Camping Heater Guide

Why you might need one

Camping heaters are portable devices that are designed to keep you warm outdoors by emitting heat.

Cold Weather
Experienced campers know that a camping heater is an essential camping tool even in the warmer months of the year, as the weather can change very rapidly outdoors.

A warm sunny day can quickly turn into a freezing hailstorm, or a shift in the wind could cause the temperature to drop to below freezing. A good camp heater could mean the difference between warm and comfortable nights or hypothermia. A camping heater can keep you warm both inside and outside of your tent.

By making sure you're well prepared for any eventuality you will stay safe.


Why not build a fire?

When most people think of camping, the image that springs to mind is happy people sitting around a campfire in the wilderness.
But there are times when it’s not possible or practical to build a fire:

1. If it's raining heavily, the chances of you getting a fire started are near impossible.
2. If the wood you are using for fuel is wet, then your fire won’t start.
3. Your local authority may have banned the use of fires in you location for safety or environmental reasons.
4. Sometimes a camp fire does not produce all the heat you need to stay warm
5. Camp fires cannot be used inside your tent.
6. Depending on the skill of the individual and environmental conditions, camp fires can take a long time to setup.

For convenience, safety and practicality using a camp heater has many advantages over the traditional camp fire. It can be setup quickly, you can use it to keep warm inside your tent, they are very easy to use and theywill work in good or bad weather.


Types of Camping heaters

There are 2 different types of camping heaters, the electric powered heater and the gas (propane) powered heater, each com with their advantages and disadvantages.

Coleman SportCat PerfecTemp Catalytic Heater
Coleman SportCat PerfecTemp Catalytic Heater | Source


Propane (Gas) Camp heater:

The propane heater is more powerful than its electric counterpart, and is a smaller version of your standard household gas fire.


The propane fuel comes in disposable gas cylinders that screw into the bottom of the unit, which is very user friendly and convenient.
Propane fuel is relatively cheap.

A propane heater can be used to heat other appliances like you a camping shower or a camping stove

TIP: If you already have other propane fuelled appliances such as a camping stove then it makes sense to use a propane heater too, so you only need to carry one type of fuel.


You will have to carry gas cylinders around with you and you will need to calculate how much fuel is required for the length of you trip.
This is not so bad if you are base camping and travelling to your site by car, but it becomes more of an inconvenience if you are moving around or backpacking for long periods.


Electric Camp Heaters

Electric camp heaters are very efficient at converting the energy from a mains supply or battery into heat.


They are very easy to use and are generally safer to use that gas powered heaters.
Advanced models have features such overheating protection, temperature control settings and thermostats.


Despite their efficiency and ease of use, the electric camp heater is not as widely used its gas powered cousin because it uses mains power, which you’re not likely to find out in the wilderness, although small number of campsites provide this service.

Also running electrical cords out in the open at a camp site increases the risk of tripping accidents and electric shocks.

Stansport Portable Outdoor Butane Heater
Stansport Portable Outdoor Butane Heater


How much heat do I need?

The heat that’s generated from a camping heater is measured in BTU’s (British Thermal Units), and is approximately the amount of energy needed to heat 1 pound (0.454 kg) of water from 39 °F (3.9 °C) to 40 °F (4.4 °C). Each camping heater will come with its own BTU power rating which will be stated in the product description.

Before you buy a camping heater you need to know if it has enough power to keep you warm in your tent or any other space. Fortunately there is a really easy method you can use to calculate this.


How to calculate the amount of heat you need

You multiply the length width and height of the tent or space which gives you the square footage. (This is only a rough guide as not all spaces are square/rectangular shaped).

Then you multiply the square footage by a number between 2 and 8, depending on how insulated your space is.
As a guide a well-built has has an insulation factor of 2, a tent in moderate conditions will have an insulation factor of 4 or 5, and a tent on top of a mountain in minus 10 temperatures would have an insulation factor of 8.

Check your camping heaters BTU output against your results, if the camping heater comes close to or exceeds this figure, then you know it will provide enough heat for your needs.


Let’s say our tent is 5 feet wide, 7 feet long and 6 feet high then our square footage would be 5 x 7 x 6= 210. If we were camping in a moderate climate (not hot but not cold) we would multiply this figure by 4.

210 x 4 = 840.

We now know that in a moderate climate our proposed camp heater would need to have a BTU of 840 or higher to provide enough heat for us to keep warm.


How to stay safe

Modern camping heaters have a number of safety features which are essential ‘must haves, however the cheaper camp heaters are missing certain safety features which makes them less safe.

Here is a list of safety features you want your heater to have:

Auto Shut off- This means your heater will turn itself off if it gets knocked over. This is extremely important when using a heater inside a tent (fire hazard) as limited space increases the chances of the heater being knocked over.

Push Button Ignition – This is a dedicated battery powered ignition. With this you don’t need a naked flame to start the heater, which could be hazardous inside a tent filled with equipment that can be damaged or set alight by a flame.

Oxygen Depletion Sensor- This is another built in safety mechanism which monitors the air and shuts down the heater when it detects low levels of oxygen.

This is a very important safety feature within closed spaces or where there is little ventilation. All camping heaters produce carbon monoxide, which can build up to dangerous levels when there is not adequate ventilation.

TIP: Make sure your heater is CERTIFIED FOR INDOOR USE, as most of these safety features come as standard on these model.


Camping Heater - Best Buys

Are you Ready to Buy your camping heater ?

After many months researching and testing different models I have come up with a list of the top 5 camping heaters on the market. The range of heaters listed below offer the best value for money in their class based on

Price, Performance, Ease of use and Portability.

Thanks for Reading

You should have all the knowledge you need to pick a great camping heater which suits your needs.

Camping is a fantastic activity which is best enjoyed when you are safe and prepared.

I hope this guide has been helpful to you, please feel free to leave a comment below.


Happy Camping !!

Other Useful Guides

1. Taking the family camping this season, want to know the best tents on the market?

Check out the Family Camping Tent guide.

2. Check out this Camping Lantern guide.

Comments 3 comments

kelly 4 years ago

I read the pro's and con's on a propane vs elec heater, but is it safe for you breathing in overnight? we have a coleman propan heater. We have a large 8 person tent.

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mrspok 3 years ago from UK Author

I understand your concern. As long as your tent is well ventilated it should be fine. Its only when you use a propane heater in a room that completely closed off that it becomes dangerous.

mrspok profile image

mrspok 3 years ago from UK Author

Hi Kelly, as long aa the tent gets plenty of ventilation then it's safe.

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