In case you’re low on time, the best tent heater is the Buddy by Mr. Heater.
Four-season tents, thick sleeping bags, fur coats…I’m not just rambling, all these things share one common purpose. They let us enjoy the great outdoors year-round, even when Jack Frost comes around.
But, winter camping can get tough. The temperatures plummet, and your teeth start chattering.
That’s why nothing is more essential to wintertime camping than a quality tent heater. It can be the difference between freezing your butt off and getting a good night’s sleep.
The Best Tent Heaters
Picking a tent heater is easier said than done. So, I figured you’d appreciate a guide to tent heaters as well as some options.
All of the heaters below are Wilderness Times-approved to keep you toasty all winter long.
Let’s get into it.
Mr. Heater – Buddy
Let me tell you why I think the Buddy is better than the Little Buddy though. Does the Little Buddy have a longer running time? Yes, but there are still other factors that play into the Buddy’s favor.
First of all, Buddy has a higher BTU at 9,000 versus the Little Buddy’s 4,000.
When things get really cold, that extra heat output will pay off. It’s only a few bucks more than the Little Buddy anyway, so why not get the Buddy instead?
It’s got tons of great features, such as the automatic shutoff if you accidentally tip it over. The shape of the Buddy also makes it less likely that you’ll tip it over in the first place. It’s wider than the Little Buddy and has a more stable center of gravity.
Lastly, the Buddy will run for three hours, even on max settings. That’s enough time for you to pass out after a long day of hiking.
- High heat output at 9,000 BTU will keep you warm no matter where you are.
- Three-hour runtime on max settings means you can get nice and toasty.
- The stable shape prevents tipping and works on all kinds of terrains.
- Automatic shutoff in case of an emergency helps you stay safe.
- Works well with smaller tents and larger tents. Just adjust the heat level and enjoy yourself.
- A bit more expensive than the Little Buddy.
- Slightly more cumbersome, but still extremely easy to carry.
Best for: super cold weather campers who need a high heat output to warm them up.
Mr. Heater – Little Buddy
While I would rank the Little Buddy lower than the Buddy (due to its shape and lower heat output), it’s still an excellent choice for camping. It’s a little cheaper than the larger unit, making it a viable option for those who are short by a few bucks and need a budget variant.
(By the way, if you’re looking for a 4-season tent that won’t break the bank, click here).
It also comes with the best feature of the Buddy, which is the automatic shutoff.
The redeeming feature of the Little Buddy is its lengthy runtime. Since it can go for around six hours (more if you drop the settings), this will help you stay warm all night long.
The Little Buddy also weighs less and is more portable than the Buddy. This makes it a stellar choice for campers who like to travel light or don’t have a lot of room in their pack.
- Cheaper than Buddy, but with the same Mr. Heater quality I’ve known to love.
- Longer runtime (since it’s smaller and outputs less heat)
- Super lightweight and portable, making it a solid choice for those on the road.
- The flashlight-like style allows you to point the heat right at your body.
- A low oxygen sensor and accidental tip-over switch help prevent emergency situations.
- Unfortunately, the Little Buddy has a lower heat output than the Buddy.
- Its shape might be awkward on rigid terrain.
Best for: solo campers who are trying to travel light, save a buck, and don’t anticipate unusually frigid conditions.
Comfort Zone – 1500 Watt Compact Utility Heater
Let me start by saying that I absolutely love the look of this tent heater. It looks like something out of a science fiction series. In fact, my boys and I had a debate on whether it hails from Star Trek or Star Wars (Spock forever.)
Beyond the futuristic design that this tent heater brings to the table, you’ll also find that it performs quite well. You can choose from three settings depending on how cold your campsite gets. It even has a fan-only mode, meaning you won’t have to buy a separate tent fan.
While this tent fan is indeed cheaper than the Little Buddy, it doesn’t give off as much heat. This could pose a problem if you plan on camping in super cold areas.
It was actually a bit difficult to compare the heat output as this heater’s output is listed in watts while Mr. Heater units are listed in BTU.
After converting the two values, I saw that the BTU output of the Comfort Zone sits at around 5,000 BTU compared to the Buddy’s 9,000 BTU. That’s a pretty significant reduction, but if you are camping in temperate areas anyway, then it shouldn’t be too big of an issue.
Overall, the Comfort Zone is a solid choice at an affordable price that would work well on most camping trips. Just be wary of its lower heat output if you plan on camping under freezing temperatures, as it may not be up to par in such a scenario.
- Amazing aesthetic and clean design make this easy to use.
- Three heat settings, so you can adjust how much the temperature rises.
- The fan-only mode gives you circulation even if you don’t want heat.
- Affordable pricing, so anyone can add this to their load-out.
- It’s got a lower output than the Mr. Heater units. This might not be best for super cold temperatures.
Best for: budget campers who’ll be sticking to milder temperatures.
Texsport – Portable Propane Heater
While the price is lower, safety is still prioritized in its design. Like the Buddy units, it’s got the automatic shutoff feature if you accidentally tip it over.
