During those colder months of the year, camping can be fun and beautiful, but it does pose its own set of challenges. Instead of finding ways to cool off on a hot summer day, you reverse the situation and instead need to find all the possible ways to stay warm. There’s a strong conversation concerning propane vs. electric heaters for camping, so let’s talk about it.
There are some things you can do throughout the day, tasks you can check off in the evening, ways to insulate your tent, and gear you can buy that would make this process easier. One of the most effective ways to heat a tent is to use a propane or electric heater, but what exactly does that mean?
Propane Tent Heater
Propane heaters are quite popular, but not all of them are rated as safe for indoor use. This will be the main factor to look for in your search for a propane tent heater, but we’ve made your life easier by creating a product list for our top picks for the best propane tent heater. These heaters (like the Mr. Buddy Heater) are specifically selected because they are intended for use indoors, and they have built-in safety mechanisms that help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and any issues with the unit tipping over. If the Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS) detects a drop in oxygen content in the air, or if the unit senses it’s been tipped over, the product will automatically turn off.
Despite these safety features there’s always risks associated with using these heaters indoors. The scariest risk is carbon monoxide poisoning, which has a low probability of happening but is still a present risk. This is why a lot of people stay away from propane tent heaters, but it’s possible to use them safely. Rule #1 is to always monitor them, never leaving them unattended. Rule #2 is to not put them in an enclosed space, so you should always provide proper ventilation in your tent. Rule #3 is to never sleep with it running. Following these 3 rules will help decrease the risk of something happening.
Pros & Cons of a Propane Tent Heater:
- Heats a tent more efficiently
- Can run for longer periods of time with the proper amount of propane canisters
- No concerns about a needing a power source
- Risks carbon monoxide poisoning (even if it’s unlikely to happen)
- You must carry propane canisters
Electric Tent Heater
An electric heater uses either ceramic or infrared coils to produce heat. Ceramic heaters will often be paired with a small interior fan to circulate the warmed air, while infrared heaters will radiate their heat without the help of a fan. They are both intended for either indoor or outdoor use, and put off little to no pollutants. Although they are small, they require large amounts of electricity.
The main issue when it comes to electric heaters while camping is a power source. While you can pair them with a battery or portable power bank (to make a battery powered heater for camping), these can be quite expensive and will only run even a small space heater for a very limited amount of time. You could even pair this combination with a solar panel to make a solar heater for camping. But again, it’s not very efficient and will only giving you a limited amount of time to run the heater. If you regularly camp with an electric hookup, it could be worth looking into how many watts of electricity would be typically provided and if this would be sufficient for a space heater.
Pros & Cons of an Electric Tent Heater:
- Clean byproducts ensures safe use indoors
- Lots of options for different sizes and wattages
- Works best with wall outlets, not electric hookups or use with a battery
- Uses lots of power to run
Because of the severity of the risk associated with propane heaters, we can definitely see an argument for not using this setup while camping. That being said, there are plenty of precautions you can take that would make using a propane tent heater more safe. After all, there are several great products that are rated as “safe for indoor use” and that is their intended use.
If the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is too great for your liking, you could consider looking into other options. While an electric tent heater may seem like a great idea, it may not always be efficient enough and you could be left with a powerless heater quite often. We would recommend taking a look at our other alternatives, which could provide you with a warm night’s sleep without the use of any heating elements.
If you would rather not pursue the use of an electric or propane tent heater, there are several other options you can explore. Although they don’t exclusively use any kind of heater, you can still utilize our steps for how to stay warm in a tent and properly insulating your tent against the cold. There are also some great options for battery powered heated blankets, or even heating a tent with a candle.
Although when it really comes down to it, the best thing you could possibly do to stay warm during a fall/winter/spring camping trip is buy the proper gear. A warm sleeping bag, a sleeping pad or cot with a high R-value, extra blankets, winter clothing, and a 4-season tent are must-haves for cold weather camping. Sleeping bags should have a comfort rating that is at least 10 degrees lower than you’re expecting, and you could also pair it with a sleeping bag liner to add even more warmth.
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.