Best tent heater

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Envision yourself camping in winter, soaking in breathtaking scenery of majestic peaks covered with snow, and pristine frozen lakes. But come night, that is when the nightmare begins. Imagine trying to sleep in a tent while shivering as your tent freezes into an igloo from outside in. It is certainly not a great night to remember.

 

But thanks to man’s innovation of tent heaters, you now have freedom to camp anytime of the year, even in winter. It gives you more power and control over the environment. Tent heaters for camping are one of the most effective means to beat the cold.

 

Having a tent heater is also extremely relevant for ice fishing. When you are outdoors, it is important not to underestimate the temperature, especially at night. It can affect your fishing experience, being very uncomfortable or worse catch hypothermia. So never camp unprepared.

 

If you are hard pressed for time, and just want to get the best camping tent heater, then we recommend the Mr. Heater F232000 as the best choice in the market.

Table of Contents

BENEFITS OF A TENT HEATER

Comfort

Embrace winter camping with the right supplies to safe and warm. Consider layering winter clothes and getting right boots for winter camping. During winter, campsites are not as crowded as other seasons, so you may be able to enjoy the tranquility at its best and reconnect with nature. Your kids can roam around freely without worrying about cars from other campers.

Safety

If you are camping with your kids, safety should be your top priority. Consider unpredictable weather during winter, freezing temperatures could pose a danger to your children. 

 

A general guideline, temperatures below 30 degrees fahrenheit may be too cold for the human body to withstand tent camping. Your body temperature and your heart rate may drop. Prolonged exposure to the cold can have adverse effects on your health. For this reason, you may require at least a tent heater to protect your family.

Portable 

Traditional firewood is a good option to warm up, but you may not want to watch the fire all the time. It is just too much work. Do note there are some campsites that do not allow a campfire and you cannot bring a roaring fire inside your tent. So having a safe tent heaters for camping is a more practical solution to keep you warm. It is conveniently easy to start and use anytime you need.

 

TYPES OF TENT HEATERS

Electric heaters

Types of tent heaters

This is one of the most efficient ways to heat your tent, as it heats up the tent quite quickly. Having an electric tent heater is a safe option as it generates ZERO toxic emissions. This equals less worry about suffocation dangers. Specifically, the ceramic heater does not give out open flames or glowing materials. It reduces the danger of fire. That said, you should still look for an electric heater with an auto shutoff timer. Reason being, it may overheat and risk catching fire if left unattended.

 

The downside of electric heaters is you will be dependent on electrical power supply, which is a drawback if you are a minimalist camper. So check your campsite to make sure they have an electric hook-up (EHU). Take precaution that you do not use your extension cable from home to connect, as accidents and fatalities can occur. You need a special electrical fitting that comes with a circuit breaker. Take into account the possibility that you could experience a power outage, depending on your campground. This is especially common during the worst weather. So make sure you are well prepared.

Gas heaters

Gas heaters are a popular option as it is a portable heater for camping. You do not need to plug it into anything to function. It generates more heat than the average electric heater. It runs with affordable fuels like kerosene, butane or propane. You can easily carry extra fuel around, as if you are carrying a water bottle. It is great for extended trips, as you can carry and resupply fuel. 

Figure how many hours you plan to use your heater and calculate how much you need to bring. Always bring extra. You need to have proper ventilation inside the tent, with one open air vent. Otherwise, condensation will quickly build up from inside the tent. This will then reduce the temperature in the tent.

Gas heaters are a healthier option, in comparison to electric heaters. They keep the air around you conditioned. Though gas heaters are now safer than they used to be, it is still necessary to practice safety precaution by keeping flammable objects away.

SAFETY TIPS

Safety tips for tent heater

A general rule of thumb is to position your tent heater properly, keeping it 3 feet away from anything that can burn. Even though electric heaters are known to be the safest option, if flammable material comes into contact with its heating elements, it can still cause a fire hazard. Remember to keep all liquids away from the heater. It only takes one kick of your foot for your drink to spill onto the heater and cause problems.

 

Gas heaters on the other hand create carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. If it reaches a toxic level, it prevents absorption of oxygen to your bloodstream. Do read the instructions on the gas heater provided by the manufacturer on how much ventilation is needed for safe use. 

 

There should be a vent opened for toxic gases to exit the tent, allowing fresh air to enter. It is not a wise idea to leave the gas heater running , while you sleep. The risk is you may fail to wake up if something goes wrong, endangering others around you.

TIPS AND TRICKS

Tips to stay warm in a tent

It is recommended to use a smaller tent. The smaller the overall square footage of the tent, the less air there will be. The less air, the more effective the heater will be as it minimizes heat loss.

