjust the heat
  • Safety features - Auto-shutoff for accidental tip-overs and for when oxygen levels drop below 21%
  • Low noise levels - Silent electronic ignition allows for quiet use

Cons

  • Not ideal for wind - Exposure to wind may require re-starting the heater

THE MOST TEMPERATURE SETTING

Heaters are great for warming up a tent quickly, but sometimes the heat gets too much. You don’t want to open up the tent door to let the cold air come in, because it will just make the heater redundant.

You need something that can be adjusted properly so you can have a consistent temperature to suit your needs, rather than go from one extreme to another.

That’s where this heater comes in. This 1500W Lasko product is equipped with an impressive 11 temperature settings that can be easily adjusted with a rotating external knob. This is ideal for warming up a tent slowly on a low setting.

This heater is great for portability with its handy carry handle and compact design. Despite its size, it can produce warm air up to 300 square feet - great for large tents with friends and family!

In terms of safety features, this product is equipped with a cool-touch exterior to prevent burns as well as overheat protection that prevents the unit from overheating.

As long as you have access to an EHU or another energy source, this is an ideal heater for a variety of camping purposes.

Pros

  • 11 heating settings - Complete adjustability and versatility in controlling the heat allows for extended use 
  • Safety features - Cool-touch exterior and overheating protection included 
  • Powerful - Can heat up to 300 square feet - ideal for medium to large tents

Cons

  • Requires electric source - Not suitable for campsites or campers who don’t have an electric source

BEST PERSONAL HEATER

If you’re a solo camper, a large heater that is better equipped for warming up multiple people isn’t a necessity. You only have to worry about yourself, so ideally you’d need something small and compact to bring with you.

This mini space heater stands out to me for its heating and cooling functions. You heard me - this thing comes with a cooler feature for when it gets a bit too stuffy in your tent.

Speaking of stuffiness, this heater is equipped with a built-in filter that purifies the air in a small space. You will only be breathing in the freshest of air both inside and outside your tent.

Despite its compact size, this fan heater comes with a ceramic heating element and a 1500W power. It comes with high and low settings to control the temperature and only takes 1-2 seconds to produce warm air. It’s also remarkably quiet!

Regarding safety features, this heater is made of flame-retardant materials and auto-shutoff systems for when it is accidentally knocked over or if it overheats.

Pros

  • Heating and cooling functions - Product comes with high and low heating settings as well as a cooler option
  • Air-purifying - Built-in filter purifies the air to prevent stuffy tents
  • Safety features - Made of flame-retardant materials and has an auto-shutoff system

Cons

  • Not ideal for medium/large tents - Compact size is best suited for personal use

BEST INDOOR AND OUTDOOR HEATER

Mr. Heater Big Buddy Indoor/Outdoor Portable Propane Heater

Camping in winter isn’t all about staying inside the tent. You’re there to explore the outdoors in new scenery, regardless of how cold it may be! What happens when you want to watch the sunset as you eat your dinner, but it’s too cold even for thermals?

This Mr. Heater product is ideal for both indoor and outdoor situations. With a BTU of between 4,000 to 18,000, this propane heater can produce warm air up to 450 square feet. Whether you choose to use it inside or outside of your tent, it will work sufficiently.

This heater can connect to two 1lb propane cylinders or one 20lb cylinder with an additional hose, which is controlled by two swivel regulators to connect and replace. The cylinders and hose need to be purchased separately. The heat is adjusted and controlled by a rotating knob with high, medium, and low settings.

The heater is equipped with the appropriate safety settings, including auto-shutoff for accidental tip-overs and when oxygen levels drop.

This is a great heater for those who want to enjoy both indoor and outdoor elements of camping whilst enjoying the comfort of warmth!

Pros

  • Indoor and outdoor heater - Designed for both indoor and outdoor use, whether inside a tent or outside as you explore 
  • Propane heater - No electrical hook-up required, just the propane cylinders for portability
  • Powerful - Can heat up to 450 square feet quickly

Cons

  • Buy multiple propane cylinders - Powerful unit will burn through one 1lb cylinder within 2 hours

Best Camping Tent Heaters Buying Guide

Why You Need a Tent Heater For Camping

Camping is intended for use all year round. What’s the point of the great outdoors if we can’t comfortably explore in winter?

The cold can be detrimental to your health if you don’t take the necessary precautions. A camping tent heater is an ideal investment to make - they are inexpensive, portable, and can be a life-saver in dangerous climates.

You might assume that you can sleep through the night in the cold, but the cold is more likely to keep you awake. A heater will provide levels of warmth to prevent you from catching a cold, or worse, hypothermia or frostbite. You can’t enjoy the outdoors if you had a sleepless night in the cold air.

