Coldness is one of the worst parts of a camping trip. It can turn a great trip into a horrible one, leaving you stuck in a sea of endless shivers and misery. Luckily, there are lots of ways you can heat your tent, including ways without electricity.
Here are some of the ways to heat your tent and stay warm:
- Hot water bottles and heat packs
- Propane heaters
- Electric blankets and heated carpets
- Electric heating fans and radiators
- Camping stove
- Hot stones
- Leftover coals
- Flower Pots
- Tent insulation
I’ve done some research so I can go in-depth on these methods below.
#1. Hot Water Bottles and Heat Packs
Hot water bottles and heat packs are the perfect hassle-free way to warm up your tent. All you need is a) a camping stove, or b) a campfire and a pot. Then you can boil the water you need for them.
Don’t forget to get covers for any hot water bottle you plan on holding! I’ve made the mistake of going without covers, and I got burned.
You can also use reusable heat packs. You snap them to use them for the first time, then boil them to reset them when they’re no longer hot.
Place a mixture of heat packs and hot water bottles around your tent. It’s up to preference which one you use, and it’s often easiest to use whatever’s on hand. I suggest putting them on the ground near your sleeping bag, in areas of ambient space, and near the doors and windows.
You can also hang a few hot water bottles if that’s possible in your tent. It’ll help the surrounding air heat faster.
#2. Propane Heaters
Propane heaters are a classic way to heat your tent, but they may appear daunting if you’ve never used them.
These heaters get a bad rep for producing carbon monoxide which, of course, can lead to poisoning. However, this is extremely rare. You’d need to be around large quantities of carbon monoxide for that to happen, as you’ll read here.
And as the video below shows you, that simply doesn’t happen. Propane heaters are safe in tents—but you need to know how to keep them that way.
So, if you want to stay safe, get yourself a carbon monoxide detector like the one in the video above just in case.
Then you’ll want to get a small, tent-safe propane heater with safety features built-in. Look for features such as automatically turning off when it detects low oxygen levels, and turning off if it tips over.
Place the heater on a flat surface, at least a foot away from the tent walls and your gear on all sides. Never leave it on unsupervised, and you’re sure to stay safe.
#3. Electric Blankets and Heating Carpets
If you don’t plan on shying away from electricity, then electric blankets can keep you cozy at night. Plus, the heat they radiate can heat the tent for a few hours before you lie on top of them to sleep.
You can use these blankets on all types of camping bedding. I don’t recommend putting them inside a sleeping bag, though, as that’ll get hot. Putting them over your sleeping bag can work to add some extra heat.
By the way, check out the following article for sleeping bag alternatives that you can use your electric blanket with.
Now, once you’ve got your sleeping bag or an alternative paired with your electric blanket, you’re good—just ensure you pick the right electric blanket.
There are some electric blankets designed to fit over a mattress like a sheet, but I suggest using an electric throw blanket for camping. You can wrap yourself up in it, and when you’re not using it, you can lay it on different parts of the floor to heat that.
You can also use electric foot warmer mats all over your floor if you’d rather not lay your blanket on the ground of your tent.
With all these electric items, I recommend getting a generator for your campsite so you’re not relying on your car battery or the campsite’s outlets.
#4. Electric Heating Fans and Radiators
Here are the only other electric solutions on this list, so if you’re okay with electricity, these might do well for you.
Electric heating fans and radiators are classic ways to heat a home, and you can use them to heat a tent, too. Just make sure you keep them away from the tent walls, as you don’t want them to overheat. They need space for the air to circulate well.
If you’re going for a radiator, I recommend getting one with wheels, and a cool-touch surface is a good idea, too. This Dreo radiator heater should do the trick for that.
As for heating fans, or space heaters, you’ll want something with safety features. Having one that automatically shuts off if it’s going to overheat or if it falls over is a good call. Dreo has heaters like that, too.
This smaller style of heating fan also works well if you have less space in your tent. It has the same safety features as the larger Dreo heater above.
#5. Camping Stove
Do you plan on cooking a lot? Do it in your tent!
