When camping, electricity isn’t exactly the most readily available utility. It’s going to be cold tonight, and you want to stay toasty in your tent. How do you warm your tent with no electricity?
Here are 13 ways to keep a tent warm without electricity:
- Zip yourself into a sleeping bag
- Layer up
- Sleep on an inflatable mattress
- Insulate your tent
- Take advantage of tent floor mats
- Use hot water bottles
- Add an extra blanket or two
- Cover yourself in mylar
- Try some hand and feet warmers
- Use a portable gas heater
- Heat up rocks
- Have a good meal
No Electricity in Your Cold Tent? Warm Yourself up with These 13 Methods!
Zip Yourself up Tight in a Sleeping Bag
When camping, your sleeping bag is arguably the most important accessory. Without it, it’s impossible to get a good night’s sleep.
Your sleeping bag is for more than comfort though, as it can also allow you to keep warm once you zip yourself up. Your sleeping bag should be filled with down feathers, ideally, those that are sourced sustainably. The feather filling will quickly provide warmth to your chilly body.
We also recommend a sleeping bag with elastic cords for pulling the bag tightly around your head. The body heat that builds up within the sleeping bag will feel like an electric heater. The sleeping bag also needs ventilation though so you don’t overheat.
In this post, we recommend 10 sleeping bags for backpacking that are available at a variety of price points. Some of the sleeping bags are rated for temperatures as low as -28 degrees Fahrenheit. Even on those very chilly nights, you won’t feel the harsh winds in your sleeping bag!
The clothing you wear day and night will also make a world of difference in how cold you feel. Layering is critical.
You should wear at least two layers each on the upper and lower halves of your body. Starting with your upper half, your base layer must never be cotton. The problem with cotton is that it absorbs sweat, keeping the moisture stuck against your skin. As the sweat cools, you’ll start shivering.
Your base layer should include moisture-wicking materials such as nylon, polyester, merino wool, or bamboo. Yes, bamboo is wearable.
Then you can put on your second layer. If your base layer is lightweight, the second layer can be midweight, but we wouldn’t recommend a heavyweight second layer for sleeping. The thickness of midweight fabric should suffice.
The purpose of the middle layer is to insulate your body. When outdoors, you’d finish that with your third layer, which is the shell layer or outer layer. The third layer would include your winter coat or jacket to protect you from the weather.
Since you’re indoors, the two upper body layers are fine.
Then there’s your lower half, which also needs insulating unless you want your legs to feel like two ice blocks all night.
Your base layer should be a pair of long johns or long underwear. The same moisture-wicking materials will keep you from feeling sweaty, so choose synthetics such as rayon or polypropylene. Merino wool is another fine choice. Don’t worry, it’s a lot less itchy than it sounds.
Atop your lower base layer, you can put on a pair of fleecy midweight pajama pants. Don’t forget the long socks as well!
Sleep on an Inflatable Mattress
Even if you’re layered up from head to toe and you have a sleeping bag that’s rated for very low temperatures, you can still be cold depending on where in your tent you sleep.
The ground beneath you will be roughly the same temperature as the air outside. If all you have between you and the cold ground is a thin layer of tent fabric, then of course you’re going to shiver all night long.
What you need instead is an inflatable mattress. The mattress will elevate you several inches high so you’re not making direct contact with the freezing ground below you. In the morning, you can deflate the mattress, roll it up, pack it away, and be on your way.
If you can’t find an inflatable mattress in time for your trip, you can always try a camping cot.
A camping cot works in much the same way as an inflatable mattress, elevating you so you never feel the ground. You can fold down a camping cot and then stow it away in your bag when you’re done with it.
Many camping cots, especially those we reviewed in the link above, are rated for 300 or more pounds of use. You and a partner might be able to share the cot. Between their body warmth and yours, you won’t have to worry about feeling cold at night.
Insulate Your Tent
You’re warm enough when you’re in your sleeping bag, but not so much as soon as you unzip it. Your tent is positively freezing. You know it’s just a thin layer of fabric, but isn’t there any way to prevent the tent from feeling so gusty and chilly?
Indeed, there is. You must insulate your tent.
How do you do that? You have several options, so let’s discuss them now.
- Buy a four-seasons tent: A four-seasons tent is also known as a winter tent. With heavy-duty construction and a profile that’s lower to the ground, the whipping winds of autumn and winter are no match for this tent.
- Add insulating fabric: The more layers, the better! Whether you use insulated paneling or fabric for your tent, you should be able to find what you need at your local home improvement or hardware store. If not, try shopping online.
- Block your tent with snow: If snow has blanketed the ground and you’re still camping, you can create a snow barrier around your tent. Try to build the barrier as tall as you can. The snow wall will catch the wind so your tent feels less of it.
- Put a tarp over your tent: If it’s still autumn with no snow on the horizon, covering your tent with a tarp can trap more heat.
- Close up everything: Double-check that your tent is completely closed throughout. Vents should be sealed, zippers should be pulled tight, and everything in your tent that can be secured should be.
