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Best Portable Propane Heaters for 2021

(Camp Addict does NOT accept payment from any company to review or endorse their products.)

Whether you are camping in the cold or looking for a portable heater to provide warmth in your garage, there is a portable propane heater that's right for you.

Below we review portable indoor propane heaters that are suitable for use inside RVs or most any other enclosed space that needs some heat.

Portable Propane Heater Guide

Want to know more about indoor propane heaters? Learn the differences between the types of propane heaters and how they operate by reading the Indoor Propane Heater Guide.

Portable Propane Heater Reviews

Great as an RV furnace is, there can be many times when it is more economical or just smarter to use some type of portable heater for RVs.

All but one (golf cart heater) of the portable camper heaters we review here are safe for indoor use.

This means that you can also use them in your workshop, bedroom, greenhouse, etc if you want to when you're not RVing.

Below you will find what we feel are the best options for a portable camper heater. 

We include a couple of indoor propane heater reviews, a nifty compact electric heater for those of you who often have shore power, as well as a propane golf cart heater for those of you who tool around in one.

All but the golf cart heater are safe for indoor use (just follow the directions!).

If Not Used Properly, You Can Die

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS follow the manufacturer's instructions when using an indoor propane heater.

Failure to do so can result in DEATH!

DEATH, people. Used with proper ventilation, and a healthy dose of common sense, they are safe.

Best Portable Propane Heater

Camco Olympian Wave

Camco Olympian Wave 3 catalytic propane heater

Pros

  • Functions at high elevation
  • Safe and effective
  • Can plumb to existing propane tanks
  • Silent portable gas heater
  • Comes in three sizes (BTU outputs)
  • Safest type of propane heater available (catalytic)

Cons

  • Creates humid air
  • Cannot set a temperature
  • Cost

The Camco Olympian Wave comes in three different sizes/BTU ratings and operates without an open flame.

These propane radiant heaters are arguably the most efficient and safest small LP heaters on the market approved for use in RVs.

Continue Reading Camco Olympian Wave Review

Runner-Up Portable Propane Heater

Mr. Heater Big Buddy Heater

Mr Heater Big Buddy radiant heater

Pros

  • Can use with 1-lb propane bottles or hose connect to larger propane bottle
  • Produces up to 18,000 BTU of heat
  • Low, medium, and high settings
  • Low oxygen shutoff and tip over protection
  • Does not require electricity

Cons

  • Cannot set a temperature
  • Creates humid air - not a dry heat
  • Unreliable above 7,000 feet elevation

The Mr. Heater Big Buddy Heater excels at creating a lot of heat and doing so FAST. I

t's a great option for boondockers who don't want to waste a ton of battery reserve by using their RV's furnace. 

Continue Reading Mr. Heater Big Buddy Review

Best Portable Propane Heater For High Elevations

Camco Olympian Wave Heater

Camco Olympian Wave 3 catalytic propane heater

Pros

  • Less performance degradation at altitude than the competition

Cons

    The Camco Olympian Wave Heater performs better at higher elevations than the Mr. Heater Buddy Heater does.

    If you spend a lot of time at altitude (above 7,000 feet), this is the propane RV heater you should take a hard look at.

    Read the complete Camco Olympian Wave Heater review above for complete details.

    Best Portable RV Electric Heater

    pureHeat SNUG

    Green Tech PureHeat heater next to outlet

    Pros

    • Never hot to the touch and automatic shut-off timer
    • Won't take up valuable counter or floor space
    • Comes with power cord if you can't plug unit directly into an outlet
    • Able to set temperature

    Cons

    • A touch pricey

    There are many choices when it comes to electric RV heaters.

    We like the pureHeat SNUG electric heater since it won't sacrifice any floor or counter space.

    It's well under 1200 Watts, making it safe to use in your RV.

