5 Creative Ways to Heat a Camper Without Electricity

Are you going camping but wonder how to heat a camper without electricity? Here are 5 ways to combat the cold without electricity.

So you’ve bought your camper, you’ve gone on a trip, and you’re so excited to get settled but you’ve forgotten the campsite has no access to electricity. How are you going to heat a camper without electricity?

Or you’ve gone to a remote location to escape the everyday hustle and bustle of your busy life but now you’re in the middle of nowhere.

What now? Not only is it safer to have electricity for emergencies but it’s a winter trip and you’re already freezing, there must be a way to heat the camper without electricity right? These are the 5 ways I’ll be covering:

  1. Use your camper’s heater
  2. Purchase a portable heater
  3. Mount a vented furnace
  4. Having proper insulation
  5. Hot water bottle and equipment

Without further ado, let’s dive into the first way to heat a camper without electricity.

1. Use your camper’s heater

The first method we will discuss is how to use your vehicle’s heater to keep warm when you find yourself off the grid for a while.

This however is mostly suited for emergencies only and I would not recommend it as a long-term solution to heat a camper without electricity. If you have no other choice, once it comes to bedtime, start up your vehicle and whack your heater up as high as possible.

Let this run for around 10-15 minutes and once you feel all warm and snug, turn the vehicle off and go to sleep nice and toasty.

The heat that you accumulate in this method will help your vehicle stay warm throughout the night and is excellent in a pinch. It does however only work if your camper is adequately insulated. Keep an eye on fuel levels too.

As I said, this is not a long-term solution to keeping your camper warm and one of the reasons behind this is because it is not efficient in the slightest.

As we all know burning too much fuel not only burns your pockets but also the environment and for this method to work, you need to run your engine.

The being said, if a little extra fuel is going to stop you from turning into ice cubes in the night, it’s a great solution just for one or two nights.

2. Purchase a portable heater

Sounds obvious right? You’re cold, so buy a heater.

Compared to our first method, this method is much more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly, making it a long-term fix and allowing you to travel far and wide without having to worry about keeping warm.

Having a portable and safe RV heater that runs off of gas or propane is without a doubt the best method for combatting colder temperatures when boondocking.

It can be used either as a backup for when you find yourself without electricity or as your usual source of heat if used appropriately.

They give off a good amount of heat so you’re guaranteed to stay toasty and they can be placed anywhere inside your camper, however, the size of your campervan will inevitably determine which size heater you buy.

Most heaters run off propane or butane, usually the small green canister you’d use on a camping stove.

Some brands also have a feature where if you accidentally knock it over, they turn off automatically and so they are a safer option especially if you have children with you (or clumsy adults)!

Before purchasing, you will need to be aware of fire hazards, space heater safety, and the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide poisoning is, unfortunately, quite a high risk if you choose this method.

This is because the combustion of propane gas in a closed space like a camper creates carbon monoxide.

This means you should only run your heater for a short amount of time as even heaters designed for indoor use will create carbon monoxide if not vented to the outside.

Finally, keep in mind before purchasing that although a great long-term solution, they are slightly under-qualified for very serious use and you must ensure you read the instructions carefully.

You need to have proper venting, enough space, and enough propane to keep it working. However, it’s really one of the best ways to heat a camper without electricity.

I’ve written an entire post covering the 10 best portable heaters that you might want to check out if you consider buying one.

3. Mount a vented furnace

Now we’re talking power. A floor-mounted furnace is one of the most convenient and efficient ways of keeping your camper warm, as well as providing intense power.

If you have a decent cooking system that runs off gas, a furnace takes advantage of that system. Some are even designed to plumb into your vehicle’s diesel gas tank.

The benefit of a furnace is that they are designed for extreme temperatures, so don’t be afraid to travel up the mountain to see to snow.

As they bring in outside air to combust for heat there is no carbon monoxide risk, you can set a minimum desired temperature and you can even mount them in a permanent location.

You will however need a battery bank for installation and it needs to be plumbed to a propane tank. You will also need to drill flue holes under your furnace to bring in the air and place your thermostat in an area with adequate air circulation. 

4. Having proper insulation

If your camper isn’t insulated well, any heat you generate will be lost. What a waste! This means proper insulation goes a long way if you want to travel in colder climates. It will not only keep it warmer in the cold but also cooler in the heat.

If your camper isn’t well insulated, however, you can trap heat through your windows. To make window covers, make a stencil of your window with cardboard and then transpose this stencil to your material of choice.

Next, cut to size and test if they fit. You could even use blankets if you haven’t got the equipment to make window covers yourself. Simply pop a blanket with some magnets over the front windows and you’ll be surprised how much heat it can trap.

5. Hot water bottle and equipment

If all else fails you’re going to need to use the tools you already have to keep warm. Although a hot water bottle only heats the body, it’s still a great method if you have nothing else.

Pop it under your blankets before heading to sleep and you’ll be surprised how quickly it can warm you up. If you like this method, purchase a leak-proof bag called a hot water bag so that you don’t have any leaks through the night.

If you don’t own a hot water bottle, just be sure to wear proper clothing such as a beanie hat to stop heat escaping through your head, layering up before going to sleep, and popping on a nice big fluffy pair of wool socks.

You also need to ensure you have the right bedding. A decent comforter and heavy blankets go a long way but remember a sleeping bag is almost always the warmest option.

Final thoughts

I hope by reading this article you’ve got a good idea on how to heat your camper if you ever find yourself stranded without electricity.

From short to long term solutions, to ways of helping you manually trap heat inside, to reminding you of the key items you need to pack to tackle the cold nights, there’s something for all you campers to get warm again, so pack up, hop in and drive away!

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Jakob Staudal

I love to spend time outside and reconnect with nature every now and then and cut-off all the noise from social media and everyday life.