Camping outdoors in the winter and in cold weather can be a really enjoyable experience. Camping at times like this is such a beautiful adventure as you can enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of a white snowy landscape. You can wake up to snow fights and enjoy the crunch of snow melting underfoot. The enjoyment also comes with a dire need to insulate your tent and keep it warm.
Winter camping can be a challenge due to the cold, dark, frosty and freezing conditions. Planning ahead is essential to avoid the feeling of being completely frozen, as surviving in a tent in cold weather requires a certain amount of nous and street-smarts.
You need to prepare yourself and build on any previous knowledge you have of cold weather camping, while also being aware of the more dangerous outdoor challenges like sudden temperature drops, sudden snow onslaughts, lashing rain, and the general unpredictable weather.
If you already planned your camping trip for the winter, then a tent is a basic item you would have taken with you to provide shelter. Mainly to protect you against rain, snowfall and any other bad weather conditions. The outdoor tents available to be bought in stores are often designed to cope with 3 different seasons.
On the off chance that you already own a summer tent, then you will seriously need to consider buying a winter tent (like this one from Go Outdoors or this one from Amazon). If you already own a winter tent, then you need to check it is a 4-season tent and designed specifically for the winter camping. These often come properly insulated and made using special material and insulations to provide you better shelter against cold, frosty and freezing weather conditions.
But if you are on a budget and unable to spend any additional money on purchasing a new winterised tent, then you can modify your existing tent to insulate it against cold weather. Winter camping can be a lot of fun if done right. Part of the fun would also be figuring out ways to heat your tent without a dominant heat source. It can be fun for the people, who would love to work with their hands and be resourceful in difficult conditions.
Insulating a tent for winter camping is an art in itself. While it is not that hard to do, it might involve taking extra items of clothing, blankets et al with you on your winter camping trip.
In this article, I have listed some tips and tricks to help you insulate your tent when out camping in cold weather conditions. Helping you can convert your summer tent into a winter-ready tent without burning a hole in your wallet.
Tips to Insulate a Tent for Winter Camping & Cold Weather
1. Choose the Right Tent Site
The first step is to pitch the tent. Selecting the right place to pitch your tent is very important. The right spot in an ideal world would be where you are protected against wind and snow. As explained – in this post on warm camping in winter – an open area means you may have to deal with wind and snow directly and it may not be possible to insulate such a tent when it is pitched in an open area. On the other hand, the bottom of a low valley-like area can be colder than the upper spots and wind flow is greater there. So, if possible, avoid pitching your tent in low areas.
Try looking for a sheltered place to pitch your tent. If you are able to find the perfect location for your tent, it means half the task of insulating your tent is done. Sometimes, the wind can change direction, so if your tent is pitched in the right spot, you still should stake your tent and not worry about movement.
It is also worth noting that when snow is predicted, you should avoid pitching your tent in low areas because there’s a chance that the snow will move down to the lower areas, causing you additional trouble.
2. Smaller Tent Size
A big and roomy tent will take more time to heat while smaller sized tents (like this Snugpak tent) will keep the warmth better. A roomy tent will have more openings, allowing more heat can escape from the tent. An obvious fact but a smaller tent can be insulated better than a bigger one.
While asleep, your body will emit heat and if the tent is bigger, the heat generated by your body will be lost into it. On the other hand, if the tent has a tight space, it will heat up quickly. As expected, a smaller space is easier to insulate than the bigger area.
If you don’t have a small tent, then you can invite somebody to your tent. In this way, double the heat needed is generated by two bodies instead of one. The fact still remains though, that if you have the larger space in your tent, it will harder for you to make it warm.
3. Ground Insulation
Camping is a tough adventure and your body needs more rest to recuperate from the hiking and prepare you for the day ahead. This is certainly needed when camping in cold weather.
To ensure that get the extra good sleep you need in your tent, you should get an ultralight self-inflating camping mattress. It goes without saying that to get restful and comfortable sleep, you will have to make your tent comfortable. This means it is necessary to insulate your tent from the cold ground. A self-inflating air mattress is the best choice to keep your body away from the colder ground while asleep.
