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Is the Little Buddy the Best Small Propane Heater?

Is the Little Buddy the Best Small Propane Heater?

In certain camping scenarios, there are times when a small propane heater is the perfect remedy to chilly weather. The Little Buddy propane heater is exactly the right size for a personal camping heater, but is it the best option available?

In this post, we’re taking a good look at the Little Buddy, a portable propane heater that can run on disposable one-pound propane cylinders. 

But how much heat will it throw? How large a space will it warm? And is heating a small enclosed space with liquid propane gas safe? Is there a better option for camping?

Let’s dig into the weeds and get the important details!

What Is a “Small Propane Heater”?

There are many different types of small propane heaters on the market. In fact, we own one, and we use it to heat the living space of our motorhome. (For more on this, please see our post entitled, “Can You Use a Propane Heater Indoors to Heat Your RV?“)

But our propane heater is larger than what we’re talking about today, and it’s not as portable. So, for the purpose of today’s post, we’re talking about a small portable heater that doesn’t require any electrical power to run, that weighs 5 pounds or less, and that’ll run on a little one-pound cylinder like these:


So, we’re looking specifically at a very small portable heater intended to warm a small space. Or, for use outdoors to keep you warm around the picnic table or campfire.

The beauty of using them in a small RV is that you can stay warm without the need to run your furnace (which not only uses more propane, but also requires 12V DC power to run the blower motor).

The most popular small propane heater out there appears to be the “Little Buddy” by Mr. Heater.

What Is a Little Buddy Propane Heater?

While Mr. Heater makes a number of different propane heaters of all sizes and BTU ratings, the “Little Buddy” is the smallest of the lot. It provides up to 3,800 BTU and will heat a space up to around 95 sq. ft. The unit is very portable, weighing only 5 pounds and measuring 11″D x 11″W x 11″H, and it runs on 1-pound LP cylinders that are available online and at local stores everywhere.

These small propane heaters are easy to start with the piezo igniter that requires only the push of a button. The Little Buddy is suggested for use in tents, garages, workshops, cabins, campers, and outdoor areas like patios, porches, and at fishing and hunting locations.

These units have a low-oxygen shut-off and an accidental tip-over shutoff, but you’d still want to be very cautious using them around young children or pets.  

Use of the Little Buddy requires ­venting. You’ll need a­ vent­ area­ of­ a minimum of 4­ square­ inches­ for­ adequate ventilation while the heater is in use (with ours, we leave our bathroom roof vent fan open and/or on… and prop a small window open enough to allow additional fresh air in).

Note that this product cannot be sold for use in Canada or Massachusetts (there’s a separate model with regionally-specific labeling to indicate no indoor use). 

Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTU Indoor Safe Propane Heater With Portable|Low-Oxygen Safety Shutoff|Tip-Over Protection|Lightweight, Medium , Black/Red
  • Indoor-safe portable propane heater for rooms up to 95 square feet. THIS UNIT IS NOT INTENDED FOR GOLF CART USE OR FOR MOTORIZED VEHICLES.
  • Continuous odor-free, 45-degree heating angle. Maximum Elevation (Ft) 7000 Feet. Automatic low oxygen shut-off system (ODS). Perfect solution for...

How Long Will a Little Buddy Propane Heater Run on a 1-Pound Tank?

According to Mr. Heater, the Little Buddy should run for up to 5.6 hours, but we suspect run time will differ depending on factors such as altitude and ambient temperature. That said, there’s only one heat setting on the Little Buddy, so the heat output is not adjustable. 

We read user reviews from Little Buddy owners noting that they could run their Little Buddy for anywhere from 4 to 7 hours, so Mr. Heater’s estimate appears to be pretty accurate.

Note that for larger areas and longer run times, Mr. Heater sells the larger Mr. Buddy propane and the Big Buddy propane heater. Both can run on 1-pound disposable propane cylinders, or they can be connected to a larger LP cylinder.

The Mr. Buddy is a 9,000 BTU propane heater that heats a space up to 225 sq. ft. This unit weighs 10.6 pounds can run at 4,000 BTU for approximately 6 hours or 9,000 BTU for approximately 3 hours.

Mr. Heater MH-F232000 Portable Buddy 9,000 BTU Propane Gas Radiant Heater with Piezo Igniter for Outdoor Camping, Job Site, Hunting, and Tailgates
  • Heat your camper, cabin, porch, picnic area, garage, barn, shed, hunting blind, and more by choosing from high, medium, and low heat settings for...
  • Gives off 4,000 or 9,000 per hour with a heat range of 225 square feet; For use with propane gas using a 1-pound LP cylinder or 20-pound cylinder with...

The Mr. Heater Big Buddy has low, medium, and high settings (4,000 – 9,000 – 18,000 BTUs), and heats up to 450 sq. ft. This unit can use two 1-pound propane cylinders, or it can also be connected to a larger LP cylinder. It has a fan that operates on 4 D-cell batteries or an AC adapter.

