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Winter is coming, and with it arrives a general sense of need for preparation. After the past few cold seasons, many of us have been left considering how best to keep ourselves warm in uncomfortable - sometimes dire - conditions. The necessity of a portable space heater has never been greater, and fortunately, neither have the number of options that can be found on the market.
When it comes to space heaters, there are many definitions of "portable." For some consumers and companies, portability just means size. Is it light enough to carry, small enough to stash in a corner, and simple enough to use? In those circumstances, you may just be looking for a heater that is a breeze to carry, rather than one that is totally cordless. And if you have a wall plug accessible, an electric heater can serve you well in those cases. They won't require any form of gas, are energy efficient, and can get things toasty very quickly. Most electric models vary between two main heat sources: a ceramic plate or metal coil warmed through convection and then distributed through a fan.
However, if you are looking for the true essence of portability, then a gas space heater is going to be the option for you. These units, whether warmed through propane, butane, or isobutane, offer the maximum amount of accessibility as they can be taken anywhere, whether there is an electric outlet or not. They can also come to great benefit during storms or power outages. Because of the fuel source, gas heaters can often boast a greater amount of BTUs (British Thermal Units), which translates to more heat in your space. The concerns here are that gas units aren't often well suited for enclosed spaces, although these days, many companies have outfitted their units to measure for low oxygen levels (a by-product of burning gas in confined areas), and to shut off accordingly.
That said, there is a staggering amount of safety features at play in all types of space heaters, and if you need to heat a blind, a workshop, a hunting camp, or your home, then there is something for you out there.
1. Best Overall Portable Propane Heater
- 4,000 to 9,000 BTU
- 8.9 lb.
- 225 sq. ft. of coverage
Mr. Heater might call this unit the "Buddy," but when the temperature dips, it'll become so much more. Meet your new best friend. From a company that specializes in keeping you warm, this heater is well regarded as one of the best overall on the market due to the intersection of price and efficiency. Plus, at the given shipping weight, the Buddy Heater's radiant heat is highly portable and well-rated for maneuverability.
Lit with a Piezo igniter button, there's no necessity for open flames on this unit. A versatile connection point allows you to connect a single 1 lb. canister of propane, or attach a longer hose to extend your burn time. The unit offers approximately 6 hours of burn time, takes up little space with a minimally-sized footprint, and has a host of safety features. These include an automatic shut-off if the temperature gets too high, the unit falls over, the pilot light goes out, or ambient oxygen levels get too low (it is, however, rated for 7k feet above sea level).
2. The Best, But Smaller
- 3,800 BTU
- 5 lbs.
- 95 sq. ft.
Some units are meant to warm entire spaces, and others are better for personal use. The Little Buddy from Mr. Heater fits into the latter category, but within that section, it fills an important role. Running off of a 1 lb. cylinder, this model can burn for up to 5.6 hours, providing crucial, if not direct warmth. The unit has a 45-degree angle to make sure you are at the center of the heating universe, while heavy-duty wire guards and an easy-to-hold handle reduce the need for you to touch anywhere that might be hot.
Standard safety features include a thermal shutoff feature for too high a temperature, an automatic kill switch for accidental tip-overs, and a low-oxygen sensor that also triggers a shut-down of the unit. For a miniature portable heater, the Little Buddy can't be beaten.
3. A Two-in-One Portable Heater
- 9,000 to 10,000 BTU
- 2 lbs.
- 300 to 600 sq. ft.
This isn't the first time we've extolled the virtues of the two-in-one combo of camp stoves and portable heaters, but we'll say it again: The ability to heat yourself and your food at the same time is exactly the sort of multifunctionality that we want to see in the world of utility appliances.
Campy Gear was found by avid outdoorsmen with a particular penchant for the cold; this device is designed for ice fishers, so we are confident when we say it will keep you warm in many conditions. While not as big as other designs by the company, the Chubby is perfectly portable and can operate from butane, isobutane, or propane. Some reviewers mention that it can be difficult to find a standard hose or adapter for the varying fuel types, but for us, Campy Gears customer service has been quick to respond to any questions or equipment concerns. Overall, this unit is exceptionally adept at solving the challenge of staying warm in the outdoors.
