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Keeping your tent warm: Autumn, Winter, and Spring

Posted by Gav Grayston.
First Published Jan 2012; updated Apr 2023.

You want your tent warm, but safe. Here's some useful advice on choosing a tent heater.

Extend your family camping season beyond the Summer and learn how to keep your tent and family warm. We explore different tent heaters that you could use.

How to keep warm in your tent

Picture this: you've got an entire camping field to yourself, the campfire is crackling away, and the kids can run about and explore without worrying about cars from other campers. What's more, you've been able to give them more weekends like this than ever before.


Simple. Extend your camping season.

There are ways to keep warm, but if you want ultimate comfort, you'll want to heat your tent.

In this post, we'll review several options available to you.

Ways to heat your tent

Click on an item for more details.

There are ways to keep warm, but if you want ultimate comfort, you'll want to heat your tent.

Extending your Camping Season

Would you like to extend your camping season

Would you like to extend your camping season?

As soon as the kids go back to school at the end of the Summer holidays, camping stops for most families, which is a real shame as September is an excellent time of year for camping (read more on camping in September by clicking here).

Family camping in late Spring or early Autumn is perfectly possible

Family camping in late Spring or early Autumn is perfectly possible. You can do some simple things to keep the cool nights at bay.

You can still camp in the October half-term or even the Easter Holidays. You may need to upgrade your sleeping bag and take a few more measures (read about keeping warm when it is very cold in our Winter Camping article). Even Christmas Camping is possible if you are prepared for it.

Tents are designed to keep the rain off and wind out, but they don't insulate well (especially the modern polyester materials) and soon get cold.

For when it does get chilly, a tent heater is an obvious item to get, but there are a few different choices available.

Options for Heating Your Tent - A look at tent heaters

Electric Tent Heaters - Best Choice for Most Tents

An electric heater is one of the simplest ways to heat your tent. However, you need to consider safety and the power supply available at the campsite.

What type of electric heater is safest for a tent

To use an electric heater in your tent, you must book a pitch at a campsite that provides electric hook-up (EHU).

Using EHU

EHU and Verwood Play Park

You can find campsites with electric hook-ups and campfires using our campsite finder.

you can't just take an extension cable from home and plug in a large electric radiator

However, if you're not familiar with EHU, you may be disappointed to learn that you can't just take an extension cable from home and plug in a large electric radiator, as EHUs require a special electrical fittings and may be limited to only 5amps of electricity.

You must use the correct fitting with a built-in circuit breaker (RCD) when using an electric hookup.  Accidents and fatalities occur yearly by people trying to save a few pounds and using power cord extensions from home.

A guide to EHU

A guide to connecting and using electricity in your tent

A Guide to Camping with Electric

If you are new to using electricity when camping, then click here to read our guide to using electric hook-ups when camping to see what sort of electrical extension you should get and how to make sure you don't draw too much current.

Electric Fan Heaters for Camping

Most campers will use a small electric fan heater to warm their tent, but it needs to be one that will work on the campsite's power supply, which is much less than you would have at home.

Pros and Cons of Electric Fan Heaters when Camping

The good

  • Can heat the tent relatively quickly
  • Lightweight and easy to transport
  • Cheap to buy

The not so good

  • Fans turning themselves on and off at night can be annoying.
  • They can make the air stuffy and dry.
  • You might not want to risk leaving one on through the night.

An electric fan heater will heat the tent (relatively) quickly.  However, if the thermostat goes on and off all night, it may keep you awake.

The Kampa Diddy Camping Heater

The Kampa Diddy Camping Heater

With many family tents having separate bedrooms, the effect of the warm air breeze is also reduced.

On the plus side, they are small and easy to transport. Also, the warm air coming out of the heater can help reduce or prevent the build-up of condensation on the inside of the tent, which can be a problem on cold mornings.

If you decide to get a fan heater, get one with an automatic cut-out if it gets too hot. Many families decide not to risk leaving the fan heater on through the night, fearing it could catch fire if it overheats.

They are safest when used to take the chill off before bed and first thing in the morning.

Ensure you position the heater off the ground in case your tent gets a leak and the electric heater ends up sitting in water. Also, place it away from the sides of the tent, where the wind could knock it over, and not too close to the thin fabric of your inner tent.

Electric Radiators

Yes, you can take a radiator with you camping....but be careful about how many amps it draws.

Pros and Cons of Electric Radiators when Camping

The good

  • They can heat the tent quietly
  • Emits heat for a while after being turned off
  • Doesn't create stuffy air (like a fan heater does)

The not so good

  • Usually heavy and more difficult to transport to the campsite
  • May not 'radiate' heat into the sleeping areas
  • Can take longer to heat the tent
De'Longhi Bambino Radiator

De'Longhi Bambino Radiator

Taking a radiator when camping may not be as mad as it first sounds...but yes, it means you are fully glamping and taking a lot of gear with you.

Certainly, oil-filled radiators are a lot less annoying than the sound of fan heaters turning on and off all night.

Their heat might not reach into the bedrooms but could keep the chill off the main tent area, making it more pleasant when you get up in the morning or when getting changed before bed.

A radiator's heat isn't instant, unlike a fan heater, but you can get some with built-in fan heaters for the best of both worlds....you need to make sure they stay within your EHU amp limit. You may have to unplug the heater if you have an electric camping kettle.

