How To Stay Warm In a Tent | 11 Cold Camping Tips

In Beginners Guide by J. PenneyLeave a Comment

I am a tent camper who lives in Newfoundland, Canada. When camping in a tent, no matter what time of the year, I know the weather can easily get cold. In NL summers we might have frost warnings, and we might even see snow. So I have learned some of the most important tips on how to stay warm in a tent.

To stay warm in a tent it requires preparation. You must prepare for the worst of conditions. When having the right gear and items prepared you can now handle any cold night. Simply, wear correct clothing and make sure to keep dry. The dampness of a tent is the number one cause of getting cold, so you must stay dry. 

However, in more detail below let’s look at our list of 11 tips on how to stay warm in a tent.



11 Tips On How to Stay Warm In a Tent?

  1. Layer Up Clothing
  2. Stay Dry
  3. Have A Warm Sleeping Bag
  4. Extra Blankets
  5. Tent Floor Insulation
  6. Heat Packs
  7. Tent Heaters
  8. Avoid Air Mattresses
  9. Choose Tent Size Accordingly
  10. Wear A Winter Hat
  11. Place Heat Conductor Over Tent

1. Layer Up Clothing First

This tip is pretty common sense for the most part. If you know the temperature is going to be cold, begin layering your clothing right away. Keep your body temperature at a comfortable level. Make sure to not overdress, this can cause you to be too warm and you will begin to sweat, which will actually cause you to get even colder. Also, make sure not to under-dress because once your body temperature lowers it is very difficult for clothing to warm you back up.

Long-johns and thermal base layers are important when sleeping at night, they help keep body temperatures warm. If you are interested in proper camping attire read our Proper Camping Attire Article, it has been ranked number 1 on google! Click and jump down to our warm camping clothes tips below.

2. Make Sure To Stay Dry

As mentioned in our quick response, becoming damp is the number one cause of becoming cold. It is a way for cold air temperatures to easily cool off any damp or wet areas surrounding your body. Wondering how to stay dry camping? Sometimes it’s not that easy and you may get wet. However, I always recommend campers to have a secondary clothing option. This gives you the option to wear one outfit while you can air out the other.

3. Find A Warm Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags are a very important piece of gear for a camper. Sometimes they are more expensive than others, find one that will simply keep you warm in the possible temperatures you will be camping in. If you are camping under 10°F then you will need a winter sleeping bag to keep you warm.

There are 3 types of sleeping bag insulation: Synthetic, Goose-Down, and Water-Resistant. The most regular purchase is the synthetic insulation because it is much more affordable. It still performs at a high degree and will keep you warm. Goose-Down is much more costly, however, it is more durable and compressed into a smaller pack for easier mobility. Lastly, water-resistant down insulation is ok. It is known to easily lose insulated heat when they are damp.

4. Extra Blankets

Just like at home, when you get chilly in bed you throw on extra blankets. So, in the tent throw on some extra blankets for more insulation. This is one of the easiest tips to do, but it isn’t really practical for a backpacking tent camper since that would be far too much carrying gear. For best insulation from a blanket, wrap yourself up like a burrito. This prevents heat from escaping in all directions. Plus one more tip to stay warm with a blanky, if you are camping in pairs you can wrap multiple people into one blanket. This can keep one another warm with body temperature, the oldest body heating tip in the books!

5. Tent Floor Insulation

When it comes to camping in a tent, having a tent floor insulator is perfect for so many things. Obviously, it can increase comfort, but what is important is that it can actually help keep you warm. The best floor example is the connectable floor tiles, they add an additional half inch of foam. They provide great comfort and are easily affordable.

There are many ideas you can come up with for your tent floor. Read our Tent Floor Padding Ideas Article here for multiple different ideas! The article is made to show comfort ideas, but they also provide insulation to keep the inside of your tent warmer.

6. Camping Heat Packs

A simple heating hack that I use when snowmobiling is the long lasting hand warmers. They are easily placed inside your boots, gloves, or any type of gear. They work best for camping when you place a couple inside your sleeping bag right before bed. This heats up your bag for when you hop in, and it also stays warm for the night! Very simple and practical for camping.

