Some people enjoy heading to the mountains to go skiing in the winter months. Others like to jet off to warmer climates in search of sea, sand, and sun. Some people prefer staying at home, wrapped up in front of a crackling fire with a good book. Then, there are those people who like to brave the weather, pack a tent, and head to the woods for some frosty camping fun.
Most people relate camping with Spring and Summer climates and consider people who go camping in the Autumn or Winter to be nothing short of crazy. However, camping during the winter months doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. With the right tent, camping gear, and company - camping in the cold can be a hoot.
There's one problem that most people face when deciding to camp during the Winter and Autumn months: figuring out how to stay warm in a tent. There's nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night from the sound of your own teeth chattering, not great when you've shelled out on one of the best inflatable tents! Don't worry, we're here to tell you exactly how you can stay warm on chilly nights and make the most of camping in cold weather.
Top Tips on Staying Warm in a Tent
1. Bring the Right Clothing
If you're planning a winter camping excursion, bringing the right clothes is one of the most important things you'll need to consider. Always pack enough to ensure you'll be covered if the weather turns really bad, which, let's face it, it's likely to do during the winter! It's always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared, after all, you can always remove clothes if you get too hot, but you won't be able to magic it out of thin air if the temperature drops!
Bring plenty of clothes to ensure you have things to change into if you get wet. Pack warm clothes as well as thinner items that you can layer on top of each other. You'll also be able to layer up inside your sleeping bag, which will keep you warmer than wearing a fleece over the top.
Make sure that the base layers wick away moisture so that it won't stay on your skin and give you a chill. Materials that do this include wool, silk, and synthetics. Cotton absorbs moisture and takes longer to dry, so try to avoid packing items made of cotton.
When packing your camping gear, be sure to include a warm pair of socks (or two) to wear as you sleep, as they will keep your feet warm and prevent body heat loss from your feet. Remember, when it comes to keeping warm while camping; less isn't always more!
2. Insulate Your Tent
A good sleeping bag and a sleeping mat are great for heat retention, but when it comes to staying warm in your tent on cold nights you might need a little more help! If you're sleeping on the floor, the cold ground can suck the heat from under your body. You can combat this problem by properly insulating your tent. Some people have found that tents with blackout fabric can stay warmer, due to the black colour inside bedrooms.
Some easy ways to do this are to play a layer of leaves or straw under your tent instead of a foam pad to insulate it from the ground up. What's more, leaves and straw can be left once your trip is finished as they're biodegradable. You can also place blankets or carpets around the inside of the tent to provide further insulation. If you don't have a sleeping pad you can always use cardboard or a foam exercise mat instead.
It might be tempting to take an air mattress with you in the hopes you'll be more comfortable when you go to sleep at night. This isn't always the case, and an air mattress can actually make you colder during the winter nights! This is because you're completely raised off the ground, so there's no heat transfer between the insulation and your body.
If you're an expert camper or you know that winter camping is something you'll do regularly in the future, it might be worth investing in a 4 season tent that is more suitable for all-season camping. Tents that are designed to be used in particular weather conditions are guaranteed to perform better than cheap, generic ones that don't offer good insulation and ventilation capabilities.
3. Choose a Temperature Rated Sleeping Bag
A sleeping bag is the most essential piece of gear you'll need to stay warm in your tent this camping season. There are so many options available to suit different seasons, so be sure to choose the right type of sleeping bag for cold weather camping. The sleeping bag should have a temperature rating that lets you know what conditions it is most suitable for.
There are different kinds of sleeping bags available to suit different seasons and temperatures so make sure the one you have is good quality and suitable for the temperatures you'll be setting up camp in. A sleeping bag liner is another good investment that'll provide you with an extra layer of warmth.
Another sleeping bag tip is to fluff it up before you use it to allow the air to get between the fibers, which is what keeps it warm. Additionally, try not to breathe moisture inside the sleeping bag as that'll only serve to cool you down further. A good sleeping bag can make a huge difference to the enjoyment you'll get from your camping trip, so be sure to invest in a good one that'll do its job properly.
4. Keep Your Tent Ventilated
It might seem counter-intuitive to keep your tent ventilated during when winter camping. There's a good, scientific reason behind it though! During cold weather, the heat from your body and breath can cause condensation to build up at night and dampen the inside of your tent.
