How To Heat A Tent Without Electricity: Complete Guide

​With summer no longer feeling like a distant dream, it won’t be much longer before families across the nation start breaking out their camping gear and getting ready to enjoy the great outdoors. With all of the conveniences afforded to us, it’s likely that you’re going to want the basics available to you while you’re camping.

In this article, we’re going to explore the different ways on how to heat a tent without electricity while providing the safest tips available to us that you can utilize while you’re out camping with your friends and family.

The DIY Approach

Woman holding a cup near a tent

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Buying items to do the work for you isn’t nearly as fun when you’re out in the woods. If you’re an avid hiker, the extra weight will exhaust you faster which is something you’ll want to avoid, especially when taking on more challenging routes.

Fortunately, nature has many advantages that campers and hikers alike can use to stay warm and comfortable whether you enjoy camping out in spring and summer or fall and winter. These tips and tricks will also save you money in the long road especially when you don't have to pay for camping fees on campgrounds to utilize their services.

Use Sand To Your Advantage

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This approach takes a little bit of pre-planning before you decide to utilize it, but it's a practical approach to keeping you warm while you're in the middle of camping. If there's a lot of sand in your camping area, you can utilize this to your advantage when it comes to keeping warm. 

Find yourself 15 to 20 different rocks of the right size within your area and carefully set them on your current campfire to let them heat up. While your rocks are in the process of getting up to temperature, you want to dig a hole that's roughly a foot deep. 

You'll be using this hole to put your rocks into so not only do you want it to be low enough, but you also want it to be big enough to hold 15 to 20 stones of the size that you chose.

Once you have an appropriately sized hole finished, check to see if your rocks are hot enough by looking to see if there is steam coming off of them. If there is, then you'll want to carefully move each one into the hole to where they'll get evenly distributed. 

Next, you will want to utilize the sand that we talked about earlier, covering the hot rocks with it until you've entirely buried the stones. 

Once you had your rocks buried, go ahead and set up your tent over where you hid the stones. The heat from the stones will rise through the sand and into your canopy throughout the night which means you get to sleep comfortably. You must make sure that you dig at least a foot down otherwise the heat that your rocks give off could damage your tent.

It's essential that you use sand because unlike dirt, using sand allows heat to rise through it more efficiently and it serves as proper insulation which keeps your rocks warm longer. 

Also using a minimum of 15 pounds per rock is essential just because the more prominent and more substantial the foundation, the more heat that the stones will be able to radiate throughout the night. 

The heat that comes from these rocks will also dissipate any condensation that builds up within your tent which means that you don't have to worry about feeling damp and chilly when you wake up in the morning.

Let’s recap:

  • Make sure your hole is deep enough for your stones
  • Get larger stones for more extended warmth
  • Use sand instead of dirt to allow even and consistent heating

Use Hot Stones

Photo of stones stacking eachother

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Just like using hot stones to heat your tent with sand, you can also cook some large rocks in your fireplace to warm the inside of your tent as well. After you've had your fire going for some time, eventually let it burn out and rake the coals over some larger stones that you found earlier. 

You can also turn a stone every so often while you have your fire going to make sure that the core is adequately heated.

Be careful to make sure that you don't handle them immediately after the fire is gone out. Generally, the stones that you're using would be too hot to handle, instead, give them time to cool off to the point that you can touch them without burning yourself. 

Once they're at that point, wrap them in towels or clothes such as shirts or socks and place them along the inside of your tent.

It’s imperative to keep them from being too close to where you’re sleeping because you don’t want to overheat your body. Holding anything too warm near your body will force liquids out of your organs and give you many problems to deal with afterward.

Let’s recap:

  • Keep larger stones near your campfire to absorb warmth
  • Once they can get appropriately handled, wrap them in clothing or towels 
  • Place around the inside of your tent away from your body.
  • Rocks must be about 15 pounds each to work all night.

Hot Water Bottles

Using hot water to heat an area is a technique that became popular to apply as early as Victorian times. To heat beds and it still used today to keep you warm during the winter. You can pre-purchase hot water bottles before your trip from any major retailer or even an online retailer, or you can only use a non-plastic water bottle to do the trick.

It's imperative to note that once you use boiling water for heating purposes, it's not safe to drink afterward if you use it in a plastic container, even if it's had a chance to cool overnight. Instead, you should empty the contents of your water bottle after you're done using it for that evening. 

All you have to do is to find an area where you can access water, whether that be a river or a spout that your camping ground may provide, get a heavy-duty pan, and fill it up with said water. Safely put it over your fire until the water is boiling and then very carefully pour the boiling water into either your hot water bottle or other water holding device.

You have two options when it comes to where to put them. You can line them along the tent if you have enough patience to fill up that many water bottles, or you can only fill up enough that you can provide one for each person. You want to stick your hot water bottle down at the end of your sleeping bag and not near any internal organs.

Heat makes water evaporate from your organs, and your kidneys will suffer. As a result, always keep your hot water bottles or other heat radiating items away from your chest and torso while you're sleeping. 

The only downside to using hot water bottles in your sleeping bag instead of heating the entirety of the space that you're sleeping in is the fact that it might be a little more difficult to want to get out of your sleeping bag when the chilly morning arrives.

Let's recap:

  • Don't use plastic water bottles or don't drink from plastic water bottles if you do have to use plastic.
  • You can purchase hot water bottles online or at a local retailer
  • Don't keep hot water bottles near your torso, keep them at the bottom of your sleeping bag to avoid depriving your organs of water.

