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Camping allows you to get away from the daily grind and get back in touch with nature. But just because you’re sleeping outside doesn’t mean you have to freeze during the night. If you are looking to heat your tent when you have electricity available at your campsite, a variety of options are available.
An electric-powered heater is an effective, safe and easy option for staying warm inside a ten – even during extremely cold weather. Here’s an in-depth look at how electric heaters warm a tent and how to buy the right one for your needs.
Portable Electric Space Heaters
Electric heaters are designed to provide direct heat to a specific area. They’re powered by an electric cord, which does mean an electrical outlet has to be available nearby for them to work.
There are two types of electric heaters:
Convection types blow air across a heated surface. Usually, these heaters will have a fan, although fan-less options are also available. They’re able to heat an entire room, although they’re not very precise. If you have a larger tent, these are often the best choice.
Ceramic heaters are a relatively new type of convection heater. They use ceramic plates and aluminum baffles. Electricity heats the ceramic. The heat is then absorbed by the aluminum, where a fan then blows the hot air into the room.
Radiant heaters direct heat towards a specific area. They’re better for smaller spaces. While they’re effective for small tents, you want to be careful. Focused heat agains a tent wall can be a potential fire hazard.
Finding an electric outlet in the woods is obviously no easy task. In most cases, the power supply will have to come from an RV, gas-powered generator or other power source while you’ll bring along with you.
An extension cord is typically necessary. Only use extension cords suitable for outdoor use. They’ll be able to safely function in wet conditions.
Electric Heaters We Recommend
Here are three popular electric heaters which are worth your consideration:
Dr.Infrared Heater Portable Space Heater
Portable, durable and easy-to-use, this space heater is powered by an infrared quartz tube plus PTC. This heater uses infrared heat, which warms people and objects instead of the air. Warm air doesn’t just risk to the top. Instead, the entire tent is kept toast and comfortable.
Plus, weighing just 24 pounds, the heater is easy to transport. Also safe for in-tent use due to both tip-over and overheating automatic protection. It only makes 39 dB of noise allowing you to sleep peacefully while enjoying the outside sounds of nature.
- 1500-watt infrared heater
- Thermostat range from 50 to 86 degrees
- Sleek, lightweight and portable design
- Can sometimes create an electrical smell
- Included remote control can be easy to lose
Lasko Ceramic Space Heater
This tall, thin space heater from Lasko doesn’t take up a lot of space but still quickly and easily heats the entire tent. The 1500-watt ceramic heating element includes high and low heat settings. Heater can be operated by remote control and programmed to a built-in timer.
- Ceramic heater which doesn’t take up much space
- Two heat settings
- Anti-tipping and overheating automatic safety features
- Cord can become warm
- Not safe for use in wet areas
DeLonghi Mica Panel Heater
Sleek and stylish, this heater provides 1500-watts of heating power. An adjustable thermostat keeps the entire tent warm even in frigid temps. Plus, the ten is easy to transport with a handle and wheels.
- Adjustable thermostat and multiple heat settings
- Wheels and handle for easy mobility
- Whisper-quiet hands-free operation
- Wheels require smooth, level surface
Extension Cords Safe and Suitable for Outdoor Use
Southwire Outdoor Extension Cord
This heavy-duty, three-prong extension cord is safe for outdoor use. A flexible vinyl jacket protects the cord from moisture, sunlight and other damage. Cord is 50 feet long with a highly-visible yellow color.
- Easy to see even in low light conditions
- Tough enough for use in wet and cold weather
- 50 feet might not be long enough for camping purposes
Coleman Cable Outdoor Extension Cord
This extension cord has a heavy-duty jacket which protects it from moisture, dirt and other outdoor debris. Cord is available in 20, 40 and 80-foot lengths. The cord is an Army green color which is designed to blend in with the natural world.
- Heavy-duty cord
- Available in 20, 40 and 80-foot lengths
- Flexible and tangle-free
- Green color can make cord very difficult to see
AmazonBasics 16/3 Vinyl Outdoor Extension Cord
Highly visible, this bright orange extension cord provides power while also protecting against harsh environmental conditions. This is a 16-gauge cord with all-copper wire and a three-prong grounded plug for added safety. At 100 feet long, the cord allows you to camp significantly far from your power source without sacrificing reliable heat.
- 100-foot cord allows for plenty of camping freedom
- 16-gauge cord with three-prong ground plug
- Easy-to-see bright orange
- Sheathing is relatively thing compared to similar cords
Regular light bulbs, like the kind throughout your house, use a tungsten filament to produce light. While these bulbs are great at increasing visibility, they don’t produce any heat.
