Insulating your tent is one of many excellent ways to stay warm while camping in fall and winter. There are lots of ways you can do this, and one of the best ways is by attaching insulated materials to the walls of your tent.
Here are several things you can do to insulate your tent:
- Use emergency blankets adhered to the walls
- Use a 4-season tent
- Use a small tent
- Use a windbreak
- Use insulated fabric to line the walls
- Use a tent footprint
- Use foam padding
- Use rugs or chunks of carpet
- Use a tent heater
- Use heat packs
- Use reflective foam
- Use a canvas tent
I’ll get deeper into all of these methods below, and I’ll also answer a few burning questions you might have about insulating your tent.
13 Ways To Insulate Your Tent
Many of the ways you can insulate your tent involve lining the tent with fabric of some kind, but there are other ways you can add insulation to your tent, too. You can mix and match the methods below if you wish.
You can also find lots of advice about staying warm in this article on cold weather camping tips.
#1. Use Emergency Blankets, Plastic Sheets, and Spray Adhesive
Emergency blankets are incredible tools when camping. They can help protect you against hypothermia and other cold-related illnesses.
If you’re asking yourself do emergency space blankets work, tons of people can attest that they do—including for insulating your tent.
The video below will show you how to perform this insulation method, but it’s actually incredibly simple.
Spray the adhesive on the outside of your tent, then lay the plastic sheets tightly against it. This will help stop hot air from inside the tent from escaping.
Give the inside of the tent the same treatment, only this time, attach the thermal blankets to the walls. They’ll reflect your body heat back at you and help keep it sealed inside the tent.
Make sure not to use this method in a winter tent, as you’ll likely be too hot. Winter tents are well-insulated already. It’s a great method to use with a 3-season tent that you’d like to use in winter, though.
#2. Use A 4-Season Tent
If you’re looking for a new tent anyway, consider getting a 4-season tent. Four-season tents are created to maximize insulation, and they’re intended for use in relatively harsh winter conditions.
What these tents can withstand largely depends on what kind of tent you get, though. Some can keep you warm but can’t handle snow, and others can handle heavy snowfall.
At a bare minimum, you’ll want your tent to have:
- At least 2000mm of waterproofing
- A highly waterproof groundsheet
- Double-layered walls
This Ayamaya 4-season backpacking tent is a good idea of something you’ll want to look for at a base level. It has the qualities above, and the rainfly is particularly tight to the ground to keep moisture out of your tent.
The tent above is a good choice for beginner campers, and it’ll suit some intermediate campers, too.
Experienced campers may want to invest in something sturdier and warmer from a highly-reputable brand like REI. For that, the Exped Orion III Tent is a top-notch choice.
#3. Use A Small Tent
You’re going to feel colder in a roomier tent. There’s more space for cold air to circulate, so try using a tent that’s as small as possible.
Sleep close beside your tentmates, and reduce as much ambient space as you can by stuffing empty space with gear, blankets, pillows, and everything you can.
If you’re going camping alone, use the smallest 1-person tent you can. If there are only 2-person tents available, bring extra blankets to fill the space.
If you go camping with a partner, ensure you choose a small 2-person tent. It’s often recommended that you size up to a three or 4-person tent to maximize personal space, but this isn’t the best idea in cold weather.
#4. Use A Windbreak
The wind often has a bite that’ll chill you to the bone. Try to keep as much of it away from your tent as you can.
Camp in an area enclosed by trees and bushes that block harsh winds from hitting your tent, or make a windbreak out of a tarp. Suspend a tarp on a line that stretches between two trees, then peg the bottom of it so it doesn’t flap.
Ensure this tarp is large enough to cover the entire space that’s allowing wind to get to your tent.
There are a few other ways to use a tarp as a windbreak. The video below will show you one of them.
You can also use snow as a windbreak if you’re an experienced camper in extreme conditions. Build yourself a little wall out of snow to stop the wind from hitting your tent.
It has to be very snowy to utilize the snow, though!
#5. Use A Thermal Blanket
If you don’t want to make this tent a permanent winter tent, then you can use a thermal blanket without attaching it to your tent.
Hang an emergency blanket over your tent, or find a way to hang a few inside the tent, if you can. If you have net storage pockets, you could use string to tie the emergency blanket to one, then let it hang to the floor. Push gear against the blanket to stop it from flapping.
You could also use duct tape to keep the blanket in place, but make sure the tape isn’t too strong. Removing tape that’s too strong could damage your tent fabric.
#6. Use Insulating Fabric To Line Your Tent
If you dislike thermal blankets, then you can use regular blankets, clothes, towels, scraps of fabric, and more to line your tent instead.
More layers = more insulation, always. So use what you have.
You can tie your blankets and clothes into place, tape them, or glue them. It depends on what your intent is with the fabric and tent after you use them. Don’t glue anything if you want to use the fabric or tent for other purposes later.
#7. Use A Tent Footprint
Your tent probably has a pretty good groundsheet, but it’s likely not the most insulated groundsheet in the world.
