Tips for Tent Camping in the Cold Weather

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Here in Florida, we do the majority of our tent camping in spring and fall when the temperatures aren’t too hot or cold.  Even in the spring, it is not uncommon to experience temperatures in the high eighties-nineties.  When we left our dear state for our spring/summer travels we had no idea our neighboring states would have drastically cooler weather…. we were clueless.

After a few nights of thirty-two degree weather, we gave in and purchased space heaters.  By the end of spring we had become cool weather tent camping pros!

(*Note:  We were NOT primitive camping.)

Cold Weather Camping

Will you be tent camping in cold weather this fall?  Take a look at our cold weather tent camping tips below:

Rubber Mats:  I cannot say enough about these things!  We would have been so lost on our trip without these rubber playroom mats.  We were able to cover an entire room in the tent with them.  During the cold weather, they helped insulate the tent.  The single room with these mats on the floor was significantly warmer than the rest of the tent!   These are a MUST HAVE when camping as a family.

Space Heater: We used a Oscillating Dish Heater.  What I loved about our heater was the fact that it wasn’t pointing at the same spot/ direction all the time.  This eased my worry that the heater would burn the tent.

*In temperatures below forty-degrees we used one heater per occupied room.

Flat Flannel Sheets:  Our tent had a mesh roof with a rainfly on top.  We purchased sheets from a second-hand store to place between the mesh and the rainfly.  We also draped another sheet inside the tent (with the help of clothespins)  in extreme temperatures.  (Extreme to this Floridian is anything below forty/fifty-degrees)

Thermal Undergarments & Socks:  Without the proper clothing – you will freeze!  Once the weather started to warm up we would accidentally go to sleep without changing into our thermals… even with all of the above measures taken, there was no getting the cold out of bones without the proper undergarments and socks.

Using the steps above, we were able to be happy campers again!  I hope our cold weather tips will help keep you a happy camper too!

What is the coldest weather you have camped in?

Were you in a tent?


14 thoughts on “Tips for Tent Camping in the Cold Weather

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    I’ve been camping with my Girl Scout troop in 30-40 degree weather for the last three years. Unfortunately some girls always show up with lite pajamas and sleeping sacks instead of sleeping bags. The other Girl Scout leader and I bought hot water bottles at the drug store. (They are made of rubber) We filled them with almost boiling water and put them in the girls sleeping bags before campfire. They went to bed in warm sleeping bags and the the hot water bottles stayed warm all night. The girls slept better and therefore we slept better :)

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      Hi Christine,

      That is a wonderful idea that we did not think of. I bet this would be wonderful for primitive camping trips!

      Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your great tip.

      Happy Travels,

      Victoria

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    Always change out of the clothes that you have worn all day before getting into your sleeping bag. I find it much warmer to sleep with minimal clothing inside a good bag. Add layers on top of your bag to keep out the bitter cold and stay away from the big thich air mattresses, the thin self inflating matts seem warmer to me.

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    We winter camped in a tent all through my childhood. One trick we learned was to put clothes for the next day in the bottom of our sleeping bags. They were nice and warm in the morning, and i even managed to change before getting out of my sleeping bag.

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    We have camped with kids many times over the last 20 years in cold weather as well as extreme Texas summer heat. Anytime of year we always put a tarp under the tent- keeping the edges under the tent in case it rains- you don’t want water pooling under the tent. But this is an added barrier for the elements. For cold camping we have found that putting a thick blanket (or fabric I got on clearance that is actually upholstery fabric) makes a great barrier underneath air mattresses- like a rug. It’s also compact when folded or rolled up for packing. Then on top of the air mattress/ under the sleeping bags we use Mexican blankets as a moisture barrier (yes the bright colored ones from Mexico). The next layer is your sleeping bag. We have bags that are down to 40′. If you are in winter months weather we then throw extra blankets/ comforters on top. If you are lucky enough to have large Labradors like we do- that is added heat and we let them snuggle up to us and be sure to cover them up as they get cold too! The theory of less clothes works. Jeans will make you colder so we aim for sweats or leggings with thermal tops or long sleeve t shirts/ sweatshirts and socks. Knitted hats and neck wraps are always nice too so you aren’t tempted to sleep fully inside your bag which leaves you waking up stiff. If you have a hot weather tent that is thin- throwing a tarp over the top will help hold heat in. Or you can tie it to one side to help block wind if that is a problem. If you happen to be out and the weather takes a turn for the colder assuming you car camp and have room. We always pack beach towels. They can be used for more layers and you can roll them up for a make do pillow. To us we always pack everything we might need. My hubby says I over pack… but we are always prepared! Hope you enjoy getting out as much as we do.

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    We tend to invite virgin campers with us and they have no gear. We have put one sleeping bag inside another and it also works well. Rather then buying a bunch of gear it allows newbies to go try camping with what we’ve got!

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    I camped in a tent in 16 degree overnight lows. I put wool blankets between the rain fly and the tent. Just used a sleeping bag inside the tent but I made a mini tent over my head with an additional wool blanket. I was snug and warm without the feeling of smothering under a blanket.

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    Put the tarp on the inside of the tent to seal out moisture. Purchase a tent with minimal open netting on top. Also Ive found a warm colored tent such as red just feels warmer psychologically. Layer sheets and blankets and if using air mattress cover top and bottom with fitted sheet.

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    Everyone has had these cold weather problems. If you live in Ireland then you get the same problem even if the day was warm. So we have developed a thermally insulated tent. You don’t need all the extra gear and the tarp under the tent is thicker than the lining on top so you don’t get the cold rising up from the ground. If anyone is interested find us on twitter @thermotents

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    We used to camp in the Frio River Valley in South Texas in November. It falls below freezing overnight there often. I’m a tender foot when it comes to sleeping. I want to be as comfortable as possible so that I can enjoy the day’s activities. We decided to use a 20″ high queen size air mattress that we put an electric blanket on top of then we put our sleeping bags and blankets on top of that. We were comfortable and warm every night and slept very well.

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    I have been camping in the snow in New Mexico in January. Lakes were frozen over. Meadows covered in snow that the sun didn’t even melt. We had tents, but we also spent a night in a quinzhee (shelter made by hollowing out a pile of settled snow). We also piled up snow and built a kitchen, table, and seating out of snow. It was fantastic! Always put on dedicated sleeping clothes; never wear anything dirty to bed. Cover your head with a mummy bag or a stocking cap. If you can heat some water and put it in a bottle before bedtime, you can close it super tight and slip it in the sleeping bag with you.

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    Always have as much insulation under you as on top of you. Those emergency blankets ( the ones that look like a big sheet of aluminium foil) are awesome for cold weather. One under you with a blanket and one on top of your sleeping bag then a blanket…. sleeping good. Hang them inside the tent walls and ceiling keeps the heat in pretty well. They’re tear easily but they’re cheap. Good for summer camping too. Keeps the sun off the tent if you put them on top of the rain fly.

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