A Newbie Camper’s Guide On How To Stay Warm In A Tent

Camping is a great way to escape the city life. But during the winter season, the cold weather can put a damper on your outdoor adventure. Keep your winter camping trip warm and cozy! I’ve got some tips I’ve put together on how to stay warm in a tent.

I love the outdoors, and I love camping. What I don’t love is being miserably cold during these trips, especially in the winter! These tips are designed to help you make the most out of your winter camping, even if you’re a camping newbie! Remember, you want to have as much fun on your winter camping trip, and having fun means knowing how to stay warm in a tent in below-zero surroundings!

A few warm words

These tips are meant for camping under the following conditions:

  • Winter
  • Early spring or late fall
  • Camping in any cold climate

If you’re planning a camping trip during warmer seasons or in warmer locations, then most of these tips won’t apply. But the general principles are the same: be prepared, know your campsite and its surroundings, and bring the right gear to your camping environment!

Step 1: How Do I Plan?

Every great camping trip starts with proper planning. Check the weather forecasts and call the Park Service or Forest Service to get any updates on the conditions of the campsite.

The more information you have about your campsite and its surroundings, the better you can plan what to bring.

Step 2: What Tent Should I Use?

The camping tent is where you’ll be spending your nights and storing your things while out in the rough. If you already have a tent and you know it’s ideally sized for your camping party, then you can skip the tips below. But if you’re in the market for a tent, here are some things you need to know:

  1. Manufacturers have a recommended capacity for their tents. If you plan to camp with kids or pets, consider them as one person each. If you toss and turn in your sleep (like I do!), get a tent with a capacity for one person more than your camping party.
  2. Cabin-type tents have more space than dome-type tents rated for the same capacity because of how they are constructed. Dome-types are easier to heat using portable heaters (more on this later).
  3. Look for 3-4-season or 4-season tents. These tents have heavier fabric and are designed for colder weather. The 4-season tents are designed for harsh weather conditions, while the 3-4-season tents generally have more ventilation.

Step 3: How Should I Choose A Sleeping Bag?

After your tent, your sleeping bag is your next line of defense. Sleeping bags are rated for temperature. Your best bet is to go for one that’s rated for zero degrees.

If you’re like me, your hands and feet get cold real quick mittens for hands are standard here. For your feet, consider using what’s called a “half bag” or “elephant bag.” It’s like an additional sleeping bag, but dedicated to your feet! Alternatively, wrap a thick jacket around your feet to keep them warm!

Step 4: What Clothes Should I Bring?

Bring thick clothes for both trekking and sleeping. Since cotton tends to draw heat away from you, synthetics are the way to go. You can use knit hats throughout the day and even when you sleep. Don’t forget your thermals!

Just be careful about being too warm, to the point you start to sweat. Moisture will draw heat away from your body. Your sleep clothes, together with your sleeping bag, should be just warm enough to keep you from getting too cold.

Step 5: Where Should I Set Up Camp?

Once you arrive at the campsite, don’t pitch your tent just anywhere. Take a quick walk around the camping grounds. Consider the following:

  1. Cold air settles at night. Low-lying areas, like riverbanks, lakeshores, and foothills, will be cooler than elevated areas come nighttime. Consider camping on higher ground!
  2. Wind chill also contributes to the cold. Look for a spot that has no draft. Rock faces, and large tree groves block breezes naturally. If all else fails, set up a tarp to break the wind. This will help keep the wind chill to a minimum.
  3. During the daytime, you’ll want to get as much sun as possible. Look for a spot where the sun will shine throughout the day. This will help you warm the inside of your tent all day.
  4. If you don’t have your water supply, look for one nearby. A distance of 50 to 60 feet away from the campsite should be fine.

Step 6: Warm On The Inside

I mentioned portable heaters earlier. In particular, I mean catalytic heaters that rely on propane gas. There are a few that are designed for use inside tents. While specific instructions will depend on the manufacturer, they all generally work as follows:

  • Connect the appropriate propane tank.
  • Ignite the heater with a match or lighter.
  • Turn the heater on.
  • There may be an initial flame. After the flame dies down, you can place the heater inside your tent.

Remember that these heaters use up a lot of oxygen and need ventilation. They may have trouble working in higher altitudes where the air is thinner.

Handle these heaters with caution. These burn very hot and could burn parts of your tent. You can even burn yourself, so watch out!

I cannot stress this enough: NEVER leave these heaters on while you sleep! Always turn them off when you’re about to sleep. The risk of fires and injury is very real.

Other alternatives to consider are chemical heating packs, which are safe but can only be used once. You can also get a medium-sized rock, place it close to your campfire, and then wrap it with a cloth once it’s at a good temperature. You can place either of these inside your tent or sleeping bag for additional heat.

More Pro Tips

Here are a few more tent tips I learned on how to stay warm in a tent during winter camping: First, don’t close the ventilation meshes. With the ventilation meshes closed, moisture gets trapped inside the tent and will make the inside of your tent colder instead of warmer.

Second, consider using thick blankets as additional insulators from snow or wind. Drape it along the side of your tent facing the source of the snow or breeze.

Finally, use a sleeping pad underneath your sleeping bag. This will insulate your sleeping bag from the cold ground. Sleeping mats are rated for the amount of heat it can retain, called an R-value. An R-value of 5 or more should work great.

We’re All Set!

Did you like the tips I put together? Camping trips are a perfect time to bond with family or friends. I hope these tips on how to stay warm in a tent make your next trip enjoyable and hassle-free! Share your pro tips in the comments, and share this article if you liked it!

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