6 Best Tent Heaters For SAFE Cold Weather Survival

By "Just In Case" Jack | Updated: 09/10/2022

Thinking About Getting A Tent Heater? You’re In Luck…

Best Tent Heater

Never before have there been so many portable tent heater options.

And I recently invested in a tent heater, and you should too.

It will make your off-season camping 10 X better!

When other fragile souls are stuck at home, you’ll be able to adventure year around.

Because without summer crowds, you’ll get unfettered access to popular outdoor locations and the best campsites.

That’s why today I’m going to lean on my Engineering & Gear Review experience to discuss the following topics:


Best Tent Heaters For Sale Today

What’s A Camping Tent Heater?

Reasons Why You Should Get One

Portable Tent Heater Benefits

How To Choose The Best One

Tent Heater Safety Tips

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Best Tent Heaters For Sale Today

Here are the best tent heaters for winter camping (based on the size of the tent):

For Small Tents

We’ll look at a few small heater options perfect for small tents.

For small tents, a large heater would be overkill:

Portable Electric Space Heater with Thermostat

This small but mighty space heater can work for small and medium-sized tents.

It has two settings 1500-watt high heat and 750-watt low heat.

It also includes safe with both overheat protection & tip-over protection.

But how well can it heat a tent?

First, let's convert the Watts into BTUs; I'll use this simple online calculator.

  • 750 W = 2559 BTUs
  • 1500 W = 5118 BTUs

Using the equations above, 2559 BTUs and a 40F degree temperature rise. This heater will work with a 481 cubic foot tent space.

For example, a tent 7ft wide by 7 ft long and 7 ft tall is only 343 cubic feet.

Nice. But this luxury comes at a very large power cost!

Here's a chart showing us what we're up against without grid power...

Watt vs Run Times Per Battery

8D is one of the biggest and best deep-cycle batteries you can buy.

And at 750W of power draw, it will only last about 2 hours!

To provide heat for 5 hours with batteries, you'd need at least 3 deep cycle batteries at over $300 each.

Plus, you'd need an inverter to convert the DC battery power to usable AC power at over $100.

The cost and complexity of batteries and inverters quickly make this electric heater a "NO GO" for anything but grid power camping!

Otherwise, you'll need to look to gas-powered heaters.

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Stansport Portable Outdoor Propane Infrared Radiant Heater

This powerful propane heater is compact and perfect for outdoor activities like camping, hunting, and tailgating.

The infrared heating element provides warmth quickly and efficiently, making it an excellent choice for those chilly nights under the stars.

But don't just take my word for it.

Here are some snippets from actual customer reviews:

"The Stansport propane heater is a lifesaver! It kept us warm and toasty during our camping trip, even when the temperature dropped below freezing."
"This heater is easy to use and heats up our outdoor space quickly. We use it on our patio during the fall and winter months, and it's been a game-changer."
"I was impressed by the Stansport propane heater's portability. It's small enough to fit in the trunk of my car, making it a great option for impromptu outdoor adventures."
"The heater is well-made and durable. I've been using it for over a year now, and it still works like a charm."

Overall, the Stansport Portable Outdoor Infrared Propane Heater is reliable, efficient, and portable for keeping warm during outdoor activities.

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↓ Portable Propane Heater For Traveling ↓

Mr. Heater Portable LP Heater

This is one of the smallest and lightest heaters specifically designed for INDOOR use on the market today.

But don't let its small size fool you. The Mr. Heater Portable Little Buddy is a champ in extremely cold weather.

It produces up to 3800 BTUs and is a great choice for a small tent.

It uses 16oz propane canisters, lasting up to 5 hours.

You can use an adapter and hose to connect to standard BBQ canisters if you need longer heating.

Low oxygen sensors and an automatic tip-over shutoff switch make this a safe choice.

And the rugged design means that you can count on it to function when you need it most.

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↓ Mr. Heater Little Buddy Propane Review ↓

For Medium Tents

Mr Heater Buddy 4,000 - 9,000 Btu Portable Propane

This Mr. Heater Buddy tent heater can pump out 4,000 OR 9,000 BTUs.

