The Best Portable Water Heaters for Small Homes, RV’s, & Outdoors

Researched & Written by Craig

If there’s one item that can make your outdoor adventures a lot more comfortable, it’s a portable water heater.

Portable water heaters are perfect for camping, RVing, or even for use around the house as a backup or alternative to your home’s heater. What’s more, is that portable water heaters have relatively low costs and a long service life.

There’s a ton of makes and models of portable water heaters out on the market, and without any knowledge on water heaters it can be easy to choose the wrong one. To make sure you purchase the best water heater within your budget, we’ve compiled a list of our top five picks for portable water heaters today, followed by our recommendations for what to look in one.

The Best Portable Water Heaters

Best Compact Water Heater

Camplux 5L 1.32 GPM Portable Water Heater

The Camplux 5L 1.32 GPM Portable Water Heater uses propane in order to heat water.

The hot water flow will be instant once the heater has been turned on. You can also connect the Camplux to a garden hose if you want, so long as the hose as a diameter of one and a half inches.

A very low water pressure of just 0.4 PSI is all that’s required to operate the Camplux, and the flow of water is adjustable. The water capacity is five liters with a flow of 1.32 gallons per minute. 2D lithium ion batteries are required to operate it, and it also comes with an oxygen depletion sensor (making it suitable for indoor use). The compact size is also a major plus because it makes the Camplus very portable.

Pros Cons
Low pressure required to operateGasket needs carefully set before turning on the gas
Uses propane to heat the water
Water flow is instant once the heater is turned on
Has an automatic shutoff system
Easily portable due to compact size

Our Verdict

The Camplux 5L Portable Water Heater is one of the best compact water heaters out on the market today. It’s easy to use, excellent for indoor use, and very compact and portable. More importantly, it can heat up your water instantly at a steady and adjustable flow rate.

Best Electric Water Heater

Bosch Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater

The Bosch Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater is an electric water heater that can heat water in a temperature range from 65 up to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be mounted on a shelf or on a wall, or otherwise rest on a floor.

With a compact and lightweight design, the Bosch is very portable and can be carried around nearly everywhere. However, because it’s electric this won’t be the best choice to take with you on outdoor trips, and will instead be better suited for use around the home.

That being said, as a home water heater the Bosch would excel. It can be used with an existing home water heater, or it could be used as an under-the-sink water heater as well. The Bosch has a fast recovery rate and can get your water heated very quickly despite its small size or the fact that it does not require propane cylinders in order to operate.

Pros Cons
Small and compact size Some leakage reports
Backed by two year limited warranty Not great for outdoors (electric)
Doesn't requite propane
Durable glass lined tank
Fast recovery rate
Affordable price

Our Verdict

The Bosch Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater is compact, lightweight, and can heat a significant amount of water quickly.

Although it isn’t suited to camping trips (since it’s electric), it’s great for small apartments or for use in an RV. As it’s a Bosch, you can expect great build quality and customer support.

Best Camping Water Heater

Mr. Heater Boss XCW20 Basecamp

The Mr. Heater Boss XCW20 Basecamp Water Heater is a propane gas powered and battery operated water heater that will be a perfect choice to take out on a camping trip.

In addition to the heater itself, you’ll also get a complete kit that includes DC and AC adapters, a plump assembly, quick connect shower head, and a carrying bag.

This heater will be capable of heating water above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and uses a rechargeable battery for pumping the water. The battery will last for approximately forty minutes before requiring a recharge, and the water will flow at a rate of 1.2 gallons per minute.

The filter also presents debris from clogging up the pump. When the water becomes too hot, a safety feature will stop the filter so you won’t get burned (although some users report that this also cuts off too frequently). The portable shower display shows you the battery life and water temperature for you to monitor.

Pros Cons
Long battery lifeHot water may cut out frequently
Great for camping/outdoors
Digital display
Water safety system

Our Verdict

All in all, the Mr. Heater Water Heater is one of the best water heaters for camping use. It has a long battery life, a digital display that makes it easy to monitor, and a good safety system to ensure the water will not get too hot to cause burning.

Best Tankless Water Heater

EZ 101 Tankless Water Heater

The EZ 101 Tankless Water Heater uses a propane tank as its primary energy source. However, as the name suggests, this is also a tankless water heating system, thus enabling it to heat water directly.

The main advantage to this is that you can heat water on an as-needed basis. This saves more energy over water heaters that do use storage tanks, because unused hot water will just result in a big waste of energy. Of course, the tradeoff is that without a storage tank there’s nowhere to keep the water for convenience (unless if you have a separate storage tank yourself).

