Heating Solutions for the Project M Topper Camper

planar 2d portable diesel heater for camper

If you plan on camping in cold weather with a Project M camper, you’re going to have to come up with some sort of heating solution.  I spent a mild winter sleeping at night in mine and despite having the insulation pack option, insulated walls and coming up with a way to insulate the metal truck bed floor with my own DIY modular camper floor solution, it’s too much volume inside to just rely on body heat for any measurable warmth in cold weather.

For a solution to at least sleep comfortably through cold nights, I added a 1” memory foam mattress on top of the vinyl bed pads that were an option with the camper. Additionally, I fitted a 12V travel blanket that I could power off the Project M 12V power station, so I had a heated camper bed at night that also dealt with common condensation issues. This was a great, cheap solution to get a good night sleep, but as soon as I climb out of bed it was back to freezing. So, I decided to start researching ways I could heat the entire camper interior and different products available to do so.

There seems to be 3 main options for fuel: propane, diesel and solid fuel. Since the Chevy K10 is outfitted with its original 6.2 GM Detroit diesel engine and has dual tanks, a diesel heater is probably the best option so I wouldn’t have to carry an additional fuel source, and could probably tie directly into one of the fuel tanks if needed.

dickinson newport diesel heater
Dickinson Newport Diesel Heater

Dickinson Newport Diesel Cabin Heater

One of the coolest options in my opinion because it’s like a tiny fireplace with a little window to watch the flame inside for ambiance, the Dickinson Newport diesel cabin heater was originally designed for use in boat cabins, like sailboats to be mounted on the bulkhead. The heater is offered with diesel as a fuel source, and the other 2 fuel options as well.

There’s some hurdles however to implementing this heater on a Project M camper. The unit utilizes a 3” metal chimney vent that’s minimum 4’ long. To integrate this, you’d have to drill a large hole for the vent pipe and ensure it’s far enough away from the pop-up roof vinyl fabric siding so it doesn’t melt or damage it, or any other part of the camper for that matter susceptible to heat. Not done properly would clearly be a fire hazard.

The other hurdle is cost, as the diesel version of this heater is not cheap, roughly $1,500 at the time I wrote this article.

Fuel Consumption: 1.29 to 3.2 gallons over 24 hours continuous use.
BTU’s: 6500 to 16250 from low to high settings.

The unit comes with a 12V draft fan that can be used in 24V applications as well.

planar 2d portable diesel heater for camper
Planar Portable Diesel Heater

Planar Portable Diesel Heater

Diesel heaters have exploded in popularity recently for camping applications, and one of the cool options now available is Planar’s Portable Diesel Heater. Unlike other solutions, this is a completely self-contained unit that makes it ideal for many camping applications. Apart from using diesel or kerosene for fuel, all you need is a 12V source for ignition and you have portable heat.  The unit being self-contained has its own crush-proof fuel container. I could easily refill this container when needed from one of the K10’s fuel tanks using a simple hand pump.

The unit would sit outside the camper. I could probably easily make a bracket to quick-mount it to the Project M’s L-track on the exterior, or one of the camper jack mounts. The only hurdle is an inlet to the camper – again a hole may have to be cut to insert the heated air hose, but I thought of another option, where I might be able to fabricate some sort of insert that sits in the small slide window and is removable. It seems this unit would require the least amount of work to set up.

The one major drawback to the Planar portable heater is cost – roughly $1,800 which to me is astronomical and way out of my current budget.

Fuel Consumption: .72 to 1.44 gallons over 24 hours continuous use
BTU’s: 2,730 to 6,825 from low to high

Webasto Diesel Heater
Webasto Diesel Camper Heater

Webasto Diesel Air Heater

The Webasto Air Top 2000STC Diesel Air Heater unit can be mounted outside or inside the vehicle, and has a fresh air intake on one side, and the heated air exits the other end.  A fuel line ties into a can or existing fuel tank, and a small exhaust pipe for the spent fuel. Same as the other heating systems, this unit uses a 12V source for ignition. It’s significantly lighter and more compact than the previous mentioned heaters at 2.6kg.  The Webasto heater also comes with its own Digital Smarttemp MultiControl for precise heating, and can even connect to the Webasto ThermoConnect App.

I believe I could make an insert that fits into the small slide window for the heat and air intake lines that feed the camper, similar to the idea with the Planar, and mount the unit under the K10 since there is a ton of room for it, and it would be easy to tie into one of the fuel tanks.

Still, price is up there at $1,125 which unless I’m living in the camper a decent amount of time, I have a hard time justifying.

Fuel Consumption: .76 to 1.52 gallons over 24 hours continuous use
BTU’s: 3,000 to 7,000 from low to high

Cheaper Diesel Camper Air Heater Solutions

As with many products these days, there often seems to be off-brand, cheaper versions of them that are commonly made in China or other countries that are for sale on Amazon.  They may often be of a somewhat lower quality, but the price point offsets this. Here’s a couple I found that are much lower priced that I’m interested in:

VEVOR 5KW All-in-One Diesel Air Heater
This unit is much like the style of the Webasto Air Heater, but it’s built into a self-contained unit that has an LCD screen and a remote control. It runs off 12V for ignition. The tank holds 1.3 gallons of diesel.

The unit can really crank out heat, but will consume more fuel.

The big plus is cost – roughly 1/10th the cost at only $140 which is incredible.

BTU’s: Up to 17000
Fuel Consumption: 1.14 to 3 gallons over 24 hours continuous use

VEVOR 5KW Diesel Air Heater
This air heater is also the same style as the Webasto, and not self-contained. It comes with an LCD, remote control, all heating/exhaust/fuel lines, wiring, mounting hardware and a 2.6 gallon fuel tank. It’s the same BTU’s and Fuel Consumption as Vevor’s self-contained 5KW unit, so I assume it’s the same heater w/o the self-contained case. Amazingly, this unit is also just $140.

BTU’s: Up to 17000
Fuel Consumption: 1.14 to 3 gallons over 24 hours continuous use