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How To Heat A Tent. 9 Great Ways To Make Your Tent Warm And Cozy At Night

how to heat a tent

Camping in the winter and anytime it’s cold out can be a lot of fun. Coming back from a hard day of having fun to sleep in a cold tent isn’t too fun. There are many ways to safely heat a tent so you can be warm and toasty at night. There are stoves, heaters designed for tents, and other ways to warm up a tent. You can heat a tent with electricity and without electricity. If this sounds like a good idea to you then keep reading below to learn how to heat a tent to stay warm and cozy camping.

How to heat a tent without electricity

There are several ways to heat a tent if you have no electricity at your campsite. You can cheat and use a generator and have electricity anywhere. If you want to do it, there are many ways to heat a tent without electricity. Some common ways are using wood stoves or indoor butane/propane heaters. There are some good old fashioned ways such as hot cocks and sleeping on hot coals too.

A word of caution. Most ways to heat your tent without electricity involve burning something. Sometimes burning something inside of your tent. If your going to use a stove or fuel powered heater inside of your tent you need to be cautious of carbon monoxide. Filling your tent full of smoke while you sleep can be harmful or fatal. Always be careful any time you burn anything inside your tent that you have a way for the smoke to exit. Good ventilation is key also. To learn more about Carbon Monoxide see this article from the CDC.

1 – Wood Burning Stove

Using a wood burning stove inside of your tent is a great way to heat your tent. There are many tents with stove jacks built into them so you can pass a stove chimney through the tent wall or roof. You should only use a wood burning stove inside of a tent that was designed for it. A wood burning hot tent can be very warm and give you that extra touch of luxury inside of your tent. There are tents with stove jacks of any size from small 1 person teepee tents to giant 20 person wall tents. See our review of the best tents with stove jacks to learn more.

2 – Propane/Butane Heater

You can use a small butane or propane heater to heat your tent. Only use a heater that was designed for indoor use. Never use a fuel burning heater that wasn’t designed for indoor use. These heaters come in 2 versions. Radiant heaters and catalytic heaters. Be careful where you place any of these small heaters. You don’t want them to be where you can easily bump into them or knock them over inside of your tent. Most have failsafe’s to shut off if they tip over. Your still run the risk that a hot surface can fall on something flammable and catch fire when it tips over.

Catalytic Heater

Catalytic heaters use a catalytic reaction with the fuel to generate heat. They do not have a flame burning in them. This is a little safer because there isn’t a flame. The downside is they cost much more than a radiant heater. Camco makes some excellent catalytic heaters that can be used in indoor spaces.

Radiant Heater

Radiant heaters are your traditional small fuel burning space heater. They heat by burning the fuel which is usually propane or butane. Make sure you get a heater designed for indoor spaces. Do not go using a portable fire pit or a propane stove to heat your tent. Those are not designed for indoor use and their fumes may build up in your tent and give you carbon monoxide poisoning. Mr Heater makes many good small heaters that can be used in small places such as your tent.

3 – Candle Lantern

Candle lanterns are small lanterns using a small candle. They provide some light and a small amount of heat. They won’t warm your tent up good like a 4000 BTU Mr Heater Propane heater will. They will take the edge of the cold if your in a small tent. As always, use caution with anything burning inside of your tent or other small enclosed areas. Too much smoke from burning anything isn’t good for you. UCO was one of the first makers of candle lanterns and their lanterns continue to be among the best.

4 – Hot Rocks

Now we get into one of the more rustic old fashioned ways to heat a tent. Rocks are really good at retaining and radiating heat for a long time. Rocks have a high density and can store a lot of heat energy for their size. To use hot rocks to heat your tent you need to find some rocks and put them on or close to your campfire. Let them heat up while you are enjoying your fire for the evening.

You don’t want to use wet rocks or rocks that look porous. Wet rocks may have water built up inside of them that will cause them to crack or explode when they heat up in your fire. If you use wet rocks let me heat up slowly close to the fire for a long time before putting them in your tent.

When you are ready for bed check the rocks to make sure they aren’t too hot. Place the rocks inside of your tent and they will radiate heat for a few hours until they cool off. You should wait for your rocks to be cool enough you can touch them without burning yourself. You can wrap the rocks in blankets or towels to make them a little softer and give you a little insulation.

The video below shows how to use hot rocks to heat your tent.

5 – Hot Water Bottles

Water bottles are another way to heat your tent using the heat from your campfire. Instead of putting hot rocks in your tent, you are going to put hot water bottles in your tent. Find some large bottles you can fill with water. Heat them up near your camp fire. Don’t put the bottles directly in the fire or you may melt and ruin the bottles.

When the water bottles are hot take them away from the fire and put them in your tent. You can wrap them with blankets or towels if they are a little too warm. You should let them cool off to the point you can touch them without burning yourself before using.

6 – Put your tent over a burned out fire

This method requires a bit of planning. You are going to put your tent over the hot bed of coals from your campfire. This method requires a bit of planning. You either need to wait to put your tent up until after you put out your fire. You need to move your tent over the coals after putting it up. You need to make your fire where you plan on putting your tent.

