10 Tips for Cold Camping Nights & How to Stay Warm in your Tent at Night

Camping in the winter and when colder temperatures are expected presents different challenges than you will interact with when camping during late spring or summer.

However, just like most challenges one is forced to tackle when camping, camping in colder temperatures can become more comfortable by taking necessary precautions and utilizing effective equipment.

This guide will explore 10 cold weather camping tips campers can follow to make sure they stay toasty all through the night and into the morning.

The following ten tips are designed to help campers stay warm and comfortable during cold weather camping trips. A few of these ten tips focus on purchasing and utilizing various pieces of outdoor recreation equipment.

Subsequently, the remaining tips discuss several practices campers can follow to conserve heat and stay warm

1. Utilize Your Layers Before You Begin to Get Cold

The most common mistake novice cold weather campers fall victim to at least once in their outdoor recreation career is waiting too long to adorn additional layers of clothing. If you are already cold, you are too late and it will take some time for the additional layers to allow you to warm up. 

The hesitancy surrounding the addition of added layers is often caused by the refusal to get too warm and become uncomfortable. However, it is much easier to cool your body down than to warm it up. If you expect temperatures to drop during the night, you should slowly start putting on additional layers to prepare for the colder temperatures.

2. Purchase Equipment Rated For Cold Temperatures

Sleeping bags and other camping equipment are often rated for a certain temperature range or season. Attempting to camp in the winter with a summer sleeping bag would be a grave mistake and one that will likely lead to hours of shivering and a sleepless night.

When purchasing a sleeping bag for winter camping, make note of the temperature rating the bag is designed to accommodate. Often sleeping bags are rated for as low as 60, 40, 20, 0, and sometimes even -20 degrees Fahrenheit. The most dedicated hikers, campers, and backpackers have a sleeping bag dedicated to the winter and summer season.

3. Introduce Thermals Into Your Camping Pack

Thermal underwear, thermal long johns, thermal long sleeves, and other thermal clothes may seem a bit outdated, but there is a reason so many campers swear by them and their effectiveness. The truth is thermal clothes are the key to keeping warm throughout the entire night, especially when camping in extreme temperatures.

Most of the time thermal clothes are utilized by campers who are camping in late fall or winter, but occasionally even early spring temperatures require campers to break out their thermal clothing. In addition to thermal clothing, campers expecting colder weather can also take advantage of wool clothing and its properties. When wet, wool clothing will still provide warmth. 

4. Don’t Make the Mistake of Going to Bed Cold

If you make the mistake of getting into your tent and sleeping bag when you are already cold, you are likely to stay cold throughout the night. As previously mentioned, it is quite hard to heat yourself up after your body’s temperature has decreased significantly.

If you are ready for bed and feeling chilly, you should have a warm drink, take a quick jog or run, or even do a few jumping jacks before zipping up in your sleeping bag. The added heat you generate while completing any of these activities will do wonders to keep you warm through the night.

5. Swap Out Your Large Tent for a Smaller One

If your tent is large and only filled with a few warm bodies, there will be an excessive amount of space that can be filled with cold air. When camping with a large tent in the winter, it can be increasingly tough to achieve warmth.

If you have a smaller tent, you should always opt to use this tent when colder temperatures are expected. In addition, switching to a canvas tent may also allow you to minimize the amount of heat you will lose throughout the night.

6. Pack a Hot Water Bottle

Hot water bottles are a great investment for any camper looking to brave colder temperatures. Not only are these water bottles lightweight and easily packed in a camping bag, but they will also provide a significant amount of warmth if temperatures begin to drop below what you expected.

While you may not have to utilize it, after you purchase a hot water bottle you should pack it even in late spring in case temperatures return to winter lows for a night or two.

7. Use a Sleeping Bag Liner

If you recently purchased a three season sleeping bag or one rated for higher temperatures, you may want to purchase a sleeping bag liner in order to take it with you during colder weather. In general, there are two main types of sleeping bag liners: silk and fleece liners.

A silk liner will provide a significant amount of warmth, but also will be more delicate and more prone to rips and tears. In contrast, a fleece liner will not provide as much warmth, but will hold up better during even the most rugged of camping trips. 

8. Insulate Your Camping Tent

Of course, purchasing a tent designed for cold weather is the first step in ensuring your tent keeps you warm enough through the night.

However, if you have a tent rated for warmer temperatures, you can always insulate it with tent rugs and liners so that it provides more warmth during your winter camping excursions.

Most outdoor equipment retailers sell fitted tent rugs and carpets that can be purchased by campers to stop colder temperatures from rising up from their tent floor.

While these rugs and carpets can be rather expensive, if you are desperately searching for a way to stay warm during the winter this might be a great solution.

9. Pack a Warm Camping Blanket

Even during the summer, nightime temperatures across the country can be significantly colder than the ones experienced in the daytime. Packing a warm camping blanket is a great way to keep yourself warm and prepared when these colder temperatures are present.

If you are looking to purchase a camping blanket, you can check out our guide on the best camping blankets on the market. If you know you will be camping often during the winter, look to opt for a blanket designed for the season.

10. Use a Portable Heater (always with caution)

Portable heaters provide quite a bit of heat. However, these pieces of equipment are also quite expensive and sometimes dangerous to operate. When operating a portable heater inside the confines of your tent, you should make sure to follow all safety advice the manufacturing has laid out for the operation of the heater.

Just like a gas powered heater or camping stove, portable electrical heaters should never be left on for extended periods of time unsupervised. Avoid placing your portable heater too close to your tent’s walls and keep it off of your tent floor to ensure it doesn’t burn through the material or start a fire.


How Cold is Too Cold For Camping?

While nightime temperatures around 50 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit will be the most comfortable for campers, experienced campers with proper equipment can realistically camp in any temperatures they are prepared for.

For inexperienced campers with cheaper gear, it is recommended that they avoid planning any camping trip when temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit are expected.

As inexperienced campers begin to gain more experience and become equipped with suitable equipment, they can begin to try their hand at planning camping trips later in the year and in colder temperatures. 

How Do You Insulate a Tent for Winter?

Insulating a tent for winter can be effectively achieved by following these steps: 

  1. Pitching your tent in the right place
  2. Staking your tent securely so it does not move and allow cold air to gather underneath it
  3. Create a windbreak to stop cold winds from berating your tent
  4. Utilize a ground tarp or tent footprint
  5. Layer up before you begin to get cold
  6. Insulate your tent with blankets and rugs
  7. Utilize a portable heater

Can Heaters Be Used In Tents?

While no gas powered equipment, including gas powered heaters, should be used in a confined space, portable electric heaters can be used with caution in a tent.

While using a portable electric heater, campers should be cautious and avoid placing the heater directly onto any flammable materials (including the tent floor).

In addition, like other electronics and fuel sources, portable heaters should never be left on when unattended. Using a portable heater for an extended period of time can also increase the likelihood of a fire or sparking event.

Staying Warm During Winter and Cold Nights

As previously mentioned, camping in the winter and when colder temperatures are expected can be challenging. Staying warm during these trips can be a struggle.

However, camping in the winter and during colder temperatures also has its fair share of benefits to make such a trip worthwhile. When planning a cold weather camping trip, you should first make sure you are equipped with a cold weather camping tent and a warm camping blanket.

After purchasing these pieces of equipment, make sure to follow the ten tips listed above and you should have no problem combating colder temperatures. As always, have fun and we will see you out on the trail!