Just because it’s turning colder outside doesn’t mean you have to pack away the tent or camper. If you have the right gear, you can camp even in wintry conditions and enjoy the season’s beauty. One of those items is a small propane heater for your camper.
These portable, indoor-safe heaters provide an excellent heat source when you don’t want to run your RV furnace or need to keep your tent toasty at night. We have tried many of these units out and want to share how to use these to safely heat your space.
Let’s learn more about six of the best options!
What Are Indoor Propane Heaters?
So there are lots of different means to heat a space with propane. Some are more complex and others are very simple. The three main types of heaters are vented furnaces, radiant portable units, and catalytic combustion. Let’s take a look at the three types and their differences.
Furnace/ Vented Heaters
Vented propane heaters are a great option when looking to exchange heat for air or water. What this means is that burning propane creates a flame that then transmits heat into an air or water exchange that is separate from the burn. This keeps all burning gasses out of the indoor space and the warm air or water (in the case of a boiler) is then used to heat the space. These are generally considered the safest way to use propane but they require electricity to run a fan or pump for both exhaust and interior circulation.
Radiant Heat Propane Heaters
This type of heater is the most cost-effective and usually is in a portable setup. These work by burning propane in front of a special ceramic tile that glows red hot. This tile helps to convert the flame into infrared heat and makes the heat transfer very efficient. These units are generally not vented and all their combustion gasses end up in the space they are heating.
Most of the time, these units do not require any electricity to force air around or run ventilation which makes them a great choice for spaces where there is not a consistent source of electricity.
Catalytic Propane Heaters
This type of heater tends to be much more expensive as it uses rare metals like platinum in its construction. These work by converting the propane into heat without even burning it. These units are commonly used in industry or applications where ventilation is not an option.
These heaters are commonly portable or wall-mounted. Like radiant heaters, catalytic are generally not used for forced air applications and heat directly.
Generally, catalytic heaters are considered the safest type and most efficient. This comes at the upfront cost of the heater.
Overall a small propane heater for your camper can keep you warm, or you can choose a larger propane heater to provide heat around your patio. Additionally, if you go tent or truck camping, these work great to keep you warm.
If you have a larger RV, you can use propane heaters in individual rooms to provide a cozy night’s sleep. You can move a small propane heater around without worrying about finding a plug, which is ideal when boondocking or camping off-grid.
Are Propane Heaters Safe?
The answer to this is yes if used properly. Any fuel-burning process, including heaters, has the potential to produce hazardous gasses that can harm or kill you. Because of this it’s critical that you follow the requirements of the specific heater.
In generally vented heaters and catalytic heaters do not need any other considerations with their operation. However, the small portable heaters we are discussing here are the radiant type that does require some ventilation. In general, they do not produce much carbon monoxide but they do produce some. This means that you need an adequate source of fresh air to keep oxygen levels up and CO down.
Another requirement to running these safely is making sure you have propane, smoke, and carbon monoxide alarms in the space you are using it. Without these alarms, you may not have any idea you are getting into a dangerous situation. Also, keep all flammable materials away from it.
Pro Tip: Still uneasy about using a propane heater in your camper? We took a more in-depth look at Are RV Propane Heaters Safe?
Can a Small Propane Heater Be Used in a Camper?
A small propane heater for camper use is one of the best ways to stay warm and save power. A propane heater will use much less fuel than your RV furnace and will heat a small space efficiently.
So if you want to watch a movie, turn on a small propane heater to keep that space toasty and comfortable. As mentioned above, first ensure it’s designed specifically for indoor use before you start to use it. Also, make sure you crack a window or two to make sure you are getting proper ventilation.
However, keep in mind these small propane heaters for campers do not warm pipes or tanks. Don’t use them as the main heat source but rather to warm up a small area for a short time.
As mentioned above, make sure you have working alarms that will keep you safe in case the heater begins to miss operate or your ventilation is not adequate.
These alarms include:
Smoke – a general-purpose alarm that all houses have to detect particulates in the air.
Carbon Monoxide – Another alarm that will detect if carbon monoxide levels are getting too high. This is one of the most deadly gasses and you will not realize you are being affected by it, so please make sure this alarm is working.
Propane – These alarms detect if propane is leaking. If you are using a propane cylinder inside, it has the potential to leak. A propane leak can be explosive in an enclosed space.
6 Best Small Propane Heaters for Campers
If you want to do some winter camping, here are six of the best small propane heaters for campers. Depending on the size of your space and your price range, a few options will work for your camping needs.
#1. Mr. Heater Portable Buddy
Mr. Heater is one of the most popular manufacturers of propane heaters. This Portable Buddy will heat a space up to 225 square feet with 4,000 to 9,000 BTUs. This is a ceramic radiant type heater.
