Now that summer is long gone and we’re firmly into fall, it’s time to start planning some fall and winter camping trips.
Of course, that means having some means of heating your tent so you stay nice and warm despite the temperature outside…
There are plenty of different options you can use to stay warm in your tent, from an electric blanket (or an electric heater) to a simple Buddy Heater to a diesel heater that pumps warm, dry air into the tent.
Let’s take a look at these options as a bit of a buyer’s guide for tent heating options.
An Electric Blanket or Electric Heater
The first option for heating your tent is to invest in an electric blanket.
Now, obviously, an electric blanket isn’t going to heat the entire tent – just you when you’re under it.
The benefit of an electric blanket is that the heat is targeted, so you’ll be toasty warm when it’s on. But the problem with electric blankets is that some of them shut off after a certain period of time, so you might find that in the middle of the night your heat source is gone.
Another issue is that you will need some means of powering the blanket, like a battery system with an inverter or a battery bank like a Jackery or a Goal Zero with a 1000-watt minimum power rating.
But why get a battery system that will “just do” when you can invest in one that gives you much more power?
If you need a portable power station, it’s tough to beat the Blackfire Pac1000 1500-watt portable power station.
With this bad boy, you can power your electric blanket all you want (or an electric heater…see below).
This unit offers four 120-volt AC ports rated at 1500 watts with 3000 watts of surge power. That power is delivered via a pure-sine wave inverter to ensure safe operation for the most sensitive electronic devices. You also get six USB ports and a 12-volt port as well.
And don’t worry about the Backfire Pac1000 not having enough juice for your electric blanket or heater…
The power station can be recharged via a mobile AC charger, a fast AC charger, a DC carport charger, or via solar panels (which are sold separately). In other words, this is a total power machine for all your overlanding needs. Charge your laptop or phone, run a heater for your tent, juice up your camera batteries, run lights around camp…you name it!
When you have to start investing in battery banks to power them, electric blankets become quite expensive. Of course, if you already have a power system, then an electric blanket is a fine choice.
Another electric option is an electric heater to heat the entire tent.
On the plus side, there is a huge selection of electric heaters that you can choose from. Likewise, you don’t have to worry about any fumes or carbon monoxide being emitted.
On the downside, electric heaters are energy hogs, so you will have to have access to shore power or a generator.
Some electric heaters easily require 1500 running watts or more, so you’ll need a beefy generator to keep the electric heater going. This means that something like an ALP 1000-watt propane generator (which is the model I personally use) wouldn’t cut it for powering an electric heater. This generator offers 850 watts of running power, so you’d need a heater that requires less than that. Speaking from experience, a heater with less than 850 watts is going to struggle to keep the tent warm.
So, if electric heat isn’t ideal, what’s a better option?
Heating Your Tent With a Buddy Heater
A Buddy Heater or a similar option is a great alternative to using electric heat.
These heaters come in a range of heat outputs (the one shown above goes up to 9,000 BTUs) and can operate on propane gas.
These heaters are incredibly efficient and clean burning, so you get much better bang for your buck than you do with an electric heater.
Another advantage is that heaters like this have auto shut-off systems if they’re tipped over, if low oxygen levels are detected, or if the pilot light goes out. Those safety features are paramount!
But, the disadvantage of propane heaters is that you need a carbon monoxide detector in the tent to ensure you aren’t slowly poisoning yourself. Additionally, these heaters add a ton of moisture to the tent, which causes condensation and can result in a very moist and very uncomfortable sleeping environment. To manage condensation, you’ll need good airflow through the tent.
Buddy Heaters are very affordable, too, and since they are standalone rigs, your monetary output is limited to the heater and the fuel.
The Best Option for Heating Your Tent: A Diesel Heater
In my experience, the best option for heating your tent is, by far, a diesel heater.
Where the other options on this list fall short, a good diesel heater shines. The operative word here is “good” diesel heater, though…
There are lots of cheap diesel heaters out there that are a complete waste of money. To maximize your bang for your buck, you want a quality heater that is built to last, is reliable, comes with the necessary safety and convenience features, and gives you ease of use that make them simple to operate when you’re camping and overlanding.
I’ve been using a diesel heater from Planar Heaters for quite some time now, and I couldn’t be happier with the performance of this thing.
I have one of their 2kw diesel heaters in my 2020 Turtleback Expedition Trailer that heats my Torro Offroad Skylux tent and it has been an absolute dream to use.
It runs on either diesel or kerosene and requires a 12V power source as well. I can run the heater all night long on about a half a gallon of diesel, and since it draws just a tiny amount of power from a battery, I don’t have to worry about it running out of juice overnight, either.
Better still, it’s a whisper-quiet operation (it has a silencer on it), so I can be toasty warm throughout the night without the disturbance of a loud heater to keep me awake. I don’t even have to get out of bed to adjust the temperature because it has a wired remote that I can use to control the heater from the comfort of my king-sized bed.
What I like most about this heater is that it stays outside the tent, thereby eliminating the worry of carbon monoxide poisoning (though a CO detector is included for safety), and it puts out dry heat. That means that I can rest comfortably without the worry of CO poisoning and without the worry of condensation building up inside the tent.
This heater is incredibly durable too – it comes in a hard crushproof and weather-resistant case that can stand up to the elements of fall and winter camping. It’s also easy to transport thanks to the big, beefy handle on top.
I’ve tested all the heat sources discussed above, and the Planar Heaters 2kw diesel heater is by far the best of the bunch. If you have some fall and winter camping adventures planned, get yourself one of these and enjoy all the benefits of cold weather camping without being cold!