Camping can be a fantastic experience full of wonderful memories, and who wants to spoil those memories by shivering through the night because your tent is too cold? Don’t worry! There are several strategies and products that can drastically improve the warmth of your tent, and leave you feeling positive about your camping excursions.
Your primary source of warmth in your tent is your sleeping bag, so make sure to select one that is rated for the appropriate temperature.
If you plan on camping in a place that gets very cold at night, you will want to spend the extra money on a bag that can withstand very low temperatures. This will be your primary defense against the cold. Check the EN Comfort Rating of the bag to determine the lowest temperature it can withstand while keeping the average person warm. Most EN, or European Norm, camping bags have a temperature rating between 15° and 35°F. When you look at ones for winter they are designed for temperatures that dip around 15°F. The 3-season bags are rated at +35°F, which are ideal for Spring, Summer, and Autumn.
Sleeping bags come in various shapes that can help warm you up to keep you cozy. The most common shape is the rectangle. It is designed to give you loads of warmth but maintains insulation. Rectangle sleeping bags also have the options of a double size so you can snuggle up with a loved one for even more warmth.
The barrel shaped sleeping bag has more room at the shoulders but tapers at the feet. It provides sufficient warmth and is easier to pack for backpacking trips.
The mummy style is pretty much shaped exactly as it sounds. It is close fitting to get the most out of body warmth as it snugly surrounds you. The downside is it can get a tad claustrophobic.
Insulation options are important to figure out a balance between warmth, comfort level and weight. Synthetic insulation sleeping bags are the most affordable options. They are quick drying and will provide good insulation even when wet. The downside is these sleeping bags do not pack well with their bulky shape. Goose or duck down insulation are lightweight, have full draft down-filled collars that protect against icy wind, and last a very long time if taken care of. However these sleeping bags can not get wet and are not hypoallergenic.
A camping blanket is another great method to stay warm and add comfort.
When shopping for the best blanket look at what the outer materials are made of, what are the warming materials, and the various special uses and features of the blanket. Polyester, acrylic, and nylon blankets are ideal for keeping warm in wet conditions, fire resistance, and for being lightweight. Make sure to look for blankets made with down, wool or fleece warming materials.
Recommended blankets include the Get Out Gear Down Camping Blanket. This camping blanket is lightweight at only 1.1 pounds and can be easily packed down into your backpack. The quilt consists of 80/20 insulating, sustainable 650-fill duck feathers. The durable, water repellent outer shell is made of 20D ripstop nylon. Plus you can choose from five different colors. The Kelty Bestie Blanket has a great weight to warmth ratio with its sleeping bag materials. They are reasonably priced and dependable.
Use a thermal blanket to reflect any existing heat inside the tent.
If you use duct tape to secure the blanket to the tent ceiling, the heat inside the tent will be reflected downwards and will increase your personal warmth. Thermal blankets, also known as the lightweight emergency foil-like blankets you find in first aid kits, are inexpensive and easy to transport, and an efficient way to provide warmth in your tent.
Consider purchasing a tent heater.
There are a variety of electric tent heater options on the market today, including choices that run on electricity or propane. A tent heater is the easiest way to quickly increase and maintain the warmth inside your tent, and there are selections that work well for both small and large tents. Choose heaters with wide bases and safety features to prevent the heater from tipping over and accidentally damaging your tent. Note: Be careful NOT to use portable gas heaters in a tent. Gas heaters in an enclosed space can be very dangerous. Follow the manufacturers advice for any heater.
Use insulation under your sleeping bag.
There is a large amount of heat lost through the ground, so you want to make sure that there is something else between your sleeping bag and the tent material. You can either simply put a large blanket underneath your sleeping bag, or you can purchase a self-inflating or foam sleeping pad that will also increase your comfort while sleeping. Sleeping bag liners help trap heat too.
Bring along a tent carpet.
A tent carpet is another way of adding a layer of insulation and protection from the cold ground, but instead of just going underneath your sleeping bag it is designed to cover the entire bottom of the tent. Most tent carpets are also soft and waterproof on the back to keep the inside of your tent dry. If you are backpacking, a tent carpet is not really an option since they are large, heavy and bulky.
When looking for a great tent carpet think about adding a plastic camping mat for outside your entrance. They provide a spot for dirty shoes, clothing, and gear before they come inside to bring in moisture. No moisture means more warmth. Look for weaved options that are heavy weight, mold resistant, and made out of eco friendly recycled plastic.
Use an old-fashioned trick – warm rocks!
This may seem a bit odd, but heating up rocks and keeping them near you is a technique that people have used for hundreds of years. You can heat up larger-sized rocks by your campfire for about an hour, then place them in the center of your tent on a pan (for safety) after they have cooled down enough to handle.
Snuggle up to a hot bottle.
This can help you warm up fast and can be comforting as well towards a good night’s sleep.
Buy some disposable heat packs.
Don’t want to use warm rocks or a hot water bottle? Then consider investing in disposable heat packs. HotHands are the most reliable heat packs. They come in various sizes and even special ones for your feet. Do not be afraid to stuff them everywhere to help keep your entire body toasty.
Don’t forget to ventilate!
This may seem counterproductive, but it is necessary to keep at least one tent window or door slightly unzipped to allow a bit of air to come through. This ventilation will prevent condensation from happening, keeping moisture from accumulating and avoiding the dampness that will make you feel colder.
Wear warm clothes.
Fleece PJ’s aren’t stylish but they do keep you warm. Also, consider a hoodie, wool bed socks, and long underwear.
Choose the Right Tent Size.
It may be tempting to get a 12 person tent for 3 but if you’re looking to stay warm it’s better to sleep closely together in order to share warmth.
Keep the tent dry.
A wet tent is a cold tent, so if it’s raining add a waterproof tent tarp over the tent.
Oftentimes your tent will include a waterproof rain shield or large rain fly. But if not, or you want extra protection make sure to pack tarps with ropes that can be attached to trees or poles. Make sure the tarp is angled in shape and it can extend past the size of your tent when set up. This will make sure the rainwater can pool in pockets in the tarps or drip down the sides of the tent.
Always use a ground tarp under your tent as an added barrier between your tent and ground. Oftentimes moisture seepage from the environment can have you waking up wet.
Before packing a tent away make sure it’s not wet. Let it dry out before packing and it will also extend the longevity of the tent.
Keep warm before bedtime.
It’s hard to get warm when you start out cold. Since most sleeping bags and blankets use insulation to retain warmth, starting out warm helps you maintain the warmth. Have a hot chocolate, decaf coffee, or a warm milk or water by the fire before bed. Having a late dinner is also a good idea. Your body needs fuel to generate its own heat. Try to eat a fatty, hot meal immediately before tucking in for bed. Why fatty? Fat is metabolized more slowly than carbohydrates are. This means your fuel for warmth will last longer as you sleep.
Consider some sort of physical activity to get your body moving and warm. It can be as easy as school yard favorites such as jumping jacks, jogging in place, or some sit ups. Also, make sure you take that restroom break prior to bed. Getting out of a warm tent and into the cold is not a pleasant experience.
There are a variety of methods you can choose from to enhance your tent’s warmth during your next camping outing; pick a few or use them all and ensure that you will never be cold inside your tent again!
Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her tall one husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would be a forever home for all of them they were able to adopt their daughter buckets and are legal guardians of their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus.