As more people each year are spending time in the great outdoors, either camping or traveling in a camper van, there is a need for better quality camping accessories so that spending the night away from your home does not need to be a time when you go without little luxuries in your life, such as hot water.
Portable water heaters continue to become more popular and they are a fantastic accessory to have for any avid campers who want to stay clean during their time in the great outdoors.
With a portable water heater, you can warm up after a cold swim, bathe your child or pet, or enjoy a shower with a view while spending time off-grid in the wilderness.
Below we look at the best portable water heater that is currently on the market, but before we do that, let’s take a look at what exactly a portable water heater is!
Table of Contents
What Is A Portable Water Heater?
A portable water heater is a device that heats water using electricity as a heat source. They come in different sizes and capacities depending on how much hot water they can produce.
The smallest ones can fit inside a backpack, whereas larger units may require setting them up near the campsite.
When you’re heading off on a hike, there’s nothing worse than running out of drinking water halfway through your trip.
That’s why having a portable water heater is so important, if you don’t have one, you’ll have to stop every few miles to refill your bottles, but with one, you can boil water so that it is safe to drink.
With a portable water heater, you can keep going no matter where you go. It doesn’t take long to boil 1 gallon of water, which means you can stay hydrated throughout your entire journey.
Most portable water heaters work by converting electrical energy into heat.
To do this, they use a thermoelectric module (TEM) to convert DC from an outlet into an AC current. Then, they transfer the AC current into the water via copper coils.
Once the water reaches boiling point, the TEM converts the remaining energy back into DC current. This DC current powers the TEM again until it runs out of power.
Types Of Portable Water Heaters
There are three main types of portable water heaters: gas-powered, electric, and solar. Each offers similar benefits, but each has its own pros and cons.
These models run on propane tanks. They tend to be more expensive than other options because of the cost of purchasing and maintaining the tank. However, they do offer some advantages over other models.
For example, they can operate with very little maintenance and are easier to start than other models.
The biggest disadvantage is the cost of the maintenance of the tank, even though this is not required very often.
Electric models are typically cheaper than gas models. They also feature fewer moving parts, making them less likely to break down.
Another advantage is that these models are also quieter than gas models. A con with these types of portable water heaters is that they require batteries, which means lugging around plenty of spares in your camping bag.
The best choice depends on what kind of camping trips you plan on taking and whether you will mostly be using the heater to clean water to drink or to enjoy a warm shower.
If you want something that will last longer, get a model that uses propane. If you prefer something smaller, choose an electric model.
Solar models are steadily becoming the most popular as they are fueled by solar power which you can often find in abundance when out in the wilderness.
One main benefit is that you don’t need to worry about carrying extra batteries or propane canisters.
As solar models are newer these models are still being developed, with kinks being ironed out as companies continue to manufacture upgraded versions of previous models.
Best Portable Water Heater For Outdoors And Camping
Mr. Heater is known for its camping and lifestyle products and our first product is from their BOSS (Battery Operated Shower System) range.
This fantastic portable battery-operated propane shower system has a lot of great features and all for a great price.
This unit is powered by a single propane gas cylinder and a D-Cell battery pump and features an electric ignition.
It has a rechargeable internal AC battery and an adjustable water temperature to ensure your water is heated just right every time.
LED diagnostics make it easy to use this unit even when it is dusk.
With 12,000 BTUs this powerful portable heater is guaranteed to have a high flow rate and can increase the heat of source water by up to 35-degrees.
The unit weighs 14pounds and measures 19.8-inches long, 9.44-inches wide, and 12-inches tall.
It’s easy to take a great shower anywhere with this unit, simply drop the pump in a bucket of water, set the temperature, and enjoy instant hot water with the flip of a switch.
Benefits of this unit include its matchless electronic ignition that helps to produce instant hot water and anti-scald protection.
It also features a safety tip-over shut-off switch and a deluxe shower head comes with your initial purchase.
