While camping normally takes place in the warm and dry summertime months, there are three whole other seasons that are just waiting for you to get out and enjoy. Camping is a year-round activity, and each season has its own unique set of experiences. From the blossoming renewal of nature in Spring, to the crisp and cool color changes of Fall, you shouldn’t limit yourself to just summertime camping. Even winter camping can be a rewarding experience!
With these other months, however, comes colder weather - especially during the winter. Proper clothing and camping equipment can only do so much. This is especially the case during the night when you’re hunkered down in your tent.
Investing in a battery powered heater is a great way to make your cold weather camping tent, camper van or RV more enjoyable. In this article, we’ll give you everything you need to know to purchase one for your next trip.
You may never have considered bringing a heater in your camper van or to a camping site, nor thought it was possible. Once you do, you’ll never go back. Bringing a portable heater with you comes with a host of advantages:
Unlike home applications, Van Life limits what type of heaters can be used. However there are workarounds to get more options. Overall, tent heaters that are available to you open up many more options. All you need will be intended for small purposes like heating a desk, but it can easily used for your van space as well.
With 12 Volt heaters, they are usually limited about 150 watts. Most camper van batteries and alternators won't be able to push more than that, so this is why selection for this type is just a little limited.
When it comes portable heaters, the TMMKOL 12V Portable Heater is our quick pick for a budget option that will keep help you while you are working or relaxing in bed. As long as you are not in the bone chilling cold, this will do the trick without taking as much power as your van heater.
As with the previous pick, these small heaters are quick fixes to getting just a little more comfortable. If it was not for the very visble red cap it would have made our first pick because it seems to heat faster than then other 12 Volt Options
Just because you have limits with your Camper Van's electrical system, does not mean you need to miss out on some better options. With a rechargeable power bank, you can run some stronger units, although charging your power bank on the road can take some time. Considering that here are some power friendly heaters.
In our opinion, this is the best battery powered heater for camping and Van Life. It has nearly every additional feature we go over earlier in this article, and it also comes at an exceptionally low price.
The Brightown 350W space heater plugs directly into an outlet, meaning you’ll have to keep your battery bank close. With no clumsy cords, this results in a clean heating setup inside your tent. Additionally, this means there’s no risk of it tipping over and catching your blanket on fire. Regardless, it features overheat protection meaning it is safe to leave this heater unattended.
A major highlight of this heater is its automatic thermostat, and timed shutoff functionality. You can set it anywhere between 60 and 90 degrees, and it’ll self-regulate the temperature in the tent. You can also time it to shut off after a certain amount of hours, allowing you to save your battery capacity in the middle of the night.
It does, unfortunately, have higher power consumption at 350 watts. This means you won’t be able to run it continuously throughout the night, but with the automatic thermostat, this should never be an issue.
This Lasko convection heater is about as basic as it gets, which might be exactly what you’re after! Intended to warm feet underneath desks, Lasko does not try to claim that this tiny heater will work for an entire room. But for a tent camping application, it should be more than enough.
There is only one heat setting on this heater, and it simply operates with a toggled on/off switch. There are no built-in features like an automatic thermostat or adjustable heat options, but this is expected for the price.
The main draw of the Lasko space heater is that it only uses 200 continuous watts, meaning you can likely run it the entire night if you invested in enough battery capacity (7.5 hours for a 1500wh system). You’ll have to keep it close to your sleeping bag, but it should keep you from freezing.
This small ceramic heater is a low-wattage option that’ll allow you continuous usage throughout the night. It only has one heat setting at 220 watts, making it one of the most basic battery powered heaters, but still quite functional.
A huge advantage is that the KimViento heater has multiple safety features including overheat protection and a tip-over detected auto-shutoff switch. It’s also exceptionally quiet so it’ll never disturb your sleep.
The Honeywell Heatbud ceramic heater is another basic heater that lacks extra features but makes up for it with safety. Unique to this simple heater are two distinct heat settings, which both operate at low wattage. With a 250 watt output, you’ll have no issues running this for most of the night.
With built-in overheat protection, a cool touch handle, and tip-over detection, this heater is a smart, safe option for your tent. It is slightly more expensive than some of the other options laid out here.
A “battery powered tent heater” is a bit of a misnomer. When you first heard this term, you likely pictured an all-in-one unit that contains the battery and is capable of running itself. This is impossible.
An electric heater uses an immense amount of electricity - far more than an included battery could ever provide. When you’re looking into buying a battery operated heater, there are many considerations you’ll need to make. The most important involves power. Ensuring that you have enough of it available on your camping trip will prevent you from running out of heat. Otherwise, you’re going to wake up with some cold feet. When it comes to power, it’s crucial to consider three things:
Power draw is by far the single most important factor to consider when purchasing a battery powered heater for camping adventures. If you select any old space heater, you’re going to completely discharge your battery in no time at all.
