Winter RV Camping Must-Have: Portable Space Heater

The winter camping season is upon us and it’s time to get prepared for the freezing cold temperatures. One of the best things you can invest in for winter camping adventures is a portable space heater.

The cold hard fact is that RVs and winter weather are not ideal companions. With little insulation and plenty of opportunities for chilly air to leak in, it can be difficult to keep an RV comfortably warm when the temperatures drop. That’s where portable electric space heaters come in handy.

No matter how many times you vow to follow the warm weather while RVing, the truth is that you’re going to run into cold weather eventually.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Downsides of the RV furnace

Whatever the reason, chances are good that if you spend any time traveling by RV you’re eventually going to need a source of heat. The first line of defense against cold is the built-in RV furnace. A typical RV furnace uses propane to create hot air and electric power to blow the air through a series of vents distributed around the RV.

There are a few problems with the RV furnace. First of all, they are gigantic energy hogs that use a tremendous amount of both propane and electricity. Second, the electric fan blowers can be very loud. Since they only come on when the thermostat dips below the set temperature if you’re having a cold night the blower could drive you crazy as it cycles on and off.

Finally, not every RV has a built-in furnace. Many older motorhomes, small trailers, and van conversions don’t have a furnace which leaves owners either out in the cold or searching for an alternate solution.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Portable space heaters to the rescue

This is when portable space heaters save the day. These small, efficient heaters are a safe, quiet method for keeping your RV cozy and warm. There are three different types, each with its own strengths and uses. Let’s start with the most popular.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ceramic convection heaters

Ceramic convection heaters are the most popular type of portable space heaters for good reason. Not only are they affordable (you can get a good one for under $50) but they are also efficient and quickly take the chill out of the air. Ceramic heaters work by heating the air and circulating it around the room. Some of the benefits of ceramic heaters are:

  • Warms up small spaces very fast
  • Considered a safe source of heat as they don’t contain hot coils or emit dangerous gasses
  • Small, lightweight, and easy to move around the RV
  • No smells
Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Infrared radiant heaters

Infrared radiant heaters produce mild consistent heat to maintain the temperature of a room. They are designed to heat the objects around them (including you) rather than heating the air.

Infrared radiant heaters are optimal in areas where you are sitting close to them rather than moving around the room. They are also best used to maintain the temperature of a room rather than providing a quick blast of heat. A few of their best features include:

  • Stays cool to the touch making them safe in a small space
  • Emits no noise
  • Unlike heaters that blow hot air around, the infrared radiant heater warms the room temperature without drying the air
  • Provides even, consistent heat
Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Propane space heaters

Portable space heaters that run on propane are great for those situations when you don’t have access to electric power. If you enjoy boondocking or dry camping but still want a source of heat this is the perfect solution.

  • Newer models are safe for indoor or outdoor use
  • Emits no noise or odors
  • Doesn’t require electricity
  • Quickly warms up small spaces
Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV space heater safety

According to the National Fire Protection Association, always follow these safety tips when you purchase and run your space heater:

  • Purchase a heater with the seal of a qualified testing laboratory
  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, including people
  • Choose a heater with a thermostat and overheat protection
  • Place the heater on a solid, flat surface
  • Make sure your heater has an auto shut-off to turn the heater off if it tips over
  • Keep space heaters out of the way of foot traffic
  • Never block an exit
  • Keep children away from the space heater
  • Plug the heater directly into the wall outlet. Never use an extension cord.
  • Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room or go to bed

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Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron