How To Heat A Tent Without Electricity & Stay Warm: 12 Tips

by Jason | Last Updated:   October 9th, 2021
How To Heat A Tent Without Electricity & Stay Warm: 12 Tips


So, you’ve gone out camping before and come back freezing cold. And before you go back out, you want to know how to heat a tent without electricity.

Well, you’ve come to the right place!

Below I’ve made a list of viable options for heating your tent without electricity. But, I’ve also taken things one step further.

The thing is:

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you use to heat your tent; if your tent is poor quality, or you haven’t got the right equipment, you’ll never be able to stay warm.

So keep reading to ensure you never have a cold night again!

How To Heat A Tent Without Electricity: The Five Methods

Okay, so you’re looking for methods on “how to heat a tent without electricity.” When it comes down to it, you have five ways to heat your tent.

But don’t worry if these aren’t enough for you; keep reading; I’ll also introduce some other tips for keeping you warm while you sleep.

But for now, let’s check out these five methods for heating a tent:

Buy A Portable Gas Heater

One of the easiest ways to heat your tent without electricity is with a portable tent heater, but I’m a little bit hit and miss on them if I’m honest.

On the one hand, they do heat up your tent quickly and efficiently, but on the other hand, are they too dangerous to put in a tent?

From my perspective, I would use them, but very sparingly, and I certainly wouldn’t leave them on while I’m sleeping. If you knock it over, it’s game over; you will burn your tent quicker than you can count to three.

Luckily most tents are flame retardant, so they shouldn’t go up in flames… but I wouldn’t want to put it to the test. That being said, you will be left with a hole in your tent, and that will definitely make things colder.

You have two styles of portable gas heaters, and I want to explain them both to you:

Radiant Heater

A radiant heater works by generating infrared radiation to heat the room. It will warm any object or person in the line of sight of the ways. One of the significant drawbacks is how quickly it goes through a full canister of gas.

The average radiant heater will only last 4-5 hours from a small canister. 

Catalytic Heater 

Okay, I don’t want to go too sciency on you, so let me try and explain how it works in the simplest way possible. The catalytic heater uses catalyzed chemical reactions to break down molecules and produce heat. 

Although it uses the same propane gas, this heater style is safer and far more efficient. Most of them can last for around 7-8 hours, which is double the duration of a radiant heater with the same amount of gas.

One thing we should mention before moving on is both styles of heater can be dangerous. Gas heaters produce a small amount of carbon monoxide, which can harm you and your family.

Heat Rocks

Rocks in fire getting hot

Another method of heating your tent without electricity is by using rocks. It might seem a bit stupid when you think about it, but this method has been used for hundreds of years to great effect.

In the old days, people used to put their “bed rocks” on top of the stove to heat it. They’d then wrap the rock in rags and place it at the end of the bed. This would allow the stone to release radiant heat all through the night.

And you can do the same thing when you’re winter camping. Find a smooth rock that’s dense, smooth, and dry. Once you’ve found your rock, place it next to the campfire, ideally just close enough for it to absorb the heat.

Once the rock is heated, wrap it with some material and place it at the bottom of your sleeping bag.

You’ll be shocked at how effective this solution is.

Use Hand And Feet Warmers

Okay, I’m not going to go into the science of how these work… it’s far too complicated for my brain, but you can check out this link to find out more.

Air-activated hand warmers are super easy to use and emit heat for between 1-10 hours, which, let’s face it, is pretty good. 

Although they won’t warm up the whole tent, they will keep your sleeping bag very warm so you can feel snug for the rest of the night.

Hot Water Bottle

Using a hot water bottle work similarly to using hot stones, except instead of leaving them by the fire, you can fill them up with hot water.

The downside is a hot water bottle releases heat a lot quicker, which means they need topping up more regularly.

Use the campfire or a stove to heat some water and pour it into the water bottle; once you’ve filled it up, close the lid tightly and place it in your sleeping bag.

Using The Campfire Coals

Coal burning in a camp fire

Now, this method needs to be done correctly if you want to stay safe, but it’s incredibly efficient at heating your tent. But how does it work?

