How to Heat a Tent: Safe Tent Heating Ideas That Work

If you are worried about being unable to enjoy camping when the weather turns cold and think it’s time to pack your camping gear away, don’t. Your camping season ain’t coming to an end, since you can camp in spring, summer, fall, AND winter.

Honestly, there is something quite magical when you go camping in winter. There’s the winter constellation, the cold air that makes you feel alive, and sitting around a campfire sharing stories with your loved ones. Yes, you can do the last one during any season, but it’s magical in winter time when you hold a cup of hot cocoa and see the condensation (when your hot breath meets the cold air). 

You can love pitching your tent and camping when it gets cold – you simply need to know how to heat up your tent safely (and stay warm in other ways). 

Use these safe tent heating ideas to stay nice and toasty. 

What Are Safe Tent Heating Ideas That Work?

There are quite a number of ways you can safely heat the inside of your tent when you go camping in cold climates; however, you must always be careful and meet the best practices for each heating method.

Here are the best tent heating ideas that work: 

  1. Insulate your tent 
  2. A camping stove or wood stove 
  3. A propane-powered tent heater
  4. An electric tent heater 
  5. A catalytic tent heater 
  6. An electric heating fan or radiator (space fan) 
  7. A candle lantern 
  8. Use a dead campfire or heated coals 
  9. Solar-powered camp stove 
  10. Heated carpets or rugs 
  11. Hot water bottles 
  12. Hot stones 
  13. Clay pots 

13 Ways to Heat a Tent Safely 

There are many ways you can heat a tent; however, not all of them are safe. And even with some of the safe options, you need to exercise caution. 

Pro Tip: You may need to combine a few of the tent heating methods for the best results. After all, most tents are just made from a thin fabric layer or two, and that ain’t enough to keep the cold air out and keep the inside sleeping area warm. 

1. Insulate Your Tent

If you don’t have a 4-season camping tent that’s already insulated, you can insulate your tent yourself. Or if you want to add extra insulation, you can. BUT ensure you don’t cut off the ventilation as you still need to breathe inside the tent, and you don’t want condensation to build up. 

When you insulate your tent, consider insulating: 

  • The roof 
  • The walls 
  • The floor 

It’s best to start from the ground and then move to the walls and roof. 

Here’s how to insulate your camping tent so you can camp in colder climates: 

  • Insulate the floor by laying down a tarp or an all-weather carpet. You can also make a bed of soft pine branches, moss, grass, and/or leaves, and then lay down the tarp. Just ensure the ground is even (or as even as can be) so you don’t sleep or step on any lumps and twist your ankle. 
  • Insulate the roof by throwing a tarp over it. However, you should still have access to enough oxygen inside the tent and to ensure that no carbon dioxide builds up, so there needs to be plenty of ventilation. 
  • Insulate the walls with reflective bubble wrap, reflective tarp, or space blankets, and attach these using duct tape (excuse the aesthetics!). Again, leave any ventilation openings open.

2. Camping Stove

A camping stove or wood stove can also heat up your tent. Hot tents are those that are designed to be used with a wood stove. You can opt to buy a hot tent with a wood stove or you may need to buy the stove separately. 

A green tent with a camping stove inside is pitched in a forest

Hot tents are fire retardant or designed so they don’t catch fire when you use the wood stove inside. They also have high peak heights so the hot air can rise, a flue flap (opening or duct) so the fumes can escape the tent interior, and a stove jack so you can put the chimney through the roof or wall of the tent. 

You can use the wood burning stove to cook and warm your tent, killing two birds with one stone. 

The other option is to use a gas camping stove (that’s approved for indoor use) to create heat inside your tent. Just make sure you don’t cook food that generates a lot of smoke or steam while heating your tent. 

The tent should also be well-ventilated to reduce the fire hazard and prevent damage caused by smoke inhalation. You definitely don’t want a build-up of carbon monoxide, which is toxic and deadly. 

Pro Tip: Don’t use a gas stove to heat your tent when it’s cold when you aren’t using the stove to cook. It’s simply a too expensive method of heating your tent.

3. Propane-Powered Tent Heater

A propane-powered tent heater is held by a human hand in a glove

When it comes to using a tent heater to warm your tent, you have a few options, such as a propane tent heater. 

