tank top tent heater

Which Is the Best Tent Heater for Camping? We Reveal 2021 Top Brands

Last Update: 14 July 2020

Why Exactly Do You Need A Tent Heater?

Keeping warm would be the first answer but a more in-depth outlook would affirm that staying warm by whatever means is crucial in fighting off viruses and infections.

There is scientific evidence to show that seasons influence human moods and emotional behavior. The gleams of sunshine keep the physical being glowing and inner being burning with positive energy.

In fact, according to an article by the Huffington Post, warm days are scientifically linked to mood boost. During spring, even the dead cold hearts jump with excitement. That is when you find most individuals stepping out of their comfort zone to enjoy the blessings of bright sunshine. But why limit your excitement to the natural seasons when you can create your own?

Aside from wearing warm, sleeping in a quality sleeping bag and using a good quality tent, a tent heater is in fact an effective way to combat the cold.

Tent heaters are particularly useful for winter camping as the tent walls can never be as effective as your home’s walls in insulating against the cold.

Drops in temperature put you at the risk of hypothermia, flu, and other avoidable illnesses. The health risk is even higher for campers aged over 65 and those with pre-existing chronic diseases.

So, don’t be caught off guard; pack appropriately and don’t forget to bring along a tent heater to face such adversities head-on.

That said, it’s time we help you find a befitting heater for your tent. Below are some of the best camping heaters that you can find in the market today.

The Best Combustion Tent Heaters for Camping

These are easily the most common types you will find today and may use fuels such as gas (propane or butane), kerosene or wood fuel. They work by burning the fuel to provide heat to a given space.

Name Fuel Fuel Tank Capacity Dimensions Weight Maximum BTU Heating Range Price
Mr. Heater Hunting Buddy Portable Space Heater Propane 1.0 lb. 10.20" × 15.50" × 16.50" 9.0 lbs. 12000 300 sq. ft. $$$
Texsport Portable Propane Heater Propane 1.0 lb. 17.67" × 16.12" × 11.25" 1.0 lbs. 2890 100 sq. ft. $
Mr. Heater Corporation Tank Top Heater Propane 20 lbs. ** 10.40" × 10.40" × 17.50" 7.4 lbs. 45000 1000 sq. ft. $$
Stansport Portable Propane Heater Propane 1 lb. 8.80" × 5.50" × 5.50" 1.8 lbs. 3100 100 sq. ft. $
Dura Heat 360 Degree Tank Top Propane Heater Propane 20 lbs. ** 9.25" × 9.25" × 17.5" 4.87 lbs. 40000 1000 sq. ft. $$
Camco Olympian RV Wave Heater Propane 20 lbs. ** 11.75" × 10.25" × 3.5" 6.0 lbs. 3000 100 sq. ft. $$$
Mr. Heater MH30T Double Tank Top Propane Heater Propane 20 lbs. ** 16.8" × 6.5" × 16" 5.0 lbs. 30000 1000 sq. ft. $$$
Sengoku HeatMate Kerosene Heater Kerosene 1.2 gal. 15.0" × 15.0" × 22.0" 20.3 lbs. 10000 380 sq. ft. $$

** means that the heater connects to a fuel cylinder weighing the stated value. This value could vary since you can connect the heater to a suitable cylinder of your choice.

1. Mr. Heater MH12B Hunting Buddy Portable Heater

MH12B mr heater portable hunting buddy
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Enerco prides itself with its Mr. Heater brand, which has been the most popular brand of portable heaters and with good reason. Over the company’s sixty years of industry experience, Mr. Heater tent heaters have portrayed timely innovativeness and high quality. The MH12B continues with this legacy.

It is a portable liquid propane heater that promises to heat up to 300 square feet of space with heat outputs ranging from 6000 BTUs to 12000 BTUs.

Quiet Radiance

We found this radiant tent heater to be perfect not only for camping but also for RV use, backpacking, tailgating, hunt camps, fishing trips, and even tree/deer stands. The heater operates quietly, feeding off a 1-pound propane tank that is sold separately.

The heater features a single control and a swivel regulator. Starting things up is super easy as you only have to push a button, rotate a dial and leave the rest to the silent ignition system. The heater works by radiating heat from the heated ceramic tile within it that has been in turn heated by the burning propane.

That said, you’ll still need ample ventilation when using it in confined spaces.

Unmatched Versatility

The MH12B Hunting Buddy portable heater is easy to use, lightweight and very portable. It’s loaded with safety measures such as an Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS) that shuts it off when oxygen gets too low as well as a tip-over safety switch.

You may use a one-pound propane canister when on-the-go or just connect to a larger 20-pounds gas cylinder with a hose and filter, all of which can be bought separately. This means that you can use the heater in plenty of places and situations.

Its feathery weight of about nine pounds also makes it a portable and practical accessory to haul along with you. However, the ODS may limit its usage as the heater will shut off once you reach 7,000 feet above sea level.

