Best Tent Heaters for Winter Camping in 2021

Best Tent Heaters for Winter Camping in 2020-2021
Best Tent Heaters for Winter Camping in 2020-2021
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A Comprehensive Buyer’s Guide to Safe Tent Heating

I know that there are a lot of purists out there who say that you should never use a heater when tent camping because it takes something away from the “roughing it” aspect of the experience.

It must be said, though, that waking up in the middle of the night from the cold, or not even being able to fall asleep in the first place because your body just won’t stop shivering, is maybe a little too rough.

Anyway, there’s nothing more wonderful than the feeling of warm air in your tent and a cosy, comfortable sleeping bag waiting for you.

More importantly, there are many areas and many types of camping – mountain camping, winter camping, cross-country skiing, tenting in northern regions – where not having a heater is dangerous and unwise.

Temperatures can drop severely during the night, and so a safe temperature, when you’re falling asleep, is no guarantee of a safe temperature at 3 in the morning.

Are Tent Heaters Safe to Use?

So, there are definitely situations when not having a tent heater may be dangerous, but many people still wonder if it is ever safe to use a tent heater.

The answer is yes, but only if you choose a heater designed to be used inside a tent.

You may notice that many other lists of best tent heaters will include butane, kerosene, and even wood-burning heaters! These are not safe to use inside a tent for many reasons, but mostly because they may emit noxious fumes, even poisonous carbon monoxide, and also because they may rob the tent of oxygen.

You would have to ventilate the tent so much that you would totally be defeating the purpose, and they still would not be safe!

For this reason, we confine our choices to electric, rechargeable battery-powered and – mainly –propane heaters and only those that have adequate safety features.

Please see below for more on tent heater safety.

Please, don’t buy or use a heater that is not designed, tested and approved for tent use. Or, to keep it simple and safe, just select one of our choices, which should cover any budget and any need.

And speaking of safety, many people have heard of Zodi tent heaters, and for good reason. Not only are they superb, truly professional-grade machines, but they are also among the safest available – they actually sit outside the tent, with two flexible metalized tubes to bring the heat inside.

So if you are wondering what is the best Zodi tent heater for winter camping, we would have to say they all are – but only if your idea of a tent is a large circus tent, and if you are planning on inviting a few hundred of your closest friends along.

You see, the small basic Zodi heater, the Zodi X-40 Hot Vent Tent Heater, has an enormous 40,000 BTU output, and costs nearly five times more than the most expensive heater on our list.

So, it may be a viable option for events, parties and big backyard tents, but not for camping.

But if you still insist on using one, please promise that you’ll stay away from our campsite – we don’t want the elephants trampling all the native flora!

What are the Best Heaters for Tent Camping?

In our 2020 Buyer’s Guide to Tent Heaters, we answer several questions:

1. What is the best tent heater overall for winter camping?

2. What is the best electric tent heater?

3. What is the best portable tent heater?

4. What is the best personal tent heater?

5. What is the best heater for a large tent?

6. What is the best heater for a small tent?

We don’t want to keep you from your rendezvous with the great outdoors, so without further adieu let’s get into our list of the 8 best tent heaters available in 2020.

What is the Best Tent Heater Overall for Winter Camping?

Mr. Heater Buddy F232000 MH9BX Propane Radiant Heater

Editor’s Rating: 5.0 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sale
Mr. Heater MH9BX-Massachusetts/Canada approved portable Propane Heater
  • 4,000- to 9,000-BTU radiant heater for spaces...
  • When operating the heater at altitudes over...
  • Auto shut-off if tipped over, if pilot light...
  • Fold-down handle; swivel-out regulator;...
  • THE USE OF UN-AUTHORIZED...
  • Heating Type: Radiant
  • Uses: Propane
  • Safety Shut-off: Yes
  • BTU: 4000 / 9000
  • Weight: 10.6 pounds

Maybe the most popular and highly rated brand for camping heaters among outdoor enthusiasts, Mr Heater provides several excellent choices for tent heating and makes our list of best tent heaters in 2020 more than once (3 times, to be exact!).

For the best propane camping heater, Mr Heater Buddy seems an obvious choice. Not only will it heat a medium to large tent easily, or even an outdoor space, with its two-level (4,000 or 9,000 BTU) output, but it is also ultra-safe to use.

