5 of the Best Tent Heaters for Camping 2018

Freezing your behind off in the middle of nowhere in a tent can really test a person’s spirit. Maybe that’s what you want, you want to test yourself to endure the extremes with minimal gear.

Unless you are training to be a navy seal, SAS soldier or maybe a survivalist or minimalist camper you’ll probably want as many creature comforts as you can reasonably get away with.

I’m not saying a tent heater is needed for cold weather camping by everyone but it can make a big difference.

If you’re hiking or backpacking it’s probably not as practical. However driving to a campsite or RVing will be less of an issue.

Heater PriceOur Rating
Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy
AmazonA
Mr. Heater F232017 MH9BXRV Buddy Grey
AmazonB
Mr. Heater Little Buddy Heater
REI / AmazonB
Comfort Zone CZ707 Personal Heater Fan
AmazonD
Texsport Sportsmate Portable Propane HeaterAmazonB

Why Should You Use a Tent Heater?

There are a few obvious pro’s and con’s for using a tent heater when camping.

Pros

  • You’ll pretty much have heating on tap.
  • Produce heat much faster than other methods.
  • It’s usually easy to set up.

Cons

  • Extra gear you’ll need to carry
  • It’s heavy and takes up space
  • An extra cost
  • A potential hazard

But there are a few other factors to consider:

You might not be able to start fires in the area you’re camping. If it’s very wet or there is snow on the ground ect. There might not be a viable way to warm up before sleeping.

If you’re trying to introduce your kids or someone new to tent camping and you can’t wait for summer, a good tent heater can make the experience a lot more enjoyable.

You should consider a heater If you’re sleeping bag and tent is not rated for very cold weather. Ideally you should buy a 4 season tent and sleeping bag that’s rated for those temperatures.

Features to look for

Types of Heaters

Gas – Propane powered gas heaters are the standard but you might find some Kerosene ones out there as well. Use our burn time calculator to figure out how much gas you need.

Electric – You can find lots of relatively cheap electric powered heaters out there. They are generally very safe as there are no naked flames.

BTU ratings

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. It is a measurement of the amount of energy (hot or cold) the appliance can produce.

How many BTUs do you need?

The higher the number the more heat is produced. The main factors to consider are:

  • The size of the area you need to heat. The bigger the tent the higher BTU is needed.
  • How insulated it is. High rated cold weather tents will be better at keeping heat in.
  • How cold the weather will get.

If you want a more accurate calculation use this method:

  1. The cubic feet of the area that needs heating, Length x Width x Height = Cubic Feet.
  2. Outside temperature minus your desired inside temperature = Temperature increase needed.
  3. Cubic Feet x Temperature Increase x .133 = Required BTUs (Fahrenheit)
  4. Cubic Feet x Temperature Increase x .2394 = Required BTUs (Celsius)

To give you an idea the smaller tent heaters tend to produce around 3000 BTUs and the larger ones 18000+.

Safety Features

This is one of the most important considerations. Dealing with gas in a small space is always a bit risky. The best will come with most of these features included.

  • Auto shutoff – Under certain conditions it will shut off. If oxygen levels are low, the pilot light goes out or it’s tipped over.
  • Overheat protection – Some come with an overheat safety light or overheat shut off feature.
  • Tip Over switch – If it tips over this could cause the flame to extinguish and unburned gas to fill the tent. It could also cause a fire. The tip over switch cuts off the heater to prevent this.

Size, Weight and Budget

Smaller and lighter heaters will might be cheaper and easier to carry but usually have a lower BTU. Bigger and heavier heaters will usually have higher BTU’s but will be more expensive and might not fit well in small tents.

If you’re someone that’s backpacking or fishing you’ll probably want to go lighter and smaller.

If you’re at a campsite with a family and large sized tent you’ll most likely need the larger heavier heaters.

With a Gas powered one you’ll need to take into account the size of the gas canister. With an electric one you’ll need to make sure you have a long enough extension cord for the power.

How to safely use a tent heater

Most of the best tent heaters on the market will use propane gas. You can get an electric powered one but you’ll need access to power. You can even find wood burning heaters but we won’t be covering those at the moment.

One of the main concerns of using a propane powered heater in an enclosed space is Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

Propane gas used on tested and properly functioning burners should produce an “Ideal burn”. This means there is the correct ratio of air to gas and there is no danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

If there is a problem with the fuel, ignition or air it might not produce an “ideal burn” and can lead to Carbon Monoxide being produced. This is why the built in heater safety features are important.

Safety tips to consider:

    • Make sure the tent is properly ventilated. Although it is unlikely, If there is an issue with the propane burner you’ll still have access to fresh air and reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. You’ll also need to have free flowing air as it is used up in the burning process.
    • Read the instructions provided. The best tent heaters will come with quality instructions on how to properly set it up. They’ll also point out the main safety hazards to be aware of.
    • Don’t leave the heated element near anything that might burn. For example a sleeping bag or thin cloth could get close enough past the safety grills to the element and catch fire.
    • Make sure it’s stood on an even surface. If it falls over most will have a safety feature that makes it auto shut off. I’d rather be safe than sorry and make sure the heater is on an even surface and unlikely to fall over.

