How to Stay Warm Camping in a Tent – 19 Helpful Tips

Winter Camping

While winter camping season can be one of the best times of the year for scenic views and fun activities, it also comes with cold nights that can be uncomfortable if you don’t know what you’re doing. Spending your entire camping trip freezing in your tent is no fun, so it’s important to be prepared beforehand if you’re planning to go somewhere with cold temperatures.

Fortunately for you, I’ve managed to pick up a few tips and tricks from my years of camping that have made all the difference in cold weather. Continue reading below to learn exactly how you can stay warm in your tent.

1. Buy the Right Tent

When you’re camping in the cold, not all tents are created equal. Ideally, you’re going to want to buy an insulated tent that’s built for all 4 seasons. Other things that would be ideal for your tent are:

1. Simple and easy ventilation. While completely closing off your tent to the elements might seem like a good idea, it also invites moisture to accumulate inside. This can often lead to your tent getting even more cold than if it was allowed to air out slightly.

2. Waterproof. This is especially important if you’re camping in a wet area, or if you expect it to be rainy or snowy. A wet tent will feel much colder than a dry one, so this is critical if you want to stay warm.

3. Smaller in size. A small tent will be far cozier than a large one and can retain your body heat more easily. Go for the smallest tent that you can comfortably fit inside.

2. Use a Tent Heater

One option to keep your tent warm is to use a tent heater. If you have access to electricity, you can use a portable electric heater, but it’s more likely that a gas heater will be a simpler option.

Since portable gas heaters can emit carbon monoxide, which is dangerous, it’s important that you use an indoor safe heater. You should also never fall asleep with your heater burning inside of your tent. If you were to get carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping, you wouldn’t know until it was already too late.

tent heater

3. Choose the Right Camping Location

While a proper tent will help a lot, choosing the optimal location on your campsite will also be a big help in staying warm. You’re going to want to position your tent in a more elevated area to prevent cooler air settling around you. Also, make use of natural landmarks like trees and boulders, which can divert some of the wind around your tent. Some other things to keep in mind are not leaving your tent exposed to the elements, and looking at the wind direction.

4. Insulate Your Tent Properly

While buying an insulated tent is a good start, there are several other things you can do to further insulate it.

To start, it will help if you pack your tent full with gear. This will reduce the open space inside the tent, which will means that less cold air will be hanging inside. Make sure you don’t keep any wet gear inside your tent, though, as that will have the opposite effect.

You’ll also want to insulate your underside. This can be done by putting a tarp under the tent floor, or alternatively laying a foam sleeping pad on the floor of the tent. Both will protect you from the cold of the ground.

inside of tent

5. Keep Your Tent Ventilated

While it might seem crazy to let cold air inside the tent when you’re trying to stay warm, this is actually extremely important. Most tents will have built in ventilation holes, so you’ll want to keep those open. If your tent doesn’t have these, I’d suggest getting one that does.

The reason you want ventilation inside your tent is that your own breath will make the inside of the tent moist over time. Lingering moisture will make the tent colder, and ventilation makes sure that it gets filtered out instead. The air in your tent might also get stale over time if you leave it fully closed up. Ventilation will allow fresh air to come in.

6. Use the Hot Water Bottle Method

If you have a stainless steel or similar material water bottle, this trick can give you a built in natural tent warmer.

What you’ll want to do is heat your water bottle or bottles near the camp fire until they are nice and toasty. Then, you can bring it inside your tent where it will radiate heat. Make sure to be careful about burning yourself. The water bottles can get quite hot so it might be smart to pick them up with gloves or a towel.

7. Move Around Before Bed

Most of you know probably know how your body gets warm after a workout. Well, we can use that to our advantage when trying to warm up while camping. A light jog, walk, some bodyweight exercises, or even stretching (anything to get the blood flowing) can all help raise your body temperature and make you feel warmer before bed.

person walking

8. Eat Closer to Bedtime

By eating closer to bed, your body will use energy to digest food as you are falling asleep. Along with exercise, this can also significantly increase the body heat you emit, which will help keep you and your tent warm.

If you don’t want to eat a whole meal before bed, having a snack will still help a lot. Even better if it’s high in protein or fat, which will take longer to digest and keep you warm even longer.

