How To Heat A Tent In Cold Weather: The Ultimate Guide

how to heat a tent in cold weather


Are you planning on doing some winter camping?

Winter camping can be a whole lot of fun. However, you must come prepared!

One of the most important things you need to do is learn how to heat a tent in cold weather.

Fortunately, we’ve put together this guide on exactly how to do that! Let’s get started.

Use A Cold Weather Sleeping Bag

Hyke & Byke Katahdin 0°F Cold Weather Mummy Hiking & Backpacking Sleeping Bag - Synthetic 625 FP 4 Season Sleeping Bags for Adults - Ultralight Includes Compression Stuff Sack (Charcoal Gray, Regular)
Owning a cold weather condition camping tent is one of the most important things you can do to stay warm while camping in cold weather.

Look for a sleeping bag with the proper R-Value, and it will keep you warm all night long.

Don’t mess around with a 3-season sleeping bag – you need something that has specifically been made for camping in cold weather.

We recommend HYKE & BYKE 0 Degree Hydrophobic Sleeping Bag, which will undoubtedly help keep you warm even in the coldest weather.

Get The Right Sleeping Pad

Klymit Insulated Static V Inflatable Sleeping Pad for Camping, Lightweight Hiking and Backpacking Air Bed for Cold Weather, 2.5 Inch Thick, Orange
When camping in the summer, a lot of people just put down a tarp and then sleep in their sleeping bag.

Although this works for camping the rest of the year, it is not something you should do while camping in cold weather.

Your sleeping pad is all that is separating your body from the cold, wet ground.

If you skimp on your pad, you might wake up in the middle of the night shivering cold-that is, if you’re able to drop off to sleep at all.

This is because the cold ground will essentially suck out your body heat as your body produces it – leaving you miserable and cold.

Instead, provide a buffer using a sleeping pad, which will help keep you warm and insulated from the cold.

In specific, get a sleeping pad with an R-value (or temperature rating) proper for the temperatures you’ll be camping in.

Use A Heated Water Bottle

how to heat a tent in cold weather

The heated water bottle technique is a fantastic way to stay warm during even the coldest of nights.

Right before you go to bed, boil water on your backpacking stove, carefully pour it into your water bottle and then place it in your sleeping pad.

This makeshift heating pad can help keep you warm all night, you just need to make sure you are careful when pouring the boiling water into the bottle.

Additionally, take extra precautions to make sure your bottle won’t burn you. Be careful when first handling the bottle filled with hot water.

In order to do this, you need to make sure you have proper outdoor cookware, so make sure you’re properly prepared!

Eat The Right Foods

how to heat a tent in cold weather

It’s crucial when camping in cold weather to eat the right types of foods.

Keep in mind that during the day, you will be exerting a lot more calories than you are probably used to.

Make sure you are well stocked with tons of foods that are high in fats, proteins, and carbs.

Additionally, be prepared to drink a lot of water – probably more than you are used to.

t may sound counterintuitive, but you need to be drinking plenty of fluids to help your body stay warm.

Also, feel free to eat warm foods like soups, but take it easy on the coffee because it may further dehydrate you.

Get A Pair Of Special Sleep Socks

Pure Athlete High Performance Wool Ski Socks - Thermal Warm Merino Wool OTC Sock, Men Women (1 Pair - Black/Grey/Silver, Large)
It can be tempting to just pass out in your tent with the same pair of socks that you have been wearing all day.

This, however, is a huge mistake.

Your socks are probably cold, damp, and may even be developing small holes and tears if you have been hiking all day.

Instead, get a bunch of high-quality winter socks like Pure Athlete High-Performance Wool Socks, and keep an untouched pair in your tent by your sleeping bag.

Before bed, switch into these clean, fresh socks, and they will help keep you warm all night long. You can even double up if it is especially cold at night.

It’s really important that you keep your feet warm at night because if they start to get cold, you will start shivering.

If this happens, you may break out into a sweat, which will then make your sleeping bag cold, making you even colder.

For more recommendations on winter socks, check out this article on the best ski socks.

If you are particularly prone to cold feet, you may even want to pick up a pair of heated socks.

Prepare Your Clothes For The Next Day

If the clothing you prepare to use tomorrow is dry, place them inside of your sleeping bag.

It’ll help add a few extra insulating layers to your sleep den, and you may be able to cover your hands, face, or other heat-leaving parts of your body.

Plus, having warm clothing to change into will make it much easier to wake up in the morning, allowing you to change into clean, fresh clothes quickly.

