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How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity – Be Prepared!

| Updated Jun 21, 2023

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

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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

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!

Mike and Jennifer's Great Lakes Bundle – 2 ebooks!

How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity - Be Prepared! 4

This bundle is our popular Upper Peninsula RV Adventure Guide PLUS our newest Adventure Guide – The Great Lakes Shoreline Tour! Both ebooks will give you plenty of ideas and resources to enjoy this part of the US.

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2021-07-22

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

7 Responses to “How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity – Be Prepared!”

January 24, 2024at8:54 pm, Holly Smith said:

We have done quite a bit of boon-docking since we bought our Roadtrek 210. For cold weather (17 degrees is the Lowest we have done), We fitted reflextrix into all our windows, and then I sewed brown fabric sleeves to slip it in, and black fabric for the cab windows and windshield. This has worked well to help with winter stealth. Also, something we use at home too, I buy large tube socks, fill with a couple of cups of plain white rice. After the sock is closed with a knot, it can be placed in the microwave and heated up. We place them in our bed a hour beforehand, and if kept covered with a down comforter, stay warm for several hours.
I wear a knit hat, and wear cuddleduds (found on line and in stores. If very cold I add sweatpants and soft hooded shirt. We use alpaca socks on our feet.
We switch on our propane furnace for a bit before getting up.
Most important: If sleeping with another person, Don’t go to bed mad!!


January 25, 2024at3:48 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Great tips – thanks for sharing, Holly! Team RV Lifestyle


July 27, 2021at12:10 am, John Arnold said:

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.


July 22, 2021at9:09 pm, mike said:

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.


July 22, 2021at12:10 pm, PJ said:

“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.


July 22, 2021at9:30 am, J anne hamm said:

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


July 22, 2021at9:29 am, John said:

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.


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