Candle Heaters: Can a Candle Keep Your Tent Warm? (2023)

how to heat a tent with a candle

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Written by: Derek Vitiello
Fact Checked by: Ashley Vitiello

Updated May 29, 2023

When you’re camping in the great outdoors, there are a few things you need to make your stay comfortable: a tent, sleeping bag, food, and heat. Using a candle heater is actually very possible when you take the proper precautions. Just remember that almost every part of your tent and what is in there is extremely flammable. In this blog post, we will discuss heating a tent using a candle heater, how much heat they produce, and of course, how to use a candle heater safely!

The Best Candle Heater of 2023

UCO Original Candle Lantern

If you’re looking for a safe and easy way to warm up your tent using a candle, look no further than the UCO Candle Lanterns! This lantern is known for its ability to output large amounts of heat while keeping you and your gear safe. Plus, with a flame retardant metal housing and glass chimney, you don’t have to worry about any stray sparks flying out and igniting something else in your campsite. So go ahead and pick up one of the UCO Candle Lantern, it’s the best way to heat your tent with candles!

How Much Heat Does a Candle Give Off?

Candles can produce quite a bit of heat, and how much heat they create depends on the size and type of candle that you are burning. We are going to get quite technical here for a moment and then break things down so they are a little easier to understand.

First off, heat is measure in BTU’s (British Thermal Units). A British Thermal Unit is roughly defined as the amount of heat required to raise one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit at sea level and standard barometric pressure. This means that a 200 BTU/hr Heater can raise one pound of water 200 Degrees in an hour. That’s a lot of heat!

To go a little deeper, studies have found that candles are about 16% efficient when it comes to total heat generated. This means that if a candle has 100BTU/hour of total heat, 16 BTU/hr will be felt as emitted heat.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

Small Candle – burn time up to 15 hours; one candle generates approximately 75-80 BTU

Estimated actual usable heat output – 13.12 BTUs/hr

Medium Candle – burn time up to 20 hours; one medium sized candle generates approximately 120-130 BTU/hr.

Estimated actual usable heat output – 19.68-20.48 BTUs/hr

Large Candle – burn time up to 30 hours; 1 large candle generates approximately 200 BTU/hr.

Estimated actual usable heat output – 32 BTUs/hr

After all those crazy numbers it is easy to see that a simple candle can actually create quite a bit of heat! This is magnified by the fact that the space you are heating is extremely small compared to the size of a room in your house. We aren’t aren’t trying to create enough heat to make a sauna, but raising the internal temperature of your tent up even a few degrees can make a massive difference in how well your sleeping bag can insulate you, and therefore how comfortable you sleep at night!

Use a Candle Inside Your Tent Safely

First thing first, let’s get one thing out in the open: It is never 100% safe to light things on fire inside a tent (unless you are using a tent stove and a hot tent)! You would be surprised at just how fast a small flame can spread across an entire room that is made of flammable material (like most tents). Candles can be used to produce heat in your tent, but it is important that you take some safety precautions:

  • Make sure the candles are in sturdy holders and placed on a stable surface away from flammable materials.
  • Keep children and pets away from the candles.
  • Do not leave candles burning unattended.
  • Put out all candles before going to bed or leaving the tent.

Keeping those safety precautions in mind, in our experience the safest way to heat a tent using candles is with a candle lantern. Candle lanterns normally have a metal or aluminum housing and a glass enclosure just like your standard lantern. The difference lies in the candle and the vents on top that allow the majority of the heat to escape into your cozy tent!

Heating a Tent With a Candle

By now I’m sure you can see that it is very possible to heat a tent with candles. Now we can talk about the steps you need to take to get your tent warm and comfortable before a good night’s sleep.

Lay Out a Blanket

Lay out a blanket or rug on the ground to insulate the tent from the cold. 

Set Up a Safe Place for Your Candle

Have a place to set up your candle or candle lantern that is not flammable. This can be a metal tray, a small fold up table, or if you have a candle lantern you can hang it in the middle of the tent.

Move Flammable Items Away

Clear any excess flammable items away from the candle or outside of the tent if possible.

Get Ready For Bed

Get ready for bed and light your candle or lantern directly before getting in bed. This will minimize the opportunities of you or your camping companions bumping into the candle and causing an accident.


After lighting your candle, now its time to play a card game, some other fun camping games, or read a book while your tent heats up. Remember, NEVER go to sleep with candles or lanterns burning! Using a few larger candles or a good candle lantern can heat up your tent 5-15F* in an hour or so.

Extinguish The Candle Before Sleeping

Make sure your candle is completely extinguished before going to sleep.

There are some positives and negatives to heating a tent with candles. We know candles put off a considerable amount of heat and don’t require electricity. But one of the major downfalls are the potential risks associated with fire in your tent.

Using a candle in lanterns is nothing new, but the UCO Candle Lanterns are known for their ability to output more heat than most other candle lanterns on the market. There have been many different versions of this particular candle lantern over the years, and they have come a long way!

The best thing about these candles is that they are self contained inside aluminum housing so you don’t need to worry about your tent catching fire as easily. The design has changed slightly over time but it all works very similarly. Basically there is an enclosed metal box with holes in top or sides to let light and warmth out, while keeping the actual flame inside where its less likely to cause a problem. Plus, with up to 5000+ BTU of heat, it only takes about an hour for this lantern to raise the interior temperature of your tent by around 15 degrees!

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Can Candles Heat Up a Tent?

Of course they can! Everything from a tea light candles to a candle you found in your mom’s cabinet can act as a heater while you are camping. All you need to do is light candles inside your tent and give it sometime. But be careful, most of your camping equipment is flammable and requires extra attention. And never let the candles burn while you are sleeping.

Derek, Co-Founder at Know Nothing Nomads

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers. Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me. When I’m not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, wildflowers, scenic snacking, and mushrooms. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has spent years enjoying time outside doing things like hiking, camping, and rock climbing.
Her goal with Know Nothing Nomads is to make these hobbies easily accessible through knowledgeable content and how-to’s based on all the stuff she’s learned on her journey. If she isn’t writing an article, she’s probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.

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