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Whether you’re a seasoned camper or a newbie, a spine-chilling cold shower isn’t something you look forward to. Fortunately, cold showers at camp have become a thing of the past, thanks to the invention of portable water heaters.
The internet is awash (pun intended) with all types of portable water heaters, some powered by gas, some by electricity, and some by batteries. In this particular post, we’ll be talking about portable propane water heaters for camping.
But first things first…
How does a portable propane water heater for camping work?
Many homes are equipped with propane water heaters, but most are “tank-type” where hot water is stored in large tanks. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. The very reason why a propane water heater for camping is portable is that it’s tankless or uses only a mini tank.
A portable propane water heater for camping can activate the temperature as needed. You simply need to attach the water heater to a fuel and water source, turn it on, and the internal burner heats the water that passes through it.
A typical setup includes the mobile heater unit, a gas regulator, a showerhead, control knobs, and the propane tank. Older models use a simple hose to supply hot water but more modern units use a pump that can be submerged in a bucket.
A portable propane water heater for camping may require electricity or batteries to start while some are equipped with electronic ignition. Many models of portable propane water heaters for camping also have sensors that detect when the water stops flowing, automatically shutting down the burner.
But as with anything that involves gas or electricity, it’s still best the manually turn off the device to avoid a fire hazard.
Now, let’s get listing, shall we?
Best portable propane water heaters for camping
The Eccotemp L5 is truly a budget-friend portable propane water heater for camping. It’s one of the simpler and most lightweight options, too, weighing only 10.8 pounds.
This propane camping shower runs on a 20-pound propane tank and comes with an electronic ignition powered by two D batteries, making it ideal for outdoor use. Thanks to its manual knobs and multiple shower settings, you can easily control the temperature and water pressure.
With this propane water heater, you can enjoy showers anywhere from 80°F to 150°F. It delivers 1.5 gallons per minute and comes with all the accessories you might need like a CSA-certified gas regulator and hose and a garden hose. And for safety, it shuts off automatically after 20 minutes of use.
- Runs on standard 20lb. propane tank and two D cell batteries
- Flow rate of 1.5 GPM (gallons per minute) and BTU rating of 25,000-37,500
- Temperature range of 80°F to 150°F
- 20-80 PSI (water pressure)
- 20-minute safety shut-off
Compact and travel-friendly, the Hike Crew all-in-one system is the perfect portable propane water heater for camping. It is powered by propane and AC/DC or a 12-volt car adapter but easy enough to set up and use for fuss-free outdoor showers.
With a temperature control knob, spray options, and a built-in faucet, you can easily take a shower or wash the dishes with hot water that ranges from 60 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the water reaches 125°F, the gas burner automatically shuts off.
That’s not the only safety feature this heater has though. It also turns off when it accidentally tilts or when the water supply runs out. It has a fuse protection system, too.
- Runs on propane and AC/DC or 12V power adapter (comes with three adapters)
- 2.2 liters per minute
- Heat control knobs and three spray patterns
- Multiple safety features
- Comes with a showerhead, pump hose, gas regulator, and faucet
With a wide range of water heaters and outdoor appliances, it’s no surprise that Gasland has managed to marry convenience, safety, and efficiency in one portable propane water heater. Powered by propane and two D cell batteries, this energy-saving unit delivers 1.58 gallons of hot water per minute.
Weighing 15.6 pounds, this portable heater just needs 2.5 PSI of water pressure to start. Heat and water flow are both adjustable, while the showerhead has an on/off control. This CSA-certified water heater is also designed with advanced combustion technology for efficient gas consumption.
This heater shuts off the gas supply automatically when it reaches over 167°F. And while many portable shower heaters have safety features in place, Gasland takes it up a notch by also having an anti-freeze drain plug that can release residual water to avoid freezing and unit damage in cold areas.
- 41,000 BTU
- Two D batteries required
- 1.58 GPM
- Energy-efficient and noiseless
- Anti-freezing and overheating protection
Another famous brand of water heater is Camplux and its 1.32 GPM variant is a favorite among campers and outdoor enthusiasts. This CSA-approved portable propane water heater for camping requires a low flow rate, only 3.0 PSI, to start.
This camping shower is capable of emitting 1.32 gallons of hot water per minute at a wide temperature range, which you can easily control. It’s also energy-efficient, making it perfect for eco-conscious and thrifty travelers.
Like Gasland, Camplux doesn’t scrimp on safety features. It automatically turns off when the flame goes out or when it detects low oxygen levels. It also has an anti-freeze function that prevents water from freezing and damaging your unit.
- Powered by two D cell batteries and runs on 20lb. propane tank
- Lower water pressure startup
- 1.32 GPM with a temperature range of 46.4℉ to 114.8℉
- Multiple safety functions
- Also works with a Camplux 12v 1.2 GPM water pump
Impressed with Camplux’s 5L model but need something with bigger capacity and GPM? Perhaps you’re camping for a long time or traveling with a bigger group. This 16L variant may be the better option for you.