A propane heater can warm your tent, but ensure you buy one that’s approved for indoor use. These types of heaters have a safety shutoff, which detects low oxygen in the tent, thus preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Pro Tip: Follow the safety instructions published in the instruction manual at all times. 

If you want to be extra safe while using a propane-powered heater for your camping tent, invest in a carbon monoxide detector. 

The Mr Heater Buddy is highly recommended, and the propane heater has various in-built safety features. You can also opt to buy the heater with a monoxide detector if you prefer to be extra cautious. 

When using a propane tent heater, place the device on a flat surface so it doesn’t tip over. Keep the tent walls and your gear at least 12” away from the heater and never leave the heater turned on when you aren’t there to supervise. 

4. Electric Tent Heater 

An electric heater is a safe way to heat your tent. You don’t need to worry about fuel or fumes so it’s #win-win, but never leave a heater on while you sleep since that’s a #bigno-no. It’s simply too risky. 

An electric tent heater 

Obviously, you need access to electricity and a power point when you use an electric heater. Some tents have an e-port so you can easily connect your heater and enjoy feeling warm again. And if your campsite doesn’t have electrical access, invest in a camping generator. 

You also need to use a heavy-duty extension cord so you can avoid a fire risk, and you can’t use these heaters when it’s raining. 

5. Catalytic Tent Heater 

A catalytic tent heater

Instead of electricity, catalytic heaters use a chemical reaction to produce heat. A propane catalytic heater uses low-pressure propane. 

Your tent needs to have plenty of ventilation for this kind of tent heater to be safe to heat your tent. Why? Because you can suffer from asphyxia (become oxygen deprived) since a catalytic heater consumes oxygen.  

Pro Tip: Only use a catalytic heater in a large tent where you have 3’ clearance. That means keep your gear and the tent walls at least that far away from the heater. 

6. Electric Heating Fans and Radiators 

A black electric heating fan

If you have access to electricity, you can heat your tent with an electric heating fan or radiator (aka a space fan). To use these devices safely, keep them away from your tent walls and ensure there’s enough ventilation so the air can circulate. 

Also, look for an electric heating fan and radiator that has safety features like an auto shut off. 

7. Candle Lanterns or Candle Lantern Chandeliers 

A candle lantern is like a camping lantern, except the light and heat comes from a candle or a tea candle. You can also opt for a candle lantern chandelier where 4 candles are used in the lantern. Candles lanterns don’t add a lot of heat to your tent, so they are best for warmth in a small tent. 

A green candle lantern

Remember to be careful with candle lanterns. They can be a safe tent heating option but it depends on how you use them. 

There’s a risk that the candle lantern can fall over and your tent and gear can go up in flames. And there’s also the carbon monoxide toxicity risk. But if your tent is well ventilated and you ensure the candle lantern can’t tip over, the lantern will take the edge off on a cold night. 

8. Use a Dead Campfire (or Heated Coals) 

Use this tent heating method if you don’t mind pitching your tent later than you normally would.

Pro Tip: Light your campfire once you get to your campsite. 


  1. Let the campfire run its course and then put it out before you want to crawl into bed. 
  2. Bury the hot coals. Or dig a trench under the area where you want to pitch your tent, and carefully move the hot coals (from the fire pit) there. 
  3. Ensure there are no embers that can cause a fire hazard. 
  4. Feel the ground. It shouldn’t be too hot. 
  5. Pitch your tent on the ground where you buried the coals. The heat will warm the ground and make its way into your tent, keeping you and your fellow campers warm. 

Pro Tip: Bury the coals deep enough (about 4-6”) so they don’t burn and melt your tent floor, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, or gear. 

9. Solar-Powered Camp Stove

A solar-powered camp stove

You can also use a solar-powered camping stove to heat your tent. You do need the power of the sun to heat up the stove, but once the sunny day turns to night, you can bring the stove inside your tent to warm it up. 

10. Heated Carpets or Rugs

A heated carpet (or heat insulating carpet or rug) is like an electric blanket but for the floor of your tent and sans needing an electric output. One of the biggest benefits of using heated carpets to heat your tent is that you can still lay down a sleeping bag without worrying that you’ll overheat or your sleeping bag will melt. 


  1. Choose the right size and type of heated carpet for your tent heating needs.
  2. Place the heated carpet on the floor of the tent so you don’t lose 20% of the heat inside the tent to the ground. 

