How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity: 6 Effective Methods

Heating a camper, campervan, trailer, or any kind of RV without electricity presents some challenges.

When boondocking, dispersed camping, or otherwise off-grid, it requires some forethought, especially in the colder months.

Certainly, there are alternative heating methods that survivalists use. Some of these are valid in enclosed spaces like a camper, both others are not and should be discounted.

For example, an alcohol-based stove represents too much safety risk to be worth it.

Here is our assessment of how to provide warmth, especially during cold winter months, when there’s no power to speak of.

Portable Solutions to Get Power in Your Camper or Travel Trailer

The first thing to not overlook or avoid the topic is why you don’t have electricity, to begin with.

Using a camper without electricity is a tough road and becomes more inconvenient in the latter part of the year…

If the reason is that you’ve not arranged to have solar panels installed yet due to the expense, or there are no 12-volt house batteries to store an electrical charge (that get charged by either solar or the alternator when running the engine), that’s not something that should be ignored forever.

Temporary power solutions can provide some electricity to charge smartphones, and perhaps run a small heater, or another appliance.

These are extremely useful, inexpensive, and require minimal set-up too. These avoid being cut off unexpectedly in an unheated camper, and not being able to call for assistance!

A folding solar panel that can be laid out on the roof or the ground next to your camper can charge phones, run a Mi-Fi internet device, and other small ones.

The Topsolar SolarFairy Foldable Solar Panel offers a 100-watts, 18-volt DC output that is worth a look:

Another option is to own and charge up a portable Jackery power bank to cover a few days of off-grid, dispersed camping.

These are capable of powering a space heater to keep you warm on cold nights until reaching civilization again.

Here is one of the better Jackery Power Stations. They’re available in different size capacities to reduce the financial outlay too:

Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000, 1002Wh Solar Generator (3 x 110V/1000W AC Outlets)

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How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity

Using indoor heaters that don’t require electricity is definitely possible.

These can also act as alternative heat sources for power outages.

There are a few potential options that are safe to use and will keep you warm. These are detailed in different sections below:

How to Heat a Small Camper

Heating a small camper is less of a challenge than with a larger internal space like a travel trailer or fifth wheel.

The amount of heat needed to be generated (and replacing warmth as heat rises) is far less of a running battle than heating a larger space without electricity.

Therefore, for owners of teardrop campers and other small campers that don’t have a large footprint, it’s more affordable to solve this problem.

Choosing lower capacity units in a range of heating options will usually be fine and they often take up less floor space too.

Best Way to Heat a Camper

Here are a few heaters without electricity to consider for a camper:

Wood Stove for a Camper or Campervan

A wood-burning stove to fit inside a camper is one of the best alternative home heating options for camper owners.

They’re used inside smaller spaces including campers, campervans, and even tents. Or they can be placed outdoors too. For generating heat without electricity or gas, they work well too.

With wood burning, it needs to be dry wood.

Picking up wet wood from the forest nearby won’t cut it. You’ll need to purchase aged wood supplies and kindling to feed into a reliable wood burner.

Wood burners need a dedicated corner or area within your camper.

A heat-resistant board or faux stone panels behind a wood stove keep the heat off the nearby area. This ensures it’s directed away and doesn’t linger behind the stove.

The better wood burners are produced using either carbon steel or stainless steel to be durable and avoid being too hot to the touch.

When fitting them, they’ll usually have a flute that needs to be installed and exits like a vent to expel the smoke (sometimes this is sold separately, as might be implemented to use too).

Wood stoves are best used for off grid RV heating because otherwise, the smoke will make urban street passersby worry that the camper is on fire. Care must also be taken not to leave the stove unattended.

For peace of mind, get a wood-burning stove safety check after you’ve installed one.

Here is Fltom Portable Wood Burning Stove used for camping, heating, and cooking on its stovetop:

Fltom Portable Wood Burning Stove for Camping, Heating, and Cooking (Includes Stainless Wall Chimney Pipes)

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Large wood burning logs on fire

Read Also: Using RV Toilet in Winter

Diesel Heater for a Camper or Campervan

If you’re looking for how to heat an RV without propane, a diesel heater can provide all your RV heating needs.

It is typically installed under a seat or elsewhere where it can be discreetly located, has a built-in diesel supply, and provides a powerful heat source.

These units deliver even heat throughout the living space, which is particularly attractive when there are corners more susceptible to moisture build-up.

As a dry heat source, they prevent moisture or window condensation in the morning too. This compares to propane heaters which don’t always help in this regard.

While a wood stove is a good option, it can be a little messy near where it’s installed.

For minimalists or people who like to keep a tiny home, a diesel heater is a solid choice of the best non electric heater for campers or travel trailers.

The Happy Diesel Heater is an excellent camper heater. There are 5-kilowatt versions (and less powerful ones for smaller camper models too).

Happybuy 5KW Diesel Air Heater. 10L Tank. 12V Diesel Parking Heater Muffler (Remote and LCD Thermostat)

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Read Also: Carbon Monoxide Alarm Going Off in Camper

RV Propane Heat for a Camper / Campervan

An RV propane heat source is the next option for camper owners.

The most popular option is Mr. Heater Buddy. It is a portable camper heater that stands up on its own and is connected via a hose to the propane bottle.

