Buyer's Guide & Information

Best Portable Water Heaters For Camping, RV's & Campers

Portable hot water heaters are a fantastic device when camping, off-grid, or in an RV. These systems are sure to get your fired up!

by PlumberAndy

Buyer's Guide & Information

Best Portable Water Heaters For Camping, RV's & Campers

Portable hot water heaters are a fantastic device when camping, off-grid, or in an RV. These systems are sure to get your fired up!

by PlumberAndy

by PlumberAndy

Portable water heaters are becoming more and more popular. Energy.gov recognizes that 'Proper installation and maintenance of your demand water heater can optimize its energy efficiency.'

These are water heaters that provide you with instant hot water and can be used outdoors, for camping, or any other situation in which you need hot water but wouldn't normally have access to it.

They give you an immediate supply of hot water for your shower, washing your dishes or doing laundry.

How Does a Portable Water Heater Work?

Portable water heaters are different to normal water heaters because they don't use a pilot light and are powered by electricity, propane or solar power. Along with this - these systems should be lightweight enough to carry short distances with relative ease.

A portable water heater is attached to a water source and then as the water flows through it, the burner heats the water. Many systems have sensors that detect when the water stops flowing to turn the burner off.

In most cases, portable water heaters can heat cold water up to 100 degrees F in 5 seconds or less. A portable water heater can be hung on a tree, in an RV, or just about anywhere and can be used indoors or outdoors. 


Types of Portable Water Heater

There are a few different types of portable water heaters available. You can decide between them which one will best suit your needs.

Electric Water Heater

Electric portable water heaters use power from an electrical outlet, so they can’t be used completely off the grid. Most electric portable water heaters are operated at 110 volts and require relatively low amperage. Which means that they don't heat up the water as quickly as some other energy sources. These systems definitely less portable than others on our list but are reliable in their performance.

Propane Water Heater

Propane water heaters use gas as the source of energy. These water heaters typically heat up the fastest because propane is a compact and efficient energy source. Also, propane water heaters are ideal for camping or remote locations where you don’t have access to electricity and a tank can easily be connected.. We have focused on propane powered heaters for most of the products in our list.

Solar Water Heater

Solar powered water heaters are the most energy efficient and cost efficient. However, they do not heat up your water very quickly and won't last you very long!

Solar powered water heaters usually require filling a large vinyl bag with water and hanging it in the sun for an hour to heat it up. It’s certainly not the fastest way to get hot water, but it can be used without any electricity or propane.


5 Benefits of Portable Water Heaters

There are many great benefits of portable water heaters. Whether you’re an avid camper, live on a ranch or want to live off the grid, portable hot water heaters can be a great asset.

1. Instant Supply of Hot Water

In situations where you don’t easily have access to hot water, portable hot water heaters can be a game changer. They can allow you to have instant hot water for showers, washing your dishes or even doing your own laundry. When you’re camping this can make things much easier, cleaner and more enjoyable.

2. Compact and Lightweight

For those who travel, portable water heaters won't take up a lot of space and they are very easy to carry around. You can easily pack it in your car or RV for camping trips or road trips, and they aren’t heavy so they won’t weigh you down. You can take it with you anywhere you go.

3. Conserves Water

Portable water heaters also save water because you don’t have to waste water waiting for it to heat up. Instead of letting your water run for a few minutes to let it finally get hot, you can immediately get the perfect drop. And you can use the hot water as needed, so you don’t have to store a bunch of hot water and then waste it.

4. Energy-Efficient

These portable water heaters use energy only as needed, so you don’t waste a lot of energy by trying to keep a large amount of water hot over a long period of time. Portable water heaters maximize the energy source to heat up the water as quickly as possible. And when you’re not using it, it’s not wasting energy.

5. Easy to Install, Move and Use

Portable water heaters are made to be used and moved around easily. You simply hook them up to the power source and the water source and then turn it on. They are relatively lightweight so you can carry them around with you on camping or RV trips. And they can hang just about anywhere so they don’t require a fancy set up.


Portable Hot Water Heater Buying Guide

These are the main points to consider and understand before you make a purchase. 

