water heater

3 Convenient Portable Water Heaters for Camping & Small Homes

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Access to water is a given when enjoying the outdoors, but sometimes we forget that hot water is even harder to come by.

If you have an RV or own a tiny home, a portable water heater will make showering and cleaning up much more enjoyable. Without a tankless water heater, you may not be able to enjoy bathing or doing every day tasks like laundry or dishes. Once you decide that it's time to install a tankless water heater, the first thing you'll need to figure out is what size works best for you. While 2.6 gallons per minute is standard, you may need a smaller or larger tank depending on the size of your family. Think of how many times you'll need it to supply hot water for showers, appliances, or even meal prep. Don't underestimate how much water your family uses, especially while camping! If you have a larger group, you'll want to make sure this heats up enough water to give everyone a chance to wind down with a nice, hot shower.

Portable water heaters are so worth it if you're tired of communal showers or solar shower bags, too — and in the long run, they'll make the outdoors more pleasant and your life a little easier. While installation can be achievable, you may require professional help if you're new to van life. Feel free to give your plumber a call and let them know you'll be buying a tankless water heater soon, so you'll have a professional to install your new heater. Here's our picks below:

1. Our Top Pick for RVs & Cabins

Camplux 2.64 GPM Portable Propane Water Heater - Amazon, $269.99

Camplux's battery-powered heater is great for instant hot showers in your off-grid cabin, RV, or barn. This is a great addition to outdoor shelters where farm animals may reside. It comes with a tankless water heater, shower head and hose, one CSA regulator, and an installation hardware pack. Once set up, It'll take a few minutes to get 2.64 gallons per minute. One customer wrote: "Super easy to install - no worse than your backyard bbq - and virtually instant hot water from our garden hose." Installation is simple, but be cautious: Camplux says you cannot place any teflon tape between the gas regulator and gas inlet pipe, making this a more complicated install if you're not familiar with propane . Again, schedule an installation with a plumber if needed!

However this heater has lots of safety features once installed: The gas supply is automatically shut off when the temperature reaches over 167 °F. With dry combustion protection, flame failure device, and anti-freezing protection, your entire family will feel safe with it in use.

2. Best for Tent Camping

Coleman's portable heater can heat water up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit in 30 seconds, and the high-power submersible electric pump provides a strong water flow that campers love. Setting it up is easy: To use, connect the pump to the included five-gallon water carrier, then connect the hoses, dial in your temperature, and you're done. The shower head can be placed in the adjustable holder to use as a faucet and it has a 6-foot hose that's perfect for outdoor showering. Think of this as a portable camping shower system: It comes with a mesh storage bag, so bring it everywhere. Not only is this great for showering outside, but it'll come in handy for rinsing off dishes and washing your muddy dogs off (who also love to camp). The built-in lithium-ion battery can be charged from your car outlet, so if you car camp often you'll need a system like this.

3. Best for Tiny Homes

Ecosmart 11.8 Tankless Electric Water Heater - Ace Hardware, $269.99 

Ecosmart's tankless water heater is a great addition to your home to support your bathroom, washing machine, and kitchen. While it may not be the best pick for large homes, it's a great tankless heater for cabins and tiny home builds. The 11.8-gallon tankless heater is ideal for those looking to add an energy-efficient heater to their homes — and you'll get continuous hot water up to 2.6 gallons per minute, making this a great pick for hot showers and washing clothes. It has a digital display to show the output temperature and you can control the temperature in increments of one degree. It's easy to use, and super easy to install as well.

This post was originally published in 2021.