Camping doesn’t just have to be saved for summer – winter camping is super fun and can be a great way to see the wilderness from a different perspective. The most important aspect of winter camping is staying warm, and a good camping heater will help make your winter camping experience a memorable one.
Portable propane heaters are just one of many kinds of camping heaters that you can use in the winter months to stay warm. A propane heater uses propane fuel to create heat to warm up an area. Fuel is filled in a tank and ignited manually or automatically and is great for off-road or backcountry camping as no electricity is used.
Portable propane heaters are just one of many kinds of camping heaters that you can use in the winter months to stay warm.
What to Consider When Choosing a Portable Propane Heater
When it comes to deciding on which portable propane heater to buy, there are several factors to take into consideration in addition to the heat source.
Size and Weight
The size and weight of the portable propane heater is an important factor and will depend on how you plan on camping (RV or tent) as they can weigh anything from between one pound to 15 pounds or more. The size of the portable propane heater correlates to the amount of heat the unit produces and the larger the portable propane heater, the more heat it will produce.
Propane patio heaters can be wall-mounted, tabletop, or freestanding. Tabletop heaters are about four feet tall; freestanding heaters typically range from seven to nine feet tall. One way to help decide between a tabletop and a freestanding heater is to consider whether you prefer refillable propane cylinders (freestanding) or disposable propane canisters (tabletop).
Safety is of the utmost importance when using a portable propane heater, which can be a potential fire hazard when placed too close to tent walls and other flammable surfaces. Look for a portable propane heater that has an automatic shut-off system when the unit overheats, tips over, or detects excessive amounts of carbon monoxide in the air.
Look for space heaters with a high AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) rating to save money on fuel. AFUE is an efficiency measure like MPG for your car – the better the rating, the more energy-efficient the appliance is.
Look for a portable propane heater that has an automatic shut-off system when the unit overheats, tips over, or detects excessive amounts of carbon monoxide in the air. Tim Reckmann / CCNULL / CC BY 2.0.
Best Portable Propane Heater
We tried and tested a variety of portable propane heaters and came up with a list of the top picks for your next outdoor RV adventure.
Best Overall: Dura Heat TT-360 Propane (LP) 360 Degree Tank Top Heater
The Dura Heat TT-360 Propane (LP) 360 Degree Tank Top Heater provides 360° of instant radiant, infrared heat in a small and portable design. The high-efficiency stainless steel heat reflector boasts a rust-resistant chrome safety guard and operates up to 14 hours on a 20-pound propane (LP) tank.
Features include a mercury-free tip-over shut-off, quick connect P.O.L. tank connection, and match light ignition. The heater and tank be in an upright position for proper lighting and operation for the built-in tip-over shut-off device and the tank must be placed on a stable flat surface only.
- Compact design
- Wide heating area of up to 1000 square feet
- Safe to use
- Built-in tip-over shut off feature
- Matchlight ignition system
- Quick connect L tank connection
- Resistant chrome emitter guard on the body
- Does not get rust easily
- One-year warranty
- The tank must be placed on a stable flat surface only
- Propane tank sold separately
- Cannot perform in windy conditions
Runner UP: Mr. Heater MH9BX Buddy Indoor Portable Propane Heater
The Mr. Heater MH9BX Buddy Indoor Portable Propane Heater is the best overall when it comes to portable heaters for camping. It is long-lasting, provides ample warmth in cold weather, and is light and easy to carry around.
This portable propane heater option pumps out between 4,000 and 9,000 BTU, heating an area of up to 225 square feet. Nearly 100% efficient, this imported heater is clean-burning and approved for both indoor and outdoor use.
The heater is very safe to use as it has an automatic shut-off system that immediately turns the heater off when low oxygen levels are detected. It also has a swivel-out regulator, a fold-down handle, and connects to a propane tank. The heater has a run time of three hours.
When operating the heater at altitudes over 7,000 FT above sea level the heater may shut off
- Lightweight and easy to use
- Run time of three hours
- Automatic shut-off system
- Swivel-out regulator
- Foldable handle
- High-temperature wire protection
- Easy to replace ceramic burner tile
- Wide heat radiation
- Cannot be used at high altitudes
Top Pick: Remington REM-60V-GFA-O Indoor Propane Heater
The Remington REM-60V-GFA-O Indoor Propane Heater is an indoor propane heater that features electronic ignition, variable heat settings, and state-of-the-art safety features. Suitable for a wide range of applications, this indoor propane heater is capable of delivering heat up to 60,000 BTU which makes it suitable for spaces up to 1,500 square feet. It features variable heat settings and a gas valve knob which makes it easy to maintain the preferred temperature.
State-of-the-art features include electric ignition, an adjustable height that lets you heat hard-to-reach areas properly, and continuous operation for up to 10.5 hours on a full tank (20-pound capacity). Other safety features that are provided with this heater area are top-over safety and overheating. It comes with a heavy-duty and rugged construction which ensures durability.
- 60,000 BTU
- Heats up to 1,500 square feet
- Robust construction
- One-year limited warranty
- 300 CFM airflow
- Electronic ignition
- Not suitable for indoor or closed spaces used
Best for Portability: Texsport Sportsmate Portable Propane Heater
The Texsport Sportsmate Portable Propane Heater is a small and compact heater that is lightweight and very easy to move around. Made from durable stainless steel, the heater has an excellent ground balance due to its round bottom with four protruding flat surfaces for stability.
