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Winter camping has its unique charm but staying warm is a must. If you’re an avid camper or a newbie looking to extend your camping season, a high-quality tent heater can be a lifesaver. Not just any heater, mind you—we’ve rigorously researched to bring you the safest, most efficient electric tent heaters to ensure your camping trips are comfortable and secure. Let’s jump right in.
Safety First: What We Considered
We’ve excluded fuel-burning and catalytic heaters from our list because they can be dangerous in confined spaces like tents. Although some people use them, they require constant supervision, which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to relax. With safety as our foremost concern, let’s dig into what else you need to know before making your purchase:
- Essential Safety Features
- Price Range
- Installation Guide
- Gas vs. Electric Tent Heaters
- Choosing the Right Size
Best electric tent heaters for camping
Mr. Heater Buddy Tent Heater
A lot of customers consider this as the ‘gold standard of tent heaters, per se. It is very simple to operate and has a decent heat output of 9000 BTU – suitable for standard tent sizes. You can adjust the temperature to your liking and to what is required by the space.
This one is a good camping companion because of its swivel regulator that allows you to connect it to a disposable propane bottle or a bulk gas tank using an adapter. It works for both short-term and long-term use and also for indoors and outdoors. It is also safe to use inside the tent.
- Can emit heat for areas up to 225 square ft
- 4,000 – to 9,000-BTU output
- Ecological and efficient.
- Approved for both indoor and outdoor use.
- Auto shut-off mechanism with a light indicator if the unit is tipped over
- The oxygen depletion sensor automatically shuts off the heater if oxygen levels drop
- Can use portable 1lb propane bottles or large bulk tanks with an adapter and regulator
- Provides maximum heat with a minimal carbon footprint
- Single control start knob with dual heat settings
- May lose functionality at altitudes above 7000 ft
- Use of third-party accessories may damage the unit and void the warranty
- Slightly high fuel consumption
- The maximum run time at the maximum BTU setting using portable propane bottles is only three hours.
- The adapter and regulator for bulk tanks are not included in the package
Mr. Heater MH12B Hunting Buddy Portable Space Heater
Special features: 6,000 – 12,000 BTU, 1LB disposable cylinder tank, electric ignition, oxygen depletion sensor (ODS), swivel regulator, item weight 9 pounds,
Now we proceed to gas tent heaters. Let’s start off with a popular pick for propane heaters in the US. The Mr. Heater MH12B is the go-to heater in secluded areas, far from urban life. The rugged look matches its intended purpose for the rough outdoors and environmental conditions.
It is handy and lightweight with a carry handle as well, which makes it perfect for camping.
Its capacity is only intended for small spaces if you want to experience the extent of its power so it will really do well with small tents and areas not more than 300 square feet. You would also be glad to know about the great safety features of this unit.
One of which is the automatic shut-off system that activates upon detection of low oxygen levels in the environment. It also possesses the conventional tip-over safety feature for possible knock-over situations.
The power output ranges from 6000 to 12000 BTU. It can be paired with a cylinder tank or can be directly connected to a gas source using a swivel regulator. The manufacturer provides a 1-year warranty. You should know that this unit does not function very well in areas of high altitudes.
- Suitable for small camping
- Automatic shutoff system at low oxygen levels
- Tip-over safety feature
- Push-to-start button
- It cannot be used in areas of high altitude
- Ideal only for indoor use
Mr. Heater Little Buddy Tent Heater
For small indoor and tent spaces of up to 95 square feet, you can rely on Mr. Heater to keep you warm. If you are out camping, this compact device won’t take up a lot of space, and it is also safe to use with the automatic shut-off features when there is a lack of oxygen and a tip-over safety switch.
The heat power generated is 3800 BTU. It has the capacity to operate nonstop for 5 hours with 1 bottle of propane. This is a real space saver that is designed for indoor use only because of its low heat generation power.
- Automatic low oxygen shut-off system
- Accidental tip-over switch and auto shut-off
- Swivel regulator for easy LP cylinder and hose installation
- Not designed for operation at high altitudes
- It cannot be connected to larger propane tanks
- Maximum operating elevation of 7000 Ft.
