How to Insulate a Tent for Winter Camping This Year

November 15, 2021

women going winter camping with winter camping gear

Those of us who go winter camping are the real heroes. The ones who are willing to brave the unforgiving winter to see some of the most beautiful sites known to humankind. Those who are willing to trudge through the frozen tundra to get a glimpse of what the great outdoors have to offer. The ones who will risk a cold to get that crisp morning air. 

Also, they probably have an insulated tent and footprint, so it’s actually pretty comfortable.

Don’t know what those are? No sweat! Not a lot of people do. That’s why this blog is great for beginners, or those who are just invested in the sacred art of sleeping outside when it’s really cold. You’re going to get it all in this article - the correct temperature to camp in, what camping equipment and clothes you’ll need (from quilt blankets to buffs), and, most importantly, how to insulate your tent (and the camping gear you’ll need to get by). 

If you don’t want winter’s icy mitts to tear you a new one, but still want to camp, read on. By the time you come out of this blog, you’re going to be the Ruler of Winter Camping, and also possibly of the entire season of winter itself. 

Let’s start with some science. Everybody loves science. 

Can You Camp in the Winter?

Yep, BUT - It’s important (dare I say, essential) to know your limits. Winter camping is considered to be anything below 30-40 degrees F (-1 to 4 C). Camping in any cold climate lower than this requires camping gear that is built for the season. If you don’t have the right winter camping gear, you run the risk of getting hypothermia, or worse - frostbite. I assume you know what that is, but if you don’t, I don’t recommend looking it up. It’s gross. 

If you’ve never camped before, I recommend starting out with warmer temperatures first. Think of it like a video game: spring and summer camping is like level 1, fall is level 2, and winter is level 3! 

If you have some experience with cold weather camping, then you might already have some of the camping gear you need (at least an insulated tent, I would hope). With the right winter camping gear, you can camp in sub zero temperatures, and still be fine! 

Before we get into the winter camping gear you will need, let’s get into some of the basic tips that are a must know for the season: 

How Do You Keep Warm While Camping in the Winter?

Have the Right Clothes & Gear

The key to not getting hypothermia and/or dying is wearing the right clothes for every situation - this means not only packing winter hiking gear and clothes, but winter PJs, waterproof socks, all of it! 

Here’s a comprehensive list of the clothing you need:

Winter Camping Clothes Checklist:

  • A thick winter hat
  • Thick, waterproof gloves
  • Waterproof socks
  • Goggles and glasses (The snow gets bright, yo.)
  • A buff or scarf (why not both?)
  • Warm-yet-breathable base layers (NO COTTON! It is a deceivingly moisture-retaining fabric.)
  • A insulating middle layer (like a windbreaker) 
  • A breathable and waterproof outer layer
  • Snow boots

  • There isn’t anything on this list that is optional, in my opinion. Our bodies lose heat fast, even if you have the best insulated tent ever built. 

    Speaking of which, it’s time to get to the best part of this article that you’ve all been waiting for - what is the best winter camping gear to bring with you out into the open snow? Moreover, how do you set it all up? 

    I’ve got you covered, my sweet winter child. Let’s get into it: 

    How Do I Insulate a Tent for Winter Camping?

    Step 1: Choose and Prepare Your Tent Area

    Pick an area that doesn’t have too much tree cover (you don’t want snow falling off the tree and hitting you or your tent). After that, you’re going to want to set up:

    • A tent footprint. These act a bit like a tarp, but even better! Tent footprints act as a waterproof tarp that traps in heat that would otherwise escape from the bottom of your tent, and instead keep it within your tent - thus making you a little warmer and a little more ready to brace the elements. 

    Spread the footprint out on the area you’d like to place your large tent, and voila! You’re ready for the next step: 

    Step 2: Set Up Your Tent 

    What is the best tent for winter camping, you ask? You can’t just use any old tent: You need...

    • 4-season tent. These are heavy duty tents that are thicker and prepared to face off against heavy winter wind and snow. Make sure your tent stakes and tent poles are secured tightly, as wind can get shockingly high during the winter season. 

