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How to insulate your tent for winter camping?

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Camping is often associated with the summer times but for a lot of people, winter camping is as appealing as summers. It is enthralling to sleep on a bed of snow, facing snow-covered peaks and enjoying snowfall while sitting in your camp.

The only downside to this is facing the nerve-wracking cold in your tent. A tent is not like a concreted room so the temperature outside and inside the camp is almost the same. There is nothing more disturbing than not being able to sleep after a tiring day due to a shivering cold.

So, what is the solution? How can you insulate your camp in winter? You can insulate your tent for winter camping by covering the inner walls of the tent with reflective thermal foam. To keep the tent warmer, you can also use tarps and snow walls to break the cold breeze, select an enclosed camping ground, and finally be wearing warm clothes to insulate yourself too.

How tent insulation works?

The main purpose of insulating anything is to keep the heat from flowing freely in and out of any closed compartment be it your tent, room or office.

To insulate our tent, we take care of two basic things;

  1. We keep the heat generated inside from leaving.
  2. We keep outside cold air from getting in an mixing with our warmer air.

If you make sure of these two basics, your tent will be warm and comfy during freezing night in the wilderness.

Heat is transferred by;

  • conduction(flowing through solids)
  • Convection (flowing through liquid including air)
  • Radiation (in the infrared band)

Keeping the heat inside: To keep the heat generated by the source inside the tent (human bodies, space heater, etc.) inside, we have to stop or minimize conduction, convection, and radiation.

Keeping the cold outside: To keep the cold out, we have to stop cold air from getting into our warm tent space. Extra energy/heat is required to heat the incoming cold air to the tent temperature and this reduced the overall tent temperature.

With this basic theory of keeping the tent warmer, let’s look at a few ways to insulate our tent for winter camping and keep it warm throughout the night.

Winterproofing your tent

You need to think more intelligently and figure out ways to create a comfortable temperature within the tent without investing too much. The below tips will help you insulate your tent for winter camping and sleep in comfort.

#1 Smaller tents are warmer

We all know that maintaining temperature in a small area is way easier than in wider spaces. If your tent size is small, less energy is required to heat the space it encloses.

For those who have camped throughout the year, the broad airy tent in summers becomes an icicle in winters because it is next to impossible to keep such a huge space warm with limited energy available inside.

So, it is best to get two types of camps: a little bigger for hot days and a compact one for colder days. If you cannot invest in two, it is always safe to get a small-sized one as it is easy to regulate the temperature in these. 

#2 Choose suitable camping ground

The ground plays a significant role in determining your comfort within the tent. For camping in the winter season, there are some points to consider while selecting a camping site.

Select a camping ground that is well within the trees or surrounded by rocks. Trees and rocks act as natural windbreakers and help you keep the tent warmer during the night.

The next step is clearing the ground. If the ground is covered with snow, remove all the snow before pitching the camp. Not doing so will result in melting of the underneath snow and re-freezing it, which will create disturbing bumps and ridges.

how to keep your tent warm during winter camping

Next, insulate the ground. You can do this by placing a thermal floor mat, rug, or blanket. This will act as a floor insulation sheet and will help you in maintaining a comfortable inside temperature. In this way, a buffer will be created between the camper and the freezing ground.

#3 Use a camping tarp as wind breaker

High-speed chilling winds are often a common cause of wreaking havoc on campers during the winter nights.

If your tent is in direct way of the blowing wind, chances are more of that cold breeze is going to get in, mix with your warmer air and reduce the tent temperature.

Therefore, it is essential to search for some practical ways to break the wind currents.

tarp windbreaker to keep tent warm in winter

One such way is to pitch a camping tarp on the roof of your camping. The tarp should face the way the wind is blowing from. You can also install an A-shape tarp to protect yourself from both sides.

#4 Create windbreaks by using snow

Eskimo in the Siberian region use snow huts called igloos to keep theirselves warm against the freezing wind. In fact, snow is an excellent insulator and wind breaker.

When camping in an area with snowy conditions, an excellent replacement to a tarp is a wall of snow surrounding your tent to act as a windbreak. As compared to tents, snow walls are durable and efficient. They can be used to prevent the piling up of drifting snow inside the tent at night as well.

Winter camping tent insulation

Using the shovel, collect the snow and start building a wall of about 3 to 4 feet in height surrounding the tent. However, if there is not enough snow present, then concentrate on covering the side facing the prevailing winds.

Once the wall has been built, you can sit back in your tent and enjoy a tranquil, wind-free night.

#5 Insulate the tent walls

Once you are settled in a good, well-surrounded camping site and have installed a tarp or snow wall to break the wind, the next step is to insulate your tent from the inside to stop heat loss.

If a four-seasons insulated tent is not available, you can efficiently insulate your normal tent yourself. All you need is a reflective foam commonly available for home insulation (like this one on Amazon)

With the help of duct tape, cover the walls of the tent with the reflective foam. Make sure you don’t leave any area exposed. The better you cover the inside, the warmer your night is going to be.

How to insulate your tent for winter camping

The reflective foam does two things. The foam has trapped air bubbles which stops conduction and convection to take place effectively. Secondly, the reflective surface reflects all the radiation back inside that would have been lost otherwise. It effectively stops all 3 forms of heat loss thus keeps your tent warm.

#6 Wear warm clothes and thermals

When in a cooler environment, heat leaves the body through radiation, resulting in the body temperature dropping. Therefore, it is essential to wear clothes that trap your body heat and prevent it from escaping. Thermals can be a great choice, such as longer underclothing and thermal socks.

An essential aspect of the thermal layer which is to be used as the base is that it should be made from moisture wicking fabric. If the thermal lining is not moisture wicking, the perspiration will condense inside and make you feel sweaty all night.

Some great options for moisture wicking fabric are natural merino wool, silk, and synthetic materials like nylon and polyester. However, cotton is not a suitable option.

How to prevent cold injuries during winter camping?

Frostbite, i.e., the freezing of tissues and hypothermia (body temperature falling below average), is a significant concern when camping in winters. To avoid these, you need to take extra care, and the following are some ways that might help:

Staying warming rather than getting warm

Dress appropriately so that a comfortable temperature is maintained, which is comparatively way easier than warming up after getting cold. 

Do not try to overexert yourself

If you feel that your toes or fingers are cold, stop immediately and warm them up. You can use hand and toe warmers, and continuous rubbing of hands will also prove to be effective. 

Keep checking your partners

Keep asking your friends if they are doing fine or not. If you see them getting pale or clumsy on the trail, stop immediately and cover them up. The exposed skin should be covered immediately with the help of a warm layer of insulation. 

Insulate your tent for winter camping – Conclusion

Winter camping is always a fun idea; however, it’s not as easy as we assume. I hope the tips regarding the insulation of tents and other guidelines proved informative to you. Using these tips, you will be able to camp in any winter weather and will also be able to keep your tents warm. No more worrying about waking up shivering in the morning with frozen toes or fingers anymore.

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