Many RVs come equipped with an electric fireplace. When it gets a little too cold when you’re trekking the Alaskan wilderness or whichever trails you choose to explore, all you need to do is switch on the heater. This means that you don’t need to worry about anything other than the running costs.
Unfortunately, not all RVs will afford you this convenience. Indeed, most RVs don’t contain any special heating appliances other than the standard air conditioning.
You need to decide – on your own – if you need a heater in your RV, shop around to identify the best RV heaters, and budget for both the purchase and installation before you mention running costs.
Since this shopping process can be incredibly challenging, especially if it’s your first RV or you’ve never shopped for RV heaters before, we’ve designed this guide to make your work a little easier.
Read on to learn what you need to know about boondocking heaters, their benefits, and how they work. We’ll also discuss RV heater safety and convenience features.
Best Heater for RV Boondocking
1. Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000 BTU Propane Heater
This patented radiant 4,000-9,000 BTU liquid propane heater from Mr. Heater connects to a 1-LB cylinder and is the perfect solution for unconventional spaces such as camping tents and RVs.
The expertly engineered BTU-to-size ratio ensures maximum heat output while guaranteeing minimal footprint.
A swivel regulator means you can connect the unit to a remote gas supply as long as you purchase the required hose and filter. The unit is nearly 100% efficient and works excellently in spaces up to 225 square feet.
A fold-down handle means you can carry the heater around without much fuss. A 3-year limited warranty backs the unit.
- Durable steel build
- Powerful 9,000 BTU output
- Easy-grad hold-down handle
- Swivel-out regulator
- 3-year warranty
- The body gets hot
- Not ideal for sleeping
2. Camco 57351 Olympian Wave-8 8,000 BTU LP Gas Catalytic Heater
This flat-design heater is almost similar to the above unit in terms of performance. They both generate just under 10,000 BTU at maximum output (this particular model gives out 8,000 BTU) with a LOW setting of about 4,000 BTU. Also, they both run on liquid propane gas.
However, the Olympian Wave-8 from Camco offers one key advantage – installation flexibility. Although it can stand on its own, you can also mount it to the RV fall to preserve floor space. Plenty of clearance is needed in both cases.
It’s equipped with safety shutoff to prevent accidental non0-ignition fuel discharge and is ideal for spaces up to 230 square feet.
- Generates up to 8,000 BTU
- Portable or mountable
- Silent operation, non-fan/blower
- Auto-shutoff protection
- The parts get quite hot
- No remote controls
3. Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800 BTU Propane Heater
Another Mr. Heater on this list, this time a less powerful model, the model F215100 MH4B is an indoor-safe portable propane heater intended for rooms up to 95 square feet.
The 3,000 BTU heater provides continuous, odor-free, 45-degree heating. An oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) offers protection from carbon monoxide.
It connects to a 1-LB propane cylinder (sold separately) and can last 5.6 hours on a single refill. A simple on/off button makes ignition a breeze. You’re required to provide 4-foot clearance on all sides for efficient operation.
The unit comes fully assembled and doesn’t need a professional for setup. It features tip-over protection and is backed by a 1-year warranty.
- Tip-over protection
- Built-in ODS
- Rated indoor safe
- 1-year warranty
- Gas cylinder sold separately
- It has a lot of plastic parts
4. Mr. Heater F274830 MH18BRV Big Buddy Portable RV Propane Heater
Now, let’s look at something more powerful. Unlike the first three items on the list, this Mr. Heater Model F274830 MH18BRV generates up to 18,000 BTU of healthy radiant heat, making it ideal for spaces as large as 450 square feet.
Two other heat settings, LOW = 4,000 BTU and HIGH = 9,000 BTU, are available for cost-effective heating.
If accidentally tipped over and an ODS sensor to protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning, automatic shutoff is some of the highlight features.
This 16-pound heater is very portable and even features an easy-carry handle for effortless mobility. A cover is included for storage.
- Powerful 18,000 BTU output
- Ideal for up to 450 square feet
- Three heat settings Hi-Med-Low
- Rated indoor-safe
- The grille gets very hot
- Not ideal for sleeping
5. Suburban NT-30SP Electronic Ignition Ducted Furnace
Compact yet powerful, the Suburban NT-30SP is a 12-volt ducted furnace ideal for mid-sized RVs. It heats up quickly and is very efficient. It’s also known for its low amp draw and economic ignition.
