Can You Use Heaters in Tents? ( Yes, We will Explain )

electric heater

For most, going camping has its associations with summer evenings and cozy fires. For others, the urge to camp doesn’t subside just because the seasons have changed. Facing the elements in the colder months is possible when you’re well-equipped with the safety precautions that accompany keeping warm. This includes being able to heat your tent.

So, can you use a heater in a tent?

You can use a heater in a tent. For instance, electric heaters are ok but you must be very aware of the surroundings to avoid fire. Other types of heaters can be used but you must be very careful of things like fumes. As with all heaters, you must make sure there is a safe distance between the heat and materials that may catch fire.

Here’s what we will cover to get you warm and cozy in your tent.

General information

Out in the wilderness, you relinquish some of your comforts but need some of the essentials. This includes shelter and warmth. Keeping warm will first and foremost require staying dry. Likely, your tent already includes what’s necessary to withstand some of the elements. A good tent will keep the moisture and water out – otherwise, there are ways to make it waterproof.

Also, while camping in colder weather, many adventurers rely on zero-degree sleeping bags. Not all sleeping bags are created equal, and only specified types will keep you warm throughout the winter nights. It will help retain the heat, but you’ll more than likely need a little bit of help making it.

Heaters are called into play for that. Just like differing shapes, sizes, and warming components of sleeping bags, heaters will provide different options for warmth.

To use heaters in tents, there are several things to bear in mind. First and foremost, heaters can be dangerous. With every type of heater, there are some safety precautions to take and plans to be prepared to carry out in case of emergency. Depending on the type of heater, the care instructions will slightly differ.

How to know what size of the heater you will need.

Know the appropriate size of which heater you need is a good place to start when considering heaters for your tent. The size of the tent will dictate how many BTUs (British Thermal Units) will be required to heat it up. A heater will provide different levels of BTUs, so knowing this will lead you to the right size.

To find how big the heater needs to be, start by measuring the square feet of your tent. This can be done easily by measuring your tent’s length, width, and height. Multiply these measurements together to get the cubic footage.

Once you know how much space needs to be heated, you decide how much heat you expect. Start with the temperature outside, or what you expect it to be. Subtract that number from the temperature you hope to reach inside your tent. In Fahrenheit, a comfortable indoor temperature comfort usually falls at around 74 degrees. In Celsius, that’s about 23 degrees. This is on the cusp, and you may want a little extra warmth in the winter months. Adjust as necessary.

Subtracting the outdoor temperature from the desired indoor temperature will give you the “temperature increase.” This number will demonstrate how hard a heater has to work to keep you warm. That’s where BTUs come into play.

To uncover the exact number of BTUs, multiply the cubic feet by the temperature increase by 0.133. (If you’re using Celsius, this last number can be changed to 0.239) The product of this equation will give you the necessary amount of BTUs to stay warm.

Put very simply, the smaller the tent the smaller the heater. The amount of work you need a heater to do will also have some contingency on how many people are in your tent. Although you’re trying to stay warm, it’s a good rule of thumb not to overcrowd your tent when you plan to use a heater.

Heaters for tents will vary in strength as well as makeup. There are various types of heaters that are suitable for tents. Depending on where you’re camping and what kind of tent you have, there are different models that may suit you.

Electric heaters

An electric heater is one of the first thoughts for many campers. There’s no flame produced or required to build the heat from, so it’s less likely to be combustible. There is also no CO2 byproduct as other heaters may cause.

Though among the safest options, these heaters are less accommodating for camping in tents. They usually require an electrical outlet, keeping you tethered to camping or RV sites. For campers that are staying in campsites that have outlets, this could work. In those cases, you’d need to take care that you heat your tent but ensure the heat doesn’t have the chance to escape. The cord can be zipped up through the door and insulated a little more with some blankets.

