Here are the best propane heaters for high altitude. The burn of propane heaters becomes less efficient with increasing altitude. However, some heaters are proven to work by the camping and outdoor community.
In this article, we’re going to check the best propane heaters for high altitudes. We’re going to check why altitude is a problem for all propane heaters. And we’re going to check what you can do about it.
Quick answer: The best propane heaters for high altitude are the Mr. Heater Buddy and Big Buddy models. They come with a safety oxygen sensor that detects improper burn at high altitudes. However, any good-quality heater will work at altitudes up to at least 15,000 feet.
I have successfully used a propane heater at 13,250 feet (4038 meters) altitude on an Everest Region trek in Nepal. It worked perfectly fine. I remember there were gas-heated showers up to 15,800 feet (4800 meters). And the gas heating only stopped at this altitude because it was the end of the trek.
So, I am very confident that the heaters listed below will work up to at least this altitude.
Recommended heaters for high altitudes (up to 15,000 feet)
Let’s have a look at each model.
#1 Mr. Heater Buddy
The Mr. Heater Buddy (click to view it on amazon) produces between 4,000 BTU and 9,000 BTU of heat. That’s enough to keep a large tent or even an RV warm. If you are looking for a heater that is able to produce enough heat to dry clothes (from hiking), then I highly suggest looking at the other two heater recommendations.
The Mr. Heater Big Buddy is one of my favorite propane heaters, because it is very portable, does not weigh too much, and produces very decent heat off just one or two small propane bottles.
That’s great when you are outdoors without an RV or a car, and you have to carry things yourself. Although for plain hiking, carrying a full-sized Mr. Heater, even if it’s the smallest model might be a bit cumbersome.
Then, you should just get warm clothing.
#2 Mr. Heater Big Buddy
The Mr. Heater Big Buddy (click here to view it on amazon) is the larger version of the Mr. Heater Buddy. It produces up to 18,000 BTUs which is double the amount of heat of the smaller Mr. Heater Buddy.
The Mr. Heater Big Buddy is a great choice for everyone who needs more heat. For example for keeping large tents comfortably warm, and even for drying clothes. For outdoor adventures at high altitude, that’s worth gold. I’ve been hiking in the Himalayas once and did not have a drying opportunity for 3 days. It’s almost impossible to not get sick when you’re wet all the time.
So, if you’re planning to go on a longer trip than 1 or 2 days on high altitude, then I highly suggest getting at least the Mr. Heater Big Buddy.
“I have the Mr. Heater Big Buddy (takes 2 bottles but puts out a LOT of heat). We have used it over 7,000 feet and in a tent trailer. No issues.”expedition forum member
If you’re interested in the Mr. Heater Big Buddy, you can have a look at my Mr. Heater Big Buddy review.
#3 Tank Top Original 540 Degree Heater
My third recommendation is this tank-top propane heater (click here to view it on amazon).
This one is for everyone with increased heating needs. This tank-top propane heater blasts over 45,000 BTU of heat per hour. This is actually enough to keep full-sized living spaces hot.
If you want to bring this for your high-altitude tour, you should have a large space to heat.
This tank-top propane heater produces enough heat to dry your clothes to sub-Saharan standards.
On a full 20lb propane tank, and on full settings it lasts for up to 9.5h. The best thing is: you can mount it on propane tanks up to 100lb.
So, on a large tank, you can heat for weeks!
I recommend this tank-top propane heater if you have a (very) large space to dry, or if you spend your time in very cold, humid, and alpine conditions.
Why do Propane Heaters work worse at high altitude?
Propane heaters lose their efficiency at high altitude because the oxygen levels decrease. However, for a proper burn, a propane heater needs a propane-to-oxygen ratio of 1:10.
Only when propane burns at this exact ratio, it has an ideal burn. An ideal burn is when the propane burns completely with maximum efficiency and without leaving any toxic waste gases such as carbon monoxide.
When you gain altitude, the oxygen available decreases, which prevents the propane from burning at the ideal ratio.
“The efficiency of Propane-fuelled heating appliances decreases at altitudes above 600 metres (2000 ft).”RV forum member
There’s not much you can do about the improper burn of propane. You can’t just bring the ratio back to the ideal point unless you also bring oxygen with you.
At which altitudes do propane heaters work?