Pro Tip: Place a heat reflective mat or foam on the floor and then place the heated carpets on top. This ensures that the cold air from the ground is reflected back to the ground and the heat from the carpet is reflected back to the tent’s interior. 

11. Hot Water Bottles

Heat your tent using hot water bottles. 

Pro Tips: 

  • The larger the bottle, the better. And the more bottles, the better. Many big bottles will retain more heat, meaning your tent will stay warmer for longer. 
  • Choose bottles that can handle the heat. Ordinary plastic bottles won’t work; they’ll simply melt. Rather opt for metal ones.


  • A few water bottles 
  • Water 
  • Old towels or shirts 
  • A campfire 
  • A pot (optional) 


  1. Fill the water bottles with water and screw the lids on. 
  2. Place the bottles near your campfire. 
  3. Let the bottles warm until the water reaches (near) boiling point. 
  4. Use an old towel or shirt to wrap and move the bottle inside your tent. 


  1. Boil water in a pot over the campfire. 
  2. Carefully pour the boiling hot water into the water bottle. 
  3. Wrap the bottle in an old towel and place it inside your camping tent. 

The hot water bottles will slowly emit heat, warming your tent.

12. Hot Stones

Warm your tent’s interior with hot stones. In principle, this works similarly to the hot water bottles. Most of the supplies you can find around your campsite, so the biggest benefit is that you don’t need to carry a lot of extra or heavy gear when you camp in winter. 

Pro Tip: You need about 2 to 3 medium-sized rocks for a 1-person tent. Double the amount for a 2-person tent, and triple it for a 3-person tent. 


  • 1-2 heavy-duty cookie sheets 
  • Some medium-sized 1-2 pound rocks from your campsite 
  • A campfire 
  • A strong stick 
  • Old towels (optional) 

Pro Tip: Get rocks that are super dry. Using rocks from a stream or creek or any that are wet contain water. When you heat water-containing rocks, pressure builds, and #boom. They can explode, and the shrapnel from the rocks can cut and damage your tent (and you!). 


  1. Build your campfire. 
  2. Find some dry rocks around your campsite (or if you have some you always carry around, use these). 
  3. Place the rocks around the campfire (about 10-15 inches away), not in it. 
  4. The rocks will warm up with the heat from the campfire, so when you are ready to turn in, use the strong stick to roll the rocks onto a couple of heavy-duty cookie sheets. 
  5. Carefully carry the sheets with the rocks into your tent and place them on the ground, away from your gear. If the rocks are super hot, place some old towels under the cookie sheets to prevent your tent floor from melting. 

Pro Tip: Don’t have heavy-duty cookie sheets, or forgot them at home? No probs. Just use some old towels or shirts instead. 

The hot rocks will last for about 3 to 4 hours, but they heat up your tent faster than using hot water bottles. 

13. Clay Pots

Okay, so not every camper takes clay pots with them when they go camping. But if you do, you can use them to safely create heat in your tent.

Method 1 to Heat Your Tent with Clay Pots: 

Warm the clay pots in the campfire and then move them to the inside of your camping tent. 

Supplies you need: 

  • A clay pot or two 
  • Coins, foil, or rocks 
  • A campfire 
  • Insulated fireproof gloves
  • Sand 
  • A fireproof surface inside the tent (optional) 


  1. Build a campfire. 
  2. Cover the drainage hole of the clay pots with a coin, a small rock, or foil. 
  3. Fill the clay pots with sand.
  4. Put them next to the campfire so they can warm up. 
  5. When they are warm, put on your insulated fireproof gloves and move the pots inside your tent. 
  6. Place the pots on a fireproof surface if your tent has a floor. You defs don’t want the floor to melt because of the hot pots. Or if you don’t have a tent floor, place the hot clay pots on the ground. 

Over time, the hot clay pots will warm up the inside of your tent. 

Method 2 to Heat Your Tent with Clay Pots: 

Create a makeshift candle lantern with tea lights and clay pots.

Supplies you need: 

  • 4 tea lights (or more, depending on how wide the opening of the pot is) 
  • A fireproof surface inside your tent 
  • 2 clay pots (one small and one large) 


  1. Put the tea lights on the fireproof surface inside your tent. Ensure the surface is flat. 
  2. Light the candles. 
  3. Place the small clay pot over the candles, but don’t completely enclose the tea lights; you need to ensure they get oxygen. 
  4. Now place the larger of the clay pots over the smaller one. 
  5. Put a coin on the drainage hole (if there’s one). 