Honeywell 360 Degree Electric Tent Heater
This is much more compact than the previous one on the list. The Honeywell 360 is intended to be placed in the middle of the tent for all-around heat emission.
The Honeywell 360 is able to give off heat from all directions, even with the absence of an oscillation mechanism. The controls are user-friendly and have an automatic switch-off feature to prevent overheating and excessive energy consumption.
There is also a carry handle for easy transport and handling with a wide range of areas where its heat can reach. The drawback is that there are only high and low heat options and no thermostat to adjust it to a specific temperature.
The lifespan is not that long. It is only good for occasional but not regular use. It could work well for large tents with a number of people and still be able to accommodate them with enough heat. The estimated power is around 6000 BTU for its 1500 wattage.
In terms of safety, here are the preventive measures of this unit:
- 2 mechanisms against overheating
- 360-degree tip-over switch
- Heat-proof external casing, safe to touch
- Thermal insulation for wirings
- 360-degree heat without the need for oscillation
- Simple, user-friendly controls
- A carry handle for portability
- Fewer heat settings
- Long lifespan
AmazonBasics 500W personal heater for small tents
For occasional winter camping trips, it wouldn’t be wise to invest a lot of money on a tent heater that you won’t be able to use during the other three seasons. Thanks to AmazonBasics, which is popular for its budget-friendly products, this 500-watt heater will not take a huge chunk out of your finances.
It has a simple design and engineering but is still able to do the job efficiently.
- Uses ceramic coils for quick heating
- Compact with many color variants
- Not powerful
- Lacks other features
It won’t take much time to heat up because of the integration of ceramic coils. It also does not produce a lot of noise and emits a decent amount of warmth for small tents. Apart from that, the aesthetics are also an added bonus with the number of color variants that you can choose from.
It can be used for small areas like offices or simply on top of your desk, not just for tents. However, you won’t be able to reap the benefits of oscillation, customizable dial, or LCD display. In short, it does not have additional features. It only does the heating. Nothing more. Nothing less.
It does possess tip-over protection but that’s about it. It has a 500-watt heating power. It’s not much, but it will suffice for small spaces. The only highlight of this unit is how affordable and reliable it is for its price.
Common tent heaters for camping
- Gas heaters
Gas-fueled tent heaters are not the safest option for camping. The fuel is already a safety hazard in itself and needs extremely careful handling and constant attention and monitoring. Because it involves a form of combustion, it produces carbon monoxide, which is a very poisonous type of gas.
It can be lethal to the body if inhaled. Gas heaters should only be used in areas with proper ventilation and during times when there are people available to look after it. However, to ease your worries, most gas heaters released in the market today already come with safety features like an automatic switch-off system to prevent the likelihood of dangerous accidents.
- Electric heaters
This kind of heater remains cool during operation. Its only enemy is water. It is common knowledge that electricity and water should never collide, and therefore, electric heaters should not be used near water. Most models already have a built-in automatic switch-off timer for safety purposes.
- Halogen heaters
Secondary to gas heaters, halogen heaters are also fired hazards. The safest spot to place it is at the center of the tent and hung from the top.
- Wood-burning stoves
When you use this kind of heater, your primary concern should be ventilation. Similar to gas heaters, this one also emits carbon monoxide that needs to be released into the atmosphere to avoid being inhaled by people.
6 essential safety features for tent heaters
- Tip-over switch. This automatically turns off the electric heater if it gets knocked over. Since these devices are usually placed on the ground, it is vulnerable to people’s movements and motion and could easily be tipped over.
- Timer switch. Most heaters are designed for overnight use, but due to safety reasons, some people do not recommend having it on for the entire night. With this safety feature, you can set a timer for a certain number of hours that you want the heater to run, and when the time is up, it automatically switches itself off.
- Overheat protection. There are heaters that automatically turn off when the interior mechanisms are starting to heat up more than usual. Internal temperature detectors track the temperature of the interior and activate the shut-off feature at certain temperature levels to prevent overheating. Both electric and propane gas heaters come with this feature.
- Single plug-in. We strongly discourage plugging in another appliance along with the heater. To ensure your safety, just plug in one appliance at a time. Tent heaters are not advised to be plugged in with another appliance simultaneously.
