Heating the inside of a tent or fishing shelter without electricity does not have to be a difficult exercise. By using some cheap tea lights and clay pots a very effective and novel DIY tent heater can be made. Obviously, it cannot generate the same amount of heat as these tent heaters, but it will only cost a fraction.
DIY Tent Heater Candle Method:
Step 1: Take a couple of tea lights (recommend a minimum of 4) and place them in a fireproof container. I like these long-life tea lights for extended heating. You can also place it on a flat surface, as long as there is enough ventilation space for the candle to get enough oxygen.
Step 2: Take a small clay flower pot and place it upside down over the candles. If the clay pot has a hole in the bottom block it so that no heat can escape through it. A coin or one of the metal bases of the lights works well.
Step 3: Place a larger clay pot over the smaller one and do not cover the hole in the bottom of this one.
Step 4: Done
How does a DIY Tent Heater (candle heater) work?
When I first heard of this method I was a bit skeptical but curious and I gave it a try. I was highly surprised how effective it was and so would you. So how does it work?
When you light a candle by itself the bulk of the heat is radiant heat and is lost. When you place the clay pot over the candle the radiant heat is captured in a thermal mass (clay pot) and it is heated up. This inner pot gets very hot and when a bigger pot is placed over it the air in-between gets heat rapidly and a convection current is formed.
The convection current transfers the heat from the pots through the hole at the top and this heat airflow is continuous.
I cannot take credit for this novel idea, here is a video of the inventor that explains the concept really well:
Needless to say care should be taken inside a tent with an open flame. People also comment on the risk of CO and CO2 poisoning, but unlike the open flame risk, this really is minimal to me.
DIY Tent Heater Lantern Method:
This really is just an adaptation of the above method, but instead of using a candle, a lantern is used and we are going to increase the thermal mass.
Step 1: You are going to need the following:
• one 4” ceramic pot
• one 2” ceramic pot
• one 1 1/2” ceramic pot
• two 1 ½” ¼” washers
• three 1 ¼” x ¼” washer
• three 1” x ¼” washer
• eight ¾” x ¼” washer
• seven ¼” nuts
• one 3 x ¼” bolt
Note you want the clay pots to be unglazed.
Step 2: Instead of following a long winded explanation, just follow this cut-away exactly.
You should have something like this.
Step 3: Attach a chain to the top of the rod and hang it. Attach the chain to the bottom of the rod with the last nut and hang your camping lantern from it.
Step 4: Done you should have something like this:
You are not going to have the same convection effect, but the mass of all the clay pots and assembly is going to capture all that radiant heat.
I have used this method often with my camping lantern, no point in letting all that energy going to waste.