Best Portable Propane Heaters for 2023
(Camp Addict does NOT accept payment from any company to review or endorse their products.)
So, you don't like to be cold, eh? (Smart!) Lordie, neither do we.
Whether you are camping in the cold or looking for a portable propane 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, are times when it is more economical or just smarter to use some type of portable heater for RVs.
All but one of the portable camper heaters reviewed here are safe for indoor use.
This means that you may even use them in your workshop, bedroom, greenhouse, etc when you're not RVing.
Below, 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 shore power times, and a propane golf cart heater for those 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
The Camco Olympian Wave comes in three different sizes/BTU ratings. It operates with NO 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
The Mr. Heater Big Buddy Heater excels at creating a lot of heat and doing so FAST. It's a great option for boondockers that don't want to waste a ton of battery reserve by using their stock furnace.
Continue Reading Mr. Heater Big Buddy Review
Best Portable Propane Heater For High Elevations
Camco Olympian Wave Heater
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.
Best Portable RV Electric Heater
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
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.
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?
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.
(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
Big Buddy (MH18B)
One 1-lb Cylinder
1.5 to 6 hours
Two 1-lb Cylinders
3 to 12 hours
25 to 110 hours
Portable Buddy (MH9BX)
2.4 to 5.4 hours
48 to 110 hours
Hunting Buddy (MH12HB)
1.5 to 3.5 hours
36 to 72 hours
Little Buddy (MH4B)
* 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:
- Measure the space’s dimension to determine cubic feet: Length x Width x Height = Cubic Feet
- Subtract the outside temperature from the desired inside temp to determine the temperature increase (either in Fahrenheit or Celsius).
- 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**
Fear not! There is 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).
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
Most RVs come with some type of pre-installed heater.
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 (or just comfort in general).
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 heater for your RV is a no-brainer for safety and comfort.
Get out there and Camp On!
Authors: Kelly Beasley & Marshall Wendler
He-llllo. I'm the co-founder of Camp Addict, which my biz partner and I launched in 2017. I frigging love the RVing lifestyle but in December of 2020, I converted to part-time RV life. Heck, I lived in my travel trailer for over 5.5 years, STRICTLY boondocking for pretty much all of it. Boondocking is a GREAT way to live, but it's not easy. Anyway, I'm passionate about animals, can't stand campgrounds, I hardly ever cook, and I love a good dance party. Currently, I can be found plotting and scheming whether or not to start collecting farm animals (or plotting my next RV trip!) at my beautiful new 'ranch' named 'Hotel Kellyfornia', in Southern Arizona.
Camp Addict co-founder Marshall Wendler brings his technical expertise to help explain RV products in an easy to understand fashion. Full-time RVing from April 2014 - December 2020 (now RVing about 50% of the time), Marshall loves sharing his knowledge of the RV lifestyle. Marshall spends the majority of his RVing life boondocking. He is the part of Camp Addict that knows 'all the things'. He's good at sharing his technical knowledge so you can benefit.
Kind of interested in boondocking a little bit
Great! We say go for it. Did you have a specific question related to portable propane heaters?
Can you make your Amazon links go to “smile.amazon.com” instead of the regular Amazon? I’m not sure if that’s possible for you to do, but FYI the only reason I wouldn’t order a couple of these products through your links is that it I really like to contribute money to charities through my Amazon purchases.
Otherwise great list and I just learned from it that you can buy refill kits for those little one pound propane tanks, which is awesome!
Yes! I used to refill my propane tanks as well! Saves you a ton of money!
While we understand and appreciate your desire to donate to your favorite charity, I’m not sure how we could make our links support ‘X organization’ through Smile and still continue to produce new content for this site. I love Smile- I use it to donate (when I remember, grrr) to Alaqua Animal Refuge.
Truth is, this website is our lifeblood. It’s our only income. We make a very small percentage of a purchase when one buys a product through our links. And Amazon, right at the beginning of the pandemic, slashed all affiliate percentages (again) by almost 50%. This effectively cut our income from Amazon in half. We ware relieved we started putting ads on the site just before that or we’d have been in a world of hurt!
The only way we can sustain this free RVing information for our readers, is if people go through our links when they make purchases (And now, through ads as well). Just like the charities, we have to make money, too! Otherwise, we’d have to quit this site and get jobs (or start another company.)
Still, you can always choose to support your charity, which is honorable, by going through one of our links to a product you are interested in, copy the product description, go to Amazon.Smile, then re-enter the description into the Amazon search bar. Then you can get the item and still support your charity. No commission would go to us.
Hope this helps, and thank you for your suggestion! You’ve piqued my interest in the company contributing a portion of our Amazon earnings to a charity every year. It’s a very good idea.
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!