The complete guide to keeping warm in your tent in autumn and winter
Just because summer is over, there’s no need to stop camping.
But camping in chilly temperatures needs a different approach than you would take when the weather is warmer.
When it's cold, you will need to consider how to heat your tent, how to stay cosy during the night and how to protect your tent and yourself from the elements.
Follow our top tips for keeping warm in your tent in autumn and winter and you will be able to go camping 12 months a year.
How do I heat my tent?
Whether it's a large family tent, a weekend model or a tiny tent for solo camping, if you are camping in autumn or winter, you will want to keep it warm and a heater is the best option.
The safest option for using a heater in your tent is sticking to electric – a hook-up will allow you a whole world of heating choices, including fan, halogen and radiant options.
Naked flames are a definite no-no when it comes to heating, with the double threat of carbon monoxide poisoning and fire. NEVER be tempted bring a smouldering barbecue into your tent for warmth. The fumes can kill.
Don’t wait until the temperature is unbearably cold before putting your heater on. Once your body is cold it can be difficult to heat up again so try to avoid that happening by flicking the switch as soon as it starts to get chilly.
After the initial blast of heat it’s better to keep the heater on at a low steady level, rather than constantly switching off when it gets too warm then back on again when you start to get cold again.
Even in the coldest weather it won’t take long to get your tent to a nice ambient temperature.
Leave plenty of space in front of your heater and don’t drape wet clothes over it.
A wood burning stove with a heat-radiating chimney pipe is a marvellous, way to heat a traditional canvas bell tent.
Whatever your source of heat, it’s not a good idea to leave a heater running unattended or through the night. Switch off when not needed.
How do I stay warm in bed when I'm camping?
Sleep on a thick self-inflating mat or a camp bed, rather than an air bed. The air inside an inflatable bed will get cold quickly and stay cold throughout the night as the temperature drops.
Insulate yourself from the ground as much as you can to avoid the cold floor drawing heat away. A sleeping mat of closed-cell foam or an old duvet on top of an air mattress will add to warmth and comfort.
Make sure you use a sleeping bag that is warm enough for the time of year you will be camping. Sleeping bags are rated for season, and also have a recommended minimum temperature.
A sleeping bag liner will improve the bag’s warmth significantly. Sleeping bags will lose insulation values when damp so, tempting as it is, try not to sleep with your head under the covers breathing out moisture.
Go to bed on a full stomach as the food will generate body heat. But don’t be tempted to have a hot drink or you’ll need to get up to go to the loo in the cold!
A hot water bottle or a small handwarmer wrapped in a sock slipped down to the foot of your sleeping bag a couple of hours before getting into it will help to keep you warm.
Snuggle up. There’s nothing like a bit of shared body heat to raise the tent temperature!
How else can I keep my tent warm?
A decent-sized windbreak will block chill winds from howling through the tent. Alternatively, pitch in the shelter of a wall or building if there is one.
A tent carpet is considered a must-have accessory by many family campers these days, especially out of season.
They offer real protection from the cold ground, and you can get tent-specific carpets or simply lay a blanket or fleece out on the floor.
What should I wear in cold weather?
Get layered. Start off with a fleece on top of a long-sleeved shirt with a t-shirt underneath and you can gradually peel off the layers when it gets warmer.
At bedtime, wear base layers or thermals and a woolly hat to bed instead of normal pyjamas.