Tips You Need to Know That Will Teach You How to Stay Warm in a Tent

Orange tent in rocky snow covered valley

The Basics for Staying Warm when Camping in Snow with a Tent

A lot of people decide to forgo camping in the winter due to concerns about low temperatures. However, if you take the proper precautions it is possible to enjoy winter camping and remain warm while doing it. So read on to learn several tips that will show you how to stay warm in a tent.

Layer Your Clothing Instead of One Large Garment

The first tip I can give you when dealing with anything in the winter is to dress in layers. I know it seems like it would be a better idea to just grab the biggest coat you can and head out. While this is probably the case if you are only going to be outside for short periods, it does not work very well for extended durations.

One overly large garment may keep you warm, but it does not allow you to adjust the temperatures depending on your circumstances. If you instead dress in layers, then you can remove or add layers to adjust to the specific circumstances.

This applies even when camping. More arduous tasks such as gathering firewood or setting up camp will cause your body temperature to rise. If you cannot manage your temperature then you will begin to sweat and once you cool down you face far greater dangers from this cooling sweat. If you can regulate your temperature by removing a layer or two this is by far the best choice.

A Properly Sized Tent Is Key

While it may not seem like it a tent can actually hold a reasonable amount of heat. However, just like with any other structure the larger the tent the more area there is inside that needs to be heated. This also means that there is far more surface area to disperse the heat. 

With that in mind you want to select a tent made from quality materials that is waterproof and sized to fit exactly what you need and nothing more. By keeping your tent size down it will help you heat the interior space more efficiently with your body heat.

Your Sleep System Is Critical

Probably the most important time to properly manage body heat is when you are sleeping. Your body naturally tends to cool down during this time.

Generally a mummy style 3 or 4 season sleeping bag is preferred for winter camping. You will need to take some extra care in selecting this style of sleeping bag as they come in several sizes and you want to make sure to get one that fits you somewhat snuggly but still allows some slight movement.

This Coleman 0 degree Mummy Sleeping Bag(Ad) is a prime example of what I am talking about. While there are other options with better temperature ratings this is a nice affordable bag to get your started and good in all but the most extreme weather.

You can also include additional layers here as well. One thing that I like to do is use a fleece flat sheet inside of my sleeping bag. It gives that extra layer and I just like the feel of fleece. A heavy layer from a quilt or other barrier type material under your sleep system will also help avoid cold seeping in from that side as well.

Floor Coverings Are Worth the Added Weight

Normally I do not bring rugs or other additional floor coverings for my tent, however in the wintertime a rug or mat of some sort that can act as an additional barrier against the ground may be worthwhile. This added layer will help to insulate from the ground and by combining it with a tarp under your tent you can make sure that melted snow and ice don’t work their way up from under the tent.

11 Tips for Hiking in the Snow

Heat Sources That Are Safe to Help You Stay Warm in a Tent

Now that the basics are covered lets discuss some heat sources that are safe to use in your tent. 

Heaters for Camping in a Tent

There are several small portable heaters designed for tents. Keep in mind though that with nearly every one of these they should be shut off when unattended or you are sleeping. 

These can generally be divided into two categories. Electrical heaters or propane powered. In most cases the externally powered devices are capable of providing heat for longer durations, while the propane versions produce far more heat.

Electric Heater safe for use in a tent

My favorite and very affordable choice for an all electric model is the Amazon Basics 500-Watt Ceramic Mini Heater(Ad). It operates at a relatively low 500 watts so you don’t have to worry about it getting exceedingly hot and its lower voltage can generally run on nearly any type of outlet without tripping breakers. While this will not warm up a large room it is perfect for breaking the chill in a small to medium tent. 

The propane heaters are generally not recommended for tents due to their very high heat outputs. That being said there are some models which function separate from the tent and then pipe the warm air into the tent. However, these are very expensive as they are designed for larger permanent style tents. 

The remainder of the propane style heaters generally function off of a 5 gallon propane tank and are used outside of your tent. These could be beneficial to heat you up after a long day of outdoor activity. You can use them to help you store additional heat in your clothing as well. Just warm up first when you are getting ready to go to bed. 

What About Electric Blankets

If you don’t want to brave the dangers of a heater then you have the option of an electric blanket. This is my preferred method if camping where there is electricity. If you are not familiar an electric blanket has tiny heating wires threaded throughout it. This provides an electrical current and can keep you warm in very cold weather. Often though their usefulness is limited to areas where you have a power supply.

Couple an electric blanket inside of a good thermal sleeping bag and you will be as warm as you could hope in all but the most inhospitable conditions. Keep in mind though you should not use an electric blanket in direct exposure to cold air. This could cause the wiring to overheat due to the thermostat overheating. However, when coupled with an insulated sleeping bag this issue is easily negated. Also only turn it on for short durations if needed just to provide that extra bit of heat. Then switch it off to prolong its useful life. 

4 More Ways You Can Stay Warm in a Tent

Now that we have covered the basics here are 4 more tips. You can use these to gain that extra warmth when camping in a tent.

Rubber Transparent Hot Water Bottles (Amazon)
HotHands Hand Warmers (Amazon)
Ultralight Inflatable Sleeping Mat (Amazon)

Pack a Hot Water Bottle

A hot water bottle can prove quite useful in cold weather. 

  1. You can partially fill it and insert it in your pockets for a makeshift hand warmer. 
  2. Fill it and place it in the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep your feet warm. 
  3. Use it in your pack to keep food warm and cut down on the prep time of a second meal. 
  4. It can also be used to soothe sore muscles from a long day of hiking.

Don’t Underestimate Disposable Heat Packs

Often disposable heat packs, such as hot hands, etc are looked down on as more of a gimmick due to their limited outputs. However, even the smallest amount of heat can be critical in extreme temperatures. Place several packs together around your feet or shoulders to keep off those creeping chills. 

Strategic Placement of Your Clothing

While it may seem strange there is some argument that sleeping in fewer clothes can keep you warmer

Whether you subscribe to this or not, you can make getting dressed in the morning far more pleasant if you sleep with your next set of clothes or outer garments in the sleeping bag with you.

In these instances, I open my sleeping bag, lay out the spare clothes on the bottom in an even layer and then cover these with my inside liner. Once I get into my sleep system later on, my body heat keeps the clothes warm and they provide added insulation from the bottom side. That way when I get up in the morning I am putting on warm clothes. This sure beats cold clothing that has reached the exterior temperatures. 

Use a Self Inflating Mat Instead of an Air Mattress

While both self inflating mats and air mattresses largely contain air their designs cause them to transfer heat in different manners. An air mattress generally has a large single chamber of air. When this begins to heat up it does not resist this temperature change very well.

At the same time a self inflating mat often contains a layer of porous foam and air pockets. These separated pockets take longer to be effected by a temperature change due to the foam interspersed throughout. This results in the air mattress absorbing some of your body heat. Due to this it will remain warm throughout the night in most cases. They also tend to have a bit less bulk and be easier to carry. If hiking this makes them convenient for that use. 

You can find an assortment of them on Amazon.com(Ad).

Apply These Tips on Your Next Trip

In this article we discussed several tips to stay warm when camping in the winter and snow. I hope you found some useful information and enjoyed the read. If you felt that you learned something particular or have another tip comment below and let us know.

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