Winter camping options

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MtnManAlex

Rank IV

Pathfinder I

I am looking for a way to make winter camping more tolerable for the wife, dogs, and myself. We’ve survived down to 18 degrees with our current setup, but it was miserable.

Is there any practical way to heat a large tent?

Electric heater: too big of a draw on car battery. Is there a battery setup or small generator that would make this work?

Gas/propane heater: increased risk of death. I know many of these heaters have oxygen sensors, but most of these are not rated for high elevation (7,000’+). Is anyone using a gas heater?

Stove tent/teepee: most of these seem wretchedly expensive—especially when the stove is added too. None appear geodesic (solid for wind/snow) and many don’t appear to have a floor or bug nets on doors and windows. What should I know about these tents? Is there a product you’d recommend?

Thanks for all of your knowledge and help!
IMG_0575.JPG
 

sabjku

Rank VI
Member
Supporter

Pathfinder I

2,741
Alexandria, VA
First Name
Steve
Last Name
B
Member #

13840

I use a Mr. Buddy propane heater in the annex of my Tepui Autana RTT. I've used it down to the low 20's and it kept the annex and tent comfortable. It's turned on about 3hrs before going to sleep, and then turned off typically before. It's enough to take the chill out of the tent. I keep a couple windows up in the tent open for additional ventilation.
 

Dock Rocker

Rank IV

Pathfinder I

Take a digital monitor with you for your sleeping area and use a buddy heater or similar type with a 20lb bottle stored outside the tent. You will be safe from carbon monoxide and toasty warm. It’s worked for me for years.
I have a little battery powered monitor I got on amazon and it goes on the tent floor near my head and I crank up the heat before I go to bed so everything is nice and comfy. I turn it down to the low setting for sleeping to cut the chill down. I keep the control within reach so I can crank it up as I wake up and get every thing toasty again.
 

MtnManAlex

Rank IV

Pathfinder I

Is there a fail proof way to setup ventilation for a propane heater? I thought a small opening at the top of the tent would be enough, but I read some articles saying carbon monoxide doesn’t always rise as its density is similar to regular air. I just want to know as much as possible. It seems every couple of years someone is found dead in their tent in Colorado from lightning a propane stove or something inside.

Also, maybe this is a stupid idea, but is there any teepee that I could light a small fire in? Native American style? Just thick canvas and a vent in the top?

I like the stove tent idea, but at $1000 for the tent and $300 for the stove it’s a big investment—especially since I’ve never tried that kind of setup.
 

sabjku

Rank VI
Member
Supporter

Pathfinder I

2,741
Alexandria, VA
First Name
Steve
Last Name
B
Member #

13840

I am looking for a way to make winter camping more tolerable for the wife, dogs, and myself. We’ve survived down to 18 degrees with our current setup, but it was miserable.

Is there any practical way to heat a large tent?

Electric heater: too big of a draw on car battery. Is there a battery setup or small generator that would make this work?

Gas/propane heater: increased risk of death. I know many of these heaters have oxygen sensors, but most of these are not rated for high elevation (7,000’+). Is anyone using a gas heater?

Stove tent/teepee: most of these seem wretchedly expensive—especially when the stove is added too. None appear geodesic (solid for wind/snow) and many don’t appear to have a floor or bug nets on doors and windows. What should I know about these tents? Is there a product you’d recommend?

Thanks for all of your knowledge and help!
View attachment 70713
The older I get the less I enjoy the cold weather, but this pic kind of makes me change my mind!
 

Dr Gil

Rank 0

Traveler I

Is there a fail proof way to setup ventilation for a propane heater? I thought a small opening at the top of the tent would be enough, but I read some articles saying carbon monoxide doesn’t always rise as its density is similar to regular air. I just want to know as much as possible. It seems every couple of years someone is found dead in their tent in Colorado from lightning a propane stove or something inside.

Also, maybe this is a stupid idea, but is there any teepee that I could light a small fire in? Native American style? Just thick canvas and a vent in the top?

I like the stove tent idea, but at $1000 for the tent and $300 for the stove it’s a big investment—especially since I’ve never tried that kind of setup.
This video helped me feel more comfortable about the idea of a heater in my truck where I sleep.

 

SiDbaru

Rank III
Member

Traveler I

632
California
Member #

14702

Not sure about tent heaters but my grandfather gave me a heated vest a few years ago and it's the biggest game changer.
I have the zero layer heated vest with an extra battery. It's very light and compact. They also make jackets, gloves, pants and even heated socks.
Pricy but well worth the money. Especially if it makes the wife happy.
 
