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RVing is a year-round activity, so keeping warm in the colder months is critical for comfort and safety.
The problem with RV heating is that not every recreational vehicle offers a convenient way to heat the interior.
For example, my motorhome relies on an electric heater to warm the space, so off-grid camping during winter is impossible if I wish to travel to cold regions. Even the standard propane heating system in most RVs can become very expensive and tedious to maintain during winter.
Campers find the solution to this problem is to install an RV wood burning stove that doesn’t rely on electricity or expensive propane to operate. Better yet, this option allows off-grid camping for those who prefer their solitude.
To help you learn about the wood stove for RV options, we put together this RV wood stove guide. Inside, I highlight the top five RV wood-burning stoves and answer many questions about the installation, safety, and selection process.
So, let’s dive right in and find the best camper RV wood stove for your needs!
Can you put a wood burning stove in an RV?
Yes, you can put a wood burning stove inside an RV as long as you follow all safety protocols for installation, venting, and use.
Some factors come into play if you are considering a wood stove for RV. The size of your camper or van, how often you move, your budget, and more will determine the right choice for you.
There are benefits to adding a wood stove to your camper, aside from the ability to camp off the grid or when boondocking overnight. Once you invest in the initial purchase and installation, the cost to operate a wood stove is minimal if not free, as fallen wood is readily available in most areas.
Another benefit of a wood stove over propane heating is that RV wood stoves disperse a dry heat, so you won’t have the annoying condensation build-up on windows and ceilings propane heaters produce. No one likes dealing with possible mold issues that can quickly form in a wet and humid RV environment.
Lastly, the ambiance of wood stoves for travel trailers is cozy and relaxing. Many stoves have windows in the door, so you can enjoy the flickering flames and soft lighting that the fire generates.
What is the smallest wood burning stove available?
There is a surprising amount of small wood-burning stoves on the market, with one mini wood burner, the Newport by Dickson, being only 16″H x 10″W x 8″D.
How effective this wood stove would be inside an average RV is debatable, but it goes to show that there is a stove for even the smallest space.
A mini wood stove for van or teardrop camper to small trailer wood stoves, the overall size is critical, but weight also needs consideration. For RV nomads, we all know the importance of weight vs. gas mileage. We also know how crucial the overall balance of weight on axles and tires is to prevent dangerous tire blowouts.
For RVs, space is always at a premium, so getting the smallest unit you can find that will generate enough heat to warm your area is essential. The key is to not only look at the size of the unit itself but how much clearance you need for safe installation, so you don’t impede on already limited space within your camper.
Best Camper RV Wood Stove
Next, are the top picks for the best camper RV wood stoves with ratings for overall quality, price, capacity, and features.
If you’re looking for an affordable RV wood stove that you can also cook on, check out this Survivor model from England’s Stove Works. The large 27-inch x 17-inch cooktop provides ample meal preparation space. The large firebox can hold logs up to 22 inches and heat an area approximately 24 x 16 feet, which is ideal for medium to large RVs.
- 2.7 cubic foot HexaTech firebox for increased heat output and up to 8 hours of burn time
- Large open cooktop generates heat up to 700 degrees
- 12-gauge steel construction can withstand travel impacts
- Spring handles keep damper controls and door latch cool so you can operate them without gloves
- Optional side rack, water tank, and other accessories are available to increase convenience
- Damper on door provides efficient heat and burn control of the fire
- 4-inch stovepipes for venting are not included and add to overall cost
- Weight (63 pounds) may be too much for some RVs or travel trailers
- Size (17″W x 28″D x 26″H) may be hard to install in cramped RVs
- Solid door front means no “fireplace” ambiance or extra light
- Technically a “portable” unit that will need floor bolting and sealing of vents for long-term recreational vehicle installation
Portable Camp/Cook Wood Stove 2.7 Cubic Feet
When space is at a premium, the Dickson Newport Solid-fuel Stove packs an impressive heat output punch. While made initially for marine use, it transitions beautifully and safely for installation in even the smallest of RVs or camper vans.
- Stove can burn wood/sticks up to an inch thick, wood pellets in a tray, pressed logs, or several charcoal briquettes for fuel flexibility
- Creates consistent heat output between 3000 to 8000 BTUS
- Removable damper control and ash drawer for easy cleaning
- Protective metal exterior stays cooler to prevent accidental burns
- Stainless steel construction is durable and won’t rust for long-lasting attractiveness
- Compact dimensions (10″D x 7.9″W x 15.6″H inches) and 12.6 lbs. weight can work in even the smallest size RV
- Chimney requires a 4-foot minimum run (6-foot straight run work best)
- Needs a permanent fresh-air vent near unit
- Made to heat smaller RVs in the 20-foot-or-under range (100-200 sq. feet)
- Heat output not suitable for any RV in extremely frigid regions
- Needs ample clearance or fireproofing around the unit for safe operation
This heater burns one to two 1” thick wood or presto log, a handful of charcoal briquettes or coal. Removable ash drawer and damper control.
