Mr. Heater Little Buddy Review: A Budget-Friendly Portable Propane Heater

Is the Mr. Heater Little Buddy the right portable heater for you?

After putting it to the test on countless camping trips over the past few years, I can safely say that it gets the job done without fail in small spaces.

Not only is this propane heater one of the lightest and most compact on the market, but it’s also surprisingly effective at heating small interior spaces thanks to its impressive heat output.

Better yet, numerous built-in safety features make this heater safe to use in small enclosed spaces like RVs and trailers without worry.

Today, I’m going to break down my personal experience with the Mr. Heater Little Buddy Heater to help you decide if it’s the right portable camping heater for you.

See Also: Best Gear for Dispersed Camping


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Quick Overview

Mr Heater Little Buddy attached to propane canister and aftermarket stand

The Little Buddy is the smallest of Mr. Heater’s many offerings.

It’s a propane-powered portable heater that produces 3,800 BTUs per hour. According to the company, it’s capable of heating up to 95 square feet of enclosed space.

Mr. Heater goes on to say that the heater will run for up to 5.6 hours on a single 1 pound cylinder of propane.

The Little Buddy clocks in at just 5.85 pounds, not including the propane cylinder. It’s roughly 12 inches by 9.75 inches in size. 

Unlike other Mr. Heater models, like the Portable Buddy, the Little Buddy comes in two pieces – the actual heater head as well as a base piece which creates a stable platform for the heater.

Using this heater is simple. Just connect the propane cylinder, press and hold the ignition button, and wait a few seconds until the Piezo sparking mechanism lights the unit.

There’s only one heat setting so there’s no way to adjust the heat output. However, the 3,800 BTUs per hour output is plenty comfortable for most camping setups, aside from large RVs and trailers.

The Little Buddy comes with an oxygen depletion sensor and an accidental tip-over safety shutoff. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a high-limit safety shutoff. 


Mr. Heater Little Buddy Features and Specifications

Here are the main features and specs of the Mr. Heater Little Buddy:

3,800 BTUs Per HourUses 1-Pound Propane Cylinder
Heats Up to 95 Square FeetUp to 5.6 Hours of Heat
5.85 Pounds12 x 9.75 Inches
Push-Button IgnitionOxygen Depletion Sensor
Accidental Tip-Over Safety ShutoffSturdy Base Platform

My Experience with the Little Buddy Heater

Mr. Heater Little Buddy heater head detached from propane canister

The Mr. Heater Little Buddy was the first portable propane heater I ever used.

Right out of the box, I was impressed with just how simple it was to operate. And, after years of heavy use, I’m pleased with just how well it’s held up to the wear and tear of dispersed camping.

I have a small sleeping space set up in the bed of my pickup truck under my truck camper/canopy/topper for winter camping.

The back of my truck is the main place I use the Little Buddy. It works extremely well for heating this small space, despite the lack of insulation.

I never leave the heater on at night while I’m sleeping. Instead, I run it briefly in the morning before I get out of my sleeping bag, at night before crawling into bed, and occasionally during the daytime if I’m hanging out in the back of my truck.

Although the Little Buddy works best in an enclosed space, it does a decent job at keeping you warm when run outside as long as you stay close. I’ll sometimes use it while setting up my tent, getting the campfire going, or while cooking on very cold days.

I’ve personally never used the Little Buddy inside of a tent (mine is too small). However, it’s safe to do so as long as you follow a few key safety guidelines.

First, you need proper ventilation. Mr. Heater recommends 4 inches of ventilation at floor level and another 4 inches at the roof. Most double wall tents should offer plenty of ventilation with the door cracked slightly open.

Of course, you also need to make sure that the heater is never near anything flammable. Mr. Heater recommends you keep at least 30 inches free above the heater, 24 inches of space in front of it, and at least 6 inches on each side. 

In addition to tents and truck camping setups, the Little Buddy is a great option for warming up vans and other passenger vehicles as well as small RVs and trailers.

However, if you have a medium to big RV or trailer, I’d definitely opt for something a little beefier – like the Portable Buddy or even the Big Buddy.

In addition to the warmth, safety features, and overall ruggedness/durability, I love the Little Buddy’s small size. It’s super portable and easy to stash away while not in use. 

Lastly, this portable tent heater packs a huge punch for just how cheap it is. I can’t recommend picking up a Little Buddy enough if you plan to camp in cold weather – the price is well worth it.  


Pros and Cons of the Little Buddy

Mr. Heater Little Buddy heater head with propane canister on stand in the background

After several years of regular use, here are what I consider the top pros and cons of the Mr. Heater Little Buddy:

What I Like

Here’s what I like most about the Little Buddy:

  • Affordable – The Little Buddy is one of the most affordable camping heaters on the market (especially if you shop around for a sale).
  • Lightweight/Compact – The two-piece design makes it easy to break down and store this heater. It’s super easy to move around and doesn’t take up much space while in use.
  • Built-In Safety Features – I love the safety features that Mr. Heater includes in their units. In this case, an oxygen depletion sensor and an accidental tip-over safety shutoff switch.
  • Strong Heat Output – This little tent heater pumps out an impressive 3,800 BTUs per hour of heat, enough to warm up a tent, van, or small trailer. In addition to radiant heat, it provides great direct heat to warm up objects themselves, even in temperatures far below freezing. 
  • Durable – After several years of regular use, my Little Buddy starts up and runs just as well as ever. There’s been no noticeable loss to the heating output. In addition, it almost looks brand new, aside from a few scratches and other nicks. 

