Some background links to Aravona's question here. Basically I am her other half and over the course of the night the tent was opened many times. As people will know opening a tent in the wee hours of the morning will lose all the heat accumulated through the day and take a long time to warm back up. It warming up is nearly impossible if a certain someone has to keep leaving, bolting for open ground.

My question is this: What methods / equipment can be used to warm a tent up rather quickly?

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    I find the expelling of bodily gasses helps... :)
    – user2766
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 15:20
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    The tent's main purpose is not really to hold in warm air, it's to keep you from getting rained on and keep the wind off your face. Insulation is primarily the job of your sleeping bag and pad, and secondarily of any long underwear, socks, hat, etc., that you wear to bed. If you're too cold, you basically need a better bag and pad. It's not normal to heat a tent, and there is no easy way to do it.
    – user2169
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 15:58
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    @Dynadin: From what I've endured, having your other-half there is a sure-fire way of not feeling warmth in a tent. Instead of the mythical benefits of "cuddling for warmth" my experiences have all been akin to having icy daggers envelop my body with no amount of squirming or flailing adequate to loosen their cyanotic grasp. Maybe others have fared better.
    – Niall
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 22:37
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    i'll post as a comment to tell you how to not do it, i turned on my stove in my tent to heat it up in winter, but one day my tent catched fire and consequently it burned all of the stuff inside. So my tip, don't heat it with your stove
    – Jeredepp
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 9:00
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    All I could think about after reading your other half's post, was what my wife would think, if after a night of her puking, my primary concern was about her letting in the cold air...
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 22:29

9 Answers 9


Basically you should never find yourself in such a situation under normal circumstances. Tents are supposed to keep you warm, and not the other way round. If you are doing that more often then I'd say you have the wrong gear being used at the wrong place. Yet, there may rise a situation when you need to do it, there are ways to do it, but honestly you'll need to be very careful and cautious about them. Firstly, Larger tents require more heating, and require more insulation to keep the heat in.

  1. The weather will keep on making it cold, so I'll say as a preventive measure you should try and arrange something that can keep you warm, and then may be think about having something that keeps the whole tent warm from inside. Its always necessary to have a insulation between you and the ground, you can do that by means of using air mattresses and inflatable sleeping pads, these are convenient to carry. This was more like a corrective measure just in case if you fail to keep your tent warm.
  2. As an additional measure you can put a lukewarm water bottle in the sleeping bag before getting into bed.
  3. You can built a small fire in front of the tent at a distance with a flat rock set up as a heat reflector. Wake up once in a while and check if everything is good and in control. But IMHO, You sleep way better when not having to worry about your heat source sometimes. I do this when its absolutely cold, and I am no longer able to sleep.
  4. You could consider a newly introduced thing called a catalytic heater or this that are safe to use in an enclosed area, and are made specifically for car camping when things get cold. You'll need to take care of the ventilation though.

But IMHO, I'd certainly count on my sleeping gear and body warmers more than these products.

  • 1
    +1 for insulating yourself from the cold, cold ground. When we go camping, we spend some time boiling water around bedtime and put the hot water in our nalgene bottles, which we then put inside our sleeping bags (I put mine at my feet, since they get coldest). If I get lucky, the bottle is still warm-ish when I wake up in the morning!
    – soph-e
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 15:55
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    No gas/propane is safe inside as carbon monoxide can be produced and in a small enclosed space can kill. All Season Hybrid Sleeping Bags are much safer.
    – Mapperz
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 17:33
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    Often winter campers will have an ultralight wood stove arrangement for a hot tent, but such setups usually include adaptations to the tent (e.g. a chimney). IMO the CO risk is somewhat overblown, especially with modern stoves and well-ventilated tents. One must still be very careful!
    – requiem
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 21:08
  • That catalytic heater specifically says it requires ventilation. Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 21:21
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    @FreeAsInBeer: They do need ventilation and I believe that when you consider sleeping in the tent, you have already taken care of that for you. There is subtle difference between ventilation and Outlet for air if I may call it so.
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 6:50

One way I was taught in the uk armed forces (a very long time ago) was to use dry rocks.