However, I’m a firm believer in the rule that you get what you pay for. It definitely comes into play here. While the price point of the Texsport is more economical, the BTU output is significantly lower as well. The highest setting doesn’t even hit 2,900 BTU, which poses an issue in subzero conditions.
That being said, it still provides excellent value for the price if you just need a standard heater and won’t be headed to a northern campsite. You’d be better off with a Mr. Heater model if frigid temperatures are expected though.
- Affordable pricing, making this an option for everyone.
- Automatic shutoff, letting you rest easy at night.
- This package comes with two units, so you can orient your radiators around you for a “surround sound” effect.
- BTU output is way lower than any Mr. Heater model.
- Comfort Zone’s heater is about the same price but has around double the BTU output.
Best for: Those looking to go camping on a budget in warmer areas.
Neiko – Emergency Camping Heater
When I first saw this heater, it gave me an apocalyptic vibe, kind of like Fallout. (Yes, I may be “old,” but I still love Bethesda games!) The metallic red design is like a throwback to the 50s when household innovation was at its peak.
Sadly, while the aesthetic of this unit is stunning, it wasn’t exactly designed for overnight use. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll work just fine if you’re trying to stay warm before heading to bed. But, you won’t be able to use it as a nighttime companion since a full can will only last two hours.
There have been some concerns that it might put out carbon monoxide since it wasn’t designed for indoor use. However, I’ve never had any trouble with it. I’ve always put it right outside my tent rather than inside because I’d rather be safe than sorry.
Much like the Texsport, this isn’t built for fighting frigid snowstorms, since its BTU output is only 700. Nothing spectacular in terms of performance, but it definitely has a pretty look to it.
- Retro (Fallout 4) design looks cool in any tent, new or old.
- The metal housing is sturdy and reliable, won’t break.
- Its robust frame makes this useful on any terrain or even in the snow.
- It can be carried and used anywhere thanks to the handles.
- Short runtime and low BTU’s make this suboptimal for subzero temperatures.
- Potential carbon monoxide threat.
Best for: campers who prioritize style over function, and don’t need that much heat.
What To Look For In A Tent Heater
Whether or not you’re hungry for one of the heaters listed above, there are some things that you need to consider before you pick a tent heater. Here are a few of the critical details to look at.
Safety should always be your number one priority. It may seem a bit cliché, but you should always focus on how safe a specific tent heater is.
The Mr. Heater units that I listed above are a great example of tent heaters that put safety first.
Yes, they do cost a bit more, but the state-of-the-art safety features are well worth the cost. I know for a fact that the second you tip one of them over, it’ll shut off in an instant ensuring that nothing catches fire.
Mr. Heater units also shut off if the oxygen supply gets too low, common at altitudes exceeding 7,000 feet. This might not be a concern for people camping in say…Georgia. But if you’re camping in the Rockies, keep this in mind.
I don’t know about you, but the wellbeing of my boys is worth any price. I highly recommend that you pick a unit with adept safety features. Even if it does leave your wallet feeling a little lighter than it used to be, safety is crucial.
If you’re going to be using your tent heater overnight, then you should pick a unit that can run long enough.
Unless you’re a light sleeper, you probably don’t need a heater that runs for an entire night’s sleep. A heater that runs for three hours should be good enough to get you deep into your REM cycle.
Once you’re in REM sleep, you won’t notice it shut off. The temperature in your tent is bound to stay warmer for a few more hours even after it runs out of steam. Cheaping out and going for a unit with a short runtime may seem financially smart, but you’ll regret it when things get too cold.
However, if you feel like you won’t be using the heater that often, then a heater with a shorter runtime may be a smarter choice. Plan accordingly and pick a heater that runs long enough for your needs.
You might not think that the length of the warranty is that important, but you’d be surprised how significant it is down the line. Therefore, you should get insurance to guarantee that it stays working even after heavy use.
A good warranty does more than protect your investment. It also shows the manufacturer’s confidence in the product.
I’ve found that products with a short warranty (or even no warranty at all) are more likely to break down. A short warranty shows that even the manufacturer doesn’t have faith in its durability.
As with any piece of camping equipment, you should factor in the unit’s weight before making your choice. When you’re at the store, poundage doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, it definitely comes into play later on when you’re hiking towards your campsite.
While weight is a priority, the shape also comes into play. A more massive heater might actually be more natural to use thanks to a compact design and comfortable handles.
Rather than just lifting the heater up, try holding it in one hand for a minute and see if it causes any strain. Be sure to stretch your arms out all the way.
This is the test I do whenever picking out new gear since it helps me gauge the weight and measure just how much it’ll hinder me in my travels.
Even if you end up using a scale, it’d still pay off to try my method out. It helps you feel how significant the weight of a specific item is so that you can decide if it’s too much to carry.
When it comes to tent heaters, there’s no shortage of options to choose from. But, there are only a few that I’d deem worthy of your cash. The five options listed here all have something unique about them in their own right, and will all provide you with a comfy camping experience.
That being said, I’d have to give the win to Mr. Heater Buddy only because it has the highest output. The #1 purpose of investing money into a heater is so that it can keep you warm no matter how cold things get, and the Buddy does just that. The safety features are the icing on the cake, keeping you safe no matter what happens.