When looking at battery powered heaters, take special note of the wattage. The higher the wattage, the faster your battery will drain. You’ll want to make sure that your battery or power source has a high enough capacity to handle your heater’s specifications.
Here are some examples:
|Battery Capacity||Heater Wattage||Runtime|
|1500 watt hour||200 watts||7.5 hours|
|1000 watt hour||500 watts||2 hours|
|500 watt hour||1500 watts||0 hours|
A standard electric space heater that you would use for supplemental heat in a house uses up to 1500 watts on the highest setting. These will be 100% unusable with battery power. When purchasing a portable heater, look for something that uses no more than 500 watts. Even this can be excessive, but it’ll at least give you some amount of heat during the night.
Your options are going to be limited to very small battery powered heaters that are primarily used for things like desks.
No matter what size of heater you get, even one with exceptionally low wattage, you’re likely going to be using your entire battery capacity overnight. If you’re planning a multi-day trip, how will you recharge this battery? There are a couple of options available to you.
If you’re using one of the popular power banks like Jackery, you could recharge it if you have a standard outlet available somewhere. However - you’re on the road or at a camping at a site. You probably don’t have this available to you. Optionally, if you’re doing lots of driving around, you could potentially charge it straight from the cigarette lighter in your car.
Your best option is to invest in a solar panel. You’ll be able to keep this outside during the day and hopefully soak up any sun that’s available. However, if it’s cold enough to warrant needing battery powered tent heaters on your trip, there’s likely not going to be enough daytime sun to sufficiently charge your batteries.
Plan to only use your battery powered heater for one night.
Your electric heater needs power to run, and with a battery it might be possible. When it comes to selecting a power source, you have two options:
When selecting a battery to run your electric heater, you need something that has a pretty large capacity. As discussed, battery powered tent heaters require a ridiculous amount of power consumption, so you’ll need to make sure you have enough available to keep you warm during the night.
If you plan on running it the entire night, you’ll need a minimum capacity of 1500wh. If you don’t mind turning the heater off once you’re warm, and only turning it back on when you’re cold, you can probably get away with around 1000wh.
A portable power bank is the most convenient power source to run your electric heater. These come in an easy-to-carry case and have built-up outlets for ease of use. They require very little technical know-how to use, and require zero auxiliary devices like inverters and wiring.
Portable power banks are also solar ready. If you have a compatible panel you can easily plug it right in, set it out in the sun, and you’re charging.
As mentioned, however, you’ll need one with a large enough capacity to handle battery powered tent heaters. The higher the capacity, the higher the price tag. That cozy warm heat produced by your battery powered space heaters ain’t going to come cheap.
The Jackery Explorer 1000 is the hallmark battery bank that every vehicle dweller, boondocker, and van life camper knows well. They’re an extremely popular brand and come backed by a tried and tested reputation.
The Jackery Explorer 1000 is the brand’s largest power bank. The smaller ones will not have enough capacity to adequately run an electric heater, so this is one of your only options. It comes with three standard outlets, a 12v outlet, and a variety of USB port styles, so you can easily use it to simultaneously run and charge multiple appliances. It’s also considerably lightweight at only around 22 pounds.
The Bluetti power station may not be as recognizable as a brand, but it trumps the Jackery in comparison. With a sleek design, high capacity, and reasonable price, this battery will sufficiently power your low wattage battery powered heater for most of the night.
The device is quite heavy at 38 pounds, but benefits from exceptional durability. Additional battery banks can be daisy-chained to this power station to increase its capacity, and it also comes solar-ready with their compatible panels.
A standard battery may not be your first choice when it comes to a power source for your tent heater, but it’s a quite practical option. If you own an RV or know a family member or friend who does, this option is beneficial because you don’t have to purchase an expensive battery bank. A normal 12V battery is essentially the exact same thing as a power station, albeit without the fancy bells and whistles.
The drawback to using a normal RV battery is that it doesn’t come with an outlet prewired like Jackery. In order to plug you in your tent heater, you’ll need to hook up an inverter. An inverter for this application is pretty cheap (less than $100 normally), and they come with plug and play capability. Simple clamp on the alligator clips to your battery and you can plug in your tent heater.
Another drawback is that a 12V battery is ridiculously heavy - normally around 50 pounds. This can make bringing it to a campsite quite the challenge. If you’re simply driving up to your campsite, this won’t be an issue.
When selecting a 12v battery to use with camping heaters, you’ll need to make sure that it’s rated for the power consumption of the heater. Unlike a power station, 12v battery capacity is rated in amp hours. To calculate your watt hour capacity, simply multiply the amp hours by the voltage of the battery. To run a battery powered heater, you’ll need a minimum battery capacity of 100 ah. Using the equation, 100 ah x 12v, you’ll have 1200 watt hours to utilize.