Size of Unit

You want to pick a portable water heater that will provide you with sufficient hot water but isn’t going to be too big or bulky. Most portable units will weight around 15 pounds, so consider how much weight you can comfortably carry and then decide if the size of the unit works for you.

Water Capacity

Different models have different capacities while other 'tankless' options are connected to a continuous water source like a hose. These systems will not have a maximum or minimum capacity. Other types of units will have a max capacity of water - anywhere from 1 to 10 gallons. 

Power Source

If you’re going to be using the water heater mostly in a location that doesn’t have electricity, you don’t want to get an electric water heater. Propane water heaters are more popular for this reason but they also require you to carry around the propane tank with you, which may be cumbersome.

Where you’ll be using the water heater and what type of activities you’ll be needing it for will determine which power source is best for you.

Heating Efficiency

You want to make sure that you get a water heater that heats your water as efficiently as possible. This is measured in BTU input, which stands for British Thermal Unit. BTU refers to the amount of energy used to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

A unit with a higher BTU will be able to heat up your water faster and more efficiently. The systems on our list range from 10 000 - 84 000 BTU.

Flow Rate (GPM)

The flow rate is one of the most important considerations buyers should think about before purchasing. This describes the amount of water that flows through your water heater.

This is measured in gallons per minutes or GPM. Standard flow rates for portable water heaters are 1 to 3.5 GPM. A higher flow rate will give you more water faster, meaning you can take quicker showers or clean more dishes in a shorter amount of time.

Operating Cost

There are costs associated with operating the water heater. You’ll have to take into account

  • How much a propane tank costs
  • How much electricity costs 
  • How much the water source costs

If you want to minimize costs, a solar water heater is the best option but you may pay for it in other ways such as time used to heat the water. If you want comfort guaranteed then a tankless option is best.

Safety Features

Many portable water heaters come standard with safety features to protect you while using the water heater. A temperature gauge is used to measure the water temperature and tell you how hot the water is.

Also auto shut off systems will automatically turn off the water heater after a certain amount of time in use or once a certain temperature is reached.

Durability & Maintenance

Getting a portable water heater that can withstand the elements is essential if you’ll be using it on camping trips or out on a farm. You want to make sure the materials that are used will last for a long time. Good quality portable water heaters are made out of steel or quality plastic or metal.

Price & Warranty

The price of portable water heaters can vary greatly depending on what power source it uses and other features. Be conscious of your budget and how much you want to spend. They typically run between $100-$200. Also, check to see that it comes with a warranty. Anything over a year is good and a lifetime warranty is even better.


10 Best Portable Water Heaters Reviewed

1. Camp Chef HWD5 Triton Water Heater

Our #1 Choice

Power Source

Propane

Weight

15 lbs

Flow Rate (GP minute or GP hour)

0.5-1.5 GPM

Capacity

Continuous

BTU Input

34,000 BTU

Price Guide

$$

This portable water heater is great for outdoor activities, camping trips, and showering up to 4 people quickly. It has completely adjustable water heat and flow. It's also very easy to transport as it comes with a handle and stand to use when moving the unit.

The shower head has 4 different settings; off, mist, shower, and jet. This is useful for all different kinds of situations, like washing your dog or filling up your kids’ mini swimming pool.

And it has a maximum flow rate of 1.5 GPM to give you good water pressure. And if you need even more hot water, the larger model - Camp Chef 10L Portable Water Heater is also a great choice.


Like Green Energy Efficient Homes says, " portable water heaters a good if you want to heat a small flow of water and that can easily be moved around. And that’s exactly what this propane water heater does."

This portable water heater uses propane as it’s energy source and comes with an 8ft water hose, making it very convenient when connecting to water. Another nice feature is that you can stand it on the ground or hang it up with its brackets. This water heater is very affordable and comes with a 1-year warranty.

 It's our recommended choice because it is versatile, lightweight and value for money.

Pros
  • 4 water settings
  • Made of durable steel material
  • 8 ft hose included
  • Competitively priced
Cons
  • 1-year warranty
  • Water flow is only 1.5 GPM max

2. Eccotemp L10 Portable Tankless Water Heater

Runner Up

Power Source

Propane

Weight

27 lbs

Flow Rate (GP minute or GP hour)

2.6 GPM

Capacity

Continuous

BTU Input

75,000 BTU

Price Guide

$$$

The Eccotemp portable propane water heater is perfect for outdoor showers, camping, and even washing horses and dogs. It comes with a stainless steel rain cap, adjustable temperature controls, and water adjustable pressure range.

