7 Best Battery Operated Heaters for Camping: Tent & Van Life Heat Options

By Carrie Wilder | Last Updated: June 14, 2024 

Are you looking for a battery operated heater for camper van conversions, RVs, or tent camping?

If so, I've got some news for you. Some good, some bad… but ultimately I think you're going to like it.

I'm currently working on my 2nd camper van conversion and I wanted to find a great heater that I could use in my van and my tent.

So I started searching for small battery powered heaters to help keep me warm in any camping scenario… but there were none to be found.

Although you'd think that by now we, as a society, would have battery powered heaters, there aren't really any great options.

In this article I'm going to explain why that is, and I've also provided the best options for heating tents and camper vans.

I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the end of this article. Plus you'll be walking away with the best heater info on the internet!

The best heater lists are separated by van and tent options. And yes, there are 12v battery powered heaters on this list. Click through the table of contents below if you're short on time!

Is There a Such Thing as a Battery Operated Heater? 

You might be just as surprised as I was to learn that there are no real battery powered heaters or battery operated heaters that can heat a large space. 

Sure, there are USB rechargeable battery operated heaters that can heat up your hands for a few minutes. 

And there are also 12v compatible heating devices like heated camping chairs, 12v heated blankets, and others that can run on 12v batteries. 

But as far as battery operated space heaters or forced-air heaters that run on batteries, we haven’t advanced that far as a civilization yet. 

The reason there are no battery operated heaters for larger spaces like tents and campers is because of the power draw of heating devices.

Producing heat requires a ton of energy. As of right now, there simply aren't batteries that are powerful enough to do this.

If and when these types of batteries exist, I anticipate them to cost several thousand dollars.

I’ve lived in an RV for a couple years and later in a camper van, and I also like to go cold weather tent camping. 

With all my outdoor experience and the fact that I’m one of those people who is literally always cold, I had to dive deeper into this problem.

What I learned might also surprise you. There are plenty of battery operated heater alternatives that don't use electricity.

And, they put out way more heat than you'd ever get from a battery – even the pricey lithium batteries.

Best Battery Operated Heaters & Alternatives

Before we dive deeper, here's a quick rundown of some of the best battery operated heaters and alternatives for camping, van life, and more.

Last update on 2024-07-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Your Best True “Battery Operated Heater” Options

Okay, so there are actual battery operated heater devices. But there is no such thing as a battery powered space heater.

If you want to know what kinds of heat-producing devices you can run on a battery, here they are.

While these particular items are “battery powered”, they don't put out a lot of heat and they produce a lot of strain on batteries.

What About 12v Battery Powered Heaters?

If you're into van life or RVing, you might be savvy to the idea of deep cycle 12v batteries. The deep cycle 12v batteries used in boats, RVs, and camper vans hold a lot of power and last a long time – so surely there are 12v battery powered heaters for them, right?

There aren't. At least not yet.

You can technically use any 12v heating device with a 12v deep cycle battery. But if you don't have a way to keep those batteries charged, you'll ruin them quickly.

Any device that produces heat has a very high power draw and will suck all the power out of your batteries in a matter of hours or minutes, depending on your battery and device.

The Real Benefits of Battery Powered Heater Alternatives

If you're feeling discouraged that there aren't any battery powered space heater options, don't worry.

You're actually way better off using any of the alternatives mentioned here for several reasons. Whether you choose a propane heater or 12v heater option, you're going to have a much better experience. Here's why.

7 Best Battery Operated Heater for Camping Alternatives

I've separated these choices into two sections. They are: heaters that are best used for tent camping, and heaters that are better for camper vans.

Some campsites have electricity hookups, and if that's the case, you can totally bring an electric space heater!

Just be sure to use a properly sized electric cord and follow all fire safety precautions when using a space heater in a tent.

Important: Never use a combustion heater without the use of a Carbon Monoxide (CO2) detector, even when tent camping.

It's also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher on hand.

This article is guidance on popular heating options, you should take care to cover all safety precautions when using any heater in real life.

Last update on 2024-07-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best Battery Operated Heater for Tent Alternatives

These battery operated heater for tent camping alternatives don't need any kind of electricity to operate. Instead, these heaters rely on fuel like propane or butane to produce heat.

Since these heaters rely on combustion, you shouldn't use them while you're sleeping.

These heaters are great to use in a tent or a pop up tent camper.

Mr Heater Little Buddy Propane Heater

I have this Little Buddy heater and I've used it for both van camping and tent camping trips.

I also love this heater for cold mornings at the campsite while preparing breakfast. You can point it in any direction and the base is really stable.

Another thing I really love is that it's small and compact and fits easily with the rest of my camping supplies. The small 1lb propane bottles that it works with are easy to store, too.

Although you shouldn't run this heater while you're sleeping, it's still great. I heat up the tent really well before going to sleep and then get tucked in.

If I wake up cold in the middle of the night, the tent heats up instantly as soon as I turn it on. I'll heat up the tent, shut it off, and then go right back to sleep.