Heating tent with hot rocks

Another simple and cheap hack is to heat the tent with 5 to 10 well-heated stones (the bigger and smoother, the better). Lay the stones 5 to 10 inches away from the campfire to heat the stone gradually. Turn the stones around so that they get adequately heated at all angles. It should take 1.5 hours to be thoroughly heated. 

 

As it does not retain heat as long as bottles, wrap the stones in several layers of aluminium foil to cool down the stone slowly. Place it in a pan, and put a layer of protection under the pan. Remove the foil layer by layer when it starts to cool, as the heat it retains in the air between the foil layers. 

 

Another trick is to dig a one foot deep hole. Place the stones inside and cover them with sand. Then you can place your tent over the hole, which will heat up due to the heat in the rocks for the rest of the night. Do use sand, instead of soil as you want to let the temperature rise smoothly. 

 

Alternatively, you can wrap the stones in a cloth or socks, and spread them at strategic points around the tent.

HOW TO CHOOSE A TENT HEATER

Noise

Types of tent heater

If the tent heater is too noisy, it will make your camping experience uncomfortable. It may disrupt your sleep if you are a light sleeper or worse, disturbs other campers. The louder heaters are ones which use electricity. There are heaters available in the market that offer low noise when working.

Automatic Cut-Off

Some heaters have a dedicated temperature sensor which auto shut off the unit as it overheats. To avoid unnecessary fire accidents, some have the function to automatically cut off after several hours of continuous usage.

Large Base

Heaters with a large base also helps prevent heaters from falling over. For electric heaters, make sure your tent is completely watertight.

Oxygen sensor 

Oxygen sensors are a common feature in gas heaters to monitor the surrounding area. It will shut down if the oxygen level is too low. The sensors will close off the fuel source, which prevents build up of exhaust gases in a small space. This is especially crucial when the tent is closed up tight to keep out the cold.

Tip-over switch 

Tip-over switch is another mechanism that shuts down the heater when it tips over. If it tips over, it can release dangerous levels of gas which may cause a fire to start. This is especially helpful while you are sleeping in the middle of the night.  

Size and weight

For minimalist campers, smaller and lighter heaters make it portable and easier to fit anywhere in the tent. Tents usually do not have a lot of space, so your heater should be as compact as possible. If you are in a large group and have a large tent, then electric heaters are great choices as it heats up quickly and circulates the heat well around the tent.

Heat Output

BTUs (British Thermal Unit) controls how much heat the unit gives out. Gas heaters usually have an output range around 2500 to 20000 or more. If you are using a small tent, then choose a heater with lower BTUs.The bigger the tent, the more output you need to warm up the space. This is useful, if you have a tent designed with multiple rooms. 

If you have less people, it is wiser to get a smaller tent, as less people are generating heat. The higher the BTU, the faster the gas will be consumed. Generally, it is better to get a heater that produces more heat, than one that produces less heat.

To calculate the amount of heat you need for your tent, use this simple formula.

BTU’s of heat needed / hour = Cubic Volume of Tent * Temperature Rise Required * 0.25 (Insulation Factor of a tent)

Here is an example:

Tent size 8 ft * 7 ft’ * 4 ft (average ceiling height) = 224 cubic feet

Forecast is 40 degrees for the low that night and you want to maintain 70 degrees inside the tent = 30 degrees temperature rise

224 * 30 *0.25 = 1680 BTU/hour

For Electric heaters, having adjustable thermostat settings provides flexibility to adjust to a comfortable temperature.


Top 5 tent heaters

Mr. Heater F232000 is powered by a propane tank. It is ignited with a piezo ignitor and is fueled by gas. It is perfect for camping or ice fishing at the lake, as its 4000 to 9000 BTU heater can heat up spaces up to 225 square feet. It runs about 3 hours (with high settings) to 6 hours (with low settings) of heat with a small 1 lb propane tank. 

There are well thought safety features which are built into the heater. It will auto shut off, if it tips over. It will also turn off, if oxygen levels drop to 18% from the normal 21%. You will love the fold down swivel as it makes this device portable to be moved around the tent area. To start up the heater, just rotate the knob to pilot and turn the switch lever to desired heat position. 

 

It is very quiet, which will be useful if you are hunting in your deer stands. Remember to open the air vent of your tent, to let the gas out and fresh air in.

