11 Outstanding Tent Warmer Techniques to Keep You Snug

So, tents can get cold, especially in winter. If you’ve had trouble with a cold tent is the past (or you’re to make your tent warmer right now!), this article is for you.

The last thing any of us want is to have a camping or backpacking trip ruined by not being prepared for the weather. Luckily, we’ve got you covered.

Below, you’ll find the 11 best ways we’ve found to make your tent warmer. And if you have any great tricks we missed, please let us know in the comments!

If you prefer video format, here’s Dan Becker, where he covers many of the same tips we’ve outlined below. Enjoy!

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Tip #1: Make a Tent Warmer With the Right Sleeping Bag

Not surprisingly, the right sleeping bag is one of the best ways to make your tent warmer. Specifically, a mummy sleeping bag. Here’s how Alex Gulsby from 99Boulders.com put it:

“If you’re complaining about the cold and I can see more than your little nose and mouth poking out of the mummy bag, you will receive no sympathy from me.

“I get it, you’re bunching up the extra fabric of the hood to create a pillow for your head. It’s a great way to ensure you wake up to the sound of your own teeth chattering.

“Conquer your fears of claustrophobia and use your sleeping bag as it was designed. Wrap your face with the insulated hood and be amazed at how big of a difference it makes. But don’t burrow, keep both your nose and mouth outside the bag to avoid creating excess moisture on the inside via your breath.”

So, sleeping bags have a big impact on making a tent warmer.

In our experience, you’ll want to bring a temperature rated sleeping bag, especially one for cold temperatures.

But how cold?

Well, if keeping your tent warmer is the priority, our recommendation is to get a sleeping bag rated 10-15 degrees colder than what you’re looking for.

The temperature margin of error is about that much, so if you’re looking for a 20 degree sleeping bag, getting one rated for 5 degrees should keep you toasty while out in the wilds.

With these suggestions in mind, here’s our favorite sleeping bags for making a tent warmer while camping or backpacking:

TOP CHOICE

SECOND BEST

RUNNER UP

GREEN CHOICE

Coleman 0°F Mummy Sleeping Bag

ALPS OutdoorZ Redwood -25 Degree Flannel Sleeping Bag

TETON Sports 101R Celsius XXL

Sierra Designs Night Cap 20 Degree Sleeping Bag

✅ Incredibly highly rated

✅ Good for people up to 6' 2"

✅ Coleman Inc. is taking steps towards sustainability

✅ Competitively priced

❌ Bag is a tight fit


✅ Premium quality cotton and durable parts

✅ Great for extreme cold up to -20° F when combined with good insulation

✅ Good for people up to 6' 6"

❌ Some reviews got cold well before -20° F

✅ Good for car camping

✅ Great quality

✅ Wider and longer than most sleeping bags

❌ Feet can get cold near 0° F

✅ Made of recycled materials

✅ Mummy bag design helps keep you warm

❌ Expensive

❌ Not many reviews, even on other sites

Tip #2: Use Hot Water Bottles

There’s nothing quite like a hot water bottle to keep you and your tent warmer during winter camping.

While only good for a certain period of time, hot water bottles are easy to bring with and stick in your sleeping bag. They help not only keep your toes warm, but your entire body. They’re a great, easily portable option for staying warm in cold-weather camping and backpacking.

If you don’t already have one, we’d recommend picking up a hot water bottle that’s durable and easily resealable. But if you already have a hot water bottle, that will likely do just fine to keep your sleeping bag and tent warmer.

You can also consider buying or bringing a fleece cover, which should help make the water bottle more comfortable in your sleeping bag.

To get hot water for your water bottle, we recommend either boiling hot water over a fire or bringing boiled hot water with you in a few regular insulated water bottles. To help you get started, here’s our favorite hot water bottles:

TOP CHOICE

SECOND BEST

RUNNER UP

Samply Hot Water Bottle - 2L

Fythao Hot Water Bottle - 2L

Attmu Hot Water Bottle- 2L

✅ Excellent reviews

✅ Works with boiling water

✅ Warmth lasts at least 4-6 hours when covered under a blanket/sleeping bag

✅ Durable and easily reusable

❌ Made of synthetic material


✅ Stays warm for up to 8 hours

✅ For those with a sensitive sense of smell, the rubbery odor fades quickly

✅ The hot water bottle is recyclable

❌ Can't be filled with boiling water

✅ Heat lasts 4-5 hours

✅ Durability generally rated well in reviews

✅ Made of recyclable thermoplastic material

❌ Some reviews had trouble getting it warm enough

Tip #3: Pick a Spot That helps make a tent warmer

image of windswept snowy field with warmer slope for pitching a tent below

Knowing the ideal places to pitch camp can be a surprisingly powerful way to keep you and your tent warmer.

For starters, as you probably know, cold air sinks and hot air rises, so finding an area of higher elevation can help.

Specifically, we recommend setting up your tent at an elevation that is about 50 feet above the valley floor. But also make sure to avoid the peaks and highest points, since the wind will be coldest up there.

