Whether you’re preparing to go camping, planning a big outdoor wedding, or simplyin need of something to keep you warm in your cold and lonesome college dorm nights, you just might find what you’re looking for in a portable heater. Lucky for you, we did the legwork so you don’t have to, and here’s what we’ve come up with for the best tent heater choices.
Of course, we made sure there’s a little something for everyone’s pocket and needs, and there’s a short guide for those of you who find the topic completely alien. So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in.
The Hot and Cold Of It
For a start, you’ll want to decide on a budget. This is a good first step, and it will greatly filter the choices, as it will determine the output/capacity of your new heater more than anything else.
Taking this to be the zero parameter, we get to the actual first thing you’ll want to check out when doing the research – the type of the heater. Painting with a broad brush, we can divide all tent heaters according to the power supply. This way we get the propane-powered and the electric tent heaters (there are also chemical heaters, but those are more of a sleeping-bag deal rather than for the entire tent).
The propane heaters are great in that they are easily portable and independent of any other power source than a propane tank (well, their portability depends on the model, but assuming you’re going camping, you won’t take a 200-pound monster with you), and they can run off a 16.4-ounce propane cylinder for about 7 hours or so. On the flipside, they can get hot enough to make combustible materials nearby (nylon) go up in flames.
Also, they require occasional ventilation, as they burn up the oxygen in closed space. Conversely, electric heaters have no such problems, are as equally portable, but they rely on a power supply. So, unless you’re headed for a campsite with power hook up or carry a dedicated battery (that’s at least another 25 pounds of weight), you might not opt for this one.
As far as heat output goes, it’s measured in BTUs (British Thermal Unit). For those of you not in the know, this is basically the amount of heat you need to heat up one pound of water by a single degree Fahrenheit (exciting, isn’t it?).
But, how does this play into your choosing the best heater for your tent? Well, to be honest, the answer is not all too straightforward, since you also have to take into account the height of your tent, the type (summer, 3-season or 4-season) and the weather/temperatures outside.
However, here’s a useful rule of thumb – take the area you want to heat, and multiply by 20. For example, if you have a 200 sq. ft. tent, you’ll need 200 x 20 = 4,000 BTU, approximately. It’s not set in the stone, but it’s simple and correct most of the times.
Still, whatever the size of your tent, going bellow 3,000 BTUis pretty much wasting the money (unless you’re using an undersized 4-season tent, which should get you through even with a low-power heater).
Best Tent Heater Reviews
So, if you’re clear on what BTUs are and how to calculate how much of them you need for your tent, let’s go and meet the contestants for the day.
Mr. Heater F242300 MH15C
Weight: 1.1 ounces
Dimensions: 10.8 x 11.5 x 10 inches
Special features: Propane-fuelled, high-mid-low regulator, auto shut-off, up to 15,000 BTU
Best use: Heating, cooking
We’ll kick off the list with the Mr. Heater F242300 MH15C, a propane-fuelled heater/cooker capable of putting out anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 BTU.
This is more than enough for a decent-sized area, and definitely more than enough for the average 4-person tent. Speaking of tents, if you’re partial to ice fishing, getting the MH15C would be a great way to warm up the ice tent orshack. If you’re not the outdoorsy type, you can still put it to good use in your garage or as an auxiliary heating system for a single room if the power fails.
Besides, using propane is cost effective, so it should pay for itself in a season or two. On that same note, make sure to get the correct hose and adapters when shopping.
The heater features a three-setting temp regulator (basically, a gas-flow regulator), as well as a convenient auto shut-off. It comes pretty much fully assembled, the only thing you have to do is attach the metal stand (comes with the purchase) and connect it to a propane tank, ideally a disposable 20-pound (not included).
The heater does take a wee bit of common sense to operate. If you use it in a tent or any type of small (and especially poorly ventilated) area, never let it burn for too long, or you risk asphyxiating yourself. It’s just the nature (or, rather, the tech) of combustion heaters. 10 minutes before you get in the sack and before you get up should be more than enough for the average tent to warm up.
Related: In the way of additional gear you might need, there’s the Mr. Heater 12-Foot Propane Hose for a decent reach, as well as the brass Mr. Heater Propane Tank Refill Adapter if you wish to re-fill the bottles yourself.
Broan-NuTone 6201 Big Heat Heater
Weight: 32 pounds
Dimensions: 5.88 x 6 x 5.25 inches
Special features: Electric, compact and rugged, auto shut-off, overheat protection, three settings, fan
Best use: Tents, small apartments
The Broan-NuTone 6201 Big Heat Heater is pretty much what it reads on the tin – a heater with a big output.
