Let’s get some heat in here. Camping out in your small tent can be a rewarding experience unless you’re cold. When you’re cold, you’re miserable and don’t really want to do anything. Staying warm is essential, and there are many options to help you heat that tent. What might they be, where do I look, how much do they cost, will they heat all of my tent, do I need electric? I’m glad you asked!
How do you stay warm in a tent?
The ideal stay warm you will need to have a 3 season or 4 season tent, warm bedding such as a sleeping bag or camping quilt, wear clothing appropriate for the temperature such as thermals and use some type of heater that is safe to use for tents.
With that said, there are several factors that you will need to consider in order to choose the proper equipment and properly stay warm such as, the type of weather, climate and night-time temperatures of the area you will be camping in.
This can seem daunting if you are new to tent camping but we will cover everything so you will know exactly how to keep warm and comfortable while tent camping.
Remember it’s important to stay warm but also to stay while doing so. We have put together some options but be sure to use your best judgment and always be safe.
What Heaters Can Be Used In A Tent?
The biggest drawback here is that you obviously need some type of power source. If you’re fortunate enough to be in a campground, you can easily get a site that provides electric hookups. If so then try out one of the following.
- Multifun Small Personal Portable Space Heater. The unit weighs 2.6 pounds, has 4 temperature settings (41 – 95 degrees), has auto shut off at 149 degrees.
- VIVREAL Mini Portable Space Heater. Has two settings, low at 750 watts with high at 1500 watts, thermostat to help control the temp, suitable for spaces up to 190 SQ FT.
- Honeywell Surround Heat Tent Heater. Definitely need to be near an electric source, great for campgrounds that offer this to tent campers, exceeds safety standards, safest on the market, 360-degree spin that heats up the entire area not just one corner.
- Heater Little Buddy. Small, good fit 95 SQ FT or less, ideal for a 1-person or 2-person tent, has a tip over switch, auto shut off, and runs for 5 and a ½ hours.
- Texsport Portable Outdoor Propane Heater. 2,890 BTU’s, last 5 hours, may not be great for really small tents and unfortunately pretty pricey.
- Comfort Zone Heater Personal Heater. Fan forced heat, goes between 750/1500 watts, weighs 3.67 pounds, great at keeping your body temperature up while sleeping.
- Honeywell HCE100 Ceramic Heater. Perfect for small tents, has tip over protection, is small, weighs 1.05 pounds, comes in the colors of Red, Black or Green and has a wonderful price.
- Tooluze Camping Butane Heater: Covers an area of 100 SQ FT, weighs 5.4 pounds, can be used for several hours, ultra-portable, the body swivels to give heat distribution but will, unfortunately, need to have proper ventilation in your tent due to fumes it gives off.
We feel this is a great way to heat a tent if you have an electric source close. Just remember to leave some space clear in front of an electric heater or that you are not close enough to accidentally drape part of your blanket of one. Either one of these scenarios could easily cause a fire inside your tent. Also, be sure the tip over switch works.
This is probably one of the easiest ways to heat your small tent. Obtain some that weigh between 5-15 pounds and place them by the fire for a couple of hours. After they’ve cooled enough to touch place them in the center of your tent and with the use of a thermal blanket the heat will be retained. You may also place them at the bottom of your sleeping bag to aid in staying warm.
If you’re fortunate to be in a sandy location and time doesn’t matter then dig a hole. Don’t laugh; let me explain. Place about 15 rocks on a well-built fire and dig a foot deep hole while they heat up. When the rocks have heated up, put them down the whole and cover the spot with sand. Place your tent on the ground directly over the hole, and you’ve got heat for the better part of the night. Depth is important so that you don’t burn your tent from the rocks. Sand is better than dirt because of the ease of heat rising through it.
Nalgene Water Bottle
Heating one or two up and placed around the tent or inside your sleeping bag can aid in heating up your tent and you. As a safety reminder ensure the top is tight to prevent leaks that could cause burns. These range in price from $4.99 up to over $39.99 and can be purchased at places such as Target, REI, Field and Stream.
Chemical Heat Packs
Place these around your tent and in your sleeping bag to contain warmth. If not reusable just simply throw away after using, in the appropriate trash receptacle of course.
Heating your tent can easily be obtained by using some type of catalytic heater because these are specific to tent heating. A popular brand that many fellow tent users have is the Coleman Blackcat Catalytic Heater. This unit is 3,000 BTU, easy to carry, runs up to 7 hours when using a 16.4-ounce propane cylinder (need to purchase separately).
For safety reasons do not operate this all night, instead turn it on a couple of hours before you go to bed to get that cozy, warm feeling, turn it off then immediately on when you wake up in the morning.
The Blackcat is only one option that you have in keeping that tent warm.
Also, the Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy Catalytic Heater (Amazon Link) says it is indoor safe, but I would still use caution.
Wood campfire stoves
Some tents have vents for stoves and if you are lucky enough to have ones of those types of tents then a campfire stove will be great heat source. Just make sure you have it properly connected to the vent flap and a decent amount of firewood.
How To Choose Warm Bedding For Your Tent
These not only protect you in emergencies they are good at aiding in keeping warm in your tent. They can be placed on the inside top and radiate heat back down with the help of your heater to help you stay warm. Another way to use these for staying warm is to lay one under your bedding, especially if you are laying on the ground.
Since the ground will draw heat away from you rapidly, a thermal blanket is an ideal insulation as it will reflect the heat back towards you and reduce heat loss to the ground.