Speaking of peaks, set up camp on the side of a hill or a mountain slope to optimize your other tent warmer tricks. That way, you’ll get extra protection from the wind and elements, as well as get that sweet spot for elevation.

As a bonus tip, the size of your tent matters. This probably goes without saying, but bringing a gigantic tent when you don’t have enough people to fill it will just create open space for more cold air. If making your tent warmer is the priority, you’ll want to get a smaller tent and use a separate canvas awning, or try a large tent with compartments.

Tip #4: Heat Your Tent With a rock

Yup, you read that correctly! Warming a few rocks is a handy and simple way to keep you warm while backpacking or camping. There’s a few ways you can go about it, which we’ll summarize here.

After heating the stones in your campfire, one option is to simply place them somewhere in your tent. You could wrap them up in a cloth and put them in your sleeping bag, or you could place them on a safe, non-flammable surface somewhere In your tent. A flat metal surface would be ideal.

Another option some campers like is to dig a trench underneath their tent and place the heated stones there. Here’s what Tentcamping.org recommends:

“While your rocks are heating up in the fire, dig a trench under where your tent/bed will be. Make sure it is the full length of your body and deep enough to cover all the stones with a few inches of dirt. Carefully place the heated rocks inside the trench and cover with a few inches of soil. Make your bed on top of the buried stones and have a toasty sleep!

“Using hot rocks is not recommended for unsupervised children or inexperienced campers. Never heat up wet rocks as they are likely to expand and burst in the heat of a fire. This could cause hot embers and rock shards to shoot out, possibly causing serious injury.

Wise cautionary advice! We suggest you be careful about using heated stones. But, if they’re a good fit for you, they can be a great way to keep your tent warmer.

Tip #5: Bring a warmer tent

image of a tent in the woods

You already know from tip #3 that bringing a large, one-room tent can be difficult to keep warm. But there’s a bit more to bringing the ideal tent, which we’ll cover here!

First of all, if you want your tent warmer, you’ll want to look for a 3- or 4-season tent (which you probably already guessed) if you plan on camping during the colder parts of the year.

You’ll also want a tent that’s waterproof, has enough space to fit everything you need to keep dry inside, and that can withstand a snowfall.

With those suggestions in mind, here’s our list of recommended cold-season tents. Also, keep in mind that the Arctic Oven Tents could be a good idea if you need something truly warm in even the coldest temperatures.

TOP CHOICE

SECOND BEST

RUNNER UP

GREEN CHOICE

Geertop Backpacking Tent 2 Person, 4 Season

Vidalido Camping Tent 5-6 Person, 4 Season

Forceatt Tent 2-3 Person, 3-4 Season

The North Face Stormbreak Tent 3 Person, 3 Season

✅ Good performance in extreme cold

✅ High quality stakes

✅ Waterproof inner floor

✅ Comfortable fit for one person, snug fit for two

❌ Tent's zipper can be annoying


✅ Spacious fit

✅ Rated well for staying warm and dry

✅ Easy to put up and take down

❌ Instructions can be difficult to understand

✅ Stands up well against snow

✅ Very affordable

✅ High quality 68D polyester fiber and 190T waterproof coating

❌ Not suitable for extreme cold

✅ Good water resistance

✅ Holds up well against wind

✅ Company is taking steps towards sustainability

❌ Won't work in winter

Tip #6: Use Carpets and Rugs to Insulate Your Tent

Insulating a tent can have a tremendous impact on staying warm. Even better, it’s relatively easy to do!

First off, you can insulate your tent by using blankets or a series of rugs. In particular, we’d recommend using an all-weather rug.

Another option, especially ideal for really cold weather, is a professional tent carpet mat. These tend to be more expensive than normal rugs, though, so you might want to make sure you really need the extra cold protection before buying.

An alternative to tent carpets would be something like a foam sleeping mat. These come in various sizes and keep you and your sleeping bag off the cold ground. You can even use a foam yoga mat/exercise mat, especially a few stacked up, to keep a cold ground surface from sucking the heat out of your tent.

If all else fails, you can even gather bracken like moss, leaves, and pine needles and place them underneath your tent or sleeping bag. Try making it a game to see who can bring back the most!

Tip #7: Use A Safe, Portable Heater to Make Your Tent Warmer

The emphasis being here, of course, “safe“. You’ll want to be careful using something like a heater that can endanger you and the other campers. But, if done safely, a portable heater is a great way to keep your tent warmer.

Here’s what Skilledoutdoors.com has to say about portable heaters:

Catalytic Heaters

“The easiest, most effective way to heat a tent when there’s no electricity to be found is with a good quality gas/propane heater, preferably a portable one such as a catalytic heater.

“Without getting too scientific on you, A catalytic heater is a type of heater which relies on catalyzed chemical reactions to break down molecules and produce heat.

“While a catalytic heater still uses propane, it’s a far safer and more efficient than a traditional radiant heater such as the Mr. Heater, which I also recommend for heating your tent when there’s no electricity.

“As far as a catalytic heater goes, I like the Mr. Heater Buddy Portable Gas Heater. Its small compact size make it perfect for tent camping! It also comes with foldable legs and is CSA Certified for the USA and Canada.

