The 5 Best Campervan Water Heaters – Ultimate Buyers Guide

Looking for the best campervan water heaters to install in your RV, motorhome or van? You’ve come to the right place with our expert-reviewed buying guide!

If you’re like us, one of the reasons you travel and live in your van is to be as comfortable as possible, even in the winter months.

Eventually, it will start getting cold outside, and there’s nothing worse than having to have a cold shower or wash your dishes with icy water on a chilly morning.

After a couple of times, you’ll be more than ready to install something to heat your water temperature.

Whether it’s for your sink or the shower, a 12v or gas-powered water heater will breathe new life into your van. Modern van life has loads of options, and your hot water heater is no different.

12v, diesel, and tankless water heater options come with all sorts of features that will make your life a bit warmer. Pair up your water heater with a great shower and treat yourself out in the wild.

With all these options, we consumers are finally in the driver’s seat. We’re here to help you navigate the packed landscape of camper van water heater options so you can decide what’s best for your van.

Below, we’ll explore best-in-class water heaters of all categories and take a closer look at key features you should expect out of your next heater. 

PRODUCT

WHAT WE LIKE

THINGS TO CONSIDER

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CAMPLUX PRO

EDITOR'S CHOICE

  • Lightweight

  • Efficient water use

  • Affordable and tankless

  • Not a permanent installation

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SUBURBAN 5238A

  • It will last for a decade

  • Efficient heating

  • Remote starting switch

  • Need wall space 

  • Takes a while to reheat

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ECCOTEMP L5

  • Affordable and portable

  • No installation necessary

  • Fast Heating

  • Small capacity

  • Won’t last more than one quick shower

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KINGCAMP SOLAR SHOWER

  • Cheap and ready on day one

  • Most portable option

  • No disposable energy is necessary

  • It’s a step up from a plastic bag

  • It won’t work on cold days

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BOSCH MINI TANK

  • No propane required

  • Tiny size

  • Comes with mount

  • Small tank size

  • High power draw

The Best Campervan Water Heaters 

To qualify, we put each one of these water heaters to the test. We compared dimensions, install requirements, price points, and efficiency of models big and small to come up with the best available options. 

Because variety is the spice of life, we have laid out some of the best water heaters of all categories.

Whether you’re looking for a tankless, diesel, propane, 12v, or engine-powered heater, you’ll find your perfect companion below.

Campervan Water Heaters
Hot shower out in the woods? Not a problem with our list of the top RV water heaters!

Camplux Pro

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Sometimes it’s best to call in professional help. The cream of the crop of tankless water heaters can provide 1.5 gallons of instant hot water. 

Pair it with the right 12V water pump, and you can sling the heating system somewhere outdoors whenever it’s time to hit the showers, or permanently mount it inside your camper.

Right away, we noticed the incredibly low flow rate. Every liter is precious when you’re boondocking, and the gas-powered Camplux will give you a hot shower without draining any tanks.

You’ll find anti-freezing protection as well as a temperature limit that protects you from burns. 

If you’re desperate for a truly hot shower, you may not love that the heating stops at 118 degrees Fahrenheit, but it still packs a surprising amount of heat into a portable shower.

Campers love that this slim tankless water heater takes up little space, has every safety protection out there, and comes at an affordable price.

Weight.1 lbs
Dims (in)11 x 4 x 17
TypeTankless
GPM1.58
Max power output(watts/BTU)
41,000
Price$$$

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • Efficient water use
  • Affordable and tankless

CONS

  • Not the best permanent solution

Suburban 5238A

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There’s no better permanent solution than this Suburban hot water heater.

If you need to replace a stock water heater or have some free wall space lying around, you can hook up this beast straight to your water line for 10 gallons of hot water an hour.

The Suburban demands high amounts of energy and water though.

It’s only suitable for camper vans with a sturdy infrastructure capable of powering the hot water system, like having a high-end RV battery set-up.

If you’ve got the rig for it and want hot water on demand for years to come, there’s no better way to heat water.

This is the only Suburban on our list, the most powerful option for heating a camper van’s water source.

With heavy initial investment and an afternoon of elbow grease, you can hook up this propane water heater underneath your sink and instantly improve the hot water in your van life. 

Weight10 lbs
Dims (in)11 x 4 x 17
TypeTank
Tank recovery10.2 gallons per hour
Max power output (watts/btu)
12,000
Price$$$$$

PROS

  • Will last for a decade
  • Efficient heating
  • Remote starting switch

CONS

  • Needs wall space
  • Takes a while to reheat

EccoTemp L5

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This is a true portable shower. You can get the water heating inside your RV or at the campsite thanks to this lightweight and efficient propane water heater. 

