The camping experience is always an awesome expedition; from the change of environment to being a step closer to nature for a while, it is always fun and looked forward to by many. Though your planning might be spot on, one thing that always stays guaranteed for sure is the unpredictable changes in weather conditions, a major example being temperature levels, which is why you need to be equipped with the best heater for tent camping.
During camping expeditions, tents become your temporary abode, and it becomes crucial not just to have a heater that will keep your temperature up at a healthy level, but also a safe one. For this reason, you should not just consider any heater, but only safe tent heaters for camping. Because there is a high chance of you not having access to a steady power supply in camping areas, it is more advisable to go with the best catalytic tent heaters, most of which use gas broken down in a catalytic manner. For my purposes, I also wanted it to qualify as a backpacking tent heater when its size is considered, i.e., it needs to be portable.
Before going out to find a safe tent heater on your own, I highly recommend going through this article, as it contains all the information I gained from recently testing out over 12 different heaters in my backyard. Only 7 made it to this list! Read on to find out why.
Also Read: Best electric heater for large spaces
How Cold Is Too Cold for Tent Camping
At night in many camping areas, temperature levels can drop as low as 30F, which is too low for the human body without some solid equipment to keep you warm. For this reason, a heater becomes a very indispensable item for your camp trip. Temperatures of about 50f to 60f are usually the most comfortable.
What Types of Heaters Are Safe for Camping?
To answer this fully, let’s talk briefly about the different kinds of camp heaters according to their safety:
1. Gas Heaters
Gas heaters are the least safe tent heater due to the fact that they can be easily knocked over, which could lead to fire hazards if left unattended.
They can also emit carbon monoxide, leading to poisoning and death if left unattended. For this reason, they should only be used in well-ventilated areas and should not be left unattended at any time. Gas leakages also present a threat. Not to worry, though, as most modern heaters have built-in safety auto shut-off protection systems to protect against these hazards.
2. Electric Heaters
Although electric heaters are cool and use clean energy sources, having water around is
enough to turn this harmless device into a hazardous one.
They should never be left unattended either – the auto-shutoff timer feature is the most important safety system to look out for before buying an electric heater.
3. Halogen Heaters
These heater types are generally not a good option due to their high fire risk. The safest way it can be used is by being hung at the tent’s center.
4. Wood-burning Stoves
Its major drawback is ventilation. They should be only used in areas that are properly ventilated. Otherwise, the fumes can build up and cause poisoning to the human body when inhaled.
All in all, I would recommend gas heaters the most since most of them come with a solid set of safety features, and these are the kinds of heaters I will be paying the most attention to in this article.
Also Read: Best space Heater for 300 square feet
Top 7 Best Heaters for Tent Camping – Safe Tent Heaters for Camping
Here’s a quick overview of my top seven picks after carrying out many tests in my backyard. Later on in the article, I’ll go into more detail about the strengths and weaknesses of each of these models and tell you more about my experience with them.
My Top Pick
1. Mr. Heater: Hunting Buddy
The Mr. Heater MH12B is supremely popular, and for a good reason. This propane heater is trusted by many thousands of campers and checks off all the most important boxes when finding a safe tent heater.
- 6,000 – 12,000 BTU
- Electric Ignition
- Oxygen Depletion Sensor
- Swivel Regulator
Other Notable Mentions
2. Mr. Heater: Original 540-Degree
At number 2 is another Mr. Heater model designed well, with a series of well-functioning safety features. This one can be attached to a 20lb propane tank, making it a great option for more heavy-duty use.
3. Mr. Heater: Little Buddy
From the same range, the MH4B is nicknamed the ‘Little Buddy’. Going down in size again from the MH9BX, this heater would be perfect for camping trips where you travel on foot and need to minimize the ounces in your backpack.
4. Camplux JK-1000 Portable Butane Heater
Number 4 on my list is the Camplux JK-1000. This butane heater is solidly built and comes at a very attractive price. Despite the price, I felt like the materials and construction on this model will mean it lives a very long life. This heater is very good value for the money.
5. Stansport Portable Outdoor Propane Infrared Radiant Heater
While only for outdoor use, if you have a luxury camping trip involving vehicles that can carry your gear, this infrared propane heater is perfect for a huge range of spaces. I was impressed with how much heat came out of this thing given its size.