The pots will warm and then slowly radiate heat to the inside of your tent. 

11 Safety Tips for Heating Your Tent

Any method for heating a tent carries risk, and how safe the heating device is depends on how you use it and whether or not you follow the best practices and safety instructions. 

It’s essential to know that even the safest heater or heating device can be deadly. Here are 3 important whys: 

Why the Safest Tent Heaters and Devices Can Be Deadly 

Depletion of oxygen Heating devices like propane heaters and catalytic heaters can deplete the oxygen in your tent. If you don’t have sufficient oxygen, you can’t breathe, and hypoxia symptoms include a slow heart rate, coma, seizures, and brain death. So ensure your tent is well-ventilated to avoid oxygen depletion. 
Falling over and fire riskAll heating devices can fall over and cause damage to you, your tent, and your gear. Place the heating device on a flat surface and away from your camping bed, gear, and the tent walls. And where possible, buy a heating device with an anti-tip detection feature so it’ll shut off if the device falls over. 
Carbon monoxide poisoning Some heating devices can create copious amounts of carbon monoxide (called the silent killer), which is dangerous (and lethal). Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include vomiting, confusion, and other flu-like symptoms. When you close all the windows, doors, and ventilation openings to trap heat inside, you create a gas chamber where no fresh air can get inside. Carbon monoxide levels quickly rise, and since this gas is colorless and odorless, you won’t even know that the levels are too high before it’s too late. Ensure that carbon monoxide levels stay low with the help of a carbon monoxide detector or alarm, and choose a tent that has good ventilation. 

So to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, oxygen deprivation, and fire hazards, follow these top safety tips when you heat your camping tent during winter: 

  1. Read the instructions manual of the heating device you opt for and follow these safety instructions carefully to ensure you and your fellow campers stay safe. 
  2. Look for safety features when buying tenth heating devices such as tent heaters. Safety features include a top-over shut off, overheat protection, and a low-oxygen sensor alarm or shut off. 
  3. Invest in a carbon monoxide alarm or detector when you use tent heaters that create carbon monoxide. 
  4. Make sure the heating device is placed on a flat surface to minimize the risk of it falling over. 
  5. Only use tent heating devices in tents that are well-ventilated
  6. Opt for a hot tent that is designed for wooden camping stoves. 
  7. Ensure the heating device isn’t near tent walls, your sleeping bag or bed, or your gear. Follow clearance recommendations by placing tent heating devices in safe and appropriate spots in your tent. 
  8. Don’t leave a gas, electrical, or candle-powered heating device on when you go to bed. You should supervise these devices when they are on
  9. Use a heating device that’s in good working condition
  10. Buy tent heating devices that are designed to be used indoors or inside tents specifically. 
  11. Besides heating your tent during cold weather conditions, firstly, keep yourself warm

9 Bonus Tips for Keeping Warm While Camping

It’s not just the inside of the tent you need to warm and keep warm. You also need to keep yourself warm, which will be a god-send when you camp out in winter (or when there’s a cold front). 

1. Choose a Good Campsite

A campsite with multiple tents in snowy mountains

A natural way to help you stay warm(er) when you camp during fall and winter is to choose the right campsite. Unfortunately, not all campsites are the same when it comes to keeping you warm. 

When you heat your tent, you don’t want that heat to escape – or not all of it. So choose a campsite that helps you keep your tent heated. 

Pitching a tent on a mountain top is great for the views but not so great for tent heating. The exposed environment, higher altitude, and higher winds are a big no-no. 

A much better campsite option to retain tent heat is a low-altitude spot, preferably near trees that act as natural windbreakers. Your tent will be quite shielded from wind, ensuring any heat you generate inside the tent can stay there for longer. 

2. Buy the Right Tent for Cold Climates

A man with a headlight and a dog sit in front of a green tent at night

Another way to keep warm is to buy a camping tent that’s made for cold climates. You want to opt for a 4-season tent or winter tent, but ensure the tent you buy is designed for warmth retention in harsh weather. 

In general, 4-season tents can withstand strong winds and substantial snow loads. They are also made from durable fabrics and are often double-walled or have insulation qualities to keep warmth inside. 