Experienced campers like myself understand that there’s a lot of necessary items that need to be packed. Whether you plan on simply camping and enjoying the views from your campsite, or whether you’re backpacking to different locations - the priority is to find a compact heater that features a handle for portability.

A lot of campers may assume that heaters are a safety hazard in tents. However, indoor camping heaters are designed specifically to resist overheating. This is because they are made with heavy-duty, flame-retardant materials that are often cool to the touch.

They will also come equipped with an auto-shutoff system that turns off the unit if it has been knocked over. As this is a common occurrence in small tents, this is a great feature to prevent accidents.

Also - tent heaters aren’t just for winter! Anyone who has ever been camping will know how temperatures can drop so suddenly - even if it is the height of summer.

Of course, there are other factors that can contribute to a cold tent (such as a tent that resides in an open area), but a heater can be a useful piece of equipment to make your camping experience more comfortable.

It’s not just experienced campers who benefit from tent heaters. Families enjoy camping vacations, and the last thing you want is your child screaming all day because they didn’t sleep during the night as it was so cold. A heater can keep everyone warm and cozy!

My favorite thing about tent heaters is that you don’t even need to use them solely for tents. They are so portable and handy that you can use them anywhere - a cabin, your own house, a campervan, and even outdoors!

What to Consider Before Buying a Camping Tent Heater

There are several factors to consider when choosing a camping tent heater. This includes:

  • How many people are there in the tent?
  • Do you have access to an electricity source?
  • Do you have room for a heater and potential propane tanks?
  • Make sure you know about the necessary safety features
  • Runtime of the heater

If you are a solo camper or camping with one other person, you’re not likely to need a large heater. These can waste unnecessary energy or gas as well as space.

Electric heaters are a great heating option, but you need to know whether the campsite you plan to stay on has an Electric Hook-Up (EHU) or not. If you’re not planning on staying at a campsite, it might be worth looking into generators or solar panels to charge your heater.

Heaters are generally compact and have a small footprint, but be wary that some will be larger than others - especially if you’re carrying extra propane tanks and hoses. If you’re a backpacker, light packing is essential.

Due to the size of heaters, it is recommended to only bring them if you are bringing a car with you to a campsite or camping area. Whilst they don’t take up much space on the floor in a tent, you need to preserve your energy as you carry your backpack and other heavy items if you are backpacking.

Some campers who have tent heaters use them throughout the night, especially if they are light sleepers. If you’re a heavy sleeper like me, you’ll only need a heater that stays on for 3 hours at a time until you are completely asleep.

Light sleepers need to consider the runtime of the heater, as some inexpensive heaters will have a limited runtime that will shut off after an hour or two.

In short, if you’re only looking for the occasional blast of warm air, you don’t need a heater with a long runtime. If you’re a light sleeper who may want the heater on all night, you’ll need to do some research about the types of heaters that can be left on for extended periods.

Types of Tent Heaters

As there are several types of heaters available on the market, here is what I’ve found most beneficial (or disastrous) about each of them.

Electric Heaters

Electric heaters are generally the safest tent heater option as, unlike propane heaters, you won’t have to worry about CO2 emissions.

They also offer no open flame or anything that glows, so the chance of the heater or surrounding objects catching fire is pretty minimal. This is down to the flame-retardant material that covers the ceramic heating element - which is also designed to be cold to the touch.

Not only this, but electric heaters are all equipped with the necessary safety features - auto-shutoff and overheat protection. The heater will automatically shut off if it has been accidentally knocked over, or if it begins to overheat. As tents can get crowded and objects are likely to tip over, this is an essential function for a heater.

Electric heaters do not require ventilation, which is a bonus for those camping in snow and freezing temperatures. Some even offer a built-in filter that helps to purify the air so the tent won’t get stuffy.

The one disadvantage of electric heaters is the amount of energy they use. They require an electrical connection to either the campsite’s EHU, your own generator, or a solar panel system. If you are conscious about wasting energy and opt for a solar panel system, keep in mind that these heaters are true power eaters who can use up to 1500 Watts of energy.

That’s where electric heaters meet their downfall. They can be great for families who like to camp at campsites, or for those who already have their own electrical source system.

Propane Heaters

Propane heaters are best for primitive camping and backpackers who haven’t brought a car with them to carry their belongings.

Backpacking is all about packing the essentials and being as minimalistic as possible - but a heater can be an essential item to prevent them from cold-related health problems.

These heaters use propane gas to operate rather than electric heaters that require an electricity source. Propane containers are inexpensive, however, some campers may need to bulk buy these.

Depending on the heater, some can only handle 1lb cylinders at a time, which can be used up within 2 hours. Some heaters can handle 20lb cylinders as they can connect with a hose, but this will take up more backpack and storage space.

In terms of the heat they produce, propane heaters are more powerful than electric heaters. Some propane heaters will be more powerful than others, so you will need to look up the BTU figure.

