How to Insulate a tent for Winter Camping [ Top Tips ]

How to insulate a tent for winter camping

Sleeping outdoors is always going to be slightly less comfy and challenging compared to a warm cosy bed with the wind, rain or snow battering off you’re window…..in fact, why are we camping?

It’s about the adventure and getting out to the great outdoors that’s why!

Camping during winter though does increase the risk of hypothermia as the temperature can plummet well below zero.

So, knowing how to insulate a tent for winter camping is essential not only to keep you warm, cosy and out of the elements but it could also save you’re life!

I understand that it can be difficult to know what to take camping if it’s going to be a specially cold night.

Even trying to decide on the best sleeping bag to bring or what is the most durable tent for colder climates can become overwhelming.

Why is it important to insulate a tent for winter camping?

Two words: Safety and well being

Making sure to insulate you’re tent for camping in the winter should be priority number 1 when setting up camp.

When camping in the wilderness, who knows what the elements are going to throw at you. One minute it could be clear skies and the next, heavy snowfall could be coming down.

If you are planning to camp far away from any signs of civilisation, you need to make sure that you’re tent is going to be able to withstand the cold and keep you’re body warm during you’re entire camping trip.

Now, Hypothermia is a serious issue and if you’re caught out by the elements and unprepared, it can be fatal. Hypothermia occurs when you’re body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature.

The body has a very specific temperature it needs to stay at to maintain optimum health, a temperature of 37C. If it falls anything below 35C, you’re heart, nervous system and other main organs can’t function properly.

So even knowing some steps you can take to help insulate you’re tent during the winter will certainly be beneficial to you.

Even if you’re out exploring, trekking, kayaking or fishing for the day, it’s nice to come back to a tent that will provide warmth, shelter and dry you out for the night.

Well, let’s have a look at some of the best ways to insulate a tent for winter camping that will improve you’re quality of time outdoors.

Picking the right spot to set up camp

Knowing where to set up you tent is crucial.

Make sure to stay clear of open areas as it serves as no protection against wind, rain or snow. Camping in a more enclosed area such as the woods provides better shelter from the elements.

Try to stay clear of any low areas or even depressions in the ground. There are 2 reasons for this.

Firstly, if there is heavy rain or snow, it will naturally flow towards these areas soaking or covering you’re tent.

Secondly, camping in a spot with a slight depression in the ground traps cooler air as cold air is denser than warm air so it will gather around here essentially lowering the temperature of the tent.

Where to place you’re campfire

When you’re looking to warm up during a cold nights camping, you may feel you want to set the fire up as close to the tent as possible.

Avoid this for obvious reasons!

Set the fire up at least 2 metres away facing the door of you’re tent.

To extract the most heat from the fire, gather stones or branches and form a wall on the other end of the fire. This will help to reflect the heat in you’re direction

Want to see the different techniques used on how to make a fire? The check this out!

Lay down tarp

Tarp is an excellent form of insulation you can use, you can do this 2 ways….or both!

Firstly, clear the area of stones, loose twigs or branches where you are looking to camp.

Then, lay down you’re sheet of tarp. Set up of you’re tent over this and fold the edges of the tarp into the tent and hold with stones or sticks.

Your tent alone will keep you dry inside anyway but this just adds another layer and keeps any further moisture away.

Your can also throw another sheet of tarp over the top of you’re tent and secure it with rope or paracord as this will help to insulate the tent that bit better.

Dry leaves

If the ground you are camping on is dry, you can gather dry leaves and build them around the bottom of the tent. This will prevent any draughts coming through and just helps in providing further insulation.

Thermal foam reflective mat

These are great for a winter’s night out camping.

The mat itself is made foam which is very comfortable and provides that extra cushion to keep you off the cold floor.

Its reflective properties, reflect you’re body heat back to you keeping you warm throughout the night.

Cardboard box

Now, if you don’t have a thermal foam mat. The next big thing is a flattened down cardboard box.

Cardboard is another excellent insulator as it holds small air pockets within it that can be easily heated up.