For a cozy fireplace vibe that delivers plenty of heat to keep mid-size RVs warm, the Cubic CUB Mini wood stove with cooking surface can’t be beaten. The design uses a secondary combustion system that generates less smoke than other wood stoves, so its better for the environment.
- Super-attractive styling with removable top rail to increase cooking space
- Easy to install and operates with lower harmful emmissions
- Steel-plated construction keeps weight to only 27 pounds
- Removes humidity from the interior space during use
- Glass front door creates an appealing atmosphere when a fire is burning
- Size (11″W x 10.5″D x 12″H) is ideal for installation in spaces 100-200 square feet with low ceilings
- Flue pipes are not included with purchase
- Can only fit pieces of wood around 5 1/2 inches long
- Flue location and top rail limits cooking area and size of cookware that can fit
- Requires 20 inches of clearance on all sides without shielding but with good mounting and fireproofing that number can go safely down to 3 inches
Cubic CUB wood burning stoves designed specifically for small spaces less than 100-200 square feet.
Best Tiny Wood Stove: Kimberly Wood Stove
The Kimberly wood stove from Unforgettable Fire has RVers and tiny house owners in mind. Not only is the design modern and sleek, but the heat output from the two-stage combustion chamber also squeezes more warmth from less wood. The efficient heating allows this small heater to work best in even large RVs.
- Can heat 150-1,500 square feet and can burn up to 8 hours on one fuel load
- Nearly smokeless exhaust that is EPA/CSA Certified and UL-tested
- High-quality stainless steel construction for years of trouble-free use
- Has a very small footprint and minimal 6-inch installation clearance requirement
- Unique venting system saves money on initial chimney installation costs
- Small cooktop surface allows for daily or emergency cooking when off-grid
- Adjustable for outside combustion air intake
- Small door window provides a cozy fireplace atmosphere
- Very high initial investment, with the stove costing thousands more than other wood stoves, but it outperforms other small stoves by a mile and is portable so you can take it with you when changing RVs
- Weight (56 pounds) may be too much for some RVs
The Best Tiny Wood Stove to heat your cabin, rv, tiny house, skoolie, boat or traditional home.
The Mini Woodsman wood stove is an efficient, affordable, no-frills, easy-to-install option for RVs between 100-200 square feet. This model has convenient features such as the built-in collar for flue pipe attachment and the door window to emit gentle light and watch the flickering flames.
- Firebox allows for logs up to 11 inches long and creates 8000 BTUS of heat output
- Chrome coil handles on the damper and door stay cool to the touch
- 1/8-inch-thick cold-rolled steel construction can handle impacts of travel
- Pre-drilled holes in legs provide ease of mounting securely to flooring
- 11″W x 11″D x 15.5″H size and 23.5 pound weight is compact enough for most RV installs
- Heats up the interior space quickly once you establish a fire
- 4-inch stovepipe venting not included in purchase cost
- May require a built-up base for more comfortable loading and operation
- 12 inches of clearance necessary even after you install fireproofing materials under and around unit
- To maintain consistent heat, you need to feed the fire more often as the firebox is small
This mini wood stove is perfect for heating any tiny space.
Buying Guide: How To Buy the Right Wood Stove for your RV
An RV wood stove’s features and maintenance requirements play an important role in which model is right for you.
Here is a breakdown of what to watch for while going through the decision process:
It’s not necessary to go overboard when buying a wood stove for a camper. Getting a stove too large will not only cost more, but will require more wood to keep it running, and will most likely overheat your RV instead of keeping it comfortable.
Most wood stoves for vans or RVs will fall into the 3-8KW range. Kilowatt ratings on wood stoves don’t indicate heat output, just what the stove’s casting can tolerate when producing maximum heat output.
A BTU output of 3,000 to 8,000 is enough for very small RVs, campers, vans, teardrop, or travel trailers. 6,000 to 14,000 BTU output is best for RVs around 200 square feet or so.
Wood stoves that can generate 40,000-60,000 BTU output are best for very spacious RVs, fifth-wheels, motorhomes, park models, or destination trailers.
Do note that the amount of insulation in your RV and the outdoor temperature also plays a large role in the amount of heat output you will require.
For example, if you only have a few weeks of near-freezing temperatures in a well-insulated camper, the minimum BTU requirements should work fine. Living full-time at a campsite where you experience months of freezing or below-freezing temperatures may require you to upgrade your BTU needs.
The more efficient your stove operates, the less wood you will need to burn to keep your space warm. Look for stoves with EPA efficiency ratings of 70-percent or higher. If you can’t find an efficiency listing, chances are it’s an older model with a low rating and not worth the risk.
