23 Tips: How to keep warm during camping trips

As adults, we can cope with feeling cold, although we don’t always like it. But trying to keep kids warm when camping can be a nightmare. They do not always appreciate’ getting back to nature as we do. 

I have expanded our camping experience but needed to make our camping trips comfortable. We need to be warm and happy with our new adventures. We have camped without electricity, but we have mainly camped between April to October.

Like any child, Nicholas gets grumpy when cold and worse when he misses his iPad.  Camping without electricity cannot solve the lack of internet access, but we can solve the issue of feeling cold.

What are the cheapest and easiest ways you can keep warm without electricity?

Is your sleeping bag for the correct camping season?

Choosing the correct sleeping bag for camping during cold weather

Be prepared before your trip, and checking is essential. There is nothing worse than feeling cold during the night. Sleeping bags have different seasons for different times of the year, but styles and insulation types differ.

Seasons range from 1 – 5 for hot summer nights to extreme weather conditions. Season 1 is only really suitable for kids’ sleepovers or back garden camping, whereas season 5 is for severe weather.

Insulation is either down or synthetic. Synthetic is light, easy to wash, cheaper, and condenses down for packing. Whereas down sleeping bags a thick and bulky, you will need to have them cleaned professionally.

Designs range from Mummy, rectangle, pods, barrel and double. It’s essential to consider the space once you are inside, as space means cold air. You need to be able to sleep snuggly. We have compiled an article detailing the pros and cons of different styles and seasons if you are not sure. Have a read, and make sure you buy the correct sleeping bag.

I have tried several different styles of sleeping bags, ranging from mummy, rectangle and barrel sleeping bags. I like to have space and move during the night, so mummy sleeping bags are not suitable. I prefer barrel sleeping bags rather than rectangles, as the barrel sleeping bag keeps your pillow from sliding away by pulling the drawstring and providing a rounded hood.

My sleeping bag is a Colemans’ Basalt Barrel sleeping bag, season 4, from Amazon. I use this all seasons as it opens fully and can easily be turned into a blanket, which is great for those warmer nights. But I do feel the cold, even during warm summer nights.

Silent generator and a 12v portable car heater

Jackery portable generator can power a portable heater
Jackery Portable Solar Generator is ideal for powering a portable heater

A Jackery is a silent portable generator that can be charged via solar panels or electrical mains. I have the 240 Explorer, and I purchased a 12V car fan heater when we are semi-wild camping. Not only can a Jackery be used to heat your tent, but it can also keep your everyday items charged.

LED lights, laptops and TVs can also be powered with the Jackery. Although the Jackery is an expensive initial cost, you will save money as you will not be restricted by the campsites you can book. I purchase mine from Jackery, but they are also available from Amazon.

There are several car heaters available and be connected to your cigarette light 12v socket as well as the socket on the Jackery. The Jackery will not charge a normal fan heater as the watts are too high. I use the Auto Fan Heater from Amazon, which can be used to demist and also heat at the flick of a switch.

You cannot have the heater on continuously. I use it to warm the tent for about 10 minutes and switch it off.

Fleece blanket hoodie ideal for nights around the campfire

Fleece hoodies are becoming more popular with campers. They are oversized thick hoodies or similar to large cardigans, with an extra thick fleece lining. They are available in two different lengths, full length or knee length.

Two types are either slip over your head or with a zip front. They are easier than onesies, as they do not have leg bottoms. You do not have to undress if you want to go to the toilet, which is easier at night when camping.

I have the knee-length hoodie with a zipped front, pockets and a hood. It is massive and has bands around the wrist, so you are not trying to keep the sleeves in place. I prefer the zipped front as if it is really cold. I lay over the top of my sleeping bag for extra warmth at night. Plus, I like to wrap it around myself and secure it with an old dressing gown belt. It stops drafts.

The zipped blanket hoodie is also ideal for toddlers who love to snuggle. There is enough room for you and a small child inside. I purchase mine from Amazon. there are several different colours available, so you won’t get yours mixed up with anybody else’s

The only downside of a blanket fleece hoodie is they are a nightmare to wash. they take ages to dry.

Closed and open-cell mats

Open or closed-cell mats are placed under sleeping bags insulating against the cold ground. They are rated depending on the season required. The R valued rating is 0 – 6. The higher the number, the more protection against the cold.

They are available in different sizes and styles, and understand the difference before you buy.

