Did you know that camping during the winter months can be a big challenge? Snow, low temperatures, and cold winds can create such conditions that it is difficult to protect yourself from freezing, especially at night.
But that is not an impossible mission! However, if you do some planning, the tent can be successfully insulated so that you will always be comfortable even in icy conditions while camping in Rocky Mountain National Park or in some other location.
Therefore, it is important to always prepare well for the weather conditions outside. For all those who intend to enjoy winter camping, we have prepared a series of tips that can help you to stay warm during camping.
Best Materials For Tent Insulation
The best materials that ensure maximum heat transfer in terms of molecular level should have as widely spaced atoms as possible. The denser the material, the less it will heat you up. By this logic, the ideal insulator for a tent is – AIR!
That is why the materials that are available on the market today and have the task of warming you contain small pockets of air. Like double-panel windows that prevent cold air from entering the house by creating an air barrier.
1. Choose a Four-Season Tent
During winter camping, it is important that your equipment is suitable for the weather conditions that await you. This means that you should have a four-season tent rather than bother with the subsequent insulation of an ordinary tent. Therefore, a tent that is adapted to all weather conditions is the most important step to keep you warm at night.
The biggest difference between a four-season tent and a three-season tent is in the inner composition of the tent body. The tent which is suitable for spring, summer, and autumn, consists of a mesh material on the inside that provides great breathability. This is great in the summer months, but it is not recommended for camping during the winter.
On the other hand, the inner fabric of tents labeled “four-season tent” is much thicker and is a far better insulator from the cold. When you choose a four-season tent, you will make the best choice for a comfortable sleep while camping in icy weather.
2. Use a Smaller Tent
When it comes to winter camping, in addition to the four-season tent that is recommended, sometimes it’s best to choose a smaller tent. Although it is comfortable and practical for storage that four people use the tent for six people, you should keep in mind that the extra space should also be heated if you want everyone to be warm on cold nights.
That is why it is always a better choice for winter camping to choose a smaller tent. In a smaller tent, you will also have a smaller area that needs to be insulated which will make your job easier and leave more time to enjoy.
3. Block Cold Wind By Using a Trap
During the cold winter months, strong wind is common, especially at night. We often worry about protection from low temperatures during winter camping, while we forget the cold wind and its impact. Strong winter winds are a big problem when trying to stay warm in the mountains.
Even a weak winter wind can turn a pleasant winter day during camping into an uncomfortable winter night that will cool your sleeping bag. If you don’t want that to happen, you need to find a way to protect yourself well from gusts of wind while camping in the winter months.
In addition to rain protection, an additional camping trap can help a lot when talking about the impact of cold wind if your tent is placed in the right place – on the part of the tent that is directly hit by the wind. This move will ensure you a peaceful sleep even on the strongest winter nights.
4. Create a Windbreak By Using Snow
When camping during snowy conditions, a great option for wind defense is to build a large snow wall around the tent. Snow walls are usually a better solution that you can use than tents. Not only from the wind but also to stop drifting snow that accumulates on the tent.
Obviously, you can only build a windbreak if there is enough snow. But you should know that a decent snow wall that will serve as a good windbreak can be high enough at only 80 to 90 cm (2 to 3 feet).
Building a snow wall is not difficult. All you need is a standard camp shovel, willpower, and free time. With a shovel, stack the snow in a pile 80 to 90 cm high (2 to 3 feet) to surround your tent. If there is not much snow, first build a wall in the position from which the wind blows on your tent the strongest, and then continue until you run out of available snow stock. It takes time to build a snow wall, but you will be able to enjoy a warm night on winter camping as a reward.
5. Use a Thermal Blanket To Cover Your Tent
To prevent your body from getting cold on winter camping nights, it’s a good idea to place an extra layer of insulation, such as a thermal blanket, on top of the tent. This is also good advice when using a tent for all four seasons, and camping in an extremely cold environment such as Glacier National Park.
Even the best four-season tent’s in such conditions cannot provide warmth inside throughout the night. A thermal blanket or some other insulating fabric placed on top of your tent can definitely provide warmth to your body on a cold winter night while camping.