Our Take

A true classic with a brand reputability to match, the Mr. Heater MH12B Hunting Buddy is easily one of the best portable space heaters yet. The heater is super easy to use and provides incredible versatility, perfect for any outdoor activities.

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2. Texsport Portable Propane Heater

Texsport Outdoor propane heater
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Devoid of the fancy designs and complicated brand names, the Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane heater is one product that caught our attention. The heater has a distinctive design and will be the perfect heating appliance for your winter camping trips.

Functional Design

Unlike their ingenious Sportsmate Heater which has a rectangular shaped design (which is so popular by the way), the debut Texsport Propane heater has a fan-shaped design that is meant for simplicity of operation, effectiveness and portability. The single control knob helps you adjust the heat output up to a maximum of 2,890 BTUs, which is adequate for small confined spaces.

The aluminum reflector cupping the heating elements effectively directs the heat towards you without fail. The large fold-away plastic feet provide the heater with a solid base and fairly good stability. Safety is further enhanced by its auto-shutoff fuel valve when the flame goes out as well as the included safety grid.

Truly made with portability in mind, this heater can be used with disposable propane tanks (16.4 oz. or 14.1 oz.). Plus, the heater only weighs one pound and even with a propane tank, you will only have a total weight of two pounds to contend with.

Additionally, its rugged stainless-steel burner operates quietly enough to not be noticeable.

However, as you may have noticed, the heater is marketed for outdoor use and thus I’d be skeptical about using it in a tent. Maybe extra safety features like an ODS and tip-over sensors would make the decision a bit easier.

Then again, at such a friendly price, some compromises are to be expected.

Our Take

With a tagline as bold as ‘Authentic Adventure Gear’, the Texsport Portable Outdoor propane heater fits well within the company’s vision. We felt that the heater’s functional design made up for its low heat output.

While the heater will make do for an affordable outdoor heating option, it would be great if the manufacturer added extra safety features as are expected in portable propane heaters.

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3. Mr. Heater Corporation MH540T Tank Top Heater

mr heater mh540t tank-top heater 45000 BTUs
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Another one of Enerco’s brilliance, the Mr. Heater Corporation Tank Top heater, offers the best way to stay warm when spending time outdoors. Its beautiful design alone was a reason enough for us to check it out.

All about Degrees

A 360-degree burner head coupled with a 180-degree multi-directional bracket ensures there’s enough heat around for everyone. The biggest benefit of having a 360-degree heater is the effective heat distribution all-round.

The heat is evenly distributed to the space and to everyone making it more of an advanced campfire than a space heater. To further enhance the experience, the mounting bracket can swivel up to 180 degrees for effective radiation and convection of heat in multiple directions.

Rugged and Easy to Use

The heater can be mounted to a 20-pounds cylinder with quick and simple actions. Lighting the MH540T heater is even easier thanks to the integrated push-button TE valve and piezo ignition system. It features durable high-quality stainless-steel components and a tip-over safety switch for long-lasting and stress-free performance.

Even with the accidental tip over, the heater will barely dent plus the tip-over safety feature ensures it automatically shuts off in an instance.

The MH540T propane heater is expected to have a burn rate of 0.176 pounds per hour with a heat output cycling between 29000 BTUs, 36000 BTUs, and 45000 BTUs. However, it may gobble up your propane reserve in less than 20-hours even when operating at low settings.

Our Take

Any Mr. Heater portable heater is worth considering. The MH540T Corporation Tank Top Heater is no different especially with the loads and loads of innovative features. You’ll appreciate the multidirectional approach they applied on the head and mounting bracket.

However, maybe including a thermostat to this rather uniquely-designed outdoor heater would not only save up some fuel but also justify its premium price.

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4. Stansport Portable Propane Heater

Stansport Portable infrared radiant heater - 195
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Rocking a similar design to the Texsport Portable heater, we have this propane heater from Stansport that supplies up to 3,100 BTUs. The design is slightly more refined featuring a convenient carry handle, a shiny metal disc to reflect and focus heat in one direction, and a 4-step control interface.

Impressive Design and Build

The Stansport heater measures 5.5 inches wide by 5.5 inches long with a height of 8.8 inches, which all weigh a feathery 1.8 pounds. This compact and lightweight form factor in addition to the rugged carry handle makes it very portable.

The outdoor infrared propane heater can be used with 16.4 oz cylinders, which are sold separately. The heater is tailored for heating small spaces plus the metal dish plays a huge role in directing warmth towards you.

The control knob has four main functions; Off, Low, Medium, and High, allowing for easy heat adjustments and control.

While this version is fairly limited in terms of standard safety features, it has a firm plastic base with fold-out feet for maximum stability as well as a matchless electronic ignition (in some models). You will also spot a metal grid over the heating elements for extra safety.

