How to Stay Warm in a Tent in Cold Weather – Gear and Camping Tips

Camping trips in the summer and spring are easy. The weather is nice, and you won’t need to bring a lot of gear with you.

All you need to do is prop up your rain fly when it starts to drizzle, and everything else is a cakewalk.

If you plan to camp at different points during the whole calendar year, you’ll need to learn how to stay warm in a tent in cold weather.

Staying warm is a lot more difficult than keeping cool, but it’s possible with the right gear and a good strategy.

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How to Stay Warm in a Tent in Cold Weather – A Guide for Winter Campers

If you love camping in summer, spring, and fall, you might want to venture out into a new season.

Winter camping is an entirely unique experience.

The preparations you’ll need to make, the campsites you select, and the gear you bring are completely different from what you’d need to camp in any other kind of weather.

Cold weather camping is a little more challenging, but it’s a challenge that most outdoor enthusiasts are prepared to meet.

Forget what you know about warm weather camping, and explore the art of cold weather camping from a new angle.

A few cold weather tent camping tips can make your winter trip great.

Finding the Right Campsite

When you’re camping, you’ll always be exposed to the elements. Nature can either work with you or against you.

When you’re finding a place to put your tent, you might be able to find ways to tilt nature in your favor.

Finding the right place to set up camp is important all year, but it’s especially important in the winter months when you need to retain warmth.

Designated Sites

If you have access to marked campsites, you may want to use them. If it’s snowing, it could be easy to miss landmarks and get lost.

Designated sites are prepared for things like snowfall, and it’s a little harder to get lost.

These sites often have electrical hookups that campers can use for their gear, and this is very important in the winter when you may need to rely more on lights and heaters when the ground is too wet to start a fire.

Sheltered Areas

If you can’t find a marked campsite, your next best bet is to use a sheltered area.

Areas beneath large tree canopies, or even safe shallow caves make an ideal place to pitch your tent in cold weather.

This may sound counterintuitive at first. After all, aren’t shaded areas better for keeping you cool?

In the winter, things work differently.

You want all of the heat you can create to circulate within a small area, rather than escaping into the air. A sheltered campsite will help you maintain the warmth around your tent.

If you start a fire outside of the tent, the hot air will have a harder time rising and escaping through the tree canopy. You’ll be making the most of the warmth on your campsite.

Getting the Right Gear

Cold weather camping is all about being prepared. If you need to know how to keep a tent warm in cold weather, you’ll find that the answer lies mostly in the gear that you bring with you.

You can’t control the external temperature, but you can always pack the things that you need to help you combat it.

Part of it is in what you wear, part of it is in how you sleep, and part of it has to do with your tent itself.

A Perfectly Sized Tent

Smaller tents are better for helping campers maintain body heat. The smaller the area, the easier it is to keep warm.

On the other side of that coin, in extremely cold weather, you’re probably going to want more space inside of your tent that you can use for eating and changing your clothes.

If you plan on setting up camp in one spot for an extended period of time, it helps to get a tent that’s designed for one more camper than you’re actually bringing.

You’ll have a little extra space to spread out and stay warm, but not so much extra space that you’re losing the advantage of body heat.

Electrical Outlets

Some tents come with electrical access ports, and you might want these ports for some of your gear.

If you have an electric blanket, for example, it won’t do you any good if you can’t plug it in. The same goes for heaters.

Most designated campsites have electrical hookups. If you know you’re going to be camping on one of these sites, it helps to choose a tent with access ports.

Nature Hiking

Sleeping Bags

It goes without saying that you’ll need the best winter sleeping bag to help you camp in the winter.

Even if it’s not freezing outside, it helps to choose a sleeping bag that’s rated for 0-degree weather.

If you get too warm, you can always remove layers. If you get too cold, you need a sleeping bag that will be able to protect you.

Sleeping bags like the Teton Sports Celsius XXL are perfect for getting the job done.


Of course you’ll need warm clothes.

A regular hat and plain knitted gloves probably won’t be enough, especially since you won’t be able to go indoors.

You’ll need a pair of reliable gloves like one of these the best hiking gloves. Put them on before your hands have a chance to get cold, so you’ll be able to maintain your body heat.

A plain hat isn’t insulated. In order to keep your face, head, and neck warm, you’ll want something like the Magisor thermal balaclava.

Balaclavas do a better job of helping you maintain warmth than a scarf or a knitted hat, especially since they’re all one piece and can easily be tucked into a large coat to prevent gaps.

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Tent Heaters

It’s dangerous to use a tent heater overnight, but you can set it up and allow it to fill your tent with warm air before you get in and close it up for bedtime.

Using one of these is the best way to heat a tent in winter.

Something like the Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater is perfect for this purpose.

Turn it on again in the morning to help you warm up, and never leave it on unattended – doing so might be dangerous.

Preparing To Call it a Night

The routine you use before you get ready to sleep can actually help you stay warm throughout the night.

If you plan your evening right, you can generate enough heat that you can hold onto throughout the night.

Eating right, moving around, and plotting your sleeping arrangements can help you maximize your warmth.

Eat Right

Food contains calories, which are actually small units of heat. Eating a large meal before you go to bed can help you build and maintain that heat.

As the food moves through your body, you’ll be obtaining the calories you need in order to keep you warm.

Drink as little as possible.

You won’t want to have to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, because you’ll lose the heat you’ve built up with each trip in and out of the tent.

Move Around

Jump start your system before you lay down for the night. Cardio exercises can help you create more body heat. A brisk jog or even jumping jacks can help warm you up.

You may not break a sweat in exceptionally cold weather, but you won’t need to.

Ten to twenty minutes of rapid pace exercise will warm you up.

Just make sure you don’t give that heat any time to dissipate before you enter the tent.

tent and an aurora

Set Up Your Tent

Consider your sleeping arrangements. A lot of cold weather campers like to use the buddy system, where two people share a sleeping bag to maximize the amount of body heat trapped inside.

If you’re comfortable doing so, you might want to consider setting up your tent for each camper to have a sleeping bag buddy.

It may not be the most comfortable and you’ll have less room to move around, but you’ll undoubtedly stay warmer.

Making it Easy

It’s not hard to learn how to stay warm in a tent in cold weather. The colder it is, the more precautions you’ll want to take.

Remember that your goal is not only to stay warm, but also to stay safe.

As winter fades into spring, it’s a little easier to stay warm. In the middle of winter, it could be a little more challenging.

Make sure you’ve researched what the weather is going to be like on the campsite while you’re away.

It’s better to take extra precautions than it is to find yourself ill-prepared during a cold camping trip.

Karlis Kikuts

Karlis Kikuts

Coffee addict. Digital nomad. Solo traveler and blogger. Camping and hammocking enthusiast. Tiny book worm. In other words, the guy behind