    Continue Reading PureHeat SNUG RV Electric Heater Review

    Best Portable Propane Golf Cart Heater

    Mr. Heater Golf Cart Heater

    Mr Heater golf cart heater

    Pros

    • Can use in golf cart or elsewhere outdoorsy
    • Multiple safety features
    • Wind resistant burner

    Cons

    • May not fit your cupholder - check size
    • NOT for indoor use

    Why be cold in the golf cart you use to get around the RV park or the golf course?

    This heater is affordable and will run for up to 5.5 hours on a single 1-pound propane bottle. 

    • For outdoor use only. Don't use it inside your RV or other enclosed building.

    Continue Reading Mr. Heater Golf Cart Heater Review

    Portable Propane Heater Purchase Considerations

    In addition to what you can learn by reading our Indoor Propane Heater Guide, below are a few things to consider when it comes time to purchase your portable propane heater.

    How Long Will A Buddy Heater Run?

    Do you want to know how long a Big Buddy Heater will run on a 20-lb tank?

    Or how long a Little Buddy Heater will run on a 1-pound propane canister?

    Or for that matter, you may wonder long any of the Buddy Heaters will run on a given supply of propane before you have to worry about your fingers and toes becoming numb.

    How long a Buddy Heater will run depends on two things - supply (of propane) and demand (how long you have it on).

    Can we get a 'duh!'?

    Oh, you wanted specifics?

    Not satisfied with that really vague answer?

    Read on...

    The below chart is based on data published in the various Buddy Heater owner's manuals and the Mr. Heater website.

    Don't take these run times as gospel.

    They are only an approximate range.

    If your Mr. Heater Big Buddy run time doesn't match the times listed below, then that's just how life goes.

    It will pay to have way more fuel on hand than you think will be necessary, if you are in deadly cold temperatures.

    In other words, your mileage may (and most likely will) vary.

    The Cold Air Effect

    Run times can be significantly reduced in temperatures below 20º F.

    (In other words, you are using an external tank that is in below 20ºF temperature air.

    (This won't apply if the outside temps are below 20º but your 1-lb propane cylinder is inside in relative warmth.)

    The reduced run time at low temperatures has to do with LP gas properties when the gas is cooled below a certain point.

    Buddy Heater Model

    Propane Source

    Run Time*

    Big Buddy (MH18B)

    One 1-lb Cylinder

    1.5 to 6 hours

    Two 1-lb Cylinders

    3 to 12 hours

    20-lb Tank

    25 to 110 hours

    Portable Buddy (MH9BX)

    1-lb Cylinder

    2.4 to 5.4 hours

    20-lb Tank

    48 to 110 hours

    Hunting Buddy (MH12HB)

    1-lb Cylinder

    1.5 to 3.5 hours

    20-lb Tank

    36 to 72 hours

    Little Buddy (MH4B)

    1-lb Cylinder

    5 hours

    * Depends on heat setting. If there are multiple heat settings for a particular Buddy Heater model, then the run time will be expressed in a range with the shortest time being the highest heat setting and the longest time being the lowest heat setting.

    How Many BTU's Do I Need?

    Below is a way to quickly approximate the amount of BTU's (heater heat output) you will need for your space.

     You can use this with the manufacturers recommended maximum square footage to figure out what size heater you should purchase. 

    Warning- Math! Haha.

    You can calculate the amount of BTUs required by using the following method:

    1. Measure the space’s dimension to determine cubic feet: Length x Width x Height = Cubic Feet
    2. Subtract the outside temperature from the desired inside temp to determine the temperature increase (either in Fahrenheit or Celsius).
    3. Calculate the approximate BTU requirements using either the Fahrenheit or Celsius formula below:

    Fahrenheit Calculation: Cubic Feet x Temperature Increase (in Fahrenheit) x .133 = Required BTUs

    Celsius Calculation: Cubic Feet x Temperature Increase (in Celsius) x .2394 = Required BTUs

    Again, this is just an estimate.