What I Don’t Like

Here’s what I don’t really like about the Little Buddy:

  • Unstable – The Little Buddy’s stock base isn’t very stable. As you can see in my photos, I switched to an aftermarket base for a little extra stability. I’ve even seen people build their own base/platform. Cheap RV Living has a great video on creating a sturdy DIY Little Buddy base (and shows you how to connect it to a 20 pound propane tank).
  • Single Heat Setting – There’s no way to adjust the heating output of the Little Buddy. It has a single heat setting.

Who Is the Little Buddy Heater Best for?

Mr. Heater Little Buddy shown from above

The Mr. Heater Little Buddy is a great entry-level portable heater for all campers.

It’s budget friendly, lasts for years on end without losing power output, and is super easy for anyone to use. 

The heater is best for those heating enclosed spaces smaller than 95 square feet…like vans, passenger vehicles, or very small travel trailers. It’s also a decent option for heating family-sized tents.

If you camp in anything but the smallest RV or trailer, you’ll be better off opting for something with a higher heat output – the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy might be a good alternative.

Although I’ve personally never had an issue with this, the Little Buddy does only have a single heat setting. If you prefer a little adjustability, other Mr. Heater models, including the Portable Buddy, have the ability to toggle between at least two heat settings. 

In addition to camping and boondocking, the Mr. Heater Little Buddy works great at heating small workspaces and providing direct heat outdoors. It would make a great addition to any home emergency kit as well. 


How to Safely Use the Little Buddy

The Mr. Heater Little Buddy is super easy to use safely.

To set it up, simply screw the heater head onto a 1 pound propane canister. Then slide the bottom of the canister into the heater’s base. 

Now, press and hold the red “ON” button until the pilot light ignites. Continue holding the button down until the flame grows to cover the entire ceramic burner. 

This typically only takes about 30 seconds but can take a little longer in very cold weather or at high elevations. 

When running the heater indoors, always make sure there’s adequate ventilation. I keep both windows slightly cracked while using mine inside my truck canopy. 

Ensure there’s proper clearance around the heater. You don’t want anything flammable nearby while it’s in use. Be especially cautious if you have children or pets. And never use the heater in a moving vehicle.

Although it’s tempting on very cold nights (and people regularly do so with no problems), never run the heater overnight while you’re asleep. Never leave it unattended and always keep a close eye on it while it’s in use. 

A carbon monoxide detector is a must when using the Little Buddy indoors. I have one permanently installed in the back of my truck (test yours regularly). 

Other safety tools like a smoke detector, propane leak detector, and fire extinguisher are also smart to have at hand. 

When you’re done using the Little Buddy, simply hold down the large black “OFF” button until the pilot light turns off. The heater takes a while to cool down so make sure to wait until it’s completely cool to the touch before storing it away. 


Other Mr. Heater Little Buddy Reviews

The Mr. Heater Little Buddy is extremely popular.

This means there are a ton of other reviews online for you to dive into before making a decision on whether it’s the right portable propane heater for you.

As far as other detailed written reviews go, I strongly recommend checking out The Camping Nerd’s Mr. Heater Little Buddy review which breaks down the device’s ins and outs with an RV boondocking focus (instead of dispersed camping like mine).

In addition to reading reviews, I always find that getting a look at a product by watching a few videos is super helpful to the buying process.

Although there are dozens of video reviews available on YouTube, my absolute favorite (shown above) is from the Cheap RV Living channel and provides a detailed breakdown of what makes the heater click.

Still need more information? The user reviews on REI and Amazon are helpful to get a feel for what other campers think of the heater, including both its pros and cons for several different applications. 

Reddit is also a great place to look for personal reviews of the Little Buddy. This thread on r/vandwellers, this one on r/preppers, and this one on r/diy are just a taste of the info you can find if you dig a little on Reddit.


Other Portable Tent Heaters to Consider

Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Heater

Portable propane heater that radiates either 4,000 or 9,000 BTUs per hour to heat up to 225 square feet.

The Mr. Heater Little Buddy is a well-rounded portable outdoor heater at a steal of a price – but it’s not the right option for every camper.

If you need something with a little more heat output, I suggest looking at the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy or the Mr. Heater Big Buddy.

The Portable Buddy produces either 4,000 or 9,000 BTUs per hour (depending on the setting) while the Big Buddy produces 4,000, 9,000, or 18,000 BTUs per hour (depending on setting).

Both run on propane and are compatible either with 1 pound propane cylinders or with a larger 5 pound or even 20 pound propane tank with a simple hose adapter. 

Of course, the Portable Buddy is bigger than the Little Buddy and the Big Buddy is bigger than the Portable Buddy – but they both remain extremely portable. The Portable Buddy weighs just 10.6 pounds while the Big Buddy weighs 17.1 pounds.

As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of Mr. Heater’s propane heaters – but they’re far from the only options available.

Several different propane models are available that likely work well for camping. An electric space heater is another option if you’re camping in an RV, at a campsite with electric hookups, or have a robust portable power station (like the Jackery Explorer 500).


Where to Buy the Mr. Heater Little Buddy

Mr. Heater Little Buddy Heater

Portable propane heater that radiates 3,800 BTUs per hour to heat up to 95 square feet.

Mr. Heater units are widely available from a number of online and brick-and-mortar retailers. 

You can buy the Little Buddy at REI or on Amazon as well as from Walmart, Cabela’s, and Ace Hardware. It’s also available directly from Mr. Heater.

The Little Buddy is often on sale, so it’s worth shopping around and comparing current prices before pulling the trigger. Factory-reconditioned models are also available at an even greater discount.

If you still have questions about the Mr. Heater Little Buddy, please feel free to shoot me a line: jake@campnado.com