Tent Accessories

Best Tent Heaters for Staying Snug While Winter Camping

best tent heaters
Bertie
Written by Bertie

Many folk look for ways to take the chill off on winter mornings and evenings when out camping because having a warm tent can go along way to making the experience more pleasant. I’ve reviewed 7 of the best tents heaters to help with that!

Camping in the snowy, quiet, beauty of winter can be one of life’s great pleasures. So long as you don’t get too cold! To take the chill off on winter mornings and evenings many campers turn to tent heaters because having a warm tent can go along way to making a winter camping experience more pleasant. I’ve reviewed 7 great options in this post but be warned: even the very best tent heaters pose a risk if used incorrectly so always read the operating instructions!

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Product Name

Feature

Size

Price

Rating

Mr. Heater Little Buddy

Best all-rounder

Medium

$$$

Best electric heater

Medium

$$

Best small heater

Small

$$

Best for camping

Small

$$

Low profile

Medium

$$$$

Best butane heater

Large

$$$

Great for car camping

Large

$$$$$

Mr. Heater Little Buddy - best all round tent heater

Specs

Fuel: Propane

Size: large

Weight: 5 pounds

BTU: 3800

Auto Shut Off: Yes

Price: $$$

The Good

I thought this heater has the best safety features of of the ones I looked at. It’s rated safe for indoor use and will automatically shut off if tipped over or if it detects low oxygen. It has a porcelain coated heating surface to radiate heat to a wide area. The unit uses standard 16.4 ounce propane cylinders for convenience and a built-in ignitor for ease of lighting. The unit includes a base to hold the cylinder for increased stability. It’s also reasonably priced and doesn’t require electricity to run. Although it is a larger than some of the other propane heaters, safety trumps size IMO.

The Less Good

There’s not a lot wrong with it except it can be difficult to light in extreme cold. The safety sensors can make it difficult to keep the unit lit if it is bumped and it can have trouble staying lit in windy conditions.

A Great Choice If…

The Mr. Buddy heater is a good choice if safety is a concern. The two safety shut offs, for oxygen depletion and tip over, make this unit a safe choice for use in an enclosed space such as a tent. It is best if used in stationery situations out of the wind.

Honeywell 360 Degree Surround Fan - best electric tent heater

Specs

Fuel: Electric

Size: Medium

Weight: 3 pounds

Auto Shut Off: yes

Price: $$

The Good

The Honeywell 360 Surround Fan is a lightweight, cylindrical, forced air heater that puts heat out 360 degrees around. It has important safety features such as tip over and overheat shut off. The unit will heat up a small space well and has no open flame. It has a built-in thermostat for temperature regulation.

The Less Good

This heater runs on electricity so can only be used in areas that have plug in electricity available such as RVs or developed campgrounds. The unit is loud when running.

A Great Choice If…

This Honeywell heater is a good choice for a cabin, RV or developed campground that has electricity available. The heater is a good choice for heating an enclosed area as the heat radiates from all sides.

Pros - Auto Shut Off, Thermostat, 360 Degree Heat

Cons - Electricity required, Loud while Running

Texsport Sportsmate Portable Propane Heater - best small tent heater

Specs

Fuel: Propane

Size: medium

Weight: 3 pounds

BTU: 3000

Auto Shut Off: Yes

Price: $$

The Good

The Texsport Sportmate heater works well to take the chill off in small spaces. It uses a standard 16.4 ounce propane tank for convenience and portability. The auto shut off is an important safety feature in case the unit gets knocked over. The steel reflector disk allows the heat to radiate in a four to six foot radius. The regulator valve adjusts to control the heat output for comfort.

The Less Good

The Sportmate heater lacks a self-igniter and can be tricky to light. You must hold the gas flow button down for as long as 30 seconds after lighting to allow the unit to stay lit. In windy conditions, the unit has trouble staying lit. The outside casing of the unit can get very hot while in use.

A Great Choice If…

The Texsport Sportmate heater is a good choice for small spaces with good ventilation such as golf carts or deer blinds. It is best used when there is little or no wind.

Pros - Adjustable heat output, Uses standard 16.4 ounce propane tank, Auto shut off

Cons - Hard to light, Blows out in wind, Casing gets hot

Stansport - best small tent heater

​Specs

Fuel: Propane

Size: Small

Weight: 1.8 pounds

BTU: 3100

Auto Shut Off: No

Price: $$

The Good

This portable camping tent heater by Stansport has a metal disc to radiate heat and a rear cage for safety. The unit is small and lightweight enough to be portable. It uses a standard 16.4 ounce propane tank which fits into a plastic stand with wide feet for greater stability.

The Less Good

With no auto shut off valve, this unit is missing an important safety feature. It can be difficult to light and the valve is made of cheap plastic that can crack.

A Great Choice If…

The Stansport portable heater is good choice for supplemental heat when camping in the open air or standing outside for long periods of time in the cold. It would be an excellent choice for outdoor sporting events or hunting.

