You haven’t experienced all the joys camping has to offer unless you’ve done it in all weathers. Unfortunately, you might freeze if you attempt it unprepared in winter!
The best tent heaters make this less of a challenge—but how do you find the right one?
Here are, in my opinion, the five best tent heaters on the market:
- Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy
- Mr. Heater Corporation
- Mr. Heater MH12B Hunting Buddy
- Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy
- Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane
Types of Tent Heaters for Camping
Theoretically, you can use any heater when camping. But some are better suited to tent-use than others.
All the heaters reviewed today are gas—specifically propane. But what are your other options should you seek to expand your equipment further down the line?
Wood Burning Stoves
I’m lucky enough to own a portable wood-burning stove. I find it excellent when camping—but only in place of a campfire. It keeps things clean and adds safety in areas where fires can easily get out of control.
It can put out intense heat, though, which could heat your tent from the outside. However, wind may direct its warmth in the wrong direction.
All in all, I’d only recommend using a wood-burning stove if you have one on hand, and your inside the tent heater fails.
Halogen heaters are small and easy to hang in the center of the tent as a heat and light source.
They heat spaces quickly and don’t get in the way.
Unfortunately, they also pose a health risk. They put out chemicals that can have detrimental effects on people with asthma and allergies.
Plus, halogen heaters overload easily.
Lastly, tents aren’t always equipped with somewhere to hang them. They’re fine to use if that’s all you have available, and easier to fit in the tent than a portable wood-burning stove. But they’re still far from the best option.
Electric heaters are highly effective. My electric fan heater warms my bedroom in a matter of minutes.
So they could heat a small tent in a matter of seconds.
Yet, there are risks with electric heaters.
One risk depends on the type of heater—if it’s one of those wiry ones where you can see the rods heat up, be careful. You can easily burn yourself or set off a flammable object. Plus, those types of heaters tend to be large—almost like portable radiators.
Electric fan heaters are much smaller, and their only risk is the electricity:
- Weather could damage your extension cable and pose a fire risk.
- They may drain your car battery.
- Without the car battery, you’ll need a generator, which is often large and pricey.
If you can find a mini, USB rechargeable fan heater, it’d be great as a backup in emergencies. Still, electric fans are far from a go-to in camping.
This leaves us with gas heaters. But again, there are risks. They can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, and old ones can have hidden damage and cause a gas leak with far more dire consequences.
Luckily, many modern heaters may protect against carbon monoxide emissions—but that won’t help with a gas leak.
Still, gas heaters are the best and safest, in my opinion, because:
- There’s no electricity involved.
- You’re guaranteed heat inside the tent.
- Modern heaters have auto shut-off, making them unlikely to overheat.
What If There’s a Gas Leak?
You’ll likely be able to smell gas in the air of your cylinder, heater, or connections are damaged. But if the smell of nature overpowers this, pay attention to how long the heater stays on.
Many heaters will turn off automatically if they detect low levels of oxygen in the air. If your heater keeps turning off prematurely, listen for a hissing sound and smell for gas. If your findings are undesirable, turn off the heater immediately and vacate the tent.
You may need to pack up and go home early, but if the leak happens in the day time, airing out your tent before nightfall should do the trick.
If the smell of gas persists, the tent may need washing, and it’s best to call it quits.
What To Look for in a Tent Heater
Once you choose the type of heater you want, you move onto the other elements. How do you ensure it’s suitable for use inside the tent?
There are a few features to look out for, and what you need in them will vary depending on your setup and preferences.
Tents are not big. Many brands advertise a three-person tent that can barely accommodate two adults. Plus, there’s your gear to account for too.
It may be tempting to grab a beast of a heater because you’re freezing. But small heaters can have just as large a heat output as bigger ones.
Go small and easily portable, or even consider a heater you can hang.
And remember, “small” is subjective to the size of your tent. If you have a big, fancy tent you can stand erect in, and you have little gear, then you can go big with the heater.
As I said, small heaters can put out huge heat. The way you can be sure of this is through BTUs.
Simply put, higher BTUs = hotter heater.
Look for at least 1,000 BTUs, but something around 4,000 will be better for stronger heat emission.
You can also go far beyond that if you’d like to use the heater outside of the tent, too. Tent heaters work decently in place of camp fire heat, and are great for taking in the boat on fishing trips.
Avoid heaters that get too hot to the touch. In a confined space, it’s easy to bump into it and scorch yourself.
That said, the biggest thing to watch out for safety-wise is adequate safety features.
Consider a heater that turns off automatically before it can overheat. If two heaters are identical and that’s the only different feature one has, go for the one with the auto-off.
- A heater with a stand that stops it from falling over—a heater flat on its face can cause big problems.
- Protective grill that ensures you don’t touch the hottest part of the heater.
- Carbon monoxide detector that alerts you of emissions or shuts the heater off automatically.
