How to Stay Warm in a Tent

February 6, 2021

Did you have a sleepless night, chattering away as you tried to keep warm inside your tent? Or are you usually cold-blooded and want to prepare for the worst-case scenario? Either way, staying cozy and bundled up will make for a much more enjoyable camping experience. And sometimes, all it takes is the right gear and a little preparedness to stay safe and get a good night’s sleep. Learn how to stay warm in a tent and make your campsite toasty.

Pick the Appropriate Tent

The first step to staying warm in a tent is to make sure it’s appropriately sized. While the body heat from a large family can heat a larger tent, one or two people will have a hard time getting warm. To add, make sure you get a three- or four-season tent or stick with a canvas style that offers thicker insulative walls.

Layer Up with Thermals and More

Don’t make the common mistake of adding a layer only when you feel cold. As soon as the sun begins to set, add another base layer of clothes or slip into some thermals. Thermals and fleece pajamas can get you through a cool fall evening, but base layers are better for chillier winters. Wool socks, gloves and a beanie can also help keep extremities warm.

Pack a Hot Water Bottle or Rechargeable Warming Device

Before you hit the hay, tuck a hot water bottle inside your sleeping bag to preheat the insulation. You can easily do this as you unwind for the night. As you boil water to make a cup of tea or cocoa, simply remember to fill the water bottle, too. Slipping into an already warm sleeping bag will help keep your body heat regulated through the night.

Another way you could do this is with a rechargeable hand warmer, which typically offers different temperature settings and can stay warm for 10+ hours. Plus, they’re less wasteful than the disposable heat packs. Pick up a few to keep in your hoodie, coat pocket and sleeping bag and you’ll never complain about a cold camping night ever again. Make sure to keep your hand warmer and other electronic devices secured in a travel case where they’re protected from the elements.

Choose a Proper Sleeping Bag

make your campsite toasty

Not all sleeping bags are created equal. While some bags are acceptable for sleeping in a tent on a balmy summer night, others not so much. To ensure a toasty night’s sleep, look for at least a three-season bag – a four-season if you plan to do any winter camping where temps drop to 30 degrees or below.

Down-filled sleeping bags will also help you stay warm in a tent or while hammock camping. Mummy-style sleeping bags will keep your head warm while allowing you to breathe without dampening the interior lining.

Speaking of the lining, sleeping bag liners, especially silk variations, add an extra bit of warmth. However, since they’re silk, they can be quite delicate. If you don’t want to give your kids some silk sheets necessarily, consider a fleece alternative instead to trap heat.

Warm Your Body Before Turning in

Before calling it a night and turning in, warm your body so it can help radiate inside the sleeping bag. Learn how to start a campfire to keep warm at night and sit nearby sipping hot cocoa or tea. Before you head to the tent, grab your flashlight and take a brisk walk as you go to relieve yourself, raising your core body temps.

Pick the Right Bed

Let’s put one camping misconception to bed, shall we? Inflatable air beds are no good. Not only can their inflation be obnoxious and grating to hear during a quiet, peaceful retreat to nature, but they also do you no favors when it comes to staying warm in a tent. Still, many choose to use an air mattress for mobility and comfort. However, here’s an alternative solution: a self-inflating pad.

Designed with chambers, self-inflating camp pads can protect you from the rocky, cold ground while providing complete comfort. Stacked on top of a more insulative closed-cell foam pad, it adds an extra layer between you and the earth. Choose a self-inflating pad with a 4.0 minimum R-value for winter camping and colder fall evenings. And if mobility is the concern, you can still place them on top of a folding camp bed. Voila!

Add an Insulative Footprint or Interior Rug

Add some kind of insulative footprint layer beneath your tent or even inside your tent for added warmth. Not only will it offer a warm underfoot, but an extra layer can prevent your tent from dampening from the ground’s condensation.

Portable Heaters

Portable heaters can offer warmth. However, they should be used with extreme caution, as they could be a potential fire hazard or cause carbon monoxide poisoning. If you choose to use a portable heater, do so in a well-ventilated area and turn it off when you sleep or leave the tent. Of course, make sure to carry a compact and handheld CO detector like the GXG-1987 or the Forensics Detectors to alert you of any dangerous levels.

Now that you know how to stay warm in a tent – like, truly warm – nothing is stopping you from enjoying nature all year round. And if you still want some of the more creature comforts, there’s always glamping instead!

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