As any camper will tell you, being properly equipped is essential to a successful trip. Without the right kit, you run the risk of being severely uncomfortable, and could even compromise your safety in colder environments, especially when the temperature drops at night. One way to keep a tent warm at night is by using a heater. But how do you operate a heater without a power supply nearby? One option is to use a battery powered heater for your next camping trip. These heaters can be deployed anywhere and can offer a boost in warmth when the chill starts to set in.
As with any device, it’s important to ensure you get the maximum efficiency from your equipment. So how do you use a battery powered heater for camping?
What Is A Portable Battery?
A portable battery is essentially a power bank which allows you to charge your electronic devices without the need for connecting to a mains power supply. You may have seen the small, handheld versions designed to charge mobile phones and tablets.
In order to power a small heater, you will need a larger power bank. These units allow you to charge several devices simultaneously, and can be recharged using solar panels. Whilst they are larger than a handheld power bank, they remain portable and as such are a good choice for campers who need to keep their electrical devices charged.
Battery Operated Heaters – How To Get The Best Bang For Your Buck
It’s important to understand that the kind of heaters that can be powered from portable batteries such as these are small units with a very modest heating capacity. They are likely to be between 150 and 300 watts. This is around 5 to 10 times smaller than your average space heater found in the home.
Unlike gas fuelled heaters, which can offer a steady and powerful stream of warmth for several hours, these kinds of heaters connect via a 12v connection to the portable battery. Therefore, it’s vital that the battery and heater are not only the largest capacity available, but that the tent itself is insulated to retain as much heat as possible.
Making sure that the tent door is fully zipped up, leaving no gaps for heat to escape, is key.
Use of a ground mat (or even blankets or large towels) can insulate the tent against the cold ground.
Another great way to insulate a tent is by draping a thermal blanket over the top of the tent itself. As you’d expect, the larger the tent, the more difficult it will be to warm it effectively using such a small capacity heater.
It’s fair to say that powering a heater via a portable battery is far from the most efficient way to heat a tent, but if it’s a choice between that and being cold, it’s a no brainer. Let’s weigh up the pro’s and con’s of this kind of set up:
Pros of Using A Battery Powered Heater For Camping
- Portable batteries are light, reasonably small and and easily transportable
- Portable batteries are rechargeable, so can be used many times over.
- Portable batteries can be used to power other electrical items such as phones and tablets.
- Many portable batteries can be recharged via solar panels, eliminating the need for returning to the grid between uses
Cons of Using A Battery Powered Heater For Camping
- Portable batteries are only able to run small heaters with a severely limited heating capacity.
- Portable batteries offer a shorter life on a single charge than a heater powered by a propane tank.
- Low capacity heaters take much longer to heat even a small space than a traditional propane heater would, and rely on a small, well insulated tent to be at all effective.
What Size Battery Should I Use For My Portable Heater?
When choosing a battery for your portable heater, the criteria is simple. You need a battery which will power your small heater for the longest time possible. A battery size of around 400Wh would serve as a minimum starting requirement for running a portable heater, but ideally you should be looking for somewhere closer to 1000Wh for optimum running time.
Portable Battery For Camping: Top Picks
A portable battery is a versatile piece of equipment to take camping with you. Here are some solid options which will power your battery powered heater for at least a few hours:
- 500Wh Capacity
- Ability to charge 11 devices simultaneously
- Rechargeable via solar power, wall outlet, car or generator
- Equipped with auto-level 3 C high rated lithium-ion battery cell for added reliability
- 716Wh Capacity
- 3 hours recharge time to 80% battery
- Rechargeable via solar power, wall outlet, car or generator
- Less than 10kgs in weight and inbuilt carry handle for portability
- 720Wh Capacity
- Fast recharge time at 1.6 hours to full charge
- Add an extra battery to double the capacity from 720Wh to 1440Wh
- Lightweight unit at only 7.6kgs
- 560Wh Capacity
- Large, easy to read display
- Lightest option at 5.6kgs
- 1 year manufacturers warranty
Battery Powered Heaters For Camping – Which Is Best To Use?
As we’ve established, any battery powered portable heater is going to be of a fairly low capacity. You can’t expect to heat up a large tent to a sweltering temperature with ease, as if you were using a gas powered heater. Therefore your choices are somewhat limited, however we’ve rounded up some potential options ahead of your next trip:
Portable Heaters: Top Picks
- Built in safety mechanism
- Compact design
- Energy efficient at 200w capacity
- 2 x overheat shut off protection
- Low wattage heat settings
- Cool touch plastic housing
- 360 degree tip-over protection
- Heating and cooling mode
- 12v connection
- Can be used in a vehicle to clear windscreen
- Automatic power-off protection
How Can I Run A Heater Without A Portable Battery?
One of the major downsides to running a heater via a portable battery is just how inefficient it is on pretty much every level. The need to have such a large and expensive battery in order to power such a low capacity heater is hardly optimal. You’ll be pleased to know that there are more effective ways to heat a tent while camping:
Use a Propane Space Heater
Propane space heaters have long been the preferred choice of the outdoor enthusiast due to their high heat output, long burn times and ability to cheaply and easily replace the fuel tank once depleted.
In the past, it was more difficult to use such heaters within a confined space due to the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning, however most heaters these days are fitted with a safety cut off which is triggered when the unit detects a decrease in oxygen in the space.
In any case, it’s not the only option for keeping your tent nice and toasty.
Use an Electric Heater
If you’re on a dedicated campsite and have a power supply available, the easiest option would simply be to use an electric heater, attached to an extension cable. If you’ve got a generator, you can also use this to power your electric heater without the need for a mains power supply.
Pros of Using a Propane Space Heater
- No batteries or mains power required
- Small, lightweight and portable
- Can be used anywhere providing you have sufficient gas
- High heat output
- Warms the space quickly
Cons of Using a Propane Space Heater
- Can be more dangerous due to risk of carbon monoxide release
- Can cause oxygen depletion. Check for an oxygen depletion sensor prior to purchase.
Pros of Using a Electric Space Heater
- No requirement to store or burn gas
- No need to repeatedly purchase gas
- No carbon monoxide production
- Does not consume oxygen
- No gas means no gas leaks, therefore reduced fire hazard
Cons of Using a Electric Space Heater
- Electrical outlet required, which limits usage mainly to campsites
- Potential fire hazard if tipped or covered with a blanket or other material
- High energy consumption – possibly too great for the campsite’s outlet
- Heavy duty extension cord required for safe use
How Long Will A Battery Powered Heater Last?
Roughly speaking, a 1500Wh portable battery will be able to power a small 250w space heater for around 5-6 hours. The formula to calculate the length of time a heater is able to run is as follows:
Heater run time (hours) = Battery Capacity (Wh) / Heater rating (W)
What Can Be Powered Using A Portable Battery, Other Than A Heater?
Depending on their capacity, portable batteries are useful for powering all manner of electrical items, such as:
- Mini Fridges
- AC Units
- Electric Bikes
How Can I Make A Tent Warmer Without A Portable Heater?
Staying warm in your tent relies on a number of factors. The first step is to pitch your tent out of the wind, perhaps next to a sheltering hill or between some trees.
Next, insulate the tent properly, using a thick ground sheet or tarp, and a thermal blanket to cover the top of the tent.
Purchasing a high quality sleeping bag for winter camping is another great way to stay warm in your tent. Check the R-value which gives you a good idea of how warm the sleeping bag is likely to be.
A sleeping pad will separate you further from the cold ground and keep you warm. Additionally, a hot water bottle will add further warmth as you sleep, providing you have the facility to boil water while camping.
Lastly, wearing several layers will add extra insulation from the cold, ensuring a comfortable nights’ sleep in all but the coldest temperatures.
Hopefully now you should be equipped to enter the often confusing world of camping heaters. Whilst using a space heater in conjunction with a portable battery isn’t the best choice, at least now you have all the options laid out to make an informed decision, in order to get a warm and comfortable nights’ sleep whilst camping.
Looking for more essential tips ahead of your next trip? Our how to guides have got you covered.