How to Stay Warm Camping in a Tent

How to Stay Warm Camping in a Tent


George Cummings
November 25, 2021

If you’re someone who loves camping and even the coldest temperatures don’t scare you away, you’ve probably experienced some freezing nights out in the wilderness.

While our tents do their best to shelter us, they’re not enough to keep us warm on their own, so you need a few other tricks up your sleeve.

How do you stay warm camping in a tent? In addition to having a tent that’s suitable for cold weather, you can also shop for a warm sleeping bag, use a tent heater, insulate your sleeping quarters, and dress accordingly.

With a few different measures in place and some forward planning, you’ll stay rugged up inside your tent all night.

There are some simple tricks you can use if you want to learn how to stay warm camping in a tent, and the key is to put them to work before you start feeling too cold.

We’ll show you all the ways you can ensure your tent is warm and comfortable, even on the coldest nights of a camping trip.

Are Tents Good at Providing Warmth?

Are Tents Good at Providing Warmth?

At first glance, you might not assume that a tent is the warmest place you can spend a night, but you’d actually be wrong.

Provided you’re sleeping in a tent that’s been designed for the temperature you’re camping in, a tent can do a lot in protecting you against the cold weather outside.

However, a tent on its own is usually not going to be adequate protection, especially during winter or while camping in colder climates.

Even if the weather is quite pleasant in the daytime it can drop suddenly, and you might find that your tent doesn’t have the goods to keep you warm enough to sleep comfortably.

Your choice of a tent will determine how well you sleep at night, so choosing one that’s rated to match the temperature of your camping destination at night is the first step.

From there, you’ll be able to add a few additional methods to stay warm, even if your tent isn’t up to the job.

Choosing the Right Clothes

Choosing the Right Clothes

When you retire to your tent each night, you want sleep-specific clothing that you can change into.

This is true whether it’s summer or winter, but having carefully chosen garments for bed when it’s freezing outside will be especially helpful.

The key to dressing for cold camping is to wear cotton thermals and rely on this as your base.

These garments do a great job at comfortably keeping you warm without feeling restrictive and potentially slowing down your blood supply.

With a thermal base, you can build on them from there with other clothing like socks, a pullover, and long pants, depending on what the weather calls for.

Insulation Matters

Insulation Matters

The next place you’ll want to target is the tent itself by making sure that it’s well insulated.

Insulation is key in both summer and winter as it helps to regulate the temperature inside the tent, keeping it warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot.

To insulate your tent, there are a few methods you can try, including laying a tarp over the top of it and restricting the wind, lining the walls of the tent with an insulating fabric, placing foam sheeting on the floor.

These measures are usually only needed in extreme cold but they can make a significant difference to the temperature inside of the tent.

Finding the Best Sleeping Bag

Finding the Best Sleeping Bag

Just as important as the tent you choose as your shelter is the sleeping bag you’ll lay in each night, especially when you’re trying to stay warm.

Thankfully, sleeping bag manufacturers have made this part pretty easy by giving all of their products a comfort rating that you can use to guide you.

A sleeping bag’s comfort rating refers to the temperature that it can keep you warm in, so you want to choose one that matches the lowest temperature it will reach at night.

Of course, some people are cold or warm sleepers but these ratings are based on the comfort of the average user, so they’re normally accurate.

Should You Use A Tent Heater?

Should You Use A Tent Heater?

A tent heater can be a godsend when you’re camping in the middle of winter, and all other methods are failing to warm you up.

These compact heaters are designed for use in smaller places, like tents, and if you follow the guidelines for use set out by the manufacturer, they’re perfectly safe.

An electric heater is the safest option as running anything powered by gas in a closed-in space is dangerous.

However, you should never leave these heaters on an entire night, instead of running them for an hour or so before you go to bed to warm up the tent.

Tips for Warming Up While Camping

Tips for Warming Up While Camping

Most campers have experienced a time when they’re been caught out in colder weather than they were expecting and had to come up with their own inventive methods for staying warm.

To help you out of a jam, we’ve got some tips you can use to heat up in a hurry if you ever need it.

  • Move around: When you’re about to go to bed for the night, spend 10 minutes doing some body-warming activities. Focus on high-energy moves like jumping jacks, burpees, and star jumps, in an effort to heat up naturally. When you get into the tent, you won’t notice the cold as much and then you’ll find it easier to fall asleep.
  • Be prepared: Don’t wait for the middle of the night to add some more layers of clothing. Be prepared when you get into the tent and have enough warm clothes on, as you’ll find it a lot easier to strip layers on rather than put them on in the dark.
  • Head and toes: Even if you don’t want to be covered up elsewhere, keeping your head and feet covered is one of the best things you can do to stay warm. With a knit cap on your head and some thick bed socks on your feet, you’ll be less likely to feel the cold in the middle of the night.
  • Time your water: Make an effort to keep your hydration levels high during the day and then slow down at night. Avoid drinking water at least an hour before bed if you can help it, but don’t leave yourself dehydrated. This will reduce the chance you’re woken up in the night with a full bladder and have to leave the comfort of your tent to pee.
  • Use a hot water bottle: Hot water bottles might seem a little dated with all of the heaters and electric blankets we have today, but when you’re camping, they can be a godsend. Fill up a hot water bottle with near-boiling water before you head to bed and put it next to your sleeping bag for instant warmth.

Staying Toasty in Your Tent

With a carefully chosen tent that matches the cold climate outside and a few other warming measures in place, you’ll be guaranteed to stay toasty even when camping in winter.

Follow our tips and tricks to be prepared for camping in the cooler months and you’ll be rugged up and safe, no matter the weather outside.

Related Questions

Camping in winter and during the colder months is something that only serious camping enthusiasts enjoy, and it can put a whole new spin on your outdoor adventures.

If you’re wondering whether you can hack a few days in the wilderness during winter, we’ve answered a few FAQs that’ll teach you the basics.

Is Winter Camping Safe?

There are additional risks when camping during the winter, so you’ll need to plan for these and be prepared.

The most common injuries that occur while camping at this time are hypothermia and frostbite, but these can be avoided by staying adequately warm and knowing the signs to look out for.

How Cold Is Winter Camping?

How Cold Is Winter Camping?

Although there’s no official temperature that would classify something as winter camping, anything under 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 Celsius is the general range.

Most experts advise against going out in temperatures less than this if you’re inexperienced, otherwise, the risk of developing hypothermia and frostbite are greatly increased.

Is It Colder to Sleep in a Tent or Car?

Sleeping in a tent is warmer than sleeping in a car, so if you’re faced with a decision between the two, the tent is best.

The smaller volume inside allows them to warm up more efficiently and unlike the aluminum body of your car, they’re made of materials that won’t be affected by the cold air.


George Cummings

George Cummings enjoys connecting with nature, meeting new people, and making friends from all over the world. RVing and camping create the perfect opportunity for [him/her] to take part in these activities. After spending several years on the road and exploring the great outdoors, George Cummings shares some of his best pieces of advice on how to make the most of your time while camping. TourTheOutdoors is his way of helping outdoorsy individuals like [him/her] start on a right footing with amazing recommendations and buying guides.