The aim of this article is to inform readers about camping tent heaters and help them decide which one is the best for them.
|Table of Contents|
|What is a Tent Heater?||Why would you want a Tent Heater?|
|What to look for in a Tent Heater||Top 5 Best Camping Tent Heaters [REVIEW]|
|Mike’s Top Choice|
Getting in touch with nature can be a fun experience and a humbling one at the same time.
Stripped off of most of the luxuries of the modern world, you can truly feel yourself one with the earth. But nature in its most unforgiving, true state can be fatal to you. If it’s hot, it can be scorching. If it’s cold, it could be brutal and fatal, especially during winter.
This is why you need a tent heater.
A camping heater is exactly what its name says.
It provides needed warmth to your tent or camping site. It is a handy device that you can easily bring with you during a hike or a drive. If it’s not something small enough and light enough that you can carry and fit inside a tent, then it’s still probably a tent heater but it’s for bigger tents.
It has three types: gas, electric and chemical.
Gas tent heaters are the most commonly sold probably because if you go camping out, you don’t expect electricity to come by easily. This type uses a type of liquefied petroleum gas or LPG, to supply heat.
Propane and butane are the two most commonly used for gas tent heaters.
Propane is actually an odorless gas but smell is added to it as a safety measure. So if there’s leaking gas, you know immediately by smell. It is also environmentally friendly compared to other fuel sources as it is nontoxic and water-soluble.
Many propane-based heaters have built-in automatic safety turn off feature so the flame would be extinguished when they are tipped over or when there’s low level of oxygen.
It is a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to generate heat. A propane cylinder of 16.4 oz can last you seven hours.
Butane, another LPG, is also used as fuel for a camping heater. It is cheaper and has a lower vapor pressure than propane.
A gas tent heater, regardless if it uses propane or butane, is not the safest type there is. Technology today has made it safer, but as with all things that use flammable gas, it comes with risks.
For one thing, you need proper ventilation when you turn this on for optimal fuel combustion, which is needed to minimize the production of poisonous carbon monoxide.
You will burn up the oxygen in the room with this, so you have to leave a window open, which also means letting the cold air in. Opening a door or window to let the air in is probably not what you want to do when you really want to keep the air out, that’s exactly why you are using a tent heater in the first place, but that’s necessary if you don’t want to suffocate.
Electric tent heaters, as its name implies, use electricity.
If you have an electric outlet nearby, then this is an ideal one to bring.
Unlike propane heater, you don’t need to bring a propane tank, making your load lighter.
There are two types of electric heaters: convection and radiant. Convection provides heating by moving air over a heater surface, while radiant uses glowing quartz or any similar metal along with a reflector. The former is designed to heat up an entire room, while the latter is designed for a specific, smaller area.
Electric tent heaters are the safest kind of heaters.
They don’t use open flames and they have plastic coating so there’s minimal possibility of it catching fire or overheating. Most models also have a built-in safety mechanism that automatically shuts them down when they are overheated. But again as extra precaution, don’t leave it on through the night.
They are also generally lightweight so you can carry it easily around. They can warm the tent quickly and can reduce condensation on the inside of the tent or wherever you are using it. And unlike gas heaters, you can use electric ones in enclosed spaces, no need to open a window for proper ventilation. There’s no danger of carbon monoxide-poisoning with electrics.
The obvious disadvantage of it, though, is that you require electrical power supply for it.
If you are camping out in the woods, mountains or other outdoor locations, this is going to be a problem. But if you happen to camp in controlled campsites that have electricity, then you’re in for luck with this tent safe heater.
According to the US Department of Energy, an electric camp heater should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. If you need to use an extension cord, use the shortest possibly heavy-duty cord that has at least 14-gauge wire. And as always, check instructions and guidelines of the product to be sure.
If you are sound-sensitive, the electric type may not be for you as it is noisier than propane. The sound of the outdoors – crickets, waterfalls, dry leaves etc – is different from non-organic sounds like motor from a camping heater, so you probably won’t the latter.
The third type, the chemical camp heater, isn’t as popular as the two discussed above. It’s because it’s not as much as a tent heater than a sleeping bag heater. It can warm up the interior of your sleeping bag so you can remain warm and comfortable at night.
This heater uses nontoxic chemicals, like Sodium acetate, and lasts about 15 hours. It can be packaged as single use heat packs or reusable. Both are portable, environment-friendly and non-inflammable.
Chemical tent heaters are expensive, though, considering they can only warm specific areas. They may also cause irritation to people with sensitive skin.
Why would you want a Tent Heater?
When you’re outdoors, you are not protected from the elements.
