Is It Safe To Have A Buddy Heater In A Tent

Staying warm during cold weather camping trips often requires using some type of portable propane heater in your tent. Buddy heaters are a popular type of propane tent heater that many campers rely on. However, there are safety concerns when using propane camping gear like a Mr Buddy heater in tent. You need to take steps to ensure your buddy heater is safe in a tent because, like many heaters, a Buddy heater can produce carbon monoxide.

The key is understanding how to use and place your heater in a tent properly. Consider the size of your tent and how much space you need to heat.  Never use a Mr buddy heater indoor use such as unattended or while sleeping. With caution, these portable heaters can safely provide warmth when camping in the cold.

But always keep the heater off the ground, away from tent walls, and take steps to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.  In our guide, you can learn more about keeping a heater in a tent safe for use at the right times. By the end, you’ll better understand how such heaters work, the safety implications, and how to keep warm using this type of heater. (Learn How Long Does Jetboil Fuel Last)

safe mr buddy heater

Is It Safe To Have A Buddy Heater In A Tent?

A buddy heater is a type of portable propane heater that many campers use to stay warm in a tent while camping in cold weather. Buddy heaters like the Mr. Heater Little Buddy and Mr. Heater Big Buddy are very popular among winter campers because they can quickly heat small enclosed spaces like tents.

However, you need to be aware of some safety concerns when using a propane heater inside your tent.

What is a Buddy Heater?

A buddy heater is very portable and designed for small enclosed spaces like a tent for several hours. Mr. Heater makes Buddy heaters that come in two main sizes:

  • Little Buddy – up to 9,000 BTUs
  • Big Buddy – up to 18,000 BTUs

These buddy tent heater models are meant for supplemental heat while camping or in an emergency. They are not intended to heat your entire house. Unlike other heaters’, Buddy Heaters can run on small 1 lb propane cylinders, which makes them highly portable. Many people use a Mr. Heater buddy portable heater to help heat pop-up campers, tents, fishing huts, and other small spaces.

how does it work

How Does A Buddy Heater Work?

A buddy heater is a relatively simple device. It has a burner that uses propane gas for fuel. You hook up a propane cylinder like you would to a camping stove. When you turn on the Mr. Buddy heater, it ignites the propane to produce heat. The burner has a safety shut-off switch that should turn the unit off if it gets tipped over. Buddy heaters need oxygen to operate safely, so they will automatically shut off if oxygen levels get too low.

Most buddy heaters have low, medium, and high heat settings. The higher the setting, the more heat it will put out. Just be careful not to use a heater that’s too big for the amount of space you need to heat in your tent. (Read RV Thermostat Troubleshooting)

Can you use a Mr. Buddy Heater in a Tent?

You can safely use a Mr. Heater buddy heater in a tent while camping, provided you take the proper safety precautions. Buddy heaters are designed for use inside enclosed spaces like tents.  The key is proper ventilation, sizing the heater correctly, placing it securely, keeping it away from flammable materials, and never leaving it unattended. We’ll go over these buddy heater safety tips in more detail shortly.

Millions of campers have safely used Mr. Heater buddy heaters to keep warm in their tents. While they are generally safe, you must use buddy heaters responsibly and according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Is It Safe to Sleep With a Buddy Heater On?

Sleeping with a buddy heater inside your tent is not recommended. Propane combustion appliances like Mr. Heater Buddy in tent produce carbon monoxide, which can be deadly inside an enclosed space. You should always shut off the heater before going to sleep. Never operate a buddy heater unattended or while sleeping. This is one of the most critical safety rules when using a buddy heater.

The potential for carbon monoxide poisoning is the biggest risk when using a propane heater like this. Keeping the tent ventilated can help, but always shut off the heater before sleeping.

Can You Sleep With a Mr. Heater Buddy Heater in a Tent?

You should never use a Buddy Heater while sleeping in a tent. Only operate the buddy heater when people are awake and alert to monitor the heater and carbon monoxide levels. The heaters come with a safety cut-off, yet using this heater still leaves you vulnerable because of how much space in your tent you have.

The Buddy Heater produces carbon dioxide once oxygen levels fall; however, using a Buddy Heater as you sleep is still not safe.  Set the heater to turn off after a few hours maximum. Or better yet, shut off the heater completely before you sleep and ensure everyone leaves the tent.

