So, you’re planning on living in your campervan somewhere chilly this winter? There are many best campervan heaters to choose from to take the edge off when temperatures plunge below zero.
Living in a van in the winter can be a marvelous thing. You can stay close to your favorite ski hills, sleep next to awesome cross-country trails, and enjoy a winter wonderland.
In this post, we’ll tell you all about the best heaters for campervans and tips on keeping your van warm in winter.
There are the best electric heaters for campervans, diesel heaters and propane heaters. We even feature a few wood stoves!
Personally, in our Chevy Astro van, we just use extra warm sleeping bags, hats and blankets to stay warm when camping at chilly temps.
Which of the best campervan heaters you choose is up to you and your budget when taking on those cold winter months in your campervan.
The Best Propane Heaters for a Campervan
|Camco Olympian Wave||AMAZON|
|Dickson Marine Propane Fireplace||AMAZON|
Propane is a really popular choice for people heating their vans in winter. The best propane heaters for van life cost more than electric heaters but are cheaper to run overall.
The first main issue with propane heaters in a campervan is that they do emit a lot of moisture, which increases the potential for mold and condensation inside your van.
The other issue is that they must be properly vented so you don’t inhale carbon monoxide. You’ll need to have windows cracked and you should buy a carbon monoxide detector if you plan on using propane inside a vehicle.
These best campervan heaters using propane can work as an overnight van heater, with proper ventilation and the right carbon monoxide alarm.
Here are our top picks for the best propane heaters for a campervan in winter:
The Mr. Buddy heater gets top marks in the van life community. This small campervan heater is powerful, pumping out up to 9,000 BTUs for spaces up to 225 square feet.
I did read on some van life forums that this van heater stops working about 7,000 feet, but others say they’ve gotten it to work at altitudes up to 10,000.
Mr. Buddy Heater has an auto shut-off feature if tipped over or if it detects low oxygen levels, making it one of the best propane heaters for a campervan.
Some van lifers highly recommend the Suburban furnace as the best propane heater for a campervan. This forced air furnace adds zero humidity inside your van as it’s vented directly outdoors.
The furnace draws 37 amps when in use and blows an astonishing 19,000 BTUs, plenty of power to heat up a campervan in no time.
The main drag of this best campervan heater is that you have to build a system for this furnace to vent outside your campervan. Plus, since it uses so much propane to run, you’ll need a larger van with at least a 25-pound propane canister.
The Suburban Furnace gets mostly positive reviews from Amazon, with people saying it’s quiet and fairly easy to install.
A third option for heating your campervan in winter with propane is the Camco Olympian Wave heater. This best propane heater for a campervan is adjustable from 1600-3000 BTUs. It can be mounted on the wall or used as a portable unit.
One major benefit of a wave heater is its silent operation – no fan or blower noises. This propane heater for a campervan is rated for 100 square feet.
Some reviewers say the Camco Olympian Wave Heater it has lasted them for years and years of chilly camping. Plus, it’s easy to use.
The Dickson Marine Propane Fireplace is one of the best campervan heaters that uses propane.
The stove creates soft blue flames that mimic the look and feel of a fire, but without the wood smoke and crackling.
This fireplace is less than 6 inches deep and weighs just 26 lbs. For such a small unit, its heat output of 5,500 – 7,500 BTUs is pretty incredible.
This best propane stove for van life is built for marine living and claims to be unaffected by motion, winds, or weather conditions.
The body is made of non-rust stainless steel, which isn’t quite as durable as cast iron, but at 26lbs, this unit is ideal for boat or van dwellers, and it comes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.
The Best Electric Heaters for a Campervan
|Brightown Ceramic Heater||AMAZON|
However, electric heaters for van life take up a lot of power to run.
Due to the immense power draw, you may not be able to keep the best electric heater for a campervan on all night. If you’re able to park in a campground with full hookups, you could run a heater all night.
If you don’t have access to an electrical outlet, you may only be able to run your heater for a few hours before it drains your battery. Some van lifers say the best approach is to run an electric heater for just 20-minutes at a time to heat up your campervan.
You’ll just have to think about your own circumstances and just how much heat you need inside your campervan in winter.
Look for an electric heater for van life that doesn’t use a lot of watts to run – it may not heat your entire van, but it will make your immediate area warmer.
This is probably the least favorite option among van lifers that I’ve read about so far.
