As caravans have become better insulated and campsites better equipped with heated shower blocks and electric hook-ups, more people heading out on tour in the winter months. But inside even the best insulated caravan, when the temperture really drops you’ll need something extra to keep you warm, which is why we at Practical Caravan have been testing portable heaters.

Many caravanners will want either an electric fan heater or a radiant heater. Both require mains hook-up. An electric fan heater is the most simple solution as it just heats the air slowly, whereas radiant heaters (which are better for warming draughty spaces such as awnings) give out infrared rays that discharge their thermal energy into what’s in their path – i.e. you, if you are close by.

However, if you want to go off-grid, you will need to invest in a fuel powered heater, as an electrically powered heater will swiftly run down your caravan’s leisure battery. Many manufacturers of butane, paraffin and propane portable heaters warn against using them in touring caravans, however the British importer of the Zibro heaters we are testing here tells us it is safe to use them in vans, so long as there’s sufficient ventilation. Caravans hold lower volumes of air than a room in a house and tend to be far better sealed, and fuel heaters will consume all the oxygen in an unventilated tourer, resulting in CO poisoning. It is therefore vital that you never leave your fuel heater unattended and that you have a CO detector to monitor levels and make sure there is enough ventilation.

So, what other factors should canny buyers look out for? Well, you don’t want a heater that is so big that carrying it in your caravan safely and securely is difficult, and that’s too big and heavy to move about easily. You also need to be sure that the heater you choose is easy to position and that once in place it is secure and stable.

You want to be sure your heater has enough oomph to keep you cosy even on really cold days and nights. It is also handy if there’s a thermostat and a timer. A thermostat is good as it will turn the unit off when it reaches the temperature you want and turns it on again if the temperature drops, so you don’t have to keep on turning it off and on. Having a timers is useful, too, as nobody likes to get out of a warm bed into a freezing cold room – plus, many of us would not be happy leaving the heating on all night without supervision. 

Here we are reviewing the Zibro RS24. This is one of two products we tested from the Japanese manufacturer – the other was the Zibro LC30. The RS24 is not as advanced as the LC30, but its technology is years ahead of old British units. Its advanced burners work like a vehicle’s catalytic converter. It wrings every ounce of energy out of the fuel to reduce smell and moisture, and glows red. Mirrors project the resulting infrared rays outward. Silent, mains-free operation is the RS24’s biggest advantage, but it is big, lacks a thermostat and has just one output level: a very hot 2400W. In the Practical Caravan review, the Zibro RS24 received a three-star rating.

We also tested a range of electric and radiant heaters: the Screwfix 44164, the Dyson AM05, the Kobe KBE-828-0140K, the Kampa Diddy, the Outwell Etna, the Sealey CH2013, the Dimplex Pro Series Self-Righting heater, the Argos 415/1364, the Kobe KBE-828-0130K, the Clarke OFR9/90, the Draper 02714 and the Kampa 1500W. The winner of our portable heaters group test was the Sealey CD2013TT