Before you start your campfire, dig a fire pit for it to lie in; make sure you save the soil in a pile near the fire. It needs to have a reasonable depth to it for this to work.

When the time eventually arrives to go to bed, it’s time to put the fire out and use the coals to keep your tent warm. To do this, smoother the fire using the soil you left behind; make sure you cover the whole fire. 

Again make sure there is a lot of soil over the top of the fire, so it’s not too hot to touch, but warmth is still being released.

Place your tent on top of the soil and peg everything down. The heat of the coals will push through the ground and start heating your tent.

It’s a pretty cool technique; just make sure you do it correctly, or things can get very hot extremely quickly.

How To Keep Yourself Warm In A Tent

Teenager girl inside a camping green tent feeling cold

So, sometimes it’s not about heating the tent up; it’s about keeping yourself warmer. And you can do this in a variety of ways.

In this section, I’m going to explain everything you need to know:

Eat Before Bed

Did you know that eating before you go to bed will keep you warmer? For your body to produce heat, it needs calories to burn.

Eating before you go to bed gives your body fuel to burn while you’re sleeping. Carbs give you a quick boost of calories. If you are looking for a long night of warmth, then fats and proteins should be your go-to source of calories.

Stop Drinking Anything Four Hours Before Bed

Not drinking before you go to bed won’t keep you warmer, but it will stop you from going to the toilet halfway through the night. 

If you try all the tips above, there’s no point putting the hard work to waste by opening the tent door and letting all the heat out.

Not only will you let the heat out of the tent, but your body will also cool down from being outside. The best way to stop this from happening is by going to the toilet before you go to bed and try not to drink four hours beforehand. 

Keep Your Head Warm

Your head loses more heat than any other part of your body, so keeping your head warm can be highly beneficial. Some people like to sleep with a beanie on their heads to ensure they don’t lose any body heat.

Others prefer to use a mummy sleeping bag and wrap it tight around their head. The choice really comes down to your personal preference. 

Invest In A Quality Sleeping Bag

One of the keys to staying warm during the winter nights is having the right sleeping bag for the job. If you plan to stay out in extremely cold temperatures, you need to buy a sleeping bag for the job.

Ideally, it would be best if you were looking for a 4-season sleeping bag minimum. Each sleeping bag will have a comfort rating, but if I’m honest, they are usually 10° off. So what does this means?

Basically, if the sleeping bag is rated between 20-30°, it’s probably closer to 30-40°. Keeping that in mind will help you make the right decision.

You should also take a look at down sleeping bags. They are made with feathers and tend to be a lot warmer than synthetic sleeping bags. Unfortunately, this does add to the price considerably. Another thing to note is that a down sleeping bag is a bad idea if you think they’re going to get wet.

Use Mylar Blankets

Okay, mylar blankets don’t exactly insulate your body, but they can help warm up your body.

Let me explain:

To help our body cool in the summer, it radiates heat away, and in the winter months, our bodies will still lose heat. And this is where a mylar blanket comes in. 

They help to reduce heat loss by reflecting the radiated heat towards our body. This reduces the chance of heat loss. Great, right?

If you want to stay warm…

The trick is to wrap them around the body relatively loose; they work a lot better when there are thin air pockets between your body and the blanket. If the blanket is wrapped around your body tightly, it will do the opposite and pull the heat away from your body.

Use A Roll Mat/Inflatable Mattress 

One of the best ways of staying warm during the night is to get yourself off the cold floor. When sleeping on the floor, we can lose a lot of our body heat to the ground; it literally pulls the heat out of us.

The best way to combat this and stay warm is by adding an insulation layer between you and the floor. The cheapest way to do this is by using a roll mat/sleeping pad (a piece of foam)  to sleep on. The mat will add pockets of air between you and the ground.

If you’re looking for more comfort, then your best option is to use an inflatable mattress. 