Pros

  • Portable
  • Heats up to 225 square feet
  • Low oxygen safety shut off (ODS)
  • Tip over safety shut off

Cons

  • Large propane tank
  • Does not work well in extreme altitudes

Mr. Heater F215100 is extremely light and small. It is a super compact heater to carry around if you are travelling light. The heating power is at 3000 BTU, heating spaces up to 95 sq ft. The heat output cannot be adjusted, but it is compensated by the convenience of portability. One bottle of propane would last approximately 6 hours. You can extend the use of the heater, if you turn it on and off as and when you need it. This makes it the most economical heater as it burns longer than others. 

 

It comes with an oxygen detector, which auto shut off to protect you from dangerous carbon monoxide levels. This feature is a necessity, as gas is something we cannot detect by ourselves. It also auto turns off when it is knocked down, preventing unnecessary fire hazards. In the past propane tent heaters were well known for its stinking odor. Now, with new technology, it is odor-free, making it comfortable to have it around.

Pros

  • Super light and portable
  • Auto shut-off
  • Accidental tip-over switch
  • Low oxygen detector
  • Low noise

Cons

  • Low heating power
  • Heat output cannot be adjusted

 

Caframo True North is an electric heater, known to be very reliable with a solid design build. Its steel housing makes it a very durable heater. Its low profile design, with heating elements in front, makes it hard to tip over. It has 3 different heat settings at 600, 900 and 1500 Watt allows you to control how warm you want your tent to be. 

 

There is an option of “Fan only” settings, making it useful during hot summer months to circulate the air. The heat will kick on, when the temperature hits below 38°F (3°C), to prevent the room from freezing. The unit will automatically cycle through to maintain the room temperature. You can enjoy your camping space in comfort.

 

Pros

  • Antifreeze preset
  • Can be used as a fan on summers
  • Hard to tip over
  • Durable

Cons

  • Loud fan

This is a larger version of Little Buddy. It is able to radiate heat for spaces up to 400 sq ft in approximately 10 minutes. This is useful for larger sized tents. Although it is larger, it is still very portable. It emits no smell or smoke. It is a super popular choice for camping or ice fishing. 

It will auto shut off if tipped over and will not start a fire. It will also auto shut off when there is low levels of oxygen. Make sure you have fresh air coming in so that you will not get gas poisoning. You can warm up the tent with the heater, and shut it off just before you turn in to sleep. It has a fan built into it that can be powered by 4 D-size batteries or an AC adapter, which is not available on the Little Buddy. 

 

The canister fits on the sides. With 1 propane tank, Big Buddy can operate on low settings (producing 4000 BTUs) and medium settings (producing 9000 BTUs). The high settings work with 2 tanks producing 18000 BTUs or you can buy the optional hose kit and hook it to a larger tank. You will be impressed with the performance of this heater, as you will find them more than adequate even in the coldest conditions.

Pros

  • Has an inbuilt fan
  • Powerful
  • Can take in 2 tanks of propane

Cons

  • Does not have a thermostat

Vornado MVH Vortex heater is an electric heater. Vornado’s signature Vortex Action does not use intense heat like other typical heaters. Instead it gradually heats the room keeping it warm and comfortable. Its rapid rotational movement of air, disperses warm air in different directions in order to send heat to the entire room. So you will feel the heat throughout the room instead of directly from the heater itself. 

 

There are 3 heat settings, from 750W to 1500W which allows you to control the energy consumption and set the warmth in the room. Its internal thermostat will control the unit to turn on and off the heater, maintaining the set temperature in the room. 

 

It has an additional cool-touch exterior feature, which removes the risk of being burnt if you accidentally touch it. There is a tip-over protection that would immediately turn off the unit if it tipped over. It will also shut off the power if it overheats due to a blockage in the airflow. This gives you a peace of mind, that your kids and pets are safe around it. 

 

The heater is so quiet, that some users would place their hands in front of the heater, just to be sure it is turned on. It can be easily cleaned using the brush attachment from a vacuum cleaner, to prevent dust build up in the vent areas.

Pros

  • Super quiet
  • Cool-touch exterior feature
  • Great heat circulation
  • Built in Thermostat

Cons

  • No fan only option

Summary

All these camping heaters that we have reviewed are generally equally outstanding. Among all the 5 tent heaters, Mr. Heater F232000 comes out as one of the most popular and trusted tent heaters in the camping community. You can’t go wrong with this investment, as it is a reliable and efficient camping heater with safety built in mind. It keeps you comfortable even in the freezing winters. 

 

We find this heater reasonably affordable delivering great value with a lot of options. So go on and have fun in your camping, as these tent heaters will keep you warm even in the cold.

 

I hope you enjoyed this review and if you have questions about any of the tent heaters, or want to leave your own personal review, feel free to leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

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