Spoiler Alert: Conquerwild named Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy as the best tent heater for cold weather camping!!
As winter rolls around and cold weather begins to creep in, we must make changes to our camping habits. Luckily, we live in the 21st century and cold weather camping is 100% feasible.
With the help of an efficient tent heater, camping in even the most frigid conditions can be enjoyable. These heaters often come in compact, portable packages that are super easy to use and set up. I’ve researched dozens of these products in an effort to discover the best tent heater out there. Here are the 3 most efficient devices I could find…
What We’ll Be Reviewing:
- Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy
- Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy
- Dyna-Glo HA 1360R Heat Around 360-10K
Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy – Best Gas Tent Heater
Like its name implies, the Mr. Heater Buddy will be your best friend on cold weather camping excursions. This indoor-safe product is a super popular choice among campers, and for good reason.
The Buddy has no problem warming up spaces of up to 225 square feet- which is larger than almost any tent you’ll probably be camping in. It’s propane fueled and it’s designed to be used with a standard, 1 pound disposable tank (not included). On its maximum BTU setting, the Buddy should last you about 3 hours… Though it’s unlikely you’ll need 9,000 BTU for that long (that’s super hot!). If you’re using this thing on low (4,000 BTU), it should last for double that time.
With such intense heating power must come effective safety measures, and Mr. Heater doesn’t disappoint. The device will automatically turn itself off whenever it tips over or if the pilot light goes out. It also has an oxygen depletion sensor, which will shut the heater off when the levels are too low. The Mr. Heater Buddy prioritizes safety, efficient heating and easy setup in a more successful way than most other propane heaters. That’s why it’s such an incredible product.
- It’s user friendly.
- It comes with a folding handle which allows for easy carrying.
- You can buy it in gray or red, if style matters at all to you.
- A swivel-out regulator on the side of this heater allows you to attach either the standard 1 pound propane tank, or an external gas source. It’s also super easy to access.
- It’s made from a combination of steel, plastic and nickel, making it super sturdy.
- You also have the option of mounting this heat on a wall (if you’re not using it for a tent).
- It’s definitely on the heavy side, weighing 9 pounds.
- Although there’s a metal grate for protection, the pilot flame is somewhat exposed. Be careful if you have children or animals nearby, as it’s possible for them to burn themselves.
Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy – Best Value Tent Heater
For those who want the same efficiency as the standard Mr. Heater Buddy but on a smaller scale, the Little Buddy may be the choice for you. This miniature propane tent heater is shaped like a spotlight, and it produces enough heat to fill a 95 square foot room. Its singular heat setting cranks up to 3,800 BTU, and it can maintain that for about 5.6 hours.
The Little Buddy operates with 1 pound propane tanks (not included) and it works really well inside small, ventilated tents. I love that it’s easy to use- even more so than the standard Mr. Buddy heater. On this product, the propane tank goes directly beneath the main heater, sort of acting like a stand. To me, this is a pretty creative way to save space.
Keep in mind that the Little Buddy and the Standard Buddy can’t be used at elevations of over 7,000 feet above sea level due to the lack of oxygen in the air. These may not always be the best portable tent heaters for mountain top camping. However, if you’re camping anywhere else in the world, this product is a fantastic option.
- It’s super safe with the same features as the standard Buddy (oxygen detector sensor and tip-over auto shut off). Plus it’s odor free.
- Weighing 5 pounds (minus the 1 pound propane tank), it’s relatively lightweight.
- It has a convenient carry handle which is great for hooking onto backpacks or hanging from storage lofts.
- It’s odor free.
- The heating device is aimed upward and can’t be pivoted. It may take some time for heat to reach the bottom of your tent.
- It can be somewhat difficult to ignite.
- It only has 1 heat setting.
Dyna-Glo HA 1360R Heat Around 360-10K – Hottest Tent Heater
When you’re trying to warm up a large space in cold weather, you sometimes need more of a full-spectrum heating source. The Dyna-Glo was created for just that, with its 360 degree design and maximum 10,000 BTU. That makes this the hottest tent safe heater on this list!
While the Dyna-Glo is known to be less reliable than the gas operated products from Mr. Heater, it has the ability to heat a 250 foot space when used correctly. The temperature control knob is notchless, meaning you’re not limited to a few heat settings. Also, tank attachment and replacement is easy to do with the help of its swivel valve.
This product is definitely a bit big for backpacking (it’s 19 inches tall and 6.57 pounds without a propane tank), and it might feel somewhat cramped when inside a small tent. However, it prioritizes quick heating and it‘s one of the most safe tent heaters for camping.