- Portable and durable unit
- Instant hot water
- Scald protection feature
- Certified for use in both the USA and Canada
- 1-year limited warranty
- Suitable for outdoor use only
Our next chosen heater is a fantastic tankless water heater that is easy to use, compact, and portable, enabling you to shower no matter where you are.
This unit is powered by a 20-pound propane tank and includes an electronic ignition which is powered by 2 D cell batteries, which are not included upon purchase.
It has a flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute and requires temporary installation outdoors, meaning it is best suited to cabins, van conversions, off-grid living, or as an outdoor shower.
It is supercharged with 37,500 BTUs and is rated at 1.5GPM. This unit can produce hot water even when dealing with low water pressure.
The water can be heated from 50 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, simply adjust the temperature dial to your desired temperature.
You get a lot when you purchase this heater, in the box, you will find a CSA certified gas regulator and hose, a ½” and ¾” hose adapter, a hardware pack for installation, a ¾” quick connector set, a roll of pipe tape, shower head, 6-foot hose, and of course an instruction manual to ensure an easy set-up. It measures 13.8-inches long, 23.6-inches wide, and 7.5-inches tall.
Eccotemp offers 24/7 live chat support for their customers and appointment-based dedicated support on Mondays to Fridays between 8 am to 8 pm EST.
- Easy to use and maintain
- CSA certified
- Certified for use in the USA and Canada
- Great customer service
- Warranty must be purchased as an add-on
- Temporary installation required
Here we have another fantastic tankless gas water heater that is a great accessory for any camping trip, and all for an amazing price!
This unit is great for camping as it is portable and tankless and it is also a great choice for road trips as it can be powered using 2 D cell batteries.
It is easy to install and use and has a handle meaning you can temporarily hang it from trees safely in any weather.
This unit comes with a 5-foot CSA-certified gas regulator and a 5 feet shower head.
It measures 20.28-inches long including the handle and connectors located on the base of the unit, it is 11.42-inches wide and 4.33-inches deep.
You will get all the necessary hardware to set up this unit upon purchase, however, power sources are not included.
You can expect 1.32 GPM of heated water when using this propane tankless water heater (see also ‘Best Propane Tankless Water Heater‘) and it can work with a 12V water pump.
The unit can raise water to 114.8 degrees Fahrenheit from the source temperature.
The unit has some brilliant built-in safety features, such as a flame failure device, anti-freezing protection, overheat protection, and oxygen depletion safety shut-off protections.
- Durable stainless steel burner
- Tinning copper heat exchanger to prevent corrosion and to efficiently output hot water
- Built-in safety features
- Easy to install and use
- CSA certified
- 1-year warranty
- Power sources sold separately
Solar-powered portable water heaters are becoming more popular and so we have looked for a great unit that can offer great showers to any eco-warriors among you.
If you are setting off on a long hiking and camping trip, then this great portable product could be perfect for you as it is lightweight and can easily fit in a backpack without adding too much additional weight.
This product is available in a range of colors and only requires 3 hours of direct sunlight to heat 5 gallons of water.
This product has been constructed entirely using environmentally friendly and leak-proof materials that are safe for human use.
Water can be heated to 113 degrees Fahrenheit after 3 hours of direct sunlight.
Keep your shower accessories in the useful mesh pouch and easily operate the shower with an upgraded shower head and water tap.
The power switch also allows you to choose between low or high water flow, depending on whether you want a short but powerful shower or a longer more soothing shower.
The temperature indicator located on the back of the product allows you to judge when the water is ready and the carrier bag features a handle that allows you to easily secure the unit to an overhanging branch.
The downside to this product is that once the hot water is gone you will need to refill the bag and wait until it has had three hours of direct sunlight before it is ready for use again.
- Environmentally friendly
- Only needs 3 hours of direct sunlight to heat water
- Leak-free features
- Handle on carrier bag to attach the unit to a tree
- Comes with an upgraded shower head
- Only heats 5 gallons of water
You can buy this portable water heater on Amazon by clicking here.
Below are the top features to consider when looking to buy a portable water heater for outdoors (see also ‘Everything You Need to Know About Outdoor Water Heaters‘) or camping. Keep these considerations in mind to find the perfect unit for you.
