Best Tent Heater For Camping In The Cold

If you’re anything like us, you’re not about to let cold weather keep you from camping this winter. Take the sting out of those chilly nights and frosty mornings with the best tent heaters on the market.
Best Tent Heater - Conclusion
The Mr. Heater Buddy Portable Heater: Our Best Choice Overall – Photo from manufacturer

The sun goes down, the fire goes out, and there’s nothing left to do but crawl into your tent and shiver the night away. Uncomfortable nights seem to be part of the winter camping experience, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you’ve got a camping heater.

This is our guide to the best tent heaters money can buy. These warm little wonders are great because they pack all the coziness of a tent stove into a compact standalone system that’s easy to use and even easier to maintain.

After testing and analyzing dozens of camping heaters, we found that the Mr. Heater Buddy is the best tent heater out there today. It’s everything you need in a heater: Powerful, compact, and full of industry-leading safety features.

The Mr. Heater Buddy won’t be everyone’s first choice though: Some campers need a little more firepower, others need a little less, and some want to avoid using propane heat altogether.

Regardless of which camp you fall into, we’re confident we’ve got the right heater for your next trip somewhere in the list below. And, if you’re completely new to tent heaters or aren’t sure where to start your search, we’ve even included a handy buyer’s guide down at the bottom to get you up to speed on all things tent heater.

Let’s get started.

HeaterBenefits
Mr. Heater Buddy Portable Heater: Best Tent Heater OverallThe latest version of the classic Mr. Heater Buddy is just as powerful and compact as ever, but also packs in essential safety features that make it perfect for camping. See Review
Mr. Heater Big Buddy: Best Overall QualityA supersized version of the popular buddy heater which packs dual burners and dual tanks. Its maximum output of 18,000 BTUs is enough to warm even the largest shelters on the coldest nights. See Review
Texsport Portable Heater: Best On A BudgetA simple design that’s easy to use and provides great heat for the price. Three-way adjustable heat output adds value to an already smart buy. See Review
Campy Gear Chubby Portable Heater: Best 2-in-1 Tent HeaterA clever 2-in-1 option that doubles as a camp stove. Unique design provides impressive heat output using standard backpacking fuel. See Review
De’Longhi Ceramic Heater: Best Electric Tent HeaterA feature-rich tent heater for campers looking for a propane alternative. Includes great safety features, multiple output modes, and even an oscillation function. See Review
Mr. Heater Little Buddy A bare-essentials take on the classic Buddy heater with a simple two-button interface. Puts out impressive heat for its size, and costs a fraction of the price of a full-size model. See Review

Best Tent Heaters

Mr. Heater Buddy Portable Radiant Heater: Best Tent Heater Overall

Product Data:
Fuel: Propane
Output: 9,000 BTUs
Heating area: 225 sq. ft (21 m2)
Burn time: 6 hours
Weight: 10.6 lbs (4.8 kg)
Size: 15” x 14” x 9” (38cm x 36cm x 23cm)
Best for: Camping in medium/large shelters

Mr. Heater’s first portable radiant heater, the patented “Mr. Heater Buddy” was first released back in 2000. Over two decades later, it’s grown to become the most recognizable and widely-used tent heater in the industry, and for good reason.

Instantly recognized by their trademark red frames and distinctive design, most of us have had some experience with a Buddy heater in our lives, whether it was heating a cold garage, keeping an RV toasty, or, of course, warming a tent.

The original has had a few updates over the years, and the latest version of the classic buddy heater was an easy choice for the best tent heater on the market. These heaters boast excellent heating for their small size at 9,000BTUs max, but are also remarkably energy efficient when run on their lower settings, typically lasting a full 6 hours or more.

The most important feature of the Mr. Heater Buddy (and just about every Mr. Heater product) however are the standard safety features. Every Buddy heater includes both an accidental tip-over safety shut-off and an integrated oxygen depletion sensor which automatically shuts the heater off when oxygen levels drop too low inside your tent. We’re also big fans of the Buddy’s internal Piezo igniter, which makes lighting the heater a safe and simple procedure, no matches or lighters required.

In fact the only drawbacks of the Mr. Heater Buddy are that (a) even on its lowest setting it can be overkill for smaller tents (especially models under four persons) and (b) its runtime is significantly reduced to about 3 hours when left on full blast. Still, if performance, portability, and safety are your top priorities, there’s just no better option on the market for 99% of campers.

