A Guide to Selecting a Buddy Heater for Camping
Mr. Heater makes camping and outdoors recreational products, with a special line of products for coping with cold weather. They make radiant and convection heaters that run on electricity, kerosene, and propane. Their portable Buddy Heaters are propane-powered and come in a range of sizes. If you go camping, you can select a heater according to the size of your tent that you wish to heat. Alternatively, their portable heaters are suitable for a garage or workshop, or even if you go hunting in a hunting blind, or in an ice fishing shack!
We’ll see that the Buddy heaters also differ in the amount of heat that they produce. That can be important, depending on how severe the cold can be where you intend to hunt or camp out. Also, they differ in how long they can work on a canister of liquid propane. You also may want a heater that uses radiant heating, or prefer one that uses convection heating.
We’ll go through some of the most popular outdoor heaters for camping. They can help you maximize your enjoyment of the great outdoors, in all four seasons!
These heaters are rated in BTUs. What does that mean?
BTU stands for “British Thermal Unit”, where 1 BTU is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. (One BTU is the equivalent of 252 calories, where 1 calorie is the amount of heat to raise 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius.) So, how many BTUs to get your tent or garage warm will depend very much on the ambient temperature and the size of the area that you want to heat. The following formula can provide you with a rough estimate:
(desired temperature change in Fahrenheit) x (cubic feet of space) x .133 = BTUs needed per hour
Thus if you have a tent that’s 100 square feet in area and 6 feet high, that 600 cubic feet of space. To heat it from 40 ℉ to 70 ℉ will take (30 degrees) x 600 cubic feet) x .133 = 2394 BTUs per hour of heating.
Types of Buddy Heater For Camping
Looking at the Best Reviews Guide’s list of heaters for camping, we see that the “Buddy” series of propane heaters come in a few variations:
Little Buddy Heater: The Little Buddy 3800 BTU Heater (Model No. MH4B) is Mr. Heater’s smallest unit, that is capable of heating an area of 95 square feet, which is a tent for around 6 people. It heats at a rate of 3800 BTU per hour and can run for 5.6 hours on a 1 lb. tank of liquid propane. It has a piezoelectric ignition, meaning that you just have to press a button to create a spark to start the heater.
Little Buddy 3800 BTU Heater
Buddy Flex Heater: The Buddy Flex Heater (Model No. MH11BFLEX) allows you to adjust the heat to anywhere from 8,000 to 11,000 BTU. It’s a bit different than the other Mr. Heater propane heaters, in that it radiates heat in a 180-degree angle, and can heat an area of 275 square feet.
Buddy Flex Heater
Portable Buddy Heater: The Portable Buddy Heater (Model No. MH9BX) can heat up to 225 square feet, at 4,000 and 9,000 BTUs. It can connect to a 1-lb propane cylinder or a 20-lb cylinder.
Portable Buddy Heater
Hunting Buddy Heater: If you sit stationary for a while in a hunting blind, things might get chilly. There are propane heaters precisely for hunters. The Hunting Buddy Heater (Model No. MH12HB) can heat an area of 300 square feet and can be lit by an electronic ignition that runs on an “AA” battery, or by means of a match. You can select it to heat at 6000 BTU or 12,000 BTU. The casing is in camouflage color, to be less conspicuous when hunting.
Hunting Buddy Heater
Big Buddy Heater: The Big Buddy Portable Heater (Model No. MH18B) has three heating settings of 4000, 9,000, or 18,000 BTUs, and can heat an enclosure of 450 square feet. You can attach a 1 lb liquid propane canister to it, or a 20 lb propane tank. (Using a 20-lb propane tank will require a separate hose that you attach to the heater.) There is also a version expressly for use in an RV (Model No. MH18BRV).
Big Buddy Portable Heater (left), and the Big Buddy RV Portable Propane Heater
What reviewers say
Here are some customers’ impressions about the camping heater that they bought:
Not suitable for golf carts: There are also special heaters for golf carts and for use inside vehicles. Most of these camping heaters should not be used for enclosed spaces! Also, these burners might tip over while you’re driving, making them turn off.
Types of ignition: Note that some of the heaters can be lit by just pressing a button and holding it down for a few seconds, while you release some propane gas. The button operates a piezoelectric ignition that makes a spark to light the gas. There are also battery-operated ignition systems on some of these heaters, that require an “AA” or “AAA” battery to work.
Use a carbon monoxide detector as well: One customer wrote that he uses a carbon monoxide detector with an alarm and a digital readout. Even though he never experienced the meter going above 0.0, he still felt that it was essential.
Here are some features that are worth looking for when selecting a camping heater:
Checking for gas leakage: When attaching a liquid propane canister to your heater, the experts at Mr. Heater recommend taking some concentrated soapy water on the point of where the canister screws onto the heater. Make sure that it doesn’t bubble. If you see bubbles, it indicates that the fit isn’t perfect, and there is a gas leak. Detach the canister, and attach it again until the seal is perfect.
Safety features: There are two safety features that all of Mr. Heater’s Buddy heaters are equipped with:
Tip-over safety shutoff, which turns off the unit if it tips over on its side. Without this feature, if a heater would tip over onto a combustible material, it could start a fire. These camping heaters will turn off if they’re tilted 45 degrees to any side.
Low oxygen safety shutoff: These heaters have a safety feature called ODS (=Oxygen Detection Safety). The air that we breathe is 21% oxygen. These heaters have a sensor that notices if the oxygen content in an enclosed space drops below 18%. The sensor turns off the pilot light and shuts off the gas supply from the propane tank to the heater. This eliminates the risk of asphyxiation from not having enough oxygen in the air.
Ensure good ventilation: If you use a camping heater outdoors, any carbon monoxide will dissipate in the air outside. But, if you use a propane heater in your tent or other closed space, you must ensure that there is some ventilation. For example, the Little Buddy Heater should only be operated indoors or in a tent if there is an opening of at least 4 square inches to ensure proper exchange of air.
Convection heater vs. radiant heater: Some of these heaters work as radiant heaters, where they’re far more effective if you’re close to the heater. Others are convection heaters, which cause the air to circulate so that all of the air in the room or tent is warm. The radiant heaters make you feel warm immediately, while a convection heater will be better for a large space.
We went through some of the offerings in the Best Reviews Guide list of Buddy camping heaters. We’ve seen the various sizes, and how they differ in their ability to heat a space. Whether you want to stay in a tent or cabin, or even just do some work in your den or garage, a propane portable heater can keep you comfy and warm!