Heat the rock in your camp fire, then carefully just before bed time, place the rock inside your shelter, the rock releases it's heat slowly and acts very much like a radiator producing a consistent source of dry heat.

A word of warning though

this method was never designed with polyester tents in mind, it was designed more for the hand made shelters that you may build in a survival situation, and where the heated rocks would be placed on bare earth.

With a little bit of common sense however, for example place the hot rock on some logs or a layer of thick sticks, and not allowing it to touch portions of the tent that prolonged contact with t may melt, then you should be pretty much ok.

The heat it will generate will be dry dissipated heat such as would be obtained from a radiator or convection heater, so should not in any way damage the tent, also make sure that you heat rocks that are 100% dry, if there is any moisture at all in them then you run the risk of them cracking and even exploding in the fire, it's not funny when it happens either, I know from experience!!

It's not a perfect solution, and it does take you a few hours to heat the rocks up, then you also need a suitable way to carry them, because they WILL burn flesh quite easily, but if done with care, it will work and should work well.

Update - 23/9/2014

I was just re-reading this, when I remembered something else that's of use in this situation.

Many of you who do outdoor type stuff might carry with your supplies some of those reflective Mylar survival blankets (Like the type rescuers use when they rescue people who are hypothermic).

Whats often not realized though is these things are not just good for wrapping yourself in, but, if you use a bit of duct tape fashioned into a loop you can stick them up on the inside of your tent above your head and up the sides.

Beacuse of the reflective properties a lot of the heat that rises from things like body heat, or other heat sources in the tent, gets immediately reflected back down over back into the main tent space.

Also because of the general thermal properties of Mylar, any heat that does make it through will be a lot less than any heat that would escape directly through the polyester/canvas on it's own.


  • 4
    i wouldn't recommend this, as the stones you'll find will most likely crack up/explode. In an emergency as a last resort yes, but i'd definitely wouldn't use this as best practice. Worst case is that the stone cools down and cracks in the process, have fun with all those hot rocks in your tent.
    – Jeredepp
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 13:28
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    @shawty but how does one find dry rocks except your in a dry area? Rocks in a forest or in the mountains will most likely be damp
    – Jeredepp
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 17:09
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    @jeredepp not always. if you pick rocks up that have been lying in the soil, then the bases will will be damp but the rest will likely be ok. You have two choices with these, support them so that air can circulate around them underneath, with the damp side facing upwards. You can also dry them under your fire, make whats called a kiln pit, which is a chamber located a safe distance from the main fire and connected by a tunnel, you need it short enough so as to not let the air cool down too much but long enough so as any rocks don't demolish your fire
    – shawty
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 14:13
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    dig the pit in the ground in dry earth, place the rocks in it then seal the top, usually with logs and a large heavy boulder. The warm air makes it's way through from your fire pit close by and dry's the rocks out gradually, not suddenly and explosively as would happen if placed directly in the fire. Finally, if your in a rocky area, there will be many rocks that have lain loose a-top of other rocks, that have had sufficient air around them and less time in the ground and will be mostly safe to place around a camp fire to warm up.
    – shawty
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 14:16
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    bottom line: if your happy placing any rocks around your campfire (even just to hold it in and stop it spreading) then those rocks are perfectly fine to use as radiators. If there going to explode, they explode while being heated, not while cooling down (Well not unless you cool them too rapidly)
    – shawty
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 14:18

First of all a tent is made from two thin layers of fabric, expecting it to have sufficient thermal efficiency to retain heat, even with the door closed is perhaps a bit ambitious. Any heat built up in the daytime will be long gone before it even gets to the wee hours. A tent is a shelter that keeps off the rain and the wind, nothing more.

Since any attempt to retain heat is utterly futile, the only way to actually warm the tent is to produce heat faster than it dissipates. The quickest way to do that (here I assume large family tent) is to put the cooker on. Alternatively gas lanterns are dual purpose, producing heat as well as light. Both of these come with a word of extreme caution though. Fire + Tent + People + Alcohol = Disaster waiting to happen. Once these are switched off the temperature will drop sharply, even with the door closed.

Since you're talking about the 'wee hours', when you're in bed presumably and putting the cooker or lantern on isn't an option, then perhaps a better wording for your question would have been "How to stay warm in a tent". The simple answer to this is to get a better sleeping bag and ground insulation. Being too warm is a nicer problem than being too cold.