It should be noted, however, that this is only for a lithium battery. Lithium batteries can be discharged fully. If you’ve purchased an inexpensive lead-acid battery, you can only discharge it by 50% without damaging it. In this case, 100 ah only gives you 50 ah of actual usage. If purchasing this type of battery, invest in something at least 200 ah in order to run a battery powered heater.
It’s also worth noting that you need to make sure you’re using a deep cycle battery. These types of batteries are intended for frequent discharge/recharge cycles without being damaged. If you try to use a car battery or something similar, it will damage it in the long run.
This affordable, 12v battery will work sufficiently to power electric heaters. It is Lithium Ion, meaning you can fully discharge it to zero without harming the battery. Purchasing this is immensely cheaper than buying an expensive power station, but it does come with the typical inconveniences discussed above.
At $399, in conjunction with the purchase of an inverter, you can have a power source to charge your battery powered heater for less than $500. Compared to the $1,000 purchase price of a Jackery, this has obvious benefits.
Unfortunately, this 12v battery does not come solar ready. You’ll have to purchase a charge controller and the appropriate wiring for that to work.
You’ve learned about the advantages of bringing a battery powered space heater camping and you’ve identified the key requirements to make it happen. Once you’ve purchased your power source, making sure it has sufficient capacity, you can begin looking at the heaters themselves.
Not all portable heaters are created equal, and there are a variety of characteristics that can make or break your purchase. Knowing what features to look out for will ensure that you receive a product you are satisfied with, and that will actually work on your camping trip.
Here are five key things to look for in your battery powered space heater.
We said it once, but it needs to be said again. You must choose tent heaters with exceptionally low wattage. Choose too high of wattage and you risk blowing a fuse in your power bank. Plus, you’re guaranteed to run out of heat in the middle of the night.
Running space heaters off a battery is challenging to begin with, and you’ll always be cutting it close with power. For best results, choose a space heater with a 200 watt output. You’ll probably be quite disappointed with the heat that it provides, but if you keep it close to your body it’ll do the job.
You might be tempted to buy a higher powered heater, but you’ll barely be able to use it. If you intend on just running it for an hour or two each night, it might be possible, but if you want sustained heat throughout your slumber you’ll need to select a low wattage heater - end of story.
Be sure to select portable heaters that produce the most heat for the lowest wattage. The amount of energy your heater will produce in an hour is measured in BTUs. The higher the BTUs, the more heat your tent heater will create.
Look for a heater that has around 500-1000 BTUs. Obviously, the higher this number the more power it will require, so be sure to compare it with the wattage for the complete picture.
Since your tent heater product selection will be limited to low heat producing devices, finding one with an automatic thermostat can be difficult. This feature is normally reserved for higher wattage heaters. However, if you can find one (and we’ve linked it below), pull the trigger and purchase it.
An adjustable thermostat that auto regulates will help you conserve battery power. If the temperature in the tent begins to exceed the preset value, the tent heater will automatically shut off, saving your precious battery life.
This can make or break your heater experience. With proper regulation, you might be able to conserve the battery enough to use it another night.
Heat settings are equally as important as they allow you to regulate the temperature inside the tent. For longer, sustained heat, select a lower heat setting. Many tent heaters come with two heat settings, each rated at a different wattage. Often times the higher wattage will be a little too much for your battery to handle, so be cautious of its usage.
Tent heaters can be dangerous devices when neglected, so by purchasing a heater with embedded safety features you can mitigate the risk. The very last thing you’d want is for a fire to spark in your tent. Several safety features commonly found include:
As we discussed, powering a portable heater with a battery can be a challenging process - especially when camping. Electric heaters have such a high power requirement that it can be difficult to accommodate them. Without dedicated solar in the winter months, maintaining your battery is just as difficult.
In addition, using an electric heater requires an immense investment in a battery bank. Portable power stations are close to $1,000, and even a cheaper RV battery can set you back a few hundred dollars.
Unless you’re absolutely determined to use an electric heater, we recommend other heating options for camping. While these utilize a different fuel source, they’re much easier to pull off out in the wilderness and they are markedly more affordable.
A propane heater is a fantastic battery powered heater alternative for some obvious reasons. First off, they require absolutely zero electricity to function. As long as you have a full tank of gas, you’re good to go. You’ll never have to worry about running out of electricity in the middle of the night, and your heat will be hot.
When using propane heaters, you always need to ventilate. These heaters produce carbon monoxide, which is deadly to breathe in. Always crack the vent in your tent, or utilize a heater that has an external ventilation tube that can be redirected outside.
Your camping adventures should never be limited by the seasons! By investing in a battery operated heater, you can sleep comfortably in your tent even in the dead of winter.
Finding a proper heater can be difficult due to power consumption, but as long as you remain mindful of the wattage and retain a high battery capacity, you’ll be able to enjoy your heater throughout the night. So grab a power station, pack up your heater, and trek on out to the great outdoors.