A good way to keep warm is to ensure your tent is well-ventilated to reduce dampness, prevent condensation, and keep the inside of your tent dry. It's also important that you try not to sweat from getting too hot inside your tent as this will make you chillier.
5. Choose a Protected Spot
Before you can consider how to stay warm inside your tent, you need to think about where you're setting it up outside.
When winter camping, you need to pay much more attention to where you set up your campsite. In summer you can easily set up camp in the middle of a field, or next to a river somewhere; but when the cold weather sweeps in - that's not going to cut it.
Choose a spot that's sheltered in case the weather decides to turn. A good idea is to pick somewhere that's surrounded by bushes, trees, or rocky walls to shield you and your tent from the wind and cold air.
6. Don't Take Up More Space Than You Need To
When it comes to camping, it can be tempting to buy a big tent that provides you with lots of extra space to move around and store your gear. However, if you know you'll be camping during the winter season in cold weather it's a good idea to take along a smaller tent. Of course, this depends on how many people are joining your trip, but a big tent with just a few bodies won't heat up as fast as a small one where the bodies are closer together.
7. Go to Bed Warm
If you go to bed warm you're much more likely to keep warm throughout the night and drift off faster. Before you head to bed, do some quick aerobic activity to get your blood flowing. A few jumping jacks or squats is enough, you don't want to start sweating. If you're able to make a campfire you can easily spend the hours before bed toasting marshmallows, singing camp songs, and warming your body up before the flames burn out and it's time for bed.
8. Use a Hot Water Bottle
A hot water bottle is an effective way to keep yourself warm in a tent during the colder months. Whether you take along your reliable old rubber water bottle to fill up or fill your reusable water bottle (not a plastic one!), you can keep it tucked inside your sleeping bag to provide instant warmth for your body that'll last well into the night.
9. Keep Your Head and Feet Covered
Did you know that most of your body heat escapes through your feet and your head? If you've decided to camp in winter and you're wondering how to stay warm, then make sure you pack some woolly socks and a warm hat! Wear them to bed for extra insulation. Make sure that you don't sleep in the same socks you wore throughout the day, as sweaty or wet socks will make you feel colder during the night. Choose a pair of thermal socks or invest in some good hiking socks, and designate them as your "bed socks" to ensure they're always dry and ready to warm your toes.
When it comes to camping in Winter or Autumn, you'll need to take extra precautions to ensure you stay warm and dry and avoid the risk of becoming cold during the night. By following these tips, you can rest assured that you'll be toasty and warm inside your tent and can enjoy the experience without chattering teeth!
10. Eat Hearty Food and Drink Hot Drinks
It's important to nourish your body with hearty food and hot drinks to help it stay warm when cold-weather camping. Your body needs the energy to produce heat, so calorific meals and snacks will help to keep you warm. Drinking fluids throughout the day is also important, but try not to drink too much before you hit the sack or you'll find yourself getting up and down to go to the toilet during the night - which is when you'll lose all your body's carefully stored heat. However, a hot drink before bed can help to warm your core and relax you before you go to sleep.
1. How do you safely heat a tent?
When using a portable electric heater to warm your tent, you'll need to follow extra safety precautions and use common sense to avoid dangerous situations. You should never leave the heater on while you're sleeping or for any long period of time as this is a fire hazard.
Portable gas heaters require users to exercise great caution. These shouldn't be used in enclosed spaces, and the gas canister should be stored safely throughout the trip. They also require plenty of ventilation and should never be left unattended. When using electric or gas heaters it's important to read the manufacturer's instructions to ensure safe use at all times.
2. How do you keep a tent warm without electricity?
If you've read our camping tips you'll see that there are plenty of ways to keep you warm and toasty inside a tent without electricity. Some electricity-free ways to heat up the whole tent include:
- Insulate the tent with straw, leaves, or carpets
- Use sleeping pads to trap warmth under your body
- Heat your tent with hot water bottles
- Place hot stones underneath the tent to warm it from the ground up
3. How cold is too cold to camp?
This all depends on how you handle the cold, as some people can enjoy camping in the cold weather, whereas others will hate it. Generally speaking, night time temperatures of 30° or 40° Fahrenheit are considered too cold for camping in tents for people who are inexperienced or using amateur gear.