Our Take

The Stansport Portable Propane Heater prides itself on providing unrivaled portability, ergonomics, and fair pricing. In particular, the stainless-steel carry handle is a very welcome feature to the rather function-over-form design.

However, the ignition system may fail or is non-existent in some of its versions. That said, the Stansport propane heater is a good option to consider when looking for an affordable, portable heater.

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5. Dura Heat 360 Degree Tank Top Propane Heater

dura heat tt 360 degree propane camping heater
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The Dura Heat brand from World Marketing of America, Inc. is one of the most popular heating product brands in North America. The TT-360 propane tank top heater weighs slightly less than five pounds and can heat up to 1000 square feet of outdoor space.

The TT-360 is made for outdoor use making it a good heating option for campsites, patios, garage, winter hunting, above ground pools, construction site, and fishing among other uses.

Safety First

If you reside in Canada then the fact that this tank top heater is CSA certified is reason enough to consider buying it. What this translates to is that the TT-360 will hold up against outdoor extremities without compromising on safety.

Speaking of which, there are a handful of features that have been included in the product to enhance safety.

The heater has auto shut-offs in case of tip-overs and lights out. There’s also a strong chrome guard surrounding the heating elements to protect you and your kids from burns through accidental touches. The model mainly comes with either a match light ignition or a piezoelectric spark ignition system.

Practical yet Beautiful Design

Installation of the heater is easy and straightforward as you only have to affix it on top of a propane tank as instructed in the owner’s manual. The assembly will take less than five minutes and you’ll only require a Phillips head screwdriver.

The ‘360’ in its name stands for its 360-degree radiant heating method that allows for even heat distribution to everyone. There are even reflectors to further direct heat outwards more efficiently.

Freestanding heaters, like this one, are generally well-loved for their stability and versatility. Further, the Dura Heat TT-360 delivers lots of heat which can be adjusted between its three presets; 30,000 BTUs, 35,000 BTUs, and 40,000 BTUs.

According to the manufacturer, the heater is capable of providing 40,000 BTUs/hr. for 10.8 hours running off a 20-pounds propane cylinder.

To withstand the extremities of the great outdoors, the TT-360 is made of stainless steel that’s not only rugged but also corrosion and rust-resistant.

Our Take

The Dura Heat TT-360 propane heater packs lots of benefits including that it operates quietly, provides a wide heating range, is easy to use, and so much more. You get a lot of value out of the product even with its premium pricing.

However, you may only use the heater outdoors with 20-40 gas cylinders and the igniting system may not always work seamlessly all the time.

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6. Camco Olympian RV Catalytic Wave Heater

Camco Olympian Wave 3 Catalytic Heater for RV camping
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The Olympian Wave 3, 6, and 8 catalytic heaters are a product line from Camco, which is a lead manufacturer of RV gear, automotive accessories, and camping essentials. The three heaters have been rated to provide heat outputs as follows:

Catalytic Efficiency

These catalytic heaters work by combining oxygen and propane to produce heat on the surface of the platinum catalyst pad inside. Once the pad lights up, there’s no longer any flames thus making it an ideal camping heater for RVs and partly tents.

A good thing about catalytic heaters is that they work just fine even in high altitudes, unlike other portable propane heaters. Lighting up the propane heater is super easy thanks to the integrated reliable Piezo ignition system that’s been rated for about 20,000 sparks.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on assembly and positioning. Most importantly, make sure to always have proper ventilation when using the heater in confined spaces.

When not in use, the heater comes with a dust cover to keep out contaminants that would have otherwise increased the risk of catalyst pad poisoning. The poisoning refers to when the propane isn’t fully combusted due to contaminants being present in the pad.

Versatility

Aside from conquering the altitude hurdle, Olympian Wave Heaters may be used in cabins, patios, campsites, and all manner of places and scenarios. To obtain efficient radiant heat transfer, ensure that it’s directed to spaces that you want heated.

The heaters come with padded feet for maximum stability when placed on the floor and there are some holes on the back to enable vertical or horizontal wall mounting. The legs also help radiate heat upwards to wherever you want.

Our Take

The Olympian Wave radiant propane heaters have proven to be the most efficient, safest, and highly rated indoor/outdoor heaters in the market yet. The catalytic heating action is especially more spelled out and effectively executed in these models.

However, these heaters are more suited to RV campers who have enough space to haul/store a 20-pound propane tank than your typical backpacker, car camper, or tent camper.

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7. Mr. Heater MH30T Double Tank Top Propane Heater

MH30T Double Tank Top Outdoor Propane Heater
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The third appearance of the Mr. Heater brand on our list comes in as this MH30T Double Tank Top heater which subtly resembles the Wall-E. Robot or ET. In particular, the two heater heads look like glowing red eyes during operation.

Anyway, it is a quick-to-assemble and easy-to-carry propane heater made for outdoor use.