The upside is that electric heaters for a campervan are one of the cheapest options.
Here are some of the best electric heaters for a campervan:
This low-wattage space heater is perfect for a campervan as it only draws 200-watts, or 2 amps, to run. The Lasko ceramic space heater is only 6 inches tall with a 4″x4″ footprint, so it will take up minimal space inside your van.
This best electric heater for a campervan is designed to heat a tiny space, so great for a small rig. Plus, it’s affordable!
Keep in mind that this little ceramic campervan heater puts out way less BTUs than the larger propane heaters we mentioned above.
The Brightown personal ceramic heater needs double the watts of the Lasko personal ceramic heater but is still one of the best electric heaters for a campervan.
You’ll need 400-watts, or 3.63 amps of continuous power to run this little heater in your van. It’s rated for use up to 100 square feet and shuts off automatically if you happen to tip it over.
Some say the Brightown personal ceramic heater a little loud, but it does provide a lot of heat for a small space.
This little Vornado space heater heats small to medium-sized spaces and has three different settings. The lowest setting still draws 750-watts, so you won’t be able to run this heater for very long unless you’re connected to shore power.
This campervan heater has a cool touch exterior and tip-over protection, which is really important if you’re heating a campervan.
The best diesel campervan heaters
A diesel campervan heater is the most popular choice amongst van lifers who are living in a van in winter. Diesel heaters are way more expensive initially than other types of campervan heaters but provide the dryest and most energy-efficient heat.
As one van lifer put it: “Fuel/ cost efficiency versus propane is not even close. The fuel costs to run a diesel heater all night is literally pennies.”
So while you might be spending money upfront for the best campervan diesel heater, you’ll make it all up in the long run.
Diesel heaters for van life can either run off your vehicle’s diesel fuel tank, or come with a small separate tank for fuel. This all depends on your rig.
You’ll also need a power supply to run the diesel heater – many of them hook up to your vehicle’s leisure batteries. They don’t take much power to run.
The main downside of a diesel heater is it takes some know-how for installation, or you can take to a shop to help you out.
If you plan on spending a lot of time in high altitudes, you may need a high altitude kit to make sure your diesel heater runs.
Here are our top picks for the best diesel heater for living in a van in winter:
The WeBasto diesel heater gets high marks in the van life forums and is considered one of the best heaters for a campervan. Plus, the WeBasto can make hot water as well as hot air, making your campervan extra cozy in winter.
Some complain the WeBasto heater clicks a lot when running, which can be annoying.
Otherwise, it makes an awesome dry heat – perfect for cozy winter nights and drying your soggy outdoor clothes.
The one I found on Amazon is a diesel heater, but van lifers say they have found gas version of the heater as well. Another place to look is on eBay.
The Espar Diesel heater, or Eberspächer, is a lot like the WeBasto. Both of these heaters are manufactured in Germany, and create hot, dry air.
Some reviewers say this campervan diesel heater is tricky to install and pricey, but worth it in the long run. The Espar and WeBasto diesel heaters are popular amongst truck drivers, so you may be able to find one in a truck salvage yard if you’re lucky.
Chinese Diesel Heaters
A Chinese diesel heater is a hot topic in van life forums. They are way cheaper than their German counterparts, and you can usually find them for sale on eBay.
Van lifers say to get the 2kw Chinese diesel heater.
If you want to learn more about the positives and negatives of Chinese diesel heaters, I’d recommend joining this Facebook group dedicated to Chinese diesel heaters.
Check out this review for more info:
The best wood stoves for a campervan
|Kimberly Wood Stove||BUY NOW|
|Cubic Mini Wood Stove||BUY NOW|
|Dwarf 4k||BUY NOW|
If you’re not worried about being stealth in your campervan, you might want to consider a wood stove as the best heater for a campervan. I mean, who doesn’t love the sound of a crackling wood fire, and the scent of campfire wafting through your rig?
A wood stove in a campervan requires quite a bit of installation, as you’ll need a chimney pipe out the roof of your van.
You’ll also need to keep a constant supply of fuel on hand.
Many van lifers swear by this adorable Cubic Mini Wood Stove. I mean, who wouldn’t live the tiniest wood stove?
Wood stoves create nice, dry heat.
The main downside about this best heater for a campervan is that you always have to find wood. If you’re going off-grid or boondocking, you’ll have to store that wood somehow.
