A Guide to Camping with Tent Heaters
It is often assumed that you can only camp during the spring and summer months, after which the weather makes it impossible to do. While it is true that camping in colder conditions is not always pleasant, there are certainly ways around this problem.
Investing in a suitable tent heater is a fantastic way to extend your camping season throughout the year. Whether it’s pitching up during the October break for a spot of autumn camping or making an early start in the beginnings of spring, camping during non-peak season certainly has it benefits.
For instance, campsites are traditionally much quieter at these times of the year, while school holidays during these times offer the chance for even more family camping.
It your family loves the great outdoors and the overall camping experience, it’s certainly worth investing in a good tent heater to take advantage of these opportunities!
However, there is quite a bit of choice when it comes to tent heaters. This makes finding a suitable product easier said than done, so it helps to know what your options are!
Buying an electric tent heater
Most tent heaters are electric, so they require a power source to work. This means you will need to use it at a suitable campsite that offers electric hook ups (EHU) to power the heater.
For those that have never used EHUs, it’s not a case of simply bringing a standard extension cable from home to connect to the power, as you require specific EHU cable.
They are widely available online and don’t cost too much, plus you should never risk using a conventional extension cable as it may lead to an accident.
Let’s take a closer look at what type of electric tent heaters are available:
Electric Fan Heaters
Many campers looking for a suitable tent heater go for an electric fan heater. These are great because they small and compact yet heat a tent in very little time. Just make sure the heater can work with a campsite power supply, which use much less than those in a house.
They can become quite noisy due to the constantly changing thermostat, and they aren’t as effective at heating larger tents with several bedrooms. Yet they are still an effective heat source for most tents, especially because they provide a nice airflow that reduces the chilly condensation that develops on cold mornings.
It may sound strange to take a portable oil radiator as part of you camping supplies, but they remain an effective tent heater and could save you some money if you already own one. Of course, it’s best to go for a small radiator to help save space, and be mindful of the number of amps it requires to work.
A great benefit of a radiator is how quiet they are, especially compared to electric fan heaters. Depending on their size and power, they may struggle to entirely heat larger tents, but can certainly heat spacious rooms such as the lounge section to great effect.
As they require much less power to operate, halogen heaters are often viewed as the best type of tent heaters. Yet they have one major setback – standing halogen heaters are a massive fire hazard.
This has led many campsites to ban this form of heating, although there are halogen heaters that are better suited for camping. These heaters are hanging rather than free standing, allowing it to safely hang from your tent without the risk of catching fire.
These products are typically designed for camping, making them a great choice of tent heater. They are compatible with 5amp power supplies that campsites provide, and pose minimal fire risks as they are suspended from lantern hooks on the tent roof.
Heating comes on quickly and does a great job in large spaces, although it’s best not to leave them on overnight just to be on the safe side.
Other types of tent heaters
While electric heaters are traditionally the most popular form of tent heaters, there are a few other options for campers looking to efficiently heat their tents.
Wood Burning Stove
The biggest benefit of using a wood burning stove as a tent heater is you aren’t restricted to campsites. As they don’t require any type of electric output to power, wood burning stoves can be used in virtually any camping spot, making it a fine choice for any wild camping.
They can quickly heat even the largest of tents, providing a stable source of heat for hours on end. The ambience created from a wood burning stove in a tent is truly majestic, so it’s certainly worth trying out this type of tent heater if you can!
However, wood burning stoves require a specific type of tent, so you will need to invest in this along with the stove itself. While it may be costly, this is certainly recommended for any serious campers that want to enjoy camping throughout the year and at any spot in the country.
The tent must be made from fire-retardant canvas materials and include a flue for venting out smoke from the stove. It may be a good idea to invest in a heat-resistant mat to sit the stove on, although removing the ground sheet works just as well and means there’s less equipment to carry.
Remember, a standard size wood burning stove will be cumbersome and heavy, so it’s a good idea to buy a portable version. It doesn’t hurt to bring a carbon monoxide detector either, just in case a venting issue occurs.
An electric heating carpet is a rather unconventional tent heater but definitely one worth considering. They do require a power source to work so will only be suitable for campsites.
A more robust version of an electric blanket, heating carpets can be easily included in your camp supplies without taking any extra space in your vehicle, making them a fine option for many.
