Tent heater ideas please


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In November I'm going to take my three-year-old son camping with me. We will be in upstate New York were the temperatures can range anywhere from 40° at night all the way down to below zero. If it stays close to 40 he will be okay but anything below that's going to make it very uncomfortable for the little guy that still doesn't understand how a sleeping bag works.

The first thing I was going for was the mister heater little guy heater, But fear of starving my son brain of oxygen has pushed me away from this idea.

This is what we got going on
Were staying in a Oz tent Rv4. I think this tent is to our advantage the thick canvas walls will help hold in the heat.
We will also be sleeping on cots. This is a disadvantage as the cold air will be able to circulate underneath.

I was thinking of the heater buddy as mentioned earlier but I'm afraid of the CO problem. I have an Inverter and was also thinking about hooking it up to run a 120 V little heater but I don't know if that will make the night.

Please let me know what you guys think And thanks for your help in advance.


I run a big buddy heater in my 87 starcraft canvas popup on low overnight but my pop up leaks air like crazy. Good ventilation, still keeps the chill off. I would not try it in a newer tent, I would buy a 0 degree sleeping bag.


I don't have a heater yet, but plan to get a buddy heater to extend the camping season. From what others have posted, it seems like standard practice is to just run them for about 15 minutes before bed and then when they get up. I guess they'll heat up a tent pretty quick. With the little one, I suppose you could also run it a time or two during the night.

Also, if I'm not mistaken, CO isn't the problem with propane heaters. The problem is actually CO2 and the heater using up all the O2. But I think most/all the buddy heaters have a low O2 cutoff. Not positive about this, but that's my recollection.

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My 5 year old son and I camped last weekend and it got down to the high 40's. I bought a Mr. Buddy for the trip. We slept the first night without it, but we had blankets and a thick sleeping bag/quilt. I turned it on in the morning to warm up while we were waking up and it worked well.

The 2nd night, we turned it on when we went to bed for about 15 mins and it warmed up the tent nicely. I woke up about 5 am and turned it on and ended up falling back asleep for another 1.5 hours with it on. No issues and woke up nice and cozy.

They have low oxygen and tip over cutoff sensors. The tip over switch works as I tried it. My tent has a mesh top but I had the rainfly tight over it, but it still provided some ventilation. With canvas tent, you would need to make sure you create some type of ventilation.

They require a couple of clear feet around them, but I would recommend it for sure.

Have fun camping with your son, there is nothing better!


I don't remember the name (maybe Zodi) but there is/was a tent heater where the burner element was outside the tent, it used a heat exchanger and a fan to force hot air via a duct into the tent. Same exact principle used by your house heater. So you get clean air with no risk of CO2 issues. Only drawback is that you have to go outside to turn it on/off and have to duct it in through a opening.
Here it is http://www.zodi.com/Consumer/zodihotvent.html It look like they are unavailable right now but you might find one elsewhere.


Expedition Leader
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is the concern; carbon dioxide (CO2) is what you exhale.

The buddy heaters aren't true catalytic heaters and the instructions tell you how much ventilation you need in order for them to be safe while in use. While they do have a tip over shutoff and a low O2 sensor (don't know anyone who's tested this), you can still have normal O2 and get high CO- the hemoglobin molecule has around 230% greater affinity for CO than O2 so you can still run into problems. I have one I use in my VW at times but I keep a smoke detector/CO detector in the bus also; I also don't leave it running overnight.

Your inverter won't power an electric heater long- they use a lot of juice. You could always run a generator but that's a bit more expensive option, even if you use the inexpensive Harbor Freight generator.

Personally I would provide good insulation under the sleeping bag, provide plenty of blankets, have him sleep with a knit hat on (with very little hair I wear one a lot when it gets cold out) and some sort of long underwear including socks. I would also use the old trick of pre-warming the sleeping bag. Before bedtime heat water and pour in a quality bottle, cap tightly and put it in the sleeping bag. Warm rocks work too, but not in a nylon bag. Let him know that if he wakes up cold he needs to wake you up and tell you. You could also go with ground pads and a large sized sleeping bag/system for the both of you so that your body heat helps keep both of you warm.

Hill Bill E.

Oath Keeper
I use a 'Big Buddy' heater in my RTT and my deer stand.

I have used it in the cabin, while the fireplace was warming up. The low oxygen cut off works, it shut off twice while I was trying to warm up the bathroom with the door closed.

I do not run it all night in the tent(s), only to warm it up before bed, and again in the morning (or in the middle of the night when nature calls)

A good sleeping bag, a good hat, and some insulation between you and the ground/cot will go a long way.

DON'T use an air mattress! Unless you have some good insulation between it and you. They will suck the heat out of you.


I second the bit about not using an air mattress. I run a Coleman Cat heater before bed and when I get up. Don't wear the same clothes you had on during the day, eat something before you go to bed ( there is a reason why it is called burning calories). Have fun.:coffee:

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Truck camping Infidel
Not a tent heater, but fill a Nalgene bottle with hot water before going to bed and place it in his bag or blankets. If you know someone handy with a sewing machine make it into a stuffed animal for the evenings.