Who says hot water heaters have to be complicated pieces of equipment. Not so with the Ecotemp L5!

Two knobs control two hoses, one leading to the gas and one heading from your water, through the heater, and to your shower head. 

A 20 lb propane tank and two “D” batteries will give you a hot shower as long as you’ve got water.

An automatic shut-off after 20 minutes or when tilted more than 45 degrees lets you use the unit stress-free while giving you plenty of time out of the cold.

Any 12-volt water pump will up your water pressure and turn your water tank and propane gas into a piping hot shower. 

Weight10 lbs
Dims (in)18x 11 x 5
TypePortable 
GPM1.5
Max power output (watts/BTU)
25,000
Price$$

PROS

  • Affordable and portable
  • No installation necessary
  • Fast heating

CONS

  • Small capacity
  • Only enough for one quick shower

KingCamp Solar Shower

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Camping kings get by with what mother nature gives them, and this bag will heat your water through solar power. It’s an incredibly barebones solution but can be a game-changer after the day’s hike.

Fill up a solar attracting bag with cold water in the morning, and let the solar rays heat the water throughout the day. 

This system is the least effective way to get hot water out there and won’t be a great long-term solution. The water heating bag does have some perks, though, and works great in a pinch. 

We’ve seen more than a few trips saved by hanging this particular solar shower from a tree after a long day.  

If you only need a portable heating system for the next weekend or two, there’s no need to spend an entire paycheck on a tankless water heater.

For an affordable investment, you can have an unlimited supply of hot water as long as the sun is out.

Weight1 lb
Dims (in)12 x 6 x 2
TypePortable
GPM1
Max power output (watts/BTU)
N/A
Price$

PROS

  • Cheap and ready immediately
  • Most portable option
  • No disposable energy is necessary

CONS

  • Only works on warm, sunny days
  • Very basic

Bosch Mini-Tank

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The Bosch mini-tank makes a great partner for a van conversion with limited space and water. You can fit it next to your water system with ease and find electric water heating that’s propane-free. 

Best for heavy-duty electric systems, you can quickly hook up this hot water tank to a vehicle’s alternator to heat water while you drive.

It will instantly heat water and provide a shower at an efficient flow rate in a matter of seconds. 

With so few moving parts, you can easily install this hot water heater in your van and rely on it for instant hot water for years to come.

Bosch’s electric heaters provide unparalleled water flow, temperature and pressure if you’ve got the right 12V power system.

Weight15.5 lbs
Dims (in)13 x 13 x 13
TypeElectric
Recovery rate7 gallons per hour
Max power output (watts/BTU)
1440 W
Price$$$

PROS

  • No propane required
  • Tiny size
  • Comes with mount

CONS

  • Small tank size
  • High power draw

Choosing the Best Water Heaters For Your Van

So, now that we’ve seen some great options let’s understand which style of hot water heater is best for our camper van. The road is full of all sorts of interpretations of the van life, each with a different water tank and energy supply.

You’ve probably noticed the different styles of water heaters all have different strengths and weaknesses. The best water heater for your camper van will need to check off tons of boxes to prove it can best supply you with hot water. 

We’ll break down the different categories of water heaters and find out where each one excels.

Dripping Hot Water
How good is turning the tap on and getting instant hot water?!

Safety First!

The best hot water heaters on the market don’t cut corners when providing you with great water pressure. These are various safety features you should look for when shopping for your perfect model.

Freeze protection

Not every hot water heater can get you through the depths of winter. Freezing temperatures can creep their way into your unit and break down the heating coils leaving you with nothing but cold water dripping out of your shower head.

Look for products with anti-freezing protection if you’re planning on staying out through winter.

Flame Failure Device

Common on propane heaters, this is an extra splash of protection that will make sure any complications don’t turn into disasters.

Propane heaters rely on a pilot light to give the gas life, but the best propane and diesel options also have built-in safety features that will automatically shut off the water tank if everything isn’t working properly.

Propane Flame Protection Device
Make sure whichever propane water heater you get, it has a flame protection device installed. All of the ones we tested on this list have them.

Electric Or Gas?

Electric water heaters will power a small water tank or come tankless and rely on a high-quality 12-volt system to generate heat or will heat up using the power from your vehicle’s alternator.

An electric unit will plug into a 110V outlet or directly to a 12-volt battery to heat up your showers. Because of the high energy demand, these heaters are typically favored by those camping near shore power or a heavy load of portable energy.