Pros:Cons:
– Fantastic heating performance in a compact frame
– Gets great burn time out of a standard 1lb canister
– Best safety features in the business
– Overkill for smaller tents
– Limited burn time at full power



Mr. Heater Big Buddy Portable Propane Heater: Best Overall Quality

Product Data:
Fuel: Propane
Output: 18,000 BTUs
Heating area: 450 sq. ft. (42 m2)
Burn time: 10.8 hours
Weight: 11 lbs (5 kg)
Size: 17” x 11” x 12” (43cm x 28cm x 31cm)
Best for: Camping in large/extra-large shelters

If you’re loving the simplicity, reliability, and safety of the classic Mr. Heater Buddy but need something with a little more muscle to heat a larger shelter, you’re in luck: Mr. Heater also makes the “Mr. Heater Big Buddy” portable propane heater, which is essentially a dual-canister version of the classic Buddy that cranks out double the maximum output to a whopping 18,000 BTUs!

The higher output of the Big Buddy makes it a favorite of winter hunters, ice fishermen, and winter campers. It’s also a common sight in small cabins and as an emergency heater for winter storms, which really speaks volumes to its outright power.

The Big Buddy’s dual 1lb canister system is rated to run up to 10.8 hours on its lowest setting, and users regularly report getting around 3.5 hours at the highest setting. There’s also a “medium” setting available for folks who want a better balance of heat v. longevity.

Either way you’re still getting the same great safety features as the original Buddy heater, which makes the Big Buddy our favorite gas-powered option for larger shelters. We certainly wish the Big Buddy lasted a bit longer on higher settings with its added fuel capacity, but give Mr. Heater props for offering an option hose attachment that allows the Big Buddy to run of a full-sized 20lb propane tank for 40+ hours of continuous heat.

Pros:Cons:
– Powerful and portable
– Excellent safety features
– Compatible with full-sized propane tanks
– Overkill for small or medium-sized tents
– Internal blower could be more powerful



Texsport Portable Outdoor Heater: Best On A Budget

Product Data:
Fuel: Propane
Output: 2,890 BTU
Heating area: 72 sq. ft (7 m2)
Burn time: 7 hours (1 lb bottle)
Weight: 2 lbs (0.9 kg)
Size: 10” x 9” x 5” (25cm x 23cm x 13cm)
Best for: Camping in small shelters and backpacking

If you’re looking for a low-cost tent heater that doesn’t skimp on the extra features, check out the Texsport Portable Outdoor Heater.

This simple heater costs less than any other unit on our list, is easy to use, and even features an adjustable output for added versatility. Simply attach the heating element to a standard 1lb propane canister, set the entire assembly into its sturdy base, and light ‘er up.

This is an impressively lightweight and compact unit, and although its output is limited to about 2,900 BTUs, it’s still plenty warm for most small to medium-sized shelters, and is a great companion around the campfire for a little extra heat to boot. It’s also compact and light enough to attach to the outside of a backpack, so if you fancy a little extra heat on your next overnight hiking trip, consider bringing one along if you’ve got the space.

Of course as a budget model, the Texsport is lacking some of the value-added features found in other popular compact heaters like the Mr. Heater Little Buddy. The most glaring of which are the Texsport’s limited safety features, which rely on a basic auto shut-off valve that cuts fuel to the heater anytime the flame goes out. This features works to limit your potential exposure to excess unburnt fuel filling your tent should the heater fail, but we’d definitely prefer to see a tip-over shut off added at minimum. Still, if you’re looking for a low-cost solution to chilly winter nights, with proper placement and adequate ventilation this little heater can certainly get the job done.

Pros:Cons:
– Cost-effective heating option with added adjustability
– Mounds directly to 1lbs propane canisters
– Light weight but stable
– No internal igniter
– Fewer safety features than most
– Lower max heat than most



Campy Gear Chubby Portable Propane Heater And Stove: Best 2 in 1 Tent Heater

Product Data:
Fuel: Butane/isobutane/propane
Output: 9,000 BTU
Heating area: 225 sq ft. (21 m2)
Burn time: 2.5 hours (with 230g canister)
Weight: 8.2 lbs (3.6 kg)
Size: 8” x 7” x 7” (20cm x 18cm x 18cm)
Best for: Camping in medium shelters and backpacking

Our honorable mention this year goes to the Campy Gear Chubby, which is a clever 2-in-1 tent heater that doubles as a camp stove.

