Buyer’s Guide :: Best Gas & Diesel Heaters for Overland Travel. The original article was made by Matt Swartz from Expedition Portal
Gasoline and diesel heaters from companies like Espar, Webasto, and Planar are designed specifically for heating the cabins of vehicles like campervans, trucks, and global expedition vehicles. Regardless of the fuel type, forced-air heaters will operate in most environments, and some even perform well up to and above 10,000 feet in elevation. Although they cost more upfront, high-quality heaters are a worthwhile investment in the long run if you want reliable heat at the touch of a button.
Given that there are many different models to choose from, we’ve put together this gasoline and diesel heater buyer’s guide. It aims to point out the differences between the most popular heaters currently available so that you can select the best one for your particular needs.
Why add a heater to your overland rig or campervan?
Have you ever set up camp in sub-freezing temps with snow falling? Without the warmth of a cozy cabin to retreat to, this experience is less than ideal. Your fingers start to hurt, your clothing gets damp, and your motivation to complete even simple tasks quickly deteriorates. Yes, cold weather can make overland travel much less appealing.
That’s why installing a stand-alone heating system in your overland rig or campervan is a great idea. A heated cabin can return your will to preparing food or look over your route for the next day. And in the most extreme instances, having auxiliary heat could even be the difference between comfort and frostbite.
But with so many different vehicle heaters on the market, the important question remains: what type of heater is best for your overland rig? Let’s start by digging into the two main types of forced-air heating systems: diesel and gasoline.
Diesel Forced-air Heaters
Diesel air heaters help maintain a comfortable temperature in your van or truck with high levels of safety and minimal maintenance.
In general, diesel forced-air heaters use a modest amount of fuel: approximately 1-2 gallons for 24 hours of operation, depending on heat output. They can be plumbed into your vehicle’s fuel tank, or if your vehicle runs on gasoline, they can be set up with their own independent fuel tanks.
Diesel air heaters require a 12- or 24-volt electrical source to power their fuel pumps and fans, so you’ll want a dual-battery system if you plan to run them for extended periods of time, like overnight.
Gasoline Forced-air Heaters
Like diesel air heaters, gasoline air heaters help maintain a comfortable temperature inside your vehicle in a safe and convenient system.
Gasoline heaters tend to use a little bit more fuel per/BTU than comparable diesel heaters, but they are still relatively efficient. Gasoline heaters can also be plumbed into your vehicle’s fuel tank, making it very unlikely that you will ever be left without heat in the middle of the night.
Choosing the Best Diesel Air Heater
To be clear, the best heater for your vehicle will depend on the square footage that you need to heat. Getting a unit that is too large will consume excess fuel and may produce too much heat. Getting a unit that is too small will consume excess fuel and may not achieve the warmth you need. You’ll want to dig into the details a bit more, but to get you started, here are the diesel and gasoline air heaters that are widely considered to be the best on the market with their corresponding BTU ranges.
Installing a Gasoline or Diesel Air Heater in your Campervan or Overland Vehicle
Installing a gasoline or diesel air heater in your campervan or overland vehicle is no small task, and it’s worth noting that some of the manufacturers listed in this article may only honor warranty claims if the heater was installed by a certified installation company.
The step-by-step installation process varies slightly from one product to the next and is outside the scope of this particular article. For those of you who plan to perform the installation work yourselves, check out this air heater installation guide by Isabelle and Antoine of Far Out Ride. If you’d like more information regarding hands-on experience using a diesel forced-air heater, read Richard’s article about his experience with the Planar 2D-HA.