This is ideal for spaces up to 225 square feet.

However, the low oxygen shutoff switch may not work at altitudes over 7,000 FT.

It also includes a tip-over auto shut-off switch.

Fuel Consumption/Burn Rate (Gal/Hr) at 4000 BTU = 0.044 Gal/Hr, at 9000 BTU = 0.099 Gal/Hr

It has a fold-down handle and a swivel-out regulator, or it can connect to a propane tank with an adapter kit.

The estimated run time on a 16oz propane canister (at Max BTUs) is about 3 hours.

Note: this is the heater I purchased for my late-season camping trips in the rocky mountains.

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↓ Buddy Vs Canadian Winter – Portable Heater Review ↓

For Large Tents

Mr. Heater Big Buddy Portable RV Propane Heater

The Mr. Heater Big Buddy Heater is a much larger version of the same technology in the Little Buddy.

This Big Buddy radiates heat at different levels (4000 to 18000 BTUs per hour).

These rates options mean you'll be able to heat all but the largest cabin-sized tents.

At around 12 lbs, it's fairly lightweight for the amount of heat it produces.

And the built-in handle makes moving it around camp easy.

For safety, it has an automatic shut-off if tipped over, if the pilot light goes out, or if it detects low oxygen levels.

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↓ Carbon Monoxide Test Using A Portable Propane Heater ↓

What Is A Camping Heater Anyway?

Most people have heard that using a heater in a confined space can be very dangerous.

So they’re often overlooked.

But today, there ARE heaters specifically designed for tents.

They’re efficient, portable, and much safer than past portable heaters.

And depending on the model, they can be fueled by propane or butane.

Or even from a battery pack or extension cord for electric heaters…

Note: Tent stoves are also a type of camping heater, but this article will not cover tent stoves.

Why? Because we wrote a separate post dedicated to tent stoves.

So if you want a tent stove instead, click here.

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Little Buddy Portable Tent Heater

6 Reasons Why You Should Get One

1. Extra Comfort

First, nothing ruins a fun camping trip more than shivering all night in a frigid tent.

But not anymore!

A portable heater opens a new world of camping comfort in cooler seasons.

2. Expanding Your Camping Season

With a tent heater, you can extend your camping season.

Heck, with the right gear, even extending your camping season to YEAR around!

It takes confidence in your equipment and survival skills to head out into the snow for the night.

Sure, a high-quality sleeping bag (or bivy sack) and a 4-season winter tent are also crucial.

But they’re not always enough for the coldest conditions.

But with a heater, you can extend your camping season well beyond summer.

3. Camping For FREE

Many of the best camping spots “close” in the late fall, winter, and early spring.

But while these facilities may no longer have all the same amenities – they are often not locked behind a gate.

So you can choose any open site without paying for a reservation.

4. Empty, Peaceful, Quiet Campgrounds

Cooler seasons are your best friend IF you want to camp in premier campgrounds without the crowds.

Many campgrounds stop taking reservations and shift to “first-come, first-serve.”

Why? Because there’s very low demand.

Most people never consider camping in cooler months.

For example:

In the past, I’ve been the only person in a campground near Leadville, Colorado, in late October – on the weekend!

So if you enjoy quiet, isolated camping without backpacking, start camping in the cold.

5. Choice Of The BEST Sites

In the busy summer months, you must reserve a site in a popular campground at least 6 months in advance…

And you’re lucky if you get a crappy site with no views and no flat surfaces!

However, in the winter, you can often snag the BEST sites in the BEST campgrounds ANYTIME.

It’s why I’m a huge fan of cold-season camping.

6. Avoid Buying Expensive Winter Camping Gear

Most hardcore winter campers have never considered adding a portable heater to their winter camping gear.

Traditionally, they’ve relied on more insulated versions of their summer camping staples.

For example:

They carry a 0-degree down bag instead of a lightweight sleeping bag.