We love that The Camp Gear Chubby is built for multi-fuel use, which means you can either attach a standard backpacking fuel canister inside the base, or hook it up to an auxiliary propane canister using an external hose/adaptor.

Regardless of what you fuel it with, The Camp Gear Chubby cranks out an impressive 9,000 BTUs (that’s especially impressive considering its compact size) and can sustain that output for up to two and half hours using a compact 230g canister. That’s half the size of a typical propane bottle!

Of course it’ll go for much longer on a lower setting, and Camp Gear includes a knob to dial in the ideal amount of heat (or flame for cooking). If you want to extend your burn time even further, you’ll have to spend extra money to get Camp Gear’s hose/adaptor setup, which is kind of a bummer but we can’t really complain considering the price.

The main drawback of this system is that because it’s essentially a camp stove on steroids, it doesn’t include any of the safety features we look for in a proper overnight heater like a tip-over shutoff or oxygen sensor. Ultimately that will limit this tent heater’s use to waking hours, as we can’t advise using a tent heater without these features overnight. Still, it’s a fantastically versatile and incredibly affordable unit that packs a serious punch.

Pros:Cons:
– Doubles as a cooking stove
– Multi-fuel compatibility
– 360-degree heat ideal for multiple campers
– Compact and portable
– Limited burn time with internal canister
– Requires hose/adaptor for use with standard 1lb or full-sized propane canisters
– Lacking safety features



De’Longhi Ceramic Compact Heater: Best Electric Tent Heater

Product Data:
Fuel: Electric
Output: 5120 BTUs
Heating area: 128 sq. ft. (12 m2)
Burn time: N/A
Weight: 5 lbs (2.3 kg)
Size: 14” x 10” x 8” (36cm x 25cm x 20cm)
Best for: Camping in medium shelters with access to electricity

If you’re interested in going the electric option, the De’Longhi Ceramic Compact Heater is our favorite choice this year. We love this little heater because it cranks out more heat than some propane stoves of the same size, but also includes a fully modern LED interface and even a remote control so you don’t have to get out of your sleeping bag to adjust it! Talk about glamping!

The De’Longhi also features multiple heat settings, so you can dial in the perfect temp for your shelter, as well as their proprietary “silent system” that significantly cuts down the noise typically associated with an electric heater.

Users will also appreciate that the De’Longhi Ceramic heater includes an oscillation function, allowing it to blow hot air from wall to wall instead of simply blasting heat at a single target all night.

Honestly the only real drawback of the De’Longhi is the same drawback you’ll find with any electric model: You’ve gotta plug it in. For campers using dedicated hookups, generators, or portable power supplies, this will be a non-issue, but considering the lack of power outlets in the backcountry or in more primitive camping sites, your options here are definitely limited. Still, it’s a fantastic heater for anyone with access to electricity and is also surprisingly affordable considering its output and convenience features.

Pros:Cons:
– Impressive heat for its compact size
– Remote control so you don’t have to get up to adjust output
– Oscillating function ideal for multiple sleepers
– Plug-in only  



Mr. Heater Little Buddy MH4B Propane Heater

Product Data:
– Fuel: Propane
– Output: 3800 BTU
– Heating area: 95 sq. ft. (9 m2)
– Burn time: 5.6 hours
– Weight: 5 lbs (2.3 kg)
– Size: 11” x 11” x 11” (28cm x 28cm x 28cm)
– Best for: Camping in small shelters

The Mr. Heater Little Buddy is the simplest, most compact option from the folks at Mr. Heater, and is one of the best-selling tent heaters in North America.

The Little Buddy is stripped down to the bare essentials for the most packable design possible, and as a result is the easiest propane heater to use we’ve seen. There are only two buttons on the Little Buddy: On and off. To start the heater, you simply hold down the big red “on” button, which doubles as a switch for the internal Piezo ignitor as well. When you’re done using it, just hit the big black “off” button. Couldn’t be simpler.

Simplicity aside, this is still a Mr. Heater product, so you’ll get top-notch safety features built-in as well. Believe it or not there’s both a tip-over safety and a low oxygen shut-off feature hidden inside the Little Buddy’s compact frame.

