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How To Keep Warm Camping In A Tent

Camping Blog Camping with Style | Active, Outdoors & Glamping Blog

As the days start getting longer, camping is always the first thing on my mind. Spending time outdoors and under canvas is a joy, and I can’t wait for the first camping trip of the year to come round. The other day I was asked a question that got me thinking and prompted this article, the question was “Is March too cold to camp?”

keeping warm in a tent

Is early spring or late autumn too cold to go camping in the UK?

This is a tough one to answer, as it depends on lots of things, but generally camping in spring and autumn can be a challenge. Let’s take March as an example. The average daily temperature in March is between 2 degrees and 9 degrees, and with temperatures dropping substantially lower over night, in terms of camping, that is pretty chilly.

However, I have camped as early as the end of February and as late as November in the UK. On both occasions the temperature was in minus figures, and it was so cold that there was ice on the tent and my butane gas canisters were partially frozen and too cold to operate. Despite everything (thermal layers, down sleeping bag, duvet, hot water bottle etc.) I got very little sleep as I spent all night shivering, my teeth, literally chattering. It sucked.

For comfortable camping I would recommend waiting until the end of April or early May, by which time the daytime temperatures will be into double figures, and camping no later than the start of October – BUT that doesn’t mean you have to confine camping to only the warmer months. If you fancy camping earlier or later in the season, you’ll need to invest in the right gear and a do a bit of planning.

camping warm

We normally camp from about April/May onwards, when most camp sites start to re-open again, but don’t be fooled into thinking this means it’s ideal camping weather! Being cold at night can make for a miserable camping experience, so assuming you aren’t short on space (my tips are utterly useless if you’re a backpacker and need to carry everything with you), there are lots of things you can do to ensure you spend a snug, cosy night under canvas.

How To Keep Warm Camping In A Tent

  • Pay attention to where you pitch your tent, out in the open and you will be at the mercy of the wind, so try and choose a sheltered position if possible
  • Don’t underestimate how cold it gets in the UK at night in spring and early summer, even if you think those 2 hot water bottles and extra jumpers are overkill, you’ll be thankful for them!
  • Invest in the best quality sleeping bag you can afford, and make sure it is a 3 or 4 season bag
  • Mummy style sleeping bags are more effective at trapping body heat
  • For those who prefer less restrictive envelope style sleeping bags, make sure you have additional blankets
  • Taking a duvet along to pop on top of your sleeping bag will ensure you are kept snug and warm, down filled duvets are best
  • Never get into bed cold, you will remain cold so layer up your clothing as soon as you start to get chilly
  • Have a warm drink before you get into bed
  • Make sure that all tent windows and doors are fully closed so no additional breeze can get inside the tent
  • Take a kettle and stove camping and use a hot water bottle to warm up your sleeping bag
  • Never sleep directly on the floor
  • Invest in a thick, warm pair of pyjamas for camping
  • Wear thermals (top and leggings/long johns) under your pyjamas – when camping I rarely sleep without thermals on at night, even in summer
  • Always wear thermal or thick cosy bed socks at night
  • If you have a mummy bag, make sure you pull it tight around you head to minimise heat loss
  • If you are not using a mummy bag, or don’t like pulling it tight around your head, wear a beanie hat to sleep in to help prevent heat lost through your head, it really does make a difference
  • Take a fleece hoody or jumper that you can pop on top of your pyjamas in case you get really cold during the night
  • If you forget extra layers or blankets, improvise and lay thick sweaters or coats on top of you
  • A thermal reflective layer under your bed or self inflating mat will help to trap heat
  • If you are using a camp bed that is raised off the floor, use the space under it to put clothing, bags, kit and so on. This will help stop cold from the ground reaching you
  • Portable heaters although tempting should be used with extreme caution! Even if you camp with a EHU and are planning on using an electric heater, just like portable gas heaters you will still need to take extra care and follow safety advice. Portable gas heaters are available but should be used with great caution. Gas heaters should NOT be used in an enclosed space and you must have plenty of ventilation. Please use common sense and follow the manufacturers safety advice, do not ever leave a gas heater unattended, don’t use one inside your tent or in any un-ventilated area and you must also make sure you are using a carbon monoxide alarm. Take a look at the safety advice from The Camping and Caravanning club Carbon Monoxide safety advice.
  • Don’t let any of your kit get damp, this will only leach heat away from you
  • For anyone who has joint conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, cold isn’t just unpleasant, it can be very painful.  Always take a few disposable single-use heat pads with you, they can be popped into pockets, socks or gloves and can make a big difference
  • If you have a perpetually warm partner, consider using a double bed and sleeping bag to steal some of their heat
  • If you wake up shivering in the night, it might seem counter intuitive, but get out of bed, move around and get the blood flowing. Put the kettle on and refill your hot water bottle, then get back into bed
  • Sheepskins are excellent insulators, and when I use a camp bed, I always use a large sheepskin rug to lie on top of. They provide a much needed layer of insulation and are very effective at keeping you warm but investing in a good quality modern SIM will provide you with much needed extra insulation

FieldCandy Explorer Tent

Share Your Tips

How do you stay warm when you camp? Are you a hardy camper and happy to camp in the middle of winter? What keep-warm camping kit could you not do without? Let us know in the comments below!

DISCLAIMER: Camping with Style do not endorse or recommend using any gas appliances inside your tent. All gas appliances should be used with great caution and manufacturers recommendations should always be followed. Even when using portable gas appliances in a well ventilated area, we strongly recommend you take additional safety measures including the use of a Carbon Monoxide alarm.

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