How to Keep a Tent Warm Without Electricity

A successful camping trip revolves around getting a good night’s sleep. And to get a good night’s sleep, you need to be comfortable and warm. 

Most people go camping during the summer months when a decent sleeping bag is all you need to keep warm at night. 

But if you are camping outside of the summer months or camping in the mountains or desert, you might need to take further action to keep yourself warm at night.

These are my best tips for keeping your tent warm without electricity.

A Tent Stove

A tent stove is a wood-burning stove that can be used inside your tent. This is probably the most guaranteed way of keeping your tent warm all night long. 

The stove burns wood much more efficiently than an open fire, meaning that a few logs will keep smoldering away for many hours, allowing you to sleep soundly without having to get up to stoke the fire.

They are a great option for long-stay camping during really cold weather. For example, I once spent the Christmas holidays in a yurt and slept like a baby every night!

However, there are a couple of major drawbacks if you are backpacking. Firstly you need a specially adapted tent, with a hole for a chimney and made from heavy canvas which is more fire retardant. Unfortunately, these are often heavy and cumbersome, so they are not portable enough for backpacking.

The second problem is the stove itself, which is also heavy and difficult to carry.

Candle lantern

Candle lanterns are a much more realistic option if you are backpacking. These lanterns are fueled by candles, but rather than designed to emit light, they are designed to produce a maximum amount of heat. 

A single lantern can warm a 3-season tent by about 4°F (2°C), which could be the difference between a good night’s sleep and no sleep at all! 

More candles can be used if you are camping in really cold weather and need to raise the temperature inside the tent further.

The Lanterns can be collapsed down to take up less room in your pack. Just remember to bring enough candles for the duration of your trip. 

A great, lightweight solution for backpacking.

Heated rocks

A low-tech solution to staying warm at night it to use rocks heated from your campfire. 

Smaller rocks can be heated, put into a wool sock, and tucked inside your sleeping bag. 

Larger rocks will hold their heat longer and can be added to the floor of your tent on top of a bracket to avoid melting the groundsheet. While they won’t heat your tent for the whole night, a decent 3-4 season tent will trap their heat and help you get through a cold night.

Be careful that you carefully heat the rocks to avoid the rocks exploding in the fire!

Other ways to stay warm

Before you even think about how to heat your tent you should make sure you get the basics right of camping in cold weather.

Sleeping bag.

It almost goes without saying, but the best way to stay warm is by using a good quality sleeping bag with a temperature rating suited to the average temperature for that time of year. Cold weather sleeping bags aren’t cheap, but they will give the biggest bang for your buck when choosing equipment to keep you warm.

Sleeping pad.

Often overlooked but almost as important as the sleeping bag, the sleeping pad is your primary source of insulation between you and the cold floor.

A smaller tent. 

Big tents contain more air which needs heating. Try and pick a tent which is no bigger than you need. Sharing a tent means sharing body heat which will help keep you warm. Two people sharing a 2-person tent will be warmer than two people in separate 1-person tents.

Pitch your tent on raised ground.

During the night, cold air will collect in small hollows. Not only will this mean colder temperatures, but also, this is where dew forms meaning you’re tent can get damp.

Try to pitch your tent on slightly raised ground where the air is warmer, and the ground will stay drier.

Wear a beanie or balaclava

Most of your body heat escapes through your head. There are plenty of ways to stay warm in your sleeping bag, but perhaps the most simple and effective tip is to wear a beanie to minimize heat loss. 

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