What Is The Little Buddy Heater?
The Little Buddy propane heater made by Mr. Heater is one of the smallest portable propane heaters on the market today that is safe to use not only outdoors but indoors as well.
It’s a radiant heater that sits on top of a 1 lb propane tank. You light it with the press of a button and it’s perfect for heating small spaces or work areas.
Safety Warning: Always have a carbon monoxide alarm like this one (click to view on Amazon) in the area when using any indoor propane appliances.
I’ve used Mr. Heater Buddy Heaters in my travel trailer while camping a bunch of times and have been nothing but impressed with them. They seem safer than other brands and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Little Buddy to see if it lived up to the hype.
I finally took the plunge and purchased one a couple of weeks ago. The timing could not have been more perfect. January closed in and even though I’m fairly far south it still gets cold at night and I often wake up in the morning inside a nearly freezing trailer with no electricity to run the RV furnace.
In this review, I’m going to go over the specifics of the Little Buddy Heater and include some tips and tricks to get the most out of it when camping. I’ve been using it for a while now to keep the main room in my large 32 foot travel trailer warm and so far I’ve been very impressed, but more on that later.
What’s In The Box
You get two things when you purchase the Little Buddy. The small propane heater head and a plastic base you put a separately purchased 1 lb propane tank in.
One thing you may hear from the head part when you pick it up is the sound of something small moving and clicking around inside. You don’t need to worry, it’s just the knock over safety valve opening and closing as you move it.
There is a large plastic handle built onto the top you can use to carry it around even when it’s attached to a propane tank. It comes in handy if the heater has been running and the metal burner area is hot.
Note: never carry the Little Buddy heater around while it’s running. It is very portable and easy to move around it’s just not designed to be burning while in motion.
Want some more portable indoor propane heater options? Check out this article here.
How To Set Up & Turn On The Little Buddy Heater
The small heater head screws onto the top of the propane tank easily and quickly. You just need to make sure the threads line up and it’s on tight enough to not have any leaks. You don’t need to crank down on it but it does need to be fairly snug.
There is no tape or sealant required.
Once the head is on Mr. Heater recommends testing the connection with soapy water.
To start the burner you need to press the red button on the side until the pilot light ignites then keep holding the button until the flame grows and starts to reach over and onto the edge of the ceramic burner face. This can take around 30 seconds to a minute.
I found that it normally takes around 15 seconds at low elevations but the wait time does increase with elevation. It can also start faster if it was already used that day and was kept connected to the propane tank.
It can be slightly difficult to hold down the button for that long but if you reach your hand so you are actually gripping the entire back of the small heater it helps support your fingers.
Once the pilot light gets strong enough you release the red button and the burner will ignite with a big blue flame that will cover the burner tile then slowly sink down to the gentle red of a radiant propane heater. If it’s really cold outside this process may take a little longer which is normal.
Propane isn’t the only way to stay warm while camping. Check out the best portable heated blankets here.
How To Turn Off The Little Buddy Heater
Turning off this Mr. Heater Buddy is super simple. Just press the large black button on the side that says “off.” It will immediately shut off the pilot light which will in turn put out the ceramic tile burner.
At this point, the small propane heater head is going to be hot so be careful. If you store it outdoors in a well ventilated area it’s ok to leave the 1 lb propane tank attached but if you want to keep it indoors you must detach the head from the tank.
You will need to wait a couple of minutes to let the parts cool down before you remove it from the tank. Make sure the entire heater head has cooled properly before returning it to storage.
Little Buddy Heater Specs
The 1 lb propane tank slides into the included plastic base that has an opening of about 3 3/4 inches and is around 1 1/2 inches deep. The outer base area is 7 3/4 inches in diameter which offers the perfect amount of stability for the propane heater head to sit on top of the tank.
The Little Buddy heater when not attached to the propane tank is almost 11 inches tall and deep, its widest point, which is the actual burner part is around 8 inches in total diameter. Without the propane tank, it weighs 4 lbs. With a full 1 lb Coleman propane tank and the base, it weighs just about 6 lbs.
