Keeping warm in a tent outdoors may seem simple enough. It’s why you have a tent right? It’s a shelter. Add a blanket and what else do you need? If you are camping in the outback of Australia in summer, maybe not much more.
But if you are thinking of camping anywhere north of the equator, even summer evenings can require a few extras. Nothing ruins an adventure like a bad night’s sleep, and we’re here to provide you with outdoor heating solutions whatever the weather or adventure.
So what’s the best way to stay warm when camping? You have one of two choices:
- Find eco-friendly heating options: a combination of items to keep your tent insulated and warm.
- Use portable gas or electric heaters: with a warning that you mostly can’t use these all night long
We’ll go through all the options you have to keep warm camping, from the basics to the extras, to the mod-cons you can bring with you to stay warm.
How to Keep Warm in a Tent – The Basics
If you are worried about packing too much or have a limited budget, these are the items you want to invest in. If you get the right type and the right quality, they will keep you warm through most nights and most weather.
- Sleeping bag – make sure it covers 3 or 4 seasons. It should say when you buy it, and specific the temperatures it can deal with.
- Off-the-ground camping beds – not only is sleeping on the ground uncomfortably, but it’s cold. Investing in a good camping bed is key.
- Insulated tent – your shelter is around 90% of how you stay warm, but if you go cheap, you’ll suffer for it.
Get those right and you’ll stay warm while camping.
What’s the Best Sleeping Bags?
The Best way to stay warm when camping is to get a good sleeping bag. Now you can go super cheap but only do so if you are a hot sleeper and want to buy a summer sleeping bag – basically a blanket.
For most of us, what you are looking for is a 3 seasons sleeping bag. What does that mean? It means it’s an all-around sleeping bag that will cover you for the three main seasons – summer, autumn, and spring. Think temperature of down to 0 degrees celsius.
However, if you are planning to go camping in winter or down to minus 10 degrees celsius, you may want to invest in a mummy sleeping bag or a thermal sleeping bag to stay warm.
Pick a versatile sleeping bag
Easy to carry and lightweight, find a sleeping bag that covers 3 or 4 seasons to ensure you get year-round use. You can afford to pay a little more for an item you’ll be using every time you head out. If you can join them up with other similar bags and create a double sleeping bag, that’s a bonus.
For Super Cold – the mummy sleeping bags
These are the best kind of sleeping bags to help keep you warm in a tent. They keep your head warm, your body cozy, and your toes whole. Use these for winter-only, you’ll boil on a summer camping trip. Most of these thermal sleeping bags should keep you comfortably warm down to -15 celsius, even -30 celsius if you have a good tent and accessories.
Off Ground Camping Beds
What you are looking for here is a protective barrier between you and the cold floor, but still adds comfort to your nights, whilst making it easy to carry and travel with. Which, we’re sorry to say, is where a lot of your costs is going to go into.
Ironically, what you want to avoid is the double-height camping mattress. Why? Surely the further off the ground the better? Not when you consider that what you are laying on is a double layer of air, which makes everything twice as cold.
Best camping beds for tents
Self-inflating mats with foam topping will provide you both comfort and ease, but more importantly, less air space for cool air to sneak in. Trust us when we say that you don’t need much of anything else as long as you have good protection from the ground and a good sleeping bag.
Best camping beds for couples
The double camping bed for couples should provide the same comforts as the single bed. Better yet, it needs to have that protective foam that provides comfort but warmth in the coldest of nights.
The Tents that keep you warm
The best thing to consider when buying a tent is the size. If there’s only one of you and you go camping in a 5 man tent, it’s going to be a lot harder to warm with just your body.
Equally, ventilation is key here. Again, it may seem counterintuitive, because we’ve just mentioned that large amounts of air are your worst enemy, but then again so is condensation. Water created by your breath will cool down your tent faster than air.
The tent is one item you don’t want to go cheap unless you simply want a tarp to cover you from the rain on a warm summer night. In which case, there’s plenty of choices out there.
Choose from insulated tents
The words ‘insulated tent’ automatically make you think of snow and winter. And yes, that is absolutely what insulated tents are for, but you might not want to spend the cash on a tent that’s for winter only. Thankfully insulation works both ways. The best-insulated tent will keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and they don’t come cheap for exactly that reason.
But if you are taking the whole family camping and you are wondering how to keep baby warm while camping, an insulated tent is your answer.
Tents with sleeping compartments
If an insulated tent is out of your budget, consider a tent with sleeping compartments. It creates those warmer pockets of air that doesn’t require as much heating, and keep you warm. Add some blackout bedrooms, and you’ll keep cool in the summer as well.
You can also use blankets and rugs to help insulate the tent if it’s a really cold night.
How to Heat a Tent Without Electricity – The Extras
Maybe you already have your camping gear and can’t afford to upgrade to an insulated tent, maybe you just want a few extras to keep warm on a cold spring night. Either way, there’s plenty of ways to stay warm.
- Sleeping bag liner: these add an extra layer to your sleeping bag and are an easy way to
- Thermals: long john, thermal underwear, thick socks – the more layers the better.
- Hot water bottle: a hot water bottle between your legs is better than a hug.
- Disposable heat packs: in a pinch when you just need to heat your extremities, snap a couple of these to warm up fingers and toes.
- Tent carpets and camping carpets: otherwise known as blankets at it’s most basic, but you can get many to fit the exact size of your tent.
We’ve got plenty of top tips on how to find an eco-friendly way to heat up your tent. But, generally, the best tips for staying warm while camping is the same as when staying warm outside – layers, layers, and more layers.
How to Safely Heat A Tent Using a Portable Heater – The Luxury Items
If you are looking for something more than just a roof and what is (at heart) an advanced zipped-up blanket, there are a few portable camping heaters you can buy to keep you warm day and night.
The best way to stay warm when camping is to buy the right equipment. Don’t think you can just take your garden heater or electric blanket from home and plug it in. Buy purpose-made camping heater that has safety features built-in – like tip-over technology, oxygen sensors, automatic cutoffs etc…
If you are going to use electricity, make sure you have portable chargers or the camping site has power.
What you are looking for here is an automatic shut-off system and overheat protection. Because you are in a tent, and if you are going to go to sleep, you need a timer. It needs to be small, easy to wash, and portable.
When people ask how to stay warm while camping in a tent, they automatically think that an electric heater will be the solution to all their problems. And if you have the power in your camping setup, it is the most eco-friendly outdoor heater.
But the key here is to buy an electric heater that is safe, fit to size for your camping set-up, and preferably oil-filled with a timer. You can’t keep these on all night, so it’s best used as a way to warm up the tent before snuggling up under your layers. The oil will keep the heater warm for longer, even once it’s been shut off.
We can’t stress this enough – gas heaters can be dangerous in a closed environment. They are mostly to be used in well-ventilated areas and no tent is that well ventilated unless the door is wide open.
But if you are planning to go camping in the snow and need that warmth in the evening, a gas heater may be your best option. Just make sure you buy a portable gas heater with a low oxygen sensor that will automatically shut it off if there’s not enough oxygen in the tent due to gas leaks.
Staying Warm While Camping – All About The Equipment
We genuinely don’t think you’ll need every single one of the items on this list to stay warm while camping in a tent. That is unless you want to heat a tent in winter, in the snow, on frozen ground.
But what we have given you are different options and what you should consider when out camping and how to stay warm and cozy through the day and night.
Only you know how much you suffer with the cold at night. But generally, with a good tent, good bed, and good sleeping bag, you are 90% of the way there. Throw in a hot water bottle and plenty of layers and if you need more, you’ll know for next time.