While winter camping can be a fun outdoor adventure, it can also be difficult to stay warm. Don’t let the cold temperature hold you back from enjoying some fresh air, and instead implement all the different ways you can stay warm in a tent. During our research on the different methods of heating a tent, we found lots of questions about alternatives for propane tent heaters. We’ve already discussed solar heaters for camping (..do they even exist?), so let’s cover what it means to have a battery powered heater for camping.
While there is such a thing as a battery powered heated blanket, the same does not exist for space heaters. You won’t find a unit that has a little battery pack that it runs off of, and we’ve actually found that space heaters require a large amount of watts even for the smallest units. The only way to run a battery powered heater is to use a portable power station with a large battery size. Simply plug in the heater to the station, and use it for a small amount of time.
Watts vs. Heaters
In order to break down why this doesn’t really work, you need to understand how watts work. Simply put, a watt is a unit of power and is the common standard analysis of power consumption in the USA. One watt is a small amount of power, but put them together and they can power more. For example, a standard wall outlet is 1800 watts and you can plug in multiple things or even a power strip.
When talking about a space heater, most of them use upwards of 1,500W, which is a significant amount when a lot of portable power stations have a similar amount. If a power station was rated 1500W, that’s how much power it can provide on one charge. So a 1500W power bank could provide enough power for 1 hour of use of a 1500W heater. That’s not that much when it comes to camping in the cold.
In our humble opinions, electric tent heaters aren’t efficient or worth it unless they are plugged directly into a hookup or wall plug. If you’re intending on using a heater and battery combination, they just won’t produce enough heat for a long enough duration to make it worth it. Instead, you should consider using an indoor safe propane heater, or just upgrading your gear so that it’s high quality enough to withstand lower temperatures.
Is an Electric Heater Safe for a Tent?
Of all the heater options for tent camping, the safest option is an electric heater because it does not produce any flame or carbon monoxide. That being said, you still should never sleep with a heater on or leave it unattended. Instead, run it before bed, then turn it off when you go to bed. While it’s running, give it some ventilation by opening an upper flap or cracking a mesh window.
Because an electric heater is not the most efficient way to heat a tent, you could also consider using a propane heater. These will provide lots more warmth, and several are labeled safe for indoor use. Even if you are skeptical about the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, you could opt to only run it while awake in a well ventilated space while using a carbon monoxide detector to decrease your changes of having any issues.
Editor’s Picks for Best Battery Powered Heater for Camping
If you do want to use a portable power station with an electric heater, we’ve put together some suggestions for products that would work for the situation.
This Lankso Heater is only 200watts, and is super compact for travel and use in small spaces. It’s 6.1″ tall and is designed to heat your personal space. Because of the lower wattage, it’s one of the best options for pairing with a portable power bank.
Portable Power Bank
This EcoFlow portable power bank is compatible with a wide range of devices and is overall a great addition to your outdoor gear, especially for car camping adventures. It’s 1,250 watts, meaning it could run the electric heater above for over 6 hours! Plus, it can be charged remarkably quickly, even with a 12v or solar panel, and charges in just 1.6 hours with a wall outlet.
Alternatives to Battery Powered Tent Heaters
As already mentioned above, one of the best alternatives for battery powered tent heaters are propane tent heaters. While they do run some additional risk, you can follow certain steps to minimize the chances of anything happening while still enjoying their warmth. There are also a few other options to consider for alternatives:
- Insulate your Tent: we’ve put together a 7-step guide on how to properly insulate your tent for cold weather camping. Most of the options are lightweight and all of them are quite affordable, while a couple just require some good ol’ hard work (like insulating the ground under your tent with natural materials). Do them all to maximize insulation or only do a few to still make large improvements.
- Tent Location: part of our steps to insulate our tent includes how to set it up in the perfect location. Choose a spot with a natural wind blockade such as a hill, large boulder, or group of trees. If this isn’t available, consider creating a blockade using a tarp or building one out of snow.
- Winter sleep system: purchase and carry sleeping bags that are comfort rated for at least 10°F below the expected temperatures, and pair them with a sleeping bag liner that insulate the bag even more. Pair this with a high R-value sleeping pad or cot, and you’ll be golden!
- Warm Clothes: pack heavy and warm clothes such as jackets, head covers/beanies, gloves, winter boots, and heavy winter pants like ski pants or waterproof fleece lined hiking pants. You should always bring along or wear thermals under these layers, as a simple extra layer of clothing can make a huge difference.
- Hot Water Bottle: a classic trick and personal favorite is the hot water bottle in your sleeping bag. Simply use a heavy duty plastic water bottle like a Nalgene, boil water right before bed, and store it in the bottle. Then, put the water bottle in or around your sleeping bag while you are getting ready for bed, then cuddle it for warmth while you fall asleep.
- Hand and Foot Warmers: hand and foot warmers are relatively inexpensive packets that are perfect for your pockets, gloves, and shoes to keep your digits warmer. Though less commonly found in stores, there are companies that make larger heat packs that are meant for your back and larger body parts. You should have these on hand anyways (especially in case of emergency), and you should use them when you feel the need. You can also stick a foot warmer to the back of your phone to help keep the battery warmer so it doesn’t die as quickly.
About the Author
Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, hiking, wildflowers, and mushrooms. If she isn’t writing content for Know Nothing Nomads, she’s probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.