Campfire in snow


10 Tips for Keeping Warm in Your Tent/Swag While Camping

Do you end up freezing cold in your tent every time you go camping? I know from personal experience how unpleasant this can be - it’s enough to put you off going camping altogether!

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. By employing a few simple techniques, it’s not that hard to keep yourself warm in your tent in winter! Here are my top ten tips to help you stay warm on your next trip.

Tips For Keeping Warm In Your Tent

#1 - Choose Your Campsite Wisely

Undoubtedly, this is the first and biggest mistake that inexperienced campers tend to make.

The location of your campsite makes a big difference on the temperature of the air outside your tent, and therefore the heat loss from the inside of your tent to the air. Keep the following in mind when choosing a site:

  • Stay close to dense vegetation and trees which can act as a shelter from the wind;
  • In the cooler months, stay away from large lakes and rivers that may trap the cold and chill the surrounding air;
  • Avoid camping in valleys or depressions as the air will be cooler here (camping here is not a good idea anyway, as rainwater will accumulate in depressions)

#2 - Insulate Your Tent

Even if you are doing everything else right, your tent may be letting you down and not providing adequate protection from the cold. There’s a few things that you can do to improve the insulating ability of your tent.

Firstly, make sure that you have a tent with an appropriate season rating. 4 season tents tend to be thicker and better suited to cold weather than regular tents (which are typically 2 or 3 season).

Next, you’d want to ensure you’ve pitched the tent properly, keeping the rainfly off the inner tent, thereby creating an extra insulating layer or air between you and the outside.

If you want to go even further, you can optimise the insulation by adding extra sleeping mats to the tent floor. The ground is stone-cold during winter, so some foam mats can go a long way to keeping the heat in your tent. If purchasing a new mat, look for one with a higher R-value, as this corresponds to better insulation.

If you don’t have a mat handy, picnic blankets or even spare clothes can work here. In a worst-case scenario, you can pile up some leaf debris under your tent to add insulation.

#3 - Use the Right Sleeping Bag

As you might have guessed, your sleeping bag makes one of the biggest differences to how cold you’ll be in your tent.

Make sure that your sleeping bag has a suitable temperature rating (a lower temperature rating corresponds to a warmer sleeping bag). Also make sure your sleeping bag fits your body snugly and isn’t too big or small.

Sleeping Bag

The sleeping bag should be clean and dry to ensure that the synthetic insulation works properly. The loft should expand freely upon unpacking the bag. If your sleeping bag got dirty on your last trip, be sure to wash it properly before heading out again.

As a further measure, consider getting a sleeping bag liner to maximise heat retention.

#4 - Make Sure You Dress in Layers

When it comes to cold weather camping, dressing in single heavy layers is no good. While you may work up a sweat from activities during the day, things will quickly turn cold at night once you settle down.

As soon as the temperature starts to drop in the late afternoon, you’ll want to start adding some extra layers before you start losing too much body heat.

The best way to go about this is with a set of three or four different layers of clothes – base and mid-layers plus shells. That way, you’ll have optimal control over your body temperature.

Still, you’ll have to watch out for over-heating and sweating under all of the layers. If you let yourself get too hot and sweaty under the layers, you’ll want to strip off some clothing. This is dangerous as when this sweat cools, it can become icy cold and send you straight to the other end of the spectrum.

Take care to add and subtract layers before you get too hot or cold.

#5 - Take off Sweaty Clothing

This ties in with the last tip. If your clothes do end up getting sweaty, take them off and change into fresh clothes as soon as possible. In cold enough conditions, sweat can even freeze on your clothes, which is the last thing you need.

What you can do to prevent this is to remove your sweaty layers as soon as possible. While doing it may sound hard in such cold conditions, it is crucial to keeping your core temperature up.

#6 - Use the Hot Water Bottle Trick

Perhaps, you’ve already heard about filling a bottle with hot water and placing it at your toes. This method can certainly help, but it’s even better if you put it at your groin.

That way, you can heat your blood and get it travelling throughout your body much more efficiently.

Hot Water Bottle

Of course, it’s always a good idea to be extra cautious when dealing with hot water. Only use high quality hot water bottles that are undamaged.

#7 - Never Go to Bed Cold

One of the things you absolutely must know when going camping in winter is to never go to bed cold. Going to bed cold is dangerous - you put yourself at risk of getting seriously sick.

If you do feel cold before turning in for the night, do a quick exercise routine before getting into your sleeping bag. A few jumping jacks or similar will quickly get your body warm and your blood flowing.

Just make sure you don’t start sweating, or else you’ll create more problems than solutions!

#8 - Don’t Forget to Eat and Drink

Another great tip for staying warm is to snack constantly. Eating will help keep your digestive system working around the clock.

What’s more, foods high in fats and proteins will burn slower, sustaining heat longer at night. Sticking to those simple eating habits when camping in winter will significantly improve your body’s heat efficiency.

Camping Food

Also, make sure you hydrate yourself to ensure your body functions without a hassle. Dehydration puts strain on your body and therefore your ability to stay warm. Of course, room temperature water or even a cup of tea is a better idea than ice water or a cold drink.

#9 - Use Portable Heaters (With Caution)

Sometimes, despite your efforts to stay warm, winter camping can just be too cold to handle, especially if you’re inexperienced. If this is the case, a portable heater can be a real lifesaver. However, it’s a good idea to take extra care and follow all the necessary safety precautions.

Avoid leaving any heating on for long periods unattended or while you’re sleeping. Remember that gas heaters consume oxygen and produce some carbon monoxide during combustion, so they require plenty of ventilation.

It’s best to not use them inside your tent directly, but rather outside the tent. If you ever decide to use them in an enclosed space, make sure you use a carbon monoxide alarm.

#10 - Keep Some Extra Blankets

Last but not least, keeping a few extra blankets on hand won’t hurt anyone. Depending on where you are, your sleeping bag may not be enough.

That’s why you should always have a few extra throws, preferably made of fleecy thermal fabric. They will make a huge difference when it’s time for bed.

Final Thoughts

By using a few simple techniques, you can turn a nightmare camping trip into a cosy winter experience. I hope that they are useful for you on your next trip!

If you have any more tips and tricks to add, please leave a comment below! If it’s a good tip, I’ll add it to this list.

This article may contain affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product or service after clicking on my link. This helps pay for the cost of running the website. You will not be disadvantaged in any way by using my links.

Note that while every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, there may sometimes be errors. Check all specifications with the manufacturer before purchasing any product.


While Louis does most of his trips near his home in south-east Queensland, he has been camping as far afield as South America and Africa. He loves researching, testing and experimenting with camping gear whenever possible.

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