Ideal tailgate weather is clear skies and 60-70 degree weather, but let’s face it, mother nature can’t be told what to do. Sometimes we deal with torrential rain, stifling heat, or bone-chilling cold. When it comes to cold, layers of clothes and booze just might not be enough to keep you and your party warm. If you’re facing this, consider adding a tailgate heater to your arsenal.
We’ve reviewed what the market has to offer for a tailgate heater and presented our top picks below. They all happen to be the same brand, Mr. Heater, and they are all fueled by propane. We haven’t found any electric heaters that perform very well in a tailgate environment, so we’re sticking to propane. No matter your tailgate needs or size, one of the tailgate heaters below should be exactly what you’re looking for.
Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000 BTU Indoor-Safe Propane Heater
The “Buddy” heater has become one of the most popular options at its price range for portable outdoor heating, and it doubles as a safe indoor heater as well. Dollar for dollar, it’s hard to find this much value in a single, easy-to-use heater. Firing between 4,000 and 9,000 BTU, it provides plenty of variety in temperature for close proximity outside and small and medium-sized rooms inside.
These weigh approximately 10 pounds with a 1 pound cylinder, though there’s an optional, proprietary hose that allows the Buddy Heater to connect to standard five-to-twenty pound connections. They’re small enough that they can fit under a table, and they’re similar in size to a microwave or a small trash can. It’s recommended to allow at least a few feet of clearance above them. These are capable of pushing a lot of hot air out of the top part of the radiator, and can potentially burn anything dangling above or nearby.
When used as a tailgate heater, this is ideal for warming one person at a time. Maybe place it on a table for somebody to hang around for a quick warmup, or designate a chair where people can sit to keep warm. But if you’re interested in keeping a group of people warm, this won’t cut it.
A single, one-pound canister of propane will last between 3 to 6 hours. In the dead of winter, it takes about 3 hours at maximum heat to warm an entire 30-foot RV from front to back, but it cuts back on the chilly air within a few minutes.
- Indoor-safe for use beyond your tailgate
- Easy to set up and operate
- Sturdy Design
- One-year limited warranty
- Works exceptionally well in close quarters
- No electrical power needed
- Will only help one person at a time inside
- Needs clear surroundings
- Requires an additional hose to use a more economically-sized propane tank (5 pound or more)
- One-pound canisters drain quickly at maximum output
Overall, given the other options on the market, the Mr. Heater Buddy is potentially the most well-rounded of options at its price point. Reviews commonly praise this as one of the best options around, and criticism of the product usually revolves around the inconvenience of using single-use propane cylinders. If you’re looking for a standard-setting, simple heater for small space, this is the one.
Mr. Heater MH60QFAV 60,000 BTU Portable Propane Forced Air Heater
The Mr. Heater forced air series is a high-power, economical option for large scale heating. Ranging from 30,000 to 60,000 BTU, the MH60QFAV is Mr. Heater’s standard option from their forced air series. These come with an onboard blower that rapidly cycles air and a 10-foot hose, along with a regulator, and can be easily connected to 5-to-20 lb propane tanks. With larger tanks, separate regulators may be required.
These are only about 13 pounds and have fantastic reviews. They need a lot of clearance, as 30,000 BTU produces a significant amount of heat, and they’re designed for outdoors area, garages, patios, construction sites, and well-ventilated rooms. These aren’t designed for indoor use but can be used as such if the room is huge or well-ventilated. When outdoors, the Mr. Heater MH60QFAV puts out a nice blast of warm air. With a range of 30,000 to 60,000, these have plenty of variety in temperature and can turn a large, frigid room into a comfortable work environment in an hour or two.
As a tailgate heater, this is going to warm up two or three people quickly. It doesn’t provide too much radiant heat, but you don’t have to stand next to it long for a warmup. We don’t recommend placing this under a table or close to chairs, tents, etc., because there’s a lot of air coming behind that heat and it could ignite anything nearby.
NOTE: This heater requires power to run the blower. If you do not have a tailgate generator or power source, the Mr. Heater MH60QFAV is not for you.
- Great price point for this type of heater, with some competitors costing nearly 50% more for the same heating capability
- One-year limited warranty
- Hose and Regulator included
- Sturdy Design
- Easy to set up and use
- Highly portable
- Heats spaces quickly and efficiently
- 50% quieter than the average forced air heater
- Not at all recommended for close quarters
- Heat variety from 30,000 to 60,000 BTU requires a slight learning curve to choosing which setting is right for your needs
- Large BTU range drains tanks differently at each setting, requiring another learning curve for how long each tank will last
- Electrical outlet required
Given the reviews, overall features for the price and the relative simplicity of these heaters, especially when considering competitor prices, these are one of the best options on the market for their heating capacity. It’s hard to find this much value and power in a single, whole-room heating unit.
Mr. Heater MH30T: A Double Top Outdoor Propane Heater
The Mr. Heater MH30T is a twin-burner heater that sits conveniently on top of a propane tank. It’s highly portable, and it doesn’t require any long range hoses or electricity to operate. At 10,000 to 30,000 BTU, this is an excellent mid-range outdoor heater.
These are recommended for mid-sized work projects and outdoors events with 6-8 people huddled around the heater. They’re also perfect for patios and decks during mild winter days, but the heat won’t carry much through air below 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
For the price, the MH30T is a popular option, and portable heaters of this size and power generally cost noticeably more for the same heat output. These weigh in at a grand total of 5 pounds, making them lighter than a small heater with a third of the maximum power. But again, these are not designed for indoor use.
As a tailgate heater, these are perfect for people to congregate around. They’re not tiny when you factor in the propane tank, and they don’t provide targeted heat like the blowing heater previously, but they provide solid heat to an entire group of people.
- Twin burners allow more radiant heat than a standard single-burning outdoor heater
- Tip-over protection keeps outdoor spaces safe from sudden fires
- High position over propane tank improves safety by elevating the heater away from the floor
- Quiet Operation
- 1 year limited warranty
- No electrical power needed
- Designed for outdoor use only
- Exposed burners may become damaged if unprotected during transportation
- Directional heat dissipates faster outdoors
- Connectors can wobble and break accidentally, as the lightweight construction and high position is meant to be left unbothered during operation
Given the competition, it’s clear that this is a standard for outdoor heating. It’s hard to find any snap-fit heaters with this much power at the pricepoint of the MH30T, and most of them cost more for less heat. These are strongly recommended for economical shoppers looking for something that works great in the range of 35 to 60-degree weather.