Durable and Efficient

The MH30T double tank top heater is mainly made of steel material for maximum longevity and endurance against the harsh outdoors. It can be easily connected to standard 5 pounds to 20 pounds propane cylinders allowing for incomparable versatility.

Additionally, if you exclude the gas canister, the heater is a lightweight, compact bundle that can be carried to wherever needed. The unit measures 16.8 inches by 6.5 inches by 16 inches with a total weight of about five pounds.

To get things started, you may match light the burner or use a gas lighter. However, refer to the owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to assemble, check leaks, and other precautions. The control regulator will make it easy to adjust the heat output accordingly ranging from Hi - 30,000 BTUs, Med - 24,000 BTUs to Lo - 10,000 BTUs.

We also found the heater to be fairly more efficient than other alternatives as it provided an incredible 40+ hours of use on the Lo setting and up to 14 hours on the Hi setting.

Lastly, we noted that the heater lacked most of the standard safety sensors and features as present in other brands. Then again it is an outdoor propane heater so a safety tip-over switch will suffice.

Our Take

Combat the chilly outdoors with the MH30T, a double tank top propane heater that’s not only practical but also highly efficient in heat transfer. It will be an essential add-on for campgrounds, sporting events, construction sites, fishing, hunting, and even patios.

Adding a Piezo ignition system to the heater by the manufacturer would make an even easier heater to recommend. That said, if you don’t mind purchasing a separate propane tank for it or connecting it to your tanks then the MH30T is the perfect outdoor heater you’ve been waiting for.

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8. Sengoku HeatMate Kerosene Heater

Sengoku HeatMate 10,000-BTU Portable Indoor/Outdoor Omni-Radiant Kerosene Heater
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Away from the LP portable heaters, we shift gears with the Sengoku HeatMate, which uses kerosene instead of propane or butane gas. Its 1.2-gallon fuel tank promises to provide 12 to 14 hours of heat with high outputs of up to 10,000 BTUs.

Since the heater uses kerosene, the Sengoku HeatMate is best suited for outdoor use whether at campgrounds, patios, decks or other recreational spaces.

Wide Heating Range versus Safety

The heat output provided by this heater is more than enough for an area of up to 380 square feet. It can work as an emergency or supplemental heating option.

The small, compact form factor also makes it easy to position it wherever you like plus it is very easy to carry. The heater measures a mere 15.5 inches by 15 inches by 22 inches and weighs at only 20.3 pounds.

What about the safety features you ask? Well, the heater has most if not all the standard safety features, you’d expect in a good quality portable heater.

We’re talking about a solid base, guard bars around the heating elements, a matchless ignition, a flame adjuster, automatic shut-off in case of malfunctions or overheating, and a tip-over switch.

Lighting the unit is as easy as pushing a button plus the design of the burner is over-engineered to avoid any sudden wind disturbances. The ignition bit is taken care of by a battery-operated (4C/2D) system that also features a fuel gauge, siphon pump, and the batteries.

Rugged Construction

The Sengoku HeatMate kerosene heater is made of durable, corrosion-resistant components for optimal longevity. Plus, the wide, sturdy flat base provides a stable foundation for the heating unit with a lowered risk of tipping over.

The heater is also available in two main styles i.e. radiant and Omni-radiant models. We prefer the latter model as it is more practical, affordable and aesthetically appealing as compared to the rest.

Our Take

The Omni Radiant style of the Sengoku HeatMate Kerosene Heater was one that stuck in our minds the most. Its apparent 360-degree heat transfer will especially be very useful in fighting the chilly weather.

Generally, this kerosene heater is a good option for anyone looking for a sturdy, reliable, and highly portable outdoor heating appliance.

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The Best Electric Camping Heaters

Worried about emissions and the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning? The electric camping heaters might be more up to your speed. Some are battery-operated and rechargeable while others may require an electricity hookup to operate. They include the following:

Heater Wattage Heater Technology Dimensions Weight Maximum BTUs Heating Range Price
Lasko Designer Oscillating Heater 900W / 1500W Ceramic convection 10" × 10" × 16" 5.86 lb. 5118 150 sq. ft. $$
Comfort Zone CZ707 Compact Utility Heater 1500W Forced-air convection 8" × 6" × 6.75" 3.17 lb. 5118 150 sq. ft. $
Multifun Ceramic Space Heater 900W / 1500W Ceramic convection 6" × 6.7" × 7" 2.43 lb. 5118 108 sq. ft. $
Caframo True North Heater 600W / 1500W Forced-air convection 5.25" × 12.25" × 9.75" 5.25 lb. 5125 150 sq. ft. $$

1. Lasko 6405 Designer Oscillating Heater

Lasko designer series oscillating heater 6405
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The 6405 oscillating ceramic heater from Lasko resembles more a vintage-looking smart speaker than a heating appliance. The beautiful design is quite ingenious as it easily blends with surrounding decor as the appliance silently provides you with warmth for hours and hours.