If you’re not staying near an electrical-equipped campsite, you can use a generator. Though it gives you the sage option, generators are heavy. It’s practical if you plan to travel by car and then make camp. It’s unlikely that it’s plausible to bring one if you intend to hike or stay far from sites.

Electrical heaters are somewhat safe, but you should still take care when it’s operating. It’s best to ensure that it’s equipped the safe, strong wires. Keep children and anything flammable away from the front of it while it’s in use. Only use it when you’re in your tent.

Propane heaters

The next best option for tent heaters is propane. Propane offers slightly more of a viable option for portability and accessibility. There are many portable propane heaters on the market that are tried and trusted for tent camping.

The safety concerns that come along with propane heaters are their biggest drawback. Since they emit CO2, it’s imperative to have proper ventilation in your tent. Most tents are equipped with ventilation, but in some cases that they aren’t, you’ll need to ventilate yourself when using propane. Opening the door will help the toxic gas escape, but allow some of your heat to escape along with it.

With proper ventilation and enough BTUs, a propane heater is a good option for camping. They are often compact enough and the propane is an easier alternative to pack and carry than a generator. Propane heaters do burn by producing a flame, so be sure to have a safe spot for it to be set up to make sure you don’t start a fire in your tent.

Do your best to heat your tent before sleeping so that you can turn it off, reducing your risk of too much CO2 exposure overnight. When you turn it off, you’ll want to make sure you bleed the line. Also ensure that this type of heater is safely out of the way of campers, supplies, or uneven ground.

Propane heaters are a very common option for camping. The fuel is cheap and you don’t have to worry about getting an electrical hookup. They’re favored because of their ability to retain heat and can be very useful on especially cold trips.

Catalytic heaters

The third option for types of heaters you can use in your tent is the catalytic heater. These heaters are perhaps the safest yet, as they don’t use a flame to warm. Propane is also used in catalytic heaters. They work by burning propane but unlike specific propane/butane heaters, they don’t produce a flame. Instead, a chemical reaction occurs between the oxygen in the air and the propane and, by way of platinum plates, it creates heat.

These catalytic heaters also differ in size and strength. You can measure the size you need through the same BTU calculations you did for the other types. These heaters also seem to be much more compact, making them easy to find and carry during camping trips.

Wood burning stove

One last option is less popular but still available, is the portable wood-burning stove. The perks of this heater are that you don’t have to worry about packing fuel – ideally, you’ll find it out on your journey.

For tents that are flame-retardant, this can be a good option. This means for polyester or nylon tents, this is an absolute no-go. For canvas tents, they can be considered. The upside is that canvas tents may be inherently warmer, and the heater will add to this heat retainer. This combination is relatively cheap and a good investment for those who enjoy a good winter camping trip.

The basics of camping require that you have shelter, and this shelter will determine what type of heat is necessary. Don’t be afraid to use heaters in your tent. There are many outfitters who offer heaters specifically made for this option! It’s only with poor knowledge and negligence that it can become particularly dangerous.

Enjoying the outdoors with a little snow on the ground is a magical experience. Being prepared can give you an experience that you’ll want to revisit and recreate time and time again. Buying the right heater for your tent will keep you warm time and time again. Ideally, our guide has given you some insight into what might work best for you. No trip is going to be the same, but they can all be a good, comfortable, exciting time out in nature!

Related Articles

Why you need a sleeping bag liner. Click here

Are down sleeping bags better than synthetic? Click here

How to keep a tent warm when camping. Click here


Rickie Arms

Hi, I'm Rickie Arms, owner of Glampingorcamping.com. I am so invested in writing the best and most informative articles for you that I went out and bought a travel trailer just so I could write about it for you. I spend just about all of my off time both camping and glamping so I can share everything I have learned and will learn with you. I have spent my whole life camping and over the last 10 years, I have spent a large amount of time checking out glamping experiences with my wife and kids as well. Thank you for coming by and we hope to see you back here getting great information in the future. Rick Arms-

Recent Posts