How To Winterize Your Tent for Cold Camping (2022)
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Camping in the winter is no joke, especially when temperatures drop below freezing, but the experience can be well worth the extra efforts to keep warm. Fortunately, there are plenty of hacks for winterizing your tent while on your trip.
Keep reading for our in-depth guide on how to winterize your tent based on some tried-and-true methods we’ve tested while out camping in the cold. Consider these tips and tricks before going on your next winter camping trip.
Table of Contents
Things You’ll Need for Winterizing Your Tent
Before we walk you through the step-by-step process for winterizing your tent, make sure you have the following things to prepare for your cold, winter camping trip:
- Small tent: The smaller the tent, the easier it is to insulate and winterize since it requires less surface area to keep warm while you’re inside.
- Extra blankets: You’ll need these for insulating the inside floors and walls, in addition to layering your bedding.
- Tarps: These will help insulate the outside of your tent and provide a layer underneath it. They can also be used to build a windbreak around your tent if necessary.
- Sleeping pad: Putting a barrier between your bedding and the ground is crucial when camping since direct contact with the ground can be a source of excessive cold temperatures. Sleeping pads are one of the most necessary items to bring with you.
- Sleeping bag: Along with your sleeping pad, you’ll need a warm sleeping bag that’s designed for cold temperatures to help you sleep and stay warm through the night.
- Tent heater (optional): Once you’ve winterized your tent, a tent heater could help you keep the air inside warm, but tent heaters can be a hassle to lug around and can potentially be dangerous if not used carefully.
7 Steps for How To Winterize Your Tent
Pick a Location
Choosing the right location for your tent can be the most important decision you make, no matter what season it is. However, when it’s cold outside, gusts of wind can ruin your experience and make it especially difficult to winterize your tent.
You’ll want a spot that has natural windbreaks, such as trees, bushes, or rocks to help block winds from hitting your tent during the night. Not to mention, a campsite with fewer winds makes it much easier to start your campfire as well, which is another critical part of camping in the cold.
For instance, in the picture below, the tent is nestled between large rocks, keeping it protected from cold, heavy winds that could rush up the mountain. You’ll want a spot like this if you can find one.
Set Up Your Tent
Lay a tarp down underneath your tent to get an extra external layer between the forest floor and your tent, then set up your tent like you normally would. Make sure you hammer the tent stakes firmly into the ground. If you’re camping in an area with winter winds, the last thing you want is for the wind to blow parts of your tent off the ground in the night.
Line the Floor
Although you have the tarp under the tent as an external barrier between the tent’s floor and the cold ground, you still need to insulate the floor of your tent on the inside by lining it with the extra blankets you brought.
Once you’ve layered a few blankets, you can place your sleeping pad and sleeping bag down in the tent to get your bed ready.
Insulate the Inside Walls
Next, you’ll want to layer the walls of your tent with blankets or sheets, as you did on the floor. To help keep them in place, you can use adhesive spray, tape, or rope. Mylar blankets, also known as space blankets or reflective blankets, are perfect for this, since they’re lightweight and can reflect the heat from inside the tent.
Insulate the Outside Walls
There are many techniques for insulating the exterior of your tent. If you’re camping in the snow, you can pile up snow around it to act as natural insulation, similar to an igloo.
Snow is surprisingly an excellent insulator while out in the backcountry since it’s dense and packed. You can also use sticks and leaves around the outside walls of your tent to provide additional insulation.
Alternatively, you can cover the walls with plastic sheets and spray adhesive to stick them to the walls to help keep heat from escaping your tent while you’re inside. However, this technique could be detrimental to your tent, so we only suggest it if you’re using a cheaper tent that you don’t care much about.
Set Up an Extra Windbreak
If you choose an area without a natural windbreak, but you’re worried about the winds that may impact your tent’s warmth, you can build your own windbreak with a tarp, sticks, and some rope.
Gather a few large sticks you can use to stick into the ground, use a hammer or heavy camping knife to stake them into the ground around the wide of the tent where the wind is coming from.
Fold your tarp into the long rectangle and weave it through the stakes you placed. Then, tie both ends of the tarp on the outermost stakes to hold it in place. This method can block the wind from blowing directly on the tent.
Once you’ve winterized your tent, you’ll need to keep it warm to remain comfortable throughout the night. You could crank on your tent propane heater to get the temperature up inside your tent, but if you didn’t bring one, here are a few additional tips:
- Place a hot water bottle in your sleeping bag overnight
- Position rocks that you heated on your fire in the corners of your tent
- Exercise before bed, so your body temperature can help keep your insulated tent warm
Read more: How To Keep a Tent Warm
Before You Leave: Summary
Camping in the cold is an excellent opportunity for advanced backpackers and campers to test their skills and enjoy the rewarding pleasures of spending a night outside in the winter.
However, it can be much more difficult than camping during other seasons and requires careful planning and expertise. Bringing a small tent, picking the right campsite, insulating your tent, and setting up a windbreak are all just a few tips for camping in the cold.
In addition to using these methods for winterizing your tent and staying warm on your trip, we also recommend staying informed on the common dangers of spending long amounts of time in cold climates, such as hypothermia and frostbite. For more information, read the CDC’s resources about what to look out for while in cold weather.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I bring an air mattress on my winter camping trip?
No, we don’t recommend camping with an air mattress on your winter camping trip. The primary reason it’s not a good idea is that the air in the mattress can be just as cold as the temperatures outside, and—although it keeps you off the ground—you can feel those temperatures throughout the night as you sleep on it.
How do you trap heat in a tent?
Insulating your tent with things like wool or mylar blankets on the walls, hot rocks to heat up the inside air, and sleeping bags to insulate your body, can help you keep the heat inside it while you’re camping.
However, keep in mind that you’ll still want some ventilation to keep the air from getting humid and moist, eventually cooling down and making it hard for you to stay warm or potentially causing mold to grow in the tent from the moisture.
Can I camp in the snow?
Yes, you can absolutely camp in the snow. In fact, many campers, backpackers, and hikers adore snow camping. Insulation is very important in the snow since the temperatures are likely below freezing, but packed snow around your tent can be great thermal insulation.
How cold is too cold for tent camping?
While experienced campers with the right gear can camp in almost any temperature, we don’t recommend camping in climates below 30–40 degrees Fahrenheit at night without proper experience, preparation, and gear.