Simply lay the cardboard on the floor of the inside of tent before you put down any mattress or sleeping bag.

This helps to provide another layer of protection from the cold surface of the ground.

Air mattress

An air mattress is essential when camping anyway…never mind on a cold night.

Whether you have a mattress that self inflates, blown up with you’re breath or foot pump, it doesn’t necessarily matter.

It simply provides that needed layer that really does keep you off the ground and allows for a comfortable night sleep.

An air mattress holds a lot of air and when warmed up with the heat of you’re body, it will make sure you stay warm throughout the night.

Good quality sleeping bag

If you’re going to bring anything when camping on a cold night, you’re priority needs to be a good quality sleeping bag!

Your can get a variety of different sleeping bags but choosing one that is small and compact is ideal as retains heat a lot longer and is quicker to heat up.

A mummy-style sleeping bag is great for winter camping. They are lightweight and has just enough room for yourself.

Toggles at either end of the head rest can pull the drawstring in, essentially closing the area around you’re head so heat is less likely to escape.

Hot water bottles or Flask

Having a hot water or even a few hot water bottles are great for keeping you’re tent warm.

Boil some water or you’re campfire and fill the bottles.

Place them around the corners of the tent and it will help to increase the temperature.

Your can place one inside you’re sleeping bag or even fill a flask up with hot water and cover over with a sock to stop it burning you during the night. It will keep you warm and toasty!

Emergency blanket

Having an emergency blanket or a thermal blanket in you’re backpack is a great item to have.

It’s made of a heat-reflective thin plastic sheeting that is lightweight, cheap to buy and very compact.

Your can either place this under you over wrap it over you when sleeping. This will use you’re own body heat to keep you warm through any chilly night.

***TIP***

Purchase 3 or 4 emergency blankets, wrap them up around the poles in the ceiling of you’re tent. Work them down along each side of tent. Your can either wrap them around the poles or even paperclip them to the sides of the tent.

You see, heat rises and with these blankets covering the ceiling and sides, it will insulate any tent for winter camping.

Portable heaters

These are very effective in helping to keep a tent warm and dry.

They can be slightly bulky to carry especially if you’re backpacking but if are finding a spot to camp for a few days, they are a great addition to have in winter.

They can range anywhere from £10.00 to £50.00 and can be powered by electric or gas.

Keep wet items outside the tent

Make sure that when after a day of hiking or exploring, that you take off any wet clothes outside the tent and put them into a dry bag.

By keeping wet or damp clothes in a tent, they will absorb the heat you are looking to retain.

Clear the tent of snow

If it’s snowing where you are, make sure to keep the snow off you’re tent.

If snow builds up on the surface of the tent, not only can it add weight and risk tearing but it will chill the outer layer which will result in a temperature drop.

Spare dry clothes

Always bring another pair of dry clothes.

If you get wet after a day out in the wild, there is no point in bringing you’re wet clothes inside to try and dry out.

Your need another spare dry pair that you can put on straight after to keep you warm and stops the onset of hypothermia.

Go for a quick walk before bed

A very simple but effective idea.

Getting a brisk walk or jog or really any form of exercise in before bed is a great self-made heat source.

The idea is to get you’re heart pumping so you can increase you’re body temperature.

Now, you don’t need to do a full HIIT session and get all sweaty, just something to get you’re body warmer that’s all.

Camping in the winter does have increased risks due to the drop in temperature and harsher weather.

However, these simple tips will certainly help you to stay warm and insulate you’re tent for winter camping.

They are practiced and recommended by experts and seasoned campers and will allow you to enjoy and get the most of you’re outdoor experience without having to worry about any cold snap!

14 comments Add yours
  1. Hypothermia is indeed a serious issue and a mummy-style sleeping bag is a must. However, when you are together, you can’t zip 2 mummy sleeping bags to each other. And human warmth is the best way to keep up your temperature. My experience to warm up a tent very quickly is to put a wet terracotta flower pot upside down on the gas heater. Great tips though. Eg. to insulate the tent by putting 3 or 4 emergency blankets wrapped up around the poles. Thank you!

