How to Use a Coleman Cataylic Heater

Written by aaron kopf
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How to Use a Coleman Cataylic Heater
Learn how to use a Coleman catalytic heater for warmth during your next camping trip. (tent in woods image by alice rawson from

Decades ago, campers who wanted warmth in the great outdoors had to build and light a crackling fire. Space heaters eventually emerged as portable alternatives, working similarly to coiled hob burners. Catalytic heaters, on the other hand, require only a canister of propane and an ignition source to function. Catalytic heaters, like Coleman's, slow the burning of the propane to slowly release radiant heat into the surrounding air.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Disposable propane cylinder, 465gr
  • Matches (optional)

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  1. 1

    Clear an area at least 2 feet square in front of the Coleman catalytic heater. Though the heater doesn't feature an open flame during regular operation, canvas or cloth placed against the heat shield can melt or even catch fire.

  2. 2

    Provide enough ventilation for the Coleman catalytic heater indoors or in a tent. You need an opening measuring at least 6 inches in diameter. An open tent flap or RV window should suffice. Coleman heaters don't create much carbon monoxide, but they do consume oxygen during operation.

  3. 3

    Screw a 465gr propane cylinder into the heater's threaded propane port found on the underside of most models. You'll hear a hissing sound as you twist the cylinder into place, but continue twisting.

  4. 4

    Press the cylinder support on the propane cylinder base, if applicable. More specialised models feature adjustable support legs that twist downward to aim the heater upwards, while others are designed to fit into golf cart cup holders.

  5. 5

    Twist the propane valve to the "Hi" position. You'll hear a gentle hissing sound as the propane releases into the heater.

  6. 6

    Press the red ignition switch several times until you see and hear the propane released into the heater ignite with a "pop." Alternatively, hold the head of a lit match near the base of the heat shield to ignite the propane.

  7. 7

    Adjust the valve for the desired amount of heat. Note that it will take the heater about 10 minutes to warm up to optimal heat output.

  8. 8

    Turn off the Coleman catalytic heater by twisting the propane valve to the "Off" position. Give the heater 15 minutes to cool off before touching the heat shield.

Tips and warnings

  • Always bring along a box of matches for every outdoor trip. A lit match can start every Coleman catalytic heater in the event of catastrophic ignition failure.
  • Never leave the Coleman catalytic heater on while you sleep.

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