*Able Camper is supported by its audience. When you buy via links on this site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

You wanted to go camping, but the forecast is turning out to be quite cold? That’s no reason to give up on your trip! Don’t let the chill in the air stop you from going on your excursion. Let’s delve into various ways to stay warm in a tent while you’re camping.

In the old days, a small, rackety tent was the best thing one could hope for when it came to finding shelter. These days, modern campers are more than prepared for all kinds of weather. Sunshine or a snowstorm, with the right gear, preparation, and mindset, you too can have a fantastic time.

Some of the ways to stay warm in a tent include using a season-appropriate tent, picking up a tent heater, dressing for the weather, sleeping on an insulated pad, and wrapping up inside a sleeping bag that was designed for cold weather. Furthermore, the following tips will help turn those shivering nights into cosy ones.

PICKING UP THE RIGHT GEAR

The preparation begins before you even set out on your trip. If you’re headed out into the wild and it’s not high spring or the middle of summer, you will need to be ready to carry a few more extras that will keep you warm in your tent and outside of it.

Some of the things found on every cold-weather camper’s shopping list are:

  • Wind-resistant tent stakes
  • 4-season insulated tent
  • Warm clothes fit for layering: thermals, synthetic materials, and wool
  • Sleeping pad
  • Tent heater
  • Hot water bottle
  • Weather-appropriate sleeping bag
  • Wool socks, a cozy hat, gloves
  • Warm pajamas
  • High-calorie snacks
  • Water bottle insulator
  • Stove and fuel

Now that your basic shopping list is done, let’s get down to the details!

Woman sitting next to her tent

CLOTHES FOR THE TRAIL

The first step to staying warm on the trail is to not allow yourself to get too cold in the first place. 

If you’re camping in the autumn or in the spring – or even in the winter, you brave soul – bundle up. Thermals aren’t very attractive, but leave fashion for the runways and be sure to pack some when going on a trip. 

Whether you’re a seasoned camper or a new convert on your very first trip, you will find that layers are very helpful when gearing up for the cold. Instead of wearing your most bulky sweater, try to put on a thermal shirt and then a zip-up over it.

Once you’re all layered up, there’s a good chance that you won’t get chilly, unless you’re one to get cold easily. If that’s you, consider picking up a heated vest, and for those that prefer it, heated jackets are also great.

Layers are not the only thing you need to consider before heading out. It’s crucial that you don’t allow your clothes to get wet. If you’re ever caught in the rain or snow, it’s time to change out of your clothing and allow your body to maintain warmth.

Cold and moisture on your skin can be a very problematic mix, that is why it should be avoided at all costs. If you don’t address it, not only will it be difficult for you to warm up later, but you may also run into more severe complications. A cold, a fever, or even in extreme cases hypothermia are some of the issues that you need to be mindful of.

PICKING THE RIGHT TENT

If you’re expecting cold weather, wind, rain or snow, you need to make sure the insulation in your tent is as good as it can be.

What you will want to pick up is a 4-season tent from a brand you can trust, as an example, this waterproof GEERTOP tent is one that can be used all year round. Such tents often have a double layer insulation system, are made out of waterproof material, and have some anti-tear protection. They shine in the colder months, but they do their job in the summer too.

Keep in mind that even the best tent will not stand safely in the face of strong wind without specialized wind-resistant tent stakes. When you set up camp, make sure the stakes are fastened securely in place. 

If the wind picks up in the middle of the night, you don’t want parts of your tent collapsing or coming undone. This would result in the unpleasant task of trying to fix your tent while battling the cold.

When choosing your future tent, don’t forget that in the cold, a simple sleeping bag will not do. You need enough space for a proper, insulated and elevated, sleeping pad, so aim for a tent that will offer ample space.

TENT SLEEPING PADS FOR COLD WEATHER

If you’ve always been the type of camper to only use a sleeping bag, you’ve been missing out. Not only are sleeping pads a necessity when camping out of season, but they’re also a huge improvement in your quality of sleep all year round.

Sleeping pads come in three basic types: self-inflating, closed-cell foam, and air. They act as a deterrent against the cold ground, keeping you warm and comfortable even during colder nights. As the day comes to a close, the ground grows cold, and no type of tent will fully protect you from it. Sleeping on a pad prevents the chilly air from reaching your body as you rest.

Air pads work well for backpacking, but they require inflation. Not all of them come with a built-in pump, so some need to be inflated with your breath. Closed-cell foam pads are thin and can be rolled up. They offer no inflation, so they will not suffice outside of the summer months. Even then, they do not offer the same kind of comfort as their elevated counterparts. Self-inflating pads, on the other hand, are a good alternative to air pads, but they tend to be bulkier.