One reviewer said the stove isn’t very efficient and you have to constantly feed it wood.
Other people say you can find wood anywhere and the stove works well. So, it most likely depends on where you’ll be using the wood stove.
This sturdy little wood stove for a campervan is made out of steel and cast iron with a large viewing window so you can enjoy the look of a dancing fire.
The Small Dwarf 4k emits about 12,500 BTUs when lit, but you can also choose a more powerful stove (the 5k) or a less powerful one (the 3k).
Tiny Wood Stoves builds its wood-burning stoves with three separate, air-tight air supplies for better control of burn rates. You’ll also get a cooking surface on top.
The Dwarf can burn wood, coal or compressed logs with a fire box made out of cast iron and fire brick, which reflects heat back into your space.
This company has been designing wood stoves for small spaces for many years and offers plenty of information on installing stoves and choosing the right one for your van.
Look out, the future of campervan wood-burning stoves is coming in hot. This unit is pretty amazing.
The Kimberly wood stove is built off the history of an inspiring father who moved his small family into an even smaller boat out of desperation during the Great Recession.
He needed a small wood stove that didn’t burn through much wood and minimal smoke output with a longer burn time. So, he created an innovative two-stage combustion chamber to successfully accomplish everything he needed, boasting an incredibly efficient, nearly smokeless stove.
If you can stomach the price of this best campervan heater, it’s an incredible investment. They also include expert installation and all required materials (flu pipe) with your purchase, giving you even more peace of mind.
Heating Tips for a Campervan
Before you run out and buy the best campervan heater, it’s important to get ready for living in a van in winter. Here are a few tips to get you ready for those freezing temperatures.
Insulate your van
The first step to heating a campervan in winter is having the proper insulation. Many vans are double-walled, which means you can stick some insulation between the inner and outer walls before completing your van build.
If you plan on staying in cold weather for long periods of time, you might want to consider heavy-duty insulation like rock wool or sheep wool insulation.
However, if you’re going to be bouncing between warm and cold climates, foam board insulation makes the most sense. This rigid foam is great for lining your van’s walls and ceiling and has a high R-value for its size.
Here are some types of insulation you should consider to keep your campervan warm:
Cover your campervan floor with a rug
Many people choose to put flooring in their campervan that turns super chilly in colder temperatures. Make sure you have a good rug or carpeting in your campervan for those chilly months.
A soft, wool rug not only keeps your feet warm when you’re walking around your van, but it also traps warm air inside and keeps cold air from seeping in through the floor.
Cover your windows
Windows let out tons of heat when you’re trying to go about heating a campervan in winter. Put up curtains to block heat from leaching out the glass.
Also, you could consider using cardboard, fleece, or Reflectix to add additional window coverings. The more heat you can trap inside your campervan, the better.
Wear the right clothes in your van
The right gear can make or break a chilly night in a campervan. Make sure you stock up on wool or fleece, and always wear a hat and wool socks.
When we van camp in colder temperatures, a good wool hat makes all the difference. It’s incredible how much heat you lose through your head.
Check out my favorite cold-weather sleeping gear:
Get a good sleeping bag for cold weather
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There’s a reason why you see so many van lifers driving south for the winter to spend the chilly months in a place like Baja, Mexico. They don’t want to bother heating their vans!
If you live a mobile lifestyle, moving south for the winter prevents you from needing to buy cold-weather gear for your van. If you don’t want to venture into Mexico, try California, Arizona or Florida.
Conclusion on the best campervan heaters
There are so many options when it comes to living in a van in winter.
We recommend using a source of dry heat to cut down on moisture and mold in your van.
The best heaters for van life are either propane, diesel or wood, in our opinion.
Or if you don't want to mess with a heater at all, try a warm sleeping bag, warm clothes and even a nice 12-volt electric blanket.
What do you use to stay warm in a van?
Other van life posts you'll love:
- 40+ ways to make money from a campervan
- How to do an awesome campervan conversion
- 7 campervan bed ideas to kickstart your conversion
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Kristin Hanes is a journalist who founded The Wayward Home as a place to learn about alternative living. She currently lives on a sailboat and in a Chevy Astro van, and has written articles about alternative living published in Good Housekeeping, Business Insider, Marie Claire and SF Gate. Read more about Kristin here.