Winter camping in Australia can be a magnificent experience. However, it’s important to stay warm when the mercury bottoms out.
While a traditional campfire is an ideal remedy, it’s not always possible or legal. But that doesn’t mean you have to go cold while winter camping. A camping heater will save you from shivering all night long.
In this guide, I’ll review the nine best camping heaters for Australia and explain how to choose the right one for you.
My Review Process
Year-round total fire bans are common in some of my favourite camping locations. Over the last decade, changing fire laws have encouraged me to become more familiar with camping heaters.
Wood stoves should contain the flame, reduce ember escape and channel smoke away from you. Propane and electric heaters should be portable, stable and fuel efficient. They should have adjustable heat settings and include safety features such as flame guards, automatic tip-over shut-off and oxygen depletion sensors.
Internal heaters should be compact with a small footprint, producing the correct amount of heat (measured in BTU) for the space. I look for robust construction and quality fittings, as camping can be hard on heaters.
I recommend the Mr Heater Buddy as the overall best camping heater because of its versatility. It’s rated as an indoor-safe portable propane heater and has a heat output of 9000 BTU. That’s enough to heat approximately 20 square meters, or about the space of a 10 person tent.
This heater is suitable for just about every camping style. It’s great for under the picnic table or to warm the tent before going to sleep. You can use disposable propane cylinders or purchase a hose for connecting refillable liquid propane gas (LPG) tanks.
Safety features include auto shut-off controls in case the heater tips over, the pilot light goes out, or oxygen levels are low.
The robust construction of this heater ensures it will last through countless winter camping adventures.
NOTE: Ensure good and consistent ventilation if operating in closed spaces.
Large families will often have a large camping gazebo that serves as the hub of the camp. Providing heat for six or more people in these big spaces can be tricky with standard camping heaters.
The Deelat Kerosene or Diesel Forced Air Heater delivers a whopping 125,000 BTUs. That’s enough to keep the entire family warm even in the coldest conditions. Note that in addition to kerosene or diesel, you’ll also need a generator to run this heater if you’re away from mains power.
The Deelat allows large groups to camp in the great outdoors in the depths of the coldest winter.
This is a brilliant Aussie-made camp wood stove for couples and families. It provides plenty of heat for cold winter camping while doubling as a highly functional cooking station. With a host of kitchen and cooking accessories, the Oz Pig combines winter warmth and camp cooking into one awesome piece of camping gear.
The stove’s high flue reduces embers, making it safe and user-friendly. It’s also compact when disassembled and weighs only 17kg. It sits well off the ground, so you're not bending to cook or scorching the ground. The OZ Pig is one of my favourites and I highly recommend it.
There are few creature comforts to be found when trekking the high country in the depths of winter. But the Mr Heater Little Buddy mini heater will take the chill out of a cold night’s camp. It offers 3,800 BTU and can run continuously for up to 5.5 hours.
You can hang the heater from your backpack while trekking and you’ll hardly notice it's there. It’s rated for use indoors and the odour-free heat ensures your tent is toasty-warm before you hit your sleeping bag.
The Mr Heater Little Buddy is a must-have luxury for winter backpacking.
This feature-packed Dreo Space Heater is perfect for camper trailers, caravans, RVs, and tents at powered camping sites. You can put it by your feet while you sleep or warm the ambient temperature of your entire space.
The 70°oscillating electric heater features an LED display/control panel, an adjustable digital thermostat, a 1-12h timer and a detachable, cleanable filter for the purest of air. It’s extremely quiet and ideal for smaller spaces. It also features a tip-over alert and overheating shut-off, making it safe for use in small tents.
The Companion Portable Propane Heater offers affordable and simple heating. While it may look a little flimsy, it’s built tough for serious camping. Packing a maximum output of 10,800 BTU, it will heat a medium-size gazebo and is ideal for families.
Keep it protected from wind, and this heater will fire on as long as your LPG lasts. It’s highly portable and has adjustable heat settings. It features key safety systems including an oxygen depletion sensor, Piezo ignition and anti-tilt shut-off. The supplied 1.5m gas hose provides flexibility for convenient positioning.
Most camping heaters are unsuitable for use inside tents. But not the Companion Aeroheat Ducted Rechargeable Tent Heater.
The Companion operates outside the tent and pumps warm air up to 60°C into your tent via an extendable tube. It’s jam-packed with safety features and totally safe for use in enclosed spaces.
The battery runs the fan continuously for up to four hours. The digital display control panel is easy to use. Even better, you can control the heater using a phone app so there’s no need to leave your tent to adjust the heater.
Special Note: The manufacturers designed this unit to operate in ambient temperatures less than 15 degrees. If operating outside this specification, overheating warnings may activate frequently, and shut-off may occur.
Winter camps with large groups are events to remember. While there’s usually a large campfire away from the tents, warming the group shelter is always a challenge.
The Deelat Kerosene or Diesel Forced Air Heater has you covered. It provides an astonishing 175,000 BTU, warming vast spaces. Brilliant for very cold and windy locations, this heater is commonly used to heat large commercial marquee tents. It requires electricity in addition to diesel or kerosene.