The heater is small and portable but a little taller than I expected. When on the tank it’s 18 inches tall which is about knee high to me.
There are no adjustable heat settings. It has a 3,800 Btu burner and that’s it. It’s a small propane heater so the non-adjustable heat to cut down on parts and size makes sense.
It is rated to heat spaces up to 95 square feet.
For a little portable propane heater, you can use in small spaces like a van, tent, RV, or even a hunting blind it puts out the perfect amount of heat. Radiant propane heaters are very efficient, they warm the objects around and not just the air. If you point the Little Buddy heater in your direction it’s going to keep you plenty warm, even in freezing temperatures.
As a reference if you’ve ever used the popular Mr. Heater Buddy (click to view on Amazon) the lowest setting on that is 4,000 Btu. I’ve used this exact heater in my camper many times and I’ve found the lowest setting to even be too warm once the RV heats up.
How Long Will The Little Buddy Heater Last?
Mr. Heater advertizes the Little Buddy to be able to last for about 5 hours on 1 lb of propane. That’s a really good estimate.
If you divide the Btu’s of the burner (3,800) with the Btu’s in 1 lb of propane (25,591) it comes to 5.7 hours of run time. You are never going to be able to use up every bit of propane but you will be able to get at least 5 hours out of each canister.
At super low temperatures below 20°F the propane in the canister is going to have a harder time getting out which means the run time will be less than the estimated 5 hours.
I set a timer and ran the Little Buddy heater in my travel trailer one cold morning in temperatures that were around freezing and I found the 5 hours to be accurate.
Safety Features Of The Little Buddy
As I’ve said before this is an outdoor and indoor propane heater which means there are a few more safety features on it than you would find on a standard outdoor propane heater.
The Accidental Tip Over Shut Off
Even though it’s small the Little Buddy does have the knock over shut off valve that is standard with most Mr. Heater products. It’s a fantastic feature to have on any portable propane heater especially ones like the Little Buddy that sit on the floor.
I recommend testing this feature right away. All you have to do is start the heater, let the ceramic tile heat up, then using the plastic handle on the back slowly start to tilt the heater to the side. It should shut off long before you have reached a 45° angle.
It’s not recommended to move the Little Buddy heater when it’s running, but if you do, more than likely the tip over shut off switch will engage from the movement and it will shut off.
Low Oxygen Sensor
There is also an automatic low oxygen shut off as well. This is a very good safety feature to have if you are planning on using it in a tent, car, or van. It will stop the burner from eating up oxygen when levels get low. This is also the reason this propane heater works best in elevations up to 7,000 feet. Anything higher than that will usually engage the low oxygen sensor and the Buddy will not light.
You need to have at least 4 inches of ventilation from the lower floor area and roof/ceiling anytime you want to use the Little Buddy indoors (this includes tents and vehicles). Proper ventilation will not only keep you safe, but it will also help the heater run better and hotter.
Proper clearance is also important for a small propane heater. Mr. Heater recommends at least 30 inches of clearance from combustibles from the top of the heater. Since the Little Buddy sits at around 18 inches tall you need to add the 30 inches to that measurement.
It also requires 24 inches of clearance from the front and at least 6 inches on each side. There is no clearance required for the rear which means you can place it against a wall.
These clearance measurements are really pretty minimal compared to larger portable propane heaters. You can use the Little Buddy in smaller spaces than a normal propane heater which makes it perfect for tents, vans, spacious vehicles, and even hunting blinds.
It’s absolutely perfect for campers and trailers which is what we use ours for.
Other Safety Guidelines
You cannot use any Buddy heaters in moving vehicles. They must be stationary.
For outdoor use, you need to make sure the Little Buddy is protected from strong winds because the burner will blow out.
It is also not waterproof and if any of the parts get submerged in water you need to get it inspected by a service technician to make sure none of the control systems were damaged.
Never transport the Little Buddy while it is lit.
Never leave it burning unattended or when you are going to sleep. Be especially careful when using around pets or children.
Trying out some winter RVing? Check out this article on the best heated RV water hoses.