If Mr. Heater Buddy gets tipped over, it automatically shuts itself off. It also turns off when the pilot light has gone out, or when it senses that oxygen levels are too low.

This last safety feature, while really smart and valuable, also raises the only (very small) concern about the Buddy – it won’t operate well over 7,000 feet (~2200 meters), at which elevation oxygen levels are already lower.

Superbly engineered, easy to use and very well built, the Mr Heater Buddy Radiant Heater works wonderfully well in a wide range of camping and outdoor situations and is my choice for best propane heater for tents in 2020.

Please note: If you are in North America, this Big Buddy heater is not approved for sale or use in Canada or in Massachusetts. Mr. Heater makes a special version of this heater just for those two places, the Buddy Canada / Massachusetts Approved Propane Heater.

A great – almost essential, in fact – accessory to get for your Buddy is the Mr. Heater Buddy Carrying Bag, which will make toting easier and safer.

What is the Best Electric Tent Heater?

Brightown Portable Electric Space Heater

Editor’s Rating: 4.6 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Brightown Portable Electric Space Heater, 1500W/750W Ceramic Heater with Thermostat & Multi-Protection System, Heat Up 200 sq. Ft in Minutes, Quiet for Office Room Desk Indoor Use, ETL Listed, Black
  • 【2 in 1 Heater Fan】This ceramic heater...
  • 【Multi-Protection Safety System】a. These...
  • 【Compact and Powerful】6.2" x 7" x 9.2",...
  • 【Quiet & Fast Heating】The noise this...
  • 【Durability】The room heater with six feet...
  • Heating Type: Ceramic
  • Uses: Electric (AC/Mains)
  • Safety Shut-off: Yes
  • BTU: 2,500 / 5,000 (750 / 1,500 watts)
  • Weight: 3.2 pounds

Electric heaters offer some real advantages, chiefly that you won’t need to bring fuel with you. They tend to run quietly and efficiently and have good safety features, and they are the most simple and easy to use.

Remember, though, that they still need to be powered, so a plug-in electric heater will need a power outlet somewhere close by. And don’t rely on an electric heater for survival – you may not have a power source, or (as often happens in the winter) the campsite may experience power outages.

Still, electric heaters can be a great option and an important part of any buyer’s guide for best tent heaters. And the Brightown Portable electric space heater is an especially efficient, durable and safe choice.

Safety first – the Brightown space heater is cool to the touch on all outer surfaces and is made of flame-retardant material. It automatically turns itself off in the case of overheating and also shuts off if it gets tipped over. And be sure to use a weatherproof, heavy-duty outdoor power cord, like this Otimo 100 foot Extension Cord.

Quiet and powerful, the Brightown Portable will fill your tent with heat in seconds. Its two levels – 750 or 1,500 watts (approximately 2,500 or 5,000 BTU) – make it good for several tent sizes, and it is light weight and easy to pack, yet rugged enough for campsites.

This heater is a really great choice for lots of different environments – home office, garage, bedroom and more – and is especially well suited for temp camping. My choice, then, for a best electric heater for tents in 2020/2021 is the Brightown Portable Electric Space Heater.

What is the Best Portable Tent Heater?

Editor’s Rating: 4.8 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Coleman BlackCat PerfecTemp Catalytic Heater
144 Reviews
Coleman BlackCat PerfecTemp Catalytic Heater
  • Powerful 3,000-BTU heating unit
  • Runs up to 7 hours on one 16.4-oz. propane...
  • PerfecTemp Catalytic technology for safe,...
  • Easy-grip handle for convenient carrying
  • Legs fold up for easy storage
  • Heating Type: Catalytic
  • Uses: Propane
  • Safety Shut-off: No
  • BTU: 1500 / 3000
  • Weight: 4 pounds

I have long loved and used Coleman gear for backpacking and camping. Their products have, for many years, offering real value and top quality, and they always seem to be designed by people who love the outdoors.

The best Coleman tent heater I’ve ever used is the Coleman BlackCat PerfecTemp Catalytic Heater, and it is my choice as well for a best portable heater for backpacking and camping.

This nifty little unit has a comfortable handle for carrying and is small enough (especially when the legs are folded up) to easily pack, and those same legs make it super easy to set up and usable in lots of different situations.

The legs are also quite sturdy and make this Coleman camping heater very stable, which makes it even safer.

