If you’re considering a camping trip this summer, you might be thinking about the cold nights – even in the hottest part of the year – and how to heat a camper without electricity to ensure the camper stays snug and warm inside.
There’s nothing like coming in from a long day to a nice, bright, cozy camper, and settling down for a fun evening that does not require you to huddle under a blanket and wear every sweater you own just to stop your fingers from turning numb.
Of course, you may not be camping in the summer, but instead dealing with harsh winter temperatures. If so, it’s even more important that you have effective ways to heat your camper, and if you don’t have a source of electricity, you need to look at the alternatives.
Many of us underestimate how cold it might be when camping, so it’s always good to have some backup ways to keep your camper warm. If you don’t have electricity, or even if you do, you might be wondering how to heat a camper without electricity. You don’t have to plug in an expensive and cumbersome electric heater; there are other options!
Some of the best options to heat your RV without electricity include gas heaters, propane heaters, and wood stoves. These avoid or minimize electricity use, and can be a great way to get the camper feeling snug, especially on cold evenings. Remember, no heater is going to work well without insulation, so add thermal curtains, seal drafts, and insulate the camper as thoroughly as possible to minimize heat loss.
This article will detail the ways that you can heat your camper without using electricity, so you can stay cozy on the coldest nights.
Use A Gas Heater
A gas heater is a great way to get your camper warm right through, and you can purchase fairly inexpensive portable gas heaters that you can then install in your camper with ease. Gas is a readily available commodity, so you should definitely consider this option if you’re thinking about cold nights in a camper.
Some campers and RVs will have a gas heater attached to the main gas tank, which means you don’t even need to worry about getting hold of gas or stocking up before going on a long trip.
It does also mean, however, that you need to check your tank is full enough to be running the heater, and keep an eye on the levels. You don’t want to suddenly find you can’t drive anywhere because the heater has gobbled up all the fuel.
Some modern versions have an inbuilt cutoff switch that stops the heater drawing from the tank when the fuel drops below a certain level – enough to reliably get you to the next gas station. This is great if you use your gas heater a lot, and can provide peace of mind.
Use A Portable Propane Heater
While the operating costs tend to be higher than with natural gas heaters, you may find that a portable propane heater is a good option for warming up your camper. These can be installed pretty much anywhere and they are very effective heaters, but they come with a big caveat.
They output carbon monoxide, and that can be really dangerous in a small, often enclosed space. If you’re running one of these heaters, you will need to ventilate your camper well (which may make it hard to insulate it) and be very careful about using the heater in the evenings. It should never be left running while you sleep.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal, so if you plan to use a propane heater, it’s important to install a carbon monoxide alarm. You should also have a smoke detector in your camper, regardless of what kind of heater you use.
Check your alarm regularly and make sure it is working; carbon monoxide does not smell and has no color, so it is extremely easy to poison yourself or others if something goes wrong with your heater or you leave it on for too long.
However, as long as you are careful, a propane heater is a good solution to the problem of keeping your camper hot whatever the temperature is like outside!
Install Solar Panels
Technically speaking, these aren’t heating a camper without electricity, but they are giving you a source of electricity that you should be able to use even when you are off the grid and don’t have any power sources, so they are worth including.
Solar panels aren’t the prettiest thing you can put on your camper, but they have some major advantages. They are, for starters, nice and green! If you’re planet-conscious, they are certainly something you should consider, because many of the other solutions are not very eco-friendly.
The first thing you need to do is to check that your camper can hold the weight; you may need to add some roof reinforcements, especially if you have an older camper.
Once the solar panels are installed, you need to link them up to your batteries (as they charge the RV batteries, not the camper directly) and then you can use any electric heater that you like.
A massive advantage of solar panels is that once you have offset the initial costs, they offer free power wherever you go, and you don’t have to keep stopping off to refuel. They don’t require you to store much in terms of equipment, and they aren’t an ongoing expense.
One of the downsides of this is that electric heaters tend to use quite a lot of power, so you may find that they drain the batteries fast. It’s also true that on the days when you are more likely to need heat, such as short, wet, rainy, or snowy days, there is less sunlight for the panels to utilize.
However, modern solar panels are constantly being improved to manage without direct sun, and adding them to your camper will also let you do things like charging phones, so they are well worth considering. In the right circumstances, they are the perfect solution.
