How to Stay Warm in a Tent

Written by: Karyn James

No one wants to head out camping, intent on enjoying the thrills of nature, only to end up as a popsicle! If you struggle with being frosty when you wake or hike during a camping trip, this list is for you.

I compiled this comprehensive list of how to stay warm in a tent because I’ve found these tips to be very effective at keeping me nice and toasty. I put these points together because I believe they can help make your next camping trip more fun, comfortable, and enjoyable. After all, only Frosty the Snowman wants to keep the cold in.

Choosing the best tips and tricks for your situation will determine how warm your nights at camp will be.

While having the best tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag help, other lesser-known tips can help you stay cozy and warm under the canvas. Here are 22 essential tips to know which tools and heating methods will be more effective in keeping your camp warm.

How to Stay Warm in a Tent: Step by Step Guide

You will need the right equipment, warm clothes, and good food to keep you nice and toasty in your tent. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

1. Use the Right Tent

The tent you buy will have a significant impact on how warm and comfortable you’ll be. Ideally, you will want a smaller tent that can hold only what you need. The smaller your tent, the less airspace you will need to heat.

Even better, an insulated tent is a more preferred option because it is perfect for every season camping. Your tent should also be waterproof and have good ventilation options. You want a tent that can protect you from a snowstorm and high winds and heavy rainfall.

A small tent may not be glamorous, true, but it’s easier to port around and will keep you warmer.

2. Choose the Right Location for Your Campsite

Choosing the perfect campsite location is also essential for a great camping experience. If possible, you want to place your tent under a tree canopy, where the air temperature will be slightly warmer, but the morning sun will strike it too.

Your campsite will determine how warm and comfortable you will be when dusk falls and the cold temperature starts to set in. Similarly, you’ll want to avoid low-lying places where cold air can settle or where the wind blows cold and strong.

If possible, place the tent on a slight incline with a tarp underneath it to insulate your sleeping gear from cold and moisture.

3. Insulate Your Tent

That brings us to our next point; knowing how to keep your tent insulated is another essential tip to stay warm when camping. First, you’ll need an appropriately sized, weather-appropriate tent that will be essential for keeping you warm. Remember: smaller is better.

While a more spacious tent might look cozier, it also allows more cold air to settle in, making it more difficult to insulate and warm your tent. So, when possible, try to fill any empty spaces in your tent with as much camping gear as possible.

4. Keep Your Tent Ventilated

While this may seem counterproductive, it is also good practice to make sure your tent is well-ventilated. It’s also another reason why you want to avoid windy areas.

Fortunately, many tents are designed with built-in extra spaces at the top to allow air to flow freely. Don’t block off any ventilation holes, no matter how cold it gets.

Ventilation is essential for keeping your tent warm by allowing fresh air into your tent and moisture out. When you exhale, and there’s no room for the moist air to escape into the atmosphere, it will condense into moisture or water droplets. This will make your tent damp and chilly. 

Therefore, always make sure your tent’s ventilation is open and functioning properly.

5. Build a Windbreak Around Your Tent

You should also add a tarp or wind cover to the tent to prevent strong wind from accessing your sleeping area. You want to prevent wind from blowing past your tent and carrying the warm air with it. It will lessen how much heat your tent holds.

You also don’t want to close off your tent completely while adding a wind cover. Remember, you also need your tent to have free-flowing air and ventilation to keep moisture away.

6. Get off the Floor

A sleeping pad can help keep you warm in a tent because the cold ground can suck the heat from your body. That’s why you should create as much space as possible between yourself and the ground as possible.

Try using a camping foam mat under the sleeping pad to improve heat retention in the tent. If you don’t have a foam exercise mat, a layer of leaves and pine branches can also work under your sleeping surface. Just try and create a good enough barrier between you and the camp floor. 

Plus, the more padding you have, the more comfortable you’ll be when you sleep!

7. Sleep on a Sleeping Pad

Sticks and twigs are well and good, but a proper sleeping pad is warm and comfortable. Just make sure you choose a suitable sleeping pad material that can retain as much heat as possible and not hold moisture.

While a sleeping pad isn’t the best alternative to a sleeping bag, it is beneficial as it creates an extra barrier between your sleeping bag and the cold ground.

Camping sleeping pads come in different forms and designs, including air, self-inflating, and closed-cell foam. A good sleeping pad helps you even up the ground where you will place your sleeping bag to provide a plusher sleeping surface.

8. Bring Proper Bedding

Every camper who knows how to stay warm in a tent will advise that you carry the proper sleeping gear. Besides a sleeping pad or sleeping bag, you can also bring a toasty warm sleeping bag and pillows to make your nights camping warmer and more comfortable.