Take Advantage of Tent Floor Mats
Does your tent have four walls only? Foregoing a floor tent mat will provide you with no relief when partaking in your evening activities and when you go to bed.
What you need at the very least is a tent floor (aka a tent footprint) that’s made of the same material as the rest of your tent.
A foam-padded tent floor is even better. The padded floor will feel nice on your feet. The foam also provides enough warmth that you can sit on the tent floor to play board games or have a snack!
Use Hot Water Bottles
No, a hot water bottle isn’t a plastic bottle filled with boiling water. Instead, it’s a rubber pouch-shaped casing that you pour hot water into. The rubber allows the water to retain its heat for hours at a time.
You shouldn’t directly apply a hot water bottle to your skin, but you can position one or several around your sleeping bag. As the hot water bottle radiates heat towards you, it’ll be like having a space heater on, but without any electricity.
Add an Extra Blanket or Two
Yes, this is another tip about layering, but that’s only because layering is so integral in staying warm, especially when you can only use natural methods.
Cashmere, cotton fleece, and wool are among the three warmest blanket materials. The reason is that the fibers have spaces between them that allow warm air to remain.
Try tossing a blanket over your sleeping bag and you should immediately feel warmer. If your sleeping bag isn’t particularly well-rated for handling cold, then use two blankets. You’ll almost feel like you’re sleeping in your bed back at home.
Cover Yourself in Mylar
Mylar is an excellent insulator, so it deserves a spot on this list. What is mylar, you ask? It’s technically known as biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate or BoPET, which is a type of polyethylene terephthalate or PET stretchable material.
The properties of mylar make it most beloved among cold-weather campers. It’s reflective for visibility in low light, chemically stable, and its tensile strength is great. It’s also an adept electrical insulator.
You can buy mylar blankets, mylar clothing, and even mylar tents. However you insulate yourself with mylar, you can’t go wrong!
Try Some Hand and Feet Warmers
Your extremities tend to feel the effects of the cold more than any other body part. It starts with your nose, then the cold can easily travel down to your fingers and your toes. Before you know it, your digits are numb and you’re finding it hard to walk around in the snow.
Pocket hand warmers are a must when camping in cooler climes. Although they won’t do much for the rest of your body, by preventing your digits from becoming cold, you might not feel quite as chilled to the bone.
Do yourself a favor and purchase some foot warmers as well. The warmers slip right into your shoes, acting as a warming insole so you can trundle through snowbanks all day without numb feet.
Use a Portable Gas Heater
You might not have electricity, but that doesn’t mean all your heating options have to go out the window. A portable gas heater is just what you’re looking for.
To use a gas heater, fill it with propane or natural gas. When the gas ignites via the burner, flames appear. The flames reach the heat exchanger, which is made of metal so it will warm up quickly. That’s how you get glorious heat out of a portable gas heater.
An included flue allows exhaust to release so fumes don’t build up.
We do not recommend using a portable gas heater indoors or in your tent. Keep the portable gas heater outside of your tent but position it away from air intakes or zippered mesh windows.
Once you turn on the portable gas heater, do not move it. You could shift the angle of the pilot light and potentially cause a fire.
Heat up Rocks
Are rocks plentiful where you’re camping? Then you can rely on this method for warmth without electricity.
Gather stones in a circle and ignite a fire in the center. The rocks will begin warming up due to their proximity to the fire. Let the fire burn for as long as it can. Then, when it’s bedtime, take some spare cloth and enwrap the rocks.
Carry the rocks towards your tent, placing them just outside of the tent.
This method, while effective, is somehow even riskier than using a portable gas heater. If you toss rocks into a fire, the fire could grow unpredictably, possibly spreading. The rocks will burn, so please don’t put them directly in the fire.
Rocks don’t retain their heat for long, but after spending hours near the flames, they will be hotter than you might expect. You should never directly touch the rocks. Even when wrapped in cloth, the rocks can still be heavy.
The cloth is supposed to prevent the hot rocks from starting a fire in your tent, but we still say you can never be too careful. Keep the rocks outside of your tent if you decide to use this method!
Have a Good Meal
Do you find that a big meal helps you sleep? Great! You can also stay warm by filling your belly with a good number of calories.
This may seem like a strange suggestion, but it works! Calories are energy at the end of the day, so your body now has extra energy to work towards keeping you warm. Plus, the act of eating itself can also generate some warmth, so go ahead, treat yourself to something tasty tonight.
Our last suggestion for keeping a tent warm without electricity is to get in a workout before you hit the sack. When you contract your muscles during exercise, the act creates heat that then travels to nearby tissue.
Your heart now has access to warmer blood, which it sends throughout your body via conduction. When you sweat, the liquid sweat becomes gas and travels into the air through convection heating. That air is now warmer.
If you don’t mind being a bit sweaty before bed, light exercise can be a great way to warm yourself up in your tent.
When trying to stay warm on a frigid autumn or winter night, you don’t need electricity. Insulate your tent, layer up, raise your sleeping bag several inches off the ground, and maybe get in a good meal (or a small workout) and you’ll feel warmer in no time!