My Camping Review Of The Mr. Heater Little Buddy
I’ve mainly used the Little Buddy inside my RV but I have tried it outside on chilly evenings. Both experiences have been better than expected. This small propane camping heater can really put out some cozy heat.
When using it inside my travel trailer I’ve mainly had it pointing towards the slide area since that’s where I spend most of my indoor time working at a desk or reading in my Ikea chair.
So far it’s been able to heat up the area I’m sitting in right away and normally after just a few hours the entire main room of the RV has gotten warm enough to turn off the Little Buddy.
Uses No Power
The number one reason I got the Little Buddy heater was electricity. We mostly boondock/dry camp and get all of our power from solar panels. In the winter months, even in the south, the sun is weaker and it doesn’t stay in the sky as long, so electricity becomes a little scarce.
The RV furnace is the quickest way to heat up a camper but it uses quite a bit of power. Power is something we are normally low on in the morning before the sun has come up and gotten strong enough to start generating enough power to charge our Goal Zero Yeti (click to view on Amazon).
The Little Buddy heater uses no power, which is a huge pro for camping.
I can now wake up in the morning, start up the Little Buddy to heat the main room in the trailer, and start working at my laptop comfortably without having to worry about power usage. It’s been really nice not having to bundle up to try and stay warm while waiting for the sun to come up.
As for the design compared to the other styles of Mr. Heater portable Buddy heaters I like the angled heater head that points at me instead of the floor. It helps heat up the specific area I’m in faster, which is what I want it to do.
Budget-Friendly Heat Source With A Refillable 1 lb Propane Tank
According to NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) regulations it’s not allowed to have propane tanks larger than 1 lb indoors. That means the Little Buddy is one of the few indoor propane heaters you can use indoors legally.
The 1 lb propane tank is both a huge pro for the Little Buddy because it makes it very portable and indoor safe but it’s also a con since 1 lb propane tanks run out farily quickly and hard to dispose of. Luckily there are a few ways around this issue.
Some people like to refill their disposable 1 lb propane tanks but this is something I can’t recommend since it’s technically not legal and not very safe. The valve on disposable 1 lb propane tanks like the ones made by Coleman (click to view on Amazon) aren’t made to be refilled. There is no way they can guarantee that the refilled tank won’t leak.
Camping in cold weather brings a lot of moisture into an RV or Van. Check out the best small dehumidifiers that help prevent mold here.
Luckily there is a 1 lb propane tank that is made to be refilled that is DOT compliant making it legal for campers to transport and it works with the Little Buddy. Refilling your own 1 lb tank with a 20 lb tank means you can get propane at the refill price which is way cheaper. In fact, it actually makes running our Little Buddy heater less expensive than using the portable electric heater we use on the rare occasion we stay at an RV park.
It’s called the Flame King Refillable 1 lb Propane Tank (click to view on Amazon) and you can get one with this kit that includes a 1 lb propane tank, a refill nozzle that allows you to hook up the tank to a larger propane tank, and a metal stand you can use to place a 20 lb propane tank on upsidedown for easy refill.
It’s eco-friendly, budget-friendly, and easy to use.
Another thing I love about the Little Buddy is how small it is. The head is just so compact you could really put it anywhere when not in use (just make sure it’s fully cooled before putting it away). I’ve been keeping it in a drawstring bag in one of the cabinets above the bed in our travel trailer but if you tent camp you could also just set it in a tub or leave it in your tent when not in use.
I store the 1 lb propane tank outside when not in use.
The entire thing is really lightweight too, you could easily put it in a backpack to take with you on hunting or ice fishing trips.
