You do not have to buy a new 4-season tent for winter camping if you do not have money. You can consider insulating a tent for winter camping.
Camping in the cold is a lot of fun. Knowing how to heat a tent without electricity is even more fun. Well, at least it should be if you love working with your hands.
But even if you are not too handy with your hand, you can do it. In as simple as 13 actionable tips, you can have your summer tent ready for winter camping.
Tips for how to insulate a tent for winter camping
1. Pick the right place to pitch a tent
Choosing the best location for your tent is very important. Unless you are doing wilderness camping with the barest of supplies you should try to pitch your tent in the best sheltered place that you can find.
If you find a sheltered place to pitch your tent, you will be halfway to insulating your winter camping tent.
Try to find a place that is sheltered from direct winds. It is hard enough having to worry about the bone chilling winter, without having to worry about the wind blowing over your tent.
By the way, the wind can change direction, so even when you have pitched the tent in a well-sheltered place, you still should stake your tent.
Avoid the low areas for pitching your tent if it is expected to snow. Snow will gradually move and settle in the lower areas. This will be bad for you. Higher areas will not collect as much snow as the low areas. So pick a high ground for camping in the cold.
2. Stake your tent
This is very important. Ok, this is not exactly a means of weatherproofing your tent. However, if you have been keen, you know very well that the weather turns without notice when doing winter camping. One minute, it can be calm and windless, and a couple of hours later, winds will be howling.
Unless you are camping in the cold in your backyard, stake your tent especially when camping in open areas. That way, should the weather turn, you will not be bowled over. If you did not carry stakes with you, you can cut down some with your camping hatchet. Knock them into the ground and secure your tent with your camping rope.
3. Create a windbreak
It is a good idea to set your camp in an area that has a rock shelter. Even a thick clump of trees is going to provide a good windbreak for your tent. However, this is not always the case as trees or big rocks may not always be there.
When camping in winter, wind makes the air much colder than it already is. A blast from icy cold wind could give you pneumonia, easily.
Thankfully, it is very easy for you to create a windbreak. You just need to hang a line between two stakes or trees. Hang a tarp on that line, and secure the bottom part of the tarp to the trees too.
If you will make a fire, you can check my post on how to make a fire with nothing here, the windbreak will prevent the wind from blowing it out.
4. Use a ground tarp for tent
Sitting directly on the hard cold ground is not fun at all. You need to buy a ground tarp for tent. It is the most basic step to start winterizing your tent.
Many people ask whether they need a ground tarp for tent when they have a tent footprint. Well, the answer is yes. The tent footprint is designed to protect the tent against opportune wear and tear, and keep debris out of the tent.
The ground tarp for tent on the other hand is made to insulate the tent. Thus, you must buy the ground tarp even if you have a tent footprint.
The ground tarp for tent is placed directly beneath the tent, same as the tent footprint. Since it is waterproof, you will at least have waterproofed your tent. This is very important especially when you are camping on the snow.
5. Layer up an hour or two before sleeping
Whether you are a warm or cold sleeper, you need to layer up when camping in winter. What is all the rage about layering? As you have guessed from the name, layering means wearing clothes in layers, like an onion.
The first layers will make you warm, or preserve a layer of warmth that your body generates close to the body. The middle layers will act as the buffer zone between the innermost and the outermost layers.
The middle layer will prevent warmth from escaping. It will also prevent the cold air from outside from penetrating to the first layer. Thus, between your skin and the cold air outside, there is a buffer. That is how you stay warm when camping in winter.
When is the best time to put on your layers? An hour before sleep time is good enough. Layers are heavy, so they take some time to warm up. However, the best thing is when they get warm, they stay warm.
Most people make the mistake of layering up when they feel cold. If you do this, you will lose more sleep as you will take some time for your body to warm the layers up.
While still talking about clothes, once you come into the tent from outside in wet clothes, change into dry clothes. You should always bring extra clothes with you when camping in winter.
6. Cover the floor with blankets
Believe it or not, when camping in winter, your will have more cold coming from the hard and cold floor, than from the sides. If you can stock up your hiking or camping backpack, bring your blankets with you.
Spread them on the floor, after laying the ground tarp. That way, they cannot absorb water. If you have wool blankets, they work wonderfully well for insulating the floor. However, there is one disadvantage – they are bulky to park. Synthetic blankets are lighter, but may not be as effective as the wool blankets. So bring a couple, you will be glad you did.