Mr. Heater MH12B Hunting Buddy Portable Space Heater
|BTU||6,000 – 12,000 BTU|
|Heats up to||300 sq. ft.|
|Run Time||3.6 hrs. on low/ 1.8 hrs on high|
My top pick is easily the most popular propane heater in North America. Mr. Heater MH12B is amongst the best in the business for providing heat for you in remote areas, far away from home.
Its rugged and compact build helps it survive rash and unfavorable conditions. It’s also portable and lightweight, making it a perfect candidate for camping use. There is a convenient handle on the heater’s top, solidly built, which makes moving this thing around or adjusting it very simple.
This heater has been built especially for small spaces up to 300 sq. ft., making it best for camp tents as they are mostly small and compact.
In most cases, heaters that could serve higher room capacities are always recommended. Still, since we are considering a tent here, high-capacity heaters are a major no-go area due to safety concerns.
Still talking about safety, several safety features have been built into this device to help avoid both hazards and environmental pollution. One of these is the low oxygen shutoff system, which, as the name implies, turns the device off automatically when the oxygen levels in the room deplete to a dangerous level. Luckily I didn’t have to use this feature during my tests, which is good news, but I’m sure it would work effectively if there ever was a problem.
One problem I encountered was my partner moving erratically inside the tent when we tested it. This meant that the machine was knocked over unintentionally on one occasion, which would normally lead to a fire hazard.
But not here – the tip-over safety feature has been put in place in order to automatically shut off the device in case something like this happens. And it worked perfectly; it was quite neat to watch.
The device has an impressive power output of 6,000 – 12,000 BTU. It can be used with a disposable cylinder tank or connected directly to a gas supply with a swivel regulator. Its 1-year warranty reassured me that if anything were to go wrong, I wouldn’t be out of pocket.
Electric ignition, oxygen depletion sensor (ODS), swivel regulator, 9 lb weight.
What I liked
- Suitable for small camp spaces
- Low oxygen shutoff system
- Tip-over safety shut-off (worked great for me)
- Easy to start push button
- The convenient handle makes it easy to move
What I disliked
- Not suitable for high altitude usage – could be a problem for some
- Suitable for indoors only
For tent camping it’s perfect, and the safety features worked perfectly during my tests. Overall this is a very versatile heater and would work seamlessly in a variety of settings.
Mr. Heater: Original 540-Degree
|BTU||29,000 – 45,000 BTU over 3 settings|
|Run Time||Approx 9.5 hrs with a 20 lb. tank|
|Tank Size||20-100 lbs.|
|Indoor Safe||With adequate ventilation|
This heater type takes a different shape and completely different design to the Mr. Heater MH12B, being narrower shaped, with the radiator stationed at the top side, which is able to push heat widely.
It’s simply lightweight, being about 5.5 pounds in weight, hence very mobile and easy to move around during your camping. It can also be attached to cylinder sizes of up to 20 lb., which meant I could enjoy a full night of sleeping outside without any trouble.
A distinctive feature of this heater is the amount of heat it is able to produce, which is about 29,000 – 45,000 BTU, making it a very good source of heat and not exactly suitable for indoor uses. If you are planning to stay in pretty open spaces with a little setup for a tent during camping, then this heater is for you, as its high BTU rating helps it radiate heat efficiently in open spaces.
This heater also has an auto-shutoff safety feature that works with the oxygen depletion sensor to keep your camping experience safe. Hence, you can stay safe from low oxygen levels over extended heating periods. Starting up the heater is also a piece of cake, with the easy-to-use push button, whereby you can simply start or stop all at the press of a button.
Overall, the output capacity of this heater made it stand out amongst similar models when I tested it in my open-plan garage, and its 540 degrees of heating makes for effective heat spreading around the environment. Therefore, it would be a good buy for anyone looking to go on camping expeditions where they spend the nights in open or semi-enclosed environments.
Oxygen depletion sensor (ODS), 540-degree burner head, 20 lb. cylinder capacity, push start button, 5.5 lb. weight.
What I Liked
- Auto-shutoff feature
- 540-degree heating
- Easy to start push button
- 3 different temperature settings allowed me to control the heat and save fuel
What I Disliked
- Only really suitable for the outdoors or semi-enclosed environments with good ventilation
Another great product from Mr. Heater, except this one is better for larger and more open environments.
Mr. Heater: Little Buddy
|Heats up to||95 sq. ft.|
|Run time||5.6 hrs|
|Tank size||1 lb. cylinder|
The Mr. Heater MH4B or “Little Buddy” heater takes a different shape from the designs we saw in the previous Mr. Heater products so far, being much smaller and designed with the heater head standing on a straight pole where the length can be varied.