- Mylar Thermal Blanket. Available in a 10-pack, durable, retains body heat and waterproof. $6.88-Amazon
- OutFanda Emergency Blanket. Comes as a 2-pack, easy and convenient to use and lightweight. Amazon-$7.97
- Vertex Essentials Emergency Blanket. 6-pack and individually wrapped, designed for NASA use, available in Gold, Military Green, and Silver, easy to store. $8.79-Amazon
Choosing the right sleeping bag can be tricky but if you know the weather conditions and average low temperatures, you will be able to choose a bag that will keep you warm and dry.
Sleeping bags consist of two main parts that work together to keep you warm and dry.
- The shell
The shell of a sleeping bag can be made of many different materials but the most common is polyester. The outer shell serves several functions such as holding the insulation in and keeping moisture out.
Insulation will usually either be synthetic or down. While both have pros and cons, each has different conditions that it performs well in.
If your camping area will be below 30 degrees and relatively dry, then down is the way to go but if conditions are wet and above 30 degrees, synthetic will make more sense. Down feather bags are not good in wet conditions since the feathers will clump and not insulate very well.
For some in-depth information you should really know, we suggest that you read these two articles.
Camping quilts are similar to sleeping bags but they do not zip up all the way. This makes it easier to open if you are too hot but this also means that they are not as efficient in really cold temperatures.
You can also find these with a variety of shell materials and insulation materials. We recommends a camping quilt for temperatures above 40 degrees if you tend to get too hot and will want something that is easy to open up so that you can coll off easily.
Blankets or quilts from home can usually keep you warm if the low temperatures do not go below 50 degrees but this can vary depending on the thickness of the blanket or insulation of a quilt.
The down side of blankets is that they are not made for camping conditions and are prone to tearing. Also, blankets from home will usually not be suited for wet conditions and will soak up water.
According to the University Of Michigan Medical “Wet clothing greatly increases heat loss through conduction and evaporation. Heat loss in cold, wet weather increases the risk for hypothermia and cold injury”
What clothes to wear in your tent
When it comes to staying warm in a tent, the right clothing can make all the difference. You can choose to sleep in your everyday clothes or even shorts and a t-shirt but for those really cold nights, there are a couple of options that are sure to help keep the cold at bay.
Wool has been used for warmth for hundreds of years and it is still one of the best materials to wear when it is cold. There are many types of wool and they can perform different functions but they are all great at insulating. The only down side is wool can make some people itch and you will need to make sure that you are not allergic to wool before giving it a try.
Here’s a list of 3 main types of wool and their pros and cons
Traditional or sheep wool
This is one of the most common types of wool and does a good job of keeping you warm.
- pro – Since this is the most widely used wool, it is very affordable and will cost less than the other types of wool
- Con – This tends to be the type of wool that causes the most itching. Also, you will have to be careful when cleaning this type of clothing as it tends to shrink easily.
This is the wool from a sheep when it is young.
- pro – The wool from a young sheep doesn’t shrink as easily as it does from an adult sheep.
- con- Since this wool can only be cut once before a lamb becomes and adult, it is rare and the cost will reflect that
This type of wool is one of the best to wear camping. Not only is it warm but it doesn’t weigh as much as some other types of wool.
- pro – This type of wool is lighter than most others and warm. Also, it is breathable allowing moisture to escape.
- con – Merino is on the pricey side compared to most other types of wool.
For great information on more types of wool, with pros and cons, you will want to read this article. Are Wool Blankets Good for Camping?
If you work in cold conditions, then you have probably worn thermals (thermal underwear) before. Thermal shirts and bottoms are widely used to keep for outdoors jobs but they are also great for keeping you warm when camping.
Thermals keep you warm in a different way than other types of clothing. Thermals are made to stop evaporation cooling by wicking away moisture. Most other types of clothing keep you warm by trapping heat between your body and insulation.
The best material for thermal underwear is probably merino wool. Not only does it wick away moisture but merino also traps some body heat as well.
Have the right type of tent
Having the right tent can make a big difference when it comes to staying warm. We recommend either a 3-season tent or 4 season tent and here’s why.
3 season tents
Unlike standard tents, 3 season tents are made to withstand rain and wind. Moisture or wind can contribute heavily to staying warm and in some cases be the difference between sleeping comfortably and getting dangerously cold.
3 season tents are light-weight, making them great for just about any kind of tent camping.
4 season tents
4 Season tents are made for even colder climates with high winds and snow. These tents are built with even stronger materials so that they can withstand high winds and the weight of snow.
The downside is that they are heavier and this makes them more cumbersome if you are hiking but a must for environments with snow and high winds, such as a mountain.
You should definitely check out our recommended tents section. We hunt down the best tents for the money and do all the research for you. Click here
Some extra tips for staying warm in your tent
Provides insulation and extra warmth especially when used in conjunction with heaters and other devices in heating your tent. Can be cut to the desired size, easy to clean and put down. One desirable brand is found at Walmart for $75.81, The Drymate Tent Carpet.
These are effective in giving the same outcome as a tent carpet but at a lower price. You can easily get lightweight household rugs and place throughout your tent or only in the areas you feel they are needed. Can be purchased at Target, Walmart, Walgreens or your favorite retailer.
Not only do footprints protect your tent from damage but they also add another layer of insulation between your tent and the ground. Also, they prevent moisture, and keeping dry is important for staying warm.
You should check out this article for more great information about footprints for tents. Why Do You Need a Footprint for Your Tent?
Here are a few other related questions.
What is the safest way to heat a tent?
We believe that a catalytic converter is the safest way to heat a tent. They use a chemical reaction. This makes the risk of fumes much less of a concern.
Can you stay warm camping in 40-degree weather?
The simple answer is yes. With the right gear and clothing, it is actually not too hard to stay warm in 40-degree weather. It’s even easier when you are in a tent with a thermal blanket and some other heat source. Outside, with the right clothes and a campfire, 40 degrees doesn’t feel too bad to most people.