Guide to tent heaters: What is the safest to use?

The appeal of camping is alluring once it catches on, with every camper desiring to maximise their camping season. The cooler months of early spring or late autumn do not dampen this desire. However, the need to remain warm remains paramount, presenting a dilemma for those not keen on braving the chills of these seasons. This makes the role of heaters in extending the camping season crucial.

Using a portable heater is an easy way to extend your camping season. However, introducing heating is not as simple as it is vital to consider how safe each type of heater is.

There are three primary methods to keep a tent warm: electric heaters, wood-burning stoves, and gas tent heaters. Electric heaters present the safest option. Conversely, gas heaters pose potential dangers due to risks of carbon monoxide fumes and fire hazards. Wood-burning stoves, while an option, demand proper fitting and adequate ventilation. Each of these heaters has its own set of pros and cons, specific product examples, and safety precautions which will be further discussed.

How to keep safe when using tent heaters

It does not matter what time of year you use a tent heater; the main priority is safety. Especially if you are camping with children, children often forget the dangers whilst having fun; things can be bumped and knocked over easily, especially in a small tent.

All tent heaters should never be left unattended, placed off the ground and away from the tent walls. Electrical heaters are the safest compared to gas heaters and wood burners.

Safety features and dangers of tent heaters

Before buying any heating for a tent, check the safety features and the potential dangers.

Power sourceHeater typeSafety Dangers
ElectricalBlow fan
Temperature Control
Safety cut-off switch
Anti-tilt safety cut off
Thermal outer casing

Halogen heaters
Always use a mobile mains power unit
Do not use every house extension leads
Overheating due to faulty heater cut off
Burns from radiators
Placed in a safe area away from accidental knocking over
Away from water or where it can get wet

Halogen heater
Need ventilation
Should not be used with an extension lead
Can overload and cause a fire
Operate on very high temperatures and should not be looked at directly
Cools slowly
WoodWood-burning stoveFlue and spark arrester
The flue must be a minimum of 6″ above the tent peak

Additional purchasing
Heater resistant flooring
Fire extinguisher
Heat wall shield
Carbon monoxide alarm
Good ventilation is vital
Fire hazard – tent and surrounding area
Burning of body
Lack of control
Fumes – carbon monoxide
Not suitable for nylon or polyester tents

Gas (butane)Stand-alone gas heater

Portable gas stove heating accessory
Stand-alone heater
Overheating detector
Safety fall detector
built-in carbon monoxide detector
Safety switch-off for overheating
Lock for gas cartridge
Safety ring for gas release/lighting
Ignition switch

Portable gas stove Adaptor
Should not be used inside a tent
Good ventilation is vital
Fire hazard
Fumes – carbon monoxide
Do not leave it unattended or on during the night
Can overheat
The main heat section must be positioned at an angle to avoid the heating area of the gas canister.

Safety and dangers of electrical, gas and wood burners inside a tent

Check to make sure your heater is safe for your tent

Not only should you consider how safe a heater is, but maintaining a heater for usage in a small area is very important.

Heater To be checked before a camping trip
Electrical fan/ceramic
Oil Radiators/halogen heaters
Check no splits in the flex
Safety cut-offs are working correctly
The outer casing does not heat
Free of dust or any other dirt inside
No oil leaking from the base
Wood-burning stoveCleaned fully inside before using
Flue clear
Spark arrester cleaned and clear
Check the outer shell for damage
Gas butane heatersClean and dust/debris removed
Ignition switch works
Safety ring is secure and working
Heater sections tilt freely and lock in place
Checking and maintaining camping heaters

Why are electrical heaters better for tents?

Electrical heaters are suitable for tents as they do not have open flames or fumes, and they are cheaper than wood-burning stoves or gas butane heaters. Heaters must be maintained correctly.

The only drawback is that you require EHU and the wattage needs to be considered to avoid tripping the electrical supply on-site. If you are unsure of the wattage you can use on a campsite, you need to convert watts into Amps, but the Amps rating needs to include all of your electrical devices.

Even in the absence of standard on-site electricity, warming your tent is still possible through electrical heating. Using a generator can greatly elevate your camping comforts, even in situations lacking EHU (Electric Hook Up). Dive deeper into understanding generators with our article where the nuances and differences amongst the 5 various types of generators are clearly explained. To properly use a generator on a campsite, the requirements are simple – pure energy output and a noise level below 60 dBS.

The average campsite is 16 Amps. We have a chart listing basic electrical equipment, including watts, volts, and amps, which will help you determine what to buy. We have also provided the formula to convert any electrical equipment in the future.

The KW rating on a heater will determine how much heat is transmitted. The higher KW, the greater the heat output. Ideally, heaters should have a couple of KW settings, allowing you to control the heat transmitted. Either a low setting for gentle heating in the background or a burst of high heat for quickness.

Compared to other heaters, electrical fan heaters are less costly. Two recommended fan heaters would be the Warmlite WL44002, boasting two heat settings and featuring a safety cut-out switch triggering an automatic shut-off when the pre-set temperature is reached. Additionally, it offers a fan mode, proving useful during warmer camping seasons. With a modest price tag of under £20 on Amazon, it provides an economical yet dependable heating solution.