    While these tents already come insulated, it’s important to note that you’ll need more than just the tent, as shown in the next step: 

    Step 3: Insulate Your Tent

    Here’s a basic rundown of supplies you’ll need to insulate the inner part of your tent. From blankets to pillows and everything in between, here’s what you’ll need: 

    • A sleeping pad. These are like a tent footprint, but inside the tent! They retain heat and provide an extra layer of cushion between you and earth’s hard, unforgiving surface. 
    • A cold weather camping sleeping bag. These are different from regular sleeping bags. Try to find some that have layers of goose down insulation, or alternative insulation. You’ll thank me later! 
    • A camping blanket. This one in particular is ultra lightweight, yet incredibly effective for insulation. That’s important when you’re lugging all of your camping gear on your back! 
    • A portable camping pillow. These come in small or medium, and provide the perfect amount of heat retention and comfort - all while being extremely portable! Woohoo! 
    • An outdoor blanket. You can’t have an outdoor picnic and enjoy the beautiful winter scene around you without this, now can you? This one is insulated, waterproof, and ready to provide you with enough comfort to sit in the snow for way longer than normal. 

    Now that you have all your winter camping gear together, make sure you place them efficiently in your tent. You’ll want to save space, keep all of your camping gear dry, and make sure you stay warm. 

    Now you know how to insulate your tent for winter camping! But wait, we’re not done yet: 

    What Are Some Tips & Hacks for Camping in the Winter?

    Now that we’ve gone through insulation gear, here are some helpful tips and hacks to help you even further on your journey into the white abyss: 

    • Bring a backpacking stove. It’s hard to make a fire in the winter sometimes, being as how snow is actually water and all. Backpacking stoves fit in perfectly with your winter hiking gear, as they’re actually portable, very affordable, and mad useful. 
    • Bring an extra blanket. Or two.  Sometimes, just one blanket isn’t enough. Bring a quilt blanket, or even an extra insulated blanket to make sure you stay extra cozy! (Just don’t overload yourself with camping gear. It’s hard to hike when you’re carrying 100lbs on your back - trust me.) 
    • Bring a first aid kit. This is obvious, but I felt it was important to bring up. Anything can happen out there in the wilderness, and winter weather is notoriously unpredictable. You can’t have winter fun without remembering winter safety!
    • Bring a hammock. Not only are these fun, they’re extremely useful if you’re hiking. We have several available here that are perfect for enjoying a winter hike alone, with the fam, or with friends! 
    • Bring a hammock underquilt. If you’re bringing a camping hammock, you’ll need this! It’s specifically designed to hold up against the harshest of elements by using rip-stop nylon material that won’t budge.
    • Bring extra hydration supplies. I feel like people never bring enough water. Like, anywhere. Don’t get caught thirsty like a bozo! Water bags, insulated water bottles, and more are all readily available! 
    • Bring a waterproof bag. Snow can do serious damage to technology, clothes, and gear. Not only will you want a waterproof camping blanket and tent, but you’ll want this too! 
    • Bring a waterproof phone case. Don’t leave your phone in your insulated tent because you’re scared to get it wet! This phone case is waterproof, and still allows you to take pictures of the beautiful winter scenery. It also comes with a fanny pack (or a waist pouch, for the well-mannered) that is waterproof and great for keys or money. 

    That’s about all the tips I can give you - Beyond that, remember to have a good time, and I hope that this helps!

    You can also learn more about essential winter camping gear here!

    Final Thoughts

    The joy of winter camping starts with an insulated tent - so I’m glad I can show you how to insulate it properly! Once you know how to stay warm, you can enjoy winter for what it truly is - a beautiful, yet spiteful mistress that, if you’re prepared, can give you some of the greatest camping experiences of your life. 

    If you’re looking for other camping gear, other blogs, or other tips, check out our website - it’s got all that and more! 

    Stay toasty out there, folks. 

    Contributing Writer: Aurora Detor

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