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The Best Heater for Tent Camping – Safe Tent Heaters for Camping

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, and 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 at that. 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 make use of gas that is broken down in a catalytic manner. For my purposes, I also wanted it to qualify as a backpacking tent heater when its size is put into consideration, 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 a lot of 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 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

  • 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 to.

They can also emit carbon monoxide, which can lead 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 point in 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.

  • Electric heaters:

Although electric heaters are cool and make use of clean energy sources, having water around is just about 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.

  • Halogen heaters:

These heater types are generally not a good option due to the high level of fire risk they pose. The safest way it can be used, though, is by being hung at the center of the tent.

  • 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 a majority 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 Heater for Tent Camping – Safe Tent Heaters for Camping

Here’s a quick overview of my top seven picks after carrying out a bunch of 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 MH12B Hunting Buddy Portable Space Heater

 

 

The Mr. Heater MH12B is supremely popular, and for good reason. This propane heater is trusted by many thousands of campers and checks off all the most important boxes when it comes to finding a safe tent heater.

Best Features: 

 

  • 6,000 – 12,000 BTU
  • Electric Ignition
  • Oxygen Depletion Sensor
  • Swivel Regulator

 

Other Notable Mentions

 

2) Mr. Heater Corporation 29,000-45,000 BTU 540 Degree

 

 

At number 2 is another Mr. Heater model which is designed well, and has 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 F232000 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Propane Radiant Heater

 

 

The Mr. Heater MH9BX is advertised as a ‘Portable Buddy’ and it is exactly that. I tested it out with my 2-man tent and was pleasantly surprised with the low weight and portability.  

4) Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTU Indoor Safe Propane Heater

 

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 are traveling on foot and need to minimize the ounces in your backpack.

5) Camplux JK-1000 Portable Butane Heater, 4,400 BTU Outdoor Camping Gas Heater

 

Number 5 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.

6) Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater

 

I found this Texsport propane heater to be ultra-portable and easy to carry around. It doesn’t heat up as much space as some of the other picks on my list, but if that’s not a problem for you, I would highly recommend it.

7) Stansport Portable Outdoor Infrared Propane Heater

 

 

While only for outdoor use, if you are having more of a luxury camping trip that involves vehicles that can carry your gear, this infrared propane heater is perfect for a huge range of spaces. I was really impressed with how much heat came out of this thing given its size.

 

Full Reviews

 

1) Mr. Heater MH12B Hunting Buddy Portable Space Heater

 

 

Key Features

BTU

6,000 – 12,000 BTU

Heats up to

300 sq. ft.

Run time

3.6 hours on low / 1.8 hours on high

Ignition

Electric

Tank size

1 lb. cylinder

Indoor safe

Yes

 

My top pick is easily the most popular propane heater in the whole of 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 which makes it a perfect candidate for use while camping. There is a convenient handle on the top side of the heater which is solidly built and made moving this thing around or adjusting it very simple. 

This heater has been built especially for small spaces of sizes 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, but 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 make use of 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 did run into was my partner moving erratically inside the tent when we tested it out. This meant that on one occasion the machine was knocked over unintentionally, 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.

All in all, the device has an impressive power output for its size at 6,000 – 12,000 BTU, and can be used with a disposable cylinder tank or connected directly to a gas supply with a swivel regulator. Its 1-year warranty gave me perfect reassurance that if anything were to go wrong then I wouldn’t be out of pocket.

Notable Features: 

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
  • 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

My Rating – 5/5

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.

 

2) Mr. Heater Corporation 29,000-45,000 BTU MH450T 

 

 

Key Features

BTU

29,000 – 45,000 BTU over 3 settings

Run time

Approx 9.5 hrs with a 20 lb. tank

Ignition

Match lit

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 was able to 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 comes with the auto-shutoff safety feature that works together with the oxygen depletion sensor to keep your camping experience safe. Hence you can be sure to stay safe from low levels of oxygen 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. It would, therefore, be a good buy for anyone looking to go on camping expeditions where they spend the nights in open or semi-enclosed environments.

Notable Features:

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
  • Lightweight
  • 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

My Rating – 5/5

Another great product from Mr. Heater, except this one is better for larger and more open environments.