- User-friendly. The instructions provided by the manufacturer should not be disregarded as these are specific for the unit. Strictly follow the instructions given by the manufacturer on the product manual to safely operate the heater.
- Follow the instructions. Do not use the heater for other purposes aside from what it is originally intended for. If it specifies that the heater is only for outdoor use, then use it only outdoors. Do not attempt to tamper with any of its internal mechanisms if you are not an expert.
Pros and cons of tent heaters
It’s always good to know the good and bad sides and to weigh your options carefully.
Heat production is directly proportional to fuel consumption. A strong heat production sounds desirable, but the cost of fuel is also something to consider. For portable tent heaters, there are many fuel types available, like propane, kerosene, gas, and halogen.
Electric heaters, ceramic heaters, and wood and chemical heaters are also included in the variants that you can choose from.
The length of your transport should be considered when it comes to choosing the ideal weight of the tent heater that you are planning to purchase. If you usually camp in the wilderness, you will need to carry the device for quite a while as you hike to your destination.
However, if you are not usually fond of camping in secluded areas and it would only take a short amount of time to carry the device, you won’t have to worry about the weight.
You have to consider the available space that you have so you can estimate the appropriate size of the heater that can fit and the heat output that is required to be able to radiate heat throughout the entire space.
Both propane and electric heaters have various sizes that range from tiny enough to fit in the palm of a hand to large ones that take up a lot of room and space but are portable nonetheless.
Propane gas burns clean and completely and poses no risk of carbon monoxide emission, provided that it is well-functioning and that the area is well-ventilated, meaning that there must be a smooth flow of oxygen for complete combustion. We already mentioned that we discourage leaving the heater on while you sleep.
Tent heaters are generally used to warm the tent before sleeping and upon waking up. It should not be left running in the time between that. It would also be safer if you had a carbon dioxide level monitor inside your tent for added safety.
Wood burning typically emits carbon monoxide when it undergoes incomplete combustion, so if you use this kind of heater, you should ensure that you have proper ventilation to let the emitted smoke into the atmosphere.
You should not have wood-burning heaters in closed areas. In electric heaters, ventilation won’t be a concern.
Criteria of considerations for tent heaters for camping
If you are planning to opt for a propane model, you will have to calculate the BTU that you need to warm up the space you plan to use the heater in. The capacity of the heater will go hand in hand with the size of the area that needs to receive heat.
How do you figure out the BTU that is needed for a certain area? You can use this formula: tent length x width x height. That will give you the dimensional measurement of your tent in cubic feet.
Multiply this value by the temperature increase and 0.133 to determine the optimal BTU rating for your tent. Use a calculator for accurate answers.
Temperature settings and heater output
There are units that heat up small spaces in just a short amount of time. These are not heavy duty and, therefore, cannot be used for large spaces and areas, nor does the temperature reach high levels. Some heaters have customizable temperature dials for users to set it to their own liking and comfort.
Other heaters serve dual purposes, such as a cooling fan for warm temperatures as well which makes them useful during other seasons apart from winter.
Larger units are definitely heavier and take a lot of effort to carry. Gas-type heaters are typically bulkier units compared to electric ones. Not to worry, though, because they commonly come with handles to make them easy to carry. Other heaters can also be lighter depending on the materials from which they were constructed.
You can choose from electric, wood stove, or gas-type heaters. We personally think that the best type for camping use is really the gas heater because of its practicality. It is more portable, and the fuel source is accessible.
You can easily buy gas bottles in stores. It’s not exactly easy to find an electrical source to power an electric heater in the midst of the great outdoors.
In relation to the previously mentioned factor, the available resources you have at the camping site should also be considered when choosing your tent heater. If you have an electric power source, electric heaters could work for you.
Otherwise, you should opt for gas-type heaters. Another thing is the environmental condition of the area. If it gets really cold at night, you will really need a strong heater to keep your tent warm enough for an entire night.
Electric-type heaters usually have radiators and fans as part of their internal mechanism. You should expect some noise while they operate. There are people who are not that bothered by this, but if you are annoyed by it, then you should go for a unit with a noise level that you can tolerate or one that does not produce noise at all.
