7 Best Ways to Heat a Tent Without Electricity

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The best way to heat a tent without using electricity and keep it warm is to set it up in a sunny, wind-blocked location, insulate your tent, and use a heat source like a propane heater or space heater with a portable generator.

Let’s look at these in more detail, plus a few other effective tips from tent camping pros.

1. Propane Heaters

Arguably, the best way to heat a tent without electricity is with a propane heater.

Propane heaters are small, portable, and they burn clean. And you won’t have to worry about your tent being too big as most modern propane heaters can heat rooms to 225+ square feet.

Of course, when using any sort of heating device, safety should be your top priority! So, choose a model that features:

  • An oxygen sensor that shuts the unit off if oxygen levels in your tent get too low.
  • Auto shut-off protection in case the heater tips over or the pilot light goes out.
  • Made of durable, fire-resistant materials.
  • Designed for indoor use.

The Mr. Heater Buddy Portable Heater is a popular, high-quality unit that checks all of those boxes.

Mr. Heater MH9BX Buddy Portable Radiant Tent Heater

Mr. Heater MH9BX Buddy Portable Radiant Tent Heater

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The only real downsides to using a portable propane heater are you will have to carry bottle(s) of propane with you (which may be of concern if backpacking or hiking), and they can have trouble operating in elevations over 7,000 sq ft.

And it should go without saying, but never leave a propane heater or any heater with a flame unattended inside your tent.

Related: Is a Mr. Buddy Heater in a Tent Safe? (Read Before Using)

2. Use a Portable Generator

Comparable to propane heaters in terms of effectiveness is to bring along a portable generator with you and plug in your electric tent heater.

This is a great way to get the benefits of an electric heater in areas you don’t have electricity.

Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240

Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240

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The obvious downside to using this method is you have to carry around a large portable generator, and you’ll need a way to power that generator, whether that be a gas-type fuel or the sun. There are battery-powered generators that you can charge up before your camping trip, but in my experience, they don’t last long.

But, since battery-powered tent heaters aren’t a thing (yet), this is the best option if you want to use an electric type heater.

Tip: Be sure to check out our pick for the best tent heater for camping. We meticulously reviewed and compared the top safe heaters for camping (and we update them regularly).

3. Candle Heaters

Candle heaters pale in comparison to propane and electric heaters in terms of heat produced and effectiveness. Still, nonetheless, they are an option to help heat your tent without electricity or gas.

Candle heaters are small, which makes them easier to carry while backpacking. And if you need a good source of light or want to heat up food, candle heaters can come in handy.

They are great alternatives to propane, gasoline, and battery-powered lamps because you’re not only getting heat but also light.

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UCO Candlelier Deluxe Candle Lantern

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With that said, you’re definitely not going to get the amount of heat you would from an electric or gas-powered heater.

If you decide to go this route, it’s best to combine this heat source with other methods from this list. And have a backup plan in case your candle heater doesn’t provide an ample amount of heat.

Check out our guide on heating a tent with a candle for more information.

4. Heated Stones

One little hack I learned while camping with a buddy of mine over 20 years ago (dang, I’m getting old) is to warm up some stones in the campfire and then place them in your cold tent to help heat it.

It’s fairly simple: find or bring along with you a few stones that are 1-2 pounds each, preferably limestone or river rock, as they hold heat well. Throw them in the fire and let them heat up. Then, when you bring them into your tent, place them in a baking pan or something similar so they don’t ruin your tent or accidentally get touched.

While this method works and will provide warmth for a few hours, it’s not going to get you through the night. And, it’s not ideal to keep getting up throughout the night, keeping a fire going, and continually heating rocks.

However, combined with a well-insulated tent and some of the other methods in this list, it can certainly help provide some initial heat to your tent without the need for electricity.

5. Tent Location

The location you choose to set up your tent can directly affect the temperature of the air inside it. How? By allowing natural sunlight to hit your tent and warm it up.

To maximize this and get the greatest amount of heat from the sun, you should:

  • Set up your tent on a south-facing slope if you can so the sun can help warm it up all day long.
  • Avoid pitching your tent near trees or any object that has the potential to shade your tent from the sun at any point in the day.
  • Pitch your tent on a campsite with a windbreak to avoid cold, gusty winds from cooling down your tent.

And for safety’s sake, avoid trees or bushes that may have dead branches or leaves. And low areas near water sources, as they can potentially flash-flood during storms.

6. Tent Insulation

Insulating your tent won’t directly heat it in the way the above methods do, but this is one of the most important tips in this list if you want to help retain the heat you’ve created.

You can effectively insulate a tent with the following tips:

  1. First, choose a tent that’s appropriate for the weather. If camping in the winter, you’ll likely want a 4-season tent designed to withstand extreme colds and heavy snow. Many 3-season and summer camping tents will not hold in any heat you’ve created. And you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on a quality winter tent with one of our best budget 4-season tents!
  2. Adding an extra layer of blankets over the tent floor will help retain heat inside the tent and insulate the inside from the cold ground.
  3. Lining the inside of the tent with (or suspending above you) a thermal blanket will help keep out cold air and contain the heat in your tent.
  4. Placing a tarp over the roof of your tent can help provide a wind block and keep cold snow from forming on top of your tent.

Learn how to insulate a tent for winter camping for more tips and tricks!

7. Hot Water Bottles

Lastly, and probably the least effective method (which is why it’s at the bottom of the list), is to use hot water bottles to provide a little extra warmth in the tent.

You can simply heat water over your campfire, pour it into a few bottles with a cap (that can withstand the heat), and place them in your sleeping bag with you. The warm bottles mixed with your body heat inside the bag will help keep you warm.

Of course, this only provides temporary heat, but placing them in your sleeping bag will help retain some of that heat for longer.

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