How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity

Last Updated on October 12, 2021 by Jessica

You might be trying to figure out how to heat a camper without electricity because you’re going off the grid, but there may be other reasons you don’t want to use electricity. Whatever the case, here are some tips to help you keep warm without using electricity.

In most RVs, you have the option to keep yourself warm with either electricity or propane. However, depending on your circumstances, electricity may not be available, and you’ll have to rely on alternative methods for heating your RV.

In this article, we will look at the options available to RV owners when electricity isn’t an option. For boondockers and people who like to camp off the grid, alternative forms of heat might mean the difference between a relaxing weekend of camping or a miserable weekend of cold.

The Propane Furnace Installed on Your RV

Most RVs are designed with a pre-installed gas furnace that operates on propane. Even when electricity is available, many people opt to use their RV propane furnace, as it’s a very reliable heat source.

Not all campers have a propane furnace, however. Some older and newer models have electric heat pump systems or electric heaters. In these cases, having a backup source of heat that doesn’t rely on electricity is very important.

Kerosene Heaters 

I included kerosene heaters on this list because it is indeed a form of heat that doesn’t require electricity, but it’s not a form of heat I would recommend in a camper. Kerosene heaters are relatively cheap and easy to run, and generate heat at a high level, but they have more cons than they do pros.

When it burns, kerosene gives off harmful fumes which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be deadly in an enclosed space. They also give off an oily film that can put a nasty coating on the rest of your belongings. Kerosene also eats up the oxygen supply in your camper, which means that you need to have windows open when using it.

For all these reasons, kerosene heaters are best used in an open area rather than in an enclosed space. The fact that camper windows have to be open for kerosene heaters will also mean that heat escapes rather than being kept inside your RV. Only use kerosene heaters as a last resort and while taking the proper precautions.

Portable Propane Heaters

These types of heaters are probably the most popular non-electrical forms of heating outside of your propane furnace. Portable gas heaters are available in a wide variety of sizes and styles, and you can even use two or three heaters at a time.

However, propane heaters must always be set up so that their harmful fumes are vented to the outside. Because it’s a portable heater, however, this can be done relatively easily.

Most propane heaters are portable space heaters that

You can do this with a direct venting system using pipes or funnels, or it can be done by opening a window that is close to the heater. As long as you take the proper safety precautions, portable propane heaters are an excellent option for non-electric heat.

Solar Heat is a Great Backup 

Solar power heaters work just like other solar panels in that they power themselves using energy from the sun. Solar heaters have solar panels attached to them for the sole purpose of powering the heater they are attached to.

The downside of solar heaters is that if the sun isn’t shining, you had better have a backup source of heat because your solar heater will be unable to run. However, even in the cold winter months, you’ll have some sunny days, and you can save yourself some money by not running your propane heat.

Even if you don’t plan on relying just on your solar heaters, they are a great option to have on hand. They are easy to use and install, and you get free heat when the sun is shining.

Wood Burning Stoves… In an RV?

This may sound like a silly option for an RV, but they’re an option. As long as you have a chimney or can easily install a vent that exits through the roof of your RV, a wood-burning stove is a valid option for keeping your camper heated.

Wood is usually readily available when boondocking or even camping at a campground. If wood is available for free, then a wood-burning stove is a great way to save some money and enjoy a campfire in the comfort of your RV.

As long as you take care of your wood stove and make sure that the chimney or flue stays clean and free of obstruction, stoves are perfectly safe. However, you may need to open a window depending on how smoky your RV gets and make sure your smoke detector is working.

It’s also not a good idea to keep your fire going through the night if no one is watching it. Wood stoves are a fire hazard so keeping a fire extinguisher handy is a good idea. Also, keep flammable materials away from any open flame.

Other Tips and Tricks 

Having a surefire method of producing heat is essential to stay warm when camping in cold temperatures. It’s just as essential to make sure that the heat you produce stays inside your camper. Here are a few tips and tricks to make sure that your RV stays warm.

Make Sure Your Camper Is Adequately Insulated

The older your camper gets, the more likely it is that your insulation has to be rechecked and redone. Wear and tear are typical in any abode, but even more so in a vehicle that travels frequently and at high speeds.

The bottom of your RV is most prone to torn insulation and issues with losing heat. If you notice tears in the bottom of your RV, then take the time to patch and repair those openings and insure that your camper has adequate and proper insulation.

Upgrade Your Windows and Doors

Just like in a house, your windows and doors are the easiest way to lose heat. Most RVs outside of luxury ones are produced quickly on an assembly line and don’t have the most high-quality windows on the market.

If you want to go the extra mile in heating your RV, then installing high-efficiency windows and doors in your RV is a solid step.

Put On Extra Layers

Outside of things you can do to your RV, there are also measures you can take yourself to stay warm. Putting on an extra layer of clothing or wearing a thicker pair of socks is a great way to maintain body heat.

Your body loses heat mainly through the extremities and the top of your head. Socks, gloves, and hats are the best way to ensure that your body maintains as much heat as possible. If necessary, spending the night in a sleeping bag is a great method of staying warm and keeping your body temperature at a safe level.

A neat trick to combat cold weather is to put hot water bottles in your sleeping bag to combat those chilly nights. Freezing temperatures are the biggest hazard for winter camping so finding creative ways to stay warm is essential.

Put Extra Carpets or Rugs on the Floor

As mentioned earlier, the floor of your RV is the easiest way for your camper to lose heat. By putting carpets and rugs on the floor, an extra layer of insulation will help your camper retain heat. It will also give you a warm place to step on those cold mornings and evenings.

How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity – Conclusion

If you find yourself in a situation where electricity is unavailable, having a source of heat that operates via other means is essential for RVing. Even if you don’t plan on having to rely on alternative measures, simply having a backup plan is a good idea.

Don’t let the fear of not having electrical heat hold you back from your adventures. Take the next step in being an RVer and invest in alternative forms of heat to get the most out of your camping experience.

Also see How to Sell a Used RV and How to Install an RV Air Conditioner Gasket for more reading.

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Jalin has been RVing since April 2021, along with his wife Kate and their Goldendoodle, Harper. They spent 4 months in Elkhart, Indiana, and lived in Traverse City, Michigan during the warm weather. Their winter plans are to head to Orlando, Florida. They live in a 36 foot Palomino Puma and are absolutely loving it. Jalin's day job has been working as an HVAC professional but it's transitioning to full time writer and RVer.

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