How to Heat a Tent | 9 Safe and Efficient Ways

How to Heat a Tent | 9 Safe and Efficient Ways
Pavlo Lysyy May 02, 2022 6 mins read time



Camping in Winter: How do I Keep My Tent Warm Inside?

Camping out in the wilderness is one of the biggest joys and brightest experiences for families, as well as hikers, hunters, backpackers, etc. On the other hand, this implies having to protect yourself and your companions against the nature. It takes a bit of effort and learning to shield you and your loved ones against the wind, rain, snow, and freezing cold.

Dwelling out in the wild has been part of man’s life from early days. Weather extremes are no big obstacle for the categories of people mentioned above. There is a huge number of tents on the market that cater to these people’s needs. A portable shelter can shield you well against snow, wind, rain water, and, if used properly, frosty air.

Over the history, man has developed lots of methods and approaches to keeping the inside warm in winter. Because there is no central heating in the wild, this does take a bit of experience and understanding. If you want to sleep well in a cold night, you should be ready to use various sources of heat. This can be dangerous and requires a lot of caution. Failure to exercise caution can lead to fire or carbon monoxide poisoning, especially during sleep.

How do tents retain heat?

First thing you should know is that the amount of work you need to do depends on your canvas’s size. In its turn, the size depends on how many people you are going to take along.

Second, the ability depends on the materials, of which the canvas is made. Not all of them are intended for camping out in winter. So, if you are planning to do that, purchase a tent with a good insulation (for example, a double-layer canvas).

This article discusses the most popular and effective methods. Let’s go!

Get away from the wind

First thing you do is find a place where winds are not so fierce. A wind can make you feel very uncomfortable even on a less than freezing day. Needless to say, your shelter will be windswept if you camp out in the middle of a field.

To escape from the nature, it is advisable to camp out on a spot surrounded by thick vegetation or under the lee of a rock or hill. Shielding yourself from the wind is the first and very important step toward staying warm inside.

how to heat a tent safely

Heat up the ground beneath the floor

One of the most effective methods is heating up the ground with fire. This takes a bit of effort and patience. If you are going to heat your shelter before sleep, most likely, you will have to do the work in the dark. The procedure consists of several steps:

  1. Find a flat spot with diggable soil
  2. Dig a hollow (it should not be too deep, and it should match the width and length of your tent)
  3. Set up a campfire and let it burn hot (add more wood to provide a maximum amount of coal)
  4. Wait until the fire goes down
  5. Fill in the hollow

Make sure that no glowing coals can come in direct contact with the floor!

Now that you have covered the hot coals with gravel, you can pitch your tent on top. Earth can retain heat for a long time and give you comfort all through the night. Please do not spread any insulated material over the floor because it may block the heat and keep the inside of your shelter cold.

Bring some hot water

Hot water makes your city home comfortable during winter, and you can use the technique in your tent as well. Bring along a bunch of plastic or metal bottles and a metal pot. It is advisable to use large bottles, because they retain heat for a longer time. 

Now that you have pitched your shelter, build a campfire. If there is a lot of snow, you won’t have any difficulty providing water. Fill your pot with snow, melt it and heat up the water close to the boiling point. Pour it into the bottles, close them tight and place them around the interior.

This method is not good for backpackers, because it would require them to carry around lots of bottles. The approach works better for those who stay in one place throughout a trip.

Use hot rocks

This is another case when natural resources that are close at hand can do you a lot of good. If there are lots of pieces of rock in your camping area, you can bring some pieces over to your place and put them on a metal grid over a burning campfire (but not directly into it). You can heat them up for an unlimited period of time.

It is going to take some dexterity of hand to get them out, because they will be hot and sooty. Besides, you will need to take some precautions: wait until they cool down enough not to burn your tent. Wrap each piece in fabric, so that it will retain heat.

Rock cools down much faster than water, so you’d better put the pieces around the area at least thirty minutes before going to bed. Put them in safe places, so that no one will accidentally touch them and burn themselves. Close all doors and windows and isolate the floor. Do not forget about ventilation!

safest way to heat a tent

Use a heater

There is a variety of appliances available for sale. If camping is something you and your family cannot imagine your life without, you can buy a propane heater. They come in different shapes and sizes, so you need to choose a device that matches the size of your shelter. For example, a device that is good for a one- or two-person shelter will be too weak for a large family tent.

Many propane heaters are lightweight and fold up into portable cases. Besides, they are much safer than wood stoves and do not produce carbon monoxide. Some models feature oxygen level sensors that signal them to shut off once the oxygen level drops.

Apart from propane heaters, there are portable oil heaters. They are safe and compact, but the downside is that they require a source of electricity (e. g., a vehicle’s battery). You will need to take an extension cord along.

Oil heaters come in different sizes and shapes, so you need to choose one that fits the size of your shelter. You should keep your appliance running all night long. If you switch it off, the warmth will disappear quickly, so there is no point in heating the area minutes before going to bed.

Take steps to keep the air warm

Heating your shelter is one thing, but keeping it warm is another, and it takes a bit of effort as well. There are several simple steps you can and should take to maintain a comfortable temperature inside. Here they are.

Put a carpet on the floor

You do not necessarily need to take a carpet from your apartment, because it might be a little heavy weight. Instead, you can use a rug that fits the size of your tent. There are heated carpets available for sale. Although they are worth a good penny, they can do the job quite well. When laying a carpet, please, be sure there are no gaps between the floor and the walls, through which cold draught may come in.

safest way to heat a tent

Insulate your shelter from the top

Many campers use a large piece of tarp for this purpose. It can provide an extra layer and increase insulation. This method should be used with caution because excessive insulation may cause oxygen levels to drop.

Make sure you are not cold

If you are camping in winter and want to have a comfortable and healthy sleep, you should not feel cold when turning in. Whatever method or tool you are using, you need to be sure that the air inside is warm enough. It will naturally and inevitably cool down over the night, and you won’t be moving around to pump the blood throughout your body. You’d better get on clothes that provide effective insulation. Finally, a high quality sleeping bag is always a good thing to consider.



🏕  Do I need to isolate my tent prior to heating it up?

Yes. Please check the floor and the walls along the lower perimeter to make sure there are no gaps that would let could air inside. If you fail to do so, heat will dissipate too soon. But don’t block ventilation completely!

📦  Should I be cautious when heating up my tent?

Yes, especially if you are planning to put it up on top of a campfire. Fill in the hollow and avoid contact between the hot coals and the floor. Please be cautious when using hot rocks as a source of heat too. You will be much safer with a propane heater.

💡  Does the size of my shelter influence the effort I should make to keep it warm?

Yes. If you are camping with a large tent, you will need more sources of heat and have to work a little harder. For example, if you are using bottles with hot water, you will need more bottles to achieve a comfortable temperature.


Dylan Baker

Dylan Baker said:

Maintaining the heat inside the tent is harder than heating it up

Faris Bartlett

Faris Bartlett said:

Interesting info

Abby Gentry

Abby Gentry said:

Is a propane heater efficient?

Bernard Lara

Bernard Lara said:

Depends on your needs. Probably not efficient enough to heat a large tent

Abby Gentry

Abby Gentry said:

I see, thanks

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