Homemade Tent Heaters

by Gina Ragusa
A tent heater can keep you warm during cold nights.

A tent heater can keep you warm during cold nights.

Sometimes camping in the great outdoors is chilly and a sleeping bag and a few blankets won't keep you warm. Safely generate warmth inside your tent using a homemade tent heater. Whenever using any heating device, especially inside your tent, insist on adult supervision and never fall asleep while your tent heater is ignited.


Your tent heater supplies may already be packed with your camping gear. You'll need one roll of unscented toilet paper, six bottles of unscented 70 percent to 90 percent isopropyl alcohol, an empty metal can taller than the toilet paper, a taller empty metal can (such as a 3 lb. coffee or tub of popcorn can) and an aluminum pot or pan wider than the top of the largest can.

Create Your Heater

Peel off enough sheets of toilet paper to stuff snugly into the smaller can, then remove the cardboard roll inside the toilet paper. Check the can to ensure that it is fully stuffed with toilet paper that it reaches just below the can's rim. Place the toilet-paper-stuffed can into your larger can and position the heater in an area that has about 18 inches of space around it. Open a window or the tent door to provide ventilation before lighting your heater. Saturate the toilet paper with the isopropyl alcohol---pour the alcohol until the liquid is absorbed by the toilet paper. Use a match or lighter to ignite the toilet paper and watch a small flame develop and burn. Once the area warms up and you want to distinguish the flame, place a pan or tin lid over the flame. It's ready to relight when you need additional heat.


Because you are using a flammable item inside your tent, clear away all items around the heater. Bring a small fire extinguisher with you on your trip and conduct quick fire safety training for all participants, especially children. When storing flammable items, store alcohol and other flammable items far away from matches. Also, don't forget to separate the cardboard core from the toilet paper center. The cardboard will burn faster than the toilet paper and can pose a fire hazard. Tent heaters are dangerous to use inside small, two-man tents and should only be used inside larger areas. When not in use, keep your tent heater outside and away from the tent.

About the Author

Gina Ragusa has made a career out of writing for the past 15 years, with an emphasis on financial institution writing. Ragusa has written for Consumer Lending News, Deposit and Loan Growth Strategies and Community Bank President. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Michigan State University.

Photo Credits

  • tent on the forest image by Galyna Andrushko from Fotolia.com