Gas water heaters may use a splash of 12v power to fire up the ignition but rely on propane to heat water. A propane water heater will work without shore power and will provide gallons of heating energy per minute as long as you’ve got gas.

If you spend most of your van life well in the boondocks, you can rely on propane water heaters or diesel fuel to find instant hot water no matter how far you are from the nearest outlet.

Tank or Tankless Water Heater?

Although standard at homes across the country, tankless water heaters have only been around the van life for a decade. If you have the right set-up, a tankless water heater is a more efficient choice, but it’s not always the best option. 

It’s simply hard to argue with the perks. Seconds after you power up your tankless water heater and open the tap, you’ll find your water quickly rising in temperature.

Unlimited amounts of hot water pressure pouring through your shower head have never been more accessible, thanks to these new instant water heaters. 

With a more significant initial investment, a bit of diesel, and a splash of electric current, you’ll never have to wait long to heat cold water.

Another benefit of relying on tankless water heaters is the strain on your propane or 12-volt system. In a unit with a tank, there will be a constant draw of electric or gas energy to not only heat your water but also to maintain the right temperature.

With no tank to stay warm, your heater will only draw a volt reading when you’re using the sink or shower.

All this information may make the decision easy, but there are drawbacks to using a tankless water heater. Your tankless water heater unit will need some help to get all that hot water pressure started. 

Campervans using tankless water heaters must rely on a large freshwater tank and potent energy supply for their water pressure. With no tank, there is also no such thing as a portable tankless water heater.

If you’ve got the right infrastructure, tankless water heaters will be the best way to get the water temperature your shower deserves. However, they’re not always necessary.

A tankless water heater will be more expensive than a tanked version, and it will demand more propane GPM than other options.

For this reason, a smaller van conversion or someone who isn’t planning on relying on their hot water heater every time they go camping may stick with the old-fashioned method provided by a tank.

Great hot water heater tanks can heat up to 10 gallons of water in an hour. Once you’ve used up all the hot water in the tank, you’ll have to wait a few hours before your next shower.

Hot Shower Tankless Water Heater
Hot shower anyone? Yes please!

How much Run Time Do I need?

More than the capabilities of your tankless water heater, the maximum run time of your unit will be defined by how much fuel, water, and battery power is available in your campervan.

Some hot water heaters have an emergency cut-off that won’t prevent draining the resources of your camper van for more than 20 minutes, but every hot water on our list can run as long as there is water pressure coming through the pipes. 

The only exception is with a hot water heater with a tank. Once you completely drain the tank, it will take an hour before the next batch of hot water is ready.

Portable or Permanent install?

Some high-quality hot water heaters require an installation process that involves drilling holes through the walls of your campervan. A casual camper who enjoys sleeping under the stars as much as sleeping in their van may opt for a portable hot water heater that allows you to shower anywhere.

Portable water heaters are generally cheaper but don’t reach the same heights as a hot water heater you install permanently.

The Top Campervan Water Heater

Looking for a quick pick? This is our top recommendation:

Camplux Pro Water Heater

EDITOR’S CHOICE:

CAMPLUX PRO

This affordable beast is more than capable of generating heat in the average campervan.

The best-selling tankless water heaters have best-in-class water pressure and efficiency to earn their place in campervans across the country.

With an amazingly low flow rate and safety features throughout, there’s hardly a campervan on the market that won’t feel the benefit of this option. 

Conclusion

Now that you have the facts at your disposal, all that’s left for you to do is pick the right heater for the job, install it underneath your sink, and get the hot water pump switched on.

Decide what kind of water pressure, heating power, flow rate, freeze protection, and water temperature are suitable for your camper van to help guide you towards the best heater for the job.

Make sure you don’t just buy the best water heater for your next trip, but the one that will best pump hot water into your camper for years to come.

However you’ve rigged up your camper van, you should pick the hot water heater that can give you the most GPM with the least BTU.

For most systems, no one provides a better combination of efficient heating and affordable prices than the Camplux Pro, making it our editor’s choice to power camper vans around the globe. 

This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase a product we recommend using the links in this article, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We promise to use this pocket money to buy lots of coffee and fuel for the campervan to keep us enjoying #VanLife for just a little longer. We appreciate your support, and only recommend products we know and trust. Thank you friends!

About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd - Van Life Theory

Hi! We're Alesha and Jarryd, the founders of Van Life Theory! We're currently travelling around Australia in our 2008 Mercedes Sprinter campervan and sharing our best experiences, stories, reviews and adventures as we go along. Make sure you follow along on our Instagram and YouTube!

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