However, they aren’t the best at heating the entire room as they remain on the ground. This does make for a pleasant addition to a lounge area or just outside the bedroom, letting your feet avoid the cold ground and remain nice and warm.
Should you have a much smaller tent with just the one sleeping area, then a heating carpet will provide much more noticeable heat – especially when you nestle into your sleeping bag for the night!
Portable Gas Heaters
While portable gas heaters are quite handy for camping, we never recommend using one. The main reason for this is they can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning without a properly ventilated tent. Even then, the simple act of falling asleep and forgetting it’s on can lead to lethal build ups of poisonous gas.
For us, it is never worth the risk!
Things to consider before choosing a tent heater
Now that you know what your options are choosing a suitable tent heater should be easier. To ensure you get the best tent heater for your camping needs, be sure to consider some of the following:
The most important aspect to consider before buying a tent heater is how safe it is. As they have the potential to be a fire hazard, always ensure your tent heater includes suitable safety features – or simply avoid those that seem to hazardous.
For example, an automatic shut-off feature is highly recommended for most electric heaters, while the overall stance should be looked at. You never want a heater that can easily fall over, so a tilt safety cut off is advised for any freestanding models.
Adding a tent heater will to your camp gear will mean more to carry, so it is a good idea to think about portability. Those taking a vehicle with them may not be too short on space, but if you are going by foot then the heater needs to be portable enough to fit in your backpack.
If your camping involves hiking, it’s never a good idea to pack a heavy tent heater that will slow you down.
The size of your heater doesn’t just impact how easy it is to transport, but also how effective it is at heating your tent. For example, if you need to heat a large tent with several rooms, then you may require a large size heater capable of heating the space.
Conversely, a compact heater is best advised for smaller tents, as you don’t want to overheat and become unbearable. This also saves you spending more money on a large heater that isn’t even necessary!
This is very important for electric tent heaters as they may consume too much power for the EHU to work with any other appliances. This means you could end up tripping the power should the heater be used with other items such as a kettle.
While a tent heater with basic features will likely still get the job done, you may prefer one that has some additional features to make things easier or safer. For example, automatic shut-offs are a fantastic safety feature that reduce the risks of falling asleep with the heater on.
If you are a light sleeper then it’s important to consider the noise produced by the heater. Some heaters – such as oil radiators – are virtually silent, while heating fans tend to produce the most noise.
Tips for keeping warm when using a tent heater
Tent heaters are certainly an effective way to remain warm when camping, but it may not be fully effective on its own. Yes, some heaters will warm your tent to great effect, but that doesn’t guarantee your entire tent is warmed or that the heat will last the entire day/night.
Here are some handy tips and tricks that will keep you nice and warm alongside a tent heater:
Bring suitable clothing
While a no brainer for most people, bringing suitably warm clothing when camping is essential. It’s easy to assume that because you’re using a tent heater that you won’t have to rely as much on thick, warm clothing, but that isn’t the case.
Make sure you have various layers of clothing that can be easily removed should you get too warm. They work well with a heater as you can add or remove as the temperatures fluctuate, and it’s always recommended that you sleep in fewer layers so you don’t overheat in your sleeping bag.
An appropriate sleeping bag makes a lot of difference
As mentioned in this guide, not all tent heaters are capable of heating entire tents, especially if there are multiple bedrooms. This means your sleeping space isn’t as warm as the rest of the tent, and because it’s never recommended to sleep with the heater on, things may get chilly at night.
To remain all warm and toasty when sleeping, be sure to invest in an appropriate sleeping bag. Winter sleeping bags offer great insulation but some still find they are cold using them, so it never hurts to bring a blanket or duvet from home for added warmth.
Remember the ground will be colder than the rest of the tent
Even if your tent has been kept perfectly warm all throughout the night, the ground is still going to be cold. So, you may feel uncomfortably cold when sleeping on the ground, which is rather unpleasant when camping.
A simple solution for this is to bring a blanket and place it beneath your sleeping bag for more ground insulation. Another great idea is to use an inflatable mattress or sleeping cot that elevates you from the ground.
Tent carpets provide a cheap and easy way to keep your feet warm
Another fantastic way to address the cold ground in your tent is to invest in a tent carpet or bring some old blankets or sheets. Even a small layer between your feet and the ground makes all the difference, helping to keep the entire family in the tent feeling warm.