I absolutely love cold weather camping. Recently, I ventured off into the woods with my husband, four-month-old, and dog.
Our coldest night got down to 40℉. I know that's not all that cold compared to winter camping, but it was still challenging.
And while my dog did some hardcore snuggling, we had to get creative to keep all of us warm.
With that said, here are my 15 best tent heating ideas you can try.
I've broken this down into ways to keep your entire tent and yourself warm.
Because it's super hard to heat up your whole tent. Also, tents – especially summer tents – are made of thin material.
Note that many tent heating methods can be dangerous. Later in this article, I'll mention some that you should never try!
15 Tent Heating Ideas That Are Safe & That You Should Try
You will need to combine these tent heating ideas to keep yourself warm and create the best camping experience.
1. Propane Heater
Propane heaters are a great solution for cold weather camping without an electric hookup.
Propane heaters can be safe in a tent. Make sure you look for a low BTU, indoor safe labels, and safety sensors.
The Mr. Heater Little Buddy checks all of those marks and is arguably one of the most used tent heaters.
Propane heaters can be scary to use in a tent because of the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.
However, a good camp heater will have an oxygen sensor and turn off automatically if things go wrong.
You'll also want a heater with a sensor that turns off the unit if it gets knocked over.
- Battery Powered Tent Heaters That Are Safe to Use
- How to Safely Use a Propane Heater Inside Your Tent
2. Wood Stove
A wood stove is a great option if you have a hot tent with a chimney.
Heating with a wood stove makes for a really comfortable and warm camping experience. You can efficiently heat your entire tent using a wood stove. It's very safe as long as you have a chimney.
Also, you can easily cook on the top of your wood stove, saving you from having to go out into the cold.
3. Electric Heater
Electric heaters are a really popular way to heat a tent because there is no risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
There are both electric fan heaters and electric ceramic heaters. Both are very effective at heating a tent.
The downside of electric heaters is that, of course, you need electricity. To run your heater, your campsite needs either an electric hookup or a small generator.
4. Hot Tent
You'll need a hot tent if you're planning to use a wood stove. Hot tents are made of heavy canvas and come with a chimney slot. You place your stove’s flue pipe through the ceiling for ventilation.
These setups are great for long-term camping.
5. 4-Season Tent
If you go winter or cold weather camping frequently, investing in a 4-season tent is a good idea.
4-season tents offer greater insulation and protection from wind and snow.
Most summer tents (2 or 3-season tents) have lots of mesh, and some have removable rain flies. 4-season tents are made of heavier materials.
They’re also smaller, so they can trap your body heat better.
6. Hot Rocks
Honestly, I've never tried this trick, but it sounds like it might work.
You'll need to find smooth rocks that are large enough to hold heat but small enough to wrap and carry easily.
Make a fire and place your rocks into the coals. Once they’ve gotten warm from the fire, wrap them in fabric and place them around your tent's interior.
The stones will slowly let off heat throughout the night, or at least long enough to allow you to comfortably fall asleep.
7. Insulate Your Tent (and know how to use it!)
You can efficiently insulate your tent by placing padding on the floor.
I suggest purchasing affordable moving blankets and covering the base of your tent with them. This is also an awesome hack for camping with a dog.
Before you set off into the cold weather, make sure you know how your tent works. Lots of tents come with a ventilation flap at the top.
By opening this flap, you’ll draw the moisture up and out. Being dry equals being warmer.
If you have a tent that can withstand the weight, hang blankets around it. This puts one more layer between you and the frigid outside air.
8. Tent Placement
After you’ve gone through all the trouble of insulating your tent, you’ll want to make sure your tent actually gets warm. If you’re looking for a completely off-grid way of keeping warm, check out your tent placement.
You'll want to place your tent in direct sunlight. Make sure your tent will be protected from heavy winds.
Also, if it's snowing, you don’t want to be in a spot where snow will pile up.
Avoid open fields and mountainside locations if possible. These locations are very windy. You want to be protected from the wind but in a patch of sunlight for most of the day.
9. Winter Grade Gear
You certainly don't need the best of the best to enjoy camping. However, proper gear meant for winter use goes a long way.