A 20-minute safety shut off timer keeps you and your family safe while if you forget to turn it off. It also comes with a hose, gas regulator, showerhead, and garden hose adapter so plenty of extras!

The design is compact, but if you need a smaller portable water heater, the Eccotemp L5 Water Heater is a great back up option. 

According to Angie’s List, "many tankless water heaters can work in cold weather climates. That’s exactly the case for this water heater. It works very well in cold or warm climates."

This portable propane powered water heater has a 2.6 GPM which is very good for a portable water heater and is comparable to many regular shower heads. It would be great for family camping trips or in cabins as it simply hooks up to a garden hose and a propane tank and get instant hot water.

This is one of the more powerful water systems on our list and is worth the extra price tag.

Pros
  • 2.6 GM flow rate
  • 20-min shut off safety
  • Manually adjustable temperature controls
  • Easy to hang
  • Can be used at elevations up to 5,500 ft.
Cons
  • 1-year warranty
  • Weighs 27 lbs

3. Camplux 5L Propane Tankless Water Heater

Power Source

Propane

Weight

14 lbs

Flow Rate (GP minute or GP hour)

1.32 GPM

Capacity

Continuous

BTU Input

34,000 BTU

Price Guide

$$

This portable tankless water heater from Camplux is a great option because it features a compact design with folding handles and only weighs 14 pounds, so you'll easily be able to carry it around the campsite or on a trip.

It has overheating safety protections, anti-freezing protections, and oxygen depletion safety shutoff protection, so you're getting a lot of safety when you purchase this water heater.

The flow rate of 1.3 GPM might be on the lower side, but it only needs a water pressure of 2.5 PSI in order to start heating the water, making it the lowest pressure portable water heater. It's easily powered by a propane tank and comes with a showerhead, hose, and propane tank regulator.

Like How Stuff Works says, "it heats the water as you need it instead of continually heating water stored in a tank. And this will make your outdoor showering much more efficient."

This is a value for money portable tankless water heater and is suitable for creating your own outdoor shower on camping trips, or washing dishes. You’ll get a lot of use out of this little water heater!

Pros
  • Lightweight and compact design
  • Safety shut off features like oxygen depletion, anti-freezing, and overheat protection
  • Requires very low water pressure to operate
  • Can be used indoors with good ventilation
Cons
  • 1.32 GPM
  • 1-year warranty

4. ZODI Outback Gear Extreme SC Hot Shower

Power Source

Propane

Weight

12 lbs

Flow Rate (GP minute or GP hour)

N/A

Capacity

3 gallons

BTU Input

10,000 BTU

Price Guide

$$$

The Zodi portable on demand water heater is designed to give you a great, hot shower on backcountry camping trips or hunting trips.

Out in the middle of nowhere, it's hard to get running water and electricity, so this little water heater uses propane to heart a stove, which then heats the water tank. It can heat up to 100 degrees F in about 5-10 minutes.

The tank is made of high-quality stainless steel and comes with a 6ft water hose with water saving shower head. So no matter where you are, a hot shower is always possible. The stove that heats the water can also be used for cooking, making it the perfect companion on your next camping trip. 

RV Share says, "you’ll have hot water on demand merely by turning on the faucet. That’s a great benefit of this water heater. You might be surprised that it can give you a hot shower instantly."

Because it only holds up to 3 gallons, you wont get a very long flow of hot water but it is sufficient for a quick shower. On the flip side - 3 gallons won't weigh you down too much when hunting or hiking!

Pros
  • 6 ft hose and water-saving shower head
  • Holds up to 3 gallons of water
  • Easy to use and carry
  • Durable and rust-free stainless steel
  • Water temperature gauge
  • Heats water in 5-10 minutes
Cons
  • Shower hose could be longer
  • 1-year warranty
  • Small capacity

5. Advanced Elements (SS761) Summer Solar Shower

Power Source

Solar

Weight

1 lb

Flow Rate (GP minute or GP hour)

N/A

Capacity

3 gallons

BTU Input

N/A

Price Guide

$

This portable water heater camping shower is the ultimate tool for living off the grid. If you’re going on a camping trip in the woods for a few days but still want to be clean and as efficient as possible, this portable water heater is a must have.