Our Tent Heater Reviews


MR Heater F232000 BuddyMr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy

The MR. Heater f232000 Buddy is one of the most popular butane gas models on the market. It’s made in the USA and has a BTU rating of 4,000-9,000.

There are 2 settings high and low so you can adjust between 4000 and 9000 BTU ratings. They claim to be able heat large tents up to 200 sq ft so this should be more than good enough for the average camping tent

It has several safety features such as the low oxygen and tip over shut-off. It is approved for tent use and claims to be clean burning with almost 100% efficiency. The product doesn’t come with a propane tank so that’s something you’ll have to buy as an extra before you can use it.

Pros:

  • Mid level BTU rating 4000-9000
  • Very good safety features, auto shut-off.
  • Clean burning, claiming almost 100% efficient.

Cons:

  • The on/off button can get sticky
  • no propane tank included.
  • I’ve found some users online complaining about customer support.

Check the price at Amazon


Mr. Heater F232017 MH9BXRV Buddy Grey

Mr. Heater F232017 MH9BXRV Buddy Grey (2)The F232017 Buddy Grey is very similar to the previous Buddy model F232000. As far as I can tell from my research almost all the features are the same.

The main difference is the color and this one tends to sell at a higher price.

Pros:

  • Mid level BTU rating 4000-9000
  • Very good safety features, auto shut-off.
  • Clean burning, claiming almost 100% efficient.

Cons:

  • Might be paying a premium for the color
  • The on/off button can get sticky
  • no propane tank included.
  • I’ve found some users online complaining about customer support.

Check the price at Amazon


Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy

Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little BuddyThe Little Buddy is another offering by Mr. Heater. This one is smaller in size which makes it much more portable and easy to move around. It’s marketed towards campers, fisherman, hunters and tradesman working in cold conditions.

It weighs less than 6lbs and is under 12inches in height. It comes with similar safety features as the previous two models. Low oxygen and tip over auto shut off.

The product can be used for up to 5 and a half hours of continuous use. It uses a 1lb cylinder that is not included but should be available at the usual stores. The heater will heat up to 3,800 BTU/hr and is good for spaces of up to 95 sq ft. There is only one setting on or off so you can’t adjust the heat output.

Pros:

  • Small size, lighter and takes up less room.

Cons:

  • On or off setting only.
  • Low BTU output
  • Only uses small bottles of propane and aren’t included. 

Check the price at Amazon

Check the price at REI


Comfort Zone CZ707 Personal Heater Fan

Comfort Zone CZ707 Personal HeaterThe Comfort Zone Heater Fan is an electrical heater rated at upto 1,500 watts. Weighing only 3.7 lbs with a size of 8 x 6 x 6.75 in it is lighter and smaller than most of the other heaters.

It requires 120v of power from a plug and can’t be used with a car lighter adaptor (I don’t think any exist). This will limit it’s usefulness for camping but it could be viable for someone that has access to power.

It comes with several safety features including: Power caution lights, a tip over switch and overheat protection. Overall it is a quiet and efficient heater fan.

Pros:

  • Light and compact.
  • Fan provides good air flow.
  • Low priced 

Cons:

  • Needs 120v power supply from a standard plug
  • Only useful to campers with access to power.

Check the price at Amazon


Texsport Sportsmate Portable Propane Heater

Texsport Sportsmate Portable Propane HeaterThe Texsport Sportsmate is a portable propane powered heater that’s actually marketed for use in golf carts. It comes with a molded plastic cup holder so it can be placed inside the golf carts cup holder instead of a drink.

It could still be used in tents, fishing boats or duck blinds however. It’s actually very similar to the Mr Heater little buddy. It uses a 1 lb fuel cylinder (that’s not included) and can produce up to 3,000 BTUs in heat. Unlike the little buddy the Sportsmate has an adjustment for three different heat settings.

The main safety feature is an auto shut off if the flame goes out. No oxygen sensor or tip over shut off means you’ll have to be more cautious when using it.

Pros:

  • Low priced
  • Small and portable
  • Adjustable heat settings
  • Cup holder base

Cons:

  • No oxygen sensor or tip over shut off. 
  • Low BTU rating

Check the price at Amazon


Summing it up

We think the Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy is the best all rounder if you’re looking for a tent heater. It’s not that much more expensive compared to the other cheaper options out there. It’s cheaper than the Buddy Grey and you get a higher BTU rating than the smaller options. It’s more than capable to heat any reasonably sized tent.  If you need something more compact I’d go with the Texsport Sportsmate. Although it lacks some safety features it’s heat settings and cup holder option makes it more versatile.