Many RV camps are starting to charge a premium for electricity for more than one-night stays. It’s because of the popularity of electric heaters, ACs and heat pumps.
But for us, it doesn’t matter because, more often than not, our favorite camping grounds with electrical hookups are always full.
We always tag along with our Mr. Buddy Heater, which kicks out some heat when the temperatures dip.
But that’s not the only way we stay warm in our camper when dry camping.
Here’re some other ways how to heat a camper without electricity:
1) Heaters/Portable gas heaters
2) Using Floor-Mounted Vented Furnace
3) Using RV’s in-build heater
4) Spot-warming a camper
5) Insulating my camper
The good thing with these tips is they’ll allow you to enjoy camping life all year-round, and even boondock, out of season and without unlimited electrical supply.
Plus, the tips may come in handy if your RVs electrical system fails.
And in the guide below, I’ll detail each tip and how you can enjoy your camper without electricity.
Alternative Power Sources
RV owners can still find power from alternative sources without electricity.
Here’re some of the power options campers should consider:
1) House Batteries
House batteries are power banks that run your motorhome’s electrical systems when your RV is idle. The batteries will run your kitchen appliance, lights, and more when your RV is idle.
Typically, the house batteries are charged from solar panels or generators.
While they may not be the ideal source of power for sustained periods, they’re a good way to keep you going in the short term. They may also complement other sources of RV power.
2) Gas Generators
A generator is an incredible power source and more reliable than a house generator.
I’m a big fan of generators because they produce enough power to run some heavy-duty appliances, including my RV’s AC.
Depending on the size and the RV lifestyle, they can also do everything in your RV. Even better, generators with inverter technology give a power/heat output resembling shore power, making them ideal for sensitive equipment use.
My only concern with generators is they’re bulky and require lugging gallons of fuel around.
3) Solar Panels
A big misconception with solar is that they actually power your RV. They don’t.
Instead, they charge your house batteries, which powers your RV.
Either way, solar panels offer a sustainable form of energy and have numerous benefits over other power sources.
The greatest plus with solar panels is they provide green energy, a perfect option for environmentalists.
Solar power is also free and a great option for campers on a budget.
5 Easy Ways on How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity
Now that we’ve some reliable sources of power, let’s look at how we can use the available power sources to stay warm in a tent.
1) Portable Heaters
Portable heaters are exactly as they sound.
The heaters don’t need an electric hookup and are easy to tag along with on your camping trip.
There’re a couple of different designs for portable heaters, and the suitability of a particular model will depend on your RVing needs.
Some of the popular portable heater types are:
Don’t let the electric tag dupe you thinking these heaters need electricity.
You can power them using electricity, but battery power as well.
I recommend the electrical heaters because they use minimal electrical power to conserve your RV battery power.
At the same time, they’re also effective at raising the RV indoor temperatures.
The electric heaters are also safe, and while not completely, they don’t pose hazards as much as other heating options.
Still, they need supervision because they may pose a potential fire hazard.
Portable Space Heaters/Propane Heaters
Another way to heat a camper without electricity is using a portable propane heater, also known as a portable space heater.
The propane heaters efficiently heat your space and keep an RV warm without the need to plug them into an electrical outlet. They run on propane.
An ideal space heater is based on the square footage or the space you need to heat. Some are only powerful enough to barely heat a small space, while others can heat an entire motorhome.
Along with the heating ability, the other crucial element to consider with the portable propane heaters is the safety threat in a particular fire hazard.
Also, there’s a risk of carbon monoxide emissions, especially in an enclosed and poorly ventilated space.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless and poisonous gas, which may prove fatal to animals and humans when it builds up in an enclosed space.
The good thing is this shouldn’t be a huge concern, especially if you use the space heaters according to the manufacturer’s manual.
That said, here’re a few pointers for the safe usage of space heaters;
- Keep the portable space heater and propane tank away from all flammable materials and combustibles, so your RV doesn’t accidentally catch fire. Fire-resistant surfaces should surround it.