It is very cost effective and requires no electricity or propane. This solar-powered water heater holds up to 3 gallons of water, has an extra large filling valve, and easily rolls up for packing. The 4-layer construction is designed to heat the water as quickly as possible for optimal heat retention and performance.

It comes with a hose and convenient on/off shower head, plus a pocket to put your toiletries in. It’s very lightweight, but can get heavy when fully filled with water so keep that in mind. It also has a 1-year warranty.

"It such a low cost, a solar shower is a great investment,” like Green Energy Efficient Homes says.

This truly is the most portable choice on our list and at under $50 you cant go wrong!

Pros
  • Very affordable
  • Lightweight and easy to store
  • Energy efficient 4-layer design
  • Water temperature gauge
  • Toiletries pocket
Cons
  • Takes a while to heat water
  • Heavy when full

6. Costway Propane Hot Water Heater

Power Source

Propane

Weight

17.5 lbs

Flow Rate (GP minute or GP hour)

0.8 GPM

Capacity

Continuous

BTU Input

18,000 BTU

Price Guide

$$$

This is a propane water heater that has a lot of great features and will deliver instant hot water even if you’re in a remote location. It is compact, portable and lightweight only weighing 17.5 pounds. It can also be hooked up to your car to power the unit, giving you instant hot water on the road.

It has safety features like the auto shut off if the water temperature exceeds 167 degrees F and wind protection to keep the flame from going out. The included shower piper and head deliver a 0.8 GPM flow rate.

This portable water heater coil is great for all of your off-road or camping adventures. It's very easy to install, simply hook it up and you can have a relaxing hot shower anytime you want. 

Like Propane.com points out, “Propane tankless water heaters are one of the most efficient water heating options available.”

This Costway product is versatile in its dual power options. We love in for anyone on the road or in a van who wants the occasional shower on their travels.

Pros
  • Auto shut off protection
  • Hose and showerhead included
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Comes with a storage bag
Cons
  • Outdoor use only
  • 0.8 GPM
  • 90-day warranty

7. EZ 202 - EZ Tankless Water Heater

Power Source

Propane

Weight

15 lbs

Flow Rate (GP minute or GP hour)

3.2 GPM

Capacity

Continuous

BTU Input

84,000 BTU

Price Guide

$$$$

The EZ tankless portable water heater weighs only 15 pounds and operates via propane tank, unlike portable solar water heaters. It quickly and easily heats the water instantly for all your outdoor activities like camping and fishing. This model is one of the more efficient systems on our list with the fastest flow rate.

It has convenient water flow and flame level dials, plus a temperature gauge as well. And it even has a winter and summer mode for warm and cold seasons. 

And another benefit that RV Share points out is “it’s environmentally friendly for those who like being green.”

It comes with a hose and showerhead to meet all your outdoor showing needs and delivers a flow rate of 3.2GPM, which is very good for portable water heater. You are guaranteed an excellent shower experience with this product. As an extra bonus -it runs on batteries and propane so no electrical outlet is required.

The EZ is the most powerful and most expensive on our list. We recommend it for RV's rather than camping.

Pros
  • 3.2 GPM
  • Lightweight, compact design
  • Easy to carry
  • Convenient water flow and flame control dials
  • Water hose and shower head included
Cons
  • 1-year warranty
  • Complicated fittings and setup

8. Zodi Outback Gear Hot Tap Travel Shower

Power Source

Propane

Weight

11 lbs

Flow Rate (GP minute or GP hour)

N/A

Capacity

4 gallons

BTU Input

N/A

Price Guide

$$$

This water heater is another great option from Zodi that gives you a portable shower anywhere. It has a 6-volt water pump, 8ft shower hose and shower head, and a 4-gallon storage case that doubles as a water tank. It's very lightweight, only 11 pounds and it a great portable immersion water heater for all of your outdoor shower needs.

It is possible to heat up to 60 gallons of water all the way up to 100 degrees F. This system was purpose built for outdoors people who need hot water.

