How to heat a tent during winter camping?

Coming back to a nice, warm, and cosy camping tent is one of the best feelings for a winter camper. When it’s cold outside, a properly heated camping tent is no less than a luxury.

If you are new to winter camping and haven’t experienced the freezing wild, you must be wondering if there are ways you can heat your tent during winter camping out in the cold. Indeed there are, and in this article, we are going to discuss how to heat a tent during winter camping.

So, how to heat a tent during winter camping? To heat your tent during winter camping, you need a heat source. You can use a pre-heated stone mass or hot water bottle to irradiate heat all night. If you have wall power, you can use an electric heater or blanket. Don’t use a propane heater or woodfire inside a closed tent to avoid CO poisoning.

Keeping yourself warm is a very important part of safe winter camping. If you don’t have enough protection, your chances of hypothermia and frostbite are quite high (learn how to avoid frostbite in winter camping). Keeping the importance of a well-insulated and heated camp in mind, let’s discuss each of these options in detail.

Ways to heat your tent during winter camping

#1 Use hot stones to heat up your tent

This is a very simple trick used by experienced campers in cold weather. We all know that heavy stones can absorb and retain heat for a long time. This property can be used to heat our tents in the winter.

When you make a campfire in the evening, find a good size round stone (around 8 – 10 kg) and place it near your campfire. Let it heat up properly. Keep rotating the sides so that it is uniformly heated up to the core.

When it is time to sleep, just put that stone inside your tent and seal off your tent zipper. The hot stone will now irradiate heat all night long and keep your tent warm and cozy. To further make sure they don’t lose the heat at once, you can cover them with aluminum foil or a woolen sweater or sock.

heat your tent during winter camping by using heated stone

Stones like soapstone, concrete, and cobblestone have been used in fireplaces for a long time. These stones are good at generating thermal mass. They are heavy, dense, and have the capability to hold heat for a longer period.

This technique is good for keeping a one person small to midsize camping tent warm and might not be very effective for larger tents. However, for larger tents, you can use multiple such stones.

#2 Use hot water bottles

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book that still works. People have been using hot water bottles and bladders to heat their tents, sleeping bags, and hammocks for a long time.

Water has a high thermal mass – which means it can store heat very efficiently. The thermal mass of a substance basically indicates its ability to absorb, store and dissipate heat. The higher thermal mass of any substance indicates that the substance can work as a heat battery.

MaterialThermal Mass (KJ/m3/k)
Iron449
Stone980
Sand1800
Concrete 2060
Water4186
thermal mass of different items to be used as heat battery

When heated, water stores the heat due to conduction, and once the surrounding temperature goes down, it diffuses heat to maintain the temperature balance.

The best way to use water to heat your tent is to heat around 2 gallons of water and turn the stove off just before it boils. Pour it off into 5 – 6 bottles or water bladder as the normal plastic bottle may go bad after extensive use.

Keep the bottles inside in some sort of insulation like woolen blankets or socks for overnight warmth. The more the volume of water, the longer it will work.

Best practice is too throw one such bottle inside your sleeping bag and you will be warm all night from the heat stored in water.

#3 Use electric space heaters

This is a pretty straightforward method to keeping your tent warm but requires a power source. If you are camping near an established campsite, you can easily hook your heater up to the mains and get things going.

But if you are in the wild without any power line, you will have to depend on a noisy camping generator which is only possible if you are camping with your car or out of your truck.

Anyway, the bottom line is that if you have electricity, you can use a space heater to heat your tent up without relying on camping tricks.

However, any electric device is a potential fire hazard if left unattended. If you are going to use an electric space heater, make sure:

  • All the connectors are properly connected to avoid electric sparking.
  • All wires are rated for the correct current draw (don’t use retrofitted heaters)
  • Only use the heater when you are awake and available to any emergencies.
  • Make sure there is enough ventilation in the tent as humidity increases in closed spaces and makes it uncomfortable.
  • Turn off and unplug the heater before you head to your sleeping bag.

If you are going for a campsite with electric power availability, check out this space heater from Honeywell. It’s a high-quality build that prevents any fire hazards and has 360-degree heat dissipation which is ideal for a small tent space. Also, it’s quite safe and almost fireproof.

#4 Use Propane Heaters

Most people will not recommend using fuel heaters due to their obvious safety and health concerns. Still, if you are camping in an area far away from civilization (and electricity), a propane or butane-powered space heater is your only choice.

Mr. Heater propane heater for winter camping

The No. 1 heath risk associated with fuel heaters is carbon mono oxide poisoning, also known as CO poisoning. CO is a poisonous gas produced in closed quarters when fuel is burned in low oxygen environment.

When you use these heaters inside your tent and don’t have a proper ventilation system to replenish your supply of fresh oxygen, the risks of CO poisoning are quite high. However, if you take care of the following points, you can safely use a propane or butane powered heater inside your tent.

  • Keep the heater at the entrance of your tent with the backside facing outside so that the heater gets fresh oxygen from the outside.
  • Keep the heater away from all inflammable material like clothes and your tent wall.
  • Shut off the heater and put it outside when you are going to sleep. Never leave the heater overnight.
  • Before you use the heater, check all connectors and make sure the fuel is not leaking. In closed quarters, propane leakage is highly risky.
  • Preferably get a heater with an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) with an auto-turn-off feature.

If you know the risks of using fuel heaters inside your tent and want to get one for your next winter trip, make sure it is of the highest quality. Mr. Heater makes one of the best ones for outdoor use. Check this one from their store.

#5 Use Candle Lanterns (for heat & light)

Candle lanterns are primarily used for lighting purposes but they also produce an ample amount of heat to warm a small amount of water or even cook your instant noodles.

Bonus Read: how to keep your water from freezing during winter camping?

Their heat can also be used to keep a small single-person tent warm. Most of these lanterns are kept within glass shielding to protect the flame against the winds. This makes them quite safe for indoor use as the glass protects against fire hazards to some extent.

In this category, the most loved product is made by UCO called UCO Chandelier. It has 3 single candles totaling up to 5000 BTU of heat output and can burn for 9 hours straight.

But like all burning items inside closed quarters, this one also has the risk of producing CO poisoning if the tent is not well ventilated. Also, don’t use it overnight as it poses a fire hazard if toppled even with the protection from the glass shield.

Conclusion

Winter camping may not be as easy and fun as summer camping, but it is definitely worth trying. I mean, what’s better than a cozy night of snowfalls with the warmth of scrunching wood and stones.

No matter how cold it is outside, you still need a normal temperature in your tent. Hence heating your tent should be one of the top priorities while planning your camping trip to places that have low temperatures.

All you need is to pick an option that makes you enjoy the beauty of snowy winter nights with the comfort and warmth of home.  Happy camping!