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Which portable water heater is best?

As exhilarating as camping can be, most of us like to feel clean. However, it can be hard to endure even a brief shower when the water temperature is lower than normal. A portable water heater will give you a luxury shower experience, no matter where you are.

The best portable water heater will offer a suitable flow rate and have built-in safety features. The Camplux 2.64 GPM Tankless Propane Water Heater, for instance, is a top model that features a water flow rate of 2.64 GPM and three layers of safety, including a flame failure device, anti-freezing protection and overheating protection.

What to know before you buy a portable water heater

How does a portable water heater work?

A portable water heater needs three elements to operate: an ignition system, fuel and water flow. In short, the ignition system ignites the fuel that heats the water as it flows through the system, so you have hot water. The majority of portable water heaters use a battery-powered ignition system to burn propane to heat the water. However, when it comes to water flow, you have two very different options. The one you need depends on what is available to you at your campsite.

Pressurized water vs. pump

There are two ways to move water through a portable water heater. The most common way is to use pressurized water. When you turn on any faucets in your home, the water flows because it is pressurized. The same thing happens when you turn on a hose. Suppose you are at a campground or a similar location, then all you need to do is connect to a water source and the water will flow through your system. You can then take a shower or do whatever else you need.

The other method requires a pump that pushes the water through your portable water heater. You will need this type of system whenever there is no source of pressurized water. If you have a pump, you can have running water no matter where you are.

Why do I need a portable water heater?

The most obvious place a portable water heater would be of use is when you are camping. You can use the water for cooking, washing dishes, taking a shower or even doing laundry. Besides that, you can use a portable water heater at picnics, when tailgating or bathing your pets. If you have an outdoor shower, a cabin, a boat or a ranch, any of these locations might benefit from a portable water heater.

What to look for in a quality portable water heater

Temperature and water pressure controls

The essential features every portable water heater needs to have are intuitive controls that allow the user to quickly and easily set or adjust the water temperature and the water pressure, so it is adequate for the task at hand.

Flow rate

The average shower head allows for a 2.1 GPM flow rate. While it is possible to take a shower using lower flow rates, you may be disappointed by the reduced flow. 

Safety features

Besides a clear and accurate temperature display, you will want a portable water heater that has a flame failure device that shuts off the gas flow if the flame goes out. Additionally, you will want anti-freezing protection to keep your water heater safe and overheating protection to keep you safe.


Since the whole idea behind a portable water heater is to be easy to transport, then a lightweight and compact model is best.

How much you can expect to spend on a portable water heater

Speaking in very general terms, the flow rate is the main determining factor for the cost of a portable water heater. If you need 4 GPM, it may cost $400. However, a model that only delivers 1.5 GPM, may cost as little as $150.

Portable water heater FAQ

What is water-controlled automatic ignition?

A. For you to get hot water, two things have to happen on a portable water heater. The water needs to flow through the system and the burner needs to ignite. To simplify this process, portable water heaters use a water-controlled automatic ignition, so all you need to worry about is turning on the water. When the water begins to flow through the unit, the burner ignites. When the flow stops, the burner shuts off. Each manufacturer has its own parameters of how much water pressure it takes to ignite the burner. Some can turn on the system with as little as 2.5 PSI of pressure.

Are there any safety concerns to keep in mind when using a portable water heater?

A. Yes. Here are some of the most important safety tips to remember. When setting up your portable water heater, make sure all the connections are secure and there are no propane leaks. Keep all battery and electrical sources away from water. Be sure to test the water before using it to avoid scalding temperatures, and adjust as needed. Do not allow children to use a portable water heater without adult supervision.

What’s the best portable water heater to buy?

Top portable water heater

Camplux 2.64 GPM Tankless Propane Water Heater

Camplux 2.64 GPM Tankless Propane Water Heater

What you need to know: This portable water heater offers a high degree of heat and a high water flow rate.

What you’ll love: Two D batters power this model’s ignition, and it can get the unit delivering up to 2.64 GPM of hot water within minutes. It has a flame failure device, anti-freezing protection and overheating protection for safety and only weighs 19 pounds for ease of transport.

What you should consider: A few users received the wrong hose adapters in their kits and had to order new adapters for this unit to work.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Wayfair

Top portable water heater for the money

GASLAND 1.58GPM Tankless Propane Water Heater

GASLAND 1.58GPM Tankless Propane Water Heater

What you need to know: If you like hot water and do not mind a reduced flow rate, this model is a good value.

What you’ll love: This portable water heater has a low water pressure start-up that will kick on at just 2.5 PSI. It offers hot water at 1.58 GPM and features a failure device, anti-freezing protection and overheating protection. The LED screen displays the temperature clearly.

What you should consider: Make sure you read and understand the instructions, so the water doesn’t come out too hot.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Mr. Heater Basecamp Battery Operated Shower System

Mr. Heater Basecamp Battery Operated Shower System

What you need to know: For individuals who do not have a source of pressurized water, this is the way to go.

What you’ll love: This portable water heater has a pump operated by four D batteries. It can run for up to 40 minutes, offers a flow rate of 0.6 GPM and includes a quick-connect shower head for ease of assembly. The unit has scald protection and a tip switch for safety.

What you should consider: While this does an excellent job heating the water, the water pressure may not be as impressive as models that use a pressurized water source, such as a hose.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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