Avoid The Cold In Your Tent With A Camping Heater

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Avoid The Cold In Your Tent With A Camping Heater

The joys of camping are many: being in the midst of nature, cooking s’mores around a campfire, hiking and fishing in a stream. However, lying awake in a freezing tent, cold and shivering, is not joyful at all. If you hate to camp because of the terrible chill, then it’s time to start packing a camping heater with your gear.

What Is The Most Popular Type Of Camping Heater?

The catalytic propane heater is a popular choice that runs off small, disposable propane canisters. These are easy to find in any store that sells outdoor or camping equipment. You can even find them in some supermarkets and gas stations. Many other common camping accessories, such as lamps and stoves, also run off these canisters.

When Should I Use A Camping Heater?

Camping heaters, or tent heaters, are great any time of year. They are even useful during the summer when temperatures can drop drastically at night or bad weather can roll in without warning. If you like to camp during the crisp days of fall or brave winter camping, a tent heater will definitely make the experience more pleasant.

What Are Propane Tent Heaters?

Running off the small, standard 16.4 ounce green propane cylinders found just about anywhere that sells sporting good supplies, tent heaters provide blissful warmth with the push of a button. Imagine comfortably dressing in your tent in the morning instead of trying to tie your hiking boots with numb fingers.

Catalytic propane heaters use a chemical reaction between oxygen, propane and platinum to create heat thus eliminating the danger of a flame. Depending on the heat output (measured in British Thermal Units or BTU) of the heater, tent heaters will run several hours on one cylinder of propane.

This means that most small tent heaters will not run through the night. Instead, they work best when turned on briefly to warm the tent before going to sleep, then switched back on in the morning before crawling out of your sleeping bag. Tent heaters warm up very quickly, and it only takes a short time for your tent to be comfortable enough to brave the elements.

How Much Heat Do You Need?

It is important to purchase a tent heater that puts out sufficient BTU to thoroughly warm your tent. The only thing worse than shivering in a cold tent is shivering in a cold tent despite having a heater.

Tent heaters generally divide into small tent heaters, with 1,500 BTU’s of heat output, and large tent heaters, with 3,000 BTU’s. To determine the right size for you, multiply the width of your tent by the length of your tent by the height of your tent. Then multiply the result by 4. This will give you the BTU’s necessary to provide enough heat for your tent.

For example, if your tent is 6 feet wide, 8 feet long and 6 feet high, multiply 6 x 8 x 6 for a result of 288. Now multiply 288 x 4 for a result of 1,152. You will need a heater with an output of at least 1,152 BTU’s to provide enough heat for your tent, so a small-tent heater will be perfect.

What Are Other Desirable Features?

  • A fan to circulate heat
  • Adjustable heat setting
  • Matchless instant start
  • Automatic shut-off if heater tips over
  • Low oxygen shut-off
  • Adjustable angle

What Are Potential Safety Issues?

  • Be aware that many propane tent heaters, while flameless during operation, do produce a small “fireball" upon ignition, so for safety, light the heater outside the tent or while holding the heater at arm’s length.
  • Run your brand new propane tent heater before heading out on your camping trip to burn off the fuel smell that many new heaters emit during first use.
  • You must have ventilation in your tent while running a propane tent heater. While the risk of carbon monoxide build-up is small, it is still a risk you are best avoiding. Keep at least one tent window or vent open six inches for safety. Tent heaters also consume oxygen so they require air circulation.
  • Obviously, the heater will be very hot during use so make sure it is a safe distance from your sleeping bags and any other equipment in the tent. The heater should have open space on all sides.
  • Use a cooler to position your heater off the floor of your tent to avoid any possible melting of the tent materials.
  • For the most safety, use your heater to warm up the tent before going to sleep then turn it off for the night. You can turn it back on in the morning and the tent will quickly warm up before you are out of your sleeping bag.

Buying Suggestion: Coleman is one of the biggest manufacturers of camping gear, and their tent heaters are very popular. The BlackCat PerfecTemp Catalytic Heater puts out a 3,000 BTU of comforting warmth and runs for up to seven hours on one 16.4 ounce propane canister. It has a high and low temperature setting, easy start lighting (no match needed), an easy-grip handle and legs that fold for storage. 

Buying Suggestion: For a smaller tent, the Coleman SportCat Catalytic Heater with InstaStart provides 1,500 BTU of heat, perfect for taking the edge off the morning chill. No need for matches with the electronic ignition. The SportCat will operate for up to 14 hours on one 16.4-ounce propane canister.

Buying Suggestion: Another popular brand of tent heater is Mr. Heater. The Little Buddy Indoor-Safe Propane Heater not only puts out a hefty 3,800 BTU of heat on one 16.4-ounce propane canister, it has an adjustable head to direct the heat where you want it. A low-oxygen sensor and accidental tip-over switch provides extra safety. The Little Buddy is easy to ignite and provides up to 5-1/2 hours of heat per 16.4 ounce propane canister. 

If you love getting away to the great outdoors, but hate cold mornings shivering while hastily dressing in a freezing tent, you will truly appreciate the comfort a tent heater will provide on those chilly camping mornings and nights.

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