Well, cook in your tent if you have a camping stove and a tent with a high enough ceiling for hot air to rise. You shouldn’t cook in the tent if it’s too cramped in there, as that’s a potential fire hazard.
Camping stoves generate a surprising amount of heat. The gas-powered ones are safe for use indoors, but you’ll need to ensure you don’t cook anything too steamy or smoky. You don’t want that floating around in your tent.
Also, ensure your tent is well-ventilated.
Look for a camping stove that’s all-in-one, fast-boiling, highly portable, and large enough to boil at least a liter of water or cook that volume of food.
Jetboil stoves are quite good for that. The Jetboil Flash can cook enough for two, the Minimo is good for solo campers, and the Jetboil Genesis Basecamp Backpacking and Camping Stove Cooking System is good if you want something with burners.
Those can all be used safely in your tent, and they’ll warm your tent up while in use. However, it’s not cost-effective to use a camping stove for warmth if you’re not cooking. It’s better to use a propane fan for gas-powered heating in that case.
And if you’d rather cook outdoors, that’s fine too. The Jetboil stoves above work outdoors, or you could check out these 9 best wood burning camp stoves for that.
Candles are small but mighty. Anecdotally, many campers say they can increase the temperature in your tent by 15 degrees.
They work much the same way a campfire might. They have any open flame, only they’re in a much, much smaller package. This makes them good for heat and light.
However, you shouldn’t just light a bunch of candles and leave them around your tent. An open flame in your tent isn’t a good idea, even if everything in the tent is flame-retardant.
For candle heat and light, you’ll want to look into lanterns or luminaries. I talk about both of these when discussing bright campsite and tent lighting ideas.
A lantern that can hold multiple candles is ideal, as it’ll provide more heat and light. Something like this will do the trick.
Luminaries, on the other hand, are like little bags you put your candles in. You can carry them around or leave them to sit, and they’re made of flame-retardant materials. They often have little shapes carved into them, so they’re great for kids. Just don’t let the kids knock them over!
Ensure your candles are on a solid surface in an area that doesn’t receive a lot of traffic, and you’ll be all good. You can also weigh luminary bags down with sand or stones.
#7. Hot Stones
This is a very simple heating solution you can use. Simply collect some large stones from around the campsite, and set them by the campfire to heat up.
Don’t place the stones in the fire, as it’ll be a nightmare to get them out. Putting them on the fire’s edge is best, and make sure you have fire tongs to handle them.
When they’re nice and hot, let them cool enough to be safe to place in the tent, then place them in key areas around it. Use them the way you’d use heat packs and hot water bottles.
These can bring some nice warmth into your tent, but they cool fast, so it’s not my most-recommended solution. I suggest using this method in emergencies when there are no other options.
#8. Use Leftover Coals
This method works if you’re willing to set your tent up later than usual. It’s good for campers who arrive at their site in the evening and light a campfire straight away.
Let your campfire run its course, then put it out before bed. Bury the hot coals, and pitch your tent on top of where they’re buried. Their heat will radiate through the ground and warm your tent.
If your coals are in a fire pit, then you can transport the hot coals to a trench you dig under the area you plan to pitch your tent.
I recommend pairing this heating method with another, such as insulating your tent (which I’ll discuss in a moment or two.) And make sure you bury the coals deep enough so they won’t cause heat damage to the bottom of your tent.
However, bury them too deep and you risk dampening their heat entirely. You may want to experiment with this method before heading out on your camping trip.
#9. Use Flower Pots
If you don’t want to buy anything pricey to heat your tent but you have flower pots at home, bring a few along. Bring an equal number of large and small pots, and ensure they’re not flammable. The large pot needs to have a hole in the base.
Now all you need is some candles, and you’re ready to make a few DIY heaters.
Light a few candles on a flat surface in your tent, and put a small flower pot over them. Now cut a hole in the base of the larger pot, and place that over the small one.
The candles in the small pot will heat the air between the pots, and that’ll escape through the hole in the large pot.
Using just one of these heaters is often enough, but if you have a large tent, then you may need to use more of them. You can often buy flower pots in bulk, so it’s a more cost-effective method than purchasing several hot water bottles, or a camping heater or two.
