Best Portable Water Heaters
Buying Guide and Review

RV motorhomeImage by Siggy Nowak from Pixabay

Are you tired of being sweaty and dirty every time you go camping or hiking and not being able to take a shower? And what about the convenience and comfort in the outdoors, especially when away for more than a couple of days?

You would agree that a water heater that delivers hot water continuously is the answer. But, which one?

A portable water heater is an ideal solution for your hot water needs when camping, hiking, boating, fishing, hunting, surfing, boating, or RV-ing. Portable water heating is also great for cabins when hot water is not used frequently, and there is no central heating system.

With the best portable water heater, hot water in the outdoors for cooking, dishes, and short showers are now possible.

If you have a hard time finding the right model or collecting some useful info about these convenient mobile heating devices, check out this article; it might be a guide you were looking for.

In this article

  1. What is a water heater and types
  2. Benefits of having a portable water heater
  3. Where to use
  4. Features to look for
  5. Popular models to buy

What is a water heater and what types are there?

Water heaters are devices that heat water using various fuel types; electricity, oil, natural and propane gas, wood, and solar energy. In residential homes, hot water is used to cook, clean dishes, bathing, and space heating. In your outdoor adventure, you need it for a shower and dishes mostly.

There are several types of water heaters for domestic use:

  • Tank-type
  • Tankless
  • Hybrids

Tank-type or storage water heaters use a cylindrical storage tank to store hot water and deliver it to the fixtures. Most popular storage tanks use heating elements or a gas burner to heat water. Hot water is always available and kept at the set temperature, no matter if you are using it. Typical tank sizes for residential homes are from 30 to 100 gallons. This is the most popular type in the US and Canada.

Tankless water heaters are designed to instantly heat water and deliver hot water on demand and endless supply. In tankless heaters, hot water is not stored because cold water is heated while passing through the heat exchanger and almost instantly delivers to the point of use. Tankless is much smaller than the tank-type and can be used for point-of-use and whole-house heating without occupying too much space.

Both tank-type and tankless are available as condensing, POU (point-of-use), and portable.

Hybrid water heaters are designed to heat water using two technologies. Electric heat pump water heaters use a heat pump and heating elements, while gas hybrids use tankless and tank-type technology combined into one system.

Benefits of having a portable water heater

The most popular portable hot water heaters are mainly constructed as tankless. Tankless run on propane gas can produce hot water on-demand – heating a flow of water and delivering it in continuous supply. The water source can be pressurized (tap or lake, for example), or a water tank, and through the garden hose. When using a 12v circulation pump, you can draw water from the river or lake and generate water flow to ignite the unit. Some models utilize lithium-ion batteries for ignition.

Tank-type water heaters can also be found on the market, but rarely as they are inconvenient to use due to its small and limited tank capacity. For portability, the water storage area is usually collapsible.

As mentioned, the propane gas stored inside the propane tank is the most popular gas type due to portability but is also expensive.

Electricity is a cheaper option, and you depend on the grid and 110 volts supply, where it is hooked on.

Solar-powered heaters are also available when camping, but it takes time to warm up water, making them weather dependant and not as convenient to use.

The main benefits of portable water heaters are:

Hot water available in the outdoors. Portable water heaters use propane tanks so both can be carried and easily moved from one place to another, making it convenient for families on the go.

Small and lightweight. Models such as Eccotemp L5 have 12x8x22 inches and only 14 pounds, making it easy to transport and store. A standard propane tank is a 20 lb tank, which needs to be carried as well.

Easy to carry and use. Portable water heaters are equipped with convenient handles, so as the propane tank.

Easy installation. Buy a portable water heater, such as Camplux, which comes with the installation hardware kit.

Easy to operate. All controls are simple to operate – you just have to use the ON/OFF switch and temperature selector.

No electricity needed to run. Propane water heaters use batteries for ignition and propane gas to heat.

Clean and healthier living. With the availability of hot water, you can clean dishes, clothes or take a shower.

Convenience. You can use it anytime and anywhere, at home or when away. Most models come with the convenient shower head included.

Affordable. Some popular propane models are available for $100-130.

Temperature selection. Portable water heaters can heat water in the temperature range from 50 to 140 F.

Coleman brand is the world-known name for camping and outdoor activities. Coleman Company has been making and selling recreational products for outdoor use for many years.

You can also find Coleman present in water heating industry, represented by the 5-gallon tank type, portable water heater. 

Cons

Portable water heaters are not built for long and uninterrupted water heating. They require frequent propane tank change (if using it often).

  • The flow rate is low.
  • Built simple with no advanced features and smart technology.
  • The temperature of hot water is not steady.
  • Limited selection.
  • Short warranty.

Where to use

  • Outdoors and remote locations
  • Camping
  • Hunting
  • RV-in
  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Animal washing
  • Car washing
  • Boat washing
  • Food trucks
  • Poolside
  • Beach
  • Greenhouse
  • Cabins
  • Off-grid
  • During emergency

Features to look for

Type. Tankless or tank-type? Choose wisely, either on-demand heating or with the storage tank.

Fuel source. Choose between electric, propane, or solar-powered portable water heaters.

Capacity and water flow. Choose the right tank capacity if buying a tank-type model or water flow if getting tankless. If you decide to go with a higher capacity or water flow, you will have more hot water available.

Temperature settings. Make sure that the temperature dial allows you to select the temperature you need easily. Most heaters can heat water between 80 and 140 F, but that depends on the incoming water temperature and BTU.

Efficiency. Higher efficiency means more savings for you. So, chose the heater with the highest energy efficiency.

Safety. Features such as automatic shut-off, water flow sensor, over heat protection, flame failure device, anti-freezing protection and oxygen depletion safety are important for user safety.

Accessories. Buy a portable water heater with the included adapters, hoses, shower head, circulation pump, and other useful attachments, including the installation kit, so you can easily install it when away from home.

Price. While portable water heaters are relatively cheap, the price is still critical when selecting the right model.

Top sellers

Camplux AY132 - 5L

"I rarely write reviews but I use them often so …. This product is wonderful"
(Mlwdragons)

"Great camping shower!"
(Stu) 

  • Maximum power output - 28,000 BTU
  • Flow rate - 1.32 GPM
  • Power: Propane gas and battery
  • Weight - 14 pounds
  • Includes water temperature control knob, hand faucet/spigot and shower head attachment with adjustable spray patterns
  • Customer ratings: 4.3 out of 5

Hike Crew Portable Propane Water Heater & Shower Pump

"Game changer for long trips"
(Jason E Martin)

"A wonderful HOT water unit, will never buy another unit again!"
(Susan)

  • Flow rate - 0.6 GPM
  • Power - Propane and AC/DC (or 12V DC)
  • Weight - 24 pounds
  • Adjustable attachment features
  • Integrated panel with LCD display
  • Customer ratings: 4.5 out of 5

Mr. Heater F235300 BOSS-XB13

"This is the perfect survival hot water heater."
(Dean)

"Not just for camping? Can solve a plumbing emergency"
(J. M. Lee) 

  • Maximum power output - 12,000 BTU
  • Flow rate - 0.6 GPM
  • Power: Propane gas and battery
  • Weight - 7 pounds
  • Includes shower head and pump
  • Customer ratings: 3.8 out of 5

Conclusion

Whether you are at home, away from home on the road, or camping, a portable water heater can provide enough hot water for a short shower, clean your pet, clean the dishes, or even clothes. Keep in mind that these devices are not permanently installed because they are designed to be easily moved around for convenience and comfort.

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