The heater’s small form and mere 5.86-pounds weight makes it very easy to carry around whether for that weekender camping trip or just backyard lounging.

Performance and Safety

The Lasko 6405 supports two main heat settings, low at 900 watts and high at 1500 watts, which can easily be adjusted by the thermostatic controls. It even has an oscillating feature that allows for warmth to spread more evenly and widely throughout the given space.

You can expect an excellent amount of comfy warmth thanks to the heater’s high heat outputs ranging from 3070 BTUs to about 5118 BTUs. The control panel has temperature presets of 60 degrees to 85 degrees heat options.

This means that you may adjust the room temperature to the desired levels with the touch of a button. Moreover, there is also a timer function that can be set between 1 to 7 hours after which the heater automatically shuts off.

Functional Design

This urn-shaped heater features a ceramic heating unit and a metallic stable base, all with a tan speckled color scheme. It’s not all looks though since every component in the unit seems to be intentionally designed to be as practical as possible.

The controls are very user-friendly and easy to understand. Additionally, the timer and oscillation functions help customize the heating output to your liking.

Aside from the ETL approval and listing, the Lasko 6405 features an overheating protection feature to prevent accidents and improve the appliance’s efficiency. To put things in context, an ETL Listed mark means the product has been tested for compliance with North American safety standards.

The company also offers a 3-years limited warranty on the unit for extra customer protection and assurance.

Our Take

The Lasko 6405 may help offset your heating bills as a supplemental option at home or as the primary heating option at camp. The modern design on this portable space heater is a great complement to its thermostatic controlled heat outputs.

As long as you have a reliable EHU at your campsite then the Lasko 6405 is a good heating solution for your tent space.

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2. Comfort Zone CZ707 Compact Utility Heater

Comfort Zone CZ707 Compact Utility Heater
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The CZ707 heater is thermostat-controlled and loaded with most of the standard safety features you’d expect in a good quality electric heater. It has an old portable CRT TV form factor and weighs a mere 3.17 pounds. The added handle at the top further enhances its portability.

Efficient yet Powerful

The Comfort Zone CZ707 heater outputs about 5000 BTUs thanks to its 1500 wattage, which is enough to warm up a space of less than 150 square feet. The heater offers up to three heat settings ranging from low to high as well as a fan-only option.

The fan-only preset helps you cool down in hot weather in effect eliminating the need to pack extra appliances for your camping trip.

An adjustable thermostat rotary dial is also present on the unit to allow for easier temperature controls and comfort. Additionally, the heating elements are all housed in a metal casing for added protection and durability.

Safety First Appliance

When it comes to portable heaters, standard safety features are non-negotiable. That said, you can rest easy as the Comfort Zone CZ707 has a tip-over switch, an overheating auto-shutoff sensor as well as power and caution indicators.

Our Take

The Comfort Zone CZ707 is a good quality portable ideal for small indoor spaces and tents. You can move the heater from one location to the other with relative ease thanks to the convenient carry handle, safety features, and light weight.

However, a timer and a more effective forced-air heating technology would have been all good add-ons on this heater.

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3. Multifun Ceramic Space Heater

multifun Portable Ceramic Electric Space Heater 1500-Watt
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Encased in a stylish rugged metal shell is this PTC (Positive Temperature Coefficient) ceramic heating unit from the little-known company, Multifun. The 1500W electric heater is an underrated heating appliance that will fit right in your tent, garage or other small spaces.

The Multifun Ceramic space heater packs enough punch to effectively warm up a space of up to 108 square feet.

Practically Safe Heater

Most of the components making up the unit are made of V0 flame-resistant materials and the metal casing is fire-retardant. Additionally, the heater adheres to all the ETL and UL safety standards so you don’t have to worry about it burning down your house.

The thermostat control in the heater allows it to self-regulate and maintain the set temperature, it stops automatically once optimal room temperature has been obtained. The ceramic heating technology assures product longevity and optimal efficiency in warming up your space.

There’s an overheating auto-shutoff switch just in case in addition to its safety-first stand that provides a stable base for the unit. The angled legs also facilitate in promoting efficient heat circulation warming the given area in mere seconds.

Additionally, the Multifun Ceramic heater has a larger heating surface and fairly quiet fan (<50 decibels) to blow the warm air as evenly and widely as possible. The cable is also quite long at 4.9 ft. so that you can easily adjust the location of the heater as needed.

Our Take

Despite what any marketing materials might say regarding the unit, the Multifun heater is best suited as a personal heater than a space heater. It’s a small but powerful portable heater that will fit in all manner of tight spaces just make sure to practice safety precautions before using it.

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4. Caframo True North Heater

Ceframco True North Heater
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The True North Heater from Caframo Limited has a distinctive low profile with rugged build all-round. Banking on Caframo’s decades of experience in manufacturing high-quality heaters and fans, we expect the True North heater to rank very highly.

