Trying to sleep in a cold tent can be a terrible experience. If you have a portable fire pit, or have the expertise to build a fire pit, you might be wondering:
Can you put a fire pit in a tent?
No. You cannot put a fire pit in a typical enclosed tent. Typical tents are made of nylon and polyester, while the outer layers are coated in polyurethane for water resistance. All three of these materials are highly flammable and will melt if they come in contact with fire.
Tents typically have tarp or synthetic floors, which are not materials you should be building a fire on.
You should keep your tent at least 15 feet away from any open flames. This distance ensures that a gust of wind won't bring the fire too close to your tent. It will also keep away any embers, which will burn and melt small holes in your tent.
Also, keep food and scraps away from your tent to protect yourself from hungry wildlife. Cook your food at least 100 yards from your tent.
4 Solutions Instead of Putting Fire Pit in Your Tent
Under a Gazebo or Sun Shade
You might have a gazebo or a sun shade pitched at your campsite. If the fabric is very high, you might be able to have a small fire underneath the overhang.
More advisable, you can angle your sun shade or sit at the edge of your gazebo to keep yourself in the shade while you build your fire just outside your overhang. You will still need to keep the fire small so the wind does not pick it up or blow embers.
Attempt to build a small controlled fire under a gazebo or sunshade only if you are highly experienced with fire building. No matter what, always have a method of extinguishing your fire nearby.
Tepees (also spelled teepee and tipi) were historically used by the indigenous people of North America and were made from animal skin or, more modernly, canvas. These tents are conical and have flaps at the top for smoke to escape.
Tepees are designed to have a fire burning in the center of them. They have proper ventilation, so the smoke rises to the top. This is done with an opening at the top and with layered, movable walls that work with the changing winds.
Unless you use a traditional tepee made by an expert, do not build a fire in a tepee tent purchased from the store.
These store-bought tepee-shaped tents are more similar to modern-day tents because they are made from flammable materials and are not intended to have a fire in them.
Winter Tent with Wood Stove
If you are preplanning for a winter camping trip, look into 4-season winter tents that allow for the use of a wood stove.
These tents are typically made of canvas or blends that can hold heat better than poly/nylon tents.
They also have a chimney for the wood stove smoke to escape. These specialized tents are fantastic for long camping trips in the snow or cold.
Note that these winter tents come separate from a wood stove. Wood stoves are available in different sizes but all are relatively small.
Some have grates on top for cooking or heating water. Remember to eat outside your tent so food scraps do not end up inside.
You could also use various portable heaters to keep yourself warm on a cold night while camping.
Follow all safety notices and directions when using portable heaters in your tent.
When adequately prepared, you can be extremely comfortable on a cool fall night in a tent. You'll want:
A cold-temperature-rated sleeping mat
Not all sleeping mats are made the same. Some are made specifically with cold temperatures in mind.
These sleeping mats are insulated and have temperature ratings.
A cold-temperature-rated sleeping bag
Likewise, sleeping bags are rated by temperature. Sleeping bags come in different shapes and stuffings to best suit your needs.
Always underestimate temperature ratings, i.e., if a sleeping bag says that it has a rating down to 0℉, the sleeping bag will be comfortable only to 15℉ or 20℉. If the temperature drops to 0℉, you will survive but be cold.
A wool blanket
Wool is an excellent material that can literally be a lifesaver. When wool gets wet, it will dry quickly and keep you warm, unlike other materials that get colder when wet.
Having a wool blanket with you when camping in the cold is always advisable.
Layers, layers, layers for cold winter camping!
You'll want to wear many well-thought-out layers if you expect cold weather overnight. Start with a wool base layer. This will be pricy but well worth the investment.
We're talking socks, pants, an undershirt, and a skull cap. Then add fleece-lined or wool clothing such as fleece-lined leggings or jeans, a wool sweater, and heavy socks.
Add your top-most layer when you’ll be outside the tent. This will include a winter coat, snow pants, waterproof hiking boots, and a fur-lined hat.
If you're already in the wilderness and the weather has decided to take a wild dip into the cold zone, you will need quick solutions to get you through the night.
Here are a few things you can do:
Passive solar refers to using the sun to your advantage throughout the day. If you're looking at cold weather later in the night, get your tent, blankets, and clothes into the sun for a bake.
Even if this means un-staking your tent to drag it out from under the tree canopy, do it. You're making your tent a little oven by bringing it into the direct sun, which will hopefully trap some warmth for the night.
When I was a new camper, I decided to go camping in early spring before I knew survival skills and had experience off-grid. This was also before the weather app was reliable (because there was no weather app), so I left without thinking much about the temperature.
I brought all my regular gear with me, but I forgot to account for the fact that it was for summer camping. So, when the temperature dropped into the low 30s that night and it started to rain, I was unprepared, shivering, and in a dangerous situation.
Thankfully, I had my emergency kit, including an emergency blanket. I took out the emergency blanket and wrapped it around myself inside my sleeping bag.
It took a few minutes, but I finally started to warm up and my shivering stopped. I was able to sleep for the rest of the night once I was warm. The blanket potentially saved me from hypothermia that night.
Emergency blankets are only a few dollars, are incredibly compact, and can be found in most stores.
Camp stores typically carry them, which is why I include them here on my list. If you are already camping, find the nearest camp store or ask a park ranger/campsite employee for an emergency blanket.
One of my favorite “hacks” in the woods is warm bottles and socks.
After building your fire a safe distance from your tent, place bottles of water and your nighttime socks around your firepit (not where they will actually catch fire) and let them heat up.
Then, place the warm bottle in your sleeping bag just before bedtime. Once ready for bed, put on your toasty socks, slip into warm bliss, and drift off to cozy sleep.
While you cannot put a fire pit in a tent, there are many options to keep yourself warm while camping.
The best thing to do is research and prepare ahead of time.
Remember to always practice safe fire building and to keep yourself warm.
Kendall is a freelance outdoor adventure writer passionate about educating those who wish to explore the outdoors. When Kendall isn’t writing, she is exploring the woods of the US Northeast on foot or kayak.