You lose a lot of heat through the ground, so get as many layers between you and it as possible. You can use a tent footprint or a tarp for this.
If you like, you can read a more nuanced answer to “do I need a tarp under my tent?” And there are some alternatives you can check out in that article, too.
Regardless of what you choose, using something under your tent is better than nothing.
#8. Use Foam Padding
Another way you can insulate the ground is by putting foam padding all over it. You can use anything for this. Yoga mats and foam sleeping pads work, but thicker, EVA foam mats work best.
You can see an example of this being done in the video below.
You can double up on the foam padding if you like. Do whatever you can to separate yourself from the icy ground outside.
Using a foam sleeping pad under a self-inflating sleeping pad in your setup is another good idea.
#9. Use Rugs Or Chunks of Carpet
If you don’t have access to foam pads or mats, then anything you can use to insulate the floor will help. Use thick rugs, pieces of old carpet, blankets, and even clothes. You can use thermal blankets for maximum heat reflection, too.
Keep in mind that you won’t be able to do this if you’re a backpacker. All this extra insulation will make a pack impossible to carry, and it won’t make for a quick setup, either.
Car campers will do well with these tips. You don’t have to worry about hauling a heavy pack around, and you won’t be putting up and taking down your tent once a day.
#10. Use A Tent Heater
Tent heaters won’t insulate your tent, but they’ll certainly add heat to it!
Propane heaters are safe in tents, but make sure you get the right one. It has to be one that’s suitable for use inside the tent, and you’ll want it to have some safety features built into it to keep you safe from carbon monoxide.
Look for a heater that switches off if it detects low oxygen or falls over. The Mr. Heater Little Buddy is great for that, as are most Mr. Heater propane heaters.
Let the tent heater get your tent nice and warm for a few hours before bed, and you should be nice and cozy all night if you insulate your walls to keep the heat in.
Never leave your tent heater unattended, though, so you can’t sleep with it switched on.
#11. Use Heat Packs
Scattering heat packs around your tent is sure to help heat it up. Put them under your sleeping bag, near your sleep area, in the corners, and anywhere that cold air may linger. Hot water bottles work well for this, too.
Try to create as much heat on the ground as possible, and when that hot air rises, the insulated tent walls will help keep it in.
Pairing heat packs with insulating your floor with foam and your walls with thermal blankets is a very, very smart move in extremely cold conditions.
#12. Use Reflective Foam
If you don’t want to use blankets, you can use reflective foam to heat up your tent. You’ll need to glue or duct tape this to your walls.
Make sure you intend on using this tent again in the future before you do this, though. Reflective foam can get a little pricey, and you don’t want to buy it and attach it to the walls of a tent that you intend to discard soon after.
Reflective foam works the same way as an emergency blanket does, only it’s thicker. You can also use it to line the floor for maximum heat retention and reflection.
#13. Use a Canvas Tent
If you’re planning on taking a long-term camping trip in the cold, consider a canvas tent. They’re fantastic for long-term use, but they’re expensive, so make sure you’ll use it again and again if you get one.
Canvas tents suit a whole range of people, and you can check out the 12 best canvas tents for every type of camper if you want to browse your options.
Getting a nice, cozy, canvas tent will ensure you stay comfortable and warm throughout fall and winter.
Should You Put a Tarp Over Your Tent For Insulation?
Using a tarp over your tent for extra insulation is a good idea in winter. It can help keep rain and snow away from your tent, and it provides an extra barrier that any heat escaping has to get through.
You can place a tarp over your tent as a flat rectangle, you can create a sloped roof that covers the top and sides of your tent, and you can even find tarps that wrap around and protect all four sides of your tent.
So, how big should your tarp be? It depends on the tent size and tarp type, but the article I just linked has lots of insight on the topic.
How To Insulate Tent Walls
The best methods for insulating tent walls are by attaching emergency blankets and plastic sheets to your tent walls, hanging a thermal blanket over your tent, lining your tent walls with insulated fabric, or using reflective foam on the tent walls.
It’s better to be a little too warm than too cold, but be careful not to make yourself uncomfortable. Use an easily reversible method of insulation if it’s your first time attempting to insulate a tent.
How Do You Insulate a Canvas Tent?
Canvas tents don’t generally need insulation to keep you warm. The material is thick, so it’s efficient at sealing heat in. You can also use a stove in canvas tents if they have a stove jack, and that’s going to make you warmer than insulation ever could.
I recommend using a canvas tent in winter if you want to stay as warm as possible. Put a stove in it, or utilize a tent heater.
There are so many ways you can insulate your tent, from hanging blankets to keeping the wind away. You can also stay warm by wearing lots of layers, bringing hot water bottles, moving around a lot, and avoiding going on the water, as it could freeze.
In fact, there are 41 cold weather camping tips that you can check out to help you stay toasty in your tent when it’s cold outside.
Following these tips and insulating your tent well will give you the best chance of staying as warm and comfortable as possible while you’re attempting to camp in fall and winter.