- It comes in red and black with the option of a carry case for transportation.
- There’s an oxygen depletion sensor and a tip switch for safe heating.
- It’s more affordable than most other camping heaters that have this much BTU.
- When using a 20 pound propane tank (with the help of an extension hose sold separately), this thing can last up to 45 hours on high setting.
- Many customers have said that it’s difficult to ignite this camping tent heater. There may be a bit of a learning curve.
- It’s not meant to be used in extreme cold weather.
- It runs a bit noisy.
The Defining Factors Of Tent Heaters
Choosing a tent heater for your next camping trip isn’t as simple as picking the first search result you see online and saying, “looks good enough!” Making an impulsive decision can leave you with an ineffective, over expensive or even dangerous product.
There are hundreds of options out there, and it’s important that you familiarize yourself with all of the defining factors of tent heaters. This way, you’ll get a better understanding of what will work best for your next camping trip.
Camping Tent Heater Types
First off, there are a few classifications of heaters for you to pick from. Each has their pros and their cons. Choosing really comes down to personal preference and the resources available to you.
Gas Heaters are the most common and convenient type to use for tent camping. Most of the products listed above are gas heaters. There’s no need for an external power source or extension cord, just a gas tank. Usually, these types of heaters operate using propane or butane gas. I prefer propane because it burns more quickly.
Using a gas heater means that you’re going to need some good ventilation in your tent. It’s important that the product you choose is designed specifically for indoor use. Otherwise, you run the risk of poisoning yourself and your fellow campers. See our section on tent heater safety below for more information and tips.
The downside to gas heaters is that they’re not the most eco-friendly option out there and they don’t last forever. Your propane will run out after a few hours. If you plan on staying warm for long periods of time, you‘ll need to keep extra tanks with you.
Electric Heaters are a bit less convenient than their gas counterparts because they must be plugged into a power supply in order to function. At the same time, they’re more eco-friendly than gas heaters. Most of them use a PTC (positive temperature coefficient) ceramic heating element to function. These are self-regulating and quick-starting.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of using an electric heater is that they’re able to operate for longer periods of time than gas heaters. They also tend to be less expensive.
Wood Burning Stoves are a less common option for heating your tent. These are essentially metal fire pits which you can use for cooking or heating. They aren’t usually the best heat source for inside of a tent because of the fumes produced from the smoke. Many wood burning stoves come with a long metal chimney that releases the smoke through the roof of your tent.
I didn’t list any indoor wood burning camp stoves in my tent heater reviews because they tend to be very expensive.
With each portable camping heater comes a different heating capability. For gas products, heating power is usually measured by BTU (British Thermal Units). It’s basically the amount of energy exerted when producing heat. When using a heater inside of a tent, you generally want to stay within the range of 3,000 – 10,000 BTU. Anything outside of that range will probably be too weak or too extreme.
Figuring out the exact BTU measurement you need for your camp shelter can be complicated. If you know the size of your tent and your exact camping conditions, then you can use this calculator to simplify the process.
Usually, tent heaters will list a specific amount of square feet which they are able to heat (for example, the Dyna-Glo Heat Around claims that it’s able to heat up to 250 square feet). You should always take note of these measurements.
Size, Weight And Portability
Your heater is going to have to get from point A to point B somehow. The smaller and more lightweight your product is, the less of a burden it will be to carry and store.
Most gas heaters for tents are relatively heavy, especially if you factor in the weight of a propane tank. Electric heaters tend to be a bit lighter and better for backpacking.
Size is also important for the sake of saving room inside your shelter. The smaller your tent is, the smaller your heater should be… Especially if you have lots of equipment with you.
The Noise Level
Some campers get annoyed with loud and obnoxious heaters. If you’re one of these people, be sure that the product you choose has a quiet or hushed operation. Personally, I prefer a bit of white noise. There’s something special about the low hum of a heater on full blast that puts me right to sleep.
Safety Always Comes First With Camping Heaters
Unfortunately, with quick heat and convenience comes a few safety concerns. Most of the products listed in my reviews are gas heaters. These can be especially dangerous when you don‘t use them correctly.
Identifying Safe Tent Heaters For Camping
If you plan on having a safe and comfortable camping experience, then you should look for the following features in a heater (especially if it’s gas powered).
- Tip Over Switch – This is a feature that allows your heater to automatically shut off in the case that it tips over. Without this, you run the risk of starting a fire throughout the night.
- Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS) – A super vital feature in gas heaters, this will automatically shut your heater off in the case that oxygen levels get too low. Usually, gas heaters let off carbon dioxide into the air. This isn’t so harmful to most people in small amounts (as long as your tent is well ventilated). However, if there’s not enough oxygen in the air, the gas may begin to produce carbon monoxide, which is deadly when inhaled. All of the gas heaters listed above include an ODS.
- Overheat Protection – This safety mechanism will turn your heater off if its internal parts become too hot. This is an important feature in electric heaters and without this, you’ll be more at risk of starting a fire.
Picking The Right Spot For Your Camp Heater
When you’re using a tent heater, it’s important that you avoid setting up camp in sensitive locations. Since you’re automatically more prone to starting a fire when you have a tent heater with you, you should stay away from dry areas. Don’t pitch your tent near dry grass, dead leaves or densely forested areas. If it hasn’t rained in a long time, then maybe using a tent heater may not be the best idea.
Some campsites don’t allow the use of gas heaters. Be sure to check in with the rules and regulations of your campsite before setting up.
It’s also important that you choose the right spot to place your heater within your tent. Keep it at least a few feet away from all walls, or else they could catch fire. Also, try to keep yourself and your fellow campers out of its way. You don’t want to knock it over or burn yourself in the middle of the night.
Don’t Ever Leave Camping Heaters Unattended
No matter how safe or sturdy you think your heater is, you should never leave it unattended to. If you need to leave your tent, turn it off until you get back.
If you have children with you, be sure that they know not to go near the heater. Some products are hot to the touch and can burn a child badly if they get too close. On my last camping trip, I idiotically grabbed a gas lantern by its head and I burned my hand pretty badly… And that was just a lantern. Take that as a cautionary tale.
If you’re camping with pets, try to figure out a way to keep them away from the heater, especially throughout the night.
If you plan on keeping a gas heater running throughout the night, I suggest setting an alarm for every few hours or so. This way, you can wake up and quickly check the heater to make sure everything is okay.
Know Your Heater Well
When you first buy a product, it’s vital that you thoroughly read the manual and all instructions immediately. Some heaters have strict rules and things to avoid for safety’s sake.
Be sure to keep your heater on a sturdy, flat surface. If it’s wobbly, then you definitely shouldn’t leave it on throughout the night.
If your heater doesn’t come with a stand, you should never buy one separately unless it’s made for your exact model. Never create your own stand out of the items around you. This is probably the easiest way you could start a fire.
Extra Tips For Staying Warm While Camping
Sometimes, a tent heater’s just not enough to keep you comfortable… Some other times, your heater craps out on you at the last moment. Regardless of what happens, you should be prepared for cold weather in more ways than one. Here are some tips on how to do that:
Bring Lots Of Extra Blankets
This tip is a given. There’s no such thing as too many blankets and everybody knows that. They’re perhaps the best way to trap your body heat and keep it from escaping. I would recommend wool or cotton fleece blankets if you want to stay as warm as possible.
Layer Your Clothing
Having enough layers to your clothes can absolutely make or break your night of sleep out in the woods. Even if you have your tent heater on full blast, you should still layer your clothing.
This means wearing thermals, gloves, hats, double layers of socks and undergarments, hoodies, thick sweat pants and whatever else you feel necessary. Remember that the amount of layers you choose should be based on the weather in your area.
Picking The Right Sleeping Bag
If you’re using a sleeping bag, then it’s vital that you choose the right one for cold weather. Ones with double layers, mummy hoods and poly flannel linings tend to be the best options for winter. Check out my article on the best budget sleeping bags for more tips and affordable suggestions.
Don’t Forget Water
This tip may not be so obvious to some, but drinking lots of water is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer! Breathing in cold air makes you dehydrated, and when your body’s freezing, it can be hard to tell. Dehydration can lead to hypothermia when mixed with freezing weather, exhaustion and other factors.
Camping in cold weather can be daunting. Nobody wants to sit in an icy cold tent for hours at a time. That‘s why it‘s so important to invest in a quality tent heater.
Ultimately, the best heater for you depends on the circumstances of your camping trip and your own preference. Just remember that these devices aren’t always cheap, and it’s important that you know what to look for before purchasing one.
Our Top Pick Is….
If efficiency is what you’re looking for, then it really doesn’t get much better than Buddy. This propane powered heater is powerful, long-lasting and (most importantly) super safe! You can use this thing in the dead of winter and still expect to break a sweat inside your tent. As far as gas heaters go, this is easily my top pick.