You can wear a lot of clothes to ward off the cold, but ultimately, you would probably want to be more comfortable. A camping heater can make your outdoor adventure tolerable because you wouldn’t have to worry if you are going to perish from hypothermia.
You can light a bonfire outside your tent to warm up the night, but open fires aren’t always safe. It could start a forest fire and destroy nature and kill everything else. You can cover yourself in your sleeping bag but you would need to get up and after some time. But if you have a portable heater for camping, it can benefit not only you, but everyone within the area it warms.
Although tent heaters are generally marketed for enclosed spaces, it can also be used in small and specific open areas. You can bring it with you while fishing and just make your immediate surrounding a bit warmer.
You don’t even have to be an outdoor adventurer to need this. If you live somewhere cold or if it’s winter, this could be a necessity. You can keep this in your workspace in the garage or in a small room.
You may also find yourself in a situation where you just need a backup for everything. Even if you are driving an RV or inside a warm cottage, it’s still good to have something to work as a backup in case your engine dies or the electricity is cut.
Just like a flashlight, you need an emergency tool.
What to look for in a Tent Heater
If you need to buy a tent heater, check a few items that it should have.
As it is essential for your survival, a substandard product could be even more dangerous to you and to your environment. It may be the cheapest thing or the most expensive you can buy, but if it doesn’t have what you need or doesn’t do what it should, then it’s of no use to you.
Look for regulator-approved heaters that have necessary safety features and are at the right size for your intended area. The last one involves a bit of calculation on your part. Also, you might want to find out where the product is made. The country of origin may tell a lot about the quality of the product.
No matter where you live, there will be regulator bodies that will check whether an item is approved for selling in your country.
Different countries have different standards and rules.
There are also different regulatory bodies that can certify products, depending on their focus.
For example, a product is UL-certified, which means it has been tested and found to have met all safety standards set by Underwriters Laboratories. If a product is ETL-listed, it means it is found to be compliant to North American safety standards.
Is this really important? Not all products have certifications for standards, but it doesn’t mean that they are substandard. It might just mean that the manufacturer did not submit its product for testing from the certification boards.
However, a safety standard certification can put your mind at ease about the quality of a product. It’s an extra step but not an unreasonable one to look for. For products that are designed to cause fire like a tent heater, a certification is a welcome addition.
As we are already on the subject of safety, look for a camping heater that has safety features, like automatic shut-off and low oxygen sensor. It wouldn’t hurt to look for these features. If you have a gas tent heater, a sensor for oxygen depletion is necessary. You wouldn’t know by smell or look if that’s the case. And if there’s danger of low oxygen, you could be in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. A heater with low oxygen sensor would shut off the item immediately.
Computing the Right Size
You may have encountered the initials BTU when looking for tent heaters. BTU stands for British thermal unit, or a measure of the heat content of fuels or energy sources. It is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of liquid water by one degree Fahrenheit at the temperature that water has its greatest density (39 degrees Fahrenheit).
It all sounds so technical, but it can be better explained in determining the power of tent heaters. One way to compute it is to get the cubic feet of your tent multiplied by the temperature rise that you want and then multiplied by the insulation factor of a tent.
To get the cubic feet of your tent, multiply its height, width and length. For example: 4 x 5 x 6 = 120 cubic feet.
To get the temperature rise, subtract the outside temperature from the temperature that you want to maintain inside the tent. Example: 30 degrees forecast outside and you want to maintain 70 degrees inside the tent, so that’s 40 degrees temperature rise
The insulation factor of a tent, or R-value, depends on the material of the tent. You may have to refer to the manufacturer for this.
Top 5 Best Camping Tent Heaters
Mike’s Gear Reviews have listed five gas tent heaters for review. You might find one or two suitable for your needs.
From Texsport, a Texas-based company that specializes in camping and outdoor recreational equipment, the Portable Outdoor Propane Heater is one handy device that you can easily bring to camping, hunting and other outdoor activities. This handy device can adjust up to 2,890 BTUs, which means it is meant for small spaces only.
You will need to buy a separate 16.4 oz. or 14.1 oz. propane fuel cylinder for this as it’s not included. But even with the gas cylinder, it only weighs about 2 lbs, and hence it is perfect to carry around. A 1-pound fuel cylinder is estimated to last you four to six hours, depending on the setting.
It has its downsides, though, as it can only do so much for a tiny item. Here are the pros and cons of using the Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater:
|Portable||Can only heat small area|
|Silent||Can’t be used indoors unless there’s good ventilation|
|Has automatic shut down feature when tipped|
|Has adjustable burner|
These are the specifications of the product.
