10 Tips To Stay Warm In a Tent

Winter tent Camp in snow
Winter tent camping in the snow

These Winter Camping Tips Will Keep You Warm

Few camping experiences are more miserable than spending a night shivering in a cold tent. Knowing these basic tips for staying warm in your tent, and keeping your tent warm too, will help you get a good night’s sleep, and wake ready for the day’s camping adventures.

*The information provided is based on extreme cold and snow camping and hiking conditions, but is easily adjusted for more moderate cold weather camping.

Start with the basics – Stay Dry – you and your tent

  1. Put on dry clothes.
    Don’t go to bed in your day clothes.

    Even in 0% weather your body will produce moisture. You might not think you have worked up a sweat, but your day clothes will still have the moisture of your body’s exertions – and that moisture will steal your body’s heat, and make you colder faster. It is important to put on dry clothes before climbing into your sleeping bag.

    • Your best choice would be wool socks and a loose wicking base layer like a long sleeve shirt and sweat pants. For extreme conditions non-itching Merino wool socks, pants, and shirts are the best choice.

      *Here are some examples available on Amazon.com:
      Merino Wool camping base layers

  2. Wear a toboggan-type wool or knit cap.
    That’s right, your head is is like an exhaust pipe for your body heat. Wear a cap, but not a tight fitting ball cap.

    wool toboggan watch cap

  3. Have a Cold-Weather Sleeping Bag
    The best choice for cold-weather camping is a 0% mummy-type sleeping bag, with a drawstring hood. Like the one shown below.

    *click image to see how to pick a good sleeping bag


    A regular rectangular 3-season sleeping bag will not keep you warm in cold weather – without some extra help. But if that is what you have, then you can increase its warmth by:

    • Adding extra blankets and a sleeping bag liner (which can be just an extra sheet from home)
      • Once you do use a sleeping bag liner – you will never camp without one again!
        It’s amazing how much comfort and heat-trapping ability these things add to your sleeping bag.

        *click image to see how to check out sleeping bag liners

    • Wear a second layer of dry clothes to sleep in
    • Zip-up an outer coat and slip it over the foot of your sleeping bag.
  4. Use a Sleeping pad – not an air mattress
    An air mattress, (even the good ones from home), is just a big volume of air waiting to pass the ground cold right into your sleeping bag.

    The best choice for cold-weather sleeping pads – in temperatures down to around -15% – is a self-inflating one. They give you about an inch and a half of good cushioning insulation between your sleeping bag and the cold ground. For extreme cold you can add a closed-cell mat, (like a yoga or exercise mat), under it, but for most North American temperatures a good self-inflating sleeping pad is great at the job of keeping the ground cold away.

    *click image to see more about good self-inflating sleeping pads

  5. Prepare for going to bed
    Eat the right dinner food
    Your body needs fuel in cold weather, and protein and fat rich foods are what you want. Meats, cheeses, and buttery items will give your body long lasting, slow-burning fuel to digest and provide the energy your body needs for the night. If it will be awhile between dinnertime and bedtime, then eat some protein and fat loaded snacks, like nuts and trail mix, or protein energy bars, etc. before going to bed.
    Exert some energy
    Don’t go from sitting around to laying down. Work-up a little body heat by walking around, or maybe even a couple jumping-jacks before climbing in your sleeping bag. Or, you can play “The Naked Game,” as recommended by Alex. G at 99Boulders.com. Instead of jumping jacks, she recommends getting into your sleeping bag fully dressed in your sleeping clothes. Then with your bag zipped up, remove every stitch of clothing – and put it back on again. The exertion this takes will get your body warmed up as well as any exercise – and it will be in the place it is most needed – your sleeping bag!

  6. Use a Pee bottle!
    It may sound icky, but experienced cold weather campers know the value of keeping tent heat inside the tent – instead of opening it up to climb outside to pee. Everything gets cold again when you do. You, your sleeping bag, and your tent. Don’t ignore the value of this tip!

    For the ladies – there are some good, and sanitary camping accessories – the TravelJohn is one of the best for nighttime.

    TravelJohn-Disposable Urinal

    *click image for more information

  7. Have a hot drink just before bedtime- but not coffee!
    A cup of steamy hot chocolate or butterrum milk can be one of the most enjoyable things you can do to sleep warmly in a cold tent. Not only do they warm your heart – and tummy, but the dairy fats will provide fuel for digestion – which heats you up through the night. Just know your limit. Too much liquid will make you have to get up to pee, (remember your pee bottle!), and coffee is a diuretic, (that means it makes you pee – even a small cup).


  8. Use ALL of your sleeping bag
    Don’t just crawl into a freshly unpacked bag, or right back into the one you slept in last night. Take the time to shake it up and fluff your sleeping bag to get rid of any compressed insulation spots.
    Stuff your next days clothes, and socks, and boot liners, (if you have them), in the bag to sleep with you. Not only will they provide more cushion against the cold, but they will let you start your day with warm and toasty clothes.
    Use your mummy bag hood. You don’t want to sleep with your face completely covered – your breath will add heat-robbing moisture in your bag, but you should have your bag hood drawn up tight around your face so that only your nose and mouth are showing.
  9. Pre-heat your sleeping bag
    Use a hot water bottle
    You hear this tip a lot – because it works! Every camper, and especially cold-weather campers should have at least one Nalgene water bottle. Heat up some water and fill one up, then toss it in your sleeping bag a few minutes before climbing in. When you are ready to crawl in, this hot water bottle will have pre-heated your bag, and, cooled enough not to burn your skin – so you can sleep with it all night.

    • Another great choice, if you have the forethought to get them before you go camping, are those InstaHeat hand and body warmer packs. They are more convenient than the water bottles, last longer as a heat source, and are inexpensive. Check out these bargains on Amazon.

      Inexpensive handwarmer packs have 1001 utility uses – other than just as hand warmers: Toss one, (or two), in your sleeping bag 30 minutes before getting in. Put one in each boot before you fall asleep – to keep them from feeling like ice blocks in the morning.

  10. Get rid of the drafts
    All your tent openings; doors and windows, (except for your tent top vent), should be zippered tightly closed. That means checking the window flaps to make sure the zipper is completely closed, and once inside your tent the door zipper should be checked too.

    Keep your sleeping bag slightly away from the tent wall, and stack your gear around the perimeter of the tent. Cold transfers into your tent from the ground level first. Many tent’s rain-flies leave a gap. That single layer of tent wall is the first place cold comes into your tent. Your stacked gear will act as one more insulating barrier.


Was this helpful?
Help us share Campingwithgus.com by giving us a “Like”

Winter and Cold Weather Camping Gear
You might also like:

You might also like:

Return to Home page
A note about shopping links and referrals: Most of the product links here are referral links, and Gus does get a few pennies commission, (trust me, it is pennies – no 75% commission ebooks here!), which does not affect your price at all. Plus the links have been researched to provide the cheapest prices available online so you don’t have to spend hours searching through the thousands of possibilities.
PayPal Credit Cards Logo

Contact Gus | Privacy Policy | Site Map |