Accidental carbon monoxide poisoning is a real risk when using a propane heater like a buddy heater inside a confined space like a tent. Always shut off the heater and allow proper ventilation before sleeping. (Read Best Ice Fishing Shelter)

Should A Tent Be Ventilated When Using Mr. Buddy Heater?

Your tent must be adequately ventilated when using a Mr. Buddy heater or any propane heater inside a tent. Ventilation allows fresh air to enter the tent and prevents the dangerous buildup of carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide from the heater’s exhaust.

Make sure your tent has vents open at the top and bottom. You can also keep the door unzipped a bit to improve airflow. The higher the oxygen levels inside the tent, the safer it will be to use your buddy heater. Buddy heaters come with ventilation ports on the back of the heater; to this, you connect a flexible hose. However, making sure your heater has sufficient ventilation is vital when winter camping.


Important Buddy Heater Safety Tips

Here are some key tips for safely using a Mr. Heater Buddy heater or any propane heater inside a tent:

Provide Proper Ventilation

Open up your tent for suitable ventilation. Keep vents and door openings clear to allow ample oxygen inside the tent, and ensure carbon monoxide levels inside the tent don’t rise to an unsafe amount.

Create a Solid Base

Always place your heater on a flat, secure surface. Never put it directly on the tent floor, which can melt. Use bricks, wood, or a metal tray to elevate it. You can purchase an additional stand to prop up the heater or place it in a steel pan.

Inspect Burner Before Use

Check before you use in a tent. Is the heater safe for use and has clear burner openings? Properly maintain the unit per manufacturer guidelines so it is safe to use a Buddy in a tent.

Keep Away From Flammable Gear

Keep your Buddy Heater a safe distance between the buddy heater and your tent walls, sleeping bags, and other flammable materials. Use a protective mat under the buddy heater in your tent, and since heat rises, the heater needs to be placed beneath the highest point of your tent, or you could melt the fabric.

Do Not Operate While Sleeping

If you use the heater, always shut the heater off before going to sleep, as the heater may cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

Sizing a Heater to Your Tent

Ensure the BTU rating on your buddy heater is appropriately sized for the cubic footage of your tent space. Overheating can be unsafe, and you need plenty of space on the bottom of your tent to place the heater. (Read Portable Camp Showers)

Heating Fuel

Ensure you have enough propane fuel to run your buddy heater for the desired time. Bring backup propane cylinders if camping for an extended period. The heater will run on low for 5-6 hours on one 16.4 oz propane cylinder. Higher settings use more fuel.

Calculate your expected runtime and bring enough propane cylinders with you. Also, avoid refueling the heater inside your tent due to fire risks.

which buddy heater

Which Buddy Heater Should I Buy?

The most popular buddy heater may produce the following amounts of heat:

  • Mr. Heater Little Buddy – up to 9,000 BTUs, suitable for tents up to 120 sq ft
  • Mr. Heater Big Buddy – up to 18,000 BTUs, ideal for tents up to 225 sq ft

Choose the appropriate sized model for the space you need to heat. The Little Buddy provides ample heat for most small 1-2 person tents. Get the Big Buddy for larger tents and spaces. Make sure any buddy heater you buy is safety certified for indoor use. Models made specifically for tent use will also have more thorough safety features.


Buddy heaters like the Mr. Heater Little Buddy and Big Buddy can be handy for heating your tent while camping in cold weather. However, to stay heater-safe in a tent, remember there are certain safety risks, like carbon monoxide poisoning.

A tent-rated buddy heater can help keep you warm by following the proper precautions and operating instructions. Provide ample ventilation, securely place the heater, keep it away from flammables, properly size it to your tent space, shut it off before sleeping, and maintain safety best practices. These steps will allow you to stay warm and safe while using your buddy heater on your next camping trip. Always prioritize safety and exercise caution when running a propane heater in an enclosed tent.

FAQs: Making Propane Heater Safe In A Tent

Can you run a buddy heater all night in a tent?

Buddy heaters should never be left unattended or while sleeping. Always turn off the heater before sleeping to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Where should you place a buddy heater in a tent?

Place it on a secure, elevated surface in the center of the tent. Keep it away from walls, gear, and other flammable materials.

What size Mr. Heater Buddy for a 4 person tent?

A 4-person tent around 100 sq ft or less would only require the 9,000 BTU Little Buddy heater. The larger Big Buddy may overheat a small tent.

Can the tent material catch fire from a buddy heater?

It’s unlikely, but you should keep the heater 12 inches from tent walls and materials. Use a protective mat underneath the heater as an extra precaution.

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