The heat output is measured with BTUs (British Thermal Units), and it’s recommended to look for heaters that can produce between 1,000 and 5,000 BTUs. The higher the BTU figure, the more powerful it will be!

The major downside to propane heaters is the safety features. Whilst they may come equipped with auto-shutoff systems like electric heaters, they are still more likely to overheat and/or catch fire as they will either glow or produce an open flame.

Also, propane heaters require sufficient ventilation to allow harmful carbon monoxide to escape. If you choose to use a propane heater in a tent, make sure to keep all the windows or part of the door open to keep the area well-ventilated.

Due to the ventilation requirements, propane heaters are great for outdoor use. If you’re a fisher, hunter, or you prefer to spend your camping time outdoors, a propane heater will be more beneficial.

Ways To Stay Warm When Camping

Aside from tent heaters, there is a multitude of ways to stay warm whilst camping. As I said, it’s not just the winter months that get very cold at night.

Here are some of my personal favorite life hacks for staying warm when camping in a tent.

  • Hot water bottle - If a hot water bottle keeps you warm in your bed at home, it will keep you warm in your sleeping bag! Boil some water on the camp stove or over a fire, put it in your sleeping bag, and you’ll be warm within minutes. 
  • Appropriate clothing - This one seems obvious, but hear me out. Before it starts to get cold, dress yourself in layers and layers of thermals. Socks, gloves, the lot. This is because you will retain your body heat before the cold temperature hits you, which will keep you warmer for longer. Remember, it is much easier to cool down than it is to warm up. 
  • Warm drinks - If you go to bed cold, you will remain cold. Hot drinks such as tea, coffee, hot milk, or even just hot water will help to raise your body temperature. Your sleeping bag will then maintain your body temperature, which will keep you warmer for longer. 
  • Insulate your tent - It’s not just your body that needs to be wrapped up to retain heat! To insulate your tent, you can bring rugs and blankets to cover the floor. This will prevent the ground from producing cold temperatures into the tent. Of course, this isn’t easy for backpackers with limited storage space, but this is great for families and those at campsites. 
  • Use small tents - You might assume that larger tents are best for providing more space, but this isn’t good for cold nights. Smaller tents will be more cramped, sure, but it’ll be less space for heat to escape. 

FAQ's

How do you safely heat a tent?

The main ways to safely heat a tent are:

  • Dress appropriately - Layer up with thermal clothing before you get cold to retain all of your body heat. Putting on layers once you’re already cold will only trap the cold air into the clothing, and won’t warm you up efficiently. 
  • Insulation - Prepare your tent by layering blankets or a rug on the floor to protect the cold ground from entering the tent.
  • Hot water bottle/Hot drinks - Don’t enter your tent when you are cold. Instead, prepare a hot drink or hot water bottle to raise your body temperature before going inside. 
  • Tent heater - Invest in a good-quality heater that will quickly warm a tent. 
  • Small tent - Bundle up with your campmates in a small tent to maintain the heat.

What type of heater is safe for a tent?

Electric heaters are the safest heaters. These are equipped with safety features such as auto-shutoff systems and flame-retardant materials.

These will automatically shut off when they overheat or if they are tipped over accidentally. The ceramic heating element is covered by a cool-to-touch material.

How do you heat an outdoor tent?

Propane heaters are most ideal for outdoor tents as they require proper ventilation from the outdoors, and they can produce high heat very quickly.

Other methods include proper tent insulation, appropriate clothing, high-quality sleeping bags, a hot water bottle, hot drinks, and lots of blankets.

Can you put a portable heater in a tent?

Yes! Portable heaters are designed to heat small spaces like tents. However, you must make sure your chosen heater is appropriate for a tent, as some are only suitable for office and bedroom spaces.

As long as the tent is well-ventilated depending on the type of heater (especially propane heaters), portable heaters can be safe and very handy for cold tents.

Are tent heaters dangerous?

Tent heaters are equipped with safety features that prevent them from overheating, melting, and catching fire.

The safest heaters are electric heaters as they produce no open flame or glowing material that could cause an accident. They also come with automatic shut-off systems that turn the unit off when it overheats and if it is knocked over.

However, some heaters (such as propane heaters) can be a safety issue if the tent is not well-ventilated. This is because of the carbon monoxide build-up.

Are Big Buddy heaters safe in tents?

Yes. Mr. Heater is one of the most reputable and trusted brands in the portable heater world, and Big Buddy heaters are no exception.

Big Buddy heaters can be used both indoors and outside, and also come with an auto-shutoff system that turns the heater off if the unit is tipped over. The heat can be easily adjusted by a rotating knob that controls the thermostat.

As these are propane heaters, remember to ventilate the tent properly by keeping the windows and/or door open to allow carbon monoxide to escape.

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