Camping in the winter without any means to heat your tent is only for the brave and perhaps those who are more adventurous.
Winter camping is a fantastic experience, but it can become unpleasant without being comfortable and warm.
But don’t worry; we’ve covered a list of ways to heat a tent without electricity, so you can keep warm during your winter camping trips.
Wondering how to heat a tent without electricity? The best methods of heating a tent without electricity are:
- Use a winter rated sleeping pad
- Use a winter rated sleeping bag
- Wear plenty of layers
- Use a wood or tent stove
- Choose the right tent
- Use hot water bottles
- Choose the right camping location
- Bring candle lanterns
- Bring heating packs
- Insulate your tent
- Use hot stones
- Use non-electric heaters
- Build a campfire
- Use leftover coals
- Make a DIY candle heater
If you’re planning a camping trip in an off-the-grid location, you’re unlikely to be near any electrical points for most heaters.
However, winter backpackers and campers manage to stay warm. So, what’s the secret? How do they do it?
We’re going to cover the essentials for keeping you warm and heating up the tent. Following this a list of ideas.
Some of these ideas are creative and useful.
Some of the other ideas are, in my view, not safe practices. However, I’ve seen these recommended in other places so I wanted to discuss them and clearly flag that they are not safe.
Table of Contents
1. Use a winter rated sleeping pad
Remember that staying warm in a tent isn’t always about heating you up, it’s also about stopping you from getting cold in the first place!
Yes – I know that you might be wanting a useful outdoor trick to keep you warm. But the basics are what will keep you alive outdoors when all else fails.
Your sleeping pad is one of the most importance pieces of gear for keeping you warm by reducing how much cold you feel from the ground.
Sleeping pads come with an “r value” which measures how well insulated the pad is. Sleeping pads with higher numbers are better insulated but, all else being equal, are heavier.
For 3 season use, I recommend a pad with an r value of between 3 and 5. This sleeping pad is top of the line, or this pad is more affordable.
For 4 season use, you’ll want to go with a higher r value such as this sleeping pad.
2. Use a winter rated sleeping bag
Now that you have a warm sleeping pad, you’ll want a cozy sleeping bag! This is the second of the essentials that all winter backpackers use.
Fortunately, all good sleeping bags come with a temperature rating. Keep an eye out for “ISO” or “EN” temperature ratings as these are industry standards which have shown the sleeping bag can actually handle the temperature it claims.
A sleeping bag with a temperature rating of 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 Celsius) or lower will work well in temperatures down to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 Celsius) and pairs well with the 3 season pads above. Here is a good sleeping bag that fits this criteria, or a budget option here.
3. Wear plenty of layers
You’ve got the sleeping bag and the sleeping bag, layering up for cold weather is the final part of the essentials.
Generally, base layers work well for sleeping in at night. Merino is a very popular fabric for this use but the most popular cold weather layers among the backpacking community are probably the Capilene baselayers.
4. Use A Wood Stove Or Camping Stove
Some tents are equipped with a wood stove and are known as hot tents. A wood stove generates heat by burning wood. These tents with wood stoves are generally fire retardant or are fabricated to prevent the tent from catching fire.
A hot tent is terrific for winter camping and is probably one of the best ways to create heat in your tent. We’ve put a list together of the best hot tents on the market.
If you’re looking for a wood stove, also known as a tent stove, some great options are the Guide Gear Outdoor Wood Burning Stove or the GBU Tent Stove.
5. Choose The Right Tent
Camping with the right tent is essential, especially if you’re camping in winter. The best winter tents are designed to weather all the elements and are made for different seasons. The most popular types of tents like this are known as 3-season and 4-season tents.
Unless you’re camping in snow or facing harsh wind and rain, we don’t recommend a 4 season tent.
But if you are facing winter conditions, you can check out our comparisons of top 4 season tents.
6. Use Hot Water Bottles
Hot water bottles won’t keep you warm for the whole night but can make you feel warmer.
There are two ways to heat hot water bottles. First, fill it with water and heat it close to the fire. The second option is to boil water and fill the hot water bottles.
Larger hot water bottles will work better at heating up your tent. However, you may need to heat up a few to create a warmer tent. If you’re looking at purchasing a hot water bottle, the Attmu Hot Water Bottle, and the Qomfor Hot Water Bottle.
7. Choose The Right Camping Location
Choosing the best spot to set up your tent is critical in keeping warm and protecting you from harsh weather conditions.
Never pitch your tent on a hill or mountainside. You also don’t want to pitch your tent in an open field. Pitching your tent in these areas gives you no protection from the wind.
The best place to pitch your tent is in an area surrounded by trees. The trees will help provide shelter and act as a windbreak.
8. Use Candle Lanterns
Candle lanterns are one of the most efficient ways to heat a tent. Most modern candle lanterns are collapsible for easy storage. The candle lanterns can easily be hung in the tent and are relatively safe to stay burning throughout the night.
These candles can burn anywhere between 9-12 hours. Like most items that use combustion, these need to be monitored to ensure sufficient ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
The UCO Chandelier Deluxe Candle Lantern and the UCO Original Candle Lantern are great options for camping.
9. Heat A Tent With Heating Packs
Heating packs are very convenient to help keep you warm and heat your tent without electricity. Although heating packs may warm you up more than the actual tent, they help raise the overall temperature inside the tent.
Heating pads like HotHands Handwarmers are small but offer a good amount of warmth and are very lightweight, making them easy to pack for a camping trip.
10. Insulate Your Tent
Insulated tents are amazingly engineered to retain heat and are one of the best kinds of tents to use for winter camping. In addition, some insulated tents come with additional features like electric blankets.