The heater takes up less vertical space as it only measures slightly over five inches high. Plus, its 12.25 inches long by 9.75 inches wide form factor is still quite small and compact. The True North Heater will be ideal for your office, home, RV or tent usage.

Easy to Operate

The control panel is located on the top of the appliance for easy access. The five heating settings include; High Output (1500W), Energy Saver – Low (900W), Energy Saver – High (900W), Sleep Mode (600W), and Fan Only mode.

On high, the unit outputs 1500 Watts with the fan set on high for maximum air/heat circulation. The two Energy Saver modes allow for an adjustable fan speed which further results in a quieter operation at moderate heating conditions.

The fan only mode lessens the need for extra appliances when on the move while the Sleep Mode silently produces low heat.

That’s not all as there’s a second dial, the thermostat, to help the heater self-regulate to an optimal temperature as you desire. There’s also a useful indicator light on top to indicate whether the thermostat is on or not, refer to the owner’s manual for specifics.

Our Take

The Caframo True North Heater is a portable forced-air electric heater made to combat the harsh Canada cold. Compact, durable with a high-quality build is exactly what you can expect with this heater.

However, the fan may get too loud at high temperatures for certain situations like offices, boats or nighttime at campgrounds plus it is still limited to heat small spaces.

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Alternatives to Camping Heaters

Major developments in the camping sector have brought about other nifty heating solutions such as lanterns, wood-fueled stoves, and chemical packs. Nevertheless, you’ll want to have these options only as secondary heating solutions when your main camping heater is inaccessible or not suitable.

Chemical Packs

First up, we have chemical packs, which also go by terms like hand warmers and feet warmers depending on their main usage. You can use the chemical packs to temporarily warm your hands, feet, or any other body part.

Check out HotHands Super Warmers.

Chemical packs are the perfect heat-on-demand solution, whether you’re outdoors or indoors. In fact, some people use them as a home remedy to get relief from joint and muscle aches.

That said, chemical packs can only heat up a very small surface and thus you need to get yourself a main heating solution. They’ll be perfect to stuff in your gloves for that winter camping trip, and nothing more.

In dire situations, lots of hand warmers can come in handy in keeping you warm as you can layer them underneath your clothes. Reusable options will be even more effective in keeping you away from possible hypothermia and other cold-related illnesses.

Propane Lanterns

A complement to your crackling campfire and storytelling – propane lanterns are the classic solution to your outdoor lighting when camping. With all of them centered on illumination, can you find a lantern that could warm you up as well? Probably not, but this propane lantern from Coleman comes pretty close.

You’ll want to exercise a lot of caution when using these lanterns as they burn propane to produce light (and heat). Always use the lantern in well ventilated spaces and never in enclosed spaces like inside a tent or an RV.

Propane lanterns require fragile cloth mantles to ignite plus they may be slightly noisy when running. Keeping that in mind, go for a propane lantern for its outdoor lighting functionality but not its heating ability.

As a last resort, propane lanterns may be used as space heaters if and only if the space is small and properly vented.

When shopping for one, be sure to look at its expected output in form of lumens and check its fuel reserve’s capacity. It should also include adequate safety features such as a stable stand as well as other practical qualities.

Wood Burning Stoves

Sticking with the classics, a wood burning stove is a good option to consider as a heating solution when camping. Wood burning stoves are the best excuse to ditch your gas and electric heaters in favor of an elevated campfire of sorts feeding off twigs, logs, hickory sticks, and pine cones.

Check out the Camp Chef Alpine Heavy Wood Stove.

Another plus for this type of heating solution is that it can double up as your cooking station. It burns wood more efficiently as opposed to open fires, which may not even be permitted in most campgrounds.

However, if you’re a backpacker or an ultralight camper then a camping stove is simply not something you should look twice at. The stoves tend to be heavy, bulky, and slow to get started. They will mostly suit you if you camp in an RV, campervan, or car.

They require more cleanups and maintenance as compared to other options as you’ll have to dump out the ash almost on a daily basis. Also, while most will come with a chimney to direct smoke and poisonous gases out, camping stoves are built for outdoor use.

Charcoal-burning stoves work in a similar and may arguably burn for longer and more cleanly.

Unlike your fancy electric heaters with their tip-over and auto-shut functionalities, wood burning stoves come bareboned with scarcely any safety qualities. So, never leave the stove burning when going to sleep and always exercise caution when operating them.

Tent Heaters 101: Factors to Consider When Shopping for One

There are several concerns that you might have when considering getting a heater for your camping trips. Will it be safe and practical to use for your trip? Will it effectively warm you and your family? Well, rest assured that most of the heaters available in the market will be safe to use.

To help you zero down to your heater of choice, we’ve prepared the comprehensive buying guide below.

Type of Heater

Broadly, we have three main types of heaters i.e. combustion, electric/battery-operated and chemical packs heaters.