Don‘t purchase a tent heater you feel is fragile or flimsy. It probably is fragile, and the next thing you know, the protective grill is on your tent floor with the hot core exposed to cramped limbs.
Your tent heater needs to be strong enough to withstand accidental bumps and finicky touches. Yet, it must also be strong enough to survive rides in a bumpy vehicle, tent-rattling winds, and whatever else your trip throws at it.
Top 5 Best Tent Heaters Reviewed
Now we have the important elements out of the way, we can dive into the heaters themselves.
After careful research, I’ve found five excellent tent heaters, mainly from one highly trustworthy manufacturer. There’s something for every occasion in this group.
1. Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy
First off, we have this compact, 9-pound gas heater. This is a heater suitable for sitting by the back wall of a tent, as it’s a little tall but very thin. Just don’t place it against the wall; that’s a fire hazard.
Despite how thin it is, it’s sturdy and can withstand any number of bumps during travel. Its strong construction extends to the grate covering the heated portion, protecting you from accidentally burning yourself.
It’s not too powerful to make you burn up without touching it, either. With a range of 4,000–9,000 BTUs and suitability to 225 square foot rooms, it’s fantastic at adequately warming small spaces.
So keep in mind, it won’t do too well outdoors. You may be able to feel some heat from it on a windless day outside, but it’s best in the tent.
Regardless of where you wish to use it, the handle on top makes it excellent for portability. But if the handle protrudes too much for you, you can fold it down.
The heater is full of little inclusions like that, making things more efficient for you. One aspect of it where it excels is safety. The heater will switch off if:
- It falls over.
- The pilot light goes out.
- It detects the oxygen levels in the tent depleting.
With gas heaters, the latter is crucial due to the possible emissions from the fuel.
Speaking of fuel, you have two options for powering this model. You can use a disposable gas cylinder or a supply that’s more remote. Its regulator swivels to allow either option. Using a remote supply, sitting just outside the tent, may be best for overnight use.
Once you’ve got it connected, then push the button and the heater switches on straight away. However, it won’t function 7,000 feet above sea level, so stay low.
Be sure to check all the connecting areas to ensure they remain unclogged. If there’s buildup, the heater stops working, and if cleaned incorrectly, you’re left with a persistent whistle while it’s in use.
- Switches off in three dangerous scenarios.
- Folding handle.
- Heat isn’t overpowering.
- Suitable for small spaces.
- Easy to switch on.
- Great temperature range.
- Durable construction.
- Won’t turn on at high altitudes.
- Line may become clogged, causing it to stop working.
- May whistle if cleaned incorrectly.
2. Mr. Heater Corporation
Here we’re jumping away from the last heater entirely, into a scorching little heater that’s even smaller. It weighs 5.5 pounds and is a cylindrical shape rather than a box.
This compact size has a downside, though. It makes it more likely to fall over, and at this heat it’s a major fire hazard. It emits 29,000–45,000 BTUs, proving that enormous things come in minuscule packages.
Sadly, this heater won’t shut off if it falls over. It’ll only switch itself off if it detects low oxygen levels in the atmosphere, so be very cautious around it, just in case of mishaps.
Try placing it in a corner you don’t move towards often, but be careful here again. The heat comes straight out of the top—don’t have a tapered tent corner too close to the heater’s head!
You could also situate it in the center of the tent and stay well back, towards the walls. Its 360-degree heating range will catch you no matter where you are.
Keep it low, though—users find that a lot of its heat goes straight up, even before you factor in that hot air always rises.
Placing it may also be an issue, as there’s no handle. It’s small enough to wrap your hands around of course, so long as it’s switched off. You could also transport it by grasping the gas tank that’ll go underneath.
Be warned, the 20-pound gas cylinder it mounts to will add quite a bit of height bulk to it, too. It’s still fine for tent-use, but if you’re wary, consider using this heater outside the tent instead. It’s an excellent substitute for a campfire, so long as you don’t try to roast hotdogs on it!
- 360-degree heating range.
- Extremely high temperatures—possible campfire substitute.
- Works outdoors.
- Very light without the cylinder.
- Small enough to grasp easily, despite the lack of handle.
- No handle.
- A lot of its heat escapes upwards.
- A hefty cylinder may cancel out the lightness of the heater.
3. Mr. Heater MH12B Hunting Buddy
Here we have a propane (gas) heater that ticks all the boxes on basic safety. There’s a grill in front of the heated area, so you won’t accidentally bump into it and burn yourself.
The rest of it is built ruggedly, built to withstand whatever the conditions and traveling throw at it. Yet it remains compact and lightweight, making it well-suited to tents.
If you need to transport the heater outdoors, that’s made easy by the handle on top. It’s high enough above the heat source for you to carry the heater in use, too.
However, this is a heater best used indoors, in areas 300 square feet or less. But emitting 6,000–12,000 BTUs of heat, it won’t fail to keep toes toasty while fishing or trying to start a campfire.