6. Use Insulating Fabric To Line the Tent’s Roof
When the thermal blanket does not meet your need to heat the tent during winter camping, you can additionally insulate the roof with fabric. Depending on the size of your tent, there are several options for insulating the sides and ceiling of the tent. Certainly, the easiest way is to divide your space blanket into appropriate parts and then arrange them along the sides of the tent.
When it comes to raising the internal insulation of your tent to an even higher level, you can always additionally insulate the tent from the inside with paneling or fabric that you can find in stores that sell tools and work equipment. However, you should keep in mind that this increases the load of the equipment you carry on camping and that this is the type of insulation that is more suitable for camping with a car.
However, it is important that after covering the tent with insulating fabric you also need to close all openings and nets for ventilation. While it doesn’t seem like you will achieve much with this move, that’s not true. If you close all the openings in the tent well, even the smallest amount of direct cold air will not be able to penetrate into the tent.
7. Pack a Tent Footprint
In addition to insulating the tent well at the top and sides, it is also important to insulate it at the bottom from the wet, cold, and frozen ground. The easiest way to do this is to place a groundsheet or footprint for tents under the structure before setting up the tent.
A tent footprint is a big piece of fabric that is waterproof and it is used as an extra layer of protection between you and the cold ground during sleep. They are produced by almost all tent manufacturers in sizes that match their tent models. But if you can’t find a custom tent footprint that suits you, you can use a traditional camping trap instead.
When choosing the fabric that you will use as the base of the tent, the most important thing is to use one that covers the bottom of the tent 100%. It is enough that only one part of your tent is not on a quality surface. Moisture and cold will easily be drawn to you at night.
8. Insulate Your Tent Floor By Using Foam Padding
Groundsheets or footprints for tents help us to insulate the tent from the outside. However, you can also take a few steps and insulate the tent from the inside. The simplest and most affordable solution is to cover the floor in a tent with a layer of solid foam.
Although you may already be using a cot or sleeping pad, an extra foam pad can help a lot in preventing heat loss under the influence of cold ground under the tent. This is especially important advice for those who sleep in tents on sleeping pads. Sleeping pads are subject to faster cooling when winter ground conditions occur.
9. Use Rugs or Sections of Carpet
For additional floor insulation in your tent, you can also use larger rugs of old carpet to cover the tent where you sleep. Obviously, pieces of carpet cannot replace layers of foam as an insulator, but they can still enhance the feeling of warmth.
Related article: Winter RV Living: the Best RV Brands for Cold-Season.
An additional plus is that winter evenings give the tent’s interior a special dose of comfort. Even when the temperatures outside are below zero! If you do not have pieces of carpet available, you can use blankets to insulate the tent floor. But then you should keep in mind that these are not fabrics that adhere well to the surface. You need to be very careful when moving around the tent to not slip and injure yourself.
10. Consider a Tent Heater
When you find yourself in a situation where you have a well-insulated tent from the inside, and you are still not warm enough at night while camping, you can always consider the option of buying a heater for your tent for your next trip.
You have a lot of tent heater options on the market, of various sizes and shapes. You can also choose between tent heaters that run on electricity or gas, which leaves you with more options when it comes to the availability of heat sources for camping.
It is important to know that heaters for tents can be very DANGEROUS if not used properly. They can heat up to the point that they can cause burns to the user, and when it comes to gas heaters one should know that they have an open flame in operation which poses a risk of carbon monoxide and fire. When using a gas heater remember that it is very important to ventilate the tent regularly.
When we talk about heaters, it should be noted that a camping stove should never be used instead. It is an excellent aid for preparing meals camping, but it should not be used as a heater because it does not have the necessary safety components. Research confirms that using a camping stove to heat a tent is a big risk when it comes to causing illness and injury.
There are a number of ways a tent can be insulated during winter camping. But none of them are acceptable to me. Each form of insulation is an extra effort that makes it hard for me to disassemble, assemble and reassemble the construction. In my opinion, it is a much better option to save some money and buy quality and well-insulated tent that can be used for years.
I believe that there are many campers among you with great ideas on how to quality and independently insulate a tent in winter conditions. Feel free to contact us in the comments. I want this post to be of use to all winter camping enthusiasts. Until the next text, I hope you stay safe and warm.