Insulating a tent is a chore that newbie campers often don’t consider, and one that experienced campers hate thinking about. But in the long run, it can save you a lot of sleepless nights and discomfort.
Why Insulate a Tent?
Anyone who’s been camping before can testify that the temperature drops a substantial amount during night times, regardless of how warm it is in the daytime. Even though your tent may be more akin to a sauna during the daytimes, without correct and proper insulation inside, it can lose that heat by the evening and become uncomfortably cold at night.
Insulating a tent in the cold weather can help you avoid the risks associated with it, such as hypothermia. It also makes sleeping easier, as you won’t need to layer up as much when trying to get to sleep.
How Does Insulation Work?
Insulation works by keeping the heat (or cool) inside a vicinity by lining the interior and exterior. By lining the exterior and interior with material, it keeps the heat or cold air trapped inside the vessel, thus stopping it from escaping. It’s easier to keep an area warm by using insulation as opposed to keeping an area cold, as the materials lining the container or room would need to be kept consistently cold to ensure a cool internal environment. Keeping coolers cold for lengthy periods of time is harder than keeping a tent warm, but luckily there are ways around it.
To keep an area cold, it’s better to insulate it whilst it’s already cold inside, and vice versa for warm spaces. The materials which you use to insulate can also cause a shift in temperature, as insulating materials should either slow down or speed up the passage of heat into an area depending on what their intended goal is.
Keeping a tent warm at night means using thermal insulating materials which will slow down the passage of heat, thus keeping it contained within the tent.
What Materials are Best for Insulating a Tent?
The effectiveness of your insulation will depend entirely on what materials you use. Some materials are more useful than others when it comes to insulation – especially the insulation of a tent. These materials need to be durable as a tent is exposed to the elements, along with having the ability to be tied to the tent itself or the ground in case of wind.
Insulating foam is the best option for keeping the heat inside of a tent. It’s dense and filled with air bubbles which slow down the transfer of heat, thus keeping it packed inside the tent. This foam is great for both tent floorings and walls, but you may encounter some issues trying to attach it securely to the tent walls. Regardless, this method is the best for insulating, and any others should be treated as back up options.
Tarp is a camper’s best friend. It’s lightweight, durable, waterproof and has a variety of different uses. It can be used to waterproof a tent, protect the tent, and even be used for additional shelter. Tarpaulin’s properties make it perfect for insulating a tent’s exterior and interior.
The foily texture that fire blankets have is utilized by campers looking to insulate their tents to keep them cool. However, the thermal insulation that fire blankets attain is extremely helpful when camping in cold weather. These blankets can be used to insulate the inside of your tent, much like how houses are insulated on the inside as opposed to the outside. Covering the interior in fire blankets or a similar thermal insulation will trap the heat inside the tent and keep it much warmer for longer. Putting the foil on the outside of the tent can reflect the sun, which is something you don’t want to do when camping in the winter or in cold temperatures.
If all else fails, blankets can also be used to insulate your tent in cold weather. Whilst not as effective as fire blankets and other thermal insulation, blankets can provide additional warm layers to your tent. These are best used externally, so it’s also vital that your surroundings are merely cold rather than wet or rainy.
How to Insulate a Tent for Cold Weather
Once you’ve gathered materials, it’s important to know what to do with them to ensure your tent’s as insulated as it can be. Along with having the materials for insulating, it’s also important to have a means of attaching the materials to the tent. This can be duct tape, additional guylines (providing the material has grommets to attach them to), or another adhesive.
Insulating the Exterior of your Tent
Covering the whole exterior using thermal insulation is an effective way to keep your tent warm during the colder seasons. The main issues pertaining to insulating the exterior of a tent is that it requires the entirety of the exterior be covered, meaning it could potentially close off entrances or windows. This technique can be used both for keeping the tent warm or cold, but usually seems to work best for the latter due to the reflective properties of the insulating material.
Insulating the Interior of your Tent
While insulating the exterior of a tent is often reserved for situations where a tent’s interior needs to stay cool, insulating the interior is notably better for cold weather as it traps the heat more effectively. If you’re cold and only have enough thermal material to insulate one side of the tent, choose to insulate the interior of the tent. The goal is to keep body heat and other sources of heat from escaping the tent, so a thicker material such as thermal foam is ideal for the interior of the tent by slowing down the transfer of heat.
Don’t Forget the Floor!
The floor of a tent is vital to its insulation. Heat can escape in any direction, including through the floor. One easy way to insulate your tent’s flooring is by using a fitted piece of tarpaulin, which is cut a little bit larger than the base of the tent. This allows it to curve up the sides of your tent, leading to less of a gap between the seams where warmth can escape.
If you’re looking for a more effective way of insulating your floor, consider using a reflective foam that has aluminum on both sides, to enable the heat to be reflected back inside the tent. This method may prove to be a little more expensive, but the difference will be apparent.
Other Ways to Keep Your Tent Warm in the Winter
Whilst insulating a tent can help trap the warmth inside, there are additional measures that you can take to ensure your tent is less likely to lose heat.
Where to Pitch Your Tent
Choosing an area to pitch your tent is one of the most important parts of camping that people often overlook. While finding a nice view to wake up to is great, the location in which you’re camping can add to or detract from the enjoyment and ease of your camping holiday. For example, in the winter you’re best looking for an area that contains natural windbreakers, such as by rocky formations, trees or other structures that can keep the cold wind from reaching your tent.
Tent safe heaters do exist, and they are perfect for cold weather camping as they can be used as a constant source of heat. If you intend on buying a tent heater, make sure that it’s suitable for use in your tent before you take it away with you.
Using the same logic as tent heaters, using warm rocks that were taken from the bottom of a smouldering campfire, wrapping them in towels, and putting them in your tent as a source of heat has been a hack which many people rely on during colder nights. Its effectiveness is varied, however, so it’s a technique best used alongside several others.
Keep Yourself Warm!
All these different methods may turn out to be futile if you don’t keep yourself and your body warm while camping in cold weather. Keeping yourself wrapped up in several layers when inside and outside the tent will make it easier for you to stay warm after a long day of activities. This also includes sleeping in multiple layers and with multiple blankets. Nothing is worse than not being able to warm yourself up- let alone your surroundings! Thankfully there are different ways of staying warm during your camping trips, both inside and outside the tent.