Little Buddy Heater Pros & Cons
- Small Enough For Tents, Vans, Truck Campers, RVs, Vehicles, Hunting Blinds, & Much More
- Indoor & Outdoor Use
- Heater Directs Heat Towards You
- Small Size For Easy Storage
- Runs For At Least 5 Hours On One Tank
- Fast Turn Off Button
- Tip Over Safety Switch
- Automatic Low Oxygen Shut Off Sensor
- Budget Friendly Heat Source When Used With Refillable 1 lb Propane Tank
- Start Button Isn’t Easy To Hold Down For A Long Time
- Not Good For High Elevations Over 7,000 Feet
- May Sit Too Tall For Small Tents Or Cars With Low Roof
- Only One Heat Setting
- 1 lb Propane Tanks Will Need Refilling or Replacing Often In Cold Climates
Other Mr. Heater Buddy Options
If you like the safety features and portability of the Little Buddy but want something with things like adjustable temperature and the ability to attach to larger propane tanks without having to do much work there is also the Mr. Heater Buddy 4,000-9,000 BTU (click to view on Amazon) and the Mr. Heater Big Buddy 4,000-18,0000 BTU (click to view on Amazon).
Mr. Heater Little Buddy Frequently Asked Questions
Mr. Heater Little Buddy Won’t Light! How to troubleshoot your lil buddy propane heater.
If it won’t light there are a few things that could be wrong. The most likely problem is that there is still some air in the gas line that needs to be purged. You can do this by pressing and holding the ignite button for a few seconds to start the flow of propane.
It could also be that the pilot is blocked with something like dirt or spider webs. First, do a visual inspection with a flashlight, if you see something in the gas tube you can clean the pilot by removing the cover on the right side of the propane heater. Clean the inside of the Little Buddy with a vacuum cleaner and no more than 30 psi of air.
To clean the pilot tube use a soft pipe cleaner that won’t damage any of the parts. Blow out any debris with low pressure air. If the pilot was the problem the propane heater should now light.
If it won’t even spark there may be a loose wire you can check for inside the unit.
How to use a little buddy heater with a 20 lb tank
Unlike the other Buddy heaters, the Little Buddy needs the 1 lb propane tank to stay upright. If you want to use it with a 20 lb propane tank you will need a Mr. Heater Approved Adapter Hose (click to view on Amazon) that can adapt from a 1 lb tank fitting to a 5 or 20 lbs tank fitting.
You want the Mr. Heater brand hose specifically because it is made to not leak oil into your heater. If you get a different brand of propane hose you will also need to get a filter as well.
You will also need to build a stand to keep the small propane heater upright. A nice setup I’ve seen uses a 3 3/4 inch PVC pipe you can put in the included base and set the Little Buddy on top of it. Then drill a hole in the side to fit the propane hose through and into the bottom of the heater.
How ever you do it make sure everything is secure. Also, remember that you aren’t supposed to use propane tanks larger than 1 lb indoors. If you want to use this set up in your RV make sure you get a long enough hose to keep the 20 lbs propane tank outside.
How long will a Little Buddy heater run on a 20 lb tank?
A 20 lb or 5 gallon propane tank filled to the recommended 80% mark will have around 4 gallons of propane in it. That’s 366,008 Btu’s in the tank.
The Little Buddy heater uses 3,800 Btu’s. If you divide that by the Btu’s in the 20 lb propane tank you get 96.3. That means you will get around 96 hours of run time from a 20 lb propane tank.
Little Buddy Heater how long will the propane bottle last?
A 1 lb propane bottle will last around 5 hours with the Little Buddy heater.
How safe is Mr. Heater Little Buddy?
As far as propane heaters go the Little Buddy is safe when all of the guidelines are followed. It’s for indoor and outdoor use which means it has more safety features like tip over shut off and a low oxygen sensor.
The most important rule to follow other than making sure the connection between the heater and the propane tank is leak free is to make sure you have proper ventilation. Mr. Heater’s guidelines say there must be at least 4 inches of ventilation at the floor level and in the roof.
You also need to make sure there is at least 30 inches of space from the top, 24 inches from the front, and at least 6 inches on each side. There is no need to have open space in the back, you can set the Little Buddy against a wall but make sure you use common sense. It’s never safe to have a flame heater near anything remotely flammable.
Never leave it running unattended or at night while you sleep. Always keep a close eye on it around pets and children.
Have any more questions about the Mr. Heater Little Buddy? Leave a comment below.