10 Effective Ways On How To Stay Warm In A Tent

Rilor Staff
Update: August 11, 2020
Table of Contents

Trust me. It is easier to camp in summer than in winter. 

Of course, the latter is much more appealing. The scent of falling snow and the breeze that blows under your skin are majestic experiences that any outdoor goers would never want to miss. 

Sure enough, there is a challenge as to how you can enjoy these things without the discomforts of excessively shivering from the low temperatures. As I keep on saying from time to time, being inside a tent is not a sufficient form of insulation. 

How To Stay Warm In A Tent

Tip 1: Be Wary Of The Weather

Yes, I know that you are expecting cold weather out there. However, this doesn't mean that that is all that you are going to encounter there. 

You should only settle on a place if you are aware of the weather patterns out there. Blizzards and heavy snow can derail your adventure. They can also put you at risk, especially if you do not come prepared. 

Weather forecast is already a thing nowadays. It is not difficult to assess the atmospheric conditions in the coming days. If you deem that the externalities are too rigid for camping or hiking, just don't go. 

Tip 2: Find A Suitable Camping Site

The next thing you need to do is find a great camping site that would provide an advantageous setting for you and your tent. 

But how can you determine if a particular spot is a good place for setting up a tent?

Well, the location has to dry and flat. That's non-negotiable. If there's snow, clear it up before they start to thaw and freeze again. Keep in mind that it is difficult to manipulate snow if they are frozen already. 

By clearing the snow, you will be able to see and assess the ground. If it is not flat, use your boots to flatten it slightly. Set your tent and go inside it. Go to the area where you are going to sleep and use your knees to flatten it.

Interestingly, you can also put a shallow depression in your sleeping area. It can prevent you from rolling around, which, in turn, can contribute to the potential heat loss.

Tip 3: Understand What Causes Heat Loss

Prevention is better than cure, right? 

For you to be able to combat the extreme cold, you have to know what causes it. Specifically, you have to understand what makes your body more susceptible to chilling. 

Here are some of the means where your body naturally loses heat. 

  • Conduction - This process involves the transfer of heat due to physical contact. Usually, conduction happens at 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). When camping, conduction occurs when you sleep on a cold surface. 
  • Evaporation - When evaporation happens, a cooling effect takes place. For instance, your body can lose up to 80% of its internal heat after the sweat of your body evaporates. Of course, you sweat a lot whenever you are trekking or hiking. Hence, you are susceptible to heat loss after you have settled in already. 

Keep in mind that clothes that are drenched from sweat and excessive respiration also lowers your body temperature. 

  • Convection - This one takes place when a particular heated gas or fluid travels away from its source. You can see convection in action by looking at a hot cup of coffee. The steam that is rising from it is an indication that heat is leaving from it. 

Convection happens to our bodies as well. If we are not going to surround ourselves with proper insulation, our body heat will surely diffuse. Therefore, it is essential that we can trap the temperatures around us if we wish to keep warm.

  • Radiation - Notably, radiation can also take away the heat from our bodies. It is estimated that in temperatures lower than 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit), our bodies can lose up to 50% of its heat. 

Tip 4: Bring A Fully-Insulated Sleeping Bag

If you are expecting extremely cold conditions, you really need a reliable sleeping bag. At this point, the ruggedness of the bag is not the primary consideration that you should focus upon. Instead, it should be in its insulating capability. 

I have made several posts on this site that tackles these sleeping bags, and how they can work in your favor. Basically, a sleeping bag is a closed-cell where the air is a trap so that conduction or convection won't take place. It is also capable of optimizing the heat around you so that you can get snugly and comfortably even when the outside world is already freezing. 

The quality of a sleeping bag is defined by its insulation. And if we are going to talk about insulation, we are going to mention the down and synthetic fills. 

  • Down - A down fill is made from the plumage of geese and duck. It excels in providing constant warmth even in extremely low temperatures. Even if the user is heavy and big, down insulation is still capable of maintaining heat. The only downside is its weakness when it is damp. Hence, manufacturers made sure that sleeping bags that are using a down fill have high water-resistance and durability. 
  • Synthetic - A synthetic also possesses decent insulating capabilities. Basically, this one provides heat insulation, even if it is wet. It is hypoallergenic as well.

However, keep in mind that synthetic insulation is heavy and doesn't provide compressibility. For backpacking purposes, they might not be a favorable amenity in your pack. 

The construction of the sleeping bag also matters here. Needless to say, it has been durable for better thermal efficiency. Anti-drafting features are also essential to keep the wind out. 

The cut and fit of the sleeping bag should be prioritized, too. Specifically, get a sleeping bag that has snugly fit whenever you are camping on cold terrains. You see, the tighter space, the warmer it becomes for you. The mummy cut is suitable for solo hikers. 

Tip 5: Decrease The Interior Space Of Your Tent 

Similar to you and your sleeping bag, you need a compact space to keep the air warm and optimized. A tent that is too large will feel colder than a small one.