You’ll need a propane tank to power it, though, and that’s not included with your purchase. And, it won’t function at high altitudes.
So long as you stay close to sea level, you’re safe. You’re safe in some other ways, too.
With numerous safety features, the manufacturers of this heater knew what they were doing. First of all, the device shuts off when it detects lowering oxygen levels in an enclosed space. This stops any carbon monoxide taking over and creating a dangerous environment.
Second, it shuts off if it falls over, avoiding a fire hazard.
All in all, it’s an excellent heater and ticks all the boxes, so long as you don’t mind a mild whistling noise.
- Built-in safety features.
- Collapsible handle for portability.
- Rugged build, great for transport.
- Created to heat small spaces.
- Large temperature range.
- Somewhat suitable for outdoor use.
- Won’t work 7,000 feet above sea level.
- Whistles on the lowest setting.
- Gas cylinder is not included with purchase.
4. Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy
Here’s another one of the small, handle-free heaters that sits atop a gas cylinder. Except unlike the last one of this type, it doesn’t have 360-degree heating. It’s more like an adjustable lamp where you can direct the heat in one direction.
The sturdy exterior shell of the heater should stay cool enough to touch to allow adjustment. Just keep your fingers away from the grid over the area emitting the heat.
If you do get a little too close to the grid, you shouldn’t suffer too bad of a burn. At 3,800 BTUs, it’s not as hot as our other contenders.
Some may find this a turnoff, but for your smallest tents, it’s fine. Keep this one for a one-person camping trip. It doesn’t match up to the previous bunch, flexibility wise.
Though that’s figurative flexibility. It’s literally as flexible as some, as it allows direct connections to a gas cylinder or a more remote gas system. The latter will considerably reduce its bulk, leaving it only 11 inches tall. Although, your tent will need a window or a gap to run a line out.
Using a window may help the device stay functioning for longer, as it’ll allow more air circulation in the tent. The heater turns off when it detects low oxygen levels, or if it’s tipped over.
These safety inclusions are nothing to ignore, despite the low-heat of the device being less of a risk than larger contenders. It shows the manufacturers are in tune with customer needs.
Although, like many of the other devices by this manufacturer, they’re lacking in one department. You can’t use the heater at high altitudes, meaning if you intend to camp in the mountains, bring a ton of blankets or a different heater.
- It has the safety features of a bigger heater despite its low heat emission.
- Highly portable.
- Connects to a cylinder or remote gas setup.
- Won’t take up much space.
- Durable construction.
- Isn’t too hot for small tents.
- Adjustable positions for the heated area.
- Most of the exterior stays cool to the touch.
- Only suitable for smaller tents.
- Doesn’t work in the mountains.
- Can’t be used outdoors.
5. Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane
If you’re not a fan of the brand in the products so far, here’s your salvation. An excellent, small, budget-friendly heater from Texsport.
This is one to go for if you’re seeking the bare minimum. It’s 2,890 BTUs, another one best for single-person tents. It may be best suited to an older person who can’t handle hauling around heavy loads, as it only weighs a pound. Save the strength for the other hardships of camping!
You won’t have to move this lightweight heater much regardless. It features a stable design, so it shouldn’t tip over no matter how much you move around. There are four flat areas on it that keep it upright.
These stable elements are durable stainless steel, too, as is the rest of the unit. So none of it should fail you.
However, it will get hot. Stainless steel can and will heat up as this thing emits is warmth, so give it as much space as possible.
There’s also a handle for transport, and that’s steel too. So you won’t be able to move it until the unit has fully cooled down.
Admittedly, there are a lot of downsides to this product. But if lightweight is your priority, there’s nothing better.
Keep in mind, the gas cylinder it sits on will add some weight, but the cylinder isn’t huge. It actually provided an additional benefit—the cylinder isn’t steel, so you can seize this to transport the heater while it’s still a little warm.
That said, due to its small stature, the gas in it won’t last as long as some other models. The heater will shut off when this happens to prevent the device from trying to provide heat that’s not coming out.
- Automatically turns off.
- Extremely light.
- Small cylinder won’t add much weight to the heater.
- Stainless steel allows even heating, so there’ll be some heat emitted in all directions.
- Great stability.
- Durable build.
- Only for tiny tents.
- Handle heats up.
- Small gas cylinder may run out faster than is optimal.
The Hottest Heater
The clear winner of this group has to be the Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy. Sometimes a heater is just too overwhelming for the confines of a tent. This one is far from it, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to use it.
It’s portable without the handle getting in the way, and it’s not too heavy, either. Plus, working with large and small gas cylinders makes it highly versatile.
Lastly, its safety features are incredible, ensuring your warm night stays cozy and not a health or fire hazard. The manufacturers clearly knew what they were doing when they created this heater—it’s the standout of a very similar heater group.