Instead of a breezy backpacking tent, they buy a 4-season winter tent.

One with great insulation properties and a heavy-duty waterproof rain fly.

These campers also know the power of good winter boots with warm liners, down jackets, and insulated pants.

And have learned to wear thick gloves and warm socks (even at night).

All these “upgrades” can be expensive and leave you camping in the cold.

The bottom line is:

Adding a heater for your tent is a camping game changer!

Benefits Of Investing In A Tent Heater

There are many benefits; here are a few of the BEST:

Push Button Comfort

These devices are designed to help you stay warm by adding heat.

Even the warmest down jacket doesn’t create any heat on its own.

They only help retain the heat your body loses to the cold air.

This means the only way to warm up is to perform activities that force your body to work out.

This can be hard to do if you’re stuck in a tent for days in bad weather.

By contrast, a portable heater generates heat.

This allows you to warm up beyond what your body could do alone.

They can generate on-demand heat without effort on your part.

Better Safety Features

Modern camping heaters are much safer than your grandparents’ old space heaters.

Many have extensive safety features built into the design, such as:

  • Tip-over switches – in case it’s accidentally knocked over
  • Overheating protection shuts the heating element off before it reaches dangerous temperatures.
    Propane and butane-fueled ones also frequently include carbon monoxide/dioxide sensors.
  • And some include low oxygen sensors to prevent the build-up of exhaust gases in a small space. These sensors shut down the fuel source if dangerous air conditions are present. This is especially important when the tent is closed up tight to keep out the cold.

Extreme Portability

Most are very portable.

They’re made to be lightweight (not backpacking light, but well under 20 lbs).

They’re self-contained and often can be carefully re-positioned even during operation.

“Fuel” Efficient

It won’t do much good if it burns through all the fuel on the first night.

An efficient heater helps conserve energy.

This reduces the fuel or batteries you’ll need to take with you.

While there are a lot of pros, they’re not for every situation.

The extra fuel or batteries needed can often be a major deterrent for longer, unsupported trips.

And, if the conditions aren’t too frigid, you may be able to get by with some better winter camping gear alone.

Side Note: As a side-effect of the low-oxygen switches, some heaters won’t work at high altitudes.

The low oxygen levels found above 6000ft can confuse the sensors.

It may cause them to shut down prematurely, even if there’s no build-up of exhaust gases.

I’ve used my Mr. Buddy Heater at 8160 feet in Rocky Moutain National Park with no issues!

But, typically, anything closer to 9,000 ft (or higher), you’ll run into issues with keeping it lit.

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Choosing The Best Tent Heater For YOU

Of course, you have many options from various brands.

There are many factors to select the right one to meet your needs.

Two Main Types Of Fuel Options

There are two main “fuel” types for portable heaters:

  1. Electric
  2. Gas

1. Electric

Electric tent heaters have many benefits.

First, they generate absolutely ZERO toxic emissions.

Which equals clean air and less worry about suffocation dangers.

But they’re not always the best option.

In a campground with service hookups, a corded electric model works well.

But for most situations, a battery-powered heater is your only real option.

Unfortunately, the selection of battery-powered heaters is very small.

And their heating capacity is limited.

So they are not the best solution for most.

2. Propane/Butane

Propane tent heaters are far more common than electric ones.

These fuels are cleaner burning than other options, such as white gas or kerosene.

And they tend to have fewer complications when used in an enclosed space.

Also, it’s easy to find fuel in portable canisters.

The energy density of these gases means you can carry and resupply fuel for extended trips.

The Size Of Your Tent Matters A LOT

Next, consider the size of the space you want to heat up.

A 2-person tent will heat up faster than a huge canvas wall tent.

So be sure to choose a heater that matches the space of your tent.

We measure heat output in BTUs (British Thermal Units).

This is the amount of energy needed to heat one pound of water by one degree F.

You can use this formula to calculate the heat output needed for your tent:

Measure the space’s dimension to determine cubic feet (Length x Width x Height = Cubic Feet).