Closed-cell sleeping mats

Closed-cell foldable matt

Closed-cell mats are solid foam bases, often with metallic heat reflective layers on one side that will help to increase insulation against the cold ground. They are rectangular-shaped and the most common type of closed-cell mats available.

The metallic heat-reflective backed mats are the cheapest and most common due to their low price. They are not comfortable sleeping mats at only 5-6mm depth. However, they are great for keeping the cold at bay when placed underneath another mattress or on a camping bed.

Place the mat foam base down, and the heat from your body will reflect back to you via the metallic cover.

They are rolled mats, bulky for transporting, but they last a long time and are affordable. However, they are a nightmare when trying to lay flat as they automatically roll back, so you will need your sleeping bag handy to lay on top quickly.

Prices range from £4.99 to £15.99. We purchased ours from The Range for £4.99. I would not advise spending more than £6.99.

My son Nicholas uses his to lay on the ground directly during summer months without other matting. But for me, this is not an option as I find them uncomfortable.

Another closed-cell is a higher R-rated mat, on average 1-2 rated, without metallic backing. They are rectangular; some fold instead of rolling, which does help to lay flat. Although they are bulky for transport, they are much easier as they are flat packed. I use Lively Life foldable mat from Amazon, which keeps the cold from seeping through. I have found this to be more waterproof than the metallic heat-reflective mat. The foam does not soak up any condensation build-up between the ground and the mat.

Open-cell mats

Open-cell mats can either be air beds or mats partially filled with polyurethane foam combined with air. Known as sleeping pads. These can be self-inflated or inflated by a pump.

Air mattress

Hi Gear double camping mattress

Air beds do not have an excellent R rating and offer hardly any protection against cold ground. They are comfortable sleeping on, but they will deflate at night. Air mattresses are not sealed, so air will gradually escape.

During warmer nights, they are suitable, but during the colder season, I advise you not to use them. With low temperatures, they deflate more quickly. The air condenses, and you will often have to reinflate at least once during the night and before you go to bed.

Prices vary from £10 to £99.99. On average, the cheaper single beds are 8-10 inches in depth and inflated via an external air pump. The more expensive air beds have an internal air pump that is easy to inflate but needs an electrical mains connection. Double-air beds can inflate within 3 minutes and are 14 – 20 inches in depth.

I used the Hi Gear air mattress for over 3 days during summer. It only needed to be reinflated slightly after 3 days.

Open-cell airs beds are partially filled with polyurethane foam

Self-inflating Polyurethane foam sleeping pad valve

Another type of air mattress is a combination of air and polyurethane foam, known as a sleeping pad. These have a higher R rating and range from 0-6 plus, although this depends on your purchase type. Ideally, for summer, you need a 2-3 R rating. If there is no R rating, they have not been tested. They are waterproof and self-inflating.

Sleeping pads inflate by turning the valve open and leaving it for several hours. If you want to inflate quickly, blow into the value. They are thin, and ideal for keeping the cold a bay, especially when placed on a camp bed.

They are normally 1 – 2 inches thick and uncomfortable to sleep on directly. Only use it as a barrier against the cold. Prices can vary between £30 – £50 and are an excellent addition for family camping.

Sleeping pads

Sleeping pads are similar to air mattresses as they are open with no foam filling. These are more suitable for wild camping or hiking as they are lightweight and compact for transport. Their R rating is higher and can be inflated by blowing into the valve or an external dry pump.

Sleeping pads can be costly, depending on the R rating. The higher the R-rating, expect to pay more. On average, the depth of sleeping pads is 2 – 4 inches. They are more comfortable than partially foam-filled sleeping pads as they have a greater depth.

If you want to use an additional form of insulation, for instance, on a camp bed, purchase a partially foam-filled sleeping mat for everyday camping, as it is the cheaper option.

Place insulation mats under your tent carpet

Adding underfloor insulation during spring and autumn will help keep the inside of your tent warm. Placing a metallic heat reflective layer or an extra thick foam camping mat underneath a tent carpet is a quick and easy solution.

Depending on the size of your tent, it can be expensive. But it is weighing the costs of buying or being cold, which can potentially dampen a camping trip, especially with younger children.

An extra thick underfloor aluminium mat from Amazon is 2m x 1.5 m compared to several rolls of metallic heat reflective mat from the Range. It is easy to keep underfoot without rolling bag up and adds comfort when walking or sitting on the floor.