This product could be small/medium-sized, depending on your reference, and is much more suitable for small enclosed spaces as it offers next to no heat impact in open areas such as my garage.
The wide heating surface helps it increase temperature levels quite fast if placed in a small space such as a tent, but with an output of only 3,800 BTU, you need to ensure you don’t have too big a tent before purchasing this one. The swivel connector design that allows the heater to use a disposable cylinder or central gas system is also present here. At the same time, its size and weight ensured that moving it to any desired location wasn’t a problem.
The surface of this heater is also designed with a porcelain coating, which increases its radiation strength and distance by a considerable amount. It also came with a pretty durable and easy-to-replace ceramic burner tile.
Powering this device on and off has also been made easier with a button that does the trick. At the same time, safety, which is just as important as its heating ability, isn’t neglected – the machine shuts down if it is tipped over or in low oxygen conditions.
This device is a good heat distributor and would serve well when used in the right conditions, though it is not the best in open spaces.
I got it for a pretty affordable price, too. I think it represents particularly good value for your money. If you want to heat up small to medium-sized camping tents, this would be great. Anything much larger might need one of the more substantial heaters on this list.
Swivel out connector, oxygen depletion sensor (ODS), porcelain-coated surface, product dimensions; 11 x 11 x 11 inches, 5.91 lb. weight.
What I Liked
- Large heating surface
- Foldable handles
- Easy to start
- Auto shutoff
- Tip-over safety shutoff
- Wide heat radiation
- Durable and easy-to-replace ceramic burner tile
What I Disliked
- Suitable for very small spaces only
- It cannot be used at high altitudes
For the small 2-man tent I tested it in it was absolutely perfect. The size makes it a little less versatile than others on this list.
Camplux JK-1000 Portable Butane Heater
|Heats up to||100 sq. ft|
|Run time||5 hrs.|
|Tank size||8 oz butane gas canister|
This portable heater comes at a really cool price when matched with its features. With a design different from every other heater on this list so far, this product is pretty portable and easy to control, with the presence of good old analog knobs.
Its lightweight characteristics also ensured mobility wasn’t a problem when packing it away in my tests, and the foldable handle was very convenient.
A special feature that distinguishes this heater from others is its ability to serve multiple applications. It can be used for mild heating up of liquid/ cooking items alongside its basic purpose of raising the environment’s temperature.
When it comes to its output, it is only able to manage about 4,400 BTU, which, though it can be used outdoors, isn’t really suitable for large spaces (only up to 100 sqft). It doesn’t have as many safety features as the others on this list, so I wouldn’t run it in an enclosed space overnight.
In powering it up, I found the electric ignition to work perfectly, which made for an easy start and stopped at the push of a button. The special enamel-coated heating surface helped it to radiate heat efficiently. The heat-up time after being turned on is also pretty fast, taking just about 5 seconds to switch from dead cold to blazing hot when I timed it.
Enamel surface, piezo-electric ignition, product dimensions; 12.2 x 9.5 x 11.95 inches, 5.5lb weight, ability to warm food or drinks.
What I Liked
- Very short heat-up time
- Easy to clean
- Gas leakage and overheating protection
- Easy to start
- Compact and portable
- Heating mode and warming mode for food or drinks worked well for me
What I Disliked
- Suitable for small areas only
- Not suitable for overnight tent heating
This heater is great if you value the ability to warm food and drinks in addition to heating up your environment. It’s let down slightly by its relatively few safety features which made me not trust it to be on overnight without my direct supervision.
Stansport Portable Outdoor Infrared Propane Heater
|Tank size||16.4 oz. propane cylinder|
Sharing a similar build with the Texsport, this unit is just as portable and compact, only losing to Texsport in being slightly heavier (about 0.9 pounds more). It comes with a stainless-steel handle for easy mobility, and the stainless materials give it a good look and will ensure it stands the test of time.
When I tested it out, it was well-balanced on the floor, sitting on a round plastic bottom with a protrusion to further support it – getting knocked over would only happen if it was an intentional act. At the head of the heater is a metal dish that is used for precision purposes, as the user is able to point the heat produced to any specific location of their choice. This was a standout feature of this product for me.
With an output of 3,100 BTU, it would do a fair job of keeping the temperature levels up in small outdoor spaces, a major concern for anyone with a large camping space. As for safety, it lacks the auto-shutoff feature in most of the heaters I have reviewed; therefore, you must stay cautious while using this product.
