If you are interested in extending your camping time into the cooler months, investing in a portable tent space heater can provide the warmth you need. Portable heaters using electricity, gas/propane/butane, and wood burning options are several ways you can enhance your cooler weather camping experiences. But will a space heater keep a tent warm enough to enjoy a winter camping experience?
Tent Space Heater Safety
With any type of heater, safety precautions should be in place. Regardless of the type of heater chosen, pay attention to the following types of safety situations you want to avoid and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- The oxygen level becomes too low.
- The heater is placed too close to the tent material.
- The heater is placed too close to other flammable items.
- The unit is not equipped with an automatic shut-off switch.
- The portable space heater is not equipped with a tip-over switch.
- The heater does not have a feature to detect overheating.
- The heater is not secured allowing it to be easily tipped over.
- You have used an extension cord that may be damaged.
Safety-wise, tents are usually designed with ventilation openings that may include windows along with doors. The tent materials may also offer a level of natural ventilation.
When choosing a space heater for your tent select one equipped with automatic shut-off in the event the pilot light stops functioning, the heater tips over, or if the oxygen level begins to decline.
Electric Portable Heater for Camping
An electrical space heater is an easy way to warm the tent, but to use it you will need to have access to a campground offering electrical service. These types of heaters are available with variable wattage range such as the Vivreal Mini Space Heater that has a low of 750 watts to a high of 1500 watts. There is also a cool setting and thermostat.
Portable Gas Heater Camping Features
When gas supplied heaters are used, there are several brands to choose from such as Mr. Heater Portable Radiant Heater, Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater, Mr. Heater Buddy, Camco Olympian Wave-6, and Martin Portable Butane Camping Heater. With any of these fuel burning heaters, you will want one that burns fuel cleanly.
Depending on the brand and model, a propane heater can provide 3,200 to 6,000 BTUs and 4000 to 9000 BTUs that can easily warm interior spaces up to 225 to 230 square feet. Also fitted with auto-shut-off, these heaters can detect oxygen levels that are too low and if the pilot light goes out.
For single or two-person tents, smaller space heaters are available that can heat up the space inside a 95 to 100 square foot tent producing an estimated 2,890 BTUs. These heaters may also feature an automatic low oxygen sensor, tip-over switch and auto shut-off. Heaters like the Camco Olympian Wave-6 has the added feature of automatically shutting off if there is any leakage of propane.
For a lightweight heater, the Texsport Sportmate Portable Propane Heater weighs a total of three pounds. The aluminum and stainless steel heater is durable, has auto shut-off, and when set on low, can provide heat for up to eight hours.
Some brands offer the option of using small propane fuel cylinders that last about four hours or attaching a filter kit and extension hose to use a large propane tank.
Recap of the Top Heaters for Warming a Tent
Never miss a day of camping just because the temperature has dropped and it’s cold. Consider one of these top portable heaters for your next outing in cooler weather.
- Mr. Heater Buddy
- VIVREAL Mini Portable Space Heater
- Mr. Heater Portable Radiant Heater
- Mr. Heater Little Buddy
- Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater
- Camco Olympian Wave-6
- Texsport Sportsmate Portable Propane Heater
- Mr. Heater MH12B Hunting Buddy Heater
- TRM Portable Military Camping Stove (Wood)
- Martin Portable Butane Camping Heater
- Broan-NuTone Big Heat Heater
- Stanley ST-SSSA-120 Heavy Duty Electric Heater
Choosing a Space Heater for a Tent
Basics for Tent Heating
There are several things to consider when choosing the right space heater for camping beginning with selecting the right size. The size heater you need can be determined by the size of your tent.
The smaller the tent, the less heat you will need. Meaning, do not purchase a large space heater that produces a lot of heat if you are using a small sized tent. Instead of keeping you warm, a large heater may produce too much heat making it uncomfortable plus you will be wasting energy.
A larger space heater that produces more BTUs is recommended when using a large tent, a tent designed with multi-rooms, and tents (two or more) that have been connected creating a mini-hub.
You will need to determine how many BTUs (British Thermal Unit) are required to sufficiently heat your tent. Do this by figuring out the tent’s cubic feet. The equation is length times width times height. You can also subtract the outside temperature from the temperature you prefer inside your then. The difference between the two is the temperature the heater will need to reach to provide the desired level of heat you want.
Gas Heater Basics
Once you select a gas heater, make sure it has adequate stability to provide a safe interior. Although you may choose an ideal spot to set up your tent, the ground may still be uneven and why it is important a gas heater has stable footing and not be off-center or wobbly. Even with a stable tent, choose one that is equipped with a tilt safety shut-off system.
Catalytic Propane Gas Heater Basics
New models of propane gas heaters use catalytic combustion, which is when oxygen and the propane fuel combine to create a reaction resulting in warmth via infrared rays. Older models did not work this way, which could result in explosions and flames. Even with the new models, do not place the heater near any flammable objects such as pillows, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and any other material that could catch fire.
Determining Propane Usage
Whether you are camping for one day or one week you need to know how much propane will be needed. For longer camping excursions, bring a large size propane tank full of fuel. Even if you do not use it all, you will not come up short on cold nights when extra warmth is needed.
For short day or weekend camping trips, consult the manufacturer’s guide that should tell you how much fuel the heater uses per hour. Calculate the number of hours you plan to use each day, compare the figure to the heater’s capability, and plan accordingly on if extra fuel will be needed. There is never any harm in bringing along extra fuel just in case your time in the wild extends beyond your calculations.
Camping with an Electric Space Heater
Obviously, if you plan to camp with an electric heater, a power source is required. If you are setting up camp in a campground that offers electric hook-ups (many are for RVs), you can plug in and stay warm. If there are no available hook-ups, bring along a small generator to power the heater. A benefit of bringing a generator is the possibility of a power outage. If you are relying on an electrical outlet at a campsite, you will not have the power to keep your heater operational. With a generator, power outages pose no problem for your heater.
Portable Wood Burning Stoves
There are two main benefits for using a wood burning stove to warm a tent. You do not need an electrical outlet, and you do not have to worry about running out of fuel to run a generator. As long as you have access to an adequate supply of wood for the duration of your camping trip, you will have plenty of interior warmth.
To use a portable wood burning stove for heat requires a tent with maximum ventilation (flue). If you are concerned about carbon monoxide buildup, detectors are available that will detect the levels. The tent must also be made with flame-retardant material to resist sparks emitted from the stove.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for setting up the portable stove and follow all recommended safety precautions. Like all other portable tent heaters, it is best not to run it while sleeping. Even with safety features in place, accidents can still happen.
Final Tips and Thoughts
Always follow the operating and safety procedures provided by the manufacturer. By choosing the type of portable tent heater that works best for your camping trips and following a few simple steps can ensure a safe and warm environment.