- Durable stainless steel burner
- Safety valve shuts off fuel if flame goes out
- Large paddle foot plastic base for greater stability
- Aluminum reflector with safety grid
- Uses standard size one pound disposable propane tanks
- Finish: Stainless steel
- Hardware Finish: Copper
- Primary Material: Steel
- Hardware Material: Copper
- Wattage: 847 Watts
For its price of just a little over $36 (after Amazon sale), the Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater is an affordable one. It’s not the biggest one in this list, but it just means it’s very convenient to bring around outdoors. It is also relatively silent. Some reviewers said they can hunt with this because it doesn’t give out loud noise often associated with heaters.
When its flame goes out, it would shut down automatically. It’s always better to have that feature.
According to its many reviews on Amazon, it is a simple camp heater that really does what it claims it will. It heats up a space, albeit a very small one. You cannot expect this to be warm everybody up.
Also, it’s not advisable to use this in enclosed spaces, like tents. From its name, it says it’s an outdoor heater, which means it can provide heat for you during outdoor activities like fishing. Other reviewers use this on golf carts.
There are also those who insist it can be used inside tents but just make sure that it has proper ventilation. So if you want to use it inside your camping tent, open up a door or window to let the air in. Otherwise, this could be deadly as it would emit carbon monoxide without air.
Think twice before using this on a hike above 7,000 feet because there is decreased oxygen at the altitude. And as with all other items on this list, do not leave this unattended for safety reasons. It has no tip-over safety feature. If it is tipped down accidentally, it would not shut off still, and this could pose a problem. It also burns through a bottle of propane fast so you can’t expect a cylinder to last for a long time.
The Portable Butane Gas-Powered Outdoor Camping Heater Adjustable Ceramic Burner is quite a mouthful but it’s also serviceable. It’s not even its full name on Amazon. It also has “Ideal for Tent or RV, 5,800 BTU.” From the Canadian gas product company Martin, this camp heater is easy to assemble and operate.
It boasts of being a heavy duty product that costs just a fraction of high-end units. A single butane canister can apparently last up to five hours of continuous burning, which would be a great mileage for a single traveler.
It is ETL-certified for both US and Canada.
Here are the pros and cons of the Martin camping heater:
|ETL-certified||Not lightweight at 2.3 kg.|
|Adjustable temperature||Butane doesn’t last long|
The specifications and the price, are as follows:
- This infrared ceramic burner with automatic piezo, which offers you all the benefits of a high-end unit without weighing you down.
- The lightweight construction includes a ceramic burner with automatic piezo ignition, safety shut off and a long operating time (up to five hours on an 8 oz. bottle when ran at minimum temperature).
- The temperature is fully adjustable and allows you to make your environment more comfortable if you plan to be there for long periods of time.
- This is perfect for camping, long stints of outdoor work and drying off firewood. Being ultra lightweight and portable you’ll find this to be a great addition to the back of your car. Keep it there and have peace of mind that you’ve got an emergency source of heat.
- It’s a must-have for preppers and survivalists who want to prepare for off-the-grid.
- Adjustable: Avoid the traditional scorch of portable heaters by adjusting the operating temperature. 5,800 BTU
- Long-Lasting: A single butane can last up to five hours burning continuously, making this a great choice for someone who wants to travel light.
- Easy and Safe Operation: Includes a safe carry handle to prevent accidental burns or dropping of the unit.
- Safety: Fuel shut-off if flame goes out.
- ETL Certified for US and Canada.
This Canadian-manufactured portable butane heater doesn’t have many reviews online yet. By those accounts, it is a good heater, but not perfect. The fact that it is ETL-certified is a great start. You would want something that is compliant to safety standards. It lacks an automatic shut off feature if it’s tipped, but with how it is designed, with wide bottom, it is not prone to tipping. It does automatic shut off when the flame goes out so you would be spared of inhaling fumes.
It has not so accurate claims, though, as users can attest. It claims that a single 8 oz. butane canister can last up to several hours, but it apparently wouldn’t last long even at the lowest setting. It is an outdoor heater, as it says in its name, but it also claims it is ideal for use in a tent or RV. It is truly best for outdoor use. It won’t heat an entire area but it’s sufficient to warm about 100 square feet, and that’s already a good distance for something this small and portable.
It shouldn’t be used for is to warm a closed space.
It could be ideal inside a tent if you have an open flap. And unless you have the windows open in an RV, it is best if you don’t use it inside the vehicle.
And because it uses butane, you need to keep the canister above freezing level. Make sure the canister is warmed up in sub zero temperatures to get it to work.
Overall, this Martin heater is a great buy at just $50. It heats surroundings very well, though don’t expect it to warm a large area. The adjustable temperature feature is also a plus.
