Update, 10/14/22: Checked content for accuracy, product availability, and dead links. Updated buy links for Mr. Heater Buddy and Camco Olympian Wave-6. Added comparison grid.
What to Look For in a Tent Space Heater
There are a few things you should look out for when selecting your heater—not every portable space heater on the market today will be suitable for tents.
- Size: Tents often don’t have a lot of additional space, so the heater you purchase should be fairly compact. Don’t worry—just because a heater is small doesn’t mean it won’t provide the heat you need.
- BTU count: BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, and it basically just states how much heat a heater can generate. To calculate the heat setting for your tent, you can use an online caclulator.
- Fuel: There are three main fuel sources a heater can use: electricity, propane, or wood. Each has its pros and cons. Electric heaters can be cheaper than propane or wood heaters, but you’ll likely need to rely on a campground for energy. Wood stoves are the best when it comes to large tents, but they can be dangerous due to runaway sparks. Propane heaters are the most popular and the easiest to use, but you’ll need to make sure you bring enough propane on your trip.
- Safety features: Using a space heater in the forest can be dangerous. You’ll want to keep any flammable material away from the front of the heater in general, and as previously mentioned, wood stoves can produce run-away sparks. Fortunately, many heaters today have safety features, so you can sleep soundly.
Now that you know all this, here are the best heaters to use in tents.
Best Overall: Mr. Heater Buddy
- ✓ Compact
- ✓ Easy to carry
- ✓ 100% clean burning
- ✗ Needs separate hose and filter for larger tanks
If you want a heater that will handle any camping trip you go on, the Mr. Heater Buddy is for you. It’s compact (17.8 x 10.7 inches), easy-to-carry (9.8 pounds), and 100% clean-burning. It runs off of propane, burning 0.044 gallons per hour at 4,000 BTU (the minimum) and 0.099 gallons per hour at 9,000 BTU (the maximum). Smaller, disposable propane tanks connect easily to the side of the heater, but for larger tanks you’ll need to buy a separate hose and filter.
It can heat a space up to 225 square feet but can also be used outside if you’re having trouble starting a fire. The Buddy will shut off automatically if it gets tipped over, the pilot light goes out, or if it detects low oxygen levels, all of which should prevent most accidents. And, for easier transporting, you can buy the heater with a carrying bag as well.
Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Propane Radiant Heater, Red-Black
This heater will tackle any tent-camping situation you find yourself in.
Best Budget: VGEBY1 Camping Mini Heater
- ✓ Weights less than a pound
- ✓ Burns leaves and other debris
- ✓ Environmentally friendly
- ✗ Not as powerful as the competition
If you’re a budget camper, VGEBY1’s heater provides a lot of bang for the buck. It’s made of stainless steel and will handle high temperatures for a long time although it’s light (0.96 pounds). This heater can run off of leaves and branches from the forest floor. While you lose modern features because of this, it makes it extremely cost-effective and environmentally-friendly—although you can connect a small propane tank if you want to. As a bonus, you can even use it as a stove for cooking.
Camping Mini Heater Camping Stove, Portable Stainless Steel Tent Heating Cover Folding Warming Stove Cover for Outdoor Backpacking Hiking
For those on a strict budget, this heater provides you warmth at little cost.
Best Premium: Camco Olympian Wave-6
- ✓ Quiet
- ✓ Extremely powerful
- ✓ Long lasting
- ✗ Expensive
Wave heaters are great because they don’t make the fan or blower noise most space heaters do—and Camco’s Olympian is great for tent camping. It has a BTU range of 3,200 to 6,000 and consumes propane at a quarter-pound per hour, so it’ll run for a while before dying. Only measuring in at 15 x 4 inches, this heater won’t take up much space in your tent. It also has a safety shut-off valve to help prevent accidents.
Camco 57341 Wave-6 Catalytic Safety Heater
Quiet and fuel-efficient, the Olympian is a great high-end option.
Best for Small Tents: Mr. Heater Little Buddy
- ✓ Very portable
- ✓ Lasts five hours on a gallon tank
- ✓ Low oxygen sensor
- ✗ Not ideal for large areas
When it comes to small tents, every inch counts. This is where the Little Buddy comes in, at only 11 x 11 inches you can tuck this inside your tent to keep you warm. It’s small enough that it can be carried in a backpack but powerful enough to run for 5.6 hours on a one-pound propane tank at 3,800 BTU. It will comfortably heat up to 95 square feet, and it has a low-oxygen sensor to make sure you’re not in danger. It will also shut off automatically if tipped over.
Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTU Indoor Safe Propane Heater, Medium , Black/Red
The Little Buddy will keep you warm without taking up a lot of space.
Best Wood Heater: TMS Portable Camping Wood Stove
- ✓ Not reliant on propane
- ✓ Great for cooking food
- ✗ Requires a stovepipe vent in tent for safety
For those who don’t want to rely on propane or electricity, TMS’ woodstove will keep you nice and toasty. This stove is 18 x 11 inches and weighs 25 pounds, which is about as light as you can expect when it comes to woodstoves. And while it’s largely designed around cooking food, you can still use it as a powerful heat source both in and outside the tent. But be aware, wood stoves are dangerous to use in smaller tents. If you go down the wood heater route, camping in an outfitter’s tent with a stovepipe vent is necessary for safety.
TMS Portable Military Camping Wood Stove Tent Heater Cot Camp Ice-fishing Cooking Rv
If you don't want to rely on propane or electricity, this is the heater for you.