The Best Outdoor Heaters for Socially-Distanced, Outdoor Fun in the Cold

outdoor gas pyramid heater working on
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We’re in the thick of a long COVID winter which means no socially distanced outdoor hangs. Well, let us clarify, no more socially distanced outdoor hangs for those without outdoor heaters.

A few months back, outdoor heaters were sold out almost everywhere. When cities across the country (including NYC) indefinitely extended their outdoor eating policies, restaurants, bars and beer gardens alike have invested in a variety of outdoor heating solutions to ensure diners have a safe, warm place to continue outdoor eating whilst coronavirus is still running rampant. Therefore, finding an outdoor heater became nearly impossible. Thankfully, supplies have rebounded and we’ve got some great picks to choose between for the last of the chilly months.

We at SPY researched our behinds off to find the best outdoor heaters that are still available for purchase online. Instead of searching all over the internet for patio heaters from sketchy no-name brands, our e-commerce editors turned the internet upside down to find the best patio heaters that are still in stock. Now, your outdoor hangs don’t have to end after all, and you and your best pals can stay warm and cozy while enjoying socially distanced fun. You’re welcome.

When shopping for the best patio heaters, most people are looking for restaurant-style gas or electric heaters. However, because of the ongoing pandemic, these types of products are in short supply. Thus, we’ve chosen to include three types of outdoor heaters in this post:

Propane Heaters & Fire Pits: Many commercial patio heaters you see at restaurants rely on propane or natural gas heaters. Likewise, many residential fire pits and outdoor heaters rely on propane. You’ll need to purchase propane separately.

Fire Pits: Metal fire pits may not be outdoor heaters in the traditional sense, but beggars can’t be choosers! If you’re trying to keep the socially distanced fun going through fall and winter, a good old-fashioned fire pit may be your best bet.

Electric Heaters: Electric heaters are especially hard to find right now. This category also includes infrared heaters, which direct a targeted beam of heat instead of heating the air. These heaters are easy to use and highly efficient.

From portable heaters to firepit tables to sky-high splurges, keep scrolling to find the best outdoor heaters you can still find online for purchase right now — until they’re gone, that is.

  

1. Amazon Basics Outdoor Patio Heater

BEST OVERALL

This affordable outdoor heater from Amazon is back in stock and provides warmth up to a 9-foot radius, which makes it super ideal for porches, patios and backyards. It’s made with sturdy, durable aluminum and has a powder-coated finish that’s formulated to withstand the elements. It has an easy push-button start and works via a 20lb propane gas tank. It has a safety auto shut-off valve as well as a water box so you can add weight to the base. There are also wheels included which makes it super portable, and it weighs max 38 pounds so it’s easy to lift and move to where you need it.

Amazon basics outdoor heater Courtesy of Amazon

  

2. Hampton Bay 35″ Steel Propane Fire Pit

RUNNER UP

If you go on sites like Amazon, you can still find some patio heaters made by no-name overseas brands. These kinds of purchases can be risky, which is why we recommend buying outdoor heaters from trusted brands. And if you’re looking for a top-rated heater from a reliable brand, then Hampton Bay outdoor heaters are what you’re looking for. This 50,000 BTU propane fire pit will heat a 215 sq. ft. area. The fire pit features an elegant table-like design and has durable steel housing and automatic shutoff.

hampton bay patio heater Courtesy of The Home Depot

  

3. Hampton Bay Whitfield Galvanized Steel Wood Burning Fire Pit

BEST FIRE PIT

There’s nothing going full-on bonfire the second fall hits the scene. While it might not be the outdoor heater you were anticipating to see, fire pits are the OG outdoor heater for socially distance group scenarios. (Click here to find more great fire pits for sale.) Gather round with your closest buds, craft brews and ciders in hand and chat the day away as the sun goes down and the moon appears. If you’re looking for aesthetics that aren’t necessarily synonymous with your average fire pit, this wood burning fire pit from Hampton Bay is for you. It has a modern appeal with a seamless blend to fit in any outdoor space. It even comes with a cooking grate, so while you’re warming up, you can even have the option to chef it up without leaving your seat. Of course, you can always stick to s’mores instead. How’s that for an outdoor heater?

Hampton Bay Whitfield Galvanized Steel Wood Burning Fire Pit Courtesy of Home Depot

  

4. Dr. Infrared 1500W Heater

CONTENDER

Continue those summer activities outside with Dr. Infrared’s wall-mounted heater that’s ideal for outdoor and even indoor purposes. Because it’s a plug-in heater, the heat provided is clean and instant, so you don’t have to sit there and wait for twenty minutes as the gas warms the unit up. Unlike most gas units, this electric unit doesn’t smell at all. It’s made with durable, weatherproof aluminum so you can use it outside in the rain, shine or snow. While it’s an excellent outdoor unit you can mount next to a table for outdoor game nights and drinking seshes, it’s also a great space heater that can attach overhead in your basement or garage when working or cleaning, too. This infrared heater has three heat settings and is a great alternative to propane heaters.