#10. Insulate Your Tent
Finally, if you want all that heat you generated to stay in your tent, then you should insulate your tent!
Ways of insulating your tent include:
- Laying a tarp over it
- Putting down flooring
- Lining the walls with blankets or reflective panels
- Setting up a windbreak
- Camping in a canvas or pre-insulated tent
You’ll find many more methods in my article on ways to insulate your tent. And, if you’re more interested in a pre-insulated tent, check out these 8 best insulated tents. If you don’t find an insulation method you’ll like, then you’ll find a tent you like instead.
I suggest purchasing a new tent only if you intend to camp in cooler weather frequently, though. If you usually camp only in summer, then DIY insulation is a better option.
How Else Can You Stay Warm In a Tent?
Generating heat and ensuring your tent is insulated aren’t the only ways to stay warm in your tent. I have an entire article on cold weather camping tips you can read if you want to go really in-depth, and I’ll outline a few tips from it below.
Bring The Right Gear
It’s imperative you bring the right gear for staying warm, especially at night. You don’t need a sleeping bag for camping, but it’s a good idea—although there are alternatives to an insulated sleeping bag. For example, check out this wool blanket vs sleeping bag head to head.
I also suggest bringing a sleeping pad (see sleeping bag vs sleeping pad—I always recommend using both) and some spare blankets, just in case.
Dress For Warmth
Dress in many light layers rather than a few thick ones, as this will ensure your clothing stays tight to you. That reduces space in your clothes for cold air to circulate.
Always wear a base layer you can change out of if you get sweaty, because you don’t want that sweat to cool on your skin. You’ll end up cold despite wearing all those clothes.
Move and Consume
Moving around and staying fed and hydrated will help keep your body full of energy and warmth. Eat shortly before you go to bed, and drink lots of hot beverages throughout the day.
Doing a few jumping jacks or other exercises is a good idea before bed, but avoid getting sweaty! Just move enough to feel a little flushed before going to sleep.
Frequently Asked Questions
Tent heating methods bring up a lot of questions about safety, cost-effectiveness, and more. I have the answers to many of these commonly asked questions below, and hopefully, they’ll bring you some knowledge and peace of mind before you head out on your trip.
How Do I Make My Tent Heater Safe?
Ways to make your tent heater safe include:
- Keeping it at least a foot from the walls
- Ensuring it’s on a flat surface
- Only using a heater that’s in good condition
- Using a carbon monoxide detector
- Only using a heater made for indoor/tent use
Can I Use a Space Heater In A Tent?
You can use a space heater in a tent if it’s in good condition and isn’t old or likely to break down and fail. Place your heater on a flat surface with a foot of space in all directions around it, and ensure the electrical outlet it’s plugged into is safe from moisture.
How Can I Heat My Tent Cheaply?
The best inexpensive ways to stay warm in a tent include:
- Using a hot water bottle
- Lighting candles
- Heating stones
- Using your leftover coals
- Making a DIY heater with flower pots
- Layering up clothes
- Staying active to warm your body naturally
- Using insulated sleep gear
Can You Get Carbon Monoxide Poisoning In A Tent?
Getting carbon monoxide poisoning in a tent is rare. Ensuring your tent is properly ventilated and your gas appliances aren’t faulty will help you avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Always bring a carbon monoxide detector on your trips, just in case.
If you’re still worried about carbon monoxide poisoning, I highly recommend reading the article and watching the video in the section on propane heaters above.
You may also find some comfort in this study on how common CO poisonings are. Only 30 people per year on average experience carbon monoxide poisoning per year. Tens of millions of Americans go camping every year, so that’s a minuscule number of CO fatalities.
Hot water bottles, small portable heaters, open flames, and insulation are the best ways to heat your tent and ensure it stays warm. They’re safe and effective, but you still need to follow the proper safety precautions when using these methods to ensure they stay that way.
Don’t neglect the other tips on staying warm either, particularly in my cold weather camping tips article. Doing whatever you can to stay safe and warm is a must!
Remember that whatever you do, you need to enjoy your trip, and you need to use methods that are safe and viable for your camping setup.