Mr. Heater F274830 MH18BRV Big Buddy Grey Indoor-Safe Portable RV Propane Heater (4,000 , 9,000 and 18,000 BTU)
  • Heat your camper, cabin, porch, picnic area, garage, barn, shed, hunting blind, and more by choosing from high, medium, and low heat settings for...
  • Gives off 4,000, 9,000, or 18,000 BTU per hour with a heat range of 450 square feet; For use with propane gas integrating a 1-pound LP cylinder or...

How Does a Little Buddy Heater Work?

Using a Little Buddy heater isn’t difficult. After screwing the portable propane cylinder to the bottom of the unit, you’ll simply use the piezo ignitor to start the heater with the push of a button. 

To see the process of starting the Little Buddy in action and to get a sense of its size, we suggest having a look at this YouTube video from Mr. Heater:

Is a Small Propane Heater Safe Indoors?

Using a small propane heater indoors can be safe IF you practice proper safety habits. Let’s run through some of the hazards of running a portable LP heater in an enclosed space, and the precautions that can be taken to remain safe while doing so.

Carbon Monoxide Buildup

To avoid the buildup of carbon monoxide while using a portable propane heater in an enclosed area, be sure to open a window or vent. In addition, be sure to install carbon monoxide detectors in your camper or other enclosed areas where you’ll use a small propane heater to alert you to a dangerous situation.

Oxygen Depletion

The Little Buddy does have an oxygen depletion sensor that will shut the heater off if oxygen levels get too low.

Kidde Carbon Monoxide Detector, Battery Powered CO Alarm with LEDs, Test-Reset Button, Low Battery Indicator, Portable
  • Electrochemical sensor technology detects CO gas
  • Easy installation, no wiring needed, detects during a power failure by operating on 2-AA batteries (included)

Moisture Buildup

Because exposed flame propane heaters tend to create moisture in the environment, you can use a small dehumidifier to keep the space from accumulating moisture that eventually can cause mildew and/or mold.

DampRid FG50T Moisture Absorber 4 lb. Hi-Capacity Bucket-for Fresher, Cleaner Air in Large Spaces-2 Pack, 4-Pound, White, 2 Count
  • DampRid Hi-Capacity Moisture Absorber Bucket attracts and traps excess moisture, eliminating musty odors from damp areas.
  • The hi-capacity design features a unique Moisture Lock spill resistor technology with a sealed safety cover for a mess free solution.

Tip-Over Fire Hazard

Although the Little Buddy has a tip-over sensor (which reviewers note is quite sensitive), you really don’t want to use a small propane heater in an area where small children or pets could tip the unit over. Though the heater should shut off if it’s tipped over, the best safety practice is not to use it around little ones and four-legged family members.

Using Near Flammable Items

Never use a portable propane heater near flammable items such as curtains, or even too close to furniture. Giving a portable heater plenty of space away from any other objects is best. 

Combustible Sprays

When a small portable propane heater is in use, never use any sort of aerosol spray in the vicinity of the heater. These products are highly flammable and put everyone in the immediate area in danger when used near an LP source.

Two final points regarding the use of a small portable propane heater of any type or size that warrant reiterating:

  1. When used indoors, always ensure you have proper ventilation (crack a window and open a roof vent) and protection (smoke and carbon monoxide detectors).
  2. Never leave it unattended and beware of children and pets that may knock it over or get too close.

Is It Safe to Run A Little Buddy Propane Heater In a Tent?

The Little Buddy is noted by Mr. Heater (the manufacturer) as being the perfect portable heater for a tent. In fact, the extra ventilation in a tent helps to maintain safety while using this type of heater. 

However, just as you would in any enclosed space, you’ll want to be sure to keep the heater away from flammable items (including tent walls), never use aerosol sprays in the tent when the heater is in use, and be mindful of children and pets. 

Are There Other Small Propane Heaters Like the Little Buddy?

As we noted at the top of the post, there are lots of small portable heaters on the market, many of which operate on liquid propane. In our research, we really found nothing quite like the Little Buddy, though there are a number of stove/heater combinations that are designed for outdoor use and are not recommended for indoor use

So, rather than link to other products that should not be used in a camper or other enclosed space, we’ll leave you with our impression that, yes, the Little Buddy is likely the best small propane heater option out there.

Should you find that the Little Buddy or any other type of gas-fueled heater is a reasonable choice for your purposes, be absolutely sure to implement all safety precautions whenever you use the heater. 

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John S.

Monday 17th of April 2023

"Note that this product cannot be sold for use in Canada or Massachusetts."

That's a red flag.

What is the safety concern that prompted these restrictions?


Tuesday 18th of April 2023

Hey John... think it's just regulatory in both places, not allowing non-vented open-flame heaters indoors.

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