Here’s a table showing you the (relative) oxygen levels with ascending altitude. I have added a column that tells you whether your propane heater will work at the corresponding altitude.
|Altitude (feet)||Altitude (meters)||Relative Oxygen Levels (%)||Will a propane heater work?|
|0 ft||0 m||100.00%||yes|
|1000 ft||305 m||96.17%||yes|
|2000 ft||610 m||92.82%||yes|
|3000 ft||914 m||89.00%||yes|
|4000 ft||1219 m||85.65%||yes|
|5000 ft||1524 m||82.78%||yes|
|6000 ft||1829 m||79.43%||yes|
|7000 ft||2134 m||76.56%||yes|
|8000 ft||2438 m||73.68%||yes|
|9000 ft||2743 m||70.81%||yes|
|10,000 ft||3048 m||68.42%||yes, but potentially improper burn|
|11,000 ft||3353 m||65.55%||yes, but potentially improper burn|
|12,000 ft||3658 m||63.16%||yes, but potentially improper burn|
|13,000 ft||3962 m||60.77%||yes, but potentially improper burn|
|14,000 ft||4267 m||58.85%||yes, but potentially improper burn|
|15,000 ft||4572 m||56.46%||yes, but potentially improper burn|
|16,000 ft||4877 m||54.55%||yes, but potentially improper burn|
|17,000 ft||5182 m||52.63%||maybe|
|18,000 ft||5486 m||50.24%||maybe|
|19,000 ft||5791 m||48.33%||maybe|
|20,000 ft||6096 m||46.41%||maybe|
|21,000 ft||6401 m||44.98%||maybe|
|22,000 ft||6706 m||43.06%||maybe|
|23,000 ft||7010 m||41.63%||unlikely|
|24,000 ft||7315 m||40.19%||unlikely|
|25,000 ft||7620 m||38.76%||unlikely|
|26,000 ft||7925 m||37.32%||unlikely|
|27,000 ft||8230 m||35.89%||unlikely|
|28,000 ft||8534 m||34.45%||unlikely|
|29,000 ft||8839 m||33.01%||unlikely|
I have seen gas-heated showers on a Nepal trek up to around 16,000 feet. So, unless you’re going higher, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.
Does cold weather impact propane burn?
Some say that the cold impacts the propane gas burn.
“It’s not altitude, its cold temps that slow or stop propane appliances. It won’t vaporize as fast as it gets cold, especially if the container is too small and frost forms on the outside, stopping heat transfer to the bottle, as vaporization from liquid takes heat.”forum member
I think this is just panicking… Unless you’re really spending your time in the freezing cold, I can’t imagine the propane gas itself freezing up at all.
The boiling point of propane is -44°F! If you are not going to spend your days in Alaskan or Himalayan winter at extreme altitude, nothing will happen to your propane!
What propane heaters work at high altitude?
Any good-quality propane heater will work at a high altitude of up to at least 15,000 feet.
There is no reason to think that propane heaters will stop working unless you are going to extreme heights.
The burn efficiency might decrease due to the lack of oxygen. But unless you ascend past 15,000 feet, you don’t need to worry about altitude issues with your propane heater at all.
How long do propane heaters last at high altitude?
At high altitude, a propane tank will last shorter than if you were on sea level. Due to the lack of pressure, the propane gas will leave the propane bottle faster. Additionally, due to the decreased burning efficiency, you will get less heat from your propane.
Will Mr. Heater work at high altitude?
Yes, Mr. Heater propane heaters will work at high altitude. However, any other decent-quality brand will work at high altitude as well.
Mr. Heater is not technically superior and can’t overcome the limits of altitude better than any other propane heater brand.
I like to recommend Mr. Heater propane heaters mostly because of their safety features (oxygen level detector, tip-over protection), and their build quality.
Most propane heaters will work at most altitudes.
“I’ve used propane heaters and stoves at 14,200 feet in Alaska extensively in temps as low as -30°F. […] They worked surprisingly well even though most in the “propane industry” said that was impossible and they would not operate.”forum member
Unless you are going to extreme altitude (higher than 15,000 feet), you won’t need to worry about getting special gear.
And if you are going higher, I recommend hiring a trekking guide or trekking agency who will take care of these worries! They know the best ways keep warm specifically for the extreme locations you’re aiming to travel to.