Best heater for extreme altitude

86scotty

Explorer
My apologies if this has been discussed already. If it has, please link.

Here's my dilemma. Living in the Southeast most of the time any heater will work, so the rational go-to these days is the small form factor Webasto/Espar type heaters, diesel or gas. They are hard to beat. But, the times I need heat the most is at high altitude. I mean really high altitude, way up in the Colorado Rockies above 10k, and of course I'm always planning for bigger trips to far away lands.....Alaska.....Tibet.....Mars maybe.

I've had several different propane types (Suburban/Atwood RV furnaces, one Propex, one Wave catalytic type) but back then I didn't travel as far and wide or as high and so I didn't test them for this.

I'm curious of opinions and experience. If you can fit it in an overland rig and it doesn't cost north of, say, a grand, what type is best for really high altitude reliability?

My only request here is that we do not turn this in to a discussion of how to adjust diesel air heaters to work at high altitude. I know this, we've all seen this here in several threads this past winter. I'm talking about out of the box.....and those even modified aren't reliable above 10k or so I've heard.
 

JaceStout

New member
I've personally seen a Webasto (gas) work at/near 10k feet with little to no issue here in Colorado. I have one mostly installed into my truck, I will try and report back once I've used it a few times.
 

BritKLR

Kapitis Indagatoris
FWIW, we live at 8400ft in the Rockies and travel, camp and explore throughout the Colorado high country (highest overnight pass 12,500ft) with our 1995 Tiger with the original Suburban heater and never had a problem. Good luck on your research!
 

skrypj

Well-known member
I dont know if this is what you are looking for but I have a travel trailer with I believe an ATwood heater and have camped for multiple nights in a row at 10 and 11000’. Ive never had an issue with it flaming out and it always kept the trailer warm. We had an infant when we bought it and tried to keep it at 68 often with temps below freezing.

This was boondocking so no hookups or anything. Just two deepcycle walmart batteries driving it for 2-3 days.

My water heater on the other hand has crapped out before, which i think is usually a result of the wind blowing the pilot out.
 

DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
My Dual Top has run perfectly in Leadville. The BIG issue with Dual Tops is that they can soot up, even at sea level. High altitude just makes a regular burn off all the more important.

EDITED TO ADD:

-- It takes about two years for a Dual Top to soot up. Obviously, many variables, but time is a factor.

-- Since I left Bolivia, I no longer live at altitude. (Thank God!) So three weeks in Colorado is not the same as living there full time.


-- There appears to be universal agreement that kerosene is better at any altitude, at least for reducing soot.
 
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86scotty

Explorer
Good info and thanks. Looks like 2 people have has great luck with the old school RV heaters. Space is the problem with those for me but I can make about anything work.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
I’ve seen multiple people on here comment they run kerosene to limit sooting in general and especially at high altitude.
Now that I think about it, in really cold temps you cut diesel with petrol in the northern climates, I wonder what bag of worms that would open to help in high altitude?
 

Victorian

Approved Vendor : Total Composites
Caution: Conflict of interest....
Go Planar. They already come with a build in altitude compensation for up to 10,000ft. I know from my own experience that even 12,000 is no problem. The most important thing when running diesel heaters at high altitude is to switch to kerosene. This makes them run more efficient and prevents the dreaded soot built up.
 

ScottPC

Active member
I had a truck camper that was built with a propane Truma Combi heater / hotwater heater with Utah and Colorado in mind. I live at 6600 ft and camp mostly above 9500. Propane, while less dense that diesel putting out less BTUs, does not have the problem of coking up like diesel and gasoline heaters. It worked without a hitch at altitudes up to 11K. I haven't camped any higher.

I spoke to a Webasto HQ tech and also several Denver and SLC (high altitude cities) van techs who deal with altitude issues in these heaters. The issues tend to occur when you're at altitude for periods of time and not going down to lower altitudes where burnoffs can be more effective due to a higher air/fuel ratios. So it's not that they won't ignite due to the altitude it's that there build up because it's too rich.

Due to simplicity, I'm about to install a CDH and tweak it (as you did not what to discuss) for a more favorable air / fuel mix and run it on high to burn it off after each trip. If it fails in this application, so be it. I kind of want to see what the hype is all about.
 

Joe917

Explorer
Good point about being at altitude for long periods of time. We try to avoid camping at extreme altitudes (14000') because it is not comfortable to sleep at those heights. When we camped at those heights it was because it was as low as we could get that day. So although our Webasto ran fine at those heights it was never for more than a few nights at a time. Interestingly the truck had little issue with the altitude, apart from a fair bit of black smoke up around 16000'.
 

Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
I just got back from 4 weeks on the road with the Transit. I spent a few nights in Colorado at about 10000' and -17C (0F). I bought a cheap all-in-one 12V diesel heater from Ebay before leaving as I needed something quick and inexpensive until I build the van's interior.

The heater has performed much better than I expected at high altitude. It had no problem starting.

It was running rich until I figure out how to go into the 'advanced' mode and change the settings, but even then it was starting fine and producing good heat. The only annoying thing is the clicking sound of the pump at low speed. It also consumes a bit more than I had hoped for - I would say 0.5 to 1 gallon per day.

The only other issue is that i need to find a better route for the intake and the exhaust as they would get clogged with ice/snow/slush on the road. I did not expect to have that much stuff accumulating in front of the wheel.

IMG_9144.jpeg
 

4xchinook4

Observer
I too am currently running a diesel heater from Amazon . . Ran in New York state and plenty of times around 9500' to 10000' in CO . And have no issues.

Fuel consumption isn't bad for me either . Much better "bang for the buck" than my propane heater I had for years before getting this one.
Cost around $150 I think . And I have zero hiccups or issues with it! Love it .

Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk
 

broncobowsher

Adventurer
The advise I have heard is to go small so you can run more at full output. Low heat setting is bad for sooting. High heat setting is better for self cleaning, which is why it is recommended to run on high for several minutes before shutdown.

I have a 2kw sitting in the pile of parts to be installed. Not a super rush at the moment, summer is coming.
 

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