It features an auto shut-off if it turns over, if the pilot light goes out, or if it detects low oxygen levels. The low oxygen sensor is usually adequate to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning because as CO builds up, oxygen gets consumed.
The max run time at the full 9,000 BTUs is 3 hours. However, it may not function at elevations higher than 7,000 feet.
- PORTABLE HEATER: Portable propane heater designed for emergency...
- HEAT SPACE: Perfect for heating enclosed spaces up to 225 square...
- PROPANE GAS: For use with propane gas; Runs off a 1-pound...
#2. Mr. Heater Little Buddy
Another small propane heater for your camper by Mr. Heater is the Little Buddy. Heating spaces up to 95 square feet, this smaller option works best for tent or truck campers. It sits at a 45-degree angle, forcing the heat into the space instead of straight out. Max run time is a little over 5 hours at 3,800 BTUs.
Note that the heater requires a vented area of four square inches during operation, but it also features a low-oxygen sensor and an accidental tip-over switch with auto shut-off for safety.
- Indoor-safe portable propane heater for rooms up to 95 square...
- Continuous odor-free, 45-degree heating angle. Maximum Elevation...
- Simple on/off buttons; uses 1-pound disposable propane cylinder...
#3. Mr. Heater Vent Free
The third option by Mr. Heater is the most expensive but also the most powerful. The Vent Free unit will heat spaces up to 250 square feet with 10,000 BTUs. A clean-burning blue flame tube burner uses convection heating to warm the air, much like a fireplace.
However, whereas the Portable Buddy and Little Buddy units may shut off at 7,000 feet in elevation, the Vent Free may only operate up to 4,500 feet in altitude. This is important to note if camping in the Rocky or Appalachian Mountains.
- 10,000 BTU Liquid Propane heater to heat spaces up to 250 sqaure...
- Blue flame burner for even convection heat.
- Automatic low oxygen shut-off system (ODS). CSA Certified
#4. Camco Olympian Wave-6
This lightweight Camco Olympian Wave-6 propane heater is a catalytic heater and is considered extremely safe. This unit consumes very little oxygen and does not produce any dangerous gasses meaning no ventilation is needed. You can mount it to the wall or keep it portable. It covers 230 square feet of space with 2000 to 6,000 BTUs.
The Wave-6 has a low/high switch to provide two different heating levels. Like the other models, it also has a safety shut-off in case it gets tipped over.
- No flame, flue or chimney
- No electrical drain or battery connection make it the ideal...
- Silent operation - No fan or blower noise
#5. BLUU Propane Heater
Another more expensive option is the propane heater from BLUU. At 10,000 BTUs, it heats an area of 300 square feet, the largest space of any small propane heater for camper use on this list. This is a radiant type heater.
The thermostat system maintains a set temperature, which saves fuel. It includes a 10-position infinitely adjustable thermostat that allows you to find a comfortable temperature wherever you’re camping.
This BLUU propane heater will run up to 5 hours at max BTU. Like the other models, it’s equipped with an automatic shut-off if the oxygen gets too low or it tips over.
- 🔥Thermostatic system saves 30% fuel: Bluu heater upgraded core...
- 🔥10-step temperature adjustment.: The 10-position infinitely...
- 🔥40% more hours of use: Our outdoor heaters are designed to be...
#6. Flame King Portable Heater
Finally, the Flame King portable heater weighs approximately 10 pounds and lasts up to 2 hours at 10,000 BTUs.
The thermostat dial allows you to choose the best temperature, and the heater maintains it without switching it on and off. It also has a built-in automatic shut-off to keep everyone safe. This small propane heater works in campers, tents, ice-fishing, and other places.
- SAFETY FEATURES: Built-in Safety Fuel Shutoff, Oxygen Depletion...
- FULL COMFORT: Built-in Auto ignition and Thermostat Dial for...
- ADVANCED THERMOSTATIC TECHNOLOGY: The Thermostatic technology...
Pro Tip: New to cold weather camping? We uncovered all you need to know about How to RV in Winter.
Is a Small Propane Heater for Camper Worth It?
A small propane heater for camper use is a must-have for winter adventures. Even in early spring or late fall, mornings and evenings can get chilly. Save fuel and electricity by running a small propane heater to keep you warm while traveling.
Don’t put away the tent or camper this winter. Get the gear to keep you safe and warm so you can keep making memories. And when you come back home from your trip, you can use them on your porch or patio as well.
Do you have a small propane heater for your camping excursions? Tell us what brand you prefer in the comments!
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