How Hot Can a Tent Get

When camping, keeping comfortable can be a big deal, especially when you’re ready to settle down for the night in your tent!

Tents won’t get more than five to ten degrees above the outside temperature. Tents with heaters, approved stoves, or insulation can get hotter. A smaller tent size, reduced ventilation and more people in the tent will also raise the temperature in the tent.

Let’s see how hot you can expect your tent to get, and how you can better control the temperature of your camping trip.

Maximum Heat in a Tent

Some tents get a lot hotter than others, being built for hotter or cooler weather. How hot the tent gets is going to be determined by the materials the tent is made of.

Most tents are made of thin, lightweight fabric that is easy to carry and dries quickly because tent manufacturers are dependent on campers to keep themselves warm with other means like sleeping bags and campfires. Tents are also built to be waterproof over being warm, and waterproof materials tend to be less insulated.

Tents that are built for the cold, however, are often made with two layers: one for keeping the tent dry and protected, and another to insulate heat. The bigger the tent, the colder it will be in the tent.

Some winter tents are designed to accommodate a stove. For family adventures, we recommend the OneTigris Rock Fortress Hot Tent with Stove Jack Bushcraft Shelter (Amazon link) and well as the OneTigris Tiger Roar Tent Stove (Amazon link).

Unless the tent has specific modifications and instructions for an inside stove, don’t put a stove inside the tent! And always follow the exact instructions given for an inside stove. A fire inside of a tent is one of the worst things that can happen on a camping trip and is extremely dangerous. Plus, then you won’t be able to use the tent anymore!

Between the added insulation and stove, these tents can reach sauna levels of heat. Most tents, however, won’t get more than five to ten degrees above the outside temperature depending on what size they are and how many people are in the tent. Tents with windows are also cooler than other tents, as they allow the heat built up in the tent to escape.

If you want to keep warm in your tent, you should put more focus on your sleeping bag and clothes than on your tent, which is designed more for protection than comfort.

How Different Materials Compare

We know that different materials make a tent warmer or cooler, but which materials have which effects? Tents are usually made of synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon, which are cheaper, more waterproof, and lighter. They don’t insulate heat as much as thicker, natural fabrics like wool or cotton, however. The downside of these natural fabrics, however, is that they don’t repel water like man-made fabric does, so they get wetter and don’t keep out the rain as well.

The color of the fabric can also affect the tent’s insulation factor. Darker fabrics are less susceptible to wear than lighter fabrics, which reflect more light. Darker fabric tends to be warmer than lighter colors, black, especially because dark colors absorb light instead of reflecting it.

To compare man-made and synthetic materials, synthetic doesn’t absorb as much light as natural, regardless of color. This means that while synthetic seems better for hot weather camping, as it is lighter, it fades faster under sunlight and heat. Cotton and wool tents are denser, sturdier, and more insulated. The downside is they can also be a lot heavier and don’t dry as quickly. A damp tent will always be colder than a dry one.

Some synthetic fabrics can be redesigned to be more insulated, however, in cold weather tents. They may be layered to keep heat in, or given an extra protective covering.

There are also tents made of poly-cotton, or a blend of synthetic and natural fabric, which has the pros and cons of both materials. They are more waterproof, and lighter, but also more subject to wear and tear than regular cotton or wool. Between the two, the difference in heat is only a few degrees, but a few degrees might be all the difference in the world depending on where you’re camping.

Tips and Tricks to Stay Warm in a Tent

Your main source of heat retention is your sleeping bag and clothing, not your tent. You can add clothing layers, add a liner or blanket to your sleeping bag, tie off unused leg room or even put your extra clothes in the bag to keep it warmer. A hot water bottle isn’t the easiest way to heat up a sleeping bag, but it won’t burn the walls of your tent like fire or a heater will.

So the tent doesn’t typically have a huge impact on your warmth inside it, but what if you wanted to improve the tent’s ability to maintain heat? Your body already gives off heat, so you’d want to trap that heat inside the tent. The easiest and safest way to do that is with insulation, which can be added.

There is insulation material that is specifically for tents, but you can also use blankets (e.g. mylar blankets) or cardboard. Just stick your insulation material to the ceiling and walls of your tent to keep that heat in. If your tent has windows or a door with a net screen, reducing air flow can help reduce heat loss from convection; just keep in mind you may generate some added condensation that could get your bag wet.

Smaller tents have better insulating properties and stay warmer than large tents, and the more people you have in the tent, the warmer it will be. The body heat from everybody crowding together can keep you plenty warm!

Alternatively, if you wanted your tent sleeping to be cooler, replace that sleeping bag with a loose sheet and open any windows or doors in your tent that are safe to open. You’ll want a net on the door and windows, to keep any unwanted visitors from coming in. Removing the rainfly if there is no rain in the forecast and you are willing to take that chance could also improve air flow. You should also pitch the tent far away from your campfire to avoid absorbing that heat.

John Olsen

John Olsen is a seasoned adventurer with 20 years of writing, public speaking, team leadership, analytics and project management experience.

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