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Winter tailgates separate real fans from fake ones. These tailgaters are in the trenches, drinking beers just to give them an extra layer of warmth against the cold. Huddling over the grill doesn’t provide enough warmth on the coldest days, which is why a camping heater is a perfect tailgate accessory.

One of these heaters will bring the traffic your way. On the coldest of days, everyone wants a small area where they can be a bit more comfortable.

Mini Camping

Tailgating and camping aren’t too far away from each other. A tailgate is like a mini camping session, and you can use most of the same tools for both. A Coleman camp stove, for instance, will do wonders for you if you’re looking for a small grill to bring to the tailgate, just like it will if you’re sleeping in the woods for a couple of days.

A camping heater is even more useful because somebody usually has a full-sized grill. Football tailgating isn’t for the faint of heart, and you have to come prepared if you’re in a cold-weather city. Hand warmers and camping heaters are must-own items for anyone who regularly attends football and basketball tailgates in the northern US.

Hand and Feet Warmers

If you haven’t already invested in some hand and feet warmers, do it immediately. You can find these in almost any winter clothing store, and they’re a must-own for both tailgating and game time. If you’re tailgating a football game (and it’s not in a dome), you’re not going to get completely warm until you get back to your car. A beer sweater isn’t enough, so bring a few of these to make yourself more comfortable.

What to Look For

Since the primary function of this heater will be keeping you warm during a tailgate, you won’t necessarily be looking for the same features as someone who is looking for a pure tent heater. Size won’t matter as much, for one, and you can keep it running for a longer time without worrying about setting a tent on fire.

You also won’t be in an enclosed space, so you’ll want a heater that runs hotter. Tent heaters need to keep people who are in a tight area comfortable, so you need one that’s a bit more powerful if you’re outside in the cold. Here are some of the elements you’ll want to consider before buying a portable heater for your tailgate.

Propane VS Electric

Electric heaters are usually going to be smaller and cheaper than propane heaters. They’ll also be far less powerful, and you’ll need to stay huddled close to them to stay warm. When you’re in a tent, and electric heater will usually do just fine. If you’re trying to heat a small open space, though, you’ll probably need something with a little more juice. A propane heater is the best option if you can afford it, but there are some circumstances where an electric heater could be better.

If you have a truck or other car with an outlet in the back, an electric heater isn’t the worst choice. You can keep it running for the duration of the tailgate, but you’ll also use more energy and waste gas in your car or truck. If you have a generator, though, you might prefer to spend a little less and opt for the electric option. The choice is yours, but you’ll get the most effective heating from a propane heater.

Energy Efficiency

The energy efficiency of a heater refers to how much gas or electricity it consumes as it relates to how high the temperature of the heater gets. You want a heater that stays hot without using too much fuel but choosing one that uses less fuel at the expense of heat is a mistake.

Since you won’t be sleeping in a tent, you need a heater that is going to blast a small area with heat. For tailgating, you shouldn’t prioritize energy efficiency over comfort. You’ll only be out there for a few hours. Campers often need to keep the heater running all night, so this element is more of a concern for them. For your purposes, you want a heater that keeps you warm – regardless of how much fuel it uses.

Size

The size of your heater is completely up to you. Everyone has different tailgating needs, so it’s better for you to judge how large you should go. Small heaters are easier to bring with you, but they don’t provide as much heat. If you’re in a small group without much room for everything, choose a small heater. It’s less powerful, but you won’t need to have ten people huddling around it.

If you have a bigger crew with more room for accessories, get a big heater. Your friends will thank you on the colder days, and you can get a ton of tailgating use out of one before you need to replace it. They’re also far warmer, so you won’t have to get too close to the heater to feel the effects.

Don’t Worry About Fumes

Ideally, you’ll find a quality heater that won’t emit fumes. If you take a look on Amazon, though, you might see some campers complaining about the unbearable fumes coming from propane heaters. While fumes aren’t ideal, remember that these reviewers are usually keeping these heaters in a tent with them.

Fumes are devastating in a small space, but when you’re out in the open, they won’t pose too much of a problem. Don’t let the report of fumes dissuade you from an otherwise capable heater.

Here are some of the camping heaters we recommend for tailgating. Keep in mind that a lot of these heaters are situational, so make up your mind based on your specific needs and tailgating preferences.

Mr. Heater Little Buddy

The Mr. Heater Little Buddy is a personal heater that packs a decent punch. It won’t heat a large area, but if you’re tailgating with one or two other people, you should be able to share it. You don’t need to take turns standing near the heater either, as it gives off more heat than the size may make you think.

The primary benefit of this heater is that it’s small and portable. If you don’t have much more room for a big heater, this one is a fantastic option. In fact, this heater can be a bit overpowering in a small tent, which is perfect for tailgaters.

Pros:

  • Personal heater (one or two people outside)
  • Easy to fit in a crowded car
  • Uses disposable propane cartridges
  • Auto shutoff
  • Very light (5 pounds)

Cons:

  • Only heats a small space
  • Points Up

Dura Heat 360 Degree Tank Top Heater

If you’re looking for a true outdoor heater, the Dura Heat Tank Top Heater is a fantastic choice. It heats 360 degrees around so you can keep your whole group warm without huddling in front of a small heater. It’s portable, and you can stick it on the top of a propane tank when you get to the game.

There are some hot and cold spots on the cylinder, but this seems to be common for this kind of heater. In the open air, you may need to stand closer to the heater, but it’s far more versatile than some of the others on this list. You can effectively heat your patio or garage with this unit when you’re not tailgating a game.

Pros:

  • 360° heater
  • Rust-resistant guard
  • Made for outdoor use
  • Safety shutoff
  • Connects directly to propane tank

Cons:

  • Has some hot and cold spots
  • Some users reported longevity issues

Mr. Heater Indoor-Safe Portable Radiant Heater

This heater is another from Mr. Heater, and it’s one of the most popular camping heaters on Amazon. It’s one of the most powerful heaters you’ll find in the same size, and the automatic shutoff feature means it’s not a fire hazard if you’re using it in an enclosed space.

The heater will only keep a small area warm, but that’s all you need for a tailgate. You’ll need to stay close to the heater, but it will provide an oasis on a cold winter day. You can also use it to heat other places in your home during the offseason. If your power ever goes out for an extended period, this little guy will be your best friend.

Pros:

  • Portable
  • Very powerful for the size
  • Auto shutoff when tipped over
  • Can keep a small area very warm
  • Good for multiple uses

Cons:

  • Only faces one direction
  • Would require you to stand close when outside

Best of the Bunch

Of these three, the two best options are the Mr. Heater Indoor-Safe Portable Radiant Heater and the Dura Heat 360 Degree Tank Top Heater. Both of these connect to propane tanks and will keep you warm for the duration of the tailgate.

Since tailgating is a team sport, the edge goes to the Dura Heat portable heater. This one keeps your whole area warm with the 360-degree heater and is powerful enough for you to use for multiple applications. Keep your tailgaters warm by picking up one of these for your next pregame ritual.

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