How to heat a tent: 10 safe and efficient ways

How to heat a tent: 10 safe and efficient ways
Pavlo Lysyy June 04, 2024 11 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 nature. It takes a bit of effort and learning to shield yourself 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 the 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 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 on 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?

The first thing you should know is that the amount of work you need to do depends on your canvas’s size. In 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 good insulation (for example, a double-layer canvas). This article discusses the most popular and effective methods. Let’s go!

10 efficient ways to heat a tent

In this article, we will reveal the best way to heat a tent to keep the heat in the tent and do it as efficiently as possible in cold weather camping.

Wood burning stove

Wood-burning stove is a powerful source of heat, ideal for camping in winter weather, especially in large tents. It quickly heats the air and creates a cozy atmosphere. However, the use of the oven requires compliance with safety rules:

  • Place the stove on a non-combustible base away from the tent walls
  • Use the chimney to vent the smoke outside
  • Never leave the stove unattended and turn it off before going to bed
  • Keep firewood dry for efficient burning

Important: The wood-burning stove is not suitable for a standard tent and requires extra gear, such as firewood, poker, and protective mat. Make sure the stove you choose is appropriate for your tent size and camping conditions.

Use a heater

There are 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.


Electric blankets

Electric blankets are a convenient way to keep warm, especially in a sleeping bag. They run on batteries or a power source and provide a local source of heat. However, the use of electric blankets in cold weather camping has certain limitations:

  • Electricity is limited: batteries drain quickly, especially in cold conditions
  • Fire hazard: it is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions and not leave the electric blanket unattended.
  • Inefficiency in large tents: electric blankets are effective only for local heating, and not suitable for heating the entire tent.

Important: when choosing a power source for your electric heater, make sure it has enough power and charge for the expected time of use.

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 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 for an unlimited period.

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!

Chemical heating pads

Chemical heating packs are compact, lightweight, and convenient heat sources that are becoming increasingly popular among camping enthusiasts. Their principle of operation is based on exothermic chemical reactions that generate heat during a certain period.

Once the bag is activated, usually by kneading or shaking, the chemicals inside it react, releasing heat. This process can last from several hours to several days, keeping you comfortable during cold nights or extreme weather conditions.

Chemical packages for heating have many advantages:

  • ease of use: simply crush or shake the pack to activate
  • portability: thanks to the compact size and lightweight, the bags are easy
  • efficiency: the packs generate a significant amount of heat
  • safety: no harmful substances are released

Pitch on a dead campfire

This heating method uses the remains of an extinguished campfire to keep the insulated tent warm during the night. It is suitable for camping in winter weather and can be useful for tourists who are looking for practical and efficient ways of heating.

1. Choose a safe spot:

Make sure the camping spot is not prone to avalanches or falling trees. This is important for your safety during a night out.

2. Dig a trench:

Dig a shallow trench where you plan to place the tent. The trench should have a width that corresponds to the dimensions of your camping gear.

3. Build a fire:

Build a fire in the trench using firewood that burns without sparks. This will ensure the supply of heat directly to the cold ground, which serves as a natural insulator.

4. Cover the coals:

When the fire goes out, extinguish it completely to avoid catching fire. Then spread the hot coals around the trench and cover it with a thin layer of soil.

5. Set up the tent:

Place the insulated tent over the coal trench. The heat emanating from the ground will warm the awning and help maintain a comfortable body temperature during the night.

Now all you have to do is set up the tent and wait for a tent in the winter. This heating method can be a useful addition to your camping style, making tent for cold weather camping more comfortable and safer.


Connect sleeping bags

An electric blanket is not just additional comfort in winter camping trips, it is your savior from the coldest night during a camping trip. It not only provides comfort and extra insulation throughout the night but also saves weight and fuel, making your backpack much lighter.

When choosing an electric blanket, pay attention to its size, power, and availability of protection systems. The size of the blanket should correspond to the size of your sleeping place, and the power should be 60-100 W for winter hikes. Make sure the blanket is equipped with overheating and short-circuit protection to ensure safe use.

Prepare a place to sleep: place a blanket on the bottom of the camping tent under the sleeping bag, make sure it does not come into contact with sharp objects, and connect it to a power source (portable battery or generator).

Turn on the blanket 30-60 minutes before bedtime to warm the sleeping area and adjust the temperature to a comfortable level. Do not leave the blanket unattended.

After use, let the blanket cool down, store it in a dry place, and transport it in a protective cover. This safety feature is important when choosing thermal equipment for winter hikes, especially considering variable snowy conditions and spaces in mountainous regions.

Wear cold weather clothing

When exploring how to heat a tent without electricity, it's essential to prioritize safety and explore alternative methods such as a cozy camping experience. Dress in layers – thermal underwear wicks moisture away from the skin, fleece or insulated clothing keeps warm, and a windbreaker or jacket protects against wind and precipitation. Don't forget warm pants, gloves, a hat and a scarf. Choose waterproof and insulated shoes to keep your feet dry and warm. Dress to allow you to regulate body heat by adding or removing layers depending on activity and weather. The right clothes are the key to comfort and extra warmth on a winter hike, especially effective in a 4-season 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.

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.

Get away from the wind

The first thing you do is find a place where the winds are not so fierce. The 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 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.

Heat 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.

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.

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.


What not to use to heat your tent

A winter hike requires careful planning because frost can become a serious threat. Heating a tent in the winter is an important issue, but some heat sources can be dangerous during cold temperatures.

1. Sources of carbon monoxide:

Gas heaters and stoves without proper ventilation are dangerous due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. This gas is odorless and can be fatal, which is why it is often called the "silent killer."

2. Humidity:

Burning propane creates a lot of moisture, which can cause condensation and wet clothing and sleeping bags. This can lead to loss of body heat and hypothermia. Over time, dampness can lead to mold growth.

3. Untested heaters:

Do not use self-made heaters, because they have not been tested for safety. Buy only certified heaters with safety features to minimize risks. Be careful with flammable material.

4. Open fire:

Never use an open flame in the tent, as this may cause a fire. This is very dangerous and can have dire consequences.

Remember: safety is the most important thing. Do not risk your life and health by using dangerous methods of heating a tent. There are many safe and effective alternatives to help you stay warm during the cold season.

Tent heating – final thoughts

Winter hiking is an incredible experience, but it requires careful preparation. One of the most important issues is heating a tent because frost can become a serious threat.

There are many ways how to heat a tent. Some of them require special equipment, such as a wood stove or portable heater. Others are available to everyone, for example, using hot water bottles or chemical heaters.

It is important to remember that safety is the most important thing. Do not risk your life and health by using dangerous heating methods, such as gas heaters and stoves without proper ventilation or open flames without a safe distance.

When planning a winter hike, carefully research all available heating methods and choose the one that works best for you. Pay attention to the features of your tent, the weather conditions, and the resources available to you.

Thanks to careful preparation and knowledge about the best way to heat a tent, you will be able to make your winter hike comfortable and unforgettable!


🏕  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 in 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.

🔥   How can I keep my tent warm without electricity?

To provide warmth, choose an insulated tent, take a heated blanket or hot water bottles to store body heat. Put a mat layer of insulation from the cold ground. Set up a camping spot in a sheltered spot from the wind. Gas heaters and wood-burning stoves will also be the main heat sources.

🕯️   Can you heat a tent with a candle?

Yes, you can heat your tent with a candle, but it's not the safest or most efficient way. A candle can provide some thermal comfort, but safety precautions must be taken to avoid the possibility of a fire. If you decide to use a candle to heat your tent, be careful and keep an eye on it to avoid danger.




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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