I'm not one for putting extra layers on to go to bed, so I have a 3 season synthetic fill bag, (rated down to 0 degrees) for the warmer months and a 4 season goose down bag for the winter (rated down to -20 degrees). I've found these work perfectly for the UK.

There are plenty of 2 season bags in the shops, but I'd only recommend these for warmer climates than the UK. Any sleeping bag will deteriorate over time, so I'd recommend getting one that is a little too warm at the beginning of it's life, then it's good for ten or more years.

My 4 season bag is super lush and cosy (and expensive) but ironically is actually only a one season bag, winter, it's simply too warm at any other time of year. So whilst advocating thicker sleeping bags on one hand, I'd also say that there is definitely a point where that will become overkill.

My girlfriend didn't make it as far as the door, that's a different story. All I can say is that sleeping bags with synthetic insulation can be cleaned far more easily than down filled ones. They also will still have some thermal efficiency even when wet.

P.S. I also answered your girlfriends previous question, sounds like you had a good time lol. Hope the weather was kind, I've since camped in north wales in the rain on a swamped campsite, ha ha. :-)

  • sorry didn't see your answer on the (my) linked question? Would be glad if you have knowledge to share on my fiance and I's experience
    – Aravona
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 14:51
  • Was it you asked about putting up a tent in the rain? Maybe I'm confusing you with another user.
    – RogerB
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 18:17
  • Yes that was me sorry! I thought you were referring the question linked, as this wasn't the same trip :)
    – Aravona
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 18:29

To warm a tent, you need to produce more heat. There is a fun way to do this if you're sharing with another person. If this question is aimed at settling an argument with your girlfriend, I would definitely advocate this method. Other than generating more heat with your body, you could burn fossil fuels (risky, poisonous) or use an electric heating element (risky, battery operated).

If you're looking at heat loss from the tent, you either need to make sure the minimum heat escapes when you open the door (e.g. by not opening it if possible), or to make the tent a better insulator. Making the tent out of a thicker material like canvas may go some way to keeping the heat in, or using a foil / mylar covering that reflects the heat back in. As you lose most of your heat through the ground, making the groundsheet from an insulating material would make any heat produced in the tent stick around for longer.

  • 6
    If this question is aimed at settling an argument with your girlfriend, I would definitely advocate this method. If you can keep this method going well enough to keep warm all night, then you're a better man than I.
    – user2169
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 3:15
  • Actually it was based on my being sick all night and having to keep leaving the tent to vomit - stated in the question via a link - not an argument, but thanks so much for the assumption!
    – Aravona
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 6:58

I spent every night in my tent with temperatures between -15 °C to -35 °C. However, I only have a sleeping bag for +3 °C. This is how I keep myself warm anyway:

  • I have a crappy foamy which I put inside my bag
  • I put a huge pile of pine branches and ...
  • ... a blanket on top of that underneath me
  • I have 2 1-quart paint cans which I fill with tea light candles
  • I wear 2 pairs of socks, shoes, long john's shorts, t-shirt, sweater, regular coat, a cotton vest, a downfill coat, 2 tooks and 1 pair of gloves
  • Wow. Why wouldn't you just get a decent sleeping bag? Are you traveling ultra light? Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 4:12

A lot of good and correct things have been said here. However I want to add something:

When I used to sleep in a tent, I took a UCO candle lantern (http://www.amazon.de/Relags-UCO-Kerzenlaterne/dp/B0028BY9N8) to give me light, but also heat. It works similar to the hot stone, but is much more safe and easy to operate.

If the tent is good enough, this small and quite safe to use, lantern, will heat up your tent quite quickly.

In general you can also say: The smaller the tent, the more warm it will get.


You don't.

The tent is not an insulated structure. It protects from the wind and the rain.

Inside your tent, you need insulation, such as a sleeping bag or warm clothes. That's what you warm up. A good trick to warm your sleeping bag is to fill a nalgene with boiling water, put it in a sock, and put that in your sleeping bag. It'll be toasty for hours.

