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Best Camping Heaters and How to Use Them Safely

The winter is one of the most beautiful times of year to be outdoors. Ice crystals form on the tips of pine needles. Icicles glisten from above reflecting the warm sunlight. Snowflakes gently fall to the ground, dusting the earth with fresh white powder. So how do winter campers experience the beauty of the outdoors without freezing in the cold temperatures? It is likely that they are using a camping heater!

I remember winter camping in West Virginia with my friends back in college. We would crowd around the campfire until the wee hours of the morning because no one wanted to leave the warmth of the fire to sit in a dark cold tent.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered camping heaters. Naturally, I was a little hesitant to use one because of safety concerns. After some research, I found a few portable heaters that are appropriate and safe for tent camping. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the best camping heaters and provide valuable insights to make your camping experience more enjoyable.

Best Camping Heaters for Your Outdoor Adventures

1. Mr. Heater Little Buddy Portable Propane Heater

Mr. Heater Little Buddy tent heater

This portable heater is small but built to last. Although the company claims that the Little Buddy can heat up a space of up to 95 square feet, it serves better as a personal heater. Therefore, the Little Buddy is probably best for a smaller 2-person tent or to be used as a personal heat source. 

This tent heater has an oxygen depletion sensor and an accidental tip-over shutoff. Some say that the safety tip-off feature can be a bit sensitive, and shut off when placed on uneven surfaces like the ground.

All in all, the Mr. Heater Little Buddy is durable, easy to use, and great for heating small spaces

  • Heat Output: 3,800 BTU
  • Run time: 5.5 hours on a 1 lb. propane cylinder
  • Fuel Type: Propane

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2. Mr. Heater Big Buddy Indoor/Outdoor Propane Heater

Best camping heater Mr. Heater Big Buddy

Mr. Heater also manufactures larger-sized propane heaters. The Portable Buddy produces up to 9,000 BTU heating approximately 225 sq. feet, whereas the Big Buddy heats up to 18,000 BTU covering approximately 450 sq. feet.

Both Mr. Heaters come with an easy-grip handle and heavy-duty safety wire guard for rugged durability while traveling. With multiple heat settings, you can adjust the temperature to your preference. The swivel regulators make it easy to set up. Simply screw in two 1-lb propane cylinders or connect to a 20-lb tank.

Although the Mr. Heater Big Buddy is on the expensive side, in my opinion, its durability, portability, and safety features make it the best camping heater available.

  • Heat Output: 18,000 BTU
  • Run time: 2.4 hours on high up to10.8 hours on low
  • Fuel Type: Propane

3. Dyna-Glo Grab n Go Portable propane heater

Catalytic heater Dyna-Glo

The Dyna-Glo portable propane heater comes in two sizes and two colors (red and green). The smaller Dyno-Glo puts out slightly more heat than the comparable Portable Buddy heater at 10,000 BTU. The larger size however puts out the same amount of heat as the Big Buddy at 18,000 BTU.

This camping heater also features oxygen depletion sensors and tip over shut off.

Where the Dyna-Glo differs is that it has a slightly shorter run time. It also uses one heat panel rather than the two of the Big Buddy.

  • Heat Output: up to 18,000 BTU
  • Run time: 2 hours on high up to 8 hours on low
  • Fuel Type: Propane

4. Flame King 20k BTU

Flame King tent heater

Flame King is a well-established company that specializes in propane tanks, however, they also manufacture other propane products including culinary torches, grills, and space heaters. Their style of camping heater differs quite a bit from the previous brands.

The Flame King heater features thermostatic technology and 10 adjustable heat settings. It also comes with a built-in fan to help disperse heat. Four D-cell batteries are required. Two propane 1-pound propane tanks are inserted into the back of the heater. Without the swivel technology, inserting the tanks requires a bit more effort.

Safety features include tip-over protection and an oxygen depletion system.

  • Heat Output: 20,000 BTU
  • Run time: 2 hours on high
  • Fuel Type: Propane

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5. Honeywell 360-degree heater

Portable heaters safe for tent Honeywell

If you have an electric hookup, this opens up the option of using a portable electric heater. This Honeywell heater provides 360-degree warmth. It is an ideal heater for larger tents because it can heat in all directions.

It comes with many safety features including 2x overheat shut-off protection, tip-over protection, an auto-off timer, and a cool touch plastic housing.