Try A Solar Heater
If solar panels aren’t doing it for you, how about a solar heater? These heaters don’t require you to fit heavy, expensive panels into your camper; they are a standalone unit that depends on the power of the sun to charge up the heater.
They obviously share the benefits of solar panels in that they are free energy once you’ve paid off their cost, but there are plenty of other great reasons for using them.
Firstly, they are generally considered safe. No heater is foolproof and you still need to be careful of leaving them near any flammable materials, but you don’t need to worry about them giving off unpleasant fumes or sending out sparks.
They are also easy to install, and a good way to test if solar works for you on a small scale before you take the leap into solar panels. You will soon find out if you get enough power from the sun for it to be worth installing a big system – if your heater is permanently running out of power, solar panels may not be ideal for your situation.
While you will enjoy good days even when camping in wintry conditions, remember not to depend on a solar heater exclusively, especially when you are still getting used to it. You should have an alternative heat source in case of emergencies if you are camping when it’s truly cold, and test out your solar heater thoroughly before you depend on it.
Solar heaters are great for milder climates and short trips, but if you’re going to need a proper source of heat, they probably aren’t ideal – yet. In the future, this technology is likely to outstrip many of the others we use today.
Install A Wood Stove
Next on our list of how to heat a camper without electricity ideas is the humble wood stove, which has been part of our history for a long time, and has stood the test of the ages. Wood stoves are very soothing to sit and watch, and they can also keep a camper warm for hours.
If you’re camping somewhere with plenty of trees, you may even be able to obtain some fuel from your surroundings, although you should always carry logs, just in case.
Wood stoves are very much loved by their owners, and they are undoubtedly effective and satisfying, and also offer the option to cook some basic foods. If you’re looking to recreate a rural, simple lifestyle, a wood stove may seem essential.
Wood stoves are also very reliable; as long as you have dry wood, matches, and a little experience with lighting a fire, you shouldn’t really have any problems with heating the camper.
However, remember that they are considered pretty dangerous, and you need to be extremely vigilant if you’re going to install one in your camper. They are hot to touch, which can pose a danger to children and pets, and they can also cause a fire if you are careless.
A wood stove should be fitted professionally and you should think about fire safety. Keep soft furnishings well away from the flames, fit smoke detectors, and have a fire extinguisher to hand if you are going to use them as a heat source.
A further disadvantage of wood stoves is that they require you to carry fuel, and quite a lot of it – bulky, heavy logs. These will need proper storage space in your vehicle, which can make wood stoves less appealing to some people. Don’t depend on wood from your surroundings!
Warm Certain Areas And Partition Sections
As well as the general heat, you also need to think about staying warm in bed. Often, you will want to turn your heat source off during the night to maximize safety. That means you should pay particular attention to tricks for heating your sleeping area.
Installing a thick curtain around the bed is a good plan. Open this while you have your main heat source on, but close it after; this should trap heat inside.
You can also use smaller heating devices to keep your camper snug without electricity. For example, hot water bottles can be wonderful in winter, making beds toasty even if the ambient temperature drops overnight. Often, bottles will stay warm for hours, so invest in some and keep everyone cozy.
Hand warmers may be another good option; popped in the bottom of a sleeping bag, they can provide a little burst of heat, and it’s easy to buy reusable ones. With high quality thermal bedding, you can stay warm even if the heat generation is minimal.
A final trick for keeping your camper warm is to leave the oven door open after you have cooked a meal (if you use an oven). While you shouldn’t use the oven to heat the camper as it is not efficient, there’s no reason not to make the most of the heat it has generated.
You might be surprised by how much warmer this makes the camper, and it can be used in conjunction with other heaters. It’s also not one you need to worry about switching off; it will already be off by the time you open the door.
As a bonus, a good meal will keep you warm throughout the night. Eating well before bed ensures your digestive system stays active and this keeps your body temperature high. Follow this with a mug of something hot and get into bed feeling warm; this can really help.
If you don’t have an oven, making a hot meal will still generate heat, even if only from the gas stove. This is worth doing, especially as the food will warm you as well as the camper.
So, now you know exactly how to heat a camper without electricity! There are many different options available, so experiment and see which works best for you. Remember, you should never test a new system in extreme conditions; play it safe and see how it functions before heading into the snow!
You should also have an emergency plan for heat if you’re camping in really cold conditions, and some very good thermal clothes just in case the worst should happen. While these are great ways to heat a camper without electricity, they aren’t infallible!