Pros - Small and lightweight, Good heat output, Adjustable heat setting

Cons - No auto shut off valve, Valve made of cheap plastic

Caframo Limited True North Heater - best medium sized tent heater

Specs

Fuel: Electric

Size: Small

Weight: 5.2 pounds

Auto Shut Off: No

Price: $$$$

The Good

The Caframo True North Heater has a low profile so it is stable and unlikely to be knocked over. The heater works well to heat enclosed spaces and has three different heat settings. It has a built-in thermostat and an antifreeze feature. The outer casing of the unit stays cool for safer use if unattended.

The Less Good

The True North Heater must be plugged in to work so it would not be a good choice for undeveloped campgrounds. The unit can be loud while running. There are some reported quality control issues and poor customer service.

A Great Choice If…

The Caframo True North Heater is a great choice for cabins, RVs, or developed campgrounds with access to electricity. It works well in situations that require the heater to be left unattended or where freezing temperatures are a concern.

Pros - Low Profile, Three heat settings, Built-in Thermostat

Cons - Requires plug-in electrical source, Runs loud

Tooluze - best backup tent heater

​Specs

Fuel: Butane

Size: large

Weight: 5.4 pounds

Auto Shut Off: Yes

Price: $$$

The Good

This emergency butane heater uses standard butane cartridges like those used for butane camp stoves so the fuel can serve two purposes. The unit does have an automatic shut off feature for safety. It is a good heater for heating small spaces with good ventilation.

The Less Good

The butane canisters do not last very long, especially in extreme cold. Wind will cause the flame to blow out. There is no oxygen sensor so good ventilation is very important when using this heater. The top of the heater gets very hot when in use.

A Great Choice If…

The Tooluze Emergency Butane Heater is a good choice if you are looking for emergency heat and already use butane cartridges for your camp stove. Since good ventilation is important when using this unit, it is best used in open areas such as hunting blinds.

Pros - Uses standard butane cartridges, Has pressure sensitive auto shut off

Cons - Butane cartridges burn out quickly, No oxygen sensor

Mr Heater - best tent heater for car camping

​Specs

Fuel: Propane

Size: large

Weight: 9.5 pounds

BTU: 4000 – 9000

Auto Shut Off: Yes

Price: $$$$$

The Good

This Mr. Heater propane heater puts out a large amount of heat and attaches to a standard 16.4 ounce propane heater for convenience. It has important safety features and will shut off if it detects low oxygen, is tipped over, or if the pilot light goes out. It features a built-it ignitor for easy lighting.

The Less Good

This unit is heavy, so it is best used for car camping. The unit may not work at altitudes above 7000 feet. The high BTU output make it too hot for use in a small tent area.

A Great Choice If…

This Mr. Heater unit is great for use in large tents or enclosed areas. It is best used for car camping at elevations below 7000 feet.

Pros - Safety shut off valves, Built-in ignitor, High BTU output

Cons - Heavy, Shuts off above 7000 feet


What to Consider When Buying a Tent Heater

Using a heater inside a tent can be risky if you don’t take care. Safety should be your number one concern when buying a tent heater. Thinking about how you camp, where you camp, and what kind of tent you use before buying a heater will influence your decision on what heater is best for you. (You might also consider how else you could stay warm, such as using a 4-season tent or a winter sleeping bag). There are two basic types of heaters – electric or fuel burning.

Gas Tent Heaters

Gas tent heaters use either butane or, more commonly, propane.  Propane tent heaters are generally lightweight and portable and use fuel you are likely already carrying for use in your camp stove, which is great. (If you are backpacking, it’s up to you to decide if the convenience of the tent heater is worth the extra weight but if you’re just going a few miles it might be worthwhile).

The biggest risk associated with burning gas in a tent is the depletion of oxygen which means you risk carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. So it’s worth using the following tips to reduce the chances of any problems:

Make sure that there is adequate ventilation in the tent by opening the tent flaps or lifting the rain cover.

If you want to use a heater indoors, make sure you buy one that has safety shut offs so the heater stops running if it tips over or if the unit senses oxygen depletion.

Take a dedicated CO alarm with you.

Electric Tent Heaters

Because there is no open flame or oxygen-burning fuel, electric tent heaters are generally safer to use in a tent than gas burning heaters. The greatest disadvantage to these heaters is that they require electricity. This limits their use to developed campsites with electrical hookups. Furthermore, because they are generally heavier than their gas burning counterparts, they are better suited to car camping.

General Safety Advice for Using Tent Heater

Never place a heater directly on the tent floor; use a stable base that is not flammable such as a flat stone or fire-resistant mat.

Never place a heater where it might block the tent exit in case of an accident;  ideally heaters should be used in tents with more than one exit.

Never leave a tent heater running when unattended or when you are asleep.

Never use a tent heater inside a small tent; limit the use to a vestibule or a porch. Your tent should always be large enough so that the heater can be positioned in a clear area away from any flammable materials.

Always ensure the heater is not touching any flammable material.

It’s up to you to decide whether or not to use a tent heater. But do make sure you reduce the risks by using some common sense.

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About the author

Bertie

Bertie

I’m Bertie and I’ve been enjoying the wilderness for as long as I can remember. I get out camping, hiking and backpacking whenever I can. And when I can’t, I enjoy writing about outdoor-related stuff!

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