From a trusted brand, the Coleman SportCat PerfecTemp Catalytic Heater is a pretty sturdy tent heater. Coleman, which famously makes camping gears for over a hundred of years, is a known quality brand, and it appears this isn’t an exception.
It has a detachable base, so it can stand steadily depending on the ground you put it on, and an integrated handle so it’s easy to carry around.
However, it appears Coleman doesn’t manufacture this anymore. It is still available on Amazon, with sellers listing its price to a whopping $300.
This portable heater for camping uses propane gas, and one 16.4-ounce can is said to run for up to 14 hours. This model doesn’t have an ignition button and so you need a barbeque lighter to start it.
Here are the pros and cons of using one:
|Silent||Odor present when used for the first time|
|Gives off strong heat||No blower or fan|
|Has detachable base||No ignition button|
Here are the specs, according to Amazon. The price listed here is just an estimate based on information gathered from buyers.
- 1,500 BTU unit runs up to 14 hours on one 16.4-oz. propane cylinder (sold separately)
- PerfecTemp Catalytic technology for sale, efficient flameless heat – at the game, in the tent, in the garage or around the home
- Easy-grip handle for convenient carrying
- Tie heater to most surfaces with built-in eyelets
- Detachable base stabilizes heater
- Price: About $50 (Amazon sellers list this over $300)
This camp heater has an advantage of having the Coleman name. When you hear the brand, you’d know that it can be trusted. There may be a few items that are an exception, but thankfully this is not one of them.
The SportCat heater model, one of the few “cat” models released by Coleman, doesn’t have a lot of features the others have. For one thing, this one doesn’t have an ignition button, although a newer version of this same model does have one. That’s why you need a lighter to start this. But even if the model that you have has an ignition button, users said it would still take a while to light it up.
It does not have an automatic shut off feature when there’s low oxygen or if it’s tipped. So you have to be more careful than usual instead. It will keep on running until it has depleted its gas.
By many accounts, this tent safe heater gives off strong heat. However, because it doesn’t have blower or fan, it can only warm small spaces.
It is really hot to the touch and will burn and melt even plastic if it touches it. So make sure it has open perimeter and keep it away from touching the tent or anything for that matter.
It is for indoor use, but keep in mind that any gas-powered heater needs good ventilation.
Its Catalytic heater models boast of a platinum catalyst technology that allows the products to burn propane to a lower temperature, claiming it is ideal for enclosed areas. So if you want to use it inside your tent, make sure that a flap is open and that there’s proper ventilation. Otherwise, you could risk carbon monoxide poisoning.
As for outside use, some users said it does work but it won’t be useful in large open spaces. An area of about 40 square feet is ideal, though.
It is silent as well, making it a perfect companion during hunting. There is, however, a noticeable oil odor when you use it for the first time. It will be gone after the first use, and so to play safe, test the product out in the open first to get rid of the smell. Some reviewers also said that it’s not for below freezing temperature because it just won’t be that useful.
The Coleman SportCat PerfecTemp Catalytic Heater is a good choice if you can still get your hands on it. It is pretty basic, though, so don’t expect a lot of features. But it is still a quality item.
One of the most popular tent heaters around, the Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy is a portable heater ideal for camping. It is a powerful heater in a small package that can heat up a room of up to 95 square feet.
Because it has an Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS), which automatically shuts down the product, it is considered and even marketed as a tent safe heater. It also has an anti-tip shut-off feature for additional safety measures.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of the Mr Heater Little Buddy:
|Automatically shuts off when tipped||Has extremely sensitive anti-tip sensor|
|Has low oxygen sensor||No thermostat|
|Works in high altitudes (maximum elevation: 7,000 feet)|
|Lightweight at 7 lbs.|
Here are the specs:
- Indoor-safe portable propane heater for rooms up to 95 square feet. This unit is not intended for golf cart use or for motorized vehicles.
- Continuous odor-free feat for up to 5 ½ ours; 45-degree heating angle
- Simple on/off buttons; uses 1-pound disposable propane cylinder (not included)
- Fold-down handle reduces storage space
- Four-position control with built-in Piezo igniter off and low/hi heat settings
- High temperature wire guard
- Swivel regulator for easy LP cylinder and hose installation
- Large durable porcelain coated heating surface directs radiant heat over wider area
- Low oxygen safety shut-off (ODS) and tip-over safety shut-off
- Ceramic burner tile mounted with shock absorbing insulation for durability and easy replacement
For such a small product, the Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy is a powerful tool even if it only has a fixed 3,800 BTU. One one-pound propane canister is said to last up to seven hours.
