How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity – Be Prepared!

 How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity – Be Prepared!

Do you know how to heat a camper without electricity? It only takes one cold night in your RV to motivate you to be better prepared next time. Fortunately, there are plenty of options on how to heat a camper without electricity. 

Unless you’re an experienced boondocker, you’re likely used to the convenience of an electric hookup. That hookup keeps your camper heated and yourself comfy. 

But electric hookups aren't always available. You may find yourself in an emergency situation without access to electricity, or maybe you’re just dry camping.

Here is an in-depth guide on how to heat a camper without electricity, ranging from simple to more complex. 

5 Tips on How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity

Of course, the easiest way to keep your RV heated is to stick to camping in moderate climates. But when expanding horizons to the winter season or cold climates, perhaps at high altitudes, it’s important to be prepared.

1. Install a Floor-Mounted Vented Furnace

Permanently installing a vented RV furnace may take some initial investment, but then you’ll have that treasured peace of mind. It’ll be there when you need it. 

It doesn’t need an electric hookup because the heat comes from the gas you use for cooking, your RV’s diesel gas tank.

The advantage of the vent is that it exhausts any unwanted air outside, limiting your exposure to carbon monoxide. It also comes with a thermostat so you can heat your RV with the same convenience you have when heating your home!

Once installed, you just need to ensure the battery inside the furnace that powers the fans and thermostat is working.

There are a lot of options for you to explore.

2. Use a Portable Space Heater

How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity - Be Prepared! 1
Cuddling is always good.

You don’t have to install something permanent to address how to heat a camper without electricity. You can also store away a portable propane heater like this one in your RV to use in cold weather.

The best way is to search based on the square footage you need to heat. Some are only powerful enough to barely heat a small area, like a tent. So shop wisely even when shopping for regular electric heaters.

If you buy the right one, a portable space heater can heat your RV efficiently without electricity, also by using propane gas.

The difference between a portable heater and an installed furnace is the lack of ventilation. If you already have some means of ventilation, then you’re golden.

However, it's not considered safe to leave portable propane heaters (or butane) running all night while you sleep in your enclosed space. Carbon monoxide could be an issue with any gas heaters.

Here is more information on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Preventing it in Your RV. No matter what kind of heater you have, you should always have a carbon monoxide detector in your RV.

There are other safety measures to keep in mind with portable space heaters. Don’t place anything flammable near it, and keep a fire extinguisher handy just in case.

Turning a portable gas heater on in short spans of time ensures no considerable carbon monoxide buildup. And to maximize the efficiency of a portable space heater, this brings me to the next tip.

3. Insulate Your RV Properly

How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity - Be Prepared! 2
For your windows!

With proper insulation, you can keep warm air in and keep the cold temperatures at bay.

To bolster your insulation, roll up a towel or blanket at the bottom of doorways to prevent drafts from coming in. You can also use magnets to place a blanket over the windows.

You can also insulate your RV with a bit of work before your trip. Cover the floor of your RV with thick rugs. Also, buy aluminum foil or reflective insulation to cover up every window. Vent covers can help control airflow as well.

Extra steps you can take to insulate is to replace weather stripping and caulking. When those wear down, the RV is more vulnerable to the cold air.

All of these small measures can make a huge difference.

4. Use Your RV’s Built-in Heater

How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity - Be Prepared! 3
Sleeping in an RV

You can always just use your vehicle's heater and turn up the heat. However, this option involves using the engine and vehicle’s battery though. So, this method to heat your camper without electricity is not the most recommended, sustainable option. 

In a pinch, however, it can work great. But it does come with the inconvenience of likely getting up multiple times in the night to turn the vehicle on and off.

Letting the RV run with the heat turned to the maximum for 10 to 15 minutes should do the trick to get your RV comfortable. Then turn off the vehicle and go to sleep. 

If the cold wakes you up in the night, start the process all over again.

5. Stock the Right Bedding and Warm Clothes

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This is perhaps the most obvious solution for how to heat a camper without electricity. Wrap your body in warm clothing and blankets to contain your body heat. Your body is actually a great heat source.

Fit your bed with flannel or fleece sheets. These are warmer materials than regular cotton and retain heat more effectively. If you don’t have those, you can always sleep in your sleeping bag, since they’re designed to keep you warm in colder climates anyway.

Placing a down comforter on top of your sheets will make you even toastier.

Your head and feet are the places on your body where heat escapes the most. Cover them up! Wool socks and a beanie will keep you so much warmer, even without the right sheets and blankets. Layering up other parts of your body won’t hurt either.

And if you find yourself cold under the blankets, you can actually place a hot water bottle in bed with you to act as a safe, makeshift bed heater.

Just take a water bottle that isn’t insulated and fill it with hot water. You don’t want to burn yourself, so if it burns to the touch, place a sock around it for protection. Then place it somewhere out of the way to heat you under the blanket, such as near your feet.

Stay Toasty!

Good luck preparing for cold days and winter months! Do you have any tips on how to stay warm without electricity? Let us know in the comments!

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Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

5 Comments

  • Hi Mike.

    Some Potable propane heater don’t emit much Co, however, during extended use in a confined space, it uses so much oxygen it can displace the O2 in the atmosphere and thus rise the level of Co well above acceptable limits.

  • Please don’t suggest people run the engines for heat

    So often they are louder than good generators and disturb people during quiet hours. This is Especially true at night! There are some surprisingly good space heater at 500 watts that work great with good batteries and a properly sized inverter If you bundle up and just use intermittantly .
    Also many combinations of mentioned items. Basicly though if you have fleece sheets and a heavy duty comforter or sleeping bag and add a hat, there is no need to run heat until morning even in the 20’s or lower. Have done many times. Just think of neighbors and dont turn on the loud engines!
    A heavy du

  • “It doesn’t need an electric hookup because the heat comes from the gas you use for cooking, your RV’s diesel gas tank.” Did you mean propane? Not everyone drives a diesel RV, and even tho I do, my stovetop uses propane.

  • Good suggestions. I found the small ceramic heaters that are only 250W work well without tapping the battery bank too hard. Also, after some research, I have found that the car heating blankets/fleece that run on DC only draw 43W per hour as opposed to the home/electric blankets at +150W an hour. I put the blanket between my sheet and comforter and stay toasty all night even in 20’s weather. It can also be wrapped around my body for day/evening warming.
    Bubble/foil wrap on the windows is OK but they make the foil with 5 mil foam insulation that is even better.

  • I simply travel with my down sleeping bag left over from my overnight camping days as an extra pillow/headrest. It worked at higher elevations in a tent, so use in my RV would be a less stressful application. Fortunately, I have never had to use it to keep warm in over 10 years.

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