Tent Accessories

Best Tent Heaters for Staying Warm & Snug While Camping

best tent heater, camping heaters
Bertie
Written by Bertie

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!

ImageNameFeature
Coleman SportCat PerfecTemp Catalytic HeaterColeman SportCat PerfecTemp Catalytic Heater
Best tent heater
Coleman Catalytic Heater
    Special Features
  • 14hrs from 1 cylinder
  • Very stable
  • Easy to use
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Honeywell 360 Degree Digital Surround Fan Forced HeaterHoneywell 360 Degree Digital Surround Fan Forced Heater
best electric tent heater
Honeywell 360 Surround Heater
    Special Features
  • Portable
  • Adjustable thermostat
  • 2 heating settings
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Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTU Indoor Safe Propane Heater, MediumMr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTU Indoor Safe Propane Heater, Medium
Best Camping Heater
Mr. Heater Little Buddy 
    Special Features
  • Lightweight
  • Great safety features
  • High heat output
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Texsport Sportsmate Portable Propane HeaterTexsport Sportsmate Portable Propane Heater
Texsport Sportsmate Portable Propane Heater
    Special Features
  • Best portable heater for camping
  • Radiates heat well
  • Easy to light
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Camping Emergency Butane Heater Coherent Heat Source Survival ToolsCamping Emergency Butane Heater Coherent Heat Source Survival Tools
Tooluze Butane Camping Heater 
    Special Features
  • Best butane heater for camping
  • Perfect for larger tents
  • Heats space quickly
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Mr. Heater MH9BX-Massachusetts/Canada approved portable Propane HeaterMr. Heater MH9BX-Massachusetts/Canada approved portable Propane Heater
Mr. Heater MH9BX
    Special Features
  • Very high output
  • Difficult to knock over
  • Easy setup
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Specs

The Coleman Catalytic Heater spits out 1500 BTU and will run for 14 hours on a single 16.4oz propane cylinder. It boasts "PerfecTemp Catalytic technology" which makes the heater safe, efficient and flameless. You has an easy-grip handle to let you carry it safely, it has eyelets so you can attach it to a range of different surfaces and it has a detachable base to give you extra stability when placed on the ground. It weighs just 2.5lbs and comes with a 5-year warranty. ($$$$$)

The Verdict

This is the creme de la creme of tent heaters. It's been specially designed to heat small spaces which means all the features are thought out to allow you to move it around, safely, without compromising the heat output.

It is super quiet, which I wasn't expecting and was a great bonus. It's easy to light and it cools down really quickly too. I also love all the different ways you can secure it which makes it feel really stable.

One downside is that it doesn't have an in-built ignition switch so you will have to carry a lighter and/or matches. It seems like a bit of a flaw given the price tag and the fact that many other tent heaters have this feature. It shouldn't be a reason not to buy it; just don't forget matches!!

And as with a lot of heaters, you'd be advised to run it at full temp in a well-aired space because the first run smells pretty awful. You definitely don't want to put up with it inside a tent.

In Summary...

If you're looking to extend the camping season but are worried about the cold, this awesome bit of kit is exactly what you need! It's also great for deer blinds, particularly as other heaters will hiss quite loudly.


best electric tent heater, electric camping heater, portable electric heater for camping

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

Mr. Heater Little Buddy - best all round tent heater

Specs

Running off propane, the Mr Heater Little Buddy pumps out 3,800 BTU. It weighs just 5lbs and it relatively small. It has an auto-shut-off if tipped. ($$$)

The Verdict

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 ignition 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.

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. It can burn through propane pretty quick too. So this isn't a heater you want to use for extended periods of time.

In Summary…

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. Best for short blasts of heat rather than extended use.

Little Buddy Heater in Tent


The Little Buddy is specifically designed for use in enclosed spaces. In fact, if you use it outdoors, it may keep shutting off as it's buffeted by the wind. So it's intended to be used in enclosed porches, cabins, fishing huts, trailers, vans and, yes, tents.


The important thing to remember is to clear (and keep clear) 2 feet of space directly in front of the heater. That way if it does fall over, the hot element is less likely to ignite anything. For this reason, it's probably best to only use the heater in larger tent (I'd say a 3 man tent is the smallest size) because you need to have that clearance.


It's also important to have some ventilation. I wouldn't, for example, completely lock my tent down so there's no airflow (not that you'd want to do that anyway, for condensation reasons). The manufacturer recommends always having a minumum 2" x 2" vent while the heater is running. Without ventilation, there's a risk of carbon monoxide buildup. And nobody wants that.


So in short, if you want to use the Little Buddy in a tent, go for it! Just make sure the tent is big enough to accommodate two feet of clear space in front of the heater and that you've got a 4sq inch vent! 

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

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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