Mr Heater MH9BX Buddy Propane Heater

This is another excellent heater option from the Mr. Heater brand, and I also have this one!

I love this heater for camping because it puts out more heat than the smaller one and can be connected to a large external propane tank for continuous use.

Although it can connect to an external propane tank, it's still not recommended to use this style of heater while you are sleeping.

This heater is great for extended camping trips or days when you want to run the heater a lot but don't want to worry about running out of propane. I also just prefer the external tank because the 1lb bottles feel wasteful to me when I can't refill them!

This heater is great for large tents, sitting at the picnic table, and for use in camper vans or small RVs.

Nomad Wood Burning Stove for Tents

If you want a tent heater that can keep you warm all night long, a wood stove is your best option.

But a wood stove can only be used with certain kinds of tents, typically made of a canvas or polycotton material.

Using a wood stove in a tent is called “hot tenting”. There are many different kinds of hot tents available for purchase.

If you want to get serious about winter camping and want to use a wood stove as your heat source, I highly recommend getting a tent with a fire-retardant stove jack!

For example, this Tipi hot tent is only $99 on Amazon at the time of this writing. A hot tent doesn't have to be expensive.

Tipi Hot Tent with Fire Retardant Stove Jack for Flue Pipes, 2 Person Lightweight, Teepee Tents...
186 Reviews
Tipi Hot Tent with Fire Retardant Stove Jack for Flue Pipes, 2 Person Lightweight, Teepee Tents...
  • Lightweight Design: The tent weighs only 25 lbs, making it easy to carry for camping and hiking.
  • Waterproof Fabric: Made from PU2000 waterproof polyester material that keeps you dry in rain and snow.
  • 3 Season Use: Can be used in all 4 seasons for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, and backpacking.

Last update on 2024-07-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

As with any open flame heat source, there is a risk of carbon monoxide with wood stoves. So, just like with any other heat source, always keep a working carbon monoxide detector handy in your tent when your stove is in use.

Wood stoves will keep your tent nice and warm and you can even cook on top of them! They're not very expensive… I highly recommend.

12v Battery Operated Heater for Tent Camping Options

There are various 12v heating devices you can use while tent camping if you have a strong enough portable power bank.

From 12v heated blankets to USB hand warmers, there are a variety of ways you can keep parts of your body warm… at least as long as your battery charge lasts.

Just keep in mind that any heated electric device, even if it has 12v capabilities, will quickly drain the power of your battery. Use wisely!

Last update on 2024-07-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best Battery Powered Heater for Camper Vans Alternatives

Heating a camper van can be a challenge. Luckily, there are many different options for camper van heaters.

And there are also battery operated heaters for camper vans – just not in the way that you'd expect! Let's dig in.

Forced Air 12v Diesel Heater for Van Life Options

Last update on 2024-07-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

For camper van conversions, there's no better option than a diesel heater.

Diesel heaters are forced-air heaters that produce heat from diesel fuel. They connect to a 12v battery system that powers the fan and blows the hot air out of a vent, just like a space heater.

There are so many benefits to using a diesel heater for van life.

You can run them all day and all night, even when you're not around. They don't use a lot of fuel or battery power. Finally, they produce a dry heat so no worrying about condensation!

The brand name diesel heaters will cost a pretty penny, but there are many generic brands that you can buy for much less.

To learn more, be sure to check out my article all about diesel heaters for van life here.

Cubic Mini Wood Stove

The Cubic Mini Wood Stove is an incredibly popular van life heating option.

This is another battery-powered heater alternative that doesn't require any electricity at all!

Plus, you can use this wood stove all night long. Just make sure you have plenty of wood to stoke it with and a carbon monoxide detector and you'll stay warm all night.

Wood stoves also produce a dry heat, so you don't have to worry about condensation in your camper or van.

Plus, the ambiance of a fireplace in your camper van just can't be beat.

Wave3 Catalytic Propane Heater

Camco is a leading RV accessory manufacturer, and the Olympian Wave3 heater is a great heating option for camper vans.

This is a propane-fueled catalytic heater. Catalytic heaters produce a flameless, steady heat.

This heater requires no electricity and can be mounted on a wall or cabinet to keep it out of the way.

Camco makes two versions of this heater: the Wave3 which is good for up to 130 sq ft of space, and the Wave8 which is great for larger spaces, like RVs.

Reviewers state they have even used this heater in a tent for staying warm while cold weather camping.

Since this is a propane heater, it is not recommended to use while you're asleep, but its great for warming up the van while you're awake.

Mr Buddy Heater

The Mr Heater Buddy is actually a great choice for van life, too! I won't go into all the details since I already covered it in the tent heater section, but I love this heater for tents, vans, and RVs.

This is the same exact heater I used for two winters in my RV, even in temps below 10 degrees farenheit.

My Buddy Heater in my previous RV. My cats loved it, but I never left it unattended, even to just use the restroom

The only major downsides to this heater are the fact that you shouldn't run it while you're sleeping and it causes a lot of condensation when used continuously.

