Is It Safe to Use a Buddy Heater in a Tent?

It can sometimes get pretty chilly when you're out camping in your tent. So bringing your Buddy heater seems tempting, but can you do it without compromising safety?

Most people assume that using a propane heater indoors (and especially inside of a tent) isn’t a very good idea. Quite honestly, that’s a fair assumption and it can very much be the truth. However, that doesn’t mean that all propane heaters are unsafe to use indoors.

The one we want to focus on specifically today is the Buddy Heater from Mr. Heater. It’s an extremely popular portable propane space heater, but it seems like what everyone wants to know is whether or not it can be safely used inside of a tent or not.

So, can you use a Buddy heater in tent? Well, when you look at the official product description of the heater, the answer becomes clear. This patented radiant 4,000-9,000 BTU Liquid Propane heater connects directly to a 1 lb. cylinder and is the perfect solution for heating enclosed spaces like large tents up to 225 sq. ft.

The proof is in the pudding, as Mr. Heater makes it clear that their Buddy Heater is fully capable of being used inside of a tent. Is that really all that meets the eye, though? Just because the manufacturer claims it can be used inside of a tent, does that mean that you actually should?

Is it actually safe to use a Buddy Heater in tent?

a ceramic heater up close
Image credits: Umar Farooq

When properly and safely used, it’s indeed perfectly safe to use this heater inside of your tent (and it’s going to work a little better than say a candle). More on the former in just a minute, but let’s look at the two main reasons why this happens to be the case. The reason why Mr. Heater advertises their Buddy Heater to be able to be used inside of a tent is that they designed it with two critical safety features.

The first of which is an accidental tip-over shut-off feature, but the one that’s arguably more important and beneficial (though the shut-off feature is really nice) is the oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) that comes installed. Both go a long way for indoor safety.

The accidental tip-over shut-off feature

This feature is very common with space heaters as, let’s face it, they can tip over from time to time. Even if you’re not clumsy, accidents can happen. So, a feature such as this prevents a heater from continuing to run if it tips over. The Buddy Heater falls into that category as it has an internal sensor that will automatically turn off the heater if it tips over.

One reviewer tested the feature and noted that it definitely works. Additionally, they mentioned that the heater is actually kind of sensitive when being jostled. So, if it starts to shake too much, it will shut off and will possibly do so even if it doesn’t tip over. Now, the reviewer did mention that lifting the heater straight up to move it can be achieved without the heater turning off.

The ODS

The aforementioned safety feature is great for preventing a potential fire, but the ODS is great for preventing potential carbon monoxide poisoning. In fact, the ODS is probably the main reason why you can use a Buddy Heater in tent (as it does use gas and not battery power to function).

To reiterate, ODS stands for oxygen depletion sensor and, in general, the term “oxygen depletion” refers to any amount of oxygen, by volume in fresh air, less than 21 percent. The sensor inside of the Buddy measures the oxygen levels.

In other words, basically what the built-in ODS is going to do is shut down the unit if it senses that the surrounding oxygen levels are too low. The same reviewer as mentioned before, tested the heater indoors. They even ran it near a carbon monoxide detector and had no problems whatsoever.

They did make mention of a slight odor that persists when using the heater indoors, but nothing that would be considered unsafe.

Are there extra precautions you can take?

person lying in a blue tent staring at a lake
Image credits: Bima Wahyu

Just to make it clear, using the Buddy Heater in tent is completely safe. However, do you remember when we said that it’s safe when properly and safely used? Well, that’s what we want to shift the focus on now. Because even though the space heater is designed to be safely run inside of a tent, you can also take precautions to make it even safer.

As safe as an inside heater as it is, it could still be a potential fire hazard if you don’t take precautions yourself. Additionally, just in case the ODS malfunctions or ceases to function, it’s not a bad idea to have a backup plan in place for emergencies.

Let’s address the former first, though, as we take a look at some critical pointers if you decide to run your Mr. Heater Buddy inside of your tent.