It will have no problem warding off the chill from a garage or a bathroom (think anything between 50 and 250 square feet), but if you mean to warm up an entire apartment, you’d better get at least three of these.
On that note, this thing will have no issue whatsoever keeping you warm in a tent. It runs off any standard 120V AC outlet, and comes with a 6-foot cord.
The case is made of rugged, heavy-duty steel, and features a matching handle for easier transport, while the heating elements are ceramic. Speaking of which, you can control the heat output using the thermostat control dial on the left-hand side, rightbellow the setting dial with four positions (high – 1,500W, low – 1,200W, fan and off).
It’s a fan heater, and a surprisingly quiet one, at that, so much so that you can leave it working through the night without losing a minute of sleep. Still, it’s not exactly recommended to do it, despite the overheat protection feature. On that note, the heater also features an automatic shut-off switch that will cut it if it tips over or to the side, which is great in tight quarters.
TS170 Premier 170bPropane Tent Heater
Weight: 161 pounds
Dimensions: 30.8 x 18.2 x 28.2 inches
Special features: Gas (propane) powered, fuel-efficient, ductable, indoor/outdoor placement
Best use: Big tents, wedding events, mobile homes
The TS170 Premier 170 Propane Tent Heater from L.B. White is a true heavyweight among all of the tent heaters on our list.
It pumps out up to 170,000 BTU per hour, which is enough to heat up a 20 x 40 wedding tent. Moreover, the heater is about 161 pounds heavy, so it’s really intended for those who like to camp with Style (capital S) and those just like grandiose outdoor events set up in tents.
Granted, it’s not too difficult to move it around since it does have convenient handles and a pair of heavy-duty wheels. On a similar note,keep in mind that the manufacturer doesn’t recommend it for sleeping environments.The gas ignites with an electric spark, everything is automatic, and you can switch the fuel intake easily by turning the valve.
The TS170 is a propane or gas-powered heater, with a fully enclosed flame, and has a substantial air output thanks to its ductable design. Speaking of which, you can get a 12-foot extendable ducting, though that’s sold separately. It really comes into its own for big under-tent events, such as outdoor weddings and other parties, especially in the fall.
Allegro Industries 9401‐50 Tent Heater
Weight: 14 pounds
Dimensions: 13.2 x 12.8 x 8.6 inches
Special features: Electric, 1,500W, lightweight, rugged, all-enclosed
Best use: Work tents, all-season tents
The Allegro Industries 9401-50 Tent Heater is an excellent choice for folks looking for a lightweight and portable tent heater. It was designed with work tents in mind, though it can easily be re-purposed for camping.
It has a fairly efficient footprint (13.2 x 12.8 inches), so it shouldn’t take up much space. Speaking of space, this puppy has a max output of 1,500 Watts, which pretty much translates into about 5,000 BTU, so it’s enough to ward off the chill from an average-sized room.
As you may’ve already guessed, the heater is electrical and runs off any standard 120V outlet. You can use any extension cord with it, provided you use a 14-gauge wire (unless you want it to melt), since the heater’s motor has a 13Amp capacity. On that same note, don’t go over 25 feet in length, for pretty much the same reason – 15 feet is fine, 12 even better.
Of course, it goes without saying that the heater is durable and should withstand a bit of unintentional punishment, which makes it all the more suitable for camping.
Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater
Weight: 3 pounds
Dimensions: 10.5 x 9 x 6 inches
Special features:propane, rugged and durable, auto shut-off
Best use: camping & hunting
The Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater is one of those products that don’t require fancy names or much bells and whistles to sell – rather, it relies on its quality and user-friendly design to speak for it.
For a start, it’s a propane-powered heater, which means it’s cost-efficient (particularly if you have a station to refill your bottles yourself). It’s stainless steel (except the reflector, which is aluminum), so you know it’s durable and can withstand plenty of punishment.
As far as the heat output goes, this puppy pumps out up to 2,890 BTUs, which is plenty to keep the chill from entering your tent, blind, boat, or even golf cart (whatever jingles your jollies). Just make sure you vent it regularly since this uses up oxygen.
The heater is designed to work with a 16.4-ounce or a 14.1-ounce disposable cylinder (these do not come with the purchase). There are a few safety features, one being the auto shut-off valve, another a large and stable paddle-foot base, and yet another the safety grid on the aluminum reflector.
