So, you’re planning a camping trip – close to the mountains in the cooler months of the year.
Sounds magnificent! Stunning views of snowy hill tops, frozen lakes, starry nights, and less crowded campsites await you.
At the same time, you might be wondering, “How do I keep a tent warm?” This is a very important question to answer.
Not only do you want to stay warm in order to be more comfortable, but also for health and safety reasons too. After all, when you’re unprepared at extreme temperatures, risk of hypothermia is possible and can sometimes even be fatal.
Avoiding condensation, staying dry, and effective insulation, are all important factors to keep in mind when trying to keep a tent warm.
But how can you achieve minimal condensation and effective insulation? In this article, we’ll provide you with two detailed lists:
- One will include effective ways to keep your tent warm
- The other will tell you the ‘don’ts’ of keeping a tent warm!
These lists have been put together carefully, keeping packing weight, costs, and practicality in mind.
So, take your knowledge of camping to the next level and read this guide on How to Keep a Tent Warm!
20 Effective Ways to Keep Your Tent Warm / Stay Warm in a Tent
It can be overwhelming when thinking about what you need to pack or prepare for when going camping in a tent.
This is especially relevant when organizing how you are going to stay warm, particularly during the night. On top of this, there is a fine line between what you can and can’t fit when packing your gear!
Below are some tips and potential things you can add to your camping ‘to-do’ list that will keep you warm in your tent, while also ensuring you aren’t loading yourself up with too much camping gear.
1. Choosing the right tent
When going to purchase a tent you may be wondering what type of tent is the warmest. The best bet for you is a 4-season tent.
These tend to differentiate from the 3-season tents by having a nylon fabric rather than mesh to seal in as much warmth as possible.
Have a look at the Geertop Portable 4-season tent if you want to achieve ultimate warmth and additional benefits such as effective waterproofing!
2. Choosing a suitable campsite
While the tent itself is a crucial factor when trying to stay warm, location is also equally important.
For instance, keeping your tent out of the wind – particularly when there are howling cold gusts – is essential!
To achieve this, it may be a good idea to situate your tent under tree coverage. It may also be useful to angle the tent in a way that faces the morning sun so that the tent can naturally warm up with the sun’s rays in the morning.
3. Insulate your tent
There are several easy ways you can insulate your tent.
Firstly, smaller is better: don’t bring a 4-person tent if there is only one of you! Opt for the smallest tent possible so there is less open space, thereby trapping as much heat as possible.
Another way you can optimize insulation is by having something on the ground and over your tent.
This could be an old mat, rug, or even towel on the floor and a rainfly or tarp over the tent to lock that heat in. Grizzly tarps are an affordable heavy-duty option for covering the outside of your tent as well.
4. Using a tent heater
There is controversy on whether tent heaters are safe, especially when considering heaters that use flammable gasses.
However, there are options out there that are both effective and safe to use. For example, the Mr. Heater MH9BX Buddy is a brilliant option. This heater is hooked up to a propane tank but shuts off when low oxygen levels are detected, ensuring your safety. It’s also worth considering a winter tent with a stove jack, which allows you to use a vented wood burning stove to keep your tent warm.
5. Ventilating your tent
Surprisingly, ventilating your tent and opening it up is useful for staying warm in your tent!
This is because doing so prevents condensation, subsequently keeping you as dry as possible. Opening the vents at the top of your tent is most useful for this.
6. Using a sleeping pad
If you want to take warmth to the next level, look into purchasing the POWERLIX Ultralight Sleeping Pad for your next camping trip!
The thermal insulation in the pad ensures protection against the cold ground, keeping your body warm and comfortable.
7. Using a sleeping bag
Having the right sleeping bag is crucial for warmth when camping in a tent.
The ZOOOBELIVES 10-degree F Hydrophobic Down Sleeping Bag is an excellent option.
It’s a 4 season sleeping bag with duck down packed into it, which is a type of feather that is known for providing ultimate warmth. Additionally, it is water resistant and quick-drying – perfect for if you are faced with wet weather on top of the cold!
8. Using a sleeping bag liner
A sleeping bag liner is that extra layer you can add for a warmer, more comfortable sleep. In fact, it can be up to 27 degrees warmer!
The Litume All Season Bag Liner claims to increase the temperature by that amount, thanks to its thick and soft (but lightweight) fleece.
9. Using a tent footprint
As mentioned earlier, ground insulation is key to a warm tent. What can you do to optimize this? Bring a tent footprint!
Tent footprints provide insulation from down under, quite literally. The footprint sits under your tent as another layer between the cold ground and the tent itself.
