How to Stay Warm in a Tent in Cold Weather

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Weather is unpredictable and if you’re camping you want to be prepared. One of the most commonly asked questions about camping is how to stay warm in a tent in cold weather. Camping isn’t just for the beautiful Spring time. If you are prepared for colder weather tent camping can still be fun. Here are a few tips and tricks for you to stay wam in your tent on you next cold weather camping adventure!

Bring Cold Weather Appropriate Clothing

Bringing weather-appropriate clothing is very important when tent camping. You won’t be spending all of your time in your tent while you’re camping. You’ll want to explore and see what nature has to show you! Now, this doesn’t just mean that you need to bring a sweater and some long pants. You have to dress for the specific climate of the area you are camping. And always bring extra clothes especially good gloves!

Maybe you are camping where it won’t necessarily be that cold. It could even be snowing outside and not be too cold. In this case, you’ll want to bring plenty of extra clothing or clothing made with a self-wicking material. A self-wicking material can be synthetically made or it could be a natural material. A get clothing material for cold and wet weather is wool! Wool is a naturally self-wicking clothing material. This is why sheep do so well in colder wet climates like Ireland, the United Kingdom and the Pacific North West of the United States.

Woman Staying Warm in Cold Weather
Woman Staying Warm in Cold Weather

Have Some Good Pajamas for the Night

When it’s time to go to bed for the night you’ll want to be nice and cozy. Whenever you camp in cold weather it’s a good idea to change your clothes when you go into your tent for the night. Your clothes from the day could be cold and wet from snow or moisture from colder weather. You’ll also want to store wet clothes where they will dry out and not get moldy or mildewy. When I sleep in a tent in cold weather I like to have a couple of layers on throughout the night. I usually have sweat pants, a long sleeve shirt with a light sweater on top. And also a sleeping hat! Now, maybe it’s because I started balding early in life… But, I like to wear a warm beanie over night. This helps keep my head and ears warm throughout the whole night.

Bring a 4 Season Sleeping Bag to Stay Warm in a Tent

A cold weather appropriate sleeping bag is one of the most important items to bring with you! A 4 season sleeping bag should be able to keep you warm in temperatures as low as 0˚ Fahrenheit (about -18˚ Celsius). Now, these sleeping bags claim to keep you warm in temperatures that low. But I still like to layer up at night, even in a 4 season sleeping bag. Especially when camping in below freezing temperatures at night.

Tent Camping in the Snow
Tent Camping in the Snow

Stay Warm With a 4 Season Tent While Camping

Not only are there 4 season sleeping bags, there are also 4 season tents! Having a good tent is key to having a cozy night camping in the cold. If you are solo camping you’ll want to get a 4 season tent that isn’t too big. Having a larger space to insulate can make it get cold pretty fast after the sun goes down. But, you can keep your tent warm throughout the night if you have more body heat in your tent. So, tent camping with a partner or group can be a great way to keep each other warm.

Use Tent Safe Heaters to Stay Warm

Being not cold and being toasty warm are two very different experiences when in a tent. The key to a comfy, warm night camping in a tent is a good tent safe heater. A tent safe heater still has to be used with care. Just because they are “tent safe” doesn’t mean something can’t go wrong. These heaters usually have a trip detector that shuts the unit off if it get’s knocked over. But, if your heater is really hot and it happened fall over in a tent, it could still be hot enough to melt tent fabric.

You’ll want to place your tent safe heater towards the middle of your tent, away from any walls. And also keep at least a few feet of clearance around the heater in all directions. Just incase it happened to fall over you won’t want it to ignite some clothing laying on the floor of your tent. Now, if you have a really small tent, even a tent-safe heath won’t be an option.

If you have a large and well made tent, you could even have a tiny wood burning stove! These small wood burning stoves have a chimney. So, your tent will need to be able to accommodate this accessory. But man, do these little stoves make a huge difference! The only downside of these is the set up and take down process. But, if you plan on having a more extended camping adventure in a nice tent. Then a wood burning stove is the way to go!

Propane and Other Fuel Sourced Heaters

You’ll also want to keep in mind what fuel source your heater uses and if it’ll work for your camping trip. If you have a small electric heater you’ll want to make sure you are camping at a campsite that is a “developed campsite” that has electricity available. If you’re camping at a dispersed campsite or primitive campsite without electricity, then you’ll want a fuel sourced heater. The Mr. Buddy heater is a great heater for small spaces. The Mr. Buddy heater from the company Mr. Heater says that it is ok for indoor and outdoor use. But, in my experience, there is a faint propane smell that occurs after using the heater in a small space like a tent.

If you do use a propane or other fuel sourced heater, make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector inside your tent. And it’s always a good idea to keep some sort of airflow in your tent. That way you can get some fresh air and not be harmed by the residual fumes that may be present in your tent. Some of the nicer heaters even have an oxygen depletion sensor that shuts off the heater in an emergency.

Woman camping in a tent in cold weather
Woman camping in a tent in cold weather

Insulate Your Tent, Inside & Out

Choose your tent’s location carefully to avoid falling snow off trees and cold wind fronts. You can use tarp above your tent like a rain guard. This will help keep moisture off of your tent, and protect if from falling snow. You can also utilize a tarp to create a wind block. Create a make-shift “wall” on the side of your tent that the wind is blowing from. Insulate the ground underneath your tent with a tent footprint. A tent footprint is made of a thick tarp like material that helps keep the cold from creeping up from the ground. It should also be sized appropriately to your tent.

Now that the outside of your tent is all insulated, you can focus on the inside! To stay warm in a tent when camping in cold weather I like too make a big pallet inside my tent. I use a bunch of blankets laid on top of each other. And, underneath those blankets, I use foam sleeping pads that have a good “R Value” for the temperature you’ll be camping in. An R Value is a number associated with how well a material can insulate. On top of the blankets, I have my sleeping bag and maybe another blanket on top if I have an extra one!

Accessories to Stay Warm in a Tent

Thee are several accessories to help you stay warm in a tent. One of my personal favorites that you can pretty much find anywhere now, are hand warmers! Hand warmers are small bags that heat up when you shake them up. They can stay warm for a surprisingly long time too. You can also find some usb rechargeable hand warmers too but they need electricity to work.

Having an emergency blanket on hand is always a good idea no matter how cold it is when you’re camping. But, it’s especially nice to have when you go camping in below freezing temperatures. It doesn’t have to be an emergency to use one these mylar blankets either. You can drape the emergency blanket over your tent to help keep it insulated. Or even use it as an extra blanket if you need it!

If you’re really careful, you can even do the ol’ hot water bottle trick. That’s where you heat up some water, on your camping stove or campfire. And you fill water bottles with the warm water right before you go to bed. Then take those hot water bottles and (with the lid tightly secured!!) put them down at your feet in your sleeping bag. This will keep your toes nice ad warm throughout the night!

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