Even the best mummy bag and four layers of thermals will succumb to the cold without some padding beneath it. A proper, waterproof, 4-season sleeping pad such as this insulated model by ECOTEK, or other models from reputable brands will go a long way to keep you warm.

A sleeping pad is essentially your mattress when you’re out in the wild. The vast majority of them are inflatable, so they are not a hassle to carry around. Try to look for one that packs to the size of a water bottle to avoid having to carry too much gear during the day.

PICKING A SLEEPING BAG

When it comes to camping, sleeping bags vary just as much as any other piece of gear. Some of them resemble a duvet that you can slide under and still have a lot of breathing room, while other models, known as mummy bags, are zipped up below the chin.

For extremely low temperatures reaching 0 degrees Fahrenheit, many campers tend to go with the latter. While it’s important not to overheat, you don’t want to be assaulted by cold air when you’re trying to sleep. Mummy bags tend to be very cozy and pleasant to sleep in but make sure you’re not layering up too much when you use one.

If the weather is not quite that bad, you can opt to buy a sleeping bag that offers more breathing room. Make sure that you pick one with an extra-insulated lining that has been designed for low temperatures.

TENT HEATERS

So you have your tent, your sleeping pad, and a weather-appropriate sleeping bag. That alone should suffice if you only camp three seasons out of the year. However, if you like to get out and enjoy nature even during the winter, there’s nothing stopping you – as long as you pick up a tent heater.

Electric tent heaters are highly adjustable and rather cost-effective, but you will need to have access to a power supply. Gas tent heaters are a little more expensive, but they will keep you toasty even if you’re in the middle of nowhere. Lastly, battery-powered tent heaters are also an option, but they are not quite as powerful as their gas and electric counterparts.

Short of sitting by a campfire, a tent heater is probably one of the things that will do the most for you in terms of warming you up after a long day spent outside.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

Once you’ve got all your gear ready for a fun trip, don’t stop there. Staying warm is a process that requires more than just preparation. 

While avoiding the cold, make sure you consider all the other aspects of safe camping as well. Some of the things that we all have to keep in mind are:

  • Hydration – stay hydrated! Keep a full water bottle close by at all times and don’t forget to take small sips frequently.
  • Nutrition – as much as we all love chips and marshmallows, don’t let those be the only things you eat once you reach your tent. A hearty dinner is not just good for your belly – it will keep you warm throughout the night. 
  • Rest – even if the day is still young, do not hesitate to call it a night and put up your tent if your body calls for it. When you’re exhausted you’re much more prone to being affected by the elements.
  • Sunburn – it might sound contrary to the point of this article, but watch out for sunburn. Especially if you’re hiking in the mountains at higher altitudes, suncream is an absolute must. 
  • Stay dry – change out of wet clothes as fast as you can and wrap up. Moisture is an enemy to every camper.

DON’T OVERHEAT AT NIGHT

While our grandmothers may have insisted that overheating is healthy, the opposite is true for campers.

Why is overheating, at night or during the day, not recommended for campers? The reason lies in perspiration and is closely tied to our earlier tip about avoiding wet clothing. If you’re too warm, you will eventually begin to sweat. As your clothes become damp, their insulating qualities will be less effective. What’s worse, as the perspiration evaporates, your body will cool down. If this happens while you’re asleep, you may not act in time before your temperature drops below the recommended levels.

Not overheating and staying dry are just some of the most important bedtime tips for every year-round camper. Here are a few do’s and don’t’s that will ensure you get a good night of sleep.

DO:

  • Wear warm pajamas
  • Put on a pair of dry socks
  • Consider wearing a hoodie over your pajamas if it’s very cold
  • Zip up your sleeping bag
  • Leave a little breathing room
  • Put on gloves and a hat in low temperatures
  • Drink something warm before going to sleep

DO NOT:

  • Sleep naked – you’re asking for trouble when your body cools down as you fall asleep!
  • Wear extremely tight clothing
  • Wear cotton; stick to synthetic fabrics and wool
  • Sleep in the clothes you wore during the day – no matter how tired you are, make sure to change into something warm and dry

CAMPING REGARDLESS OF THE WEATHER

Once you’ve picked out the right equipment and planned out your trip, you’re good to go! 

You can’t always trust the forecasts, but with the right set of gear, you can be sure to stay warm. However, make sure to check the weather before you head out. Extreme weather conditions, such as a snowstorm, may warrant staying in for a day or two.

Take care of yourself and explore the world all year round. After all, winters can be just as beautiful and should not keep you locked in until the first flowers begin to bloom!

Monica White
Latest posts by Monica White (see all)