Dr. Infrared Heater Courtesy of Amazon

  

5. Mr. Heater MH9BX Buddy

BEST PORTABLE OUTDOOR HEATER

Watching the game from your buddy’s TV on his outdoor patio so you can pretend you’re tailgating? Bring the portable. No, not your charger. Well, maybe that too. But, we’re talking about Mr. Heater’s portable outdoor heater. This little buddy is powered by propane and has the power to heat up spaces up to 225 square feet. It has the ability to run for around three hours at max BTU, which is just enough time before you guys switch over to the bonfire anyway. There’s a carry handle up top for ready-to-go portability and handling, and if god forbid the heater ever tips over, it shuts off automatically, which will absolutely save you guys from a catastrophe. While Mr. Heater portable heaters are designed for camping, they’ll work just as well as your new backyard party pal.

Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy Courtesy of Amazon

  

6. Frontgate Somerset Patio Heater

BEST SPLURGE

You know what they say, the bigger, the better. If you’re a restaurant, bar owner or just a party lover that enjoys having friends over and you’re little behind on your outdoor heater purchase, the Frontgate Somerset patio heater is the perfect addition to have in our outdoor eating area. This unit has an electronic igniter system, so put that lighter away, but as you can imagine it’s a propane heater that requires your classic 20lb tank. If the heater tips over, there’s a tip-over protection system that will ensure nothing bad will happen. Because it’s solely made for outdoor use, do not take this thing inside, even if you think you can fit it. It’ll keep all your patrons (or backyard pals, if you’re intending to use this at home) cozy and warm the whole time they’re there.

Frontgate has some of the best patio heaters for sale in 2021, although their stylish outdoor furniture is on the pricier side. If that’s not a concern, then head to Frontgate to see the best outdoor heaters in stock anywhere.

Frontgate Somerset Patio Heater

  

7. Hiland Pyramid Patio Propane Heater

BEST DESIGN

This tall pyramid heater from Hiland has an artistic and effective design you’re used to seeing on outdoor patios at restaurants. It’s made with hammered bronze for an attractive sheen and comes with wheels for easy portability. It has an igniter that makes it easy to start up as well as an auto shut-off valve. It takes the standard 20lb propane tank that’ll last for 8-10 hours on high. It also has a quartz glass tube that holds the visually mesmerizing flame inside that provides heat in every direction as well as a design element.

Hiland pyramid heater, outdoor heaters Courtesy of Amazon

  

8. Frontgate Commercial Patio Heater

BEST COMMERCIAL OUTDOOR HEATER

You don’t always have to break the bank when heating up the outdoor space at your bar or restaurant. While, yes, our previous pick from Frontgate is an excellent choice, it’s definitely more on the luxurious side. If you’re a restaurant or bar owner looking to heat a larger outdoor space with more than one unit, these $500 heaters will have you covered on any chilly day or night of the week. Keep any and all patrons keeping your business alive as cozy as they can be with a few of these scattered about your backyard patio or front sidewalk. It comes with a safety auto shut-off valve, wheels for easy portability for when you close up shop at night, a stable base and stainless steel burners.

Frontgate Commercial Patio Heater Courtesy of Frontgate

  

9. Hampton BayCrossridge Antique Bronze Finish Gas Fire Pit

ALSO CONSIDER

Want the ability to have an effortless, wood-free fire whenever you want in your backyard? This antique-looking gas fire pit is an excellent wood alternative that’s perfect to use in any outdoor setting with friends and family. Save money on wood and electricity, because this pit entirely uses propane. The pit is square in shape and has an adjustable flame feature to keep you as toasty as you’d like. Like some of our other outdoor heaters, this one ignites electrically, which is an easier, safer alternative to lighting up with a lighter.

Hampton Bay Crossridge Antique Bronze Finish Gas Fire Pit Courtesy of Home Depot

  

10. Solo Stove Bonfire Fire Pit

BEST SMOKELESS FIRE PIT

There’s one problem with fire pits that we can all agree on: we hate, and we mean hate the smoke. Normally, that’s why most seek out an outdoor heater alternative that doesn’t use a flame. If you still love the flame but hate choking on thick, black clouds, check out the Solo Stove smokeless fire pit. It pushes the envelope of what’s possible in terms of airflow and combustion, and has a minimalist, stainless steel design that’ll compliment your patio’s decor. It has a double wall design with bottom holes that vent oxygen towards the flames and push the warmth upward and out. The efficient burn is what lowers the smoke level, and this Bonfire comes completely constructed and ready to use.

solo stove bonfire fire pit, outdoor heaters Courtesy of Amazon

  

11. AmazonBasics Oscillating Ceramic Heater

BEST OSCILLATING HEATER

While this heater isn’t necessarily made for the outdoors, it’s great to use in small backyards, porches, garages and solariums that don’t necessarily trap so much heat. Just be careful, if you’re using this heater outside, make sure you take it in the second it begins to rain. This space heater has 3 options: low, high and fan only and also oscillates to provide heat in numerous directions. It’s quite tiny and easy to transport to and fro wherever you’ve got an outlet nearby, just keep it out of humid areas like bathrooms and laundry rooms.

AmazonBasics Oscillating Ceramic Heater Courtesy of Amazon

  

12. 15,000 BTU Portable Radiant Propane Thermablaster

BEST SPACE-SAVING

This little heater carries a big punch, so blast heat directly where you want it with this portable Thermablaster. The heater can use a 10 or 20lb propane tank with ease and requires no electricity at all to ignite. Because it’s great for small spaces, you can keep you and your close pals toasty warm the whole day through and never feel a chill. Use both indoors and out, just be sure if you’re using outside, bring it in after using and don’t allow it to get wet.

15,000 BTU Portable Radiant Propane Thermablaster Courtesy of Home Depot