If you have a restricted budget, kid’s play foam interlocking mats are another option and will provide some insulation. Make sure the thickness is over 1 cm to benefit from using them.

I use extra thick foam insulation in our living area only. I have placed a heavy-duty extra-large blanket in the sleeping area that covers the tent floor. Due to the thickness, it does provide good insulation, plus we have additional insulation by our sleeping mats. So we do not feel cold during the night.

I tried to use the metallic heat reflective mat, but laying several of these on the floor and placing a tent carpet over the top is a nightmare. You need an additional pair of hands or lots of heavy items to hold them in place to avoid rolling back upon themselves. Another negative of using these is that they make the tent carpet slippery due to the reflective cover.

Tent carpets can increase your inside tent temperature by 5-10 degrees

Using a carpet can increase the warmth of your tent by 5 to 10 degrees compared to outside. It is surprising how much heat you can lose through the floor of your tent. Plus, nobody wants to walk or sit on a cold lumpy floor.

Carpets help increase comfort levels and make your tent feel more at home. Placing your tent carpet on the top of your insulation mats during the colder seasons will increase the warmth and decrease damage to the underside of your carpet.

Tent carpets have insulation / thermal backing and are expensive, costing over £30 – £80. Prices will vary depending on size and make. A universal carpet is more cost-effective and can save you on average £15-£20.

Picnic blankets for extra floor insulation

Using rugs or picnic blankets on your tent floor will help keep the cold from seeping through the tent floor and help protect your carpet, especially if it is wet outside.

Picnic blankets with waterproof backing are cheaper than a rug. Plus, they can be easily folded and used during the day for a picnic blanket on your travels. Picnic blankets prices range from £6.99 – £19.99, depending on the size.

Having a picnic blanket over the top of your tent carpet will help to protect it, especially near the main entrance. It will provide an additional area for shoes to be removed and stored. If they get ruined by muddy shoes, they can easily be cleaned or thrown away. Whereas tent carpets are not simple to clean.

Windbreakers to help protect you and your tent from wind

Windbreakers are a great way to stop wind whipping through your camping area into your tent. They will not stop drafts completely, but they will help to reduce them. Plus help to lessen the battering of your tent during very windy nights.

Windbreakers are sturdy and can be moved easily to reposition them to give additional shelter. Try to Incorporate your windbreaker with natural environmental windbreakers such as bushes if possible.

Windbreakers are available in various sizes, ranging from traditional beach polythene windbreakers. They are 4-5 polled and 1m high. If you live near a seaside resort or on a day trip, buy one as they will be cheaper. The wooden spike may split at the top if the ground is hard.

We also use a Hi-Gear Windshield for additional height, length, and protection from the elements.  Lines help support your windbreaker and are very sturdy in the wind. They can be a nightmare to pitch due to the length,

Heating rocks/stones on your BBQ or fire pit

Heated rocks in a fire pit and use to heat your sleeping bag

Using your environment to help keep you warm is ideal, although you have to be very careful. When you first arrive, ask your kids to hunt around and find some reasonably sized rocks or stones.

When cooking, place the rocks or stones on or around the BBQ or fire pit to warm. Or place the rocks’ on a small foil tray that can sit on the top of your BBQ grill. Using the foil tray is safer, primarily if you use small stones, plus it is not as messy when you want to lift them out.

Once the rocks or stones are slightly cool, place them inside a towel or a thick sock. They can be used to heat your feet or hands. You can also put the socks in the base of your sleeping bag to warm up before bed.

Portable gas stove heater adaptor

Portable gas stove heater adaptor

Portable gas stove heating adaptors are a simple, easy solution to warming quickly. However, they can only be used outside, not inside a tent. This is due to the build-up of carbon monoxide and fire hazards with an open flame inside a tent.

They fit securely onto a gas stove and heat from the inside. They are very hot and will need to be treated with care. To remove it, either leave it to go cold or use the handle provided to lift off the gas hob.

They are a great mini heater providing they are well-ventilated. I use my for heat if I cook outside and we are car camping, not for our main holidays.

Go to the toilet before bedtime

Having a full bladder helps keep you cool because your body is trying to heat the liquid inside you. Going to the toilet before bed will help keep you warm during the night. As your body will not be trying to heat the excess liquid.

Not only will it give you a good night’s sleep, but there is nothing worse than getting up and walking to the toilet block on a cold night. You are leaving a nice warm cosy sleeping bag.

