Is It Warmer Inside A Tent? – Here is the definitive answer.


tent in snow

When camping or backpacking, you have a lot of sleeping options.  You can sleep in a tent, a hammock, or even your vehicle.  However, most backpackers and campers choose to sleep inside a tent.

But, is it warmer inside a tent?  Some campers have recorded temperature differences of up to 10 degrees inside their tent versus outside their tent. This temperature difference is caused by trapped body heat and many factors can increase or decrease the temperature differences inside of a tent.

Some of these factors might include the tent’s material, the ventilation system in the tent, the tent’s size, and even the tent’s location.  Let’s take a look at some of these factors and see how we can use them to increase or decrease the temperature inside of our tents.

How To Make A Tent Warmer

It’s often easier to make your tent warmer than it is to make it cooler.

Here are 7 strategies you can use to make your tent warmer.

  • Pitch your tent in the sun.
  • Keep your tent away from windy areas.
  • Skip the tent platform.
  • Use your rain fly.
  • Insulate your tent.
  • Get a smaller tent.
  • Use a heater.

Pitch Your Tent In The Right Place

The sun can help warm your tent up even when you’re not in it.  For this reason, you’ll want to pitch your tent as soon as you reach camp.  You’ll also want to make sure you pitch it in a sunny area.

A windy camping spot is going to push the warm air right out of your tent.  For this reason, it’s best not to pitch your tent in an area that receives high winds.

You’ll also want to stay away from tent platforms when it’s cold.  The reason for this is that tent platforms allow air to flow freely underneath your tent.  This draws warm air away from you and your tent and will hinder your tent’s ability to get warmer.

Use Your Rain Fly

A rainfly does more than just keep water out of your tent.  It also adds another layer of material between your tent and the outside air.  This is especially true with small backpacking tents that come with a rainfly that covers the entire tent.

The space between your tent and your tent’s rainfly will act as an insulating barrier between you and the outside world.  Just adding this layer could increase your tent’s temperature by up to five degrees.

Insulate Your Tent

Another way to decrease the amount of warm air leaving your tent is to insulate it.  Even a thin layer of reflective insulation will help keep warm air in and cold air out.

Backpackers can throw a tarp under their tent to further insulate the inside.  If you’re car camping, you can go a step further and insulate the bottom of your tent by placing a throw rug on the floor.

Decrease The Size Of Your Tent

There is a limit to how much heat your body can emit overnight.  The larger the tent, the more dispersed this body heat will become.  Get a smaller tent and you’ll have less space to heat up.

Use A Heater

When you’re backpacking, you won’t have too many options for safely heating up your tent.  However, you can heat up a water bottle and use this to provide some radiant heat.

Some Nalgene water bottles can hold boiling water so they’re often perfect for this.  I use a cover from a large bottle of wine I was once gifted to store the bottle in.  This makes it easier to hold and keeps the water warmer for longer.

Car campers have the added luxury of being able to place a heater inside of their tent.  There are many different options to choose from and I’ve covered them on my post titled, “Are Camping Heaters Safe“.

How To Keep A Tent Cool

Not everyone who’s looking for information on if it’s warmer inside a tent is doing so because they want to stay warm.  Some people want to cool down their tent instead.

Here are 5 easy ways to keep a tent cool.

  • Pitch your tent in the shade and in the wind.
  • Use a tent platform.
  • Skip the rain fly.
  • Use a larger tent.
  • Use a fan or AC unit.

Pitching Your Tent to Keep Cool

The sun can quickly heat up the inside of your tent.  There are two ways to prevent it from doing so.

For starters, you can simply wait until it gets dark before setting up your tent.  This is perfect for backpackers who are setting up and taking down their tent each day.

Also, consider waking up at sunrise so you won’t have to worry about the sun heating up your tent while you sleep.

The above method works well but it isn’t always practical to set up and break down a tent each day.  If this is the case, try to set your tent up in the shade.

Just be sure the shade you’re getting isn’t dangerous.  For example, don’t set up camp under a tree with dead branches or next to a mountain that could pose a landslide threat.

It can also be a good idea to set your tent up on a tent platform.  A tent platform will create an air space under your tent, which will blow hot air out from under it.

Don’t Use Your Rain Fly

When the skies are clear and you know it isn’t going to rain, why bother setting up your rain fly?  A rain fly is going to create an extra layer of trapped air between you and the outside.  This insulating layer will keep the heat from your body trapped inside of your tent.  Leave the rain fly off and your tent will have less insulation and better airflow.

Get a Larger Tent

It’s hard for your body to heat up a large space.  The larger your tent is, the cooler it will stay.

This is perfect advice for car campers but it isn’t always practical for backpackers.  If you’re backpacking, you may want to do the opposite and skip the tent altogether and opt for cowboy camping or hammock camping.

Use A Fan Or AC Unit

Car campers with an electric campsite can bring along an air conditioner or a large fan.  In a large tent out west, a swamp cooler may even make sense as well.

Backpackers and campers won’t be able to rely on electricity, but they can use battery-powered tent fans.  These fans don’t weigh much and they can easily be attached to the ceiling of your tent.

Christopher Schopf

Christopher Schopf loves camping, hiking, canoeing, and basically anything that gets him outdoors.

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