“It also can heat your tent for up to 7 hours on (1) one Pound gas cylinder, which is about twice as long as other heaters on the market.” 

Radiant Heaters

“Another option would be to get yourself a radiant heater such as the Mr. Heater Buddy. The Mr. Heater comes in a variety of different sizes, but I like the 4,000-9,000 btu model. This is more than enough to heat your tent, even on the coldest of nights. However there is one drawback to using the Mr. Heater Buddy: you have to bring enough propane.

“While this may not be a problem if you’re driving directly to your campsite, it might be a problem if you plan on hiking several miles off the beaten path to your camping destination. 

“A small gas canister will only last about 4 hours if you run it on low. This means that you have to haul several canisters with you just to heat your tent for one night. 

“This is the main reason why I prefer the catalytic heater that I mentioned above.

“A word of caution when using any type of heater that uses gas. All gas heaters will produce some amounts of carbon monoxide. While neither one of these units will likely produce enough to be a danger to you and your family, it is up to you to read the product instructions and use accordingly.”

Okay, we’re back. So, the main thing to keep in mind if you’re bringing a portable heater is to be careful where you set it up (avoid flammable surfaces), and keep an eye on it while it runs. Ideally have it going a few hours before you go to bed, then turn it off until the morning.

In addition, if you’re considering using a portable heater, make sure your tent has good ventilation, follow the safety instructions from the manufacturer on the machine, and bring a carbon monoxide alarm. In general, use common sense.

Tip #8: Wear Warm ClotheS, Including Socks

image of some socks

For this tip, we’re specifically talking about what you’re wearing in your tent and sleeping bag.

Since the majority of your body heat escapes through your head and feet, a trick to making your whole tent warmer is to wear a warm cap like a beanie to bed, as well as snug winter socks.

In addition, make sure your clothing is dry, and ideally reserve a set just for sleeping. You can keep the whole set in your sleeping bag, or even just a pair of warm socks and a beanie, to look forward to after a cold day of hiking and exploring.

Also, while a hat and socks are the most important extras to bring to bed (after your clothes, of course), wearing long johns can be a great idea, both when out hiking and when going to bed.

You can even wear gloves, if they’re comfortable enough, to retain extra heat and keep you and your tent warmer.

Our recommendation is to bring warm, cotton clothing like these socks (mens version here), or a cap like this one. Wool can also work, but you’ll want to do your research to make sure it was gathered humanely.

Tip #9: Avoid air mattresses

Normally, air mattresses are great.

If you’re visiting friends out of state and need to set up in their spare room, an air mattress is wonderful. However, if you’re camping in cold climates, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

The reason is because air mattresses retain the temperature of their environment. While this can work if your’ve made your tent warmer already, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle to stay warm.

The potential exception to this tip is to bring a thin, high-quality mattress specially designed for the winter. An example of these would be the Gear Doctors Self Inflating Sleeping Pad. The pad is designed to work in all seasons, and uses insulation foam to retain heat better.

The reviews for the Gear Doctors Pad are good, even for winter, showing that the pad’s claims are probably accurate. When combined with some of the other tent warmer techniques we’ve talked about, it might be a good choice for you.

Tip #10: Make Your Tent Warmer By Eating Enough

image of a fire with marshmallows roasting

When you’re camping out in the winter, you have to be kind of crazy, right? Most campers shiver at the very idea of camping in the snow, but you’re made of sterner stuff. They might ask you what could possibly be enjoyable about camping during the winter, and if you’re struggling for an answer, just say: eating whatever you want.

While that would, of course, not be exactly true, you do want to eat more while you’re camping during the winter. Particularly the foods you normally might avoid, foods rich in fat and fiber. This can include hot dogs or tofu pups, oatmeal, potatoes, squash, and many others. This will, indirectly, keep your tent warmer at night.

In addition, you can keep yourself snug by drinking lots of hot liquids: Think tea, hot cocoa, and coffee (instant coffee, perhaps?). Even without the fiber and fattiness of foods, hot drinks can definitely keep your tent warmer.

If you’re interested in calorie numbers, shoot for between 3600-6000 calories per day. See what works for you, write it down, and then have it ready for your next winter camping trip!

Tip #11: Try (Eco-friendly) Disposable Heat Packs

Our final tip to eek ping your tent warmer is about heat packs.

Being a website for sustainable travel and adventure, this is something of a cautionary subject for us. Normally, heat packs are highly wasteful. However, if you want a quick boost of heat, there are ways to use heat packs in an eco-friendly way.

Specifically, we’re talking about reusable and/or recyclable heat packs. These can be tricky to hunt down, but if you can snag a few, they’re an easier option on the environment for you to get the heat packs you want.

If you’re interested in obtaining some heat packs, you could start by taking a look at Greenheatpad.com.

Conclusion

Hopefully one of our above tips helped toast up your toes and make your tent warmer! If we missed anything, feel free to let us know in the comments, and we’ll add it to the list. hanks for reading!

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