Next, subtract the outside temperature from the desired inside temperature.

This is your desired temperature increase.

If you measure temperatures in Fahrenheit, calculate the required BTUs with this formula:

  • Cubic Feet x Temperature Increase x .133 = Required BTUs

If you measure temperatures in Celsius, calculate the required BTUs with this formula:

  • Cubic Feet x Temperature Increase x .2394 = Required BTUs

Matching Your Heat Output Needs

A typical home furnace might have a BTU output in the 100,000 range.

But a small tent heater only needs to heat a fraction of that space.

A heater rated at 5,000 BTU is usually more than enough for a tent.

You can adjust the proper temperature level if you get a heater with fine-tuned BTU controls.

This provides a wider temperature range and control.

Get A Unit That’s Durable Enough For Extreme Conditions

If you depend on this type of heater for your cold-weather camping setup, you need it to work every time.

That’s why durability is a key factor for such a crucial piece of gear.

Quality materials, clean construction, and attention to detail are good signs.

But be sure to read plenty of reviews before making a purchase.

Also, consider the brand reputation and support before making a final decision.

Along with these durability indicators, buying from a reputable company is best.

This helps ensure your heater is the original designer.

Not a cheap knockoff version, which may cut corners to reduce costs.

How To Safely Use A Tent Heater (safety tips)

Bringing a heater on your next camping trip can be a huge relief.

Instead of canceling a trip – you can enjoy camping even in the bitter cold.

But it also comes with life and death safety considerations.

You MUST understand ALL the safety guidelines and follow them exactly.

Here are some tips:

Electric Heaters Are Safer

Electric heaters have their drawbacks in both their output and heat capacity.

But they outperform gas-fueled heaters in one very important factor: Safety.

Electric heaters DO NOT depend on combustion for heat.

So they don’t create carbon monoxide/dioxide while in use.

Nor do they consume oxygen from the air inside your tent.

This means they don’t need the same ventilation as a gas-fueled heater.

A switch malfunction or incorrect setup won’t result in suffocation and death.

But they can still create a fire if the heating element touches any combustibles.

SO Keep Clear

ALL heaters (electric/gas) get very hot during use, even if they do not create an open flame.

So keep all potentially flammable objects clear of the heater.

Items include tent walls, sleeping bags, spare clothes, and everything else!

Vent Gases

All gas-powered heaters create carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide as byproducts of combustion.

These toxic gases can build up inside the tent and become very dangerous.

All heater instructions will specify exactly how much ventilation is necessary.

You can’t be overly cautious.

A properly ventilated tent is a MUST; allow fresh air into the tent and exhaust gases to escape.

Don’t Fall Asleep

While it’s tempting to fall asleep with the heat on, leaving a heater running while you sleep is too dangerous.

It doesn’t take long for the heater to warm up the tent in the morning.

So be sure to turn it off before you head to bed.

Some people do run their heaters when sleeping.

We DO NOT recommend doing this. The downside risk is not worth it.

But if you choose to ignore our advice, make sure to invest in a separate carbon monoxide detector.

Here’s a video of someone sleeping with a heater running in their tent.

It also “proves” that it’s possible – but again, it’s not worth the risk!

↓ Car Camping Tips | How To Use A Heater In Your Tent ↓

Final Thoughts

A quality tent heater is a simple way to make winter camping more enjoyable.

For resilient people, it feels a little like cheating to turn on a heater when “roughing it.”

But if you can extend your camping season (instead of staying home), you’ll get over it.

There’s no shame in using technology when it helps to get you OUT more often!

Prepare, Adapt & Overcome,

  • Cofounder Of Skilledsurvival.com & TheResilientLife.com
  • Born & Raised On A Rural Farm In The Midwest
  • Mechanical Engineering Grad From A Major University
  • Engineer With A Major Food Manufacturing Company
  • 10+ Years Researching, Writing, & Teaching Preparedness
  • Mission: Help Folks Stop Living A Life Fragile To The Future
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