Safety Considerations for Fuel Powered Heaters

You should take proper safety considerations for any heat source, whether it's electric, combustion, or 12v battery powered.

With any heat source, there are risks. But if you're prepared, you won't have any problems.

First and foremost, you always need a Carbon Monoxide or C02 detector. Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless, invisible gas that can kill. It's produced from improperly ventilated combustion – like from cars, grills, fires, and malfunctioning heat sources.

Even if your heater says it's safe for indoor use or has a “low oxygen” shut off mechanism, you should use a CO2 detector. I personally use this battery operated carbon monoxide detector and take it with me when camping in both my camper van and tent.

Kidde Carbon Monoxide Detector, Battery Powered CO Alarm with LEDs, Test-Reset Button, Low...
  • Electrochemical sensor technology detects CO gas
  • Easy installation, no wiring needed, detects during a power failure by operating on 2-AA batteries (included)
  • Conveniently designed & portable: simple to install on a wall of your home or place on a tabletop

Last update on 2024-07-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Next, you should also always have a fire extinguisher on hand if you are using any type of open flame. This is good to have handy for your camping stove and also your camping heater.

This particular fire extinguisher puts out fires fast, works in all temperatures and on all surfaces, and is non-toxic so it can even be sprayed on a person if the need ever arises.

Cold Fire All Season 20 oz- Ultimate Fire Protection
100 Reviews
Cold Fire All Season 20 oz- Ultimate Fire Protection

Last update on 2024-07-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Why Isn’t There A True Battery Operated Space Heater Option Available?

While there are heating devices that you can use with 12v batteries and rechargable USB hand warmers, there are no actual battery operated space heaters.

The real reason is that it's just not practical. Although we do have the technology, it's not a practical application. The energy draw of any kind of electrically-powered heating elements is far too great for any battery to reasonably power without being destroyed.

If there were a battery powered space heater option, it would probably be extremely expensive. Not only that, the cost and size of the batteries it would need to properly maintain it would cost a ton, too.

Are There Heaters That Don’t Require Electricity?

There are plenty of heaters that don't require electricity! Whether you need a heater for camping and sporadic use or you're looking for a true off-grid heating source, here are your options.

Types of Non-Electric Heaters

All non-electric and non battery powered heaters rely on some sort of combustion for heat. Without an electric heating element, you need fire to produce heat! Here are the main types.

  • Radiant Heaters
  • Catalytic Heaters
  • Wood Stoves

The types of fuel needed to run these different types of heaters includes propane, natural gas, wood, and sometimes butane.

Catalytic heaters produce radiant heat by burning a fuel, like propane. This flameless heat is very hot, but does not require electricity.

Radiant heaters burn a fuel like propane or natural gas and produce a semi-open flame to produce radiant heat near the heater.

Wood stoves burn wood inside a metal stove to produce radiant heat which vents through a chimney.

Can You Run a Space Heater on a Power Bank?

Image Source: Amazon

Power banks like the Yeti Goal Zero or Jackery portable batteries are popular for van life and camping. These portable generators are basically large batteries that you can use to power your electronics while off the grid.

So can you use one to run a space heater while camping? The question isn't really if you can, but whether or not you should.

Technically you can plug in a space heater to a portable power bank and it will run for a short amount of time, but it will drain your power bank really fast.

On top of that, you need a large power bank to run even the smallest space heaters.

For example, this portable electric space heater for $36 on Amazon runs at 1500 watts.

To power this safely, you'll need a power bank with at least 2,000 watts of power. This 2,000 watt Yeti Goal Zero is priced at $3,500 at the time of this writing.

So technically, yes, you can run a space heater on a portable power bank. But not for long and you need a really big one, which costs way more than any of the alternatives mentioned here.

FAQ About Battery Powered Heater Options and Alternatives

Let's dive into the most frequently asked questions regarding battery powered heater options.

There are several ways to heat a small room without electricity. There are many types of heaters that run on fuel like propane, natural gas, or wood. Here are heaters you can use without electricity.

  • Wood Stoves
  • Catalytic heaters
  • Radiant heaters

If you want to heat a tent without electricity, you have a few options. You can choose propane radiant heaters as a heat source, or wood stoves if you have a canvas tent with a fire-retardant hole for a chimney. Here's a list of options

  • Propane heaters like the Mr Heater brand
  • Wood stoves for tents
  • 12v Heated blankets
  • 12v heated coats

Any of these heat options should be used with care and caution.

If you want to heat a camper without electricity, you have a few options. You can use:

  • Propane heaters
  • Catalytic heaters
  • Wood stoves

Each heat option for a camper without electricity relies on a fuel source like propane or wood. None of them require electricity, either!

Carrie Wilder

Carrie has a passion for location independence and nomadic lifestyles. After traveling full-time in an RV and living the van life, she created Making Money and Traveling to help others make the switch to a remote lifestyle. Learn more about Carrie on the About page or connect on social media below.