The extra 50,000 BTU in this unit compared to the one reviewed earlier, ensures better heating consistency in large spaces, with fluctuating numbers of people.
It’s common in group camping scenarios that twenty people in a large warm gazebo can quickly dwindle to five or less. Fewer numbers require significantly more heat to maintain a comfortable ambient temperature.
A trolly system makes this heater easier to manoeuvre, although it’s still bulky. You’ll need a station wagon or ute to transport it.
This is a compact and highly affordable butane camping heater. It produces a very commendable 6,800 BTU. It’s perfect for a couple’s winter escape, providing comforting heat for modestly sized shelters.
The comprehensive safety list includes an oxygen depletion system, tip-over shut-off, fame failure shut-off and pressure sensing shut-off. These are brilliant safety features at such an affordable price. It also includes Piezo ignition for easy lighting.
In my opinion, the Gasmate is the gold standard for budget camping heaters.
How To Choose The Best Camping Heater
There are several common types of camping heaters. They vary in suitability based on your camping style, location and weather conditions. The guide below covers the key criteria you need to know to match your camping style with one of the heaters listed above.
The heat output of camping heaters is measured in British Thermal Units, or BTUs. Popular camping heaters range from 3,000 to 12,000 BTUs, but heavy-duty units can offer much more heat.
For context, a camping heater emitting 5,000 BTUs will heat approximately 10 square meters. However, variables such as ambient temperature, ventilation and the number of people in a shelter will impact how warm you actually feel.
For an idea of how much heat you’ll need, consider the area you want to heat and the number of people using the space. Then use this calculator for an indication of the heat output required.
Popular butane or propane camping heaters delivering 3,000 to 9,000 BTUs range in price from $70 to $320. Feature-packed high-output models can be more than $700.
Electric camping heaters can be as little as $40, but models suitable for the average camper start at around $130.
Stoves and fire pits can be very expensive. They start around $60 for small and basic models and run up to $500 for stainless steel models. For around $350 you can get an outstanding camping stove that will double as your main camp cooking station.
Camping Heater Types
The most common heaters for camping are propane heaters (LPG), disposal canister butane and electric heaters. Electric tent heaters are a less common type of heater and a little harder to find.
Rechargeable battery heaters are great for heating a small tent. Diesel heaters are very common in camper trailers. Old-school kerosene heaters are still available, but they’re far less common these days.
Industrial kerosene/diesel forced air heaters are brilliant for heavy-duty applications and can be used by large groups.
Size And Weight
Camping heaters are relatively small and lightweight. A small fire pit is 26(L) x 19(W) x 3(H) cm and weighs only 2.1kg. A large camping stove will disassemble for easy transport in the boot of the smallest car and weighs around 17kg.
LPG heaters are commonly around 41(L) x 19(D) x 33(H) cm. Electric heaters are about the same. Butane heaters are similar in size to LPG heaters, but, can also be made backpack-sized for trekkers.
Even industrial-size forced air heaters are relatively light at around 26kg. A large boot or ute might be required for transporting such a unit.
Naked flames, red hot heating elements and burning gases present a range of safety concerns that vary depending on heater types, brand, and model.
All good camping heaters, except for flame stoves, will have built-in safety features such as oxygen depletion sensors and tip-over shut-offs.
You can use some heaters inside your tent, but most you shouldn’t. Camping heaters will have a set of concise safety instructions and warnings – it’s wise to follow them. I have listed three good tips for staying warm and safe below.
The vast majority of camping heater warranties are one year. On rare occasions, you will find warranties as generous as 36 months. The Companion Aeroheat I reviewed comes with a 36-month warranty.
3 Tips For Staying Warm & Safe
1. Never use propane, butane, or fire in a closed space, especially if it's well-sealed.
Ventilation is critical. Fire burns the oxygen you breathe, and butane and propane replace the oxygen with deadly carbon monoxide. It can kill you when concentrated in closed spaces.
2. Warm your tent space before you go to sleep to take the edge off the cold.
Supplement this with a warm sleeping bag for maximum comfort. Keep your heater well away from flammable materials and never sleep with a camping heater still running.
3. Treat your heater as a backup for when it’s unbearably cold.
It’s always better to use clothing and shelter to stay warm. You’re always going to be safer when there’s no flame and no burning gases.
Alternatives To A Camping Heater
Is a camping heater necessary? In truth, about 75% of the gear we take camping is unnecessary, and camping heaters fall into this category.
However, in the bitter cold, the warmth from a camping heater provides priceless comfort. It helps that camping heaters are affordable and not much of a load to carry.
The best alternative to a camping heater is a shelter, clothing and sleeping bag rated to industry standards for the climate in which you are camping.
Camp Heater Summary
The Mr Heater Indoor safe is my pick as the best camping heater because of its quality and versatility. It’s the most appropriate heater for the vast majority of campers and camping styles. For those who want a combined camp heater and cookstove, the OZ Pig is fantastic.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.