It is for this reason as to why picking the size of your tent is crucial. If you are solo-hiking, there's no need to get a two-person tent--especially if you have a small frame. Choose tents with larger capacities if you are camping as a group.

There are numerous ways on how you can reduce the ambient space of a tent. Here are some of them. 

  • Get A Partner - Snuggling together is an excellent way to keep yourself warm. If given the opportunity, share a double bag with your partner so that you can cuddle up and maintain decent levels of temperatures. 
  • Fill It With Stuff - To further reduce the internal space of your tent, put your outdoor gears there. Your bag, clothing, and other amenities can surround the area inside your tent to ensure better insulation.

Tip 6: Use A Belly Bottle 

One of the basic tricks to keep yourself warm while camping is the use of a "belly bottle." Specifically, this is just a water bottle that is filled with hot water. 

Before you sleep, use a backpacking stove to boil water. After that, pour it on a bottle, and bring the latter inside your sleeping bag. Technically, what you are making is a DIY heating pad. It does not only provide added warmth but extra comfort, too. Shove the bottle in your belly bottle in any area that you feel cold. 

Tip 7: Clad Yourself With Cold-Weather Clothing

It is what you wear that defines if you are going to feel comfortable on your outdoor trip or not. You don't have to be reminded to wear light clothes when it is sunny and insulated jackets and fleece when it's cold. 

The appropriate gears can save you from excessively shivering during a winter hike or camp. They also protect you from the dangers of hypothermia, especially if you are in the high-altitude, snowy terrain. 

  • Clothing layers - A winter clothing has to be three layers. The base layer shoves away perspiration. The middle layer is for providing insulation. Meanwhile, the exterior shell acts as a shield against moisture, wind, and other external elements. 

You have to follow this layering for convenience purposes. The right order will allow you to remove a particular layer/s depending on the condition. But given that you are going on a cold expedition, you want these layers to be intact. 

Full skin protection - Any exposed layer of your body can be an entry point of cold air. As much as possible, you have to fully cover yourself. Specifically, you need to pay attention to your nose, ears, cheeks, and extremities of your body. 

Your hands should be covered in gloves. The combination of a lightweight glove and a waterproof shell glove can provide optimal protection to your palms and fingers. 

Your feet should be enclosed by a pair of wool socks. The thicker the sock is, the better the insulation it can provide. But of course, make sure that the socks are not too thick. Otherwise, it might interfere in the fit of your boots or shoes. Also, let me remind you that you have to keep your feet dry at all times. 

A neck gaiter can function as an insulating face mask that can protect your nose and cheeks. Finally, a winter hat can cover your ears so that they won't get bitten by the cold.

  • Avoid Tight Fit - If frostbite is an apparent threat, make sure that your clothing is not tight. Otherwise, air and blood circulation will be reduced, increasing the chances of frostbite. 

Tip 8: Eat High-Calorie Food 

Calories are essential in keeping your body warm. It is your fuel. The higher the fuel in your system, the higher the heat it can generate. There are numerous sources for calories. Food that is rich in carbohydrates, fats, and sugars can give you the boost that you need. 

Also, have your meals prepared and eaten an hour before you sleep, especially if you are eating delicacies that are high in fat. Keep in mind that fat takes time to metabolize. That would inhibit you from getting the added warmth that you need. 

Ideally, you should go for hearty meals that have minimal preparation time and don't contain too much fat. For snacks, you can try cheese, nuts, and chocolates. 

Drink warm water, too. 

Tip 9: Pee Before You Sleep

Believe it or not, one of the ways you can keep yourself warm inside the tent. 

You see, leaving your sleeping bag just to pee will only lose the heat that you gathered. It renders all your effort useless, and you will enter the bag cold and shivering again. Because of this, you need to train yourself to pee before bedtime. Such a simple act can effectively save you from being caught by the low temperatures.

Empty your bladder as soon as possible. The longer you keep the leak, the more your body gets cold. Your body is wired to heat urine while it is still in your bladder. This process is quite taxing. It leaves the rest of your system cold. 

If you don't want to leave your tent, prepare a pee bottle. It doesn't have to be a special bottle. You just need a container where you can pee so that you don't have to leave your cocoon. 

Tip 10: Warm-Up

Sleeping bags and tents do not create heat; they merely trap them. Hence, the term insulation applies here. 

Going inside a sleeping bag while being cold is quite impractical. That's a vain effort to make yourself warm. Enter there with a cozy temperature already, and let the bag do the rest of heat-trapping. 

There are ways you can make yourself warm. One of these is doing physical activities. Run, jump, or do some minor exercises. Not only does it increase your body temperature, but it also makes you feel sleepy. It is an excellent way to end the day. 


Learning how to stay warm in a tent is a piece of crucial knowledge for every outdoor enthusiast. You can enjoy the experience of a winter hike if you are generally comfortable and safe throughout the trip. 

Do you know more tips and tricks on how to stay warm inside a tent? Share it with us in the comment section below. 

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