    Loes

    1. Hi Loes,

      Great tip! I’ll be sure to add it to the list

      You’re right, camping in winter must be taken seriously especially if hypothermia is to set it and one of the best ways to keep warm is human warmth

      Thank you

  2. Hi there.

    Like the use of the spaces between statements gives the feel for better reading and works wonders on tired eyes. Here by us the nights are not so cold but the bosslady and I am starting our travels and its good to no how to insulate a tent as we never no were we are going to end up .Thanks for the help on that subject.

    Thanks for all the good to no tips will definitely come handy in the future

    Good luck 

    1. Hi Pierre,

      I’m glad I can help, if you and the other half are looking to camp in the winter these tips will help you to remain warm on the coldest of nights.

      Safe travels!

  3. This article is ideal for this period of winter and a lot of people will be going camping and it is important to keep yourself warm while camping. I love the hot water bottles and flasks idea, i never knew the significance of this until i read it here and it seems really effective. All the other tips can be a life saver and i am glad i read this today. Thanks a lot Ronan, i hope to try out some of these tips real soon. Cheers

    1. Hi Samson,

      If you are going camping soon over these winter months, try some of these points listed and I’ll guarantee that you’ll have a warmer, more comfortable nights sleep outdoors.

      I must say I am a big fan of keeping a flask holding the finest Irish whiskey in it! Keeps me warm through the night

      Thank you

  4. Hi thank you for posting great information about winter camping. Very few people know about insulating tent and it will be critical for newbie. Without proper training about camping and knowledge of staying outside, it will be risky sometimes. I believe this information is helpful for a new adventurer who really does not know about camping especially winter camping.

    I have the same opinion that hypothermia is a very serious issue and this will be dangerous if affected person does not face it. So I really like this article and bookmark this future reference. 

    1. Hi Mzakapon,

      You’re right, camping outdoors and doing it right come with experience and for a complete newbie to it, they can be slightly overwhelmed but following these tips when camping during the winter will make it a lot easier.

      Thank you 

  5. My hasband and I went up to Paulaski, NY for Salmon run around late September. I remembered it rained a day before and we rented a lot for camping. The ground was soft and wet and cold. That is too much adventure for me lol I remembered the communal bathroom, you have to feed the coin to the machine to have the running water for the shower, to my luck there was no hot water ha! Now when I talked about it, it is funny but not then.

    Wow I didn’t know that below 35F your heart can’t function properly that is scary. The brief walk before bed is a nice trick how come we have never thought of that?! You are definitely the expert I will share this post to my husband and hopefully he won’t drag me out camping in the snow hunting for sashquatch. 

    Great post!

    1. Hi Nuttanee,

      Haha I’m afraid camping doesn’t always come with luxury. There are times when even I think this is below certain standards you’re right, looking back it was always a good time!

      I hope you and your husband have a better camping experience next time

      Happy camping!

  6. I appreciate your great guidelines for cozy winter camping. I suggest though, that you mention the importance of ventilation in your tent, especially if a gas heater, candles or hibachi are used in the tent. Without a vent path or other adequate ventilation, carbon monoxide poisoning could ruin the outing, and lead to lasting injury or death.

    1. Hi Steve,

      Thank you, certainly I agree it is most important to make sure that there is proper ventilation flowing through the tent to stop carbon monoxide building up when using a gas stove or even sitting around your campfire.

      As long as you don’t actually use a gas stove for example in the tent.

      Thank you 

  7. I must say your article comes in handy and timely to me. My team and I are planning to ascend Mount Kenya and of cause tents are on our packing list (where else would we shelter ha-ha). I dread the cold and tents can have a lot of it if the insulation is not good enough or is not there all together.

    Many thanks for sharing your insights above on how to cushion our tents during our adventures.

    1. Hi Victor,

      That sounds amazing! It’ something I’ve always wanted to do

      Just remember a few of these key points and I’m sure it will help to keep warm camping for the night.

      I wish you all the best and good luck!

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