 

3) Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Propane Radiant Heater

 

 

Key Features

BTU

4,000 – 9,000 BTU

Heats up to

225 sq. ft.

Run time

2.4 – 5.4 hours

Ignition

Piezo

Tank size

1 lb. cylinder

Indoor safe

Yes

Another Mr. Heater product on my list at number 3 is the MH9BX or “Portable Buddy”. Bearing similar looks with the earlier, MH12B should be nothing of a surprise, with the same small, compact, and rugged build that helps it navigate through the rigors of camping activities. Weighing in at about 9 pounds means it offered better mobility in my tests, and the bonus of a built-in handle at the top for easy grabbing and carrying along was appreciated.

As for the heat output, this device is able to make about 4,000 to 9,000 BTU only, making it suitable for enclosed spaces like camp tents. Talking about the space it can heat up, it could heat up to 225 sq. ft. Outdoor usages are also applicable to this device too, though it might not have as much impact as you may want over very open spaces. I tested it in my 4-man tent and my garage, where it performed well in the former, but not so well in the latter.

Its source of heat production is a very clean process, while the machine itself is almost 100% efficient and was very quiet in my tent – a stand-out feature amongst the others. Despite its clean heat production process, its design was also built with enough safety in mind, whereby if at any point in time it is either knocked over, loses its pilot light, or detects low levels of oxygen in the atmosphere, it shuts off immediately. The heater can also be adapted to using either a disposable cylinder or remote gas supply due to its swivel regulator. I tried both and they both worked perfectly.

Lifting it is pretty easy too (as with all the products on this list so far). When starting it up, you only have to push a button, and an integrated piezo sparking system lights it up. There is also protection available on the surface of the device with the high-temperature wire guard, which I found to be very effective.

Notable Features: 

Swivel out fuel connection, piezo-electric igniter, high-temperature wire guard, porcelain-coated heating surface, oxygen depletion sensor (ODS), durable ceramic burner tile, 9 lb. weight.

What I Liked

  • Solid foldable handle
  • Easy to start
  • High-temperature wire protection
  • Wide heat radiation
  • Auto-shutoffs
  • Seems very durable
  • Easy to replace the ceramic burner tile

What I Disliked

  • Cannot be used at high altitudes
  • Not so great for large open spaces

My Rating – 4.5/5

Another great Mr. Heater product, the safety features all left me with a great sense of safety. The only downside with this heater is it didn’t perform great in my semi-open garage. It’s definitely more suited for smaller environments.

 

4) Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTU Indoor Safe Propane Heater

 

 

Key Features

BTU

3,800 BTU

Heats up to

95 sq. ft.

Run time

5.6 hrs

Ignition

Piezo

Tank size

1 lb. cylinder

Indoor safe

Yes

The Mr. Heater MH4B or “Little Buddy” heater takes a different shape to 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, in open areas such as my garage, it offered next to no heat impact.

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 make sure 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, while 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 the presence of a button that does the trick, while safety, which is just as important as its heating ability isn’t neglected – the machine shuts down in the event of being tipped over or in low oxygen conditions.

This device is simply a good heat distributor and would serve well when used in the right conditions, though it is not the best out in open spaces.

I got it for a pretty affordable price, too, I think it represents particularly good value for your money. If you are looking to heat up small to medium-sized camping tents, then this would be great. Anything much larger might need one of the more substantial heaters on this list.

Notable Features:

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
  • Cannot be used at high altitudes

My Rating – 4/5

For the small 2-man tent I tested it in it was absolutely perfect. The size just makes it a little less versatile than others on this list.

 

5) Camplux JK-1000 Portable Butane Heater, 4,400 BTU Outdoor Camping Gas Heater

 

Key Features

BTU

4,400 BTU

Heats up to

100 sq. ft.

Run time

5 hrs.

Ignition

Electric

Tank size

8 oz butane gas canister 

Indoor safe

No

This portable heater comes at a really cool price when matched with the features it offers. With a design that is 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 that mobility wasn’t a problem when I was packing it away in my tests, and the foldable handle was very convenient.

A special feature that distinguishes this heater from others so far 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 temperature of the environment.

