Ask anyone who’s been camping even once what they missed about life at home, and you’re likely to hear “hot water.” Unless you’re in a campground with shower facilities, or a recreational vehicle hooked up to electricity or propane, hot water can be a luxury.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. There are portable propane, electric, and even solar-powered options for heating water outdoors. They can be taken along for car camping, backpacking, or almost any outdoor situation in which you’d like to have hot water.
Read on for our recommendations for the best camping water heater for different outdoor circumstances. You’ll also find a buyer’s guide and answers to some of your likely questions about water heaters for outdoor use.
Our Top Picks
Best for RVs
Camplux Portable Propane Tankless Water Heater
Best Budget Option
Risepro 10-Gallon Solar Heated Shower Bag
Best for Portability
Preppers Peak Solar Water Heater
Best For RVs
Fueled with liquid propane, the Camplux Portable Propane Tankless Water Heater delivers nearly 1.5 gallons of instantly heated water per minute. Set-up and operation of the Camplux water is simple, requiring only that it be hooked up to a propane source and a water source.
The performance and simplicity of the Camplux water heater are the reasons it earned our best overall camping water heater ranking. In addition to its simple connections to propane and water, the Camplux includes simple controls to regulate gas and water flow.
The maximum water heating available from the Camplux portable tankless heater is nearly 115 degrees. That’s only slightly below the average home hot water setting of 120 degrees to 140 degrees.
- No waiting for water to heat up
- Simple to connect to propane source
- Easily adaptable for use with garden hose
- May not perform optimally above 2,000 feet
- May make water too hot for some users
- Assembly instructions may be unclear for some purchasers
No matter whether you’re backpacking, car camping, RV camping, or glamping, a hot shower can give you a bit of luxury. And that’s why the Risepro 10-Gallon Solar-Heated Shower Bag is our recommendation as the most versatile means of heating water outdoors.
Using the Risepro shower bag is as easy as hanging it in a tree or anywhere else in sunlight. Its heat-absorbing PVC material will get water to nearly 115 degrees within three hours. That’s an indiscernible difference from the 120 degrees recommended for home water heaters.
A temperature indicator on the outside of the Risepro bag will let you know how the heating of your water is progressing. After your water is ready, the included shower head lets you select either low-flow or high-flow water delivery.
- Holds enough water for multiple showers
- Shower head works exceptionally well
- Great for use as a home shower in weather or power emergencies
- Recommendation that bag be filled before hanging may be a problem for some users
- Hose mounting location doesn’t easily allow access to full 10-gallon capacity
- Included rope and hook may not be strong enough for some installation locations
Best For Portability
If you’re ready to take off on a moment’s notice for camping, the Preppers Peak Solar Water Heater should be in your gear.
Weighing less than 3 pounds, and measuring 17 inches, the Preppers Peak Solar Water Heater is the best portable option for a camping water heater.
To use the Preppers Peak water heater, all you have to do is open its solar-reflecting wings and fill the water chamber. Then, simply set the heater in a location facing the full sun.
Using just the warmth of the sun, the Preppers Peak heater can bring water to boiling in about 90 minutes. For most other uses, the Preppers Peak solar water heater can get 17 ounces of water sufficiently hot in a little more than a half-hour.
- Vacuum insulation is very effective
- Great for cooking canned food or soups
- Produces enough hot water for limited bathing
- Base should be wider to ensure heater doesn’t tip over
- Plastic pieces can negatively affect durability
- Required heating time may be problematic for some users
Best for Car Camping
So you love car camping, except you’re not crazy about using charcoal, a gas grill, or a campfire for heating water or cooking. No worries — the Haines Sun-Up Solar Cooker has you covered. Plus, it’s our recommendation as the best water heater for car camping.
The Haines SunUp Solar Cooker can boil a quart of water in 40 minutes. That gives you hot water for cooking, cleaning, and even some personal washing in a reasonable time
Weighing just 7 pounds, the Haines SunUp Solar Cooker is a reasonable addition to your camping gear. And, of course, it does more than just heat water. You can easily adapt many of the slow-cooker recipes you use at home for hearty meals in the outdoors.
- Works well even in low temperatures with adequate sunlight
- Cooking pot included
- Well-engineered for portability and easy clean-up
- Light weight may be a problem on windy days
- Assembly instructions may be confusing for some users
- Does not include a thermostat to measure temperature
Best for Glamping
Let’s say you’ve found the almost-perfect location for a glamping vacation. But there’s one problem: Hot water isn’t part of the package. Thankfully, if you have the Gasland Outdoors Portable Propane Water Heater, your problem is solved.
The Gasland water heater has our recommendation as the best camping water heater for glamping. It will provide more than 1.5 gallons of heated water per minute to your glamping quarters. And all you’ll need for fuel is a 20-pound tank of liquid propane, easily transported in your car.
In addition to its impressive performance, the Gasland Outdoors water heater doesn’t skimp on safety. It features protection against overheating and also against too-high water pressure. In short, it’s the perfect addition to bring extra comfort to any glamping adventure.
