How to Heat a Tent

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Heating a tent when you’re camping in the fall or winter months can often be challenging. While it’s easy enough to get something warm inside a tent (like a space heater), you often have to consider other aspects, like whether the heat source is a fire hazard, how close you want the heating device to be to your sleeping bag, and how the heater is powered.

Let’s take a look at how you can heat a tent, starting with propane or electric heaters you can buy and get running ASAP.

Tent Heaters to Buy – 5 Tent Heater Recommendations with Great Prices

Mr. Heater MH8BX Buddy Heater

Here’s a propane-powered heater that can output between 4000 and 9000 BTUs depending on your preference. It’s completely indoor safe and even features a safety cage for the heating element, so you won’t be able to burn your hands, ankles, or anywhere else by accident if you bump into the heater in a cluttered tent.

It’s ideal for spaces up to 225 ft.² and is also nearly 100% efficient, meaning you make the most of the propane fuel. Even better, it automatically shuts off if you tip it over, preventing (or at least lowering the likelihood of) your tent catching on fire. It burns about 0.01 gallons of propane per hour at maximum heat, so it’s excellent for long camping trips with larger tents.

Other notable features include a fold out handle, a swivel out regulator, and a durable chassis.

Pros
  • Very tough and ideal for cold environments
  • Burns propane very efficiently
  • Will automatically shut off if you tip it over
  • Has a cage to protect your skin
Cons
  • Quite pricey compared other camping heaters

Mr. Heater MH4B Little Buddy Heater

Here’s another propane heater made by the same manufacturer as the one above. However, this is a little smaller and can only reach up to 3800 BTUs of heat. Still, this is enough for about 95 ft.², so it’s perfect for very small, single person tents or for use in conjunction with larger heaters.

It produces an odor-free 45° heating angle and an automatic low oxygen shut off system, plus the same accidental tip-over switch that will automatically turn it off to prevent your tent from catching on fire. It uses a 1-pound disposable propane cylinder and can run for almost 6 hours even at maximum heat.

It’s even a little more affordable than the last heater, even though it’s still quite pricey by comparison to most others on the market. Note that it does require about 4 in.² of space to ensure that it ventilates adequately while the heater is running.

Pros
  • Very compact and easy to set up
  • Has automatic shut off which when tipped over or in low oxygen environments
  • Burns fuel quite efficiently
  • Has a cage to protect your skin
Cons
  • Still pricier than average heaters

Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater

This propane camping or outdoor heater is incredibly affordable in comparison to the last two options. It can produce up to 2890 BTUs and is super easy to transport thanks to its low weight. It works with either 16.4 or 14.1-ounce disposable propane fuel cylinders, and it comes with several safety features, like an automatic shut off valve if the flame goes out and a safety grid to protect your skin.

It’s also quite safe thanks to the wide feet at its base, which add stability. The aluminum reflector ensures that it will heat up a small area pretty quickly. But you’ll still want to give the space immediately around the emitter plenty of room so that heat doesn’t collect and eventually melt the plastic base.

All in all, it’s a great budget option if you want a powered tent heater, but don’t want something that runs off of regular electricity.

Pros
  • Very lightweight
  • Has a wide base for more stability
  • Uses typical propane cylinder sizes
  • Has an automatic shut off valve
Cons
  • Plastic base isn’t as durable as the other main components

Lasko 100 MyHeat Personal Ceramic Heater

This space heater is an electric model, meaning that you’ll need a generator inside your tent (or just outside) in order to use it effectively. It only requires 200 W, though, though it only produces 682 BTUs of heat. This means it’s an ideal choice for very small tents or for setting up close to your sleeping space instead of warming up a larger tent area.

Still, the small dimensions may be a benefit depending on your needs. It’s only 6 inches tall, so it’s easy to transport and it takes up minimal space. It doesn’t require any assembly and you can plug it into any 120 V regular generator. It turns on at the flip of a switch and features a durable chassis so it should last for a long time to come.

Lastly, it comes with an automatic overheat protection feature; this lets it self-regulate and turn itself off if there’s a danger of it overheating.

Pros
  • Very small and easy to transport
  • Can automatically regulate its own temperature
  • Only uses 200 W
  • Uses standard 120 V outlets
Cons
  • Not very powerful compared to many other heaters
  • Does require a generator

AmazonBasics 500-Watt Personal Mini Heater

This is another electric-powered space heater, though it runs on 500 W instead of 200. However, it can provide up to 1000 BTUs of heat in most cases, and it comes in four colors to let you match the heater with your interior tent aesthetic or preferences.

Regardless, it comes with automatic tip-over protection to ensure that it doesn’t turn into a fire hazard. It also heats up quite quickly, so it may be a good choice for a really small tent or when set up next to your sleeping area. It uses efficient ceramic coils that can begin warning in just seconds.

