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How to heat a tent during winter camping? 12 DIY Ways

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Winter camping enthusiasts, we’ve all been there to heat a tent during winter camping can be challenging. You wake up, and your tent is nearly frosted over because the cold seeped in during the night and sucked away all the warmth you had created inside your tent. It’s cold, and it’s uncomfortable. What do you do? Here are 12 DIY ways to heat your tent this winter to help you stay warm on even the chilliest of nights so you can rest easy, keep dry, and get back to enjoying the great outdoors in comfort.

Why do you need to keep your tent warm during winter camping? 

When it’s too cold to spend much time outside your sleeping bag, keeping yourself and your gear dry and warm becomes especially important during winter. When you’re attempting to regulate the temperature within a confined space, moisture is bound to accumulate on the inside of your tent walls. That’s why so many people use a combination of heating pads and vapor barriers for insulation. On top of that, you need to keep yourself hydrated for your body temperature not to drop below normal levels.

Best ways to heat tent during winter camping

1) Heat a tent during winter with wood

This will depend on your location and what is available. Check out wood supplies at local shops, ask local government officials if they have the wood you can use, and locate firewood vendors in your area. Wood-burning stoves are great for tents because they don’t give off fumes as propane or butane would. However, to burn wood effectively, you need something that burns slowly and will get hot (but not too hot), such as charcoal briquettes or softwoods from tree branches. Wood should be placed inside the stove with some airflow over it not to smoke.

 You mustn’t burn pressure-treated wood as it emits hazardous fumes. Also, if you can, find birch or aspen as they will provide more heat than pine. Wood should be placed inside your stove with some airflow over it not to smoke. It’s also important that only dry wood is burned because wet wood won’t burn efficiently and creates toxic gases when it does burn. Before bedtime, allow your fire to die down until glowing coals remain if you have plenty of time.

2) Heating with propane (Best way to heat tent)

If you’re looking for convenience, propane is hard to beat. It packs a lot of heat into a bit of package, and it comes in both small canisters (for individual use) and large tanks that can keep an entire room warm. The issue with propane is that it’s expensive. Propane stoves cost around $200 each, and propane canisters tend to cost around $5–10 each — depending on their size.

You will also need disposable cans; many models only work with specific refill cans, which makes them more expensive. Finally, some folks find that propane fumes make them feel ill, although using one isn’t dangerous as long as you don’t overdo it.

3) Heating with alcohol (Stay Warm in a Tent Without Electricity)

Alcohol is another fuel that can be used to heat your backpacking tent. This is one of my favorite fuels for camping stoves since it’s cheap and readily available, and you can use it directly on camp without storing it in an extra container (since alcohol blends well with water). I like using denatured alcohol in my Coleman-brand two-burner stove, but pure alcohol will also work great. 

When filling your camp stove with alcohol, be sure to follow all safety precautions found in your specific model’s instruction manual. If you have a two-burner propane model that doesn’t allow burning both burners at once (like some Svea 123R designs), pour some cold water into one or both of your burners before starting them up to don’t overheat after turning them off again.

It’ll just take a few minutes for everything to cool down when it’s done cooking/heating. But if you aren’t going to be needing heat for a while–e.g., at night–you could store everything until morning and then continue from there; there’s no need in letting perfect gas go bad!

You can also check out our other related article best battery powered tent heaters:

4) Heating with other combustible materials

Although it is better not to use them, there are other materials you can burn to heat your tent. Materials such as coal, wood, and paper are probably not something you have lying around your house and can’t quickly get hold of either.

You will have a hard time burning any of these materials in your tent because they give off a lot of smoke, and it will be difficult to breathe correctly if you use them inside your small space. It is recommended that you choose alternative heating options before resorting to burning combustible material as your primary source of warmth for cold weather.

 The amount of smoke released by burning combustible materials, such as coal, wood, and paper, can be significant. So much so that it will be almost impossible for you to see inside your small space and will make breathing next to impossible. You should also consider that most wood varieties burn at different speeds, making it difficult for you to find any stability in terms of temperature.

5) Heat a tent during winter with fire starters

Use fire starters to help your fire stay lit more extended so that it can radiate more heat into your tent. Start by cutting off two cotton balls and soaking them in alcohol. Store them in a resealable plastic bag and keep them close to your fire-starting supplies. They’ll be readily available when you need them, but if they accidentally start on fire (hey, it happens), they should go out quickly.

You can also use an alcohol gel or liquid as an accelerant for kindling or larger pieces of wood that have caught flame. Just pour it over your fuel source and light it on fire—instant accelerant! If you don’t have access to any form of starting fluid, petroleum jelly will work just fine as an accelerant too.

 The problem with starting a fire inside your tent is that it’s easy for smoke and carbon monoxide to build up once you do. If you’re using an open flame, make sure there are plenty of ventilation holes in your shelter and avoid putting any flammable materials too close—the last thing you want is your real shelter going up in flames!

And if you need more light than just an open flame can provide, try using candles instead. They won’t give off as much heat as an open flame, but they will keep you warm by providing extra ambient light. Just be sure to put them on stable surfaces, so they don’t topple over onto your sleeping bag or yourself!

6) Electric heating system alternatives

An electric heating system is undoubtedly one of your best bets for warming up your winter camping site. Since you can buy components, such as inflatable pads and battery packs, it’s not necessarily expensive anywhere from $100 to $200. The downside is that you’ll probably have to buy it online or at an outdoor store—meaning it won’t arrive in time for your trip—or spend more money on expedited shipping. Make sure you have everything you need before sending off that order!