Do You Need Heating Or Is It Your Tent?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how many of the tricks above you try, you won’t be able to get warm if you made any of the following mistakes:

  1. You’ve got the wrong tent
  2. You need to add insulation
  3. Or you pitched your tent in the wrong spot

In this section, I’m going to show you how to fix the problems so you can ensure a comfortable night of sleep: 

Choose The Right Tent

Woman and boy choose a camping tent in the store

The trick to winter camping is having the right tent for the job along with a decent sleeping bag. Tents are usually classified as seasons, with the best being rated a four-season tent. 

But here’s the thing:

Not all four-season tents are rated equal. For example, a four-season tent from Pricemart is going to be very good in cold weather. 

Ideally, you want to go to a camping store to find the best options. One thing to keep in mind is cold weather tents will be heavier, which can make the hike more challenging. 

Try to think about the temperatures you’re planning on camping in, and make a judgment call on whether a light tent will serve you better. 

Add Insulation To Your Tent

Imagine a home without insulation; it would be pretty cold, right? Well, the same can be said with your tent. Without adequate insulation in your tent, you are going to get cold.  

So, what do you do?

In my opinion, you have a few options. You could line your tent with all-weather carpet from your local home store as a cheap option. Or a more expensive option is to get it from a camping store.

Another option is to buy a tent with built-in insulation. The problem with this is it’s costly, very heavy, and takes up a lot of room. But, you will be hot during the night.

Again you have to weigh up whether carrying the extra weight is worth it. And that’s something only you can decide.

For more information, have a look at our tent insulation guide.

Pitch Your Tent In The Right Spot

Helpful son on the camping with his father setting up a tent

This is one mistake that most newbie campers make. Setting up your tent in the wrong location can really cost you when it gets cold.

If you pitch your tent on a hill, mountainside, or an open field, you’re going to run into trouble.

So, how do you find the perfect location?

Ideally, you want it to camp in an area where trees and bushes can help break the wind. The problem is this isn’t always possible.

If this is the case, it’s a good idea to try and pile up leaves and brush them around the exterior. Use the bushy branches and overlap them around your tent to help break the wind.

If it’s snowing; you’ve got the perfect windbreaker. Humans have been using snow to help break wind for centuries… you only have to look at igloos. Building a wall of snow around your tent will help to break the wind.

It also adds insulation due to snow trapping air. Just make sure you don’t pack it down too tight or make it too heavy. You can also check out this guide on how to weatherproof a tent.

If you are interested in learning more, check out our article on how to set up a tent.

Key Insights & Takeaways

Winter hiking vector background with tent and bonfire.

As you can see, it’s not hard to keep your tent warm without electricity. You have plenty of options out there; it’s just to find the right combination for you.

But…

Before you start buying things, it’s best to check out your tent and where you’re camping. There’s a chance that your tent might need upgrading or your winter camping knowledge.

Anyway, I hope this article helped you find the information you needed regarding how to heat a tent without electricity. 

Frequently Asked Questions

It’s understandable if you have a few more questions that need answering. And I don’t want to leave you without answering these questions.

So, here are a few of the most commonly asked questions:

Is There A Safe Way To Heat A Tent?

Most people say the safest way of heating your tent is with a cable heater. They protect the naked flame while allowing heat to radiate out. Now, they’re not the warmest, but they do help to expel some heat.

What Is The Best Way To Heat A Tent?

Any of the options I’ve mentioned above are a great way to heat your tent. One of my personal favorites is using a hot rock or the coals of your fire.

They really help to increase the temperature of your tent. But you have to be careful with these methods, so you don’t burn yourself.

How Do You Heat A Tent With Rocks?

It’s pretty simple to use rocks to heat your tent; you just have to follow these simple steps:

– Find a smooth and dry rock.
– Place it next to the fire for a few hours; make sure you turn it every now and then.
– Use some material to wrap the rock once it’s warm
– When it’s wrapped in fabric, place it at the bottom of your sleeping bag
– Enjoy the heat it brings you throughout the night

Yep, it’s that simple.

Hey, my name's Jason, and before I was a writer, I worked as an outdoor activity instructor where I took groups kayaking and camping. Now I use my personal experiences to share tips and tricks I've learned over the years. For as long as I can remember, I've been passionate about the outdoors, and now I want to share that passion with my readers.