You can also carry an inflatable camp pillow that you can compress and tuck into your sleeping gear. A compressible pillow will be inherently warmer, but it’s heavier and harder to pack. So long as your inflatable pillow doesn’t actually touch the ground itself, you should be okay. Otherwise, the air inside the pillow will keep you chilly all night long.

You’ll want an insulated sleeping bag, also called four-season sleeping bags or expedition bags. They’ll protect you when the temperatures drop below zero, ensuring not only that your body temp doesn’t plummet but that you’re comfortable enough to actually get some shut-eye.

Also, consider getting a sleeping bag liner to keep you even warmer. 

keep sleeping bags dry

9. Keep Sleeping Bags Dry

After waking up every morning, before your cup of coffee,  it is crucial to roll out any moisture from your sleeping gear. Remember, dampness equals chilliness, which is the last thing you’ll want the next time you crawl into your sleeping bag.

If you can, try to hang or lay your sleeping gear to dry completely before packing it up.

10. Use a Hot Water Bottle

You will need a hot water bottle to hold hot water and add some warmth inside your tent for our particular situation. Make sure you carry a leak-proof, resealable hot water bottle that will keep the water warm throughout the cold nights. It’s very Edwardian England, but hey, it works!

Heat the water, then pour it into a hot water bottle. Wrap the bottle in a towel to help keep it insulated before placing it in your sleeping bag before getting in yourself. The warmth from your hot water bottle will warm up your sleeping bag and keep you warm throughout the night.

11. Eat a Lot (And Eat Before Bed)

It’s always good practice to eat enough and drink plenty of fluids before going to bed. The same applies when camping. You can use your body heat to keep you warm at night when camping. And the best way to do that is to eat as much as you can as late as possible before calling it a night.

I know this may be hard to hear, but if possible, try to eat foods that are rich in carbohydrates and fat. You will use more energy for a longer period to digest these meals, which naturally creates body heat. Yes, this is the time to give yourself permission to eat not just to abate hunger, but for fun too!

12. Drink Hot Fluids

Besides eating hot meals, you also want to gulp down as many hot liquids as possible before getting into bed. For this, you will need a camping stove or other gear to start a camping fire to do the heating.

Hot fluids will also help raise your body temperature, keeping you warm during the cold nights out. I suggest hot chocolate packets as they’re very portable but also high in calories and delicious sugar.

13. Don’t Forget to Pee

No one wants to talk about bodily functions, but it’s true. Those few seconds you open your tent to answer nature’s call can have cold air rushing into your tent. That’s why it is always best to go to the bathroom and relieve yourself before stepping into your tent.

But if you’re still pressed in the middle of the night, it is best to relieve yourself – don’t hold it.

By holding urine in your body, you will give it extra work to keep the urine warm. As such, you end up using the energy your body would have used to keep you warm and produce heat to warm your pee instead. Plus, you can get a nasty infection holding it in.

14. Change Your Clothes Before Bed

When camping, it’s always tempting to fall into your sleeping gear and conk out after a long day. But after a day of hiking, you will probably be very sweaty. That extra moisture can make you very chilly and freeze when the cold kicks in. Plus, think of the smell. 

Therefore, make sure you put on a fresh set of dry, warm clothes before tucking in to keep yourself warm. You will see the difference it makes.

15. Layer Up

This is a no-brainer, but I feel compelled to say it anyway: listen to your mother and wear layers! Do you have a jacket? Good! Put a sweater on beneath it. Invest in long underwear. Double up your socks. Wear gloves, for Pete’s sake.

This doesn’t just mean in your tent. Wear layers during the day, too. If it’s not that cold, you can take them off. However, if the cold does set it unexpectedly, you’ll be prepared before the sun goes down and you need to worry about sleep.

16. Wear the Right Clothes to Bed – Cover Head and Feet

Most heat escapes your body through the top of your head and the bottom of your feet. To prevent this, wear wool clothes like a pair of socks and a Marvin hat. Wool wicks moisture better than anything else, making it the best material for extra insulation when you need it.

You won’t catch me camping without thick socks and a really fuzzy hat. I recommend designating a pair of socks for sleeping and wearing them before climbing into your sleeping gear for the night.

Having a permanently dry Marvin hat and pair of socks will help you have the best warm nights while camping. At least not you will have something to look forward to during the cold nights.

17. Use Hand and Foot Warmers

Hand and foot warmers are also great accessories to carry when camping. You never know when they might come in handy if you’ll pardon my pun. These little packets are excellent hand and foot warmers but can also warm your head and other parts of your body. I’ve definitely stuffed them in my pockets to double as hand warmers and leg warmers.