Heat lamps are different. They use a quartz filament which doesn’t just produce light but also emits large amounts of infrared radiation. This is a type of energy which can directly warm the human body.
Because the filament in a heat lamp is very strong, the light emitted is usually very bright. Generally, a red filter is used to reduct the light’s intensity.
Heat lamps typically consume between 200 and 250 watts of power. They’re a very energy efficient source of heat, requiring far less power consumption than a bar heater.
Heat lamps can be divided into three parts:
- Extension cord (if necessary)
Designed for use around the house, heat lamps can be mounted on a wall or otherwise permanently installed. But they can also be portable. Many heat lamps will have a large clamp which allows them to be attached just about anywhere.
Aside from heating people, heat lamps are also used in chicken coops and other livestock situations. Additionally, they’re also often used to warm food in commercial kitchens.
Heat Lamps We Recommend
Philips Heat Lamp Bulb
This indoor heat lamp has a 250-watt bulb which uses infrared technology to provide steady warmth throughout a small, directed area. The bulb shines for approximately 5,000 hours. With sturdy glass construction, the heat lamp is very durable and easy to transport.
- Warms entire tent
- Bulb has about 5,000 hours of life
- Requires clamping for placement
Woods Clamp Lamp
This is an indoor clamp-on lamp which allows you to easily direct light towards a specific area. A metal guard keeps the bulb protected. Spring-clamp grips won’t damage surfaces while still keeping the lamp securely in place. Also includes a six-foot extension cord.
- Metal guard protects bulb from damage
- Includes six-foot extension cord
- Spring-clamps are secure but gently on surfaces
- Six-foot extension cord probably is too short to be useful when camping
AmazonBasics 16/3 Vinyl Outdoor Extension Cord
This 16-gauge cord is durable and designed for outdoor use. Fifty feet long, the cord has three conductors and a three-prong plug. A vinyl covering insulates and protects agains moisture, sunlight and other potential environmental hazards.
Rated 13 Amps, 1625 watts and 125VAC, cord is a bright orange for easy visibility even in low-light conditions.
- Tough and flexible 16-gauge cord
- Bright orange color is easy-to-see even outdoors
- 50 feet is on the short side for camping
Electric heaters are generally pretty safe, but there are a few issues you’ll want to be aware of.
First you’ll want to keep the heater away from water. While an outdoor extension cord is typically safe to use in reasonably wet conditions, the heater itself can’t be exposed to water.
Even when the heater is safely inside the tent, you probably want to avoid using it during rain and snow storms. Water can build up underneath the tent which can be hard to see.
Also watch out for condensation. During the night, exhalations from sleeping campers will often cause moisture to form on the interior walls of the tent. If too much condensation forms on the electric heater, the unit can short out or even potentially catch fire.
Keep Away from Flammable Items
All heat sources should be kept away from potentially flammable objects such as paper, clothing and even the tent walls. Always keep as much airflow as possible around the entire heater. Never allow the unite to press up agains the sides of the tent.
Be especially careful when using a heat lamp inside a tent. Because they create such a focused beam of heat, they pose unique risks. Never point the heat lamp directly at the tent’s walls or floor. Instead, aim the lamp towards the open middle area of the tent.
Always Check Heater and Cords for Damage
Camping isn’t always easy on your equipment. Before using your electric heater, make sure it’s in safe working condition. Check the unit for any signs of malfunction or damage including:
- Burn marks near the heating element
- A frayed electrical cord
- Unusual noises during operation
Also check the electrical cord. Generally, they’re pretty durable. But fraying can still occur. If an electrical cord is frayed, you’ll want to throw the cord away entirely. There’s no particularly effective way to repair a damaged extension cord.
Non-Electrical Options to Stay Warm
Electric heaters aren’t the only way to stay comfortable in a tent. Low-tech options also work well, too. Simply adding a few extra layers of clothing will help keep you warm during the night. Long underwear, a wool shirt, extra socks and other accessories are simple, effective and don’t pose any safety risks.
Electric heaters are an effective way to stay warm when you’re camping in a tent. But you’ll want to take a few precautions to stay safe. Avoid using an electric heater in wet conditions. Also, make sure to allow plenty of airflow around the entire unit.
Just because you’re spending the night outdoors doesn’t mean you need to be uncomfortably cold. By following the tips above, you can find the perfect electric heater to take with on your next camping trip.