For thousands of campers, this simplicity and ease of use are exactly what they’re looking for in a tent heater, but it can also be viewed as the main shortcoming of the Little Buddy. For instance, there’s no way to adjust the heat output, so you’re either getting 3,800 BTUs or no heat at all. There’s also no adjustability for the angle of the Little Buddy, so although it looks like the head can be swiveled or aimed in a particular direction, just know its 45-degree angle is locked in permanently.

Of course Mr. Heater chose to keep the Little Buddy simple on purpose, and everything from its two-button design to its optimized heat output was intentionally engineered to make this the best little tent heater for a small to medium-sized shelter. Anyone looking for a basic yet reliable (and safety-rich) heater need look no further, especially if they have no intention of using anything other than standard 1lb propane canisters.

Pros:Cons:
– Same great safety features as full-sized Mr. Heater options
– Lightweight and packable
– Great for smaller tents
– Limited heat output
– Small cylinder only
– No output adjustability



Buyers Guide: Best Tent Heaters

If you want the best tent heater to warm your next trip but aren’t exactly sure what heater you need, you’re in the right place. A lot more goes into choosing a tent heater than buying the most powerful or most popular model you can find.

That’s why we put together the buyer’s guide below to help you make an informed decision. Below we’ll cover the basics of tent heater safety, how to determine the right amount of heat for your shelter, and what type of heater will work best in your tent.

Best Tent Heater - Buying Guide
The Mr. Heater Little Buddy (right) and Mr. Heater Buddy (left): two serious choices! – Photo from manufacturer

Why Should You Consider A Tent Heater?

There’s just something sweet about being able to hang out in the middle of winter in your shirt sleeves. Some campers choose to go the tent stove route, and we salute them as well, but for many campers a tent stove isn’t a safe or viable option for their shelters.

Tent heaters, on the other hand, come in all shapes, sizes, and power levels, and can make even the smallest shelters feel as warm and cozy as a five-star hotel room.

Type Of Fuels

The best tent heaters typically use one of two types of fuel: Propane gas or electricity.

Most folks looking to warm up their tents in the colder months prefer propane heaters for obvious reasons: Camping is an outdoors activity, and that often means being away from reliable sources of electricity. Portable propane heaters provide tons of warmth and can be transported and used just about anywhere, so long as you’ve got fuel to power them.

Propane heaters do have a few downsides though, most notably their limited runtime and additional safety concerns. As far as runtimes go, your average portable propane heater typically lasts somewhere between 5 and 7 hours on a standard 1lb propane tank. Larger heaters (with larger or multiple tanks) can last a good deal longer, but sacrifice the overall portability that makes them convenient in the first place (more on that below). In terms of safety, propane heaters provide heat by burning liquid propane gas, and fire of any kind is always a potential hazard inside the tent. That’s why these heaters require added safety measures like tip-over sensors and oxygen level sensors to ensure limit their inherent risks in an outdoor shelter.

Propane tanks from Coleman

Electric heaters, on the other hand, are a fantastic alternative. They’re generally safer, include added safety controls for overheating and tip-over situations, and can run forever so long as there’s electricity on tap. Of course the availability of electricity is the glaring drawback of these heaters, and their “plug-in” functionality limits their versatility. Still, many campers choose to run electric heaters via generators or portable battery packs with great success. Just be wary of electric hazards when running an electric heater in wet conditions.

Heat Output

The heat output of a tent heater is generally expressed in “BTUs” or “British Thermal Units.” There’s a long and boring explanation on how the term came to be and what it represents, but all you really need to know is how many BTUs you’ll need to heat your tent.

Best Tent Heater - Heat Output
The Campy Gear Chubby Portable Heater – Photo from manufacturer

We generally recommend a tent heater capable of producing at least 2000 BTUs, but larger shelters can require much more. While there are certainly more scientific ways of determining how many BTUs you’ll need to warm your shelter (taking the outside temperature into account, for instance), we’ve had good success using a simple formula for determining the approximate heat output needed for a given shelter.

To find your ideal BTU level, start by determining the total interior space in square footage of your tent or shelter. Next, multiply that amount by 40 (for example, a tent with a roughly 100 square foot interior is best suited with a 4,000 BTUs max heater). The result will give you a good idea of the appropriate maximum heat output you’ll want for your shelter. You won’t need all of it for moderately cold conditions, but it’s always better to have more than you need in case temperatures drop lower than expected.

Safety Features

Anytime you bring a heater into your tent, safety should be your first concern. Tent materials and camping gear can be highly sensitive to heat, and irresponsible use of a tent heater can easily lead to injury or death. That’s why we strongly prefer tent heaters (both propane and electric) to pack as many safety-enhancing features as possible.

