How to heat a camper without electricity

Camping is a favorite hobby of many, especially in the summer. But when the weather turns chilly, especially at night, sometimes you have to get creative in the way you stay warm. When your camper doesn’t have electricity, how do you heat it?

Quite a few inventive RV heating options exist, so go ahead and plan that cool weather trip! But first, here are a few things to think through before you decide on the best way to heat your RV.

a camper truck parked in a snowy campground

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Tips on heating a camper without electricity and staying warm in your RV

Think through the size of your RV. Smaller campers will be easier to keep warm. For a larger camper, decide if it would be better to only heat part of it or if you need to heat the entire unit.

If you have a main living area, for example, it may be best to heat that room when you’re using it for a game in the evening or making your breakfast in the morning. Then, for the night you could heat the sleeping area.

Another idea is to insulate your RV. Be aware of all the ways that cold air could penetrate your living space. Use bubble wrap on the windows and vents or invest in some heavy insulating curtains for the windows and doors.

Even cardboard under rugs can help a lot. Our camper’s floor was always so cold in the morning. Slippers and heavy socks just weren’t helping. We generally don’t have heating in our trailer, so we needed a solution for our icy toes. I covered the floor in large pieces of carboard and cheap foam sleeping pads. Then, I covered those with a woolen rug and a heavy woolen blanket. We have a very small camper so this was super easy to do and doesn’t seem odd. The layering on the floor has made an immense difference.

If you want to take a quick tour of our very old (and well-used) camper, check out this article here.

If you really need to amp up the insulation on your unit you might want to consider getting help from a dealership or handyman to find out which options would be easiest and most appropriate for your RV.

Plus, don’t forget the warm clothes and blankets. Cozy up inside with warm slippers, hot tea, and blankets… and wear toques inside if you need to too!

These tips should be the starting point for how you can heat your RV without electricity.

RV Heater and Heating Options

Here are a few heating options that may answer your questions about how to heat a camper in the colder weather.

VERY IMPORTANT: if you decide to go with a gas powered option, be sure to use a carbon monoxide alarm for your safety, and read and follow each unit’s specific instructions.

1. Propane Heater and Stove

This option is versatile as well as compact. Powered by an inserted fuel canister or a connected propane tank, you have the option to use it for heating, cooking, or both at the same time.

2. Portable Propane Heater

An indoor-safe portable heater that packs a punch, this propane powered heater will warm up to 225 square feet. With safety features such as automatic shut off if it falls over, if the pilot light is extinguished, or if the levels of oxygen in the room are too low, this is a great option for warming up a chilly room and will give parents more piece of mind if using with children around.

3. Catalytic Safety Heater

This heater can be hung on a wall for a more permanent set up, which can be helpful when space is at a premium in an RV! A bit of an investment, this model has a safety shut off and runs silently. It can also be used as a portable unit, even outdoors.

4. Portable Electric Space Heater with Thermostat

For those with electric hookups at the campsite, this is a great option if you don’t have access to heating or electricity in your unit. With the versatility to blow heat or just blow as a fan, it works in all seasons. The thermostat means that it won’t run constantly and overheat everyone, but will keep your RV at a perfect temperature. It’s a great little RV heater.

If you don’t have electricity in your camper, just make sure you pack a heavy duty (and long) extension cord and run it from the electrical box into your camper. And, take some time at home to consider how you plan to get the cord into your unit while keeping the bugs and brave squirrels out.

We have an older version of this portable heater and it is my favorite portable heater.

What if you don’t have access to electricity at your campsite?

Using an electric-powered heater won’t help at all if you don’t have access to electricity. For most of the camping we do, we don’t have access to electricity (nor do we have a working propane heater in our camper). Because of this, we’ve been exploring using a portable battery to power our electric heater.

There are a variety of portable batteries on the market these days. Below is the portable 500W power station we’ve gotten. We intend to use it to run the heater before going to bed and in the morning as we find those are the times we really want the camper to warm up a bit. We also chose a unit that could be recharged with these portable solar panels.

Update: this power station isn’t quite powerful enough to run our heater… So, we’re now on the hunt for a lower wattage electric heater and a higher wattage power station… and then maybe we’ll have heat? But, what we do have is an off-grid way to run a fan, small appliances, and charge our devices via solar-power and that’s pretty cool!

READ MORE: Click here to read the whole review on our EBL 500W portable power station!

Our Portable 500 Watt Power Station

5. The DIY Terra Cotta Candle Heater

In a pinch or on a budget? You can heat a small room with just a candle and terracotta pot! Check out this video below for the specifics; however, even simple candles in a a tin can can give off a surprising amount of heat. Just be careful when using open flame!

6. A wood stove

Some people renovate their camper to add a small wood stove. This is a decent option if you are planning to live out of your camper year round, since it will be an investment. However, it can be a costly and labor-intensive renovation if you are only looking to take the chill out of a cool summer night.

A quick YouTube search will give you a whole bunch of various DIYs and tutorials for installing wood stoves into RVs, vans, and campers.

7. A Propane Lamp

A propane lamp could be a simple solution that may take enough of the chill out of the air to make your RV comfortable. Just be aware of fire safety and don’t let it run all night, unattended.

8. Cooking

Sometimes just the process of cooking a meal or boiling some water for tea generates enough heat to warm up the camper.

Our camper’s propane heater does not work, nor do we camp with electric hook-ups, but we’re always pleasantly surprised by how much boiling water on our propane stove heats up the camper in the cold mornings.

Even if you don’t have a propane stove you could bring in your portable camping stove to boil your water in the camper.

Just remember, portable camping stoves are not intended to be used indoors, nor are they intended to be used for heating. So, ensure proper ventilation and make sure you’re cooking on safe surfaces.

Whichever process you choose for keeping your RV warm in cooler temperatures, be sure to keep safety in mind.

Also, you may need to keep a vent accessible for letting out the moisture in the air. Otherwise, you may be warm, but you may also be damp and you really don’t want that, especially in a chilly situation!

Other great Camping articles you’ll want to read next:

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