This portable propane water heater for camping takes just a few minutes to release hot water, starting at 4.0 PSI. Water output is at 4.22 GPM, perfect not just for showering but also for washing your car, boat, tent, even your pets.
Like other Camplux models, this powerful water heater has flame failure function, anti-freeze protection, and all the connectors you might need to set it up. It also shuts off immediately when the water reaches 167 °F to protect you from burning and the unit from overheating.
- Requires two D batteries for ignition
- 4.22 GPM
- PSI range from 4.0 to 110
- 11,000 BTU and 11.5% energy-saving technology
- Automatic safety shut-off
Mr. Heater’s BOSS-XW18 may not be the strongest portable propane water heater for camping as it raises the source water temperature by only up to 42°F (5.5°C). But this spells a huge difference when cold-weather camping.
For such a lightweight unit, this portable propane shower heater is so powerful, capable of heating up to 17,000 BTU. Simply charge the internal battery with either an AC/DC or a 12-volt car charger and you can get 40 minutes of pump time.
This kit includes a quick-connect showerhead and pump assembly – basic but should come in handy for your future camping trips or van life adventures.
Check the price of this propane water heater for camping.
- Runs on #1 propane cylinder and AC/DC or 12v adapter
- Up to 17,000 BTU
- Increases water temperature by up to 42°F above source water temperature
- Flow rate of 2.7 to 3 liters per minute
- Built-in rechargeable pump
Perfect for backpacking, off-grid cabins, boating, horse trailers, and pool heating, Hotaitai’s portable propane water heater for camping delivers 1.58 gallons of water per minute. It has control knobs for gas, temperature, and water pressure, making it user-friendly.
This CSA-certified propane water heater heats up to 41,000 BTU with a maximum temperature of 167°F. Once it reaches this temperature, the unit will automatically shut down to avoid overheating. We want hot showers, not scalding ones.
It takes only 2.5 PSI to start but if the pressure is even lower, the heater will activate low water flow protection mode so that it doesn’t waste energy on heating without water.
- 1.58 GPM
- 41,000 BTU and 2.5-143 PSI
- Two D batteries required
- Auto shut-off at 167°F
How do you choose the best portable propane water heater for camping?
A portable propane water heater isn’t exactly cheap but it’s a great investment as long as you choose carefully. Aside from pricing, look at the key features and customer reviews of these devices.
Some factors that should influence your decision include the GPM or flow rate, the BTU or heat output, the temperature range, and water pressure. The size of the unit is also worth looking at; you want something lightweight when camping.
Oh, and don’t forget to check the safety features. Models that have automatic timers and temperature-based shut-off systems are good options. Plus points if a unit has an oxygen level detector.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of portable propane water heaters?
There are many benefits to using a portable propane water heater for camping. It’s compact and easy to bring anywhere compared to massive tank systems. It’s also easy to set up.
Tankless propane water heaters are also energy-saving and water-efficient since it only heats the water by demand. It provides instant hot water, too, so there’s no need to wait for the temperature to rise. And if you know how to take care of your unit, it can last you for years or even decades.
The downside is, of course, the limited flow rate. While a portable water heater can provide comforting showers and let you do basic washing tasks, it just won’t be as potent as a home shower system.
How else can I heat my shower while camping?
This article mainly focused on water heaters powered by propane (ignited by either D cell batteries, AC/DC, or 12-volt adapters) but this isn’t the only type of portable water heater for campers and van lifers.
Some outdoor showers can be powered entirely by electricity if you have access to a power socket. It can also be powered by car chargers or camping generators. This is more ideal for RVs.
Are portable propane water heaters safe?
Propane is one of the safest gases that are available as fuel. It burns efficiently and cleaner than most gases.
But, as with anything that uses gases, there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or fire hazard. It’s still important to err on the side of caution when using a propane-powered water heater.
The great thing is, many of the portable propane water heaters in the market now have built-in safety features.
For instance, Eccotemp automatically turns off after 20 minutes of use, Hike Crew has an automatic shut-off for high temperature and when the unit tilts, and Camplux’s 5L water heater has an oxygen depletion sensor.
How much gas does a propane water heater for camping consume?
This depends on the product, its BTU rating, and your rate of consumption. Many of these propane water heaters are energy-saving so a tank will last you quite some time.
Should I clean my propane water heater?
Yes, if you want the unit to last.
The good news is, many propane water heaters have self-cleaning mechanisms. If your portable propane water heater for camping doesn’t have this, it’s recommended to clean it every six months, especially if you’re using hard water.
This will eliminate any lime, calcium, or rust buildup. This helps maintain great performance for a long time.
Thanks to the increased availability of portable propane waters, you can enjoy hot showers whenever and wherever you are. With this convenient item, you can even convince your camping-averse friends to join you on your next trip!