When we went on the hunt for the best solar heater for camping, we were surprised to find a lot of suggestions for products that weren’t even related to heating a tent. Or if they were intended for tent heating, they didn’t use solar power to do so. This got us thinking and researching, so let’s talk about what we found.
Pros of a Solar Heater
There are several pros of using a solar heater over electric or propane, the main one being the clean energy it provides. Electric heaters aren’t always accessible or usable, especially if you don’t camp with electrical hookups or generators. Propane heaters have a bad rep with their risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, even though there are many options labeled as “safe for indoor use” like the Mr. Buddy Heater. If you’re not looking to make either of those work, the idea of a solar powered tent heater looks even better.
The Inherent Lie
But there’s a major factor to take into consideration, and this is where the lies of the existence of a solar heater for camping begin coming into play. If you’re looking to heat a tent, most of that heating is going to be needed in the evening, overnight, and early morning hours. These coldest parts of the day are also the times with the least amount of sunlight, rendering a solar heater useless. The second factor is that if it’s cold enough outside that you need a tent heater, then you’re likely in a time of the year with significantly shorter days with less intense direct sun, which also would render a solar panel useless, leaving it to only provide minimal power in the middle of the day.
Before you write off the idea of a solar powered tent heater, consider this alternative: pair a solar panel with a portable power station and an electric tent heater. The solar panel can draw power from the sun, while storing the energy in a battery station with plugs. You could even charge the power station ahead of time to give yourself a head start, and this will allow you to use the power any time of day for things like an electric tent heater, heated blanket, or even just charging your phone.
That being said, you have to consider the watts of the space heater compared to the watts stored by the battery and the solar panel. If a battery is called the “Battery 500” that means it’s maximum wattage is 500W. That means it could run a 500W heater for one hour at it’s maximum. Since most space heaters require a large amount of watts, you have to decrease your space heater size and increase your battery size. A solar panel is rated for the maximum amount of power it can charge in 1 hour in full sun conditions. So if it can charge 200W that’s only under optimal conditions.
Our Top Pick
We’ve made your life simple by picking the best combination of solar panel and portable power station for use with an electric heater to create your clean energy “solar tent heater.” If you want to make this setup work, here’s our top picks:
Editor’s Pick – Best Solar Panel
Goal Zero is one of the leading brand names when it comes to solar panels on your outdoor adventures, so we’ve chosen their Boulder 100 for this situation. Their solar panels are rugged and are made of strong, tempered glass with an aluminum frame with corner protection. Use the integrated kickstand to get the best angle and connect multiple panels together to increase watts per hour of charging.
Editor’s Pick – Best Portable Power Station
Pair your solar panel with this portable power station by EcoFlow, which has a capacity of 1,250 watt hours. It charges amazingly fast with new X-Stream Technology and can be recharged by solar panels in 1.6-4 hours depending on wattage. It can simultaneously power up to 13 devices, making it a great piece of camping gear for multiple uses.
Editor’s Pick – Best Space Heater
We had to significantly downsize the space heater to run on a lower amount of watts, which is why we’ve chosen this Lasko Space Heater. It only uses 200 watts, and is a great size for small tents. Fully assembled, it’s only 6.1″ tall. It will take some time to heat your tent, but it will work!
A Field Test
Adventures with Spackmann on YouTube brought us a field test from the Adirondacks where he entertained the idea of using a solar panel set up with a battery paired with an electric heater. While he ran into a couple of issues, he was able to work things out and get his tent to a whopping 72°F while it was only 13°F outside!
Some Amusing Examples
The internet is ripe with false information and clickbait, and we found humor in a couple of the suggestions we found relating to solar heaters. At the time this article was written, these were in the top few results for “solar heater for camping.”
- Like this 10 best solar powered heaters for “campings,” whose first suggestion was a infrared space heater, which uses a wall plug to provide heat.
2. Or this best solar powered tent heaters suggestion, whose first pick was a portable power station with a description for a Browning Camping Big Horn Tent.
3. Even Amazon’s Choice for “solar heater for camping” was a propane heater!
While there are options for making a solar heater work, the numbers just don’t line up where it’s really worth it (in our opinion, at least). Instead, invest in quality gear and research different ways to stay warm in a tent such as with propane heaters, candles, battery operated heated blankets, and more.
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.