One of the biggest things you will need to consider is what type of power source you want your portable water heater to be fueled by, do you want it to be fueled by gas, electric or solar.
Consider whether you would be able to carry around propane canisters or additional batteries, or if the sun will be shining for long enough to charge up a solar heater.
The type that would work best for you will depend on where you are going camping, the local weather, how far you will be trekking, and how much you can safely carry.
Portability is an important factor when choosing a portable water heater, especially for anyone who will be going on a long hike or camping trip that will involve carrying backpacks filled with equipment for long periods of time.
It should not weigh too much if you plan to bring it along on hikes and other activities to prevent muscle fatigue, fatigue in general, muscle strain, or accidents.
Some units are very lightweight while others are quite heavy so we advise considering what your routes are often like to enable you to choose the best choice for you.
Tank Or Tankless
Tankless water heaters are the most popular choice as they can supply endless amounts of hot water. Tank-style heaters are limited to the capacity of the tank itself, for example, if it is a 1-gallon tank then you will only have 1 gallon of hot water.
If you want to use your portable water heater for showering then you would need at least an 8 to 10-gallon tank-style heater but a tankless system may be best.
If you will be using the heater for light cleaning then a 1 or 2-gallon tank-style heater would suffice.
Set-Up And Maintenance
You may also want to consider how easy it is to set up and operate the unit.
This could mean checking whether the unit requires tools to install and how simple it will be to use in the great outdoors when you are cold and tired.
You should also bear in mind what maintenance will be required to keep your portable heater in good working condition.
Additional costs should be carefully considered to ensure you can afford the upkeep of your unit.
Another key aspect of the setup and maintenance is the operating elevation for your unit.
Some models cannot operate above 2000 feet above sea level. Using heaters higher than it has been designed to operate could result in the unit exploding or not operating efficiently.
Flow rate means the amount of water a tankless heater can provide every minute, and is measured in gallons per minute, or GPM.
If you are looking for a portable water heater that you can use for showering then you will want a unit that has a high British Thermal Unit (BTU) rating so that it has a high flow rate.
BTU is essentially a way of measuring how quickly and efficiently water is heated by a portable water heater.
Again, if you are using it for light cleaning then both flow rate and the BTU will not be as important.
Accessories that may be needed will depend on what you will be using your portable heater for.
A hose could be useful for cleaning, washing, and bathing but maybe already built onto the unit. A shower head can also be useful.
Other accessories could include a storage container to keep your unit dust-free when not in use.
Some manufacturers will provide accessories when you initially buy a portable heater but others do not, you should check this before purchasing.
With more companies creating great portable water heaters it is more possible than ever to find units to suit your budget.
In most cases, units that are expensive usually offer more features than those that cost less.
Try not to get distracted by non-essential features and concentrate more on what it is that you actually need for a price you can afford.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Benefits Of Having A Portable Water Heater For Outdoors And Camping?
Portable water heaters have many benefits but one of the most important is that they can give you access to hot water in potentially dangerous situations.
You can always boil water to give access to clean drinking water without having to carry huge amounts of water when you set out on your trip.
Portable heaters are easy to set up, are a great compact size for portability, and they tend to be pretty inexpensive with most units retailing for approximately $200.
They are extremely worthwhile investing in, particularly if you spend a lot of time off-grid or in the wilderness on your travels.
Are Portable Water Heaters Safe For Use Around Children?
Portable heaters have a lot of benefits but they can also be quite dangerous when they are not operated or maintained properly.
While the initial set-up is often a simple process you should still take care, don’t over-tighten connections and consider using Teflon tape on gas connections to prevent possible leaks.
It is also important to maintain the temperature reading system to ensure your water is not boiling when you use it to shower yourself, a child, or a pet.
Make sure the temperature shows in a reading you are familiar with, for example, if you use Fahrenheit get a unit that measures temperature in Fahrenheit as opposed to Celsius.
By staying on top of maintenance and by never leaving a child unsupervised around a portable water heater they should ultimately be safe for use around children.