The vent assembly is gasket-sealed for sealed forced-draft combustion. The chrome-plated vent caps ensure powerful maximum performance while guaranteeing safety.
It features a steel gas manifold, stainless steel exterior vent cap, and side air duct collars. The thermostat is available but sold separately. The 30,000 BTU heater runs on propane gas and offers ducted or direct discharge.
This unit is UL and CGA Listed. A suburban 2453A Dynatrail NT-30 RV furnace cover is included for storage.
- Compact design
- Powerful 30,000 BTU heater
- UL and CGA approved
- Storage cover included
- The surface gets very hot
6. Caframo Limited True North Space Model 9206CABBX Heater
The rugged Model 9206CABBX electric Heater from Calframo is the perfect heating solution for non-ideal environments.
For instance, if you’re going camping, it makes perfect sense as it runs strictly on electricity, removing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. You also don’t need to carry along multiple gas cylinders.
The unit features an adjustable thermostat to keep the RV warm and chills out – five heat settings mean you can refine your indoor heating to meet your specific needs. It plugs into the standard 120V outlet and implements dual overheat protection for maximum safety.
Rated at 1500 watts, it delivers 5,125 BTU of gentle heat and features an antifreeze setting. It’s backed by a 5-year warranty.
- Compact, portable design
- Powerful 5,125 BTU heater
- Up to five heat settings
- Features antifreeze setting
- 5-year warranty
- Manual controls
7. Lasko Ceramic Adjustable Thermostat Model CD09250 Heater
Back to a more-modern heater, this unit from Lasko is a 1500-watt ceramic heater with 11 different temperature settings. It also offers three quiet settings – Low Heat, High Heat, and a Fan-Only Mode. An ergonomic carry handle makes it easy to move.
You’ll appreciate the long list of safety features. These include overheating shutoff to protect you and the RV even if the heater is left unattended for long hours. A cool-to-touch exterior makes the unit even more user-friendly.
The Lasko comes fully pre-assembled out of the box, though an owner’s manual included for greater convenience. A 3-year warranty backs it.
- Powerful 1,500-watt output
- Adjustable thermostat
- 11 heat settings
- Convenient carry handle
- 3-year warranty
- The parts get hot
- Manual controls
8. De’Longhi Oil-filled Radiator Space Heater Model EW7707CM
If you’ve shopped for space heaters for the home in the past, you’ll be aware of oil-filled radiators. These heaters are some of the most energy-efficient.
The oil stores heat and releases it gently for maximum effect. The hot oil can also continue releasing sufficient warmth for hours after the unit is switched off.
The Model EW7707CM from De’Longhi is one such heater. It cuts costs by automatically maintaining optimal temperatures and power settings.
It’s also virtually maintenance-free – the oil is sealed permanently, so you never have to worry about refilling. An adjustable thermostat with seven pre-programmed heat settings means you’re guaranteed maximum indoor comfort.
The heater arrives with pre-assembled wheels for easy mobility and features a safety cutoff to prevent overheating. A 3-year warranty backs it.
- Energy-efficient oil radiation
- Overheating safety cutoff
- Virtually maintenance-free
- Noise-free operation
- 3-year limited warranty
- The surfaces get very hot
- It’s a bit pricey
9. Heat Storm HS-1500-PHX-WIFI Infrared Heater Wall Mounted
Finally, the Heat Storm Model HS-1500-PHX-WIFI stands out for several reasons. First off, this is a wall-mounted heater that doesn’t take space on the floor.
Since floor space can be at a premium in the RV, it makes every sense to consider wall models. Secondly, it installs in such a way that the cord is completely hidden to prevent any accidents.
A major advantage of the model HS-1500-PHX-WIFI, though, is the Wi-Fi compatibility. As the digital revolution takes hold, we’re getting to a point where we’ll want everything to be internet accessible.
This heater connects to wireless networks, making it possible to control it from a smartphone app. You can also control it from your laptop or tablet.