4. The Little Butane Heater That Could
- 4,400 to 10,000 BTU
- 5.83 lbs.
- 250 sq. ft. of heat range
Stocked with all your standard features and suited to fire up with butane or propane, this outdoor heater from PDD offers a similar utility to Campy Gear. The swiveling face can double as a camp stove, though it won't generate outward heat while doing so. Your fuel source will heat up a ceramic tile, which maximizes the amount of heat you'll feel, though if you choose a butane canister, you'll be limited to around 3 hours of heat. Still, if you're in need of a small, compact unit, the PDD has a lot of value.
5. Huff, and Puff, and Heat the House Up
- 68,000 BTU
- 14.8 lbs
- 100 sq. ft range
Designed specifically to heat up job sites, this small unit from DeWALT will certainly come in handy when you need it most. DeWALT boasts that this heater - which operates off of propane and battery combo that blow pressurized hot air - heats 50% quieter than similarly designed models. You'll get 13 hours of heat from the minimum tank size, which you can manage through a variable rate valve. The body of the heater is covered with an electrostatic powder coating which protects it from the heat, as does a maximum temperature setting which automatically kicks off should this unit start blowing too high. One thing is for certain, this unit is full of more than hot air.
6. An Old Fuel for Modern Day
- 23,500 BTU of heat
- 26.45 lbs.
- 900 sq. ft range
At one point in history, kerosene was an incredibly common way to light your home, cook your food, and heat individual spaces. But just as kerosene had once replaced whale oil, it was quickly dethroned by electrification. However, kerosene still has some uses, particularly when you need heat somewhere that electricity isn't accessible.
This utility space heater from Sengoku LA is a great option to have on hand in that case. The 1.9-gallon tank can stave off the cold for up to 12 hours. A push-to-start button negates any need for open matches near the unit, while automatic shut-off, a tip-over switch, and protective grates pile on the safety features. There's an easy-to-control knob for managing the directional heat as well, and a siphon to reduce spillage while pouring your fuel.
Best Portable Heaters Running on Electric
7. Best Infrared Portable Heater
- 5200 BTU output
- 24 lbs.
- 400 sq. ft. of heating
Dr. Infrared is a U.S.-based company that takes a unique approach to portable space heaters. Rather than relying on metal or ceramic heating elements, this unit generates heat via an infrared quartz tube, which the company asserts will heat 60% faster and more effectively than similar-sized units on the market. With 2 heat settings, you are offered a moderate range of options, and at 39 decibels, it's hard to find a quieter portable heater. That said, although the size and weight allow you to bring this heater anywhere, there is no cord for the Dr. Infrared. Instead, it's recommended to plug directly into the wall, so if you need something with more maneuverability — look elsewhere.
8. Small Unit, Big Warmth
- 19,107 BTU output
- 16.6 lbs
- 800 sq. ft. range
If you happen to have an outlet or power source within your blind or hunting camp, or you're looking to heat up an outdoor workspace, look no further than this Newair model. 240 volts (5600-watts) does require a bit of electricity, but it's worth it when you get to feel your fingertips again. The fire and rust-resistant body is nonslip, cool to touch, and has an adjustable tilt and automatic shut-off feature. And, it can withstand a multitude of weather conditions, considering the Newair also has an anti-freeze function.
The convection coil source generates a temperature ranging from 40 to 90 degrees, blowing at 236 cubic feet of heat per minute. The only drawback to this portable space heater? There's no tip-over safety switch. So, be careful where you place it.
9. A Quality Plug-in Option
- 5,180 BTU output
- 9.3 lbs.
- 100 - 300 sq. ft. heat range
As an Italian company, the chances are high that you know DeLonghi more for the company's quality lines of espresso makers than for small appliances like this space heater. Fortunately, the level of simple ease and effectiveness that goes into DeLonghi's coffee makers can be found in this compact unit. The Capsule heater has two basic settings to moderate the temperature and power of the model's main functions, which are powered from ceramic plate heating dispersed by a fan. At 1500-watts, this plug-in heater will warm your space quickly. There is a 6-foot cord, which we do wish was a bit longer, overall the size, power, and portability of the DeLonghi Capsule make it a moderate option if you have an outlet close by.
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