Quite powerful for its size, the Coleman BlackCat has 3,000 BTU output and can last for up to 7 hours on a single standard (16.4 ounces) propane cylinder. You can also set it to a lower level, 1,500 BTU, which will make the propane last twice as long.

And, while the Coleman BlackCat PerecTemp heater does not have the advanced safety shut-off features of some more expensive heaters, the catalytic heating technology makes it perfectly safe to use in a tent or other indoors areas. The platinum heating element produces no carbon monoxide or other fumes, and there are no open flames.

A great choice, then, for a best portable heater for tents in 2020/2021 – the Coleman BlackCat!

What is the Best Personal Tent Heater?

Fourheart Rechargeable Hand Warmers

Editor’s Rating: 4.7 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Fourheart Rechargeable Hand Warmers,Double-Side Heating Gift for Raynauds Arthritic Sufferers Pain Relief, Ski, Hunting, Hiking, Winter Gifts (118 Black)
  • SAFE FOR USE --- Rechargeable Hand Warmers...
  • GOOD SECURITY --- The optimized and upgraded...
  • 1-3s HEATING --- Double side heating and 3...
  • LARGE BATTERY CAPACITY --- 5200mAh lithium...
  • BEST GIFT------Double sided heating,perfect...
  • Heating Type: Electric Resistance
  • Uses: Rechargeable Battery
  • Safety Shut-off: Yes
  • Output: 5 volts/2 amps
  • Weight: 4.7 ounces

The Fourheart Rechargeable Heater is a bit of a different option.

I know that, even with all of the safety features offered with the other heaters on my list of best tent heaters in 2020/2021, some people still don’t feel completely comfortable falling asleep next to one.

Or you may just have very limited space – a pup-tent or a two-person – and don’t have room for even a smallish heater.

Enter the Fourheart Hand Warmer. A tiny, rechargeable heater that can be put in your pockets, your boots or your sleeping bag, and will run for hours on a single charge, the Fourheart will not be enough to keep you alive in the arctic, but it can make the difference between deep and comfortable sleep or fitful, restless shivering on those chilly nights.

With its large 5,200 mAh rechargeable battery, the Fourheart rechargeable heater can also accompany you on day hikes, and in an emergency situation, you can use it as a power bank for a depleted phone.

The Fourheart heater is designed to be warm and safe on the outside, with smooth surfaces, no cold or hot spots, and a comfortable shape. It is also loaded with safety features, which ensure it won’t overheat or over-charge.

Ultra easy to use, the Fourheart has only one button, for power on and off and to switch between three temperature levels: 107° F (42°C), 118° F (48° C) and 131° F (55° C), and will stay warm for up to 8 hours on a charge.

Even if you have a larger tent heater, the Fourhearts rechargeable hand warmer is still a great little gadget to bring along on any camping trip and is my choice for a best personal heater for tents in 2020/2021, as well as the best battery powered tent heater.

They also make the perfect gift for any outdoor enthusiast!

What is the Best Tent Heater for a Large Tent?

Mr. Heater Big Buddy Indoor/Outdoor Portable Propane Heater

Editor’s Rating: 4.8 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Mr. Heater Big Buddy Indoor/Outdoor Portable Propane Heater
  • 4,000, 9,000, and 18,000 BTU/hr
  • Automatic low-oxygen shutoff system
  • Accidental tip-over safety shutoff
  • Heats up to 400 sq ft
  • Connects directly to two, 1-lb disposable...
  • Heating Type: Radiant
  • Uses: Propane
  • Safety Shut-off: Yes
  • BTU: 4000 / 9000 / 18,000
  • Weight: 11 pounds

If you are using a large tent, like the wonderfully luxurious Ozark Trail 12 Person 3 Room Instant Cabin Tent, you may want a bigger heater to keep all of your friends and loved ones warm. The Mr Heater Big Buddy propane tent heater is a great choice, with plenty of output, a complete array of safety features and the legendary Mr Heater quality and engineering.

With three heat levels – 4,000, 9,000 and 18,000 BTU – the Big Buddy will fill even large tents, up to 450 square feet, and can also heat larger outside areas efficiently. The lower settings make the Big Buddy very flexible, suitable for use with smaller tents, fewer people or if you just want a lower temperature – after all, at 18,000 BTUs, the Big Buddy gets really warm!