- Easy to set up
- Readout screen provides constant temperature information
- Quiet operation
- Temperature may fluctuate during use
- Packaging doesn’t include all required couplings
- Liquid propane mount appears to be somewhat fragile
Best Immersion Water Heater
Perhaps the simplest way to get hot water when camping where electricity is available is to use an immersion device as your camping water heater. It’s an elegantly simple solution consisting of a submersible heating element to rapidly heat water in anything from a coffee cup to a large bucket.
The GESAIL Bucket Water Heater is our choice as best immersion-style camping water heater, because it can rapidly heat a significant amount of water. Within just a few minutes, the GESAIL heater will have a five-gallon bucket heated to 180 degrees.
Once your water reaches that temperature, the GESAIL heater will enter an alternating on-off cycle. That feature ensures safety and keeps water at a 180-degree maximum temperature.
- Works faster than many other immersible water heaters
- Works quickly even in subzero temperatures
- Effectively heats bathtub quantities of water
- May be too big for some 5-gallon bucket configurations
- May repeatedly trip some Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter-equipped electrical outlets
- Should come with mounting bracket
Best Camping Water Heater Buyer’s Guide
Now that you’ve seen our recommendations for the best camping water heater, it’s time to explore heating water outdoors in a bit more depth. Read on for information on the various camping water heater configurations as a guide to making your own choice.
Propane-fueled camping water heaters are an attractive option because you can bring the needed fuel with you. Routinely, that will mean that they are the best option for going off the grid.
However, managing a standard 20-pound propane tank can be a challenge. When full, a 20-pound propane tank will weigh around 35 pounds. That means you won’t want to lug it, or your heater equipment, too far from where you park your car.
Plus, there’s the hassle of having to pick up a full propane tank from your local convenience store or other vendor, and returning the empty tank once you’ve finished your camping trip.
Unless you already have an electric-power generator — for which you’ll need diesel, propane, or gasoline — your use of an electric camping water heater will be limited. You’ll have to find a campground or other recreational space that already has electrical service.
That isn’t to say electric water heaters are impractical. There are a number of tankless electric water heaters that can be used in camping. But another far less complicated option is also a good choice for camping.
Immersible electric water heaters, placed directly into a container of water, can heat it for a variety of uses, from washing dishes to personal hygiene.
Solar water heaters are the simplest option for a camping water heater. Broadly speaking, solar water heaters absorb the sun’s energy to bring warm water to your campsite. Shower bags are the simplest example, using the sun to warm dark-colored bags filled with water.
Other solar water heating options use reflective material to concentrate the sun’s rays on a particular spot for warming. These heaters can get hot enough to boil water.
However, both shower bags and solar cookers are slow-acting, taking anywhere from a half-hour to multiple hours to heat water enough for showering or cooking.
Best Camping Water Heater Frequently Asked Questions
After this introduction to options for the best camping water heater, you likely have more questions about this bit of camping gear. Read on for answers to just a few of the questions you may have.
What safety precautions are needed with electric camping water heaters?
Suppose you’re using an electrically powered water heater while camping; many of the safety rules that you use with home electricity will apply. For instance, be sure that you haven’t overloaded an electrical outlet, either at your campsite or in your RV, by plugging in an electric water heater.
Also, since liquids will conduct electricity, keep any water that you’re heating far enough away from your power source to avoid contact.
What safety precautions are needed for propane-fueled camping water heaters?
Propane-fueled camping water heaters routinely come equipped with a number of safety features. Among other things, those features are designed to prevent water temperatures from rising too high. You’ll also find features designed to keep water pressure in check.
But don’t let those features lull you into a false sense of security about portable propane water heater safety. You also need to be concerned about the propane tanks that feed fuel to your water heater.
Among precautions to take when using propane are turning off the tank valve and disconnecting the hose to your heater after each use.
You should also be sure to sit your propane tank on a level surface to avoid potentially tripping the tank’s OPD (Overfill Protection Device). Tripping the OPD could release flammable propane into the air.
Is there a temperature below which a solar shower bag won’t work?
As long as a solar shower bag is exposed to direct sunlight at a temperature above 20 degrees, it will heat the water inside. However, the colder the outside temperature, the longer it will take to bring the water to an optimum high temperature.
Ideally, a solar water bag should heat water to a temperature between 99 degrees and 113 degrees. But, at lower atmospheric temperatures, the water inside a solar bag may not reach that temperature range.
Wrapping up the Best Camping Water Heater
There’s no doubt a camping water heater can add a welcome bit of luxury to an outdoor adventure. Now that you have our recommendations on the best camping water heater for various situations, you’re more than ready to make your own choice.
As a reminder, our choice for the best overall camping water heater is the Camplux Portable Propane Tankless Water Heater. If you’d like more information on water heaters for camping, check out Beyond the Tent for a guide to water heaters designed for recreational vehicles.
- About the Author
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Jim Thompson grew up tent camping with his family, and was introduced to backpacking with the Boy Scouts. He attended a military college, where he was introduced to rappelling, an outdoor activity which he has not pursued.
Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Georgia, and spent 35 years as a newspaper writer and editor before become a writer for Apple Pie Media.
Jim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org