  • Heat Output: 1500 Watts
  • Run time: N/A
  • Fuel Type: Electric

 6. Brightown Portable Space Heater

heaters for camping Brightown

The Brightown portable electric space heater Honeywell 360 in all of its safety features and specs. The primary difference is the one-dimensional flow of heat. This camping heater is ideal if you are using a shorter extension cord or if you need to place the heater on one side of the tent rather than in a central location.

  • Heat Output: 1500 Watts
  • Run time: N/A
  • Fuel Type: Electric

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Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Camping Heater

When looking to purchase a portable heater for your tent, here are a few questions that you should ask yourself.

How are you planning to use the heater?

Are you planning to use the heater sparingly for some added warmth before bed, or to take the chill off in the morning? The smaller Little Buddy might be sufficient in this case.

Are you planning to keep the heating running for a few hours as part of a glamping setup? A larger Big Buddy heater or an electric heater might be better.

What type of tent are you heating?

A Little Buddy heater is ideal for a two-person tent, however, if you are looking to heat an 8-foot tall pop-up tent you may want to look into a more powerful heater with a higher BTU. 

Is there an electric source?

If your campground has an electric hookup or if you are planning to bring a portable power station, then you can opt for an electric heater. Otherwise, a propane-fueled tent heater is your best bet.

Frequently Asked Questions: Using a Tent Heater

Are tent heaters safe?

There are a few portable heaters that are approved for indoor use and that are safe to use inside a tent. If you are planning to use a heater inside your tent, make sure to adhere to the following safety guidelines:

  • All outdoor heaters are dangerous to use inside of a tent. The heater must be marked as “indoor-safe”.
  • Never fall asleep with a heater turned on inside of a tent. Any heat source is a fire hazard regardless of safety features.
  • If using a propane heater, using a carbon monoxide detector and having proper ventilation of the tent is required.
  • The heater should have adequate safety features including tip-over shut-off, overheat protection, and low-oxygen sensor shut-off (for propane-fueled heaters).
  • Place the heater in a safe location away from walls and flammable objects. Look at your heater’s safety guidelines for recommended clearance.
  • The heater should be placed on a flat surface to avoid it tipping over.
  • Read the safety instructions for each brand to reduce risk.
Best camping heater Big Buddy

What are the safest heaters to use inside of a tent?

  • Catalytic Heaters: This type of heater does not have an open flame. It relies on a chemical reaction between a natural gas (propane) and oxygen to produce heat. These are versatile and suitable for various outdoor activities. It is important to always use catalytic heaters in well-ventilated areas.
  • Electric Heaters: Electric heaters convert electrical energy into heat. They are generally safer to use because propane heaters consume oxygen and produce carbon monoxide putting campers at risk. Electric heaters require a power source. Luckily, many tents now have an e-port to allow an electrical cord to be run into the tent without having to unzip the front door.

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What is the Best Camping Heater?

Whether you choose a catalytic or electric heater, the best camping heater will always prioritize safety features and durability.

We use the Big Buddy Heater for winter camping as it is the best choice for our particular tent and needs. We have used it for years on camping trips and also for general outdoor use. Although it is a bit pricier than some of the alternatives, the whole line of Mr. Heater Buddy Heaters has a stellar reputation with consistently high ratings. The Big Buddy Heater is one of the safest and most efficient propane heaters around.

How do you heat a tent all night long?

The short answer is that there is no way to heat a tent all night long using a heater. It is never safe to leave a tent heater on while sleeping. Although both the catalytic (propane-fueled) and electric heaters come with ample safety features, it is strictly advised not to fall asleep with them on.

If you want to stay warm all night long, plan to dress warmly and use a cold-weather sleeping bag. A heater can be used at night and first thing in the morning to take off the chill.

Conclusion

Camping in colder weather can be a fantastic experience, but it can also be challenging if you don’t have the right equipment. A cold-weather sleeping bag is essential for staying warm at night, but a camping heater can make all the difference by:

  1. Providing warmth during cold nights and mornings. This is especially important if you are camping with babies or young kids.
  2. Helping you stay cozy in your tent or around the campfire.
  3. Enhancing your overall camping experience, making it more enjoyable and memorable.

Our top recommendations offer a variety of options suitable for different camping styles and preferences.

No matter which of the above-mentioned tent heaters you choose, we hope that you stay warm, stay safe, and make lasting memories in the wild. Happy camping!