Related: Texsport Brass Cylinder Adapter if you need to refill your cylinders, Texsport Sportsmate Portable Propane Heater if you’d like to have more options, and Texsport 2 Person Camouflage Trail Tent in case you’re looking for a new tent.
Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Heater
Weight: 9.5 pounds
Dimensions: 14.17 x 8.97 x 14.37 inches
Special features: propane, radiant, fold-down handle, compact, Oxygen Depletion Sensor, auto shut-off, spark ignition
Best use: trailers, tents up to 200 sq. ft.
The Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX is a compact yet powerful indoor-safe propane heater.
Its output ranges from 4,000 to 9,000 BTUs, depending on how much gas you let into the heater (there are essentially three settings – low, high and pilot). From enclosed porches to hunting blinds and small rooms to decent-sized tents, the MH9BX helps keep you warm and content.
It works with a 1-pound propane cylinder (not included), which attaches to the side by simply screwing clockwise to the regulator (make sure the heater and the propane bottle are upright during the setup). On that same note, make sure that the control knob is in the off position before hooking up the cylinder.
Granted, you could use it with bigger tanks using a proprietary hose with the appropriate attachments, though you’ll have to buy those separately.
Speaking of switches, the heater features a tip-switch, which shuts it off automatically in case of tipping. Another safety feature is the Oxygen Depletion Sensor, which warns you when oxygen levels are too low in the tent.
Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater
Weight: 3.8 pounds
Dimensions: 6 x 7 x 9.2 inches
Special features: Electric, 900–1,500W, fan, self-regulating ceramic element, overheat protection, thermostat
Best use: Small rooms, tents
The Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater is a nice, ultraportable electric heater.
It features a fairly quiet fan, which is manually controlled, as well as a thermostat to match (meaning it’s also manually controlled), though the temps aren’t actually indicated on the dial.
On that same note, the heater does come with an overheat switch that will kill the power if it gets too steamy, but there’s no tip-over switch to automatically switch it off if it tips or tilts, so be careful.
The output of this little puppy is 900W on low and 1,500W on high, which is more than enough for a small room or decent-sized tent. There’s also a fan only setting, which is a great feature that adds to the versatility. We already mentioned the heater is lightweight, so you can take it with you wherever you go, and it’s a great auxiliary heat source for the average dorm room, and a main source for a tent, providing you find a campsite with electric hook up.
Mr. Heater F232017 MH9BX Radiant Heater
Weight: 9.8 pounds
Dimensions: 14.2 x 14.2 x 8.8 inches
Special features: propane-powered, radiant, Oxygen Detection Sensor (ODS), tip-over switch,
Best use: tents and rooms up to 200 sq. ft., hunting blinds, enclosed porches, boats
The Mr. Heater F232017 MH9BX Radiant Heater is exactly what it reads on the tin – a compact, yet powerful propane heater that you can take anywhere. It doesn’t take up much room, and you can keep it practically anywhere, on the floor or on the countertop.
In the way of safety features, the Buddy Grey has two of them – a now-traditional tip-over auto shut-off switch, which kills the heater if it falls down or tilts over 45 degrees, and an Oxygen Detection Sensor, which warns you when things get a little too stuffy inside.
The heater runs off a 1-pound cylinder (not included), which attaches directly to the regulator on the side (simply screw the tank clockwise, and you’re good to go). On that same note, you can also use larger tanks with it (up to 20 pounds), though you’ll need a hose assembly for that, and that sells separately.
Lighting the thing is even easier – simply press the control knob and turn it counter-clockwise to the Pilot position, and keep it down for 30 to 60 seconds (this allows gas to get inside the Pilot). Leaving the knob in this position, release it, and then press again to ignite. After it’s lit, hold the knob down for another 30 to 60 seconds, and then release and turn to High. Leave it like that until the burner tile turns bright orange, after which you can adjust the heat output.
Related: Mr. Heater Buddy Series Hose Assembly – 10-ft, if you wish to attach a bigger tank, Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Carry Bag 9BX, for efficient storage and portage, and Mr. Heater MH540T 360 Degree Tank Top Propane Heater, in case you need a bit of variety.
So, that would be the end of our lesson for today, and now you should be able to go a-hunting for your new tent heater confidently. Keep in mindthat electric heaters are much safer, while the propane heaters are decidedly more independent, and factor in your needs into choosing between the two.
We hope this list gave you at least an idea of where to start your search. On that same note, if you find something we missed and you think should be on our list, feel free to let us know by leaving a comment.