In spite of their convenience for outdoor use, gas heaters are also unsafe, especially when left unattended. If you are going to use this type of heater, then it should at least come with safety features that automatically turn itself off when hazards are detected.
Bottom line, you should not leave heaters running overnight without anyone monitoring them, regardless of it has safety features or not. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Big heaters are very inconvenient, especially during transport. Go for the one that is not a hassle to carry around.
Heating your tent on a camping trip: The basics
Below are some tips and general instructions to follow when it comes to heating your tent on a camping trip.
- Proper insulation is a must.
It won’t matter if you heat up your tent, but the warmth won’t remain inside for a considerable amount of time. You should insulate the inside of your tent to maximize the heat production and allow it to remain there for a long while. The next part is some ideas on how to insulate your tent.
- Use a rug, carpet, or any thick fabric on the floor.
Putting a thick fabric on the floor helps in preventing the heat from seeping through the floor, and the fabric will also help keep the warmth in.
- If possible, add more coverage.
It would be even better if you could put in some more coverage to the walls and roof of the tent to lessen the amount of heat that comes out through the small openings of the tent.
- Use a comfortable sleeping pad.
Good sleeping pads not only provide you comfortable sleeping space but also contribute to keeping the heat inside the tent.
- Pick a good spot to place your tent.
If you are camping at a usually windy area, make sure that you situate your tent at a position where the doors would be perpendicular to the wind direction. You do not want the wind to blow into your tent and expel the heat you are trying to keep in. As much as possible, keep your tent in a sunny spot where there is an abundance of natural light and warmth during the daytime.
- Use a sleeping bag liner.
Aside from the actual sleeping bag, a sleeping bag liner can also add insulation to your sleeping bag and to the tent itself. It can even raise the temperature by up to 25%, depending on the liner material.
Other ways can be:
- Trapping your tent
- Insulated sleeping pads
- Adding more blankets
- And, of course, safe tent heaters
Do all those things, and you are sure to have the coziest experience during your camping trip. Aside from more insulation, it is inevitable that the warmth will really decrease over time. And this is where tent heaters serve their purpose of providing artificial heat.
Winter camping survival 101
- Make sure to have an efficient and reliable source of heat.
- Bring a large amount of water on the trip.
- Pitch your tent on a smooth surface that is away from potential danger.
- Make sure your campsite is on the spot with a recognizable landmark.
Alternatives to tent heaters
There are many more methods and devices you can use to warm up your tent. Here are a few more of them:
- Candle lantern – This can add 5-10 degrees of warmth to your tent.
- Wood stove – Paired with a canvas tent, these two are a lovely combination for winter camping. Wood stoves emit a lot of heat and can even be used as a camping kitchen.
- Chemical heat packs – These little warmers are enough to provide your body with warmth, but it won’t be able to warm the entire tent. These are typically for personal use only.
How do you keep yourself warm during a winter camping trip? A great combination of sleeping bag, a winter tent, and a tent heater will do the trick.
Tent heaters are not a very common appliance considering the fact that they are only in demand during a certain season except for those that serve dual purposes. It is only normal that consumers would have some questions, and in the last part of this post, we will answer some of the common ones.
Is an electric heater safe to use inside a tent?
If misused, electric heaters are definitely a hazard. That’s why they come with safety features that should never be disregarded. Electric heaters are great for small spaces only.
Electric heaters are not really specifically designed for tents, but as long as you use them with care and caution, they should be safe to use.
Are electrical heaters safer than gas variants?
Both emit heat via different power sources. There is no safer option. It all really just boils down to how you handle it with care, and the safety features integrated into the unit also help make the product safe to use.
However, it is important to note that electric heaters have somewhat of an advantage due to the fact that they do not emit carbon monoxide during operation, unlike gas heaters that use combustion and therefore release carbon monoxide into the air, which can be toxic when inhaled.
There you have it—the ultimate guide for selecting a safe and efficient tent heater for your winter camping adventures. Our recommendations are all-electric, putting safety at the forefront without compromising on performance. Remember, when it comes to winter camping, being prepared makes all the difference. Stay warm!