When it comes to its output, it is only able to manage about 4,400 BTU, which though can be used outdoors, isn’t really suitable for large spaces (only up to 100sqft). It doesn’t have as many safety features as the others on this list either, 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 stop at the push of a button, and 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.

Notable Features: 

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 that worked well for me

What I Disliked

  • Suitable for small areas only
  • Not suitable for overnight tent heating

My Rating – 3.5/5

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.

 

6) Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater

 

Key Features

BTU

2,890 BTU

Ignition

Match Lit

Weight

1 lb.

Indoor safe

No

If you were looking for a quick grab-and-go outdoor heater, then this is your guy, though you should be willing to sacrifice portability for this level of performance.

Although the Texsport portable heater is pretty small and compact in size, it more than makes up for the balance lost in the way it is designed. The heater sits upon a round bottom with four protruding flat surfaces which made it super sturdy and seem unlikely to fall over in my tests.

The material is built to be very durable, which is one of the highlights of this heater as I would expect it to have a pretty long lifespan. The burner itself is made of stainless steel, and it has a reflector with a safety grid all made of aluminum. This reflector helps to distribute the heat generated into the atmosphere, while the safety grid is for protection against skin contact and seemed to work pretty well. The cherry on top was the steel handle for carrying the heater around.

A heat output of only 2,890 BTU is what this product manages, which is a real let-down considering all the positives to the product already, and due to this, it is only suitable for heating up very small spaces. At just 1 pound, the heater is as handy as it can get, however, making it one of the more mobile heaters on this list.

The 1-year warranty was a good addition, and safety features have not been neglected either. The heater shuts off the fuel supply automatically when the flame goes out to prevent potential fire hazards.

Notable features: 

Durable stainless-steel burner, good ground balance, aluminum reflector with safety grid, only 1 lb. of weight.

What I Liked

  • Auto-shutoff safety features
  • 1-year warranty
  • Seemed to be very durable
  • Safety grid

What I Disliked

  • Suitable for small spaces only

My Rating – 3.5/5

Durability stood out as one of the most impressive features here, but it was let down by its relatively low heat output.

 

7) Stansport Portable Outdoor Infrared Propane Heater

 

Key Features

BTU

3,100 BTU

Ignition

Piezo

Tank size

16.4 oz. propane cylinder

Indoor safe

No

Sharing a very 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 gave 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 plastic round 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 in keeping the temperature levels up in small outdoor spaces only, which is a major concern for anyone with a large camping space. As for safety, it lacks the auto-shutoff feature present in most of the heaters I  have reviewed so far; therefore, you have to stay cautious while using this product.

It offers a front cage covering though on the metal dish, which protected me against any skin burns or unintentional contact. It is a really cheap product, so the quality it offers is understandably not the best.

Notable Features: 

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

My Rating – 3/5

If a low price is really important to you then 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 in raising temperature levels. For camping purposes, I would recommend the gas types, due to their convenience, portability, and also 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 there is a power supply available, you may be better off with the electric type. Depending on the size of the tent you have, 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 at all for a blissful sleep at night.

  • Safety:

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 a variety of modern safety features such as an anti-tip shutoff, gas leak shut-off, or high-pressure shutoff. Electric heaters too shouldn’t be left to run overnight, while wood-burning stoves should be used in properly ventilated areas.

  • Size:

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. I would recommend you first learn how to keep the heat trapped in the tent before generating more of it. You can follow these few steps;

  • Use a rug or carpet on the floor:

This will help in preventing the floors from drawing away heat like they tend to do, especially at night time.

  • If you can, have an extra covering on the tent material:

Aside from the normal material of your tent, you should add additional material wherever possible as it will help in further reducing the amount of heat that escapes from the tent at night.

  • Use a good sleeping pad:

Good quality sleeping pads are designed to both retain heat and give you comfort at night while you take a 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 do not. For example, if your tent is located 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, hence 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. They could raise the temperature levels as high as 25% more depending on the sleeping bag material.

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 firstly due to its suitability for indoor tents, as well as its numerous safety features like the tip-over and low-oxygen safety shut offs. With a 1-year warranty attached when purchasing this unit, I also felt like my investment was protected.

In case your budget falls just below that required for the MH12B, I would 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 the same great safety features as well as 540 degrees of heat radiation.

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