Proper footing

Even though the Buddy Heater is designed to automatically shut off if it gets accidentally tipped over, it’s still important to find a proper foothold for the heater while it’s running. Keeping it on a solid, fire-resistant surface is a good idea in the long run. It’s not as if you want the heater to be falling over all the time as potential hazards can still result even with the built-in safety feature.

Proper placement

One of the best ways to prevent a space heater from potentially catching something on fire is to keep it away from flammable sources. In a home, this includes items such as curtains, paper, and furniture. In a tent, this should include items like your sleeping bag/bags, camping gear that you have, and especially the walls of your tent. It’s recommended to give the heater at least one to two feet of clearance 360 degrees around. Also, keep in mind that heat rises so don’t place the heater too high in that it could potentially melt the roof of your tent.

In all honesty, there’s no reason to panic with any of this. All you really need to do is make sure that the Buddy Heater has its own space in your tent, is about two feet away from the walls, and is sitting on a solid surface that can withstand heat. Of course, if your tent floor is solid and stable enough, you can also just leave the heater on the floor.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at some precautions you can make regarding potential carbon monoxide positioning.

Proper ventilation

It may seem counterintuitive to run a heater in a well-ventilated space as you don’t want the heat to escape. However, with a tent, it’s not as if you need the space heater to heat it as if it was your home. If you want to ventilate your tent a little bit, possibly opening a vent at the bottom and top, for better peace of mind you can. It’s not really going to be necessary with a Mr. Heater Buddy, though, as it’s not a carbon monoxide hazard.

Using a carbon monoxide detector

Hmm, we just got done saying carbon monoxide is not a hazard with this heater, and then we go and recommend installing a detector inside your tent to help detect the gas? Again, this would just be an extra precaution just in case you don’t always want to rely just on the built-in ODS. The ODS is probably the main reason you can use a Buddy Heater in tent, but it’s understandable if you want a backup detector. Understand, though, that an ODS is measuring oxygen levels not necessarily carbon monoxide gas. So, you can buy a carbon monoxide detector for the inside of your tent, and some will come with alligator clips to allow you to clip them on the walls.

Can you leave the Mr. Heater Buddy on overnight?

dome tent on mountain top with sunrise in the background
Image credits: Kevin Ianeselli

The reality is, when you look at the specs, the Buddy Heater isn’t going to be capable of running all night long. At maximum BTUs, it’s designed to last three hours and at minimum BTUs, it can run for six hours. Now, some people sleep for only six hours, so you could technically run it on low for the night.

However, should you? Even though it’s safe, the safest way to use a Buddy Heater in tent is to do so while you’re awake. Quite honestly, that’s the way it’s going to be for all space heaters. It’s also probably best to run it for shorter periods at a time.

Let’s face it, the Buddy Heater wasn’t designed to be used as a main source of heat for hours on end.

Final thoughts

Mr. Heater answered this question without us needing to even analyze their Buddy Heater regarding whether or not you can use it inside of a tent. The way they advertise their space heater makes it clear that it can be used in this manner.

Thanks in large part to the built-in ODS and tip-over protection, you can feel safe while using this during your camping adventures. Just remember to use proper placement when using it and, if you want, you can take additional measures to ensure carbon monoxide poisoning never happens with it.

Well, that just about sums it up perfectly right there. To wrap up, we also want to mention that the Mr. Heater Buddy isn’t the only superb tent heater on the market. There are quite a few others, and, in fact, we’ve already compiled a list of what we feel are the 10 best tent heaters for cold-weather camping in 2022. Be sure to check that out if you’re in the market for a new space heater for your tent.

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Tyler Jones

Tyler is much like a swiss knife. Even though he has a degree in Computer Science, he knows almost everything there is to know about camping. He has been writing for HeadlessNomad since 2021 and has contributed with over 100 articles. If you have an outdoor-related question, then Tyler much likely knows the answer.