It is also odor-free and quiet, although there are a few reviewers who complained of smelling gas. This probably could be remedied by testing out the product on its first use outdoors so the smell could die out.
Although Amazon lists a 4,000 and 9,000 BTU/hr heat setting, the 3800 model doesn’t have any thermostat setting. It just has an on-off switch. Many users have complained of difficulty in switching this on, though. But once you got it working, it would be fine.
Because of its ODS feature, or oxygen depletion sensor, it is advertised to be indoor-safe.
The product automatically shuts off when there’s low oxygen. This is a great feature to have because it minimizes risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. However, as we have reiterated here, it’s still better to err on the side of caution and only use this indoor if you have good ventilation.
One other feature that this camping heater has is its automatic shut-off when it’s tipped over. As it uses open flame, it’s a great feature to have for safety. However, as users have attested, it can also be annoying because it has a very sensitive anti-tip sensor. Just minor bumps can turn this off, and with how difficult it is to turn on, it can be quite trying a task. It is also not advisable to use this inside golf carts or any moving vehicles.
Its maximum elevation is 7,000 feet, which some users can confirm is true. Apparently, the product still works well in high altitudes.
Keep in mind that this China-made heater cannot be sold in Canada and the state of Massachusetts. For Massachusetts, look for the F215120 model, which is specifically manufactured for it.
Called the best selling tent heater on Amazon, the Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy is an indoor-safe portable heater that uses propane gas. It is the best seller in both outdoor heaters and RV heaters and furnaces category on the website. And with 4.5-star rating from over 2,000 reviews, you can see why it is.
This heavy-duty product is a very efficient find. At 10.6 lbs, it’s far from being the lightest heater out there, or even just on this list. It is also not the smallest at 14.25x9x15 inches dimension. However, if you are warming a relatively large area, this is the one to bring. And depends on how you view it, it can still be considered a portable heater for camping.
Here are the pros and cons of the Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX:
|Has anti-tip shut-off feature||Has exposed flame|
|Has Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS)||Pilot sensor too sensitive|
|Heats up to 225 sq. ft. of area|
|For indoor and outdoor use|
These are the specs taken from Amazon and the official website:
- 4,000 or 9,000 BTU per hour
- For use with propane gas
- Heats up to 225 sq. ft.
- Single control start knob
- Hi-Low heat settings
- Swivel regulator for easy LP cylinder and host installation
- Fold down handle
- Accidental tip-over safety shut-off
- Includes Piezo igniter
- Runs off a 1 lb. cylinder
- Connects directly to a 20 lb. cylinder with optional hose and filter
- Large durable porcelain coated heating surface directs radiant heat over wider area
- Ceramic burner tile mounted with shock absorbing insulation for durability and easy replacement
- The distinctive RED Mr. Heater Buddy that has delivered comfort and safety for decades
It seems the F232000 has it all. It can be used indoors and outdoors, and can warm a relatively large area of up to 225 square feet. There’s a reason why it is the best selling heater out there. It must really work as effectively as it claims.
Like the first Mr. Heater item on this list, the F232000 is also made in China.
It also has the same features: anti-tip automatic shut-off and oxygen depletion sensor, which turns off the product when it determines the oxygen in the atmosphere is decreasing. The latter feature makes it suitable for indoor use. But to repeat the warning we have mentioned again and again here, still only use this indoors if there’s good ventilation.
It is boasted also as an outdoor camp heater, but according to its reviewers, it’s not so great to use it outdoors. It’s because even the gentlest wind can extinguish the heating and pilot light. Speaking of pilot sensor, users complained of it being too sensitive as well. It will shut off easily.
And just like the other Mr. Heater item above, this is also restricted in Massachusetts and Canada. Its maximum elevation is 7,000 feet as well. It also has open flame, which is potentially dangerous. This is probably why the safety switch is sensitive: to extinguish the fire quickly.
Mike’s Top Choice
Among the five gas-powered tent heaters listed above, Mike’s Gear Reviews has determined that the Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy is the best. With thousands of reviews and high ratings on Amazon, it’s no wonder it is the most purchased camping heater on Amazon, considering it isn’t even sold in one state and in Canada.
That’s saying something.
The safety features are mostly what makes it a great product. With using burning tools such as heaters, you would want to buy the safest one that you can find. This is it. It’s not the most portable heater available, but it’s not also carrying a bulky generator; you can still hike and camp while carrying this with no problem. And if you are warming a larger space than just a 40 sq. ft. tent, you can count on this.
But if budget is a concern, the Portable Butane Gas-Powered Outdoor Camping Heater by Martin is a good choice as well. It is safe, has ETL certification, and can warm up to 100 sq. ft. That’s not bad at all.