You need to put your fire out at night. You can’t sleep on top of a burning fire. Shovel a couple inches of dirt on top of the put out fire. You don’t want to put your tent directly on top of the coals. This will also keep your tent bottom or ground covering from getting dirty from the carbon off of the coals. Feel the ground and make sure it is not too hot. It should be cool enough you can touch the dirt over the fire before putting anything on top of it. Then put your tent up or move your tent over top of the dirt covered bed of coals.

How to heat a tent with electricity

There are a varity of ways to heat your tent with electricity if you hae access to electricity at your campsite. Space heaters and heated blankets or ground cloths are good alternatives. If you don’t have an electric hookup at your campsite you can always use a small generator. This will give you enough electricity to heat your tent as long as you can carry the generator to your campsite.

If you are going to use electricity around your campsite keep in mind your outdoors. Outdoors can get wet. You don’t want to electrocute yourself. Only use cords, powerstrips and devices designed to be used outdoors where things may get wet.

7 – Electric heater or space heater

There are a varity of ways to heat your tent with electricity if you hae access to electricity at your campsite. Space heaters and heated blankets or ground cloths are good alternatives. If you don’t have an electric hookup at your campsite you can always use a small generator. This will give you enough electricity to heat your tent as long as you can carry the generator to your campsite.

When selecting an indoor space heater it is a good idea to use a heater that has tip over and over heating protection. The heater will turn off if you knock it over at night. It will turn off if it gets blocked and starts overheating. Some have shutoff timers which can be handy if your the type that forgets to turn things off in the morning.

8 – Heated rug

You can put down a heated rug inside of your tent to heat the floor of your tent and keep you warm. There are a variety of types and sizes of heated rugs available. They will take the edge of really cold ground and radiate heat into your tent warming it up.

9 – Heated blanket

You can get a heated blanket to sleep under. This will keep you warm all night. You can use the blanket inside of or on top of your sleeping bag.

Can you use battery power to heat your tent?

There aren’t many battery powered heaters out there. You need to draw too much current to make it practical. A big stack of batteries wouldn’t make it through the night. You can go grab the biggest car battery you can find and use an inverter to power a very small plug in electric heater. You will plow through the battery in a few hours. It sounds like a good idea you won’t get much for the effort of carrying a heavy 12 volt battery to your campsite.

tent camping in cold weather at night

How to heat a tent FAQ

Q: Is there a safe way to heat a tent?

There are many safe ways to heat your tent. You can use wood burning stoves, small propane heaters, electric heaters and more. Only use a tend designed to use with wood burning stove. Only use propane heaters designed for indoor use. If you don’t like being cold at night in your tent there are many safe ways to heat a tent.

Q: What is the best way to heat a tent?

Propane heaters, wood stoves and electric heaters are the easiest ways to heat a tent. It depends whether you have electricity at your campsite or not. You need a tent designed for a wood stove to use a wood stove or one of the DIY methods for modifying a tent.

Q: How do you heat an outdoor tent?

There are many ways to heat an outdoor tent. Below is a list of the most popular options.

  • Wood burning stove
  • Propane or Butane burning indoor safe heater
  • Hot rocks
  • Hot water bottles
  • Heated rugs
  • Heated blankets

Q: How can I keep my tent warm without electricity?

You can use a wood burning stove or propane burning stove. If you aren’t comfortable burning something inside of your tent then you still have options. You can heat up rocks or water bottles and put them inside of your tent. For the adventurous type, you can put your tent on top of the hot bed of coals after you put out your fire.

Q: Should you put a tarp under your tent?

It is a good idea to put your tent on top of a tarp. A tarp can protect your tent from whatever is on the ground. A tarp is a lot less expensive to replace then your camping tent. A tarp can be handy in other ways. To insulate your tent floor you can pile lots of leaves or pine needles under your tarp and then put your tent on top of it.

Q: Can you heat a tent with a candle?

You can use a candle lantern inside of your tent to heat your tent. One candle won’t make a lot of heat but it’s better than nothing. If your in a small 1 or 2 person tent a candle lantern might be all you need. You should always use caution any time you are burning anything inside of your tent.

Q: How much warmth does a tent add?

A tent provide shelter so it will be warmer than sleeping out in the open. It will protect you from wind, rain and snow. Most tents aren’t made with very thick material so the tent itself doesn’t provide insulation. 4 Season tents designed for winter camping are made of thick material. Some 4 season tents have insulated walls as well.

Q: How cold is too cold to camp in a tent?

You can camp in a tent at any temperature. There is no point it gets too cold. It is all about being prepared and having the right gear for camping in cold temperatures. Mountaineers camp on high mountain peaks in sub-zero temperatures on expeditions for years. They prove you can tent camp with the right gear in any environment. See our article on keeping your tent warm in winter for more ideas.

Q: How hot is too hot for camping?

If you can stand the heat, you can camp. A tent will provide you with shade and protection from the sun. If you can tolerate being outdoors in the heat, you can camp in a tent in the heat. Have plenty of water to avoid dehydration. You can use a fan in your tent to help with ventilation and transporting moisture out of your tent. See our article on the best fans for tent camping for more information.

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About the author

My name is Doug Ryan. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water.  I actively run an adventure sports meetup where I get asked many questions.  I decided to start Gear Craver as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports their gear.

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