PP: How to Stay Warm in a Tent

You don’t go camping for comfort; in fact, we know that you expect a certain level of discomfort when you go outdoors. That’s the point: to forsake everyday comforts and embrace nature without distractions. But being cold or facing ongoing chilly breezes can make even the most memorable sites miserable to camp in. Here are a few ways to avoid the chills and stay warm in a tent.

  1. The first thing you have to plan for is location. Most campgrounds that accommodate tent campers are enormous, spanning hundreds of acres of untouched forestry. This means that there will always be a few dozen spots that are well protected by trees and brush. Choose a spot that’s not only protected, but also well-ventilated. This sounds counter-intuitive, but the heat from your body and even your breath can cause condensation to build up inside your tent, and make everything slightly damp. By choosing a breezy site that’s surrounded by trees, you can avoid some of that biting cold that’s common to mountainous campsites.
  2. Most people consider space blankets or “emergency blankets,” as optional when camping. But more often than not, these blankets are a necessity when it’s difficult to maintain heat in a tent. You’d recognize them as the thin, metallic-looking blankets you’ll see on TV to keep crash victims warm, and they’re designed to be just as useful for staying warm in cold climates. They’re extremely compact, and the heat-reflective material can cast your own body heat back to you, if it’s duct-taped to the ceiling of your tent. As opposed to your body heat rising and leaving the tent, now it’s trapped by the space blanket keeping your living quarters nice and toasty.
  3. Use an insulated pad between you and the ground. I know, sleeping on an air mattress sounds like the perfect idea! However, these will become filled with cold air on even some of the warmest nights, and make it more difficult to maintain comfortable temperatures. Insulated pads offer more insulation than air mattresses, so even if you use an air mattress, place an insulated pad on top of it to get a great night’s sleep without sacrificing warmth.  
  4. Another creative idea is to use small, warm objects to heat up the colder spots in your tent. Use what you can! Fill a water bottle with hot water and place it in your sleeping bag near your toes, or use disposable heat packs or hand warmers. Just before heading into your tent for the night, you could even gather some warm rocks from around the campfire. Place them in old socks, and use them to turn the inner rim of your tent into a protective barrier against the cold. Be creative with the warm items you come into contact with throughout your day; they could come in handy at night time to keep the temperature comfortably high.
  5. A free and easy way to keep warm is to get moving before you get into the tent. By raising your body temperature right before turning in for the evening, you give yourself a better chance of keeping warm throughout the entire night. Opposingly, most people stay near the campfire or play games right before bed, exposing themselves to the cold and lowering their body temperature. This makes it harder to maintain a cozy warmth in the tent. So, do a few jumping jacks, go for a hike or a bike ride right before getting your tent for the night.
  6. This tip goes against what most of us are taught growing up, but when you’re camping in a cold climate, consider midnight snacking. Digestion naturally jolts your metabolic rate, creating bodily heat. If you wake up cold in the middle of the night, consider a high-calorie food such as chocolate, cheese or nuts, and strap in as your food digests and warms you up.
  7. Pack a “sleeping suit.” Most campers pack a sleeping bag, but you can go the extra mile to stay warm by wearing these dry, loose-fitting underwear. You can also wear a winter hat to prevent losing heat through your head. Keeping your hands and feet warm is huge when facing a cold climate because these body parts can suffer the most internal damage if exposed to low temperatures for too long. Wear gloves, multiple socks and Longjohns under your pants to avoid cold limbs.
  8. Limit opening the tent once it’s cold, and specifically during the night. Drink plenty of fluids during the day to stay hydrated, but slow down in the evening time and stop drinking an hour or two before bed. This would ensure that you don’t wake up to pee and let the warmth out of the tent- and the cold air in. This is doubly useful to remember because your body uses warmth to heat the urine that’s in your bladder to 98 degrees. The longer you hold your pee, the more warmth you lose, so avoid those late night trips to the leui! If you do wake up and have to pee, consider peeing in a bottle. Most people understandably dislike doing this, but in order to retain heat at night, designate a pee-bottle or jar. This can be tricky for women, but definitely possible. Thankfully, there’s gear suited for this very purpose!
  9. Finally, on the topic of liquids, prevention is better than a cure. Prevent spills in your tent by getting leak-proof water bottles and being extra careful when eating or drinking in your tent. We get it: eating a thermos-full of soup is great while sitting in a warm tent, but consider eating outside. In cold conditions, spills take longer to dry, and you wouldn’t want to get caught in a damp tent at dusk.

You have that incredible desire to go out into nature, and soak in the beauty of your surroundings. This urge is innate, beautiful and almost instinctual. And we want you to have amazing trips! So use these tips to keep toasty in your tents, sleep well, and get the most out of each day.


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