How to Heat a Campervan Without Electricity

The only reliable way to heat a campervan without electricity is to use a portable fuel powered heater.

Portable fuel powered heaters, like the Mr Heater (propane), output plenty of heat without requiring an electrical connection.

More powerful non-portable fuel powered heaters, like the Webasto, Espar, or Propex, provide more heat than most portable fuel powered heaters, but require an electrical connection that draws up to a couple volts per hour (meaning you’d want a separate battery to run them for long periods).

Portable electric heater with fuel tank operating independently next to diesel air heater with electrical connection - electric heater stick figure stands in distance angry

A simple portable propane heater, like the Mr Heater, cost under $200, and will run for up to 5.4 hours with a 1 gallon bottle 1.

HeaterMr Heater 9BXMr Heater 12HBMr Heater 18B
Output4,000-9,000 BTU6,000-12,000 BTU4,000-18,000 BTU
Fuel Tank Size1 Gallon1 Gallon1 Gallon
Max Run Time5.4 Hours3.6 Hours5.4 Hours


Getting By With Less Electricity

One thing people don’t often consider, is that reducing the amount of space you need to heat, will reduce the amount of power required to use an electric heater. This is the thought process behind using electric blankets (which work great if you have a small power station and don’t want to use propane or other fuels).

A large bank of 100 amp-hour batteries pointing toward a fully heated van next to a single 100 amp-hour battery pointing toward a person under a heated blanket

Calculating How Much Heat You Need

As discussed in our article ‘what size diesel heater do you need‘, you can calculate exactly what size heater you need, by following this simple formula:

(Length x Width x Height of Living Space) x (20 BTU’s)

BTUs stands for British Thermal Units – 20 BTUs is the recommended amount of heat per cubic ft of space used in home heating and air.

If you apply this formula to your vehicle, you can calculate out how much heat you’ll need.

VehicleLengthWidthHeightCubic ftBTU’s
Sprinter 170 Ext15.75 ft5.83 ft6.58 ft604.19 ft³12,083
Ram ProMaster 15912 ft6.25 ft6.41 ft480.75 ft³9,615
Ford E-Series10.11 ft6.13 ft4.49 ft278.41 ft³5,568
VW Van8.85 ft4.925 ft4.42 ft192.65 ft³3,853
Dodge Caravan7.29 ft5.16 ft5.08 ft191.09 ft³3,821
Chevy Astro10.5 ft4.65 ft3.90 ft190.41 ft³3,808
Ford Transit Connect9.79 ft4.05 ft4.12 ft163.35 ft³3,267

To conclude, portable propane heaters are the best solution for campervan heating without electricity. If however, you’re ready to invest in a more powerful, but slightly electrical dependent solution, consider a gas air heater.


  1. You can attach larger tanks to greatly increase the run time.

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