For example, do you know that they make sleeping mats rated for winter temperatures?
I honestly didn't know that for the longest time. Let me tell you, it's a game-changer.
In terms of winter gear, you’ll want to think of your sleeping mat, sleeping bag, insert blanket, and pillow.
Don’t want to spend money on new gear? No problem. Just get creative with the gear you have.
If you have multiple sleeping bags, you can stuff one inside the other. This will boost the temperature rating and give you more padding.
For your insert blanket and pillowcase, choose warmer materials like wool and fleece.
A good base layer of clothing will do wonders for sleeping (and overall functioning in colder weather).
Sleep with a base layer under your pajamas and wear two layers of socks. You can also wear a winter hat or balaclava to keep your head and face warm at night.
11. Heated Blanket
Heated blankets are a great way to heat your sleeping area if you have an electric hookup or generator.
Follow your heated blanket's directions, as some cannot go inside a sleeping bag.
No electricity? No worries. You can achieve a similar outcome with emergency blankets.
I use a heavy-duty emergency blanket and place it on my blow-up mattress and underneath my sleeping bag. I set another one under my blow-up bed when it's freezing.
12. Heated Rug
Likewise, heated rugs can add a nice touch of warmth and coziness to your tent.
You’ll need to plug in electrically heated rugs, and they’re a bit pricy, but overall they'll make a great addition to your tent setup.
13. Warm Water Bottle
One of my favorite camping hacks is to use warm water bottles to heat up.
Before bed, I boil water and put it in my reusable water bottle. Then, I place my water bottle in my sleeping bag to pre-heat the place. Nothing feels better than getting into an already warm bed.
You can do this instead of using disposable hand and feet warmers.
14. Stay Dry!
This is more a safety thing than a hack or tip. Staying dry is key to staying warm!
When our clothes get wet and then stay on our bodies, our body temperature drops, which is very dangerous in the winter months.
Pick moisture-wicking (and warm) material like wool; avoid fabrics that hold onto moisture, like cotton.
Keep your tent dry by ventilating it or using DampRid containers. This is also an awesome hack for waking up dry in the summer when the humidity is out of control!
15. Eat Heartily
Eating a hearty, warm meal will warm up your body. Choose meals that your body has to work harder to digest, such as complex vegetables and meat.
Not only will you warm up from the hot food, but your body will stay warm as it works through the food.
Tent Heating Ideas: Do Not Attempt
I’ve seen lots of dangerous tips and tricks on the internet when it comes to tent heating ideas.
I’ve also been out in the woods long enough to see some of these dangerous acts in person.
Let me tell you, they don’t end well.
Here are some tent heating ideas to avoid.
1. Using a Stove
DO NOT use a camp stove inside your tent! Tents are very flammable, and camp stoves use an open flame.
Along with that, they have no safety features for being run like a heater. If your camp stove tips over, it will keep producing a flame! Don’t do it!
2. Using a Portable Fire Pit
Same idea! NO open flames in your tent!
Want more of an explanation? Check out this article.
3. Placing Your Tent Over a Dead Fire
The idea is that you make a fire, put it out, and then place your tent on top of the still-warm pit.
I've seen too many "put-out fires" come back to life with a good gust of wind. I can only imagine a fire starting with a tent on top of it. No thanks!
Plus, usually, you’re allowed to have fires only in the premade fire pit. So, for this “hack,” you'd likely have to break campsite rules.
4. Using DIY Heaters (and Candles!)
Unless you make heaters as a profession, please do not rely on a DIY heater in your tent. Most DIY heaters that I have seen use a candle.
Again, NO open flames in the tent!
Can You Heat a Tent Without Electricity?
You can use propane and wood heaters to heat a tent without electricity. You can also warm yourself up, which is much easier than heating the entire tent.
Can You Heat a Tent With a Candle?
Don't! What makes a wood burning stove and a propane heater safe is that they are enclosed flames.
Burning candles brings an open flame into a flammable tent. Your tent will catch on fire if your candle gets knocked over.
Plus, candles do NOT produce enough heat to warm your entire tent.
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.