Best Tent Heater - Safety
Photo by Nouri Beka

Propane heaters are arguably the most dangerous for reasons described above, so we look for a few specific safety features in the best tent heaters. First, an accidental tip-over shutoff is an absolute requirement. Tip-over shutoffs should both immediately extinguish the heating element to prevent fire hazards, and immediately shut off the fuel supply to prevent the potential suffocation risk of a tent full of unburnt gas. In addition to tip-over shutoffs, the best tent heater will also feature a low-oxygen shutoff feature for the same reasons described above. That’s because propane heaters (similar to tent stoves) draw oxygen from inside the tent as they burn. If your tent isn’t properly ventilated for tent heater use, this can lower the oxygen levels inside the tent to dangerous or life-threatening levels.

As far as electric heaters go, they’re generally safer, but you’ll still want as many safety features as possible to protect you from fire hazards. Our favorite electric heaters feature both overheat shutoff systems (which detect when the heater gets dangerously hot) as well as the same type of tip-over shut-off feature we want in a propane heater.

Noise

Noise tolerance is a largely personal factor (many of us prefer to sleep with fans or noise machines on), but it’s still one you’ll want to consider. Most propane heaters are relatively quiet, but models that use fans (particularly electric heaters) tend to make varying degrees of audible noise.

Again, this may be a benefit or a drawback to you (or anyone else in your tent), but most campers opt for a “low noise” heater so they can enjoy the sounds of nature around them.

Portability

Portability is another major consideration you’ll want to take into account when selecting a tent heater. Smaller propane heaters that run on single 1lb bottles of propane are typically compact enough to fit easily inside the tent without being too close to any walls, ceilings, or gear. As you go up from there, however, both the size of the heater and the size of its fuel supply increase, so you want to pay attention to the available space you have inside your shelter when selecting a heater. Large, dual cylinder heaters are powerful and long-lasting but are often overkill for smaller tents. The same goes for propane heaters designed to run off full-size 20-pound tanks.

How To Use A Tent Heater Safely:

Tent heaters are a safe way to warm up your shelter in the cold months, but only if you follow the basic safety guidelines. Here’s are the main points you’ll want to keep in mind to heat your tent safely.

Best Tent Heater - Heat Output
Photo by HumanHand

Carbon monoxide hazards: Carbon monoxide is the odorless gas produced by tent heaters that burn propane, isobutane, or other similar fuels to provide heat. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a major concern anytime you burn anything inside a closed space, and there are two main steps you’ll want to take to avoid it. First, invest in a reliable carbon monoxide detector and keep it inside your tent near where you sleep anytime you use a heater. We recommend a simple battery-powered version from a reputable brand like Kidde. Second, you need to make sure your tent is adequately ventilated to allow fresh air in and let carbon monoxide out.

Low Oxygen Levels: Propane heaters require oxygen to burn, and if you’ve got one inside your tent, you need to take steps to ensure there’s ample oxygen left over for the folks inside. Similar to the carbon monoxide issue above, your main line of defense against a low oxygen situation is a properly ventilated tent. In addition to proper ventilation, this is another reason we strongly prefer heaters with built-in low-oxygen shut-off systems.

Minimizing fire and burn hazards: The first step to avoid burning yourself or your tent is putting your heater in a safe place inside the shelter. That means it should be as far away from any walls, gear, or sleepers as possible. The best placement is also one that’s near a source of ventilation for the reasons described above. In addition to this, you should make sure your heater has a steady base that’s unlikely to tip over, and for the same reason you should make sure to place your heater on flat ground.

Conclusion

For all the factors above, we found the Mr. Heater Buddy to be the best tent heater overall. It’s got the right combination of power, convenience, and portability, plus industry-leading safety features that minimize the dangers of fire or carbon monoxide inside a compact shelter.

The Mr. Heater Big Buddy: Our Highest Quality Pick Overall – Photo from manufacturer

If you love the Mr. Heater but want a little more power (which you might need for the largest camping tents out there), consider checking out the Mr. Heater Big Buddy, which has all the same great features with the added bonus of an extra burner and a secondary fuel tank.

And, if you’re just looking for the simplest, most cost-effective option out there, we think the Texsport Portable Heater strikes a good compromise between price and features, and packs plenty of heat to get the job done in most tents.

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