Modern wood stove designs actively reduce harmful smoke emissions to around 3.0 grams per hour or less. Look for this rating to ensure you are doing your part to lower the environmental impact of installing a wood burning stove into your recreational vehicle.
Many new wood stoves improve safety with features that make them easier to start, control heat, and reduce soot accumulation within the flue. These features are often worth the extra cost, especially if you travel with children or pets, as they help keep everyone safer.
The right size wood stove will be useless if you can’t install it safely, so it vents properly and is central enough in the RV to heat all the space evenly. How far it sticks out into the living area, so it has safe clearance from walls or fixtures, may impact access to doors or emergency exits.
Don’t overlook the potential hassles installing a wood-burning stove into a small space may entail, as this step tends to be much more problematic than the actual buying process.
All wood burning stoves need regular maintenance to ensure proper and safe function. Just as you would in a home with a fireplace, you need to clean the flue before every burning season.
I recommend searching online to find a professional chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (or your home country) to perform the flue cleaning task. Not only can an expert clean the chimney properly to prevent fires, but they can also spot areas of concern that you may overlook.
Some wood-burning stoves can also burn wood pellets, pressed logs, or charcoal, while others may allow you to cook on the unit’s top.
If having options such as this appeal to you, look for wood burning stove models that offer fuel flexibility or enough cooking space.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you install a wood burning stove in a trailer?
There are three special considerations when installing a wood stove in a trailer.
The first is providing a safe and secure anchorage to the floor. The flooring must be able to support the stove’s weight, and in some instances, extra joists may be necessary to bolt the unit firmly in place.
The second area of concern will be the wall, cabinet, or flooring materials surrounding the stove. All need to be fire and heat-proof (such as stone or ceramic tiles) and have ample clearance from the unit for safety.
Third, you will need a hole in your RV roof (or sometimes side) for the flue pipe to safely disperse the exhaust to the outside.
RVs will also need a cap for the flue, so when you drive the camper, a backdraft of air won’t blow down through the flue and blast ashes into your camper’s interior. CAUTION: Don’t forget to remove the cap whenever you are stationary and plan to use the stove.
After you deal with these three issues, install the stove in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. I highly recommend using a professional to install the stove over a DIY project as safe venting is a must.
How do you size a wood burning stove?
Wood burning stoves typically note a Kilowatt (KW) rating. To determine how many kilowatts you need to warm your RV, you need to figure out the cubic space inside your camper.
You must select the right size wood burning stove for your RV. Both too small or too large create problems, but measuring in an RV is a bit different than trying to calculate sizing for a house.
Most RVs have an open interior space, with only a curtain or thin door to close off a bedroom or bathroom. Even the largest RVs or motorcoaches have small square footage when comparing them to a single room in a house.
Another consideration is that RVs are notoriously poor on insulation, so an extra few watts of heat output may be necessary to offset the heat loss. It’s always best to measure the entire interior space inside your RV to determine wood stove sizing.
How To Measure For Wood Stove Size
The easiest way to determine your wood stove size is to use a handy online calculator found on many wood stove seller sites.
For example, my RV interior is 23 ft. long, 7 ft. wide, and just under 7 ft. tall. I plugged in my measurements, and the recommendation was I needed a 5KW wood burning stove. It suggests I look at stoves between 3-7KW depending on my walls’ insulation and the exterior temperatures I expect to experience on a daily basis.
Are wood stoves worth it?
Wood stoves, especially those used daily for cooking and heating, pay for themselves over time by the savings derived from not paying more for electricity, propane, or gas fuel.
Most wood stove owners save even more money by foraging or cutting wood from free sources. RVers who are stationary can easily create a stack of wood to keep on hand at little cost while RV travelers may find places to scavenge wood nearby their campsites ethically.
What really makes a wood stove worth it for recreational vehicles or conversion vans is the freedom it provides. A wood-burning stove means you won’t be reliant on shore power or propane tanks to keep you warm so that you can travel to locations both on and off-grid without worry.
Balancing the potential long-term savings and freedom against the initial wood stove purchase, installation, and maintenance costs are the only way for you to decide its actual worth.
Are wood stoves safe in an RV?
A wood stove with proper installation and use is safe inside an RV, van, travel trailer, bus, or even tent.
As long as the unit’s location doesn’t impede exits, the wood stove’s operation should not be any more hazardous than a standard propane or electric RV heating system.
Installing carbon dioxide and smoke detectors in your recreational vehicle will increase your safety and peace of mind.
The best part about the RV lifestyle is the freedom of movement and immersion in nature. A wood stove gives you the ability to spend time off-grid without fear of being cold or dealing with the hassle of cooking on an outdoor grill during inclement weather.
Wood stoves for RVs aren’t a requirement, but they can offer many benefits over relying solely on propane or electric for heating and cooking. When you select one of the best camper RV wood stoves above, you’ll be on your way to even more adventures while also being safer and warmer!