It plugs into the standard 110/120V power outlet and is ETL rated for safety. The housing also remains cool-to-touch throughout the heating process.
- It’s a Wi-Fi smart heater
- Extremely efficient HMS technology
- ETL rated for safety
- 1-year limited warranty
- Wheels not included
10. Lasko 755320 Ceramic Space Heater Model 755320
The above Lasko model sits on the table/desk or any other raised, stable, and safe surfaces. However, if you want something that stands freely on the floor, this second option, Model 755320, would be a perfect choice.
It’s just as impressive as the first one in terms of performance and features. The 1,500 heater has two quiet settings (high and low) plus a third auto setting.
Its widespread oscillation operation makes it even more attractive. Remote control means you can change the heat settings without leaving the couch. Better still – it has an 8-hour timer!
The unit has multiple built-in safety features, including overheat protection and cool-to-touch exteriors. It arrives fully pre-assembled.
- Powerful 1500-watt heat output
- Adjustable thermostat
- Remote control + timer
- Multiple safety features
- Digital controls
- The surface gets a significantly hot
- Tower design increases tip-over risk
RV Heater Buying Guide
Boondocking, also known as dry camping, wild camping, or dispersed camping, is a great way to spend your holidays.
This kind of camping involves staying in the wilderness without hookups or designated companies – an excellent idea for RV enthusiasts looking for tranquility, isolation, and a reconnection with nature. Although it has its difficulties, you can have the time of your life.
Before we begin discussing heaters for boondocking, maybe we should also mention that the activity is illegal in some parks, though most parks allow it. National parks and wildlife refuges are two of the best places to take your boondocking.
Also, some boondocking locations may have electricity, while others may not offer such convenience. If you’d like to have an electricity connection during your camp, maybe for reading or cooking, make sure to locate a destination with electricity.
Above all, all boondockers need heating. Even in the summer heat, temperatures at night can drop below the dew point, leaving you and your crew (if you decide to bring a friend or two) shivering.
A heating solution, such as a portable space heater, would be invaluable in such circumstances. As already mentioned, some RVs arrive with built-in heaters while others don’t. If your RV has none, you’ll need a primary heat source.
You may also need a supplementary heater if the built-in heating system isn’t sufficient.
Types of RV Heaters
Pretty much all RV heaters run on electricity or propane, though you may find a few models that operate on special oils and even kerosene.
Some people also choose to bring wood stoves to camps, though most parks don’t allow it. Natural gas lines may not be readily available at the destination, so it’s not usually a practical option.
Before we look at the various RV heater design styles to consider, the following is comparing electric vs. propane heaters to help you make an informed choice.
Electric RV Heater Pros and Cons
Electric heaters are currently the most popular types of heaters. The reason is that these heaters are pretty much maintenance-free. There’s no cleaning, changing fuel, fetching wood, or dealing with ashes.
They also offer instant heat – no waiting. Within a minute or two of switching on the heater, your RV or tent will be warm enough to keep you comfortable.
Additionally, electric heaters;
- Electric heaters are generally inexpensive
- The heaters don’t generate a lot of noise
- You don’t need to carry extra fuel to the camp
- Electric heaters have a very long lifespan
On the flip side, however, electric heaters require electric power availability; otherwise, they become useless. This may create a challenge as not all camping destinations have electricity connectivity. Besides;
- Power outages can be a considerable inconvenience
- The heaters get very hot, thus pose a burn risk
Propane RV Heater Pros and Cons
The biggest advantage of gas heaters is its high heat capacities. You can’t compare gas and electric heaters in terms of heat output – gas models produce way more heat.
This can be even more important when you’re going camping in a poorly insulated RV or intend to sleep in tents. You’ll need plenty of power to keep you warm through to morning.
- Propane heaters don’t need electricity to run
- Less expensive to run (30% more cost-effective)
- Incredible flexibility – you can take them anywhere
- Power blackouts are no longer a problem
Unfortunately, propane heaters come with a few drawbacks that you also need to keep in mind. For one, propane heaters are inherently unsafe in closed spaces. Since combustion gases are vented in the room, they create the risk of carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas. Also;
- Propane heaters are more expensive upfront
- You need to bring a few tanks of gas on your trip
Types by Design/Style
In addition to fuel considerations, RV heaters also come in a variety of styles and designs. The following are some of the most popular options;
Forced air furnaces are permanently installed in the RV. They comprise four main parts a heat source, thermostat, blower motor, and ductwork.
