Singles, couples and families alike can enjoy the pleasures of camping all year round. That said, in many states, outdoor adventurers are starting to feel the retreat of summer and the onset of fall all the more keenly. As great as it is to spend time in the natural world, it’s also important to protect yourself and your loved ones from the elements. And that means finding the best tent heaters to keep you warm while camping. But what should you look for in a tent heater? And which are some of the best on the market?
Glad you asked!
Know your needs: What to look for in a tent heater
As the days grow cold and dark, it behooves campers to take steps to protect themselves from the weather. There is a need to keep themselves toasty warm and comfortable in their tents. As important as it is to pack plenty of warm clothing, bring a Thermos full of soup or hot coffee on your travels and stay as active as possible to raise your core temperature, the right tent heater will keep the cold outside of your tent where it belongs.
Still, not all tent heaters are equal. Before we look at individual models, you need to think about how to choose the right one for your needs. All campers will have different needs and priorities.
Here we’ll look at some important considerations that you should keep in mind when choosing the right tent heater for your needs.
Safety should be your number one priority when camping. This is important especially when you’re traveling with little ones in tow. If you’ve never used a tent heater before, you may find this YouTube video instructive. It will help you to get used to operating a tent heater for the first time.
Think about the best safety features for your needs. Will you need a tight grille to ensure that curious young fingers don’t get burnt? Will you need to get a sturdy heater which is hard to knock over? Will you need to choose a heater with an automatic shutoff? If you’re buying a gas or propane heater, does it have a low oxygen sensor? This will switch off the heater when the oxygen levels in the tent drop below a certain threshold.
While there’s no such thing as too many safety features, some features will lend themselves to your family and circumstances better than others.
Fuel source and power usage
You’ll also need to carefully consider what fuel source your tent heater uses and how quickly it uses power.
For example, while you can use gas-powered heaters for camping, we would never lead to using one in a tent. This is because of its possibility to carry significant carbon monoxide poisoning risk. Oil heaters are quiet and fuel-efficient but may struggle to heat larger tents.
There are numerous types of electric tent heaters including halogen tent heaters, electric heaters, and electric fan heaters. On many campsites, there is a ban on the former as they are a potential fire hazard. That said, there are some halogen heaters that are specifically designed for tent use. As such, they may be immune from any bans. What’s more, because we hang halogen heaters from above, they carry less of a fire risk.
All electric heaters will require external EHUs (Electric Hook Ups) to power them. You should never, ever use a standard electrical cable when using an electrical tent heater. This can lead to short risks and potential fire hazards. Likewise, using heaters alongside other electrical devices can cause shortages. Fortunately, reliable EHUs are affordable and readily available online.
Portability is a major factor. Especially if you plan on making many stops across numerous sites and will be covering a lot of ground on foot. Keep the size and weight of the heater in mind. Ask yourself if you’d be able to carry it unaided for long-distance when you need to transport it without the aid of a vehicle.
As well as the size and weight of your heater, you may need to consider the shape. Will it be easy enough to fit comfortably into a backpack? Or, will it eat up storage space? Will you be able to let it dangle from your shoulder or will you have no choice but to carry it around with you?
Obviously, a heater’s size will have Aside from having implications for its portability. However, its size will also likely determine how quick and complete it will heat your tent. If, for instance, you need to heat a large tent which has several rooms, you may need a larger heater capable of heating such a generous space.
On the other hand, a compact heater is certainly advised for smaller tents. A large heater in a small tent can turn your living space into a portable pizza oven. What’s more, you could spend way more than necessary on a heater that’s surplus to requirements.
Many tent heaters, especially electric fan heaters, can get very noisy. This isn’t a problem when trading ghost stories while snuggling up in your sleeping bags or tent cots. But, if you’re trying to get to sleep (or stuck in the middle of a really good book) the noise can be a much bigger distraction than the cold.
Hopefully, this has got you thinking about what kind of tent heater is best suited to your camping needs. With all that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best tent heaters on the market to keep you warm while camping…
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Please note that this heater is not available in Canada or the state of Massachusetts. Nonetheless, this is a highly capable propane heater with an impressive array of safety features.
This heater has a large porcelain heating surface, allowing it to heat the tent fast and send heat over a wide area. It boasts 2 heat settings- 4,000 & 9,000 BTU/HR. You can access these via a four-position control dial. It has a built-in Piezo igniter off and an alternate hi/lo heat setting.
This heater is fairly small 11x11x11” and light (under 6lbs). Its fold-down handle and swivel-out fuel connection make for easy transportation. It also reduces the storage space required in your already jam-packed backpack. You can mount the ceramic burner tiles with shock absorbing insulation for durability. And, lift it out for easy replacement.
While some may be wary of heating their tents with propane, this heater has a robust suite of safety features that may bring users peace of mind.
While the unit is stable, it has an instant shut off feature if it gets tipped over. It also has a high-temperature wire guard. The low-oxygen safety shut-off so even if you fall asleep you need never worry about the loss of oxygen in the tent.