9. Dress Warmly

This one should be a no brainer. If you plan on camping in the cold, make sure you layer up!

Wearing multiple layers of clothing make it easy for your body to maintain heat, and if you get to hot or cold, you can simply add an extra layer or remove one! Make sure you choose layers that naturally retain heat, such as wool or thermal clothing.

Also, don’t forget your extremities. Your feet, hands, and head can be some of the areas most vulnerable to the cold. Make sure to pack thick socks, good boots, some gloves, and a hat for your trip.

10. Warm Your Tent With Your Campfire

You’re going to have to be careful with this, but your campfire can be used as a tool to help heat your tent. The key is placing your tent close enough that it will benefit from the radiating warmth, but not too close that the tent could burn down from a stray flame. Also, if you’re going to do this, make sure you put the fire out before falling asleep.

campfire tent

11. Choose a Good Sleeping Bag

Just like tents, not all sleeping bags are created equally. If you know you’re going to be camping in cold temperatures, make sure to bring a sleeping bag that has a low temperature rating.

It’s also important that your sleeping bag is made of a warm and breathable material, fits you properly, and is water resistant. Nothing feels worse than a wet sleeping bag.

12. Use a Sleeping Bag Liner

A way to further increase the warmth of your sleeping bag is to use a sleeping bag liner. This is an item that you can lay inside of your sleeping bag that will add anywhere between 15 to 25 additional degrees of heat. As with the sleeping bag, choose one with a comfortable material.

13. Sleep in a Proper Position

If you’re cold inside your tent, it might be tempting to pull the sleeping bag over your entire body and face. Don’t do this. By breathing directly into the sleeping bag, you will make it more moist over time, leaving you colder.

14. Use Heat Rocks

This is similar to the hot water bottle method, except with rocks instead. What you’ll want to do is heat some rocks near your campfire, and then bring the hot rocks inside your camping tent, where they will radiate heat and help you keep warm.

Make sure you don’t put the rocks near anything that they could be melt, and be careful picking them up if they’re extremely hot. Wrap them around a towel to be safe.

hot rocks

15. Use Hand and Feet Warmers

Your hands and feet are more vulnerable to the cold than any other part of your body, and if it’s an extra cold night, then even gloves and some thick socks might not be enough. Hand and feet warmers are cheap, last all night, and are convenient to throw inside your sleeping bag, socks, or gloves right before bed.

16. Keep Yourself Hydrated

Keeping yourself hydrated is important in any situation, but especially when you’re camping outdoors in cooler weather. Staying hydrated will help your body regulate its internal temperature more easily, which will in turn help it keep you warm. Dehydration will also make you much more susceptible to hypothermia, which you definitely don’t want.

17. Get Rid of Moisture Sources

Have you ever noticed how a cold, rainy day feels much chillier than a drier one at the same temperature? This is because humidity significantly impacts how cold you feel. If you’re trying to stay warm in a tent, then you’re going to want to keep it as dry as possible.

Make sure that you change into fresh clothes when you go to sleep, keep wet clothes and other wet items outside of your tent, and try to set yourself up in an area that will be shielded from rain and puddles.

18. Use a Pee Bottle

Picture this. You’re nice and cozy in your sleeping bag, when all the sudden you get the urge to pee. You make the trip out into the freezing cold, but when you get back inside you’re too chilly to fall back asleep. This problem can be solved by using a pee bottle. By packing one, you’ll have no reason to leave the warmth of your tent at night.

19. Share a Tent With Someone

Hot water bottles and rocks are nice, but there’s few things that radiate as much heat as another human body. Whether you share a tent with a friend or a sleeping bag with a partner, this is a great way to stay warm in cold weather.

two people sharing tent


Keeping warm during a cold weather camping trip might look difficult, but if you follow these tips, we promise that you’ll have no issue getting a good night’s sleep in your tent. If you find any of this information helpful on your next camping trip, we’d love to know. Happy camping!


What temperature is too cold for camping?

Generally, it’s not recommended for newer campers to tent camp in temperatures below 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit (or around 0 degrees Celsius). If you have a bit more experience, have high quality gear, and follow the tips in the article, it can be safe to camp in weather as cold as 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

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