I spent 7 field seasons camping for 5 weeks each on Mt Erebus, Antarctica. Inside the tent it's usually well below freezing, and that's fine. For warmth, you are either wearing clothes (down booties for the win!), or in a sleeping bag.

I also have done some high-altitude mountaineering in the Cascades and the Andes, and the same rules hold. A warm tent is generally an annoyance that happens due to the greenhouse effect in the morning if you're not climbing for whatever reason.

edit: Ok so... I remembered that there is at least one couple that likes to warm up their tent on Erebus, for reasons. They use a stove, but these are Scott tents that we cook in all the time. The thing is, there is extreme danger of carbon monoxide poisioning and we've had some close calls so you're actually supposed to have the tent door open whenever the stove is on, which means it's cold. This couple breaks that rule. Never ever light a stove in a tent and then lie down for a rest... if you fall asleep, there is a very good chance you won't be waking up.


You can dig a hole then burn wood in it when it turns to coals put dirt back on it then tent over that believe me it works good

  • 3
    This would work, but at the expense of disrupting the ground and scotching the soil. For the most part I think we try to encourage Leave no Trace ethics here.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 22:14
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    @ShemSeger true except ashes are really good for the soil in general, but leave no trace would be better, this is a lot of effort for something that would only occur potentially, IE. if I was sick again :)
    – Aravona
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 9:57
  • 1
    @Aravona - Ashes are good add to soil, yes. Burning the soil isn't, the ashes aren't going to benefit soil that's had all of it's nutrients burnt right out of it.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 16:38
  • 1
    Would you not be in danger of melting or burning the tent floor?
    – bobbym
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 12:41

The question is how to quickly warm a tent.

Answer is: use the most efficient way to turn material into heat energy, which will speedily bring up the temperature in the tent.

I have used a fuel stove to warm the air inside the tent before, the draw back on this is that you need to bring extra fuel. This method is only suitable for certain type of fuel stoves - the one that burns fuel thoroughly because carbon monoxide is poisonous & it does not heat up the ground below because you don't want a hole on the floor of your tent. Also the roof of your tent need to be high enough so the naked flame would not affect it.

There are portable heaters that you can buy that run on the same bottled gas you use for camp cooking. It uses the identical principle - turning fuel into heat energy. There are quite a few youtube videos on that: (1, 2 ...). But if you use a stove, you can put it to other uses while warming yourself: i.e. brewing yourself a cup of tea which you also can use to quickly make yourself feel warmer.

  • Anyone that tells you to use a heater in a tent is giving you dangerously bad advice, the reason behind this is here: Worst case scenario you’ll slip into a state of unconsciousness and die of asphyxiation. Depending on the concentration in the air, this will all happen in less than 3 minutes. Low concentration can still make you sick though – headache, nausea, dizziness, increased heart rate, and convulsions are all symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Don't use heaters in tents.
    – The Helper
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 2:07
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    This is extremely dangerous advice (as you partly wrote yourself in the answer) both because there is no such thing as "totally clean" fuel combustion and you're using a burning stove in a tent, which burns pretty quickly.
    – imsodin
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 9:35
  • @TheHelper It's fairly safe - there are portable heaters run on same bottled gas for camping. Stove and heaters use the same principle - convert fuel into heat. As long as there is no leak, I don't see why it could be dangerous if operated properly. You should tell people to stop using gas at home, because according to you, it's highly dangerous and you can die from asphyxiation.
    – TelKitty
    Commented Jun 24, 2018 at 12:19
  • @imsodin There is also no tent that does not allow air ventilation, I own 9 tents, I should know. It's no less safe than to bring red hot rock into your tent or building a small fire in front of it - you can easily burn yourself with red hot rock in a small tent and unless you bring a large pile, the heat capacity of rocks are just not enough to bring the temperature of inside tent that much in cold temperature. In fact, in extreme circumstance, using your stove for warmth might just save your life if you suffer from hypothermia.
    – TelKitty
    Commented Jun 24, 2018 at 12:30
  • There are also places with total open fire ban so you can not have campfire. Also have your tent too close to fire will likely ruin your tent because the sparks will burn holes to your tent, but too far you will not get enough heat.
    – TelKitty
    Commented Jun 24, 2018 at 13:34

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