Being a Mr Heater product, the Big Buddy is completely safe to use. It is rated for indoor and tent use and has an automatic shut off switch in case your Big Buddy gets tipped over, the pilot light goes out or the oxygen levels drop below safe levels – you can fall asleep feeling really relaxed and safe.

The other advantage of this, or any Big Buddy product, is that it is very well built and well-engineered, not only offering the design and features campers love but also being tough and rugged, so you can use it outdoors without concern.

A super handy accessory to have with your Big Buddy is the Mr Heater Big Buddy Carrying Case, perfectly designed, very well made and ready for even rugged outdoor use.

Please note: If you are in North America, this Big Buddy heater is not approved for sale or use in Canada or in Massachusetts. Mr. Heater makes a special version of this heater just for those two places, the Big Buddy Canada / Massachusetts Approved Propane Heater.

What is the Best Tent Heater for a Small Tent?

Mr. Heater Little Buddy F215100 MH4B Propane Heater

Editor’s Rating: 4.8 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTU Indoor Safe Propane Heater, Medium
4,319 Reviews
Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTU Indoor Safe Propane Heater, Medium
  • Indoor-safe portable propane heater for rooms...
  • Continuous odor-free, 45-degree heating...
  • Simple on/off buttons; uses 1-pound...
  • Low-oxygen sensor and accidental tip-over...
  • Recommended for emergency heat, tents,...
  • Heating Type: Radiant
  • Uses: Propane
  • Safety Shut-off: Yes
  • BTU: 3.800
  • Weight: 5 pounds

Many of the heaters on our buyer’s guide of best tent heaters in 2020 are just too big for smaller tents. If you have a 2-4 person tent – like my favourite, the Hillman 4 Season – or if you simply want a smaller unit or less heat, the Little Buddy is a perfect choice!

With the Mr Heater Little Buddy heater in your tent, you’ll enjoy a more modest 3,800 BTU output, which is still plenty of heat for tents up to 100 square feet (~9 square meters), and it will operate at maximum output for over five and a half hours.

Like other Mr. Heater products, the Little Buddy tent heater is over the top when it comes to safety features. It has a safety shut off which will turn your Little Buddy off if it gets tipped over, if the pilot light goes off or if the oxygen level in your tent drops too low.

If you want a perfect heater for any small space, including home or office, which is rated for indoor and outdoor use and is specially designed for complete safety inside tents, the Mr Heater Little Buddy propane heater is a great product and our or choice for best camping heater for small tents.

Please note: If you are in North America, this Little Buddy heater is not approved for sale or use in Canada or in Massachusetts. Mr. Heater makes a special version of this heater just for those two places, the Little Buddy Canada / Massachusetts Approved Propane Heater.

How many BTU do I need for my Tent?

BTU, or British Thermal Units, is a measure of how much heat output a heater will give, and to be more precise here we, and air conditioner manufacturers, specify how many BTU are output per hour.

Looking at manufacturer’s websites and camping blogs, the calculation of just how many BTUs you need for winter camping seems hopelessly complex. For example, to really get exact you would need to figure the height, width and length of your tent, the tent’s ventilation, the number of people and their heat output, outside temperature, and the likelihood of bears slashing a hole into the tent in the frigid wee hours.

Ok, I just made up that last bit about the bears, but you get the idea. Let’s simplify it by giving round numbers for different sized tents. We will assume that one or two-person tents are too small for heaters, and start with 4 person tents.

4 Person Tent: 3,000 BTU

6 Person Tent: 4-5000 BTU

8+ Person Tent: 8,000+ BTU

Pup Tent

Circus Tent

Final thoughts: What is the Best Tent Heater for Winter Camping?

As you may have already gathered after reading this buyer’s guide to best tent heaters for winter camping, to be the single most important consideration is safety, and if you are choosing a heater for winter camping a much better question is:

What is the safest tent heater for winter camping?

All of the heaters on our list of best tent heaters for 2020/2021 will do a great job heating your tent, and after you figure out your budget, the output you need, and if you want electric or propane, and/or even a cute, tiny personal heater, you can rest assured (literally!) that the corresponding model on our tent heater buyer’s guide will be the very best choice you can make and will keep you safe and warm for many years to come.

Happy Camping!

James McWhirter
James McWhirter
Hey! I'm James. I like to share my love for technology and all things tech-related. With previous experience working as an editor at a newspaper, I now help knowtheflo.com with content production and of course, test out few products myself!

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