The heater is extremely easy to use and requires no prep work. Even comes with its own cord, so it’s easy to plug into a standard 120 V generator.

Pros
  • Very easy to use and set up
  • Super lightweight and easy to transport
  • Produces a decent amount of heat
  • Comes with automatic tip-over protection
  • Heats space very efficiently
Cons
  • Still needs a generator

DIY Tent Heating – Heating Your Tent Without Electricity

You might want to heat your tent without the use of a propane or electric powered heating device. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can DIY your heating solution and keep things warm without having to use disposable resources as difficult to transport or produce as propane or electricity.

Insulate Your Tent

The first and most obvious way you can warm your tent without using electricity is to insulate it properly. Your own body will be the heating element in this case, and an insulated tent won’t lose the heat you produce as quickly.

Insulating your tent is pretty easy (and is honestly something you should be doing already if you’re camping in a cold environment). Line the bottom of your tent with some kind of carpet or other insulating material. Tent mats are specifically made for cold-weather camping and are fantastic for this purpose.

You can also fasten emergency blankets or other warm materials to the walls of the tent to make a little pocket of warm air, especially as you sleep.

Use Hot Water Bottles

You can also warm-up if you heat water bottles by warming water over your fire before you go to bed, then placing that water into bottles and stuffing them in your sleeping bag. This not only helps you warm-up your tent more quickly, but it also ensures you have a nice, cozy place to snuggle into when you go to bed.

Heat Stones

Warming stones using your fire follows the same principle is warming water bottles. Stones, if you warm them up enough, will hold their heat for quite a long time, so these are great for scattering around your tent. Just be sure that you have gloves that will allow you to carry the hot rocks from your fire to your tent.

You’ll also want to place those stones on inflammable materials, of course.

Candle/Pot Heating

This strategy is a little complex and does require you to pick up a few supplies beforehand, but it can result in extended heating for your tent without much risk of a fire.

To begin, purchase tea lights (between four and six are ideal for these purposes), then keep them in a fireproof container. Tea lights are great for extended heating since they burn down slowly. If you don’t have a fireproof container, keep the tea lights on a flat surface and ensure that there’s enough ventilation so the candles don’t go out due to lack of oxygen.

Next, take a clay flowerpot and set it upside down over the candles. You’ll want to block this with a coin or any other metal object that won’t catch fire or heat up to its own detriment. Then place another, larger clay pot over the smaller pot. This time, don’t cover the hole at the bottom of the pot.

Your setup is all done! In a nutshell, this will (slowly) heat the space inside your tent because:

  • the candles passively produce heat due to holding flames
  • normally, the ambient cold environment would make it so that any heat they produced would passively dissipate before you could enjoy it
  • as the candles burn, they instead warm up the first clay pot, which holds the heat much more effectively
  • the clay pot warms up, spreading heat into the layer of air between the first pot and the second, exterior pot
  • the air warms to such a degree that it’s able to hold its heat more efficiently as it finally escapes out of the top of the second pot
  • as a result, this complex reaction ensures that the candle/pot heater actively warms the space around it

Will this method be as efficient as a traditional, purchasable heater? No. But it’s a great way to passively heat your environment without needing propane or electricity. It may even last longer if you have enough tea lights!

Note that you can do the exact same method with a pair of pots and a lantern, provided that the lantern either has a battery or a small propane power source. The pots also have to be large enough to cover the lantern’s coils, but the overall principle is the same.

This will produce more heat over time and allow you to warm a larger space inside your tent.

Tent Heating Safety Tips

There are two main tent-heating threats you should be aware of: fires and suffocation.

The latter is only really an issue if you decide to use a propane heater. Propane can expel dangerous gases like carbon monoxide, and in an enclosed space like a tent you could easily suffocate by accident. If you decide to use a propane heater, you must ensure that there is adequate ventilation by leaving a tent flap open or by somehow funneling the excess gas out of the tent using a piping system – this is obviously only possible if you have quite a large and advanced tent set up.

The other danger is more present regardless of your heating method. Tents are often made of flammable materials, but you can always go for an inflammable tent specifically designed to avoid this danger.

You’ll also need to pay attention to where you position your heating devices or tools. Never keep any flammable objects nearby, and try not to buy a tent heater that is too large for your space. This makes it all too easy to accidentally knock your heater over and start a fire.

In summary:

  • buy a heater for the space you need, not the largest you can find
  • keep your heater away from flammable objects and preferably elevated – not in corners
  • buy an inflammable tent if you can
  • turn your heaters off when you want using them, especially since you burn through fuel anyway
  • if using a propane heater, allow adequate ventilation

Conclusion

In the end, you can heat up your tent in a variety of ways; the most important thing is heating it safely and consistently. It’s always a good idea to plan out your camping trip beforehand and ensure you have enough resources for your chosen heating method. We’d also recommend learning one of the DIY or no electricity heating methods in case you do run out of propane or electricity. Have fun!

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