Another simple heat trick very similar is to reuse and fill a hot water bottle. Boil some water over a campfire, let it cool to a comfortable temperature and fill it up. They stay warm for hours and they keep your sleeping bag super warm. If you don’t have room for a hot water bottle, you can simply fill any regular bottle with warm water and place it inside the sleeping bag. The more durable bottles will hold heat for a longer period of time, which is important so they don’t cool overnight.

7. Tent Heaters

Tent heaters come in different styles, you can find electric or gas powered heaters.  Having a portable generator on hand makes it possible to have an electric heater. However, without a generator or any power source, the propane gas heaters are really the only other heater option available.

When on the search for a tent heater you must make sure it is safe. Taking care of a gas heater is a must, make regular maintenance checkups, and do not leave them on when you sleep. You don’t want to start a fire when you are in an enclosed tent, you would have limited time and space to escape.

8. Avoid Air Mattresses In Cold Weather

I use an air mattress when the weather is warm, however, it is not a good idea when it is cold. The air inside of the mattress will adapt to the outside temperature throughout the night, leaving you to be sleeping on a very cold bed. Having a cold layer underneath is a major cause for your body to get cold overnight. This is why we say tent floor insulation is important.

If you are to use an air mattress, you should have it insulated around and underneath. You should use a sleeping pad on top of it, this leaves a layer between your body and the cold mattress. Try to avoid them if possible when camping in cold conditions.

9. Choose Tent Size Accordingly

Let us compare a tent to a house. It cost a lot to heat a large home, and it is much more difficult to keep it warm throughout. A small house is simple to keep heated, and it is low costing.

It is pretty similar for a tent too, the larger the tent the harder to keep it warm inside. There is much more space inside which requires more heat to keep it warm. Imagine using a propane heater in a large tent. It would take double to triple the time to feel it warming up. A small tent would quickly heat and you wouldn’t use much fuel. Also, large tents have more vents which makes it even harder to keep heated.

10. Wear A Winter Hat

You might not think that a hat would do much when sleeping in a tent. We can actually lose a percentage of our body heat from our head, some say up to 40% and others say only 10%. When in a sleeping bag the only part of your body exposed is your head. Wearing a toque styled hat is exactly what you would want. It covers over your ears and prevents heat from escaping through the top of your head.

11. Place Heat Conductor Over Tent

When it is to warm camping I tell people that they can place a reflective blanket over their tent to reflect the heat away. So, when wanting to stay warm you can actually place a black sheet or tarp over your tent. Dark colors absorb the suns heat much better, so when you feel a dark material sitting in the sun it might even hurt to touch. Like walking barefoot on dark concrete compared to white rocks, you will definitely feel the difference.

Placing the material over your tent during the day will absorb the heat for hours, and for later when the sun has set it will be warmer inside the tent than the outside temperatures. The idea can keep you warm during the day and warm for a few hours at night, depending on the weather. The heats duration will obviously last longer with better outside weather conditions.

A few safety tips for this idea is to make sure your tent is breathable when you are inside. This is for multiple reasons. Condensation build up is something to be aware of, quick temperature changes can create the dripping inside the tent. When you get wet inside the tent that’s when you become uncomfortably chilly. Have vents partially open to keep heat in as long as possible, and make sure you do not completely cover the air vents.


Warm Camping Clothes Tips

Like mentioned in number one of the 11 tips, warm clothes are very important. Finding gear that actually keeps you warm might not be easy, that is why I want to help you find what works best for me. I am an outdoors person and I like to go fishing, snowmobiling, hiking, kayaking, and much more. Of course, I include some of these outdoor activities when I go camping. I always need to prepare and bring the correct clothing. What type of fabric will protect me best? What temperatures can I expect? What are the possible weather conditions?

Its all about the 3 layers to choose from. You must pick and choose what works best for the conditions you will be in. The layers are:

Base Layer – The first layer that touches your skin and must draw off sweat. Known as long underwear, the fabrics used are usually polyester, spandex, lycra, or nylon.