    The construction quality of the area you are trying to heat will play a large factor in how many BTUs you need.

    A cheaply built RV with zero insulation will require a larger heater than a quality rig actually built for cold weather. 

    Refill 1-Pound Propane Cylinders Legally

    The Buddy Heater line of portable propane heaters can run off the small (normally green in color) 1-pound propane bottles.

    You know, the kind that are a few bucks at the local store and you toss when you're done.

    Because they cannot be refilled.

    Yep, they normally are not supposed to be refilled and then traveled with.

    Yes, we know people do it all the time. People do a lot of stuff all the time that isn't 'right'.

    **Insert eye-roll here** 

    Flame King refillable propane cylinder kit

    Flame King Refillable Propane Cylinder Kit

    Refill Kit

    Fear not!

    There is actually a legal way to safety refill 1-lb propane cylinders.

    The Flame King 1-lb Refillable Cylinder Refill Kit comes with a stand, a refill adapter, and a single refillable 1-lb propane bottle (you can purchase additional ones).

    Flame King refillable propane cylinder

    Extra Cylinder

    If you want to save money in the long run by not purchasing relatively expensive disposable 1-pound propane cylinders, consider the Flame King refill kit.

    Legally Refill 1-Pound Propane Bottles

    • Download the Flame King Refillable Cylinder Kit training manual here (PDF).

    Conclusion

    Most RVs come with some type of pre-installed heating system.

    Even so, one may need a supplemental heater to use either in place of the installed system or to use as a supplement during certain called for situations.

    Having a secondary heating method can mean the difference between life and death. 

    We highly recommend having a supplemental portable propane heater of some kind to have on hand while camping in or living in an RV.

    It's always prudent to make sure you are safe and cozy when camping.

    Having a supplemental heating system for your RV is a no-brainer for safety and comfort.

    Get out there and Camp On!

    Camp Addict Kelly
    Kelly Beasley

    Kelly Beasley is co-founder of Camp Addict and loves sharing her enthusiasm for the RVing lifestyle. As a full-time RVer since May 2015, Kelly's playful writing style helps make learning about the sometimes dull subject of RV products a bit more interesting.


    Marshall Headshot
    Marshall Wendler

    Camp Addict co-founder Marshall Wendler brings his technical expertise to help explain RV products in an easy to understand fashion. Full-time RVing since April 2014, Marshall loves sharing his knowledge of the RV lifestyle.

  • Why list electric heaters on a “indoor propane heater” page?
    Why list outdoor-only models?
    Why have “select a color” button that doesn’t do anything?

    • All legit questions- thank you for asking! Here are our answers:

      1. The page was intended to be for alternative heaters from built-in RV heaters, as we alluded to in the intro of the page. Any kind of portable heater. So yes, there’s also a portable electric heater in there. Just gave an alternative for when one doesn’t want to run propane, as we don’t have a page on ‘indoor RV electric heaters’.

      2. The only outdoor model we listed is the golf cart Buddy. Common sense says it should be used in a golf cart and not indoors. Still, it’s relevant to RVing as many RVers bring golf carts with them so we included it. Otherwise, maybe you are speaking of the Buddy Heaters for Canada/Massachussetts. We only point out that if you try to buy a Buddy heater made in Massachusetts or Canada, it WILL be rated as ‘outdoor only’, simply due to legislation of the rules for indoor propane heaters in those places. They are the same product. But to be LEGAL about it, you would have to get the ones we list for those areas to use them indoors legally.

      3. There are no ‘select a color’ buttons. (Buddy Heater section) It’s just text. It’s there to let you that you will need to choose your color when you get to Amazon. However, upon re-review of two of the Buddy heaters on that page, there were no longer any colors to choose from. We have removed ‘select color’ from those product links.

      That’s it, we hope we answered your questions sufficiently and that you found some assistance from this page about portable RV heaters, propane or otherwise!

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