- Never leave your portable gas heater running all night, especially when people are sleeping. Carbon monoxide poisoning is fatal.
- Consider a carbon monoxide alarm to detect the increasing poisonous gas emissions.
- Always have a fire extinguisher, and a fire blanket close by if fire is ignited.
- Proper ventilation is key to avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Make a habit of turning on the gas heater in short spans or rather a few minutes. It should help curb the considerable carbon monoxide buildup.
RV Wood Stove
RV wood stoves aren’t your typical wood-burning stoves.
An RV wood stove is designed to work in close spaces so they don’t generate smoke. Or rather, the small amount of smoke produced is directed outside through a pipe.
As with most heating gadgets, these mini wood stoves are available in various designs, and the two popular setups are the floor-mounted and wall-mounted stoves.
Some setups even have a faux fireplace model and will provide both light and heat like a real fire.
Premium options will even allow changing of color flames.
Heat pumps are an efficient way of heating a camper without electricity.
They use a different heating principle, though, taking heat from outside to warm up your RV.
The heat pumps are an effective solution to your RV heating needs, and depending on the type, they generate more heat than most portable heaters.
Unfortunately, since they draw heat outside where it’s most needed, they may not work well in freezing conditions.
Solar Heating Box
A solar heating box is another solution on how to heat a camper without electricity.
The solar box is installed through a window, and its reflective panel harnesses and directs the sunlight towards your RV.
2) Use a Floor-Mounted Vented RV Propane Furnace
The second heating solution on how to heat a camper without electricity might already be pre-build in your camper.
If not, you need to install one. It may take some initial investment, though.
The good news is the vented furnace doesn’t need plugging into an electrical outlet. Instead, it generates heat from the propane gas used in the RV for cooking.
It, however, requires electricity to ignite, but that can be achieved through a battery-powered heater.
Either way, it won’t need electricity, and the best part about the whole setup is the vents on the propane furnace direct heat outside—no exposure to the poisonous emissions.
Depending on the design, you might find a furnace with a thermostat, affording you the convenience of heating an RV as you would in your house.
The main thing to keep in mind with the vented furnaces is you need o to ensure your batteries have enough charge to take you through the cold night.
3) Use RVs In-built Heater
You can use your vehicle’s heater to heat a camper without electricity.
This method works best in a motorhome, where the cabin is connected to the living area.
It involves running your RV to power up the engine and feed the battery.
I wouldn’t recommend using the RV’s in-build heater to heat your camper because it’s not a sustainable option, especially in the long run.
But in a pinch, it’ll save you from freezing.
If you decide to use this method, be ready to bear with the inconveniences of waking up several times a night to turn your RV on and off.
Of course, you can turn it on for a few minutes and wait for your RV to warm up. If it’s well-insulated, it’ll hold onto the heat, but it’s unlikely to do so until morning.
4) Spot Warming a Camper
The biggest concern about heating a camper without electricity is staying warm while sleeping.
While the heaters are reliable at bringing warmth to your RV space, they may not be suitable, especially if you plan to heat your RV the entire night.
Some of the options can only be ignited and used for a couple of minutes before turning off. Otherwise, they carry the risk of toxic gas emissions and fire risk.
Simply put, they can’t be used unsupervised.
But spot warming is a little different and a safer way to heat a camper without electricity.
Most spot heating methods don’t carry any inherent safety risk and are usable the entire night without supervision or anything.
Some of these methods include:
Flannel sheets are camper blanket designs, popular for their thickness and heat retention.
These sheets are better at retaining warmth than the typical nylon or cotton sheet and the perfect option for cold nights.
The extra layer of the blanket will insulate you against cold and prevent loss of warmth.
Thermal Sleeping Bag
Sometimes, a regular sleeping bag isn’t enough to keep you warm during cold climates.
You may need a thermal sleeping bag that catches and holds your body heat better than other beddings.