Ground insulation can also help prevent the heat flow away from your body and to the cold ground. If you need to insulate the ground in your tent completely, just cover the ground with an old piece of rug and put your mattress on it.
4. Using a Ground Tarp for Tent
Avoid sitting directly on the cold ground, if you can. This is where you need a ground tarp or thermal mat for your tent. It is the most important steps you can take to insulate a tent. You still need a thermal mat or ground tarp for your tent even if it has footprints. The purpose of tent footprints is to protect the tent against the opportune wear and tear. A ground tarp for your tent will completely insulate it against the colder ground. Additionally, it is waterproof and in case of snow, you will be safe from the ground by waterproofing the tent using a tarp.
5. Thermal Clothing
Thermal clothing is the way to insulate yourself both inside and outside of the tent. Thermal clothes are made of special insulating materials and can help you stay warm when camping in cold weather. Thermal clothes are designed to make them easy to wear and withstand the rough terrain often encountered outdoors.
6. Layer Up an hour or Two before Going to Bed
Proper layering up while cold winter camping is very important. Here the word ‘layering’ basically refers to wearing additional layers of clothing that you can then peel back like an onion.
Layering creates a buffer zone between your body and the cold external space. The first layer in skin contact will preserve the heat generated by your body. While additional layers will prevent the generated heat from escaping your body. Also, the second layer helps protect your body from the colder air outside.
It is a wise choice to always use thick but lightweight layers of clothing. Wearing heavy layers can make you uncomfortable while sleeping at night. Another important thing is to remember to change out of the clothes you wore during the day when you get to your tent as there’s a chance your clothes might be damp and further make you cold.
7. Use a Tent Heater
There are several models and brands of safe, quiet tent heaters available in the market. Rechargeable battery-powered heaters are an ideal option for this. A good alternative is to use a small tent heat that comes with tiny gas canisters like this portable compact gas heater.
These two are the safest options that you can use when winter camping. You should check to make sure you buy a heater that is adequate to the size of the tent you own.
8. Cover the Floor with Blankets:
In winter camping, you may notice that most of the cold you feel comes from the hard and cold surface you sit and walk on rather than external sources. If you have a car or space for some extra load in your backpack, you should carry some extra blankets to use in your tent.
After layering the ground tarp, then lay some wool blankets down on top of it. They will not soak up or absorb water due to ground tarp.
9. Build a Campfire
Building a campfire is a traditional way to warm up things on the campsite. So, it is important to plan a safe place to light a campfire at night. You can bring the store-bought matchsticks or a lighter. Then – during the day – search for dry woods around your camp to build a campfire.
You will need to learn how to build a campfire before setting out camping though. As a poorly planned campfire blow towards you or your belongings and may burn your tent.
Done properly though, a campfire is a warm place outdoors where you can congregate safely with your fellow campers, roasting something to eat and chatting.
10. Rain-fly tarp over the tent:
A waterproof double laminated rain tarp is important to have as it provides your tent with an additional cover against sudden rain or snow falling.
It is easy to set up and helps keep you dry and warm. It not only protects you but also protects your gear at night in case of a sudden change in weather.
Why should you insulate a tent you plan on staying in while camping in cold weather? It helps protect you against the bad weather conditions which may be a risk to your health like hypothermia, frostbite, sudden heart attack and pneumonia.
Winter camping is a beautiful experience but it also exposes you to facing dire cold weather conditions if you are not fully prepared for it. One of the most important things before setting out is to make sure your tent completely insulated and warm. It helps minimise the chances of harm during cold and dark chilly weather.
Insulating an old tent can save your money and can help you avoid paying out for a new winter tent. These are some of the possible and simple tips to insulate your tent, if you have any other tested and proven ideas, you can share on this site.
Plan in advance for everything when winter camping. Make a checklist, pack your gear carefully and don’t leave anything behind you.
As a warning, it is smart to always check the weather forecast before going for winter camping. It will help you to plan ahead for your trip and you will be better prepared for anything the cold weather will bring.