It offers a front cage covering the metal dish, protecting me against skin burns or unintentional contact. It is a cheap product, so its quality is not the best.
Directional metal dish, lightweight at only 1.8 lbs.
What I Liked
- Precise heating
- Front cage protection
- Low price
What I Disliked
- Suitable for small spaces only
- Lack of auto shut-off
If a low price is really important, this could be the perfect product for you. After my tests though, all of the other heaters on this list did a better job in every department.
Also Read: Best space Heater for RV
Considerations When Picking the Best Heater for Tent Camping
- Heater type:
There are several heaters out there that would do a good job of raising temperature levels. For camping purposes, I would recommend the gas types, due to their convenience, portability, and the fact that you can’t exactly find a power supply for an electric heater type in many camping environments.
- Camping location:
This goes a long way in choosing what heater type you should go with; for example, if a power supply is available, you may be better off with the electric type. Depending on the tent size, you should pick a heater with the relevant amount of heat output.
- Noise level:
If you are going for the electric type, then there would be radiators and fans present, which would generate some amount of noise. Take along a unit with tolerable or no noise for a blissful sleep at night.
Gas heaters have in the past been the least safe due to the use of combustible gas for heat generation. For this reason, your heater must possess various modern safety features such as an anti-tip shutoff, gas leak shut-off, or high-pressure shutoff. Electric heaters shouldn’t be left to run overnight, while wood-burning stoves should be used in properly ventilated areas.
A heater that is too heavy would surely be a burden to your mobility during your camping experience. Be sure to go for what you can easily move around.
Tent heating ideas – How do you heat a tent while camping in winter?
Here are a few points on how you can heat up and retain heat in a tent effectively while camping in winter;
- Insulate your tent properly to retain warmth:
Retaining warmth in your tent is just as important as heating it. First, I recommend learning how to keep the heat trapped in the tent before generating more. You can follow these few steps;
- Use a rug or carpet on the floor:
This will help prevent the floors from drawing away heat like they do, especially at night.
- If you can, have an extra covering on the tent material:
Aside from the normal material of your tent, you should add it wherever possible as it will help reduce the heat that escapes from the tent at night.
- Use a good sleeping pad:
Good quality sleeping pads are designed to retain heat and comfort you at night while you rest from the day’s camping activities.
- Choose the right spot to pitch your tent:
Choosing the right spot or not could be the major difference between whether you quickly lose heat or not. For example, if your tent is in a windy spot, then be sure to have the doors perpendicular to the wind, anything else would result in the wind blowing in, and heat would be pushed out from your tent.
You should also pick as sunny a spot as possible, where the natural warmth would hit your tent directly, giving you extra heat from nature. If you have time on your hands in an extremely cold environment, building a snow wall around your tent is also a great way of trapping the heat inwards.
- Use a sleeping bag liner:
Sleeping bag liners have been known to increase the warmth of a sleeping bag drastically, and getting one would be a good way to bring further warmth into your tent. Depending on the sleeping bag material, they could raise the temperature levels as high as 25% more.
Other means are:
- Trapping heat inside your tent
- Using insulated sleep pads
- Using extra blankets
- Most importantly, make use of a safe tent heater for camping
Having spoken of ways you can retain heat, now all you need is a heater to replenish the little heat that would manage to get away if you follow all my top tips. This is where the heater comes into play, and for camping purposes, I would always recommend a gas-type heater.
Top 5 Tips for Surviving Winter Camping
- Have an effective and reliable source of heat
- Have a good source of water or take enough before leaving on your trip
- Pitch your tent on a campsite with bare ground, not on snow
- Avoid hills that could risk an avalanche tumbling onto your tent, and pitch your tent in areas directly in view of the rising sun
Bottomline: The Best and Safest Tent Heater for Camping in Winter
The Mr. Heater MH12B comes out right on top of my list for the most recommended first due to its suitability for indoor tents and its numerous safety features like the tip-over and low-oxygen safety shut-offs. I felt my investment was protected with a 1-year warranty attached when purchasing this unit.
In case your budget falls below that required for the MH12B, I recommend simply opting for another Mr. Heater product with the Mr. Heater Corporation 29,000 – 45,000 BTU. It offers similar qualities and features to the MH12B but is built specifically for outdoor purposes, where it, in fact, seemed to beat the MH12B in performance when I tested them both out. It also boasts great safety features and 540 degrees of heat radiation.