Hot Water Bottle
Hot water bottles generate heat spots and are particularly great for preventing frostbite and freezing temperatures on your feet.
Placing sealed bottles of hot water inside your warm blankets or sleeping bag is a nice way to generate warmth, raise body temperature & ambient heat, and create a toasty sleeping condition.
Down comforters are like typical bed sheets but with more insulation properties.
They protect your body from the biting cold by creating a barrier against heat loss. They create a pocket of warmth inside your sleeping spot and might be a great option when paired with a sleeping bag.
Disposable Heating Pads
The heating pads work with the same principle as with the hot water bottles, only that they save you from the inconveniences of heating water and putting it in bottles.
Another plus with this heat source is it generates heat for much longer than the typical water bottles.
Whatever spot warming method you choose, you’ll enjoy a heated and comfortable RV space without electricity.
It also eliminates the fire hazards and safety risks of running heaters.
5) RV Insulation: Keep the Heat Inside
Regardless of how well you heat your camper, it all goes to waste if you can’t insulate your camper against heat loss.
Proper insulation of an RV is an incredible way to help a camper without electricity.
There’re a couple of ways to insulate your camper, but the most popular methods are:
- Caulking the seams and joints on your window to prevent heat loss and entry of cooler temperatures from outside. But ensure you strip the caulking material regularly once it starts to dry, rot and crack. Replace the old caulk with new material to prevent cold air drafts from getting into your camper.
- As with caulk, replace any form of weatherstripping in your camper once it starts to wear down. Degraded weatherstripping will create holes, spaces, cracks, and gaps that may break the insulating properties and provide a way for heat escapes.
- Consider covering the openings in your camper, such as doors and windows, with a reflective material. The material should bounce the heat and any light back to the camper while helping to amplify it.
- The cold floor may also allow the entry of cold air, so be sure to lay something thick to prevent the transfer of cold temperatures. Thick, plush rugs or blankets will make your camper ground plush and keep it warm with their insulating properties.
- Place rolled towels or other garments at the bottom of your doorway to prevent drafts of cold air sucking hot air from inside.
- Protect your RVs underbelly with RV skirting. Skirting will keep your underbelly free from the cold, snow, and wind while reducing heat loss from the floor. It works magic, especially when combined with floor insulation.
Get Active and Don’t Forget your Diet
A couple of habits will help you stay warmer and preserve body heat.
For example, staying active and consuming a proper diet helps your body preserve more heat.
Personally, I always tag along with my coffee percolator and prepare hot beverages when the temperatures dip. A hot cup of coffee is a sure way to stay warm.
A stroll or simply a brisk walk is enough exercise to raise my body temperatures without sweating too much.
Don’t Forget Ventilation
Ventilation is necessary for a dry camper.
I know it may sound counterintuitive, but allowing the free flow of air inside your camper will eliminate the possibility of warm air condensing inside.
Personally, I always keep my roof vents open at all times.
In the same breath, don’t over-exert yourself when performing your regular daily walks or doing any activity to avoid sweating.
In cold temperatures, sweat won’t evaporate as much as in summer, so it only becomes cold moisture, drenching your clothes and lowering your body temperatures.
Heating your Water Lines
Regardless of the method you choose to heat a camper without electricity, it’s good not to forget the storage bay area.
A couple of RV essentials could do with warm heat, such as the plumbing system.
A typical plumbing system is situated under the floor, and while your camper can remain warm enough, the pipes may freeze.
So, consider how else you can heat the plumbing system and ensure your access to water and washroom amenities aren’t frozen.
And if you plan to store your camper for winter, consider winterizing it to keep everything in perfect condition.
If you’ve been looking to spend time off-grid and don’t know how to heat a camper without electricity, our tips should help. You don’t need an external heat source to retain heat in your camper.
And depending on the severity of the conditions, choose one or combine multiple of these options to keep your camper heated.
Some of these measures may seem trivial but can make a huge difference in the level of warmth of your camper and enhance your RV lifestyle.