7) Experimental heating systems

Staying warm and avoiding getting sick in your tent is one of, if not THE most important aspects of any winter camping trip. Without keeping yourself cozy, you run the risk of hypothermia, or even worse, getting sick from staying in damp conditions. Here are several ways you can heat your tent to avoid these risks.

8) Heat a tent during winter with Hot water bottles

These trusty time-tested gems work well at insulating against cold air. Fill up some plastic bottles with hot water from your stove and stick them into your sleeping bag for hours of extra comfort. Warming up is quick and easy! We all know how bulky sleeping bags can be, especially when it’s just you packing for an overnight camp or hiking trip. 

However, use compression straps and an insulated air pad (available in most outdoor stores). You can essentially create a mattress that’s super thin but still comfortable enough to sleep on while also keeping you warm throughout the night. In other words, making sure that your body is always between you and any source of coldness will help keep you warm through the night; no more waking up because you feel like someone took off all your blankets or leaving some outside in hopes that they’ll stay fresh!

9) Electric space heaters

Portable space heaters offer warmth in small areas. When used correctly, they’re safe for your personal use. Follow these safety tips for using electric space heaters: 

1) Make sure there’s adequate ventilation in any room where you plan to use an electric space heater, 

2) Place it on a level, hard surface

3) Never leave children or pets unattended around an electric heater. As with all devices that generate heat, it is best to keep electric space heaters out of reach of children and pets as they can pose a fire risk if mishandled. Space heater burn injuries are among the most common household injuries—especially among kids who like to play with appliances. Follow these safety tips on how to warm up your tent safely during winter camping!

10) Heating a tent in winter with Candle Lanterns

Heating a tent in winter with Candle Lanterns

If you’re looking for a fundamental and straightforward way to give your tent some light and heat, you can use candle lanterns. These are easy, cheap, and low-maintenance—and if you plan on making camp at dusk, they’ll provide enough light that it might be easier on your eyes than reading with a headlamp. Consider making one out of a quart jar or similar glass container; these should be pretty durable and not break easily.

11) Heat a tent during winter with Portable Electric Radiators

Heat a tent during winter with Portable Electric Radiators

If you’re looking for a cheap way to keep warm in your tent on those frosty nights, there are several portable electric radiators available. They plug into any standard power outlet and can keep your space nice and cozy while they warm up in no time. A fantastic option is a battery-powered propane radiator from TETON Sports. It looks like an oversized thermos bottle, but it warms up quickly and runs off of pressurized liquid propane that gives off no emissions, so it doesn’t irritate your lungs. And since it only uses about $1 worth of fuel per hour, you won’t need to drain your bank account for energy costs.

12) Electric Blanket

Electric Blanket for heating a tent in winter

A simple, if slightly clunky, way to get some warmth into your tent is with an electric blanket. If you don’t want anything that uses battery power but still want flexibility (so you can run it while you sleep), consider a heated mattress pad instead. You can even throw one over your sleeping bag or jacket at night—you may not be able to stay warm in every situation, but it certainly beats cold! And remember: electricity and water do not mix, so please be cautious when heating water or food near any electrical devices.

 A traditional electric blanket is one of several good options, but it can be bulky and noisy, so it isn’t ideal for everyone. If you don’t want to go down that route, you might consider buying one of these options instead: Cordless Heated Mattress Pad. This mattress pad is flexible and easy to use while being more discreet than an electric blanket. It’s also waterproof and comes with adjustable temperature settings, so you can get everything just right. Some modern pads even have USB charging ports and dual heating zones if you need them. And with many models costing under $100, it makes an excellent budget option.


How can you safely heat a tent?

There are many different methods that you can use to make your tent more comfortable. If you’re going to be using a stove inside your tent, the main thing is to keep it at least 12 inches away from anything flammable like your sleeping bag and or pad, your clothes, blankets, etc.

Some general tips for using a stove inside a winter tent include: It’s probably not best to use a regular wood-burning stove in an enclosed space because carbon monoxide will accumulate quicker than usual, making you feel lightheaded, sleepy dizzy faster than usual.

What is better then is looking into propane stoves that produce less harmful fumes than any other fuel type; just make sure there’s adequate ventilation. Also, when choosing a tent heater, remember: More BTU does not mean more warmth!

How do you keep a tent warm without electricity?

Depending on where you’re going and how long you’ll be staying, there are many different approaches to heating your tent. But by far, one of the most popular and most accessible is with a basic candle lantern. Candles are inexpensive, packable, easy-to-find replacement if they burn out (as long as it’s cold), and have very few precautions against fire hazards when used correctly. For example:

  • Always use glass or plastic candles in lanterns rather than paper.
  • Never place anything combustible nearby.
  • Never leave lit candles unattended.
  • Turn off all flames before sleeping. 

How cold is too cold for tent camping?

First off, let’s lay out some ground rules for safe winter camping. For starters, it’s not too cold for outdoor recreation if you have gear on hand. Cold conditions mean that you need to be prepared and use your gear correctly.

Plus, The nighttime temperature of around 35-55 Fahrenheit can be considered too cold for tent camping. This is not the right temperature to use when night during cold weather. Instead, we recommend using warmer tents, like the three-stage sleeping system or the SRS lighted further down the tent.


Winter camping is exceptional, but it can be pretty uncomfortable without proper equipment. You can use multiple options when you want to sleep at night, keep your hands warm, or melt snow. We hope these ideas will help you have a fantastic experience while staying in a tent! Warmest wishes, and stay safe outdoors. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more valuable tips like these. Don’t forget to comment! Are you enjoying our content? 

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