3. Buy a Good Quality Sleeping Bag

A man stands on a rocky trail way and holds an orange sleeping bag on his shoulders

You can keep yourself warm while you sleep or chill inside the tent by investing in a good quality and weather appropriate sleeping bag. The sleeping bag should be rated for the temperature you are going camping in; however, note that these temp ratings aren’t 100% accurate. The ratings are estimates. 

When you camp in cold climates, you need a sleeping bag that has a temperature rating of 20℉ (-7℃) or lower. 

You can also add an inner sleeping bag or foot warming bag if you aren’t sure how much the temps drop at night.

4. Connect Sleeping Bags

Another way you and your partner can keep warm in your camping tent is to connect your sleeping bags. It’s all about shared warmth and body heat. 

The bad news is that not many sleeping bags are made to zip together, so look for zips on the opposite sides so you can connect the bags. Alternatively, buy a couple’s sleeping bag.

5. Use an Electric Blanket

You can also use an electric blanket, which operates at a min temperature of 77℉ (25℃) and a max temperature of 118℉ (48℃), to keep you warm while you sleep. 

The main cons about using an electric blanket while camping are that you need to be close to a power source to plug the heating device in and the cord needs to be long enough. You can, however, buy a battery-powered electric blanket. 

Pro Tips: 

  • Buy an electric blanket that has an auto shut-off so you don’t overheat if you forget to switch the blanket off. 
  • Place the electric blanket on top of your sleeping bag and not inside it. This ensures you don’t generate too much heat. 

6. Wear Appropriate Winter Clothing

You can “insulate” yourself too to keep warm. Besides, heating your tent ain’t gonna do you much good if you aren’t dressed appropriately for the cold weather.

Get some long johns or thermal undies, a hat or beanie, and wool socks (or some made from other insulative materials). You can even put gloves on and sleep with them if it gets that cold. 

Pro Tip: Layer up. When you get too hot, you can easily remove some layers until you are comfortable and add more layers when you need to again. 

7. Use a Sleeping Pad

An inflatable sleeping mat

If you don’t or can’t insulate the floor of the tent, know that the cold ground pulls your body heat away, and soon you’ll feel that surface-level feel-it-in-your-bones chill, which you can’t easily or quickly get rid off. 

So opt for a sleeping pad or air mattress to put as much distance between you and the cold floor. This will make a world of difference. 

8. Eat and Drink Something Hot

Human hands pour coffee from a thermos into its cup

Warm your internal body temperature by eating and/or drinking something hot. Think soups, coffee, tea, and anything else you can warm up with your campfire or camping stove. 

You can also warm your hands when you hold a mug of your favorite hot beverage. (Hot cocoa, anyone?) 

9. Cuddle

An easy way to warm up is to cuddle. But you need another person or a furry pal! 

So snuggle and spoon with your partner or doggie bestie.

A cuddling couple wraps up in a blanket

Tent Heating FAQs

Can you safely heat your tent during winter?

You can safely heat your camping tent during winter. Buy a hot tent and use a wood stove, insulate your tent, pitch your tent over heated coals or a dead campfire, or use hot water bottles, a tent heater, hot stones, clay pots, candle lanterns, or a space heater to warm up the inside of your tent. 

What is the best way to heat a tent? 

The best way to heat a tent is the safest way to heat up the tent’s interior. Insulate the tent floor, walls, and roof, dress warmly, use a sleeping pad and sleeping bag suited for cold weather, buy a 4-season camping tent, and choose a campsite where you’re naturally protected from cold wind. 

What’s the best way to keep warm and heat my tent without electricity? 

If you don’t have access to electricity while camping, keep warm and heat your tent by using a smaller tent, insulating the tent, keeping yourself warm, using hot water bottles or hot stones, setting the tent up over a burned out campfire, using a camping stove, and lighting candle lanterns. 

Should I use a candle to heat my tent? 

You should never use a candle (or a dozen candles) to heat your tent. Candles can easily fall over and set fire to you, your gear, and your tent. It’s best to use a safe candle lantern or candle lantern chandelier or claypots and tea candles to generate heat inside your tent.

Alex Buchnev

Alex Buchnev

Alex loves kayaking, fishing, and all things outdoors. When he's not out there in the wild, he's probably typing away at his laptop or trying to be the world's best father for his two lovely daughters.

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