You can use it anywhere because it is propane powered, even though replacement canisters may be heavy and cumbersome.
Pros and Cons:
|Light and portable||No attachment to hang|
|Excellent safety features||Ignition button can get stiff, especially in cold temperatures|
|Works anywhere / no need for EHU|
|Heats even large tents quickly|
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If you’re looking for a small and modest heater to use in a smaller tent, look no further than this offering from Lasko. While not designed exclusively for camping (you can also use it as a desk or countertop heater). Its diminutive size, light weight, affordability, and energy efficiency make this a clear win for those with smaller tents.
While only measuring 6” in height and weighing just 1lb, this personal space heater is capable of generating 200 watts’ worth of heat. This makes it a great choice for those traveling alone in a smaller tent. At 3.8 x 4.3 x 6.1” and such a light weight, it’s easy to cram into even a well-stuffed backpack. The ceramic heat plate and fan-powered delivery combine to do a good job of warming your tent fast. And while it is fan-powered, the noise generated is minimal.
While this electric heater is dependent on an EHU, its modest power usage greatly reduces the risk of an electrical short when used in conjunction with other devices. So, you won’t need to worry about staying warm while charging your phone.
Pros and Cons:
|Small, light and portable||May struggle to heat family-sized tents.|
|Low energy consumption (perfect for eco-conscious campers)||You can use it only in campsites.|
|Great for heating small tents|
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This entry from KEYNICE is actually smaller than the above effort from Lasko. But to paraphrase Shakespeare, though it is but little… it is fierce!
This little electric fan heater measures 5 x 5 x 8” and weighs in at 2.7lbs. But what it lacks in size and weight, it makes up for in personalized heating power. Powered by a 110v AC charge, this heater has two power modes- high (950 watts) and low (450 watts). This means that you can heat smaller tents in seconds. This diminutive heater may even be able to heat a medium-sized tent quickly.
The heater also has an option for 90 degree rotation to distribute heat more evenly around the space. And you don’t need to worry about what happens if this little heater should fall over. Its safety features will shut the unit down either if it is tipped over or if it overheats. Thus, making it perfectly safe for use while camping. It’s nice and quiet, too with an operating noise level of around 30 decibels. This shouldn’t prove too distracting when sharing a tent with this heater.
Pros and Cons:
|Multiple heat settings||May struggle to heat large tents.|
|Small, light and portable||Limited use to campsites only because it uses an EHU|
|Good safety features|
|Powerful heating for such a small unit|
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Wish you could heat up a large, family sized tent without having to lug a heavy and unwieldy unit round a campsite? The Heat Storm HS-1500-ISA Portable Infrared Heater might just be the perfect choice for you!
Weighing in at just shy of 10lbs and measuring a travel-friendly 12.8 x 14.8 x 12”, this powerful heater is capable of delivering 5200 BTU heat output over distances of up to 1,000 square feet. This makes it a worthy choice for families who love camping together but struggle to find a heater, equipped at meeting their needs.
Heat Storm’s powerful unit uses patented HMS dual-wall technology. It combines with the humidity in the room to provide ample safe heat without reducing oxygen or humidity within the tent.
It also has a built-in thermostat with an LED display. It allows its users to see and control the ambient temperature with a precision rarely afforded when sleeping under canvas.
Worried about dangerously high wattages causing problems for your EHU? Fear not! This unit also has an Energy Efficient mode, which reduces the wattage from 1500 to a more manageable 750.
Pros and Cons:
|Safe yet powerful||Comparatively high price tag|
|Fairly light and portable||May be surplus to requirements for smaller and medium-sized tents|
|Very high performance|
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Offering equal parts power and portability, this powerful heater by Opolar leverages impressive technologies that deliver power, performance and safety in a travel-sized unit.
Weighing in at 3.5 lbs and measuring 7.1 x 5.9 x 11.1”, this unit is smaller and lighter than Heat Storm’s option. Yet, it provides similar performance and makes it a worthy choice for tents of all sizes and virtually any camper who prefers an electric heater. It’s also surprisingly affordable given the unit’s spec.
The heater has 3 modes- 1500W, 1000W and fans. It can keep you and your family warm in colder months while still being worth taking with you on camping vacations in the summer. It’s simple to use. It has two dials mounted on the top of the unit- which includes an adjustable thermostat to help you maintain a stable ambient temperature.
With tip over and overheating protection, it’s also great for the safety-conscious while having the raw power to heat even large tents in just a few seconds.
Pros and Cons:
|Powerful despite its size and weight||No energy efficiency mode|
|Easy to transport||Has the limitations inherent in all electrical fan heaters|
|Great safety features|
There are many tent heaters on the market with a wide range of different fuel sources. The right heater for you will depend on your personal priorities as well as the nature of the trip. While it’s hard to recommend one unit amidst such a diverse array, we feel that the Opolar 1500W Ceramic Space Heater is, on balance, the winner. Its combination of performance, versatility, safety features, and affordability make it a great choice for virtually all campers looking for an electric fan heater.