Read Practical Caravan's Clarke OFR9/90 review to help you decide which portable heater is best for your caravan holidays, so you're toasty all year round

Overview

Year round touring is becoming increasingly popular thanks to advances in draught-proofing and insulation – why should the coming of autumn and winter mean it's time to pack your van away? So here at Practical Caravan, we've tested a range of portable heaters to help you find the best ones to keep you warm on tour. But what should you consider when choosing one?

Here we're looking at space heaters and radiant heaters. Of course, you could go off-grid as electric heating will rapidly run down a leisure battery – staying warm away from a mains supply requires fuel. But the instructions for many paraffin, butane and propane camping heaters warn against using them in caravans! The UK importer of Zibro heaters says that using fuel heaters in vans is safe, as long as enough ventilation is provided. Tourers hold lower volumes of air than a room in a house and tend to be far better sealed; air leakage doesn’t occur. 

A fuel heater will use up all the oxygen in an unventilated van and make CO poisoning inevitable. So always supervise the unit when in use and invest in a CO detector to ensure adequate ventilation.

Back to electric heaters, though, and these are increasingly popular, due to the increasing availability of electric hook-ups at campsites in the UK. The most simple form of heater is an electric space heater which takes in cold air, warms it, then releases it, gradually increasing the temperature in the living area – some of these are fan heaters, others convection.

Or how about a radiant heater? These give off invisible infrared rays which travel through the air without warming it, discharging the thermal energy into whatever they contact, instead of heating the air around you. These are usually silent and generate warmth you feel immediately, but you'll only feel it when you're near the unit – and as soon as you turn it off, the heat will disappear.

Here we are testing the Clarke OFR9/90 – could this be the best portable heater for your caravan holidays? This product retails for £36.

It’s not obvious from the picture just how dinky this oil-filled radiator is. At just 38cm long and 37cm high, it’s roughly the size of a small briefcase. Much like the Sealey which won our group test, its long and narrow shape makes it a doddle to position. Unlike most oil-filled models, this doesn’t have a timer or adjustable power levels. Output is always 900W, but there is at least a thermostat. 

In larger caravans, particularly in severely cold weather, we suspect that the unit will be on constantly, and a second, higher output would have been a bonus. Having said that, 900W is a load most hook-up supplies will take easily in their stride. Come the end of the Practical Caravan Clarke OFR9/90 review, our experts gave this heater a score of four out of five.

Another product tested by Practical Caravan, the Dimplex Pro Series Self-Righting heater, also received a four-star rating, as did the Draper 02714, the Sealey CH2013Kampa's 1500W, the Zibro LC30, the Kobe KBE-828-0130K and the ceiling mounted Outwell Etna. The slick and stylish Dyson AM05 heater scored three out of five, as did the Kobe KBE-828-0140K, the Screwfix 44164, the Zibro RS24 and also the small Kampa Diddy, while the Argos 415/1364 got two stars.

Verdict

If you want to take your caravan holidays in autumn and winter, you're likely to want a portable heater with you, to ensure whatever the elements throw at you, you're lovely and cosy in your van. The small but effective Clarke OFR9/90's four-star rating from Practical Caravan proves this is a heater well worth considering.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Most hook-ups will cope with its 900W rating
  • It's small but powerful
  • It has a thermostat

Cons

  • There's no timer and just one output level
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