7. Use a tent heater for camping
In my article on the safest heaters for tent camping, I reviewed several of the very best, and safe tent heaters that you can use for camping. A battery-powered heater will keep you snuggly warm. However, buy one that is rated for the space that is commensurate with the size of your tent.
Although a camping heater will add to the weight of camping backpack, it will keep you warm. Bring extra batteries for your camping tent heater so that you do not go without using it.
With a portable heater, you will dispel the cold air from inside the tent. Now, you have already insulated your tent totally so that the cold air from outside is not coming in. That way, the cold air stays outside while the warm air stays inside.
8. Bring your sleeping pad or air mattress
If you can bring a self-inflatable sleeping pad with you, it will make your tent insulation so easily. Remember, the reason why you are insulating your tent is so that you can sleep as warmly as possible.
I have covered how you can sleep comfortably in a tent, so you can find out a few tips that you can apply when camping in winter.
The more insulation you can have between your sleeping bag for cold weather and the cold ground, the more comfortable you will be able to sleep. Even if you will bring your foam sleeping pad for camping, it is much better than having no pad at all.
You may also bring your air mattress for camping. This will be bulky, but it also fold nicely and small when it is deflated.
An air mattress for camping will be very helpful if you have a bad back, if you are a senior or if you would like to insulate yourself totally from the cold.
This kind of camping mattress is also very comfortable. It is one of the ways to enjoy your beauty sleep when camping in warm or cold weather. If the air mattress for camping is too bulky, just pack your sleeping pad. It will be enough.
9. Use water packs for insulating a tent
This is a more traditional way of warming up things, but it still works. Old is ingenious! Bring disposable water packs with you, heat water, fill them up, as many as you brought and arrange them around your tent.
Hopefully, you also brought a small one-person or two-person tent for camping because a small tent is easier to insulate than a big one.
These water packs are going to heat the air in the tent. If you have insulated your tent well from the cold air outside, all the warmth generated inside will stay for a long time. You can sleep peacefully knowing there is no risk of freezing.
10. Learn how to build a fire in a fire pit
When going camping in winter, you will need to do some planning. Learn how to build a fire for camping. You can also bring store-bought tinder. When you get to the campsite, look for dry wood in sheltered places.
You have to be extra careful because a poorly planned campfire can burn your tent. Mind the direction of the wind when selecting the place to build your fire, in relation to your tent.
Make a small fire. If you can find reasonably thick branches, they will keep the campfire going longer.
11. Layer up yourself before insulating a tent
Apart from layering up, you can do a few other things to keep as warm as possible. Make a hot coffee drink and take it before going to bed. You do not want to take too much lest you have to arise in the middle of the night to empty your bladder.
You should never leave your travel coffee mug for keeping coffee hot all the time. That way, when you feel it with hot coffee, you know that you will have a piping hot drink when you drink it hours later. While you may wear insulating clothes, but drinking hot coffee or tea helps a lot as your body can generate its own heat.
One of the skills that every outdoor enthusiast must teach him/herself is how to make hot coffee when camping. This is simple if you brought your coffee making items with you.
12. Your tent must have a rain fly tarp
You must bring a rain fly for your tent if it does not have one. Luckily, for many camping tents, a rain fly tarp is standard issue. It is easy to set up and it is very protective. A rain tarp for tent or hammock that is coated with polyurethane to make it waterproof. Even when it rains or snows at night, you will be sure your gear is protected.
A rain fly does not only protect you from the rain. It also protects your from snow and sleet.
13. Keep your wet things out of the tent
If you do not keep your wet things outside of the tent, they will eat up all the warmth that your tent heater generates. Even if you were wearing the warmest boots for winter hiking and they collected snow, leave them outside. Insulating a tent requires you to do everything just right all the time.
You have now seen how to insulate a camping tent. You can add more if you have any tested and proven ideas. Insulating a tent for winter camping will save you money since you do not have to buy a more expensive 4-season tent.
Bring all the gear for winter camping. Bring your flashlight for camping. You will need for winter camping than you would need it for summer camping.
Do not forget to pack your camping knife as you will use it to make tinder, cut ropes, eat and even defend yourself should the need arise. Plan in advance so that you do not leave anything behind, including your camping food.
The solitude in winter camping is very endearing. The air is crisp and clean and in the morning, you can pull your boots up and go hiking. If you are a true outdoor enthusiast, you know very well that nothing is going to keep you indoors. Not even snow, when you can do tent camping in winter. Insulating a tent successfully is a skill that you can even pass down to your children.