How to Insulate a Tent for Winter – Best Ideas

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Last Update: 21.Mar.2020

by Willie Test

Camping

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Just because the mercury is dropping and snow is starting to fall doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors. Thanks to smaller crowds, no bugs, and cooler temperatures, winter can be one of the best times of year to head out and enjoy the great outdoors.

But, sleeping outdoors in the winter has a major inherent challenge: staying warm. While many people shy away from camping in the colder months of the year, it actually isn’t too difficult to stay warm at night – if you know what to do.

Thankfully, we’re here to help. Coming up, we’ve got your ultimate guide to insulating a tent for winter camping. Let’s get to it! 

How does tent insulation work?

When we sleep outside, we leave behind the creature comforts of insulated walls and space heaters for a chance to get back to basics. But, a tent can be a cold place to sleep in on a frigid winter night. 

So, to help us stay warm in the winter, we can insulate our tents against the cold. If you’re wondering how to insulate a tent for winter camping, however, you’re not alone. In fact, many people aren’t really sure how tent insulation works in the first place.

Simply put, tent insulation is anything you use to protect the occupants of your tent against cold air. A fully insulated tent works by trapping your warm body heat inside of the tent instead of letting it float off into space. Essentially, all tent insulation does is reflect our body heat back toward us. That’s it.

Best ideas to insulate a tent

Know that you know how insulating a tent works, let’s talk about the best ways to go about doing so. Basically, tent insulation is all about the materials you use. The better the materials, the warmer you’ll be at night. 

Unfortunately, there aren’t really any good commercially available unpack-and-go solutions that you can buy at a gear store to insulate your tent. Instead, you’ll have to get a little crafty. Here are some of our best ideas for staying warm during those winter months:

  1. Don’t bring a huge tent. While having extra space in your tent at night might be a bit luxurious, it’s inefficient when it comes to staying warm. The more “dead air” space in your tent, the more air your body heat needs to keep warm to stay at a good temperature. If you bring a smaller tent, you won’t lose as much body heat to the space around you. It’s that simple.
  2. Use a sleeping pad. For many of us, bringing a sleeping pad is a no-brainer. Sleeping pads help make a night on the hard ground way more comfortable, so we probably don’t want to leave it at home anyway. However, it’s always worth reiterating that a sleeping pad not only keeps you comfortable, but helps you stay warm. The ground is quite cold, especially in the winter, so we lose a lot of body heat just by lying down on it. If we insulate ourselves from the ground, we can stay much warmer at night while we snooze.
  3. Get a winter sleeping bag. That forty-degree sleeping bag you have might be awesome for the summer, but it’s just not going to cut it when the temperatures drop. Indeed, depending on the temperatures you might face on your trip, you’ll want to bring a bag that’s rated down to zero degrees Fahrenheit or even colder. The warmer your sleeping bag, the warmer you’ll be. 
  4. Pitch your tent strategically. If you pitch your tent right in the middle of the windiest place in camp, you’ll not only get to enjoy the sound of your fly flapping against your head all night, but you’ll get to shiver as the wind roars through your tent. Pitching your tent in an area with a natural windbreak, such as large boulders or in a stand of trees can help reduce the amount of wind that sucks critical heat from your body at night.
  5. Put a hat on. While it’s more or less common knowledge that we lose most of our body heat through our heads, it turns out that fact isn’t completely true. In fact, the only reason we lose so much heat from the top of our heads is because we didn’t have them covered to begin with.

Even though we layer up with jackets and long johns, we often forget to protect our heads. So, do yourself a favor and put that hat on. You won’t regret it.

How to insulate the tent walls

When it comes to actually insulating your tent itself, instead of better protecting yourself, you have a number of options. The first thing you can do is create insulated tent walls by using an insulated tent cover.

To create an insulated tent cover, all you need to do is get reflective foil, like what you’d find in space blankets or even the reflective windshield covers for cars. If you find a way to rig these together, either by sewing or taping them into a cohesive whole, you’ve got an insulated tent cover!

How to insulate the tent floor

Perhaps the easiest part of insulating your tent is to make insulated tent floors. Doing so is relatively simple, and you’ve got a few different techniques that you can try out.

Using a sleeping pad is one way to insulate your tent floor with minimal effort. But, if you find that this just isn’t enough, you can try using large sheets of closed-cell reflective foam, which you can buy on the cheap from Amazon. 

Generally, this reflective foam comes in large rolls, so you can cut and shape the foam to best fit your tent. Alternatively, you can use carpet sections or rugs to create an insulated tent floor without breaking the bank.

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