This provides another element of waterproofing and protects the tent against wear and tear. The Clostnature tent footprint is a good allrounder and a very affordable option.
10. Dress in layers
While it may seem obvious, how you dress is extremely important!
A good rule of thumb is to have three layers. The base layer wicks sweat off the skin, the middle layer retains your body heat, and your outer layer is the ‘shield’ against the elements!
11. Have a good cold-rated air mattress
A lot of emphasis on what’s beneath you and how that contributes to warmth has already been talked about. The same is true when it comes to choosing the mattress you sleep on!
Air mattresses are an easy-to-pack and efficient option for camping. But which ones are the warmest?
12. Lots of blankets
Again: the more layers, the better!
Even more useful is having fleece blankets to stack on top of your sleeping bag. They are soft and warm, but also sufficiently lightweight so that you can pack more of them. If you’re interested in this option, be sure to check out some of our top picks for winter camping blankets.
13. Using hand warmers
Hand warmers are essentially little packs that can be shaken to warm up, perfect for hands or feet.
While they won’t necessarily heat your whole body, they are good for taking the edge off when temperatures are extreme.
Pro tip: Put them in your sleeping bag for even better warmth at night! HotHands Hand Warmers from Amazon are a great option if you are looking for safe, non-electrical hand warmers that are priced affordably.
13. Seal tent seams and zippers
Before departing for your camping trip, it’s extremely important to seam seal your tent especially if you have had leaks in the past.
Sealing up seams and zippers will help prevent waking up cold in a puddle of water! If you are planning on getting a seam sealant, Stormsure Storm Seam Sealer is an excellent option as it works on a wide range of tent fabrics.
14. Avoid moisture build-up inside the tent
Condensation or any type of moisture built up in a tent is a no-go as it can reduce insulating properties and make your gear unpleasantly wet and soggy!
This ultimately decreases warmth in your tent. A few effective ways to avoid this are to make sure to vent your tent, dry out any wet items in the sun when possible, and put all wet gear into a separate sack.
15. Snuggle up
If you are sharing a tent with another person, this tip is for you!
Sharing body heat with someone else is an effective way of heating up and keeping both parties warm. Don’t be shy – get close and optimize each other’s body heat!
16. Cover your head
Your head is usually the only part of your body outside a sleeping bag, exposed to the cold air.
Having a woolen hat on is a great move so that more of your body is covered from any cold draughts that make their way into the tent.
17. Have a Mylar Thermal Blanket Handy
Mylar blankets are reflective blankets that help trap body heat and are often used for survival purposes or medical emergencies.
It’s best to be safe than sorry and pack one of these on every trip, just in case the weather really turns to custard!
They are light and easy to pack, making them a no-brainer to bring along. You can purchase Risen Emergency Foil Mylar Thermal Blankets are available at an affordable price on Amazon.
18. Use a hot water bottle
It’s quite likely you already have a hot water bottle lying around the house that’s not currently being used. You may not have realized it, but a hot water bottle can be extremely helpful when trying to keep your tent warm!
Filling a heat-resistant water bottle and tucking it into your sleeping bag will help with localized heat.
With this said, be sure it is securely fastened so that it won’t leak boiling water! Getting a thick hot water bottle cover can protect you just in case there is a leak or the hot water bottle bursts.
19. Heat from the core
There is often advice to try to keep your toes warm by placing hot packs or hot water bottles at your feet.
However, if you want your whole body to gain heat efficiently, placing the heat source at your core near the groin is much more efficient.
In this area, blood that has been heated will travel to all other zones of the body – warming you up more quickly!
20. Eat, Eat, Eat!
Burning calories gained from snacking and digesting foods is an active bodily function that will keep you warm!
In particular, high-fat and high-protein meals are useful as they break down more slowly – ensuring that your body is constantly has fuel to burn.
Some Don’ts To Keep In Mind To Stay Warm In A Tent
The fundamental concept behind keeping a tent warm is to keep the tent itself and your equipment as dry as can be and to create as much insulation as possible.
This can be achieved through various resources such as tent footprints, high-quality sleeping bags, and purchasing the right type of tent right from the outset.
However, alongside the “do’s” of how to keep a tent warm, there are important “don’ts” to be aware of as well!
Some of these are more obvious than others, so here’s a list of recommendations of what NOT to do when trying to keep your tent warm:
Avoid opening the tent door frequently
If you keep opening the door of your tent, you are at risk of warm air escaping and reducing insulation due to a disruption of the barrier that protects you from the elements.
Additionally, if this occurs frequently, regaining warmth becomes harder as well!