All you have to do to make this portable immersion water heater work is submerge the pump in water and ignite the heater. The waterproof battery case has a convenient on/off switch and a compact 16 oz propane tank fuels it.

The heater is made of quality materials; it's 100% metal with brass hose connectors. This is a great portable hot water shower for any camping or off-road adventure. 

Keep in mind that Consumer Reports says, “many manufacturers of tankless water heaters recommend preventive maintenance to be done on their units.”

So you want to perform proper maintenance on your unit to keep it in good working condition. Especially in this unit as sand, dirt and leaves can cause damage.

We recommend this water heater system for serious medium - long term camping situations of around 3-10 days.

Pros
  • Storage container doubles as water tank
  • Lightweight and easy to carry
  • Heats water instantly
  • Designed to give you enough hot water for a 10 minute shower
  • Immersion design heats water continuously
  • Heats up to 100 degrees
Cons
  • Water flow can be low
  • Minimal safety features

9. Mr. Heater BOSS-XCW20 Battery Operated Shower 

Power Source

Propane

Weight

22 lbs

Flow Rate (GP minute or GP hour)

0.66 to 1.18 GPM

Capacity

Continuous

BTU Input

18,000 BTU

Price Guide

$$$$

MR. Heater delivers an excellent product with this camp shower water heater. It’s designed to be used on RV trips, camping trips, fishing, hunting, and really anything involving the outdoors where you might want access to immediate hot water.

This device runs primarily off of continual propane gas connection and has a built-in rechargeable battery to power the pump for 40 minutes at a time. It comes complete with a quick-connect shower head, adaptors, and carry bag. You can take this camp shower water heater with you wherever you go and don’t have to sacrifice hot water.

It's great for taking on camping trips and the battery is a good backup option if you run out of gas. We found that the flow rate is low but still sufficient for short showers in the wild. The BOSS range of heaters is available in 3 sizes between 12000 - 18000 BTU. 

Mr. Heater says, you can “direct the water from the showerhead to the attached faucet for cleaning hands, dishes, and whatever else you get dirty.”

It could be the best investment you’ve ever made for your camping trips but we recommend spending time with this device before you head off into nature. There are some small nuances as Mr Plow explains in his detailed review - ' I can't stress enough to take the time to become as familiar with this as possible before taking camping, it has quirks like anything else. I test it before EVERY trip in my kitchen sink to be sure it's ready to go.'

Pros
  • Long battery life
  • Compact and easy to carry
  • Safety cut off system
  • Battery is rechargeable
  • Digital display shows temperature
Cons
  • Heavier than other water heaters
  • Can be hard to set up
  • Frequent E2 error code

10. Coleman on Demand H2Oasis Portable Water Heater

Power Source

Propane

Weight

18 lbs

Flow Rate (GP minute or GP hour)

N/A

Capacity

5 gallons

BTU Input

N/A

Price Guide

$$$$

This portable propane hot water heater from Coleman is great for your next outdoor adventure as it can deliver hot water up to 125 degrees F in just 30 seconds.

The H2Oasis comes with a shower head and a 6-foot non-kinking hose which aim give you a great shower experience. It is operated by propane and a submersible electric pump to provide strong water flow. Similar to the previous model, it does require careful reading and we recommend testing before use in a camping environment.

A unique feature of this Coleman heater is that it has patented PerfectFlow technology to ensure a steady heat output and keep your water a consistent temperature. No more scorching heat one second and then ice-cold temperatures the next.

Angie’s List notes that "Many manufacturers build the gas tankless units to provide freeze protection,” and that’s true with this unit. It has anti-freeze protection to help keep it running properly in cold climates.

It also has an intuitive LED display and is very easy to set up making it user-friendly. Simply hook it up to the propane tank and water source and you're ready to go. Take your camping experience to the next level with this portable hot water heater.

From our experience, the Coleman device is better suited to doing dishes, washing animals and shorter usages of water.

Pros
  • Shower hose, shower head, and carry bag included
  • Heats water up to 125 degrees F
  • 6 ft non-kinking hose
  • 5-gallon water carrier
  • 3-year warranty
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • More expensive than other heaters
  • Battery doesn’t last very long

Water Heater Coils

Another type of water heater that isn't as common is immersion water heater coils. Although they are portable, they are not typically considered to be good portable water heaters because they aren't designed to heat the water for long periods of time. Also, they do not have a control thermostat or any safety features and must be overseen by the operator at all times.