You can also use warmers to preheat your sleeping bag or under your hat and sock. Hand and foot warmers are available in many camping stores and are great for planning long camping expeditions.

18. Prepare Your Clothes for the Next Day

It is also important to prepare your clothes for the next day in advance. It makes it easy to start my next day warm in clean, fresh clothes.

If the clothes you plan to wear the next day are dry, shove them in your sleeping bag. They will add extra insulating layers for a more comfortable sleep. Moreover, having warm clothes to change into the next day will make the experience more bearable.

However, when what I plan to wear tomorrow is damp, I avoid balling them together where they retain that moisture. Instead, I find ways to fan them out or hang them, if possible, to dry out faster.

19. Use a Heated Blanket

We’ve all longed to jump into a warm bed on a chilly night. Here’s where a heated electric blanket comes into play. When planning a winter hike, a heated blanket should be on top of your shopping list. Trust me; it’s a game-changer.

Heated blankets look and behave like any other blanket, but they have heating elements running through them. Plug your heated blanket into an electrical outlet and adjust the temperature as you see fit.

campfire to keep warm in a tent

20. Make a Campfire

It may sound obvious, but a campfire can also help you heat your tent and keep you warm at night. However, you’ll have to be careful! You don’t want to build a campfire too close to your tent and risk it catching fire.

Instead, build it just close enough to enjoy the heat in your tent and give you ambient warmth. Ensure you have enough space to create a campfire and allow adequate safe space to move around it.

Also Read: How you can start a fire with sticks

NOTE: Always put out your campfire before heading off to sleep to prevent fire risks.

If you’re not 100% comfortable building having a fire near your tent, you can opt for a portable propane fire pit. It may not get as hot as a real one but you can easily control the heat and you simply turn it off when you’re done with it.

21. Use a Tent Heater

Want to feel bougie? Get a tent heater. A tent heater is another great appliance if you have access to electricity. If you don’t, then you will need gas to heat your tent.

However, gas heaters emit CO2, which is deadly. Don’t rely on your ventilation system to keep the CO2 levels in your tent safe. If you’re using a gas heater, you want one that has a low oxygen shut-off feature that shuts down automatically when it detects excessive CO2 build-up.

22. Get a Tent with a Stove Jack

Want to feel the opposite of bougie? Like you’re roughing it a la 1800s style? Get a tent with a stove jack.

A stove jack allows you to outfit your tent so you can bend your flue pipe and help you determine where in your tent you want to put your stove.

If you are camping in the winter season and are in a freezing environment, you will want to place your stove in the center of the tent. This usually means that the stove jack will have to go higher up on your tent. This allows you to get the maximum amount of heat from the stove and the flue pipe.

The best thing about a stove jack is that you can use it with a wood-burning stove inside your tent.

Frequently Asked Questions

Get through all of that and still have questions? It’s your lucky day! We’ve got the answers.

Q. How Much Warmth Does a Tent Add?

A properly installed tent can add about five degrees of warmth, which can feel like a considerable difference when camping. The tent also blocks wind, rain, and snow, increasing the amount of heat it retains.

The type of tent you’re using will ultimately impact the amount of warmth it adds and retains, with the best tents being designed for all four seasons.

Q. Is It Safe to Light Candles in a Tent?

Yes, candles are generally safe to use in a tent. However, you have to be smart about where you put them. The flammable fabric of the tent is always at risk and can catch fire easily if you are not too careful. That’s why you should use proper fireproof containers to hold your candle.

Tealights are great options because they are small, lightweight, and easy to carry. One candle can increase your tent’s interior temperature by up to four degrees! Three small tea lights could give you an additional 12 degrees of heat. I feel cozy just thinking about it!

Q. How Do You Warm Rocks for Warmth?

This is a neat trick. To start, place some hand-sized stones in your campfire. Let the rocks heat up for an hour or more, then allow them to cool for a bit. After all, the last thing you want is to burn yourself trying to get warm!

Once they are cool enough to handle but still warm, wrap them in a towel and place them in the center of the tent. They can keep your tent warm for several hours.


There you have it; our picks for how to stay warm in a tent. I love camping, but I hate being cold. It’s taken me a while to master what works best for me when I go roughing it, so don’t be afraid to experiment with several options from the list!

Have you tried any of these before? Did we miss any tips for staying warm in a tent? Share your thoughts in the comments section! We would love to hear from you.

You can find more camping guides here.

Photo of author

Karyn James

Karyn often went camping and boating as a child with her family where she has learned a lot about wildlife and the environment. Now that she has two very active little kids, she knows that planning is key to a fun and stress-free journey. You can find out more about Karyn here.

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