Three knobs on the side of the EZ 101 make it very easy to control the flow of water, weather selection (summer, winter, or in-between), and the flame level. These controls make it easy to make the EZ 101 as efficient as possible depending upon your circumstances and the situation.

Pros Cons
Saves energy (tankless)Pricier than tanked models
Good for heating water
Easy to install
User friendly controls

Our Verdict

This EZ 101 water heater is a great tankless option. The upfront cost may be higher than an upfront model, but the savings in space, maintenance, and heating time more than make up for it.

 

Ideally suited to small spaces or RV’s where this can be plugged in to multiple appliances. The main downside to tankless heaters is that they are less suited to heating a whole home, and more for one bathroom/kitchen (or small apartment) at a time.

Best Energy Efficient Water Heater

Gasland BE158 Water Heater

The Gasland BE158 is one of the best energy efficient water heaters on the market. This is a lightweight water heater that’s great for camping trips and other outdoor uses. This is because the device is powered by D-cell batteries and connected to a propane tank, and does not require electricity in order to use.

The BE158 can deliver hot water up to 41,000 BTU, with 1.58 GPM of water each minute. The BE158 is also manufactured with state of the art combustion technology for the burner and propane water heater, which contributes to its high efficiency.

Pros Cons
Very energy efficientShorter warranty (1 year)
Good choice for camping trips and outdoor useUsers don't love instruction manual
Propane

Our Verdict

All in all, the Gasland BE158 is one of the most energy efficient portable water heaters that you are likely to find in today’s market. This little heater delivers you a lot of value for the money.

It’s small size and use of propane make it well suited to camping trips, RV’s, and small apartments alike.

Pros and Cons of Portable Water Heaters

Pros:

Low Price – Portable water heaters, largely due to their compact and lightweight size, are among the most inexpensive types of water heaters that you can get in today’s market.

Long Service Life – Portable water heaters tend to have a longer service life because no corrosion occurs inside the heater from cold water. It’s not unreasonable for a portable heater to last more than two decades.

Provides Endless Hot Water – A portable water heater can provide you with endless hot water, regardless of whether you’re indoors at home or outdoors on a camping trip.

Saves Space – Since portable water heaters are of a small and compact size, they are excellent for saving space. This is one reason why they are so popular for outdoor use, but it’s also why they are a good choice for home as well.

Easy To Install – Most portable water heaters are very easy to set up and install. All you need to do is just hook them up to a propane tank or source of electricity, and they will be good to go.

Cons:

Low Flow Rate – Most portable water heaters, due to their smaller size, have a more limited flow rate in contrast to stationary water heaters. You’ll notice this if you need to run numerous appliances that use hot water all at once.

Which Portable Water Heater Is Right For You?

These are the top factors you will need to keep in mind before buying a portable water heater:

WATER CAPACITY

Water heaters that come with a storage tank should have a capacity of anywhere from one to ten gallons. Take note that some water heaters do not come with a storage tank and you will need to have your own tank or container on hand for storing the water.

UNIT SIZE

Most portable water heaters are of a very compact size, but you still want to make sure that you get a size that is convenient for your needs. A unit that weighs fifteen pounds or less will ensure that the device is easily portable.

EFFICIENCY

In general,  if a portable water heater has a higher BTU (British Thermal Unit) rating it can heat water more efficiently. Most water heaters have a BTU rating of anywhere from 10,000 to 85,000 BTU.

FLOW RATE
The flow rate of water heaters is measured in GPM. A standard flow rate for a water heater will measure from 1 GPM to 3.5 GPM. The faster the flow rate, the faster the water can be heated.

POWER SOURCE

Propane water heaters are a better choice for camping or outdoor use because they do not need to be connected to an electrical source to run (although they do require you to lug around a propane tank with them). Electric water heaters are only good for use at home because they require an electrical outlet.

 How Does A Portable Water Heater Work?

 The biggest difference between portable water heaters and normal water heaters is that portable heaters are powered using solar power, propane, or electricity. As a result, it can be easily carried over short distance – hence ‘portable.’

Portable water heaters work by being attached to a source of water and then heating the water with a burner once the flow of water begins. Most portable heaters these days come with sensors to communicate to the machine when the water has stopped flowing, so they can turn off on their own. Most portable water heaters should be capable of heating cold water to over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit in under five seconds.

 Conclusion

Hopefully, this article provided you with everything you need on what to look for in a portable water heater.

Even if you don’t end up going with one of the five models that we’ve recommended, by following the guidelines we set above you can ensure that you buy the best portable water heater for your needs.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!