These immersion water heater coils are devices that involve coils, which are covered in stainless steel, brass, copper, or another material. The coils are heated by an electrical unit that moves energy through the coils and creates heat.

They heat the water quickly but aren’t meant to be used for a long time and are usually used in an industrial context.


Setting Up Portable Water Heaters

Depending on whether you have a propane or electrical portable water heater, the set up will be slightly different. If you have a solar powered water heater there isn’t really any set up involved, just fill with water, wait, and you’re good to go.

For setting up your portable water heater you’ll need some extra equipment including hose clamps, wire nuts, a ½” garden hose, and barb adapter. Below is a step-by-step guide to set it up.

  • 1
    Connect your water source. If you’re using water from a garden hose, connect it to the water inlet on your portable water heater. If you’re using water from a bucket, put a hose in the bucket and connect it to the water inlet. If necessary use a hose adapter or clamp to make sure the hose fits tightly.
  • 2
    Attach the hose and shower head. If your portable water heater didn’t come with a hose and shower head be sure to purchase your own. Screw one end of the hose into the water outlet on the water heater. Then screw the shower head onto the other end of the hose. Make sure everything is tight to prevent leaks.
  • 3
    Next, connect your power source. If your portable water heater is powered by propane, attach it to the gas inlet using a hose if necessary. If your water heater is electric, connect your battery or power source to the heater.
  • 4
    Turn on the water. With the power source hooked up, when you turn on the water the tank will start heating and give you immediate hot water.  

Be sure to follow the specific instructions for your portable water heater as they may vary slightly. Overall portable water heaters are very easy to set up and install. The video below is a good example of DIY setup.


Tips on Water Heater Maintenance

To make sure that your portable water heater lasts as long as possible, you’ll want to take good care of it. Here are some tips to keep it working well.

Regularly check the burner. It’s possible that the burner may get clogged in some spots, so if you notice that some parts of the burner aren’t producing flames, turn off the gas and water, remove the burner and clean it with a small wire. Replace the burner and test to make sure it’s working at least every year.

Check to make sure that all of the heat exchange elements are free of limescale or build up. It's a good idea to take apart your water heater every so often and clean all of the pipes, hoses, and heating elements where build-up may occur.

Clean the in-line water filter. The water coming into the water is filtered, which could get clogged resulting in poor performance from your water heater. Locate the filter and clean it to get rid of anything that may be clogging the filter or to prevent clogging from happening.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I use a portable water heater in a camper?

There are plenty of variables when considering hot water in a vehicle. These are the basic steps -

Find the right place you’d like to install the portable water heater in your camper. Then connect the water inlet hose and water outlet hose. Next, insert the batteries to operate the water pump. Lastly, connect the gas supply line and it will be ready to work. 

This video helps explain in greater detail.

How reliable are these portable water heaters?

Portable water heaters are very reliable, but of course, some are better than others. They can provide enough hot water for showering or washing on camping trips or in places where hot water is not normally available.

What to do when a portable water heater is no longer working?

Over time, water heaters can stop working. Try to find the issue and solve it. If it can’t be fixed it may be time to replace your portable water heater. We also recommend undertaking regular maintenance on these systems before hitting the road or the campsite as this will increase the lifespan of your heater.

How effective are solar water heaters?

Portable solar water heaters do a good job of heating up a small amount of water. However, they do not provide instant hot water and once the supply runs out it’s gone. They are cheap but less effective than other solutions.

Do I need a pump for a portable water heater to work?

Yes, most portable water heaters come with a pump. Solar portable water heaters do not require a pump. Most systems on our list come with other features as well, such as shower heads, hoses and more.


Conclusion

Portable water heaters are great for outdoor activities like camping, RV living, hiking, fishing or even living off the grid. You can find a variety of portable water heaters for every price point.

Picking the best portable water heater for you comes down to looking at your needs, budget, and how you’ll be using the water heater.  Overall, the Camp Chef HWD5 Triton Water Heater is the best portable water heater that you can get for the value. It will transform your outdoor showering experience and keep you warm and clean.

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