Middle Layer – This layer acts as an insulation for your own body heat; a layer to keep you warm. The colder the weather the more insulation this layer must provide. The fabrics best used are wool, polyester fleece, and insulated inner jackets.

Outer Layer – The outer layer is a protection against rain and cold winds. Water or sweat must stay away from your middle layer. If cold air reached any wet areas you would freeze very quickly. That is why the outside layer must keep you dry.

Camping Clothing Questions

Are base layers supposed to be tight?

Base layers should be fitted rather than lose. When you have a loose base layer your sweat will layer on your skin, and any cold air that reaches the area will quickly become cold. The base layer is very important, it must draw sweat away from your skin and this happens best through the actual contact of the material to your skin. Choose the correct base layer material for the most effective outcome.

What clothing layer is most important?

Every layer is important because they all collaborate together to achieve the same goal, which is to remain a comfortable body temperature. The base layer will draw off sweat, middle layer keeps you warm, and the outer layer will keep you dry.

What clothes do I wear when camping in snow?

If there is snow we know temperatures a very low. This does not mean bundle up so warm that you sweat to death. If you sweat a lot in cold weather it actually causes you to freeze quicker. Having a correct base layer is very important, the sweat must draw away from your body. The difference with the middle layer in the snow is that it must insulate your body right. The thickness is not super important, it’s just about keeping your body insulated and warm. The outer layer is a lot different when there is snow. Usually, I choose a thin-medium thick winter jacket. Make sure the winter jackets are completely waterproof and wind resistant.

In addition, winter pants must be very waterproof as well. This is because you might sit in the snow at some point, and snow melts. The water will try to sneak through your pants and it is the number one cause of becoming cold in the snow. Long underwear for your legs is a must as well, don’t forget!

Other Questions About Staying Warm?

Should you wear clothes in a sleeping bag?

Yes, wearing long underwear in a sleeping bag provides an extra layer that will help keep you warm. Sometimes it is even recommended to wear a middle layer that will provide an additional insulation layer. Without clothes, you might get cold and like I mentioned earlier it is better to already have that extra layer on rather than needing to put it on because you got cold.

Are tent heaters safe?

Some tent heaters might not be as safe as others. However, it is always important to do research on finding one that suits your needs. Some tent heaters have an auto shut-off mode when tipped over. This idea prevents heaters from burning down items when accidentally tipped over. Some heaters are gas fueled, which would need a regular check-up to ensure they are always working right. Gas leaks are very dangerous, especially in a small enclosed tent. There are heaters you can buy that are gas free and do not release any type of fumes.

I get cold in the night when camping, what do I do?

In the night the temperatures can drop a tremendous amount when comparing it to the day. This is why you must prepare for a possible cold night. Having a good sleeping bag always is a good idea. The better the bag the more heat you can maintain throughout the night. Also, wearing extra clothing like long underwear and insulated middle layers will help keep you warm. An idea that works great is leaving a hot water bottle inside your sleeping bag before you get in. A good sleeping bag keeps heat in for a long period of time, some people enjoy keeping a hot water bottle inside the sleeping bag all night. Just make sure the bag doesn’t go cold or it may even make you colder!

Small heat packs are an alternative for hot water bottles, they do not go cold once the heating stage is over. Which can be crucial in certain weather conditions.

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Conclusion

Tent camping becomes a very difficult activity for so many people. Even when I go on my own facebook page I see people posting questions like “What do I even take camping?” or “Will I freeze if I sleep in my tent tonight?”. Well, like what I said at the beginning of the article in my quick response it is all about “preparation”. When you take the time to get ready for your camping trip you will bring more of the items you’ll need. That is the case with any traveler, camping or not. So just prepare for what could go wrong, and you will be safe.

Camping is an all year activity, we go through summer, winter, spring, or fall. Different locations will have different temperatures, so learning how to stay warm in a tent is very important for a tent camper. I hope you have learned a few tips and tricks for camping in the cold and how to stay warm.

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