But what if you don’t have an insulated tent?
If you don’t have an insulated tent and want a budget-friendly option to heat your tent, you could insulate your tent yourself.
Insulating A Single-Lined Tent
If you have a single-lined tent, you can insulate it by hanging blankets from the ceiling, or you can purchase an insulation liner to line your tent.
Insulating A Double-Walled Tent
Double-wall tents are the preferred option over single-walled tents for winter camping. These tents have an inner and outer wall with a build-in insulation layer.
If you have a double-walled tent, you can add a tarp covering over your tent, keeping out the rain and frost. You can add additional blankets and insulation layers if the temperatures are extreme.
Tips For Insulating Your Tent
- Bring the right-sized tent to avoid losing heat from a bigger tent than necessary.
- Use a rainfly to act as an additional layer for insulation
- Use a tent footprint under your tent to insulate the bottom of your tent
- Go for a 4 season tent; these are the best insulated
- Create a windbreak
- Pitch your tent in the best location that allows some protection from cold weather
If you don’t want to insulate your tent, you could always purchase a tent with insulation. Not sure which one to buy? Crua Outdoors Combo Max is a good option for keeping warm when camping in winter.
If you need more help deciding on an insulated tent, check out this post on the best insulated tents.
Despite this, generally it is best practice to rely on your sleeping bag, pad and baselayers to provide your warmth. Tents are designed to keep out the rain and wind. They aren’t meant to keep you warm.
11. Use Hot Rocks To Heat Your Tent
A great way to heat up your tent is by using heated rocks. For example, if you’re camping in a rocky area, there may be a few large rocks that you could use to heat your tent.
If you’re going to a campsite where there won’t be any rocks, you could opt to carry a few along.
How To Use Hot Stones To Heat Up A Tent Without Electricity
- Gather the rocks. Gather the rocks from your campsite or the ones you’ve brought with you. If you are collecting them near your camp, ensure they are all very similar in size so the heat from the rocks will be evenly dispersed.
- Place the rocks over the fire. Place the rocks in a metal container and then place them on the campfire. Heat the rocks for around 30 minutes.
- Remove the rocks from the fire. Once the rocks have heated up, remove them from the fire. Make sure they get warm but not boiling hot.
- Place the rocks in your tent. Before placing the rocks in your tent, make sure there is something to protect the bottom of your tent. This could be something like an old blanket. You can leave the stones as they are, although placing your sleeping bag on the rocks to heat up can ensure you stay warm.
Using rocks is not the best way to stay warm in a tent without electricity but is a viable option when there are no others. The rocks also cool down very quickly, so you may be left feeling cold throughout the night.
12. Use Non-Electric Heaters To Heat Your Tent
There are many heaters available which don’t use electricity. The problem with heaters while camping is their risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s not advisable to use a heater due to the dangers, but some campers still use heaters to keep warm when winter camping.
A good option for a propane heater is the Mr. Buddy heater. This heater is one of the safest heaters for warming your tent and has some great safety features. In addition, this heater can be used both indoors and outdoors.
13. Light A Campfire
A campfire can radiate a good amount of heat to heat up your tent. If you place your tent close to the campfire, still ensuring sufficient space between the campfire and the tent, the fire can offer some warmth.
Some people recommend this option but, in my view, this practice is unsafe. Putting your tent too close to a campfire could pose a significant fire hazard. And embers from the fire can easily burn holes in mesh fabric.
14. Use Leftover Coals To Generate Heat
You can use the burnt-out fire to heat your tent if you have a campfire and it’s mostly burned out. This is done by removing all the hot coals and putting sand on the spot where the campfire was.
Once you have checked the temperature and determined that it is safe to proceed, you can place your tent on the sand, and the heat from the burnt-out fire will heat your tent.
This is not the best method to heat a tent without electricity and can be very dangerous. This method of heating a tent is not recommended for novice campers.
15. Use A Candle Heater
A candle heater is made with heat-resistant flower pots, candles, and a metal tray.
The candles are placed in a metal tray, and the flowerpot is over them. The flowerpot should ideally sit on the sides of the tray to allow the hot air to escape. The hot air will escape through the sides and through the hole in the flower pot.
Please use caution if using this method to heat your tent.
The Best Way To Heat A Tent Without Electricity
The best way to heat a tent without electricity is by using a wood stove or purchasing a hot tent.
This is the safest method to heat your tent; it ensures the entire tent has a good amount of heat distributed throughout it. Although it requires you to be safe when using the wood stove, it also has safety features.
It is recommended to purchase a hot tent instead of just adding a wood stove to your existing tent. This is because your current tent may not be able to handle a wood stove, and the material that the tent is made of could be highly flammable.
Tips To Stay Warm And Create Heat In A Tent
There are a few other ways to prepare for winter camping. These tips will help you keep warm and protected from the cold.
- Opt to use a good quality tent that is suitable for 4 seasons camping to help you stay warm and have an insulated tent
- Pre-heat your sleeping bag with a hot water bottle
- Make a fire and get warm before going to bed
- Use a Mylar blanket to keep the warmth inside your body and to keep you warm when winter camping.
- Use an insulated sleeping pad
- Dress in layers
- Use a small tent over a large one
- Keep your head warm with a hat to keep your body heat from escaping
- Use a good quality sleeping bag to help you stay warm
If you do happen to go camping and decide to camp in your car, you can make use of an electric blanket. There are also other types of blankets for camping that can help keep you warm, like the Horizon Hound Down Camping Blanket.
What’s next? If you’re looking for some great tips on making your tent warmer, check out this post on 5 simple steps to making your tent warmer.