Using The Campfire

Photo of a bonfire

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Thankfully you don't need to have the campfire running all night to use it to your advantage. Once your bonfires go out for the evening, you can make use of the residual heat coming off the coals by placing your tent just over the top of it. 

You don't want to do this right after the fire burns out, and said give it a couple of hours so that the heat gets transferred to the ground underneath the campfire.

To protect your tent, weak layer of dirt or sand over the campfires spot and then add things such as branches from a spruce tree or dry grass so that you can keep your tent safe from scorching. If you find any live embers while you're doing this, make sure you remove them immediately before you pitch your tent over the spot.

If you have a good tent and everything works correctly, you should stay nice and warm all night with the shelter providing extra insulation by holding in the heat that radiated from the ground below.

The Candle Lantern Method

Photo of a lantern on top of a table

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This technique is another method that will likely take some pre-planning before you decide to go out on your camping or hiking trip. You will need a couple of things, to begin with, to utilize this method well and keep in mind that it is using a flame, so you want to be careful when you're implementing this system.

This method would be much safer instead of using a propane heater or an electric heater and works great in a pinch. You can usually get the temperature inside your tent up by 10 to 15 degrees what is this candle lantern which will make your tent nice warm to sleep. 

It's imperative that you don't fall asleep while you're operating these candle lanterns simply because it is an open flame and it can cause a fire if you're not careful. 

The items you'll need to purchase before you go camping are the following:

  • Three unglazed terracotta pots -  One four-inches, the second two-inches, the third one, and a half inches
  • Two or Three candles (tealights don't often last as long so choosing a small or medium-sized candle will be fine.)
  • Two washers measuring by one and one-half inches and the other one-fourth of an inch
  • Three washers measuring one and fourth inches by one-fourth of an inch
  • Three washers are measuring one inch by one-fourth of an inch.
  • Eight Washers at three-fourths of an inch by one-fourth of an inch
  • Seven nuts at one-fourth of an inch
  • One bolt measuring at three inches by one-fourth of an inch
  • Three bricks (or flat rocks that you find in your area)
  • One plate.

You’ll want to take the largest pot and turn it upside down. Put a washer that’s small enough to hold the bolt head when you thread it through the bottom hole of your largest pot. 

Once you manage to do that, you want to take one of the bolts and screw it into place, and you don't want to make sure that you don't screw too hard otherwise you could potentially crack the pot and then it won't be able to help you.

Once you have the first not in place, put in another washer and then another nut. The reason you want to do it like this is that you don't want your pots to sit directly on top of each other otherwise the heat can't radiate through properly. 

Then you’ll want to thread the bolt through the second largest pot which you'll sit just on the inside of the first. This time use two washers to hold it in place and then attach a nut before alternating between nuts and washers until you connect the third pot. 

If you chose to get a bolt to had a hook eye at the top of it, you can ideally hang this up in your tent if you have a propane heating unit or something similar. 

If you don't want to hang your pots, then you would just put them on the bricks or any Flat Rocks that you find in your area and then set the plate down before lighting your candles. I do believe this should get done several hours before you go to bed and you want to monitor your Lantern to make sure that you don't accidentally start a fire. 

When you're done using your ceramic heating device, you directly blow out the candles and give the pots enough time to cool down before moving it outside for the evening. As a result, your tent should be able to retain most of the heat throughout the night giving you a comfortable sleeping experience.

Practical Tips To Staying Warm In Your Tent

For those savvy campers who think ahead enough, buying a pack of pocket warmers or other chemical heating pads are a great idea as well. With these little packs, you can stuff them in your clothing or your sleeping bag while you sleep to help keep you warmer. 

These are a convenient way to stay warm without worrying about buying a bunch of utensils to get the job done. For people who have sensitive skin, it comes advised that you exercise caution while using these heating packs as they may cause rashes and general skin irritation.

Other ways that you can keep warm while you're sleeping in a tent is eating a high-protein meal at least four hours before you go to bed, and making sure that you stop drinking fluids in that four-hour time frame as well. Protein is a food that takes your body longer to digest, and as a result, it means that you will emit more heat while you're sleeping. 

On the other hand, if you drink fluids within the four-hour window before going to bed, you'll be forced to get up sometime during the night to take care of that call of nature. You want to avoid this as much as possible, especially if you have to open up the tent flap as you go to leave and you'll end up letting in the cold air which is going to make your tent very cold when you return.

There are other ways to keep warm while you're sleeping, including wearing your socks to bed and wearing a cap or a knit stocking on your head while you sleep. We lose the most of our body heat from our head and our feet so keeping your socks on and a cap of some form on your head will maintain your body temperature. 

Before you decide to go out camping, if you anticipate that your nights are going to be cold, it would be a good idea to invest in a tent that caters multiple seasons. 

Spending more money on a tent like this means that you will be accommodated extra insulation and ventilation with your purchase on the models that you could find, and as a result, you will have a more comfortable night's sleep at a warmer temperature.

In Conclusion

What it doesn't matter what time of the year it is, with a little ingenuity, planning and with the right steps, you can very quickly set up a warm and enjoyable camping experience in any weather conditions thanks to these tips and tricks.

It's important to always have a safety plan in place while you're going hiking, as these methods don't have only to apply if you're planning on camping in the winter time. Always make sure you have some backup plan in place, and now that you know some of these tricks to keep warm, you know what you can expect when you go camping.

​Featured image via Pixabay

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