The other heater I have is the Kamper Diddy Portable heater sold at Winfield’s and Amazon. This heater is very popular and is often out of stock. The Kampa has a cut-off switch in the event of being knocked over and a thermal heat-protected case. For this reason, I use Kampa during the colder season of camping.

Good and bad points of tent heaters

Tent Heaters



Fan heaters

  • Cheap to buy
  • Instant heat
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to transport
  • Easy to use
  • Adjustable heat control
  • The fan pushes hot air into all areas of a tent
  • Ideal for large rooms
  • Noisy
  • Auto on/off switch
  • Need EHU
  • Dries air out
  • Not all have safety features

Ceramic heaters

  • Also fan heater
  • Anti-tilt action
  • Safety cut off
  • A static heater with no fan does not heat large rooms
  • It takes a while to cool down
  • Heat is not instant

Oil radiators

  • Thermostate control
  • It does not cool quickly
  • Quiet

  • Heavy
  • Bulky
  • Not ideal for transporting
  • Slow to heat
  • Doesn’t heat all of the tent fully
  • More expensive option for an electrical tent heater

Carpet heaters

  • Warm floor
  • Heater rises
  • Great if children love to sit on the floor
  • Restricted coverage
  • Under sheet felt damp after usage to use condensation
  • Very expensive

Halogen heaters

  • Fast heating of small areas
  • Thermostate control
  • Quiet
  • Thermal covering so the casing does not get warm
  • Warm glow
  • Anti-tilt switch off
  • Not safe as floor heaters
  • Very hot
  • No fumes: This is crucial as heaters emitting fumes can lead to discomfort, irritation, or potentially health issues like headaches, nausea or respiratory problems. Hence, a 'no fumes' feature ensures a safer and more comfortable camping experience.
  • Cools slowly
  • Heat small areas only
  • No good for larger tents

Wood-burning stove

  • Nostalgic
  • It can be used for cooking
  • A water heating canister can be positioned around the flue
  • Feels cosy
  • Quiet
  • Very warm heat
  • Stays warm for a long period of time
  • No EHU required
  • No control overheat
  • Very hot
  • Time-consuming to set up
  • Not suitable for all tents
  • Expensive
  • You need to take wood with you as often you cannot take wood found on campsites.
  • Bulk for transporting

Gas burner heaters

  • Butane canisters set up like portable gas stove
  • Lock switch for canister safety
  • Safety pull ring for ignition and gas release
  • Fumes
  • Need good ventilation
  • Fire hazard

Are wood-burning stoves safe to use in a tent?

Wood-burning stove – Canvas and Polycotton tent heater

Indoor fires pose a considerable risk, considering that most tents are inflammable. However, using wood-burning stoves inside a tent can be a safe alternative, on the condition that they are installed correctly and treated with respect. Canvas or polycotton tents should be your go-to material as nylon or polyester tents risk melting from the heat. Tents that pair well with wood-burning stoves include bell tents, teepee tents, and various shelters.

The following equipment is needed for safe insulation and usage:

  • Flue/vent – Needs to be 6″ above the peak of a tent
  • Spark arrester – Device fitted to the top to prevent embers from leaving the flue, causing fires.
  • Heatshield – Placed on the tent wall behind the stove
  • Aluminium fixing for flue – A section of the tent is cut away for the flue and replaced with a secure aluminium ring
  • Fire-resistant base – Slab or fire-retardant base for the stove to stand on. It must be a flat, solid-level base
  • Space – Must have a clear area around the stove
  • Fire Extinguisher – For emergencies in case any embers escape
  • Heat resist gloves – Use to open/close the stove
  • Safety guard – If children are present, placing a safety guard around the stove will help avoid any burns or other serious injuries.

Before using any wood-burning stove on a camping trip, it must be burnt off first to avoid any fumes during the first usage. However, you must first understand how your wood burner works before installing it for a camping trip. Keep testing until you are fully confident.

Gas tent heaters: Why I will not use them in a tent

Portable gas heater safety controls: Safety features are essential when using portable gas heaters. Examples of these include oxygen depletion sensors, which turn off the unit if oxygen levels drop too low, and tip-over safety switches, which shut off the heater if it is knocked over to prevent a fire.

Gas heaters are dangerous and should not be used inside tents. I do not recommend using them as a heat source inside a tent because of fumes and fire hazards. Especially if you have young children. A tent needs good ventilation, which defeats the reason for using a heater in the first place.

Gas heaters should never be left burning when nobody is present, and you should always have carbon monoxide inside the tent.

The controls are the same, but the only difference is the safety ring on the side of the heater. It needs to be pulled out gently before igniting. It is a good safety switch and stops children from trying to light themselves.

If you are camping without electricity and do not want to use a gas-burning heater, there are other ways you can keep warm. Have you considered heating rocks around the outside of your firepit? They are a great way to heat your sleeping bag. Check out our 21 tips on how to keep warm when camping in cold weather.

Key takeaway

  • Safety first
  • Electrical heating is the safest
  • Fan heaters are the best way to heat a tent quickly and easily
  • Never leave a heater running on its own
  • You don’t need to spend a fortune to keep warm


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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