Electric Tent Heaters

electric tent heater

The biggest attraction for electric heaters is the fact they have zero emissions when in use, which means fewer worries about CO poisoning and clean air. If you’re lucky enough to find a battery-powered one, well and good, else you will require an electrical outlet, an extension, and LOTs of power to operate most electric heaters.

Battery-operated heaters are mostly non-existent due to battery capacity limitations, which means to heat a tent would require very many batteries.

This heavily limits your campsite options and may even be too bulky to carry around during hikes or backpacking trips.

As with other heat-generating sources, electric heaters are fire hazards. They pose a huge risk of igniting or melting nearby objects if left unattended. That said, you should always go for an electric heater that has tip-over shutoffs, thermal cutouts in case of overheating, and timers among other safety features.

Thermostats are also a welcome feature in electric heaters as they not only help conserve electricity but also uphold an even room temperature. So, if your heater of choice comes with one, go for it!

Electric heaters with timers will most likely be even more practical for in-the-tent usage. You also need to be wary that water and electricity just don’t mix thus where you place it will matter a lot. However, electric heaters are still way safer and cheaper to run as compared to LPG heaters.

Primarily, there are three main types of electric heaters, convectional, fan-forced convection, and radiant heaters with the main differences being their method of heat transfer. Fan-forced heaters work by forcing air over the heated coils and out into your tent space. Radiant heaters transfer the heat via radiation while convectional heaters take advantage of convective air currents.

The method of heat transfer is one of the major factors to consider when getting an electric heater, leave aside how much heat was generated.

Fan-forced heaters are perfect for quickly warming up a small confined space where you don’t intend to maintain at high temperatures for long. They can be okay for warming up the tent sleeping area but be wary that directly in front of the heater can get very hot.

Radiant heaters are slow but effective performers and work by transferring warmth directly to nearby objects or persons. You must be in the heaters’ glowing tubes/coils’ direct line of sight for maximum effectiveness.

Most radiant heaters may emit visible light which can be irritating to have in sleeping compartments.

Infrared heaters are an offshoot of radiant heaters with the biggest difference being that they do not emit visible light. This makes them ideal for bedroom and sleeping areas alike. However, they may be more expensive than other electric heater types and some may have a low wattage (heating capacity).

Classic convection heaters maintain spaces at higher temperatures for longer periods. Additionally, their surfaces don’t get too hot as the other types making them a safer choice for use in tents and other confined spaces.

Halogen heaters are technically radiant heaters and are well-liked for their lightweight, quick heating, and efficiency when used in small spaces.

Lastly, you may want to check if the campground’s electric hookup (EHU) voltage supports your heater before plugging in. Also, it’s good to note that some of these types of electric heaters are better suited for home use instead of in-tent usage due to their bulkiness.

Gas Heaters

propane tent heater

Here we’ll mostly talk about heaters with propane or butane fuel canisters. But first, let’s get the bad bits out of the way. With a gas heater, the downsides range from an increased risk of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide poisoning, fire hazard to possible oxygen depletion in confined spaces.

Luckily, the said risks can be mitigated with shutoff sensors and a bit of precaution.

Gas tent heaters are very portable and lightweight making them a worthy accessory to consider for hikers and backpackers alike. They also burn really hot allowing for quicker “heat-ups” for small spaces.

Additionally, gas heaters are easy to use and can provide heat for long periods, for instance, a 1-pound propane unit may give you slightly over seven hours of heating. You may opt to go with either propane or butane units without missing out on a lot as they offer relatively the same heat output.

If portability is your main concern then a tent heater that’s compatible with 1-pound gas canister would be the way to go. Else, some brands also support connection with a larger capacity propane tank.

Chemical Warmers

These mostly come as small feet and hand warmers and are meant as temporarily heating solutions. You may place them under your shirt, in your socks or just clasp them in your hands to get warm.

How do they work? Well, to put it simply, they rely on exothermic chemical reactions to produce heat and come in two main types:

Safety features

It’s been a long-held notion that using heaters indoors can be dangerous. However, that is not the case today as many companies and regulators alike have made strides to protect consumers against some of the dangers.

Good quality tent heaters are loaded with features such as the following for fool-proof protection:

Low-oxygen sensors in some camping heaters will even go as far as inhibiting usage of the devices in high altitudes. You are most likely to encounter this issue at altitudes of over 6000 feet above sea level.

Other measures you can take when using tent heaters include the following:

Heat Output

This is also another important aspect to consider, it refers to how much heat a heater can produce. The common unit of measurement for this is BTUs – British thermal units. Technically, one BTU is equal to the energy required to cool/heat one pound of water 1-degree Fahrenheit at sea level.

To calculate the right BTUs needed for your tent, you will need to factor in the tent’s cubic volume, its insulation factor, and the required temperature rise.

For instance:

A tent size of 7’ x 5’ x 3’ is equal to 105 cubic feet.