How a hot water bottle can make you toasty warm

During a cold night, snuggling up with a hot water bottle is a great way to warm up quickly or warm your sleeping bag up, ready for bedtime. They are quick, easy and be prepared in less than 5 minutes.

If you do not have EHU, water can quickly be boiled on a portable gas stove, so it is not essential to have electricity to heat water. They are not the most convenient item to have with you, but they do their job well. Placing them inside a cover will stop younger children from burning themselves and make them more comfortable. If you do not have a cover, wrap it in a towel; just as good.

During the cooler nights, we have four hot water bottles. Two for warming the beds and the other for chilling in the evening to warm ourselves up.

Hot drinks will heat internal core temperatures

A hot cup of coffee to warm you up

Drinking a hot cup of coffee or tea will warm your internal core temperatures as you are adding a warm liquid to your body. But, the University of Ottawa’s School of Human Kinetics research states that increasing your core temperature also increases sweating. Sweating is known to cool you down.

So, having a hot drink is more about feeling warm from the outside rather than internally. You feel the warmth when pouring hot water into a mug from the steam. Plus, you can feel the warmth gradually warming your fingers and hands when you hold your mug.

Creating the illusion of warmth with colour battery operated lights

Lighting not only helps to relax you but also helps to make you feel warmer. Creating the illusion of warmth rather than a harshly bright white light. Harsh lighting will light all areas of a tent, whereas a warm or colour light that is slightly dimmed will help you feel cosy and snug inside your tent.

We use flagged coloured lights that we thread through our sleeping departments’ straps. Also, a multi-purpose Lanktoo 2 in 1 camping lantern from Amazon has several different light settings, including a power bank for charging other items such as iPhones, Ipads. It’s a compact lantern that fits easily in your hand or in the side pocket of a backpack.

If you are unsure which is the best value for money lantern to buy. Read our article about different types of lanterns. We compare lanterns we use for different camping trips, including light settings and sturdiness that can be used to recharge electrical items without using EHU while you are away.

Wear layers of clothes for warmth

Different types of clothing are essential for camping as you need to keep warm during the day and in the evenings when you are not as active. Wearing layers is more suitable as this allows you to remove items of clothing as you warm up.

If you overheat, you will sweat and cool your body down. Not only will it be uncomfortable, but you will remain cold. So having the option to remove or add layers of clothing instead of changing clothing will avoid this problem.

Camping during the summertime, late evenings or early morning hours can still be cold. T-shirts and shorts are suitable for the day, but a fleece jacket and warm socks are quick and easy to pop on if you feel cold.

During colder seasons, inner layers such as a base layer are items of clothing that fits closely to your skin and absorb and remove sweat without making you uncomfortable.

When we camped during the October half term, the Regatta fleece sweatshirts were larger than we needed. This allowed us to wear it over the top of other clothing. I was surprised by how warm they made us feel. They are lightweight and can easily be rolled in your rucksacks when you are on day trips exploring. They are ideal if you feel a chill in your sleeping bag.

Get active before bedtime to warm your body

If we feel cold and unable to put a heater on due to lack of electricity, start moving instead of snuggling up with a blanket. Simple movements will help warm you up.

  • Walking on the spot and gradually increasing the pace
  • Star jumps 
  • Leg lunges
  • Arm rotating
  • Running on the spot

If it’s extra cold, we will put our coats or fleece jackets on and go for a brisk walk around the site. Make sure not to disturb other campers. Camping in the cold can be fun by creating videos and going to the kids’ play area. Nick can let off some energy, which helps him to keep warm.

It helps to get the blood moving around your body and warms you quickly.

Don’t close your tent vents

It can be very tempting, especially if you’re cold, to close to your tent vents to stop drafts. Closing vents will cause the build-up of condensation. In the morning, the inside of your tent will be wet. Your clothes, sleeping bag, and other items will also feel cold and damp.

It’s not possible to stop condensation build-up in a tent even with vents open, but it will help to reduce the horrible dampness of your items in the morning. Which will make you feel cold, as nobody wants to wear damp clothes or wake up in a cold sleeping bag.

If you want to reduce condensation, you can do some simple things, such as purchasing a set of car condensation bags, not using a fan heater, removing wet items from your tent, and many more. We have listed 10 simple steps you can take to reduce condensation.

Wear fewer layers at night

When it’s cold at night, we will automatically add layers of clothing to warm ourselves up. Wearing fewer layers in your sleeping bag at night will keep you warmer. Overheating in a sleeping bag will make you sweat and make your clothes feel damp.