The portable heater weighs just one pound and has an aluminum reflector with a safety grid that helps to distribute the heat generated further into the atmosphere. It generates an output of just 2,890 BTU and is suitable for small spaces. It shuts off the fuel supply automatically when the flame goes out, to prevent potential fire hazards and it has a steel handle for carrying the heater around. The Texsport Sportsmate Portable Propane Heater comes with a one-year warranty.
- Automatic shut-off system
- Made from durable aluminum
- Safety grid
- One-year warranty
- Low heat outage
- Suitable for small spaces only
Best for Small Spaces: Mr. Heater MH12HB Hunting Buddy Portable Space Heater
The Mr. Heater MH12HB Hunting Buddy Portable Space Heater is one of the best portable camping heaters on the market. Boasting a compact and rugged design, this heater is strong, sturdy, and very durable, and can survive even the harshest weather conditions.
Designed specifically to be used in small spaces of sizes up to 300 square feet, the Mr. Heater MH12HB Hunting Buddy Portable Space Heater is best for compact and small camp tents or RVs. The portable device has an impressive power output of between 6,000 and 12,000 BTU and can be used with a one-pound disposable cylinder tank or connected directly to a gas supply with a swivel regulator.
Several safety features have been built into this device to help avoid both hazards and environmental pollution, including a low oxygen shutoff system, which turns the device off automatically when the oxygen levels in the room deplete to a dangerous level. Another great safety feature is the tip-over safety feature that automatically shuts off the device in case the heater is knocked over.
- Suitable for small camp spaces
- low oxygen shutoff system
- Automatic tip-over safety shut-off
- Easy-to-start ignition button
- Not suitable for high altitude usage
- Suitable for small indoor spaces only
Best for Outdoors: Mr. Heater MH450T Tank Top Heater
The Mr. Heater MH450T Tank Top Heater is a great option for outdoor spaces with a narrower shape and a top-side radiator that pushes the heat in a wide arc. The lightweight heater weighs about 5.5 pounds and is very easy to carry and move around the camp. It can also be attached to cylinder sizes of up to 20 pounds.
A distinctive feature of this portable propane heater is that it can produce heat of between 29,000 and 45,000 BTU, making it a very good source of radiating heat outdoors. This heater also comes with an auto-shut-off safety feature, as well as an oxygen depletion sensor that ensures safety from low levels of oxygen over extended heating periods.
- Auto-shutoff feature
- 360-degree radiant heating arc
- Easy-to-start push button
- Best for outdoors only
Best for Combination of Propane and Battery: Dewalt Portable Heater
The Dewalt Portable heater is a compact battery-powered and propane portable heater in a classic yellow and black color scheme. It has three USB ports for charging personal electronics and accessories and a dual tank capacity that provides up to seven hours of run-time.
The heater has an integrated high-velocity fan to effectively disperse convective heat and a powerful LED light bar that offers bright light for cooking, reading, or working. It has a quiet and reliable electronic ignition and is powered by the 20V MAX and FlexVolt battery families. It weighs seven pounds so is quite heavy to move around.
- Seven hours of runtime
- Built-in light strip
- Three USB ports for charging phones and electronic devices
- 12,000 BTU output
- Requires both propane and battery power to work all features at once
- Dewalt batteries are expensive
Best for Versatility: Campy Gear Portable Propane Heater and Stove
The Campy Gear Portable Propane Heater and Stove is a dual-function camping stove and heater with a heat output of 9000 BTU that produces 360-degree radiant heat. The unit has a sturdy stand that can support pots and pans of up to 12 inches and has adjustable flame control for cooking.
The Campy Gear 2-in-1 Heater and Stove are compatible with 110g and 230g butane/isobutane/propane fuel canisters that can be inserted into the stove or it can be connected to a one-pound propane cylinder by an extension hose or adapter for longer usage. The heater comes with a one-year warranty.
- Dual functionality
- Produces 360-degree radiant heat
- Sturdy stand for supporting pots
- Compatible with various canisters
- One-year warranty
- Low heat output
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of heater is best for camping?
Propane heaters are preferred by most campers for their portability, convenience, and affordability. Electric heaters tend to be less popular as there may not be a power supply at your campsite, which makes them useless. Propane heaters are both safe to use and can produce more warmth.
How does a portable gas heater work?
A gas heater works by heating gas using a mechanical or electronic thermostat. The heater is ignited by an electric filament or pilot light and a valve actuates gas flow is actuated with a valve. Flames heat a radiator in the air duct but outside the flue, convection or a fan may distribute the heat.
Is it safe to use a propane heater inside a tent?
Propane heaters are perfectly safe for use in tents, but they do emit carbon monoxide so they should only be used in an area with good ventilation. Make sure you get your propane heater checked out regularly to ensure there’s nothing wrong with it.
What are the safety tips for using the best camping heater?
Using a gas heater comes with risks. They carry the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, so you should have a carbon monoxide alarm in the area or your tent. Also, make sure your extra gas cylinders are stored safely.
Keep electric heaters away from fabric or the walls of your tent to prevent fire. It is best to get a heater with an automatic switch-off function. Make sure butane or propane heaters are used in well-ventilated spaces to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Always ensure you always have backup fuel canisters and keep them in a safe place away from the heater.
Can you use a portable heater in a tent?
Yes, you can safely use heaters in tents as long as there is good natural ventilation. The CO2 emitted from the heater can be dangerous if it’s allowed to gather. The best option is to get a heater that has an automatic shut-off if it senses the air levels getting dangerous.
Why does my portable gas heater smell?
If your heater smells like gas this could be caused by a leak in the exchanger. There aren’t any normal reasons for your heater to smell like gas. If the smell is coming from the air ducts a leak in the heat exchanger is the most likely cause.