I will never forget waking up at 2am in our tent, shivering and wishing I was anywhere but in a cold tent. It was on our epic road trip from London to Valencia where we drove a crazy amount of miles and camped along the way.
It hadn't even occured to me that it might get cold at night, in the middle of France, in August. How wrong I was. I hadn't even packed a coat.
I really didn't want to lose what heat I had under the duvet. I didn't want to leave the warmth of the boys, snuggled up on either side of me. But, I knew I wouldn't be sleeping again that night if I didn't layer up.
As I climbed back in to bed, wearing virtually every item of clothing I had packed, a thought flashed through my mind - why had we squeezed 2 fans into the car yet had failed to even consider bringing a heater?
That was the last time we would make that mistake. Even if it meant leaving a child behind, we would be bringing a heater next time!
As soon as we returned home we quickly researched what would be the best tent heater to take with us on our next camping trip.
Before you go off and buy a camping heater for your tent you need to consider a number of factors. You need to consider the price, safety and how warm it will actually make you.
Whether you choose a gas heater or an electric heater will depend on your camping circumstances.
If you are not staying on an electric pitch your only option would be a gas heater. As explained under the safety section further down, there are a number of considerations to think about with a gas heater. Personally, I wouldn't recommend using a gas heater within a tent. There is often not enough ventilation and unfortunately you cannot see or smell any carbon monoxide fumes that could potentially come from a gas heater and these can be lethal.
Of course you will also need to make sure you have an adequate gas supply to use a gas heater, although most camp sites will sell gas. Ideally these heaters should only be used in well ventilated areas, but if you have no choice but to get one of these, then I would advise that you purchase a carbon monoxide monitor to take with you as well and make sure you test it. Then the other consideration is the nature of a gas fire is a naked flame which would be left unsupervised and a major fire risk if it gets knocked over.
For these reasons I would choose an electric heater every time.
You need to make sure your heater isn't going to keep not only you awake, but also the campers in the pitch next door. A fan heater will make more noise than a gas heater. Having said that, we use an electric one and it isn't noisy. Another option that we will mention are electric oil filled radiators which are virtually silent.
The safety of the heater is obviously paramount. You certainly won't be able to sleep if you are worried about the heater catching on fire. We would only ever go to sleep with an electric heater that has an automatic shut off when it becomes too hot or gets knocked over. You should also carefully consider the position of the heater and any items over or around it. Make sure that they can't fall on the heater or get over heated by the heater.
It goes without saying that with an electric heater you must make sure your tent is water tight. We all know water and electricity don't go together.
If you are using a gas heater as stated above, I absolutely wouldn't leave it unattented and certainly don't go to sleep with it on. Also remember gas heaters need good ventilation to stop the build up of fumes.
Check the wattage if you are using an electric heater. If the wattage drain is too high and you are running other appliances off your electrics, you could risk tripping the cut out switch. For example boiling a kettle and running the heater might trip out the power.
Also bear in mind that if you are running a heater through an extension lead then try to make sure that it is not coiled up as this can start to make the extension lead over heat. Best to wind it and spread it out of sight. The actual plugs for the heaters can also get hot after extended use so care should be taken when deciding where to place the plug as well.
They vary in price, but from what we discovered an electric heater is cheaper to buy than a gas heater. Also if you are going to be paying for an electric pitch anyway, the cost won't rise if you also plug a heater into the electric supply.
Check our individual reviews further down for price ranges.
There will be various factors, depending on how many people are in the tent, how large your tent is and the material that your tent is made out of. As a general rule gas heaters will provide strong instant heat but will tend to only last about 2hrs on a canister. Electric heaters like fan heaters can provide good immediate heat that is pushed round the tent, but electric halogen and ceramic heaters will tend to heat the immediate room that they are in an not necessarily heat the bedding areas adequately. Finally radiators tend to have to be set off typically about an hour earlier than required at a low level and will raise the tent to a comfortable temperature without that main heat output of the others.
Consider all the other camping equipment you might pack before buying a heater. Having said that, heaters tend to be small and should be able to be squeezed in somewhere, unless you choose a radiator that is!
Many places. On the high street (Argos is a good start), or online at Amazon, Millets, Camping World.
There are 2 heat settings on this heater along with just a fan setting. It is designed with a carry handle and can be used on it's side or standing up. It has a auto cut-off feature and has anti freeze protection built in to it. The low wattage heater comes with thermostatic control and has a automatic safety cut out switch. The size of the fan is 25 cm x 12 cm x 24 cm. This looks like a good little heater that should keep you nice and cosy, but not designed to be heating constantly for long periods of time.
For: Thermostatic cut-off and 2 heat settings and freeze protection is a bonus
Against: Still a fan heater so it will not be totally silent
This low wattage heater comes with thermostatic control and has a automatic safety cut out switch. It draws less than 5A on the 1KW(Low) setting and less than 10A on the 2KW(High) setting, and can also be used just as a fan. With fan heaters it is always advisable not to have them heating for extended periods of time. The size of the fan is 23cm x 14cm x 28cm. Customers have said that this is a quiet fan heater that has managed to keep their tent warm.
For: Thermostatic cut-off and 2 heat settings
Against: Still a fan heater so it will not be totally silent
This is a oscillating unit with 4 power levels (400W, 800W, 1200W & 1600W). The unit produces light as well as heat and has a thermo fuse cut-off safety feature. It provides good instant heat, but the bulbs can blow like any normal light bulb so will occasionally need to replace them. Heat from this is radiated outwards so might not reach the far corners of your tent and the light produced might be a problem if you are a light sleeper. Heater size is 58.2 cm x 35.2 cm x 16.6 cm.
For: Provides both heat and light
Against: The bulbs do blow so will need to be replaced occassionally
This is another option that can be used in a tent but it's biggest problem is the size of it. It isn't just something that you can squeeze into the small gap in the roof box even though this is a lightweight radiator. However, what this does have in it favour is it is almost totally silent and after heating up will provide good heat that will warm most areas. It has a thermostatic control to be able to easily control the room temperature, and also has 3 power settings for 500/1000/1500Watts. Heater size is 38 cm x 14 cm x 58 cm.
For: Quiet constant heat
Against: Need to switch on early and bulky
This gas heater has a automatic piezo electric ignition and uses camping gas canisters that will last about 2 - 4 hrs on full or longer via the variable temperature control at the lower settings. The top has a ceramic heating element with safety guard and is on a adjustable bracket to help to direct the heat to where it is required. nother option that can be used in a tent. As previously mentioned though this is a gas heater it needs to be used in an area with good ventilation so I would be reluctant to use it inside a tent but if you had to then consider also getting a carbon monoxide monitor. Heater size is 26 cm x 13 cm x 30 cm.
For: Instant strong heat
Against: Gas needs good ventilation and gas canister life span limited