Propane heaters require a vent to remove any fumes generated on the exterior of the camper.

These certainly are stealthier than wood stoves when off-grid living, but likely the diesel heater is the stealthiest option of all.

These Mr. Heater Buddy propane camper heaters come in various size capacities, with optional longer hoses to put some distance between the propane gas bottle and the heater itself.

As a non electric portable heater, they’re a mainstay of people in campers and those living the van life to heat their living space:

Mr. Heater Big Buddy Indoor/Outdoor Portable Propane Heater

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Read Also: How to Insulate a Camper for Winter Use

How to Heat a Trailer Without Electricity

Many of the heating options above will work in a trailer too.

The main consideration is how powerful the heating source is compared to the internal living space of the trailer.

For instance, a Mr. Heater Buddy gets sold in various sizes to provide different BTU levels for more or less heat generation, as needed.

Within that, they also have heat settings on the portable heating unit itself to regulate output and how much propane they consume too.

Similarly, wood-burning stoves and multi-fuel stoves come in different capacities too.

This allows for small logs and bigger pieces of wood to be used instead of being limited to small offcuts and specialized wood supplies to feed into a smaller wood stove.

With trailers, it’s also possible to put a greater distance between the heat source and the fuel source.

For example, gas cylinders can get their own compartment to separate them. Then just hook up the hose between the storage container and the heater.

How to Heat a Pop Up Camper Without Electricity

A pop-up camper is a slightly different situation because when the canvas roof is erected, it can be a potential fire hazard.

It’s also harder to create a suitable vent system to expel gas fumes or smoke. For instance, adding a flute to a wood stove won’t be possible.

In this situation, a wood stove is ruled out. A Mr. Heater Buddy is a possibility, but arrangements must be made to vent the propane fumes outside.

The best solution for a pop up camper heater is a diesel heater with a permanent arrangement for expelling the diesel fumes externally. This keeps the heat source well away from the temporary roof of the pop-up and the fumes from heat generation removed too.

Happybuy 5KW Diesel Air Heater. 10L Tank. 12V Diesel Parking Heater Muffler (Remote and LCD Thermostat)

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A single lit match bent into a shape to stand up by itself

How to Heat a Camper with Electricity

As we alluded to at the beginning of this article, electric heat for RV vehicles is always beneficial over trying to manage without it.

It’s sensible to install secondary heating options to cover for inexplicable times when the power fails you.

When electricity is plentiful, a small space heater or infrared heater are two options that work well in a small space.

Another option is a furnace, which benefits from not having gas fumes to worry about (it still requires the use of a vent).

Space Heater for a Camper or Campervan

A space heater provides a blast of heat without needing to wait for the heat source to warm up first.

This is ideal for cold winter nights when you’ve been outdoors for a while and the camper or campervan has been unattended.

Newer space heaters come with a remote control, touch buttons, LED displays, and more. The Dreo Space Heater includes a useful tip-over system to alert you and has sensors to prevent overheating too. It also has a timer for up to 12 hours, though we’d probably wish to avoid leaving running while unattended:

Infrared Heater for Less Expensive Running Time

An electric infrared heater is an interesting idea too.

These will often need to be fitted to a wall, rather than to be freestanding. Therefore, special arrangements must be made to create a safe place to install it.

This is not unlike a wood stove which requires a heat barrier behind it and/or to the side of it.

The Heat Storm Phoenix HS-1500-PHX is a popular infrared heater. It’s available either as a combo freestanding/wall-hung option or a wall-fitted only option, where it’s controlled using a mobile app over Wi-Fi:

Heat Storm Phoenix HS-1500-PHX Infrared Heater – Freestanding/Wall mounted model

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RV Furnace for Permanent Electric Heating

An RV furnace can be fitted, provide up to 16,000 BTU of power, and include an electronic ignition.

There are also separate wall furnace thermostats to regulate the heat in the camper and maintain a consistent level.

These are going to be safe to use when away from the camper to keep it toasty.

The Suburban range of RV furnaces is well-regarded:

Suburban Furnace with Black Grill (Model Nt-16Seq 2438ABK)

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Safety Considerations with Heating a Camper or Campervan

It’s important to appreciate that any heating source inside a confined space has safety considerations.

Most heating, other than perhaps a diesel heater, shouldn’t be used while away from the vehicle

Wood stoves can generate ash, or a venting solution may suddenly spring a leak causing internal venting which would be unsafe for pets left in the camper.

Proper installation includes all necessary venting to remove escaped gases, smoke, and other results of generating heat.

Also, a carbon monoxide alarm should always be fitted inside a camper or campervan. However, that’s doubly the case when using internal heating sources of any kind.

One with a battery backup, like this Kidde Carbon Monoxide Alarm, are safer:

Kidde Carbon Monoxide Detector. Plug In with Battery Backup. CO Detector (Model KN-COP-DP2)

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Other Considerations for Keeping Warm

Adequate insulation beneath the camper’s walls is necessary to help retain the warmth.

Otherwise, it will be more expensive in heating fuels to continually reheat the living space.

Campers have different levels of insulation at the factory; some are poorly insulated. Therefore, it may be necessary to enhance what’s already present to keep more of the warmth inside.

Also, using Reflectix window covers [affiliate link] can avoid losing heat through the windows.

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