In electric heaters, the heat source is a high-resistance heating element that becomes very hot when current is passed through it. The blower motor has two essential functions. First, it blows cold air into the heating system. Secondly, it forces hot/warm air into the ductwork and the room.
The main advantage of forced-air heaters is excellent heat distribution. No heater can distribute heat as effectively as forced-air heaters. However, the heaters tend to make a bit of noise and are the most maintenance-intensive on this list because of the fan system. Forced air systems can also use propane gas.
Electric Heat Pumps
Electric heat pumps are heaters that are built into an air conditioning system. Think of them as mini-splits. They don’t create heat. Instead, they extract heat from one location and dumps it in a second location.
In the RV case, for instance, the heat pump will remove heat from the outside and dump it in the RV. The units can also work in reverse when it gets too hot in the RV. In this case, they’ll extract heat from the RV and dump it outside.
Heat pumps are considered the most energy-efficient heaters because they don’t require heating a high-resistance wire or burning fuel. They are also valuable because they double up as air conditioning units.
The only downside is that they don’t generate enough heat. Thus they can’t work as primary heaters. Also, they only run on electricity.
Electric Space Heaters
Electric space heaters are an excellent heating solution for small spaces, such as the RV – if you have access to electricity. They work by heating a high resistance wire, which gives off heat.
The heat is then dispersed throughout the space. Many models are radiant heaters that don’t need fans, though a few use small fans to distribute the heat. Installation options vary. Some are portable, while others permanently screw onto or recess into the RV wall.
The biggest attraction of this type of heater is flexibility. When you buy a portable electric space heater, you can use it in the bedroom, kitchen, basement, and many other places without any trouble.
However, they require electricity and would be of no help if you’re going camping in an area without an electricity connection.
Gas Stoves and Fireplaces
Gas stoves and fireplaces are an excellent choice if you desire a decorative focal point in the RV. The stoves pump out a lot of heat. Many are rated at 40,000 BTU or higher, which is enough for every corner of the RV.
The fireplaces may not give off as much heat, but they offer an ambiance that cannot be matched by any other product on this list.
A key attraction for people who love these units is the convenient controls. In both cases, control is primarily via remote devices.
Most gas stoves and heaters also feature timers that allow you to program the heating. A significant downside, however, is the need to bring along enough gas supply. Also, don’t forget about the inherent safety risks.
Hydronic Heat Systems
Finally, hydronic RV heaters are also relatively popular among campers and motorhome owners. One company that makes some of the best products in this category is AquaHot, formerly HydroHot.
These systems replace both the heating system and the hot water system. They use a diesel-fired boiler to provide heat as well as on-demand hot water.
The way the process works isn’t very complicated. The hydronic system features a heat exchanger filled with antifreeze. As the heat exchanger is heated, the antifreeze circulates to a series of small radiators.
Each radiator features a small blower fan that provides forced-air heat. These units are incredibly economical. But, they also require a significant initial investment.
Things to Consider When Choosing the Best RV Heater for Boondocking
We’ve already mentioned fuel and heater type. They are the first two things you need to consider when shopping for an RV heater for boondocking. Four other factors to consider are as follows;
RV heater capacities are measured in British Thermal Units (for gas and oil models) and kilowatt-hours for electric models. The number of BTUs or kilowatts you need for your RV will depend on several factors, including the RV size, insulation quality, and where you’re headed (the destination).
However, the standard requirement is 25-35 BTU per square foot in warmer climates and 45-60 BTU per-square-foot for colder climates. Don’t forget to insulate your RR as best as you can to prevent extensive heat losses.
Storage and Portability
As we’ve repeatedly mentioned, some RV heaters are permanently installed. These models don’t create any further storage concerns.
However, the majority of RVers use portable heaters primarily or as supplemental heat sources. Where will the heater sit? What about when you’re not using it? Where do you store it?