Do not close all the vents in your tent
This tip goes hand in hand with what was mentioned earlier in regard to ensuring that you ventilate your tent properly.
Condensation is the enemy! If you keep your vents closed all the time, condensation will build up because of the differences in temperature from inside to outside.
This will lead to wet clothes, tent walls, and equipment. Moisture + cold temperatures = a cold tent.
Do not smoke in your tent
It may be tempting to smoke a cigarette inside your tent on those colder evenings (if you’re a smoker). It just makes sense, right?
However, this is certainly not advised. Smoking in your tent is a fire hazard and can lead to serious danger. Save the cigarettes or brave the cold for a few minutes!
Do not use your stove inside the tent
Like cigarettes, any sort of flame is a huge fire risk. Tents are made from flammable and non-breathable fabrics.
While it may seem like the best way to escape cooking in the cold, it’s definitely not recommended.
Do not keep your heater running while you are sleeping
Tent heaters can be useful and safe if you use them in the proper manner.
However, if they are turned on for too long (such as overnight), there are several risks that may arise.
These risks include setting fire to the tent as well as deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. If you use a tent heater, make sure to turn it off before you go to bed!
Do not sleep directly on the cold ground without insulation
Having a barrier between you and the cold ground is important for keeping warm in a tent.
Without ground insulation, you’ll be allowing the heat in your body to be sucked right out!
Do not ignore signs of hypothermia; stay alert and warm!
If you are in an extremely cold climate, it is important to be wary of symptoms associated with hypothermia.
Signs of this condition include turning pale/blue, having a decreased conscious state, and a lowered heart rate.
If you do believe you could be developing hypothermia, it’s important to try different methods to get warmer quickly or seek immediate help.
Do not camp in low-lying areas prone to cold air pockets
Low-lying areas tend to be colder and soggier due to cold air that likes to settle at lower altitudes. If possible, get to higher ground where pockets of sun are present during the day.
Do not bring wet or damp clothing inside the tent
Bringing wet clothing items inside your tent is a no-go!
Doing so may bring in unpleasant things like condensation or mold, both of which contribute to a colder, less healthy tent. Leave them outside to dry or in a sack!
Do not use gas-powered heaters without proper ventilation
Some tent heaters may be fuelled by propane gas. Even though they may be labeled as ‘indoor safe’, adequate ventilation is still crucial in order to prevent the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or fire.
Don’t worry – your tent should still heat up even with a few vents open!
Do not use open flames or candles inside the tent
Open flames and candles are a huge fire risk inside tents. The flammable nature of the fabric used to make most tents means that this is almost always a bad idea!
Do not bring snow in your tent
Bringing snow into your tent is a recipe for disaster! When snow comes inside the tent, it will most likely melt (and fast).
This creates extra moisture and contributes to condensation. On top of this, there is a risk of clothing or other gear becoming wet due to the melted snow, which also does not help your efforts to stay warm.
Do not exhale in a sleeping bag
This tip may seem a bit odd, but hear us out!
While it may seem like a good idea to breathe into your sleeping bag to warm it up, what this actually does is create more moisture in your bag.
This moisture then turns into condensation – significantly reducing the insulation properties of your sleeping bag.
Do not use an unsuitable tent
it may be tempting to grab the cheapest tent off the shelf, but it may not be suitable for camping in colder climates!
Some tents may have weaker seals, less durable fabric, or barriers unsuited for harsher elements. Make sure to check that the tent you’re using is highly rated for cold weather.
Do not wear sweaty clothes to bed
You’ve just completed a big day of hiking and set up camp, and you’re likely to be sweaty after all that effort!
While it is tempting to hop straight into bed rather than stripping down in the cold, it’s vital to get into a new and dry change of clothes.
Trust me: you’ll be grateful you did. Staying in sweaty clothes that are damp will conduct heat away from the body. Ultimately, this contributes to more rapid heat loss during the night – something you definitely do not want!
Do not ignore weather warnings
Before going ahead with your camping trip, check the weather forecast. Tents can only do so much!
If the weather is predicted to be extremely cold, windy, or wet, it may be a good idea to postpone the trip.
These conditions will make it even harder to keep your tent warm, and it’s always more important to stay safe!
In summary, there are plenty of different things you can do (or shouldn’t do) when trying to keep a tent warm.
Having the right equipment such as a quality sleeping bag, being proactive with ventilation, or ensuring wet items are not inside the tent are a few of the many strategies available to help you stay warm in a tent.
However, there’s no need to be overwhelmed! Take the tips and tricks you’ve learned in this article and use whatever’s necessary for the type of trip you’re going on. Happy camping!