Electric Halogen Tent Heater

Those that stand on the ground can present a fire hazard

Electric Halogen heaters provide a lot of heat output for the small amount of power they consume, so they look attractive when camping. However, those that stand on the ground can present a fire hazard, and you may even find them banned on some campsites.

An alternative to the ones that stand up is to get a halogen heater that hangs in your tent.

Pros and Cons of Electric Halogen Heaters when Camping

The good

  • They can heat the tent quietly
  • Warms up quicker than radiators
  • Creates a nice warm glow (that can double as a lantern)
  • Lighter to transport than radiators

The not so good

  • Ones that stand up could be a fire hazard
  • May not 'radiate' heat into the sleeping areas
Outwell Fuji Tent Heater

Outwell Fuji Tent Heater

If you are considering a halogen heater for your tent, I recommend looking at Outwell's designs. They have created a halogen heater that you can use even on a 5 Amp campsite power supply and hangs in your tent lantern holder so it's away from kids and fire hazards. Read more about the Outwell Fuji Electric Camping Heater.

We've used the Outwell Fuji heater. It generates a nice warm glow and heats the tent well.

With it suspended from the lantern hook in the tent, it would be just the right height to walk into, so I placed a table underneath so that no one could walk into it. This is not an option for smaller tents.

I was also worried about the heat from the top of this Outwell heater. After all, it's very close to the roof of the tent. But after the heater had been on for some time, it was still relatively cool above, and I could even touch the topside with my hand.

I don't leave this heater on all night, though.

Other ways of heating with EHU

Electric blankets might also be another use of the Electric Hook-Up, but if you take the basic steps to keep warm and heat your bed with a hot water bottle, they're probably not worth it.

A Wood-Burning Stove for Your Tent

By far my favourite heater 😉

A wood-burning stove requires more effort than turning the switch on an electric heater.

Pros and Cons of Wood Burning Stoves when Camping

The good

  • No EHU required
  • They can heat the tent quietly
  • Puts out a lot of heat
  • Can stay warm for a long while

The not so good

  • You must have an appropriate tent with a flue exit
  • You must have a proper stove
  • Some can be bulky to transport
  • You must keep your tent well-ventilated
Robens Volcano Stove keeping the Kiowa warm in Winter

Robens Volcano Stove keeping the Kiowa warm in Winter

With a wood-burning stove, you don't need to be limited to campsites with electric hook-ups, enabling you to explore a much wider area of the country in all seasons. However, you do need the right sort of tent, and most family tents are not equipped to take a stove, so this option is not open to most of us.

If you have a fire-retardant canvas tent, you could fit a wood-burning stove with a flue. You will need an appropriate flue exit in your tent. See the Robens Kiowa or Robens Chinook Ursa for a tent you can buy with a built-in flue flap.

You will also need a heat-resistant mat to place the stove or roll back the groundsheet, as in the picture above.

Of course, most wood-burning stoves are extremely heavy. Still, you can get portable versions such as the excellent Frontier Stove, Robens Volcano Stove, or the smart-looking Robens Kobuk stove.

Burning wood in your tent does have to be done in a proper wood burner, with the fumes being directed out of the tent via a flue. A carbon monoxide alarm is also a good idea.

Gas Tent Heaters - Don't Take The Risk

Gas heaters are an option I wouldn't recommend.

Modern designs have reduced fire risks (but not eliminated), but the biggest killer comes from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Wait! Do these before buying a tent heater

Simply getting a tent heater is not going to keep everyone warm. A tent heater is not like central heating at home, and people could get cold even with a tent heater on.

Here are some simple tips for keeping warm in your tent.

Wear warm clothes (obviously).  

It is easier to stay warm than to warm up when cold.

Sleep in your base layers at least (see base layers for kids), but try not to wear too many clothes when you go to bed as you do not want to sweat in your sleeping bag, as this will build up moisture that will ultimately make you colder.

Get 4-season sleeping bags

A 4-season sleeping bag has additional insulation. A sleeping bag that works well for warm summer nights will not be warm enough when it is cold.

Insulate well under the sleeping bag

A lot of heat is lost through the ground.

This is something a lot of people miss. Putting a blanket under your sleeping bag is the opposite of what most people expect, but camping differs from home. This simple step is one of the best ways to be warmer at night.

Putting a blanket under your sleeping bag .... is one of the best ways to be warmer at night.

You can also get insulated self-inflating mats that provide better protection from the cold ground than your standard air bed.

Get a tent carpet

Ten carpets aren't just luxury items. They do help keep your tent war (read why).

Put a hot water bottle in the sleeping bag before bed

 Sleeping bags are designed to keep the body warm. They don't warm up all by themselves. Prime the bag with a hot water bottle.

Get some hand warmers

They're helpful for cold feet too!

Eat plenty of food, preferably warm food.

It is essential to remember your body needs more calories when it is colder.  Having a snack before bed can help you keep warm through the night.

And what about when you wake up?

Waking up in a cold tent is no fun.  If possible, stay in your sleeping bag as long as possible!

In an ideal world, cook breakfast, get some warm food in you, a warm cup of coffee or tea (an insulated mug is a must), and then get dressed (having warmed socks first - stuff them in your sleeping bag if you have nowhere to warm them).

This is not always practical, though.

I do try to get up first in the morning, get the fire going, get the kettle on and so there's some warmth for the rest of my family when they emerge from their bags.  It does mean that I don't get to stay in my bag for long... but that's being a parent 😉

You could also take a power timer with you, and programme an electric heater to come automatically in the morning! :-D