If the night is expected to have lows of 35° and you want to maintain the temperature at 50° then the temperature rise will be equal to 15°.

Which is equal to: 105×15×0.25= 394 BTUs/hour

Cubic Volume in Feet × Temperature Rise × Insulation Factor the Tent = BTUs/hour

This tent heater calculator may also come in handy in determining BTUs needed for your tent.

Tent heaters with a heat output of 1000 to 5000 BTUs are perfect for winter campers and medium-sized tents. However, you may want to go for a tent heater that is temperature adjustable for a more customized experience.

You will also want to look out for the efficiency rating of the product since all heaters lose energy when consuming fuel. A tent heater with 10,000 BTUs and an 85% efficiency rating will only put out around 8,500 BTUs per hour.

Keep in mind that only combustion heaters are measured in BTUs while electric heaters are measured in terms of wattage. A higher wattage would translate to more heat but also an increased risk of blowing a fuse.

However, heat output in electric heaters is sometimes converted into BTUs by multiplying the wattage by a factor of 3.4121416331.

Size and Portability

Some factors that will affect the size, fuel type, and BTUs of the heater includes tent size, length of stay, distance to a power source, the expected number of campers and severity of the temperature lows. When going for longer trips, a lightweight and portable heater would make much sense.

Ideally, you want a heater that will heat most of your tent space thus considering your tent square footage versus the heater’s BTUs would be the right approach.

Other Factors

Another factor to consider when shopping for a tent heater is its noise levels when in operation. While some brands will even indicate the decibel levels of the units, we found that electric heaters tend to be the loudest followed closely by gas heaters.

Too much noise will not only disturb your sleep but may also be a nuisance to nearby campers. Not all noise is bad as the quiet crackling sounds of wood-fuel heaters or the white noise from fan-forced heaters may be soothing to some campers.

As with all outdoor gear, your tent heater will be exposed to the extremities of the great outdoors and thus you want it to be as durable as possible. While this can be hard to tell, it’s always a safer bet when you go with reputable brands plus user reviews can be just as useful.

A warranty cover on top of friendly return policies are also very desirable and sometimes indicative of a heater’s quality and longevity.

Ways to Generate Extra Warmth During Camping

Besides using tent heaters, there are many ways to keep yourself and your tent warm during camping. Some of the easy ways are listed below.

Warmth clothes and accessories

Always carry warmth clothes and accessories especially during winter. Things such as gloves, leg warmers, heavy jackets, hoods, socks and heavy blankets are cold weather essentials. Besides keeping the body warm, they protect you from cold-related infections. Even in hot weather, warmth clothes are very important. Some regions experience extremely cold nights during hot weather.

If you are camping during the rainy season, carry a rain coat and other rain accessories to protect your clothes from soaking with water. Keeping wet clothes in an enclosed space/tent can be dangerous to human health.

Proper Diet

Eat foods that provide the body with extra warmth. Food substances perform different functions in the body. There are foods that allow the body to produce extra heat. Paying closer attention to them during camping can keep the body warmer.

Be keen when setting up a tent

Choose the location of your tent wisely. Avoid slanting landscapes or near stagnant water. Equally important, observe the patterns of natural forces such as wind and snow.

Have Fun, Stay Warm!

Whether you’re dreading the winter cold or just seeking some extra warmth within your tent, camping heaters are safe and effective accessories to pack for your next camping trip. Enjoy the spectacular outdoors without worrying about hypothermia and all those cold-related horror stories.

We hope that you found the above information useful in figuring out which tent heater suits you or at the very least you now know about BTUs. Give in to your wanderlust but stay warm and always practice tent heater safety.

Author-bio

ABOUT DANIEL MSANII

When he's not camping or adventuring the outdoors, you'll find him grinding hard on his keyboard to put up some super-awesome content on campingmaniacs.com. Starting off on camping escapades back in 2011, he has grown fond of the activity over the years. His exposure to a myriad of different camping terrains, gear and the outdoor atmosphere has hitherto changed his perception of the entire outdoor life. He enjoys sharing the experiences of his adventures and gear reviews with the awesome camping community on this platform. Read more about us.

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Comments 2

D Y

Just a note. Propane dumps a TON of moisture into the air. If you try and use a tank top style unit in a tent that is synthetic (wall tents seem to breathe well enough, vehicles do not) you will end up with horrendous water accumulation. With a floor, even when warmed up enough to thaw the frozen walls and ceiling, it will puddle. Probably not a good choice for those with synthetic tents or vehicle camping in cold weather.

Daniel @CampingManiacs

Definitely Eric, I agree with your sentiments.

Eric Gutmann

Wow! Thank you Daniel! Very comprehensive & concise; just what I was looking for. Thanks again!

Daniel @CampingManiacs

Hey Eric! Glad that you found our review helpful. That's exactly what our aim is: to help you locate the best gear for camping in a hassle-free manner.

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