Cuddle Up With Your Partner

how to heat a tent in cold weather

If you’re camping with your partner, take advantage of the body heat that each person is expelling.

Cuddle up together and you can each stay warm.

Yes, it may be a pain if you have both been hiking all day and are a bit smelly, but it will be worth it for the body heat!

Layer, Layer, Layer

how to heat a tent in cold weather

Appropriate layering is crucial when it comes to heating your tent in cold weather camping trips.

Look for high quality extreme cold base layers, mid-layers, and water-resistant jackets.

However, make sure you do not overdo it with the layering, because if you are not careful, it may lead to you sweating, which will make things even worse!

Pick The Right Sized Tent

ALPS Mountaineering 5422607 Taurus 4 Person Tent, Sage/Rust
It can be tempting when camping, to go for the biggest tent possible. Who doesn’t enjoy a ton of space for their things?

However, winter camping is different. If it’s just you, or a small camping group, you should get a smaller tent.

Why? Because big, spacy tents with lots of room will lead to more heat loss.

Instead, go for ALPS Mountaineering Taurus 4-Person Tent, which will help retain your heat throughout your camping experience.

If you want something with more space, consider getting a cold weather tent with a stove, although this will be overkill for most people.

Keep The Ground Covered

cold weather camping keep warm insulation ground

Always use a tarp, thermal blanket, or carpet on the floor of your tent.

This will provide an additional insulating layer and will keep you from coming into direct contact with the cold ground, just like your sleeping pad.

Plus, it will help keep our moisture if the temperature drops overnight, which is crucial to staying warm in cold weather.

Wrap Your Face While Sleeping

Most body heat is lost through your head and feet, but there are other places that are especially prone to feeling the cold – namely, your face!

Bring a couple of scarves, and wrap them around your head, ears, and neck.

Just make sure you don’t wrap your mouth and nose because then your blanket will fill with condensation.

Utilize A Thermal Blanket

Primacare HB-10 Emergency Foil Mylar Thermal Blanket (Pack of 10), 52' Length x 84' Width, Silver
Thermal blankets are wonderful ways to help retain heat in your tent.

You can pick up a pack of thermal blankets, and then tape them to the roof of your tent and use one as an insulation layer on the floor.

If it’s really cold, you can even sleep with one on top of your sleeping bag if need be. Thermal blankets will help immensely.

Sleep With (Clean) Gloves On

how to heat a tent in cold weather

Most people think to bring gloves with them when they are camping in cold weather. However, we recommend actually bringing two pairs.

One of these pairs will be your day-to-day gloves, while the other one will be your sleeping gloves.

Just like with your sleeping socks, it’s crucial to have a pair of gloves that are entirely free of sweat, grime, and dirt.

Sleep with these on to help keep your hands warm all night long.

Prevent Condensation From Forming In The Tent

It sounds counterintuitive – why would you ever want to ventilate your tent while camping in cold weather?

The reason is due to condensation. If condensation starts forming in your tent, it will make you wet, and thus cold.

Instead, ventilate your tent, which will keep you dryer, and thus warmer during your winter camping excursion.

Make Sure Your Tent Is Water-Proof

KIWI Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellent, 4-10.5 oz cans
One of the worst ways to compromise your warmth is by letting water seep into your tent. This will completely ruin all of your efforts to stay warm!

This is why we recommend utilizing Kimi Camp Heavy Duty Water Repellent to help keep your tent dry, especially if your tent is getting up there in years.

Regardless of whether or not your tent is new and old, you need to test its water resistance before you go on your trip.

Set your tent up in your backyard, and then spray it down with a hose for a few minutes. Then, go inside and see if there is any leakage.

If so, follow the directions on the sealant, and ensure that your tent is completely and properly sealed before your trip.

Make sure you let the spray dry for the allocated time before putting it away, as this may compromise the seal if done too quickly.

Be Careful With Portable Tent Heaters

Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Propane Radiant Heater, Red-Black
Portable tent heaters can be used to help heat a tent in cold weather. However, you need to be careful. 

Only use a portable tent heater that has top-notch safety precautions, like the Mr. Heater F32000 Portable Propane Radiant Heater.

Additionally, make sure you never leave any tent heater unattended or let it run while you sleep.

It’s very tempting to use one of these devices, but you need to be very, very careful from both a fire-safety and CO2 safety perspective.


Thank you for reading our guide on how to heat a tent in cold weather.

As you can see, when it comes down to it, heating your tent in cold weather usually comes down to utilizing your body heat, along with some smart camping choices.

We wish you the best of luck with your cold-weather camping, and hope you have a great time in the magical, wintery outdoors!