These are some of the things you need to ask yourself from the onset to avoid disappointments later on. A large gas heater needs significant storage space. Does your RV have that space? If not, consider smaller electric models that can be packed into a bag.
Camping isn’t the same as home use. There’ll be a lot of bumps and rough riding. You may also need to move the heater a lot during the short trip between storage and use points.
And, if it’s a gas heater, you’ll be taking it out of the RV at least twice every day for refilling. Can the heaters you’re considering withstand such rough handling? Or, would they break apart at the first bump?
Something else to consider here is the warranty. If the RV heater breaks easily, a few manufacturers may be willing to pay for the repairs or replace the unit. Otherwise, you risk losing all your money before you get to the destination.
Finally, all great RV heaters are worth the price. It doesn’t have to be dirt cheap. However, it also makes no sense buying an RV heater for thousands of dollars if you’re not an avid RVer.
If you’re only buying it for single-use, a modest electric model you can also use at home would be a more worthwhile investment. Alternatively, consider a portable propane model that you can later use in the garage.
However, for enthusiasts that go on boondocking camps a few times every year, you should be willing to spend more on something more suitable for the rough roads.
In this case, spending several hundred on a heater makes perfect sense. In both cases, though, the price should be within your budget.
How to Winterize Your RV
If you won’t be using the RV during the winter, it’s essential to winterize it to prevent damage. Consider the following winterizing tips;
- Drain the water and dry the water lines: Flush the water from the freshwater holding tank, black holding tank, and gray holding tank.
- Add antifreeze to the plumbing: You can do this by adding a water conversion kit or from the outside using a hand pump. Turn on the water pump to pressurize the system.
- Thoroughly clean the RV: Take everything off the refrigerator and clean it thoroughly. Don’t forget to clean the cupboards and drawers too.
- Cover any vents and holes: These include the vent pipes, roof vents, exhaust pipes, and fan vents. Don’t forget to remove the covering material when the RV comes out of storage.
- Prevent rodents and pests: Since the RV will stay unattended for months, rodents can turn it into their home. Covering any vents and holes (#4), putting out mot ball, and setting traps can help.
- Fill or remove the propane tank: The containers should be topped off before storage as it helps them better withstand the weather. As for removable tanks, take them off and store them in an area outside the RV.
- Charge the battery: Fully recharge the battery and top off the water levels before storage. However, if the weather is too cold, consider removing it and storing it in a warmer place, outside the RV.
- Top off gasoline and diesel tanks: This helps preserve the RV engine. Consider adding a fuel stabilizer from the RV supply shop. Also, top off the brake fluid and other oils as necessary.
- Cover the RV: You can use a tarp to keep away dust and grime. However, more breathable material is preferable as it helps prevent mold and mildew that may be trapped under the cover.
RV Space Heater Safety
Whether you’re using an electric, propane, or oil heater in the RV (avoid wood stoves altogether), safety is paramount. You don’t want to create preventable safety risks during your camping trip. Consider the following;
- Choose the right heater: RV heating safety starts with finding the right heater. Is it a safe heater? Is it rated for RV heating? Does it have safety features such as overheating protection and an anti-tip-over switch? These are just some of the questions you need to ask.
- Ensure a safe distance: This applies to all heater types. You need to position the heater at least three feet away from yourself and flammable items such as furniture or curtains. If you decide to sleep with the heater, ensure that it’s placed at least a meter away. Never sleep with a propane heater.
- Ensure sufficient ventilation: This especially applies to propane heaters. Since there’s a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, always open the windows when heating. Early signs of carbon monoxide include dizziness, headaches, and nausea.
- Use a carbon monoxide sensor: An oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) is the one people with gas heaters buy. It tracks oxygen levels in the area and sounds an alarm if the levels become dangerously low.
RV boondocking can be an exhilarating experience. The solitude provides the perfect opportunity for reflection or self-finding.
It also offers an excellent opportunity for bonding with a friend or loved one. But, you’ll need some heating on your trip, which means you may have to go shopping for an RV heater.
Make sure to find the right-size heater as it gets freezing out there. It should be powerful enough, easy to handle, and safe enough for the trip. You also want a model that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. Happy boondocking!