A sleeping bag is designed to trap warm air inside, so wearing fewer clothes will not make you colder. You will feel warmer, providing you use the correct sleeping bag that does not have access space inside.

Wearing dry nightclothes such as pyjamas, thick woolly socks and maybe a hat to head warm will be sufficient. You will feel nice and cosy in your sleeping bag.

Sleeping bag liners can add additional warmth

A cotton sleeping bag line will increase the warmth of your sleeping bag

Sleeping bag liners provide additional warm inside of a sleeping bag. They can increase the temperature of your sleeping by up to 6 °C. Sleeping bag liners are removable and can substitute a blanket for cooler nights when you just want an

Sleeping bag liners can help offer additional protection for your sleeping bag against everyday natural oils from your body. They will reduce the amount you need to wash your sleeping bag and prolong its life, as loftiness will gradually decay with continuous washing.

They are available either in cotton or silk. Prices will vary depending on the type of material you want. Cotton sleeping bags are cheaper and just as practical as silk.

Change out of wet clothes

Not wearing damp clothes will keep you warm. Preparing for a day out or evening weather will reduce the chances of feeling cold and unhappy. Have the appropriate waterproof jacket and trousers to offer protection all year round.

During the colder season, it is hard to dry clothes. You can lay them over a car bonnet or hang them from trees to dry in the sunlight. Or place it near your campfire to dry, but not too close to it, so it is a fire hazard. They will smell smoky, but it is better than damp clothes.

Keeping lightweight and easy-to-pack clothes in a rucksack will keep you dry and quick and easy to put on if the weather changes while you are exploring.

We also keep waterproof trousers and a lightweight waterproof jacket that can easily fit over our everyday clothes rolled in our backpacks. We buy bigger than needed as this makes them easier to put on without having to change.

A good set of walking boots will keep feet dry and toasty warm, combined with a thick pair of socks. If you don’t want walking boots, a good quality pair of wellies with fleece lining will be suitable.

Mini portable fire pits are handy for cold nights

Keeping warm around a fire pit at night

Fire pits are a great way to keep warm during those cooler nights. Not only will a fire pit keep you warm, but it provides light and the chance to cook on an open flame.

Children love to make s’mores of an evening, which keeps them entertained, and you can all enjoy a tasty treat.

If you are camping on a campsite, there will generally be a charge of £5 for your stay. Either they will provide the fire pit, or you will take your own. You will need kindle and logs, which will cost on average £3 – £5 per bag from stores such as B & M Aldi or the campsite will have these for sale.

Fire pits are bulky for transporting if you want to take your own or the campsite doe not have the facilities. I purchased a portable collapsible mesh fire pit from Amazon to save space when travelling. It is a nightmare to put together and can be frustrating, but it is ideal if you do not want a large fire pit burning into the night and want something straightforward.

Heating for the inside of a tent

Heating the inside of your tent is easy if you have EHU set up. Fan heaters are a good option, but the same with any heat. They will cause condensation build-up. Keeping on a low setting, even when cold, will gradually warm a tent, and the heat will be constant.

You can use a standard fan heater, but ideally, a camping heater. They have an anti-tilt setting that automatically turns off if it is knocked over. When I first started camping, I used our fan heater for years, but sometimes they tripped the EHU safety setting, and you need to reset it.

Gas-fed heaters are available, but ideally, they should be used outside and need ventilation. Which does not benefit warming the inside of a tent. If you do not have EHU, I recommend a fire pit, if possible, as this is the cheaper way to stay warm.

You can use several different heating types to heat a tent safely. Before buying a heater, read our article on how to heat your tent safely. We walk you through the types of heating available, how they work and their dangers.

Eat regular warm meals

Warm easy to make breakfast for camping

Eating three warm meals will help to keep you warm as well as keep your energy levels up. Simple, quick and easy meals that do not take ages to prepare are ideal. Try to precook meals before a trip, so you only have to heat them up.

Keeping your energy level up is important, as if you do not have good high-calorie meals and are active, this will make you tired and cold.

When we camp in the colder seasons, we make porridge in easy and quick pots, plus you can warm your hands whilst holding. They are cheap to buy for under 50p at Aldi. Tinned soup with crusty bread is also ideal for quick lunchtime. Leaving comfort food to the evening is more manageable, and you have more time, and you can combine it with cooking over an open fire.


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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