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Verent Chan

Rank I
Member

Contributor I

203
Lehi, UT
Member #

8568

Does anyone make a heated mattress? I feel like the most efficient way is to heat what is below you and have some mass to hold the heat rather than heating the air that moves in and out of the tent. I guess you could get an electric blanket or heated mattress pad but it would be great to have a RTT designed for heated mattress.
 
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Corbet

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

2,055
Durango, CO
Member #

1204

Running a buddy heater in a tent all night is just not a great idea in my opinion. I have one and use it in my RTT annex accasionally but never all night.

Your better off with a super warm sleeping bag and the smaller the tent the warmer. Less air volume to heat. Have a dog, bring it. They are like having a heater in the tent.

Sleep in light wicking base layers. Always wear a hat while sleeping. Get a double bag to share with your wife. Put a hot water bottle in the bottom of your bags while cooking dinner. That way you come to bed with a pre-warmed bag. Make sure you have good insulation from the ground. That is how you loose most of your heat. Closed cell foam is the best, put it inside your sleeping bag if you have to. Place a comforter over both of you to retain more heat, keeps your arms warm too if not inside your sleeping bag.

You didn’t really describe your current set up so it’s hard to offer improvements upon it. The reality winter camping in a tent is going to be uncomfortable to some degree. Winter gear is expensive. I winter camp all the time. The best money I spent was on a premium -5° down mountaineering sleeping bag 25 year ago. I’ve survived -28° in it. But generally I’m unzipping to let heat out.

If your tent heater fails your cold, or worse you die. What is there to fail with a super warm sleeping bag?
 
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SiDbaru

Rank III
Member

Traveler I

632
California
Member #

14702

Pro tip number 1 for warm sleeping. (After you have the right gear)
Always put on dry socks and underwear before getting into that sleeping bag. Sweaty socks and cloths get cold and will suck the warmth right out of you. Even if they don't feel that wet/soaked, it only takes a little bit of moisture to make the night uncomfortable.
Doing this will also help your sleeping bag stay cleaner for longer.

As mentioned above wearing a beanie/hat also helps alot. And when all else fails break out the whiskey :smirk:
 

ovrlndr

Rank VI
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Influencer II

4,353
Denver, CO, USA
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Jason
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Broom
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I am not a fan of the idea of putting a Mr. Buddy heater inside a small enclosed space that people will be in, especially sleeping in, for carbon monoxide reasons and for fire hazard reasons.

This is coming from someone that is currently building a Sprinter van and is installing an Espar D2 diesel heater in the van (along with a carbon monoxide detector or two) - however, the Espar D2 exhausts to the outside of the van, whereas a Mr. Buddy exhausts right in your tent.

Those small, inexpensive carbon monoxide detectors are great, until they aren't. And considering most of the inexpensive ones are made in China using not-so-top-notch circuitry and rely on metal oxide semiconductors to change the electrical resistance and trigger the alarm... If you're running a Mr. Buddy in your tent and can't be convinced otherwise, my suggestion is to buy at least 2 detectors and run them higher up in the tent (carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air, so it will rise).

My solution for sleeping in a tent in the cold is as follows:
  • Several layers of blankets (one of them preferably being down) to go under you to insulate you from your sleeping surface, especially if the sleeping surface is filled with air or is raised up slightly off the ground... applies to RTTs as well. The mattress in those will provide slight insulation, but not much, and the tent is raised slightly off the roof.
  • A quality, down sleeping bag that is rated for temperatures well below what you plan on camping in... Don't get a 20* bag if you plan on camping in 20* temps... get a 0* bag or -10* bag, for example
  • Silk sleeping bag liner (usually adds 10* - 15* to the lowest rating of the bag)
  • Dedicated pajamas (warm stuff, like fleece or flannel, including warm socks) - they are more likely to stay dry than what you've been wearing all day long - also wear a toque to bed if you can stand it... most of your body heat escapes through your head
As you can see, this whole setup is built around the concept of layers. It sounds like a lot, but most down sleeping bags pack down small, as do silk sleeping bag liners. You could use moving blankets for the blankets, which I keep in my rigs at all times in case I need to work underneath them or protect them from hail, or get stuck in cold temps. They make plenty of down blankets now that pack down small in stuff sacks, and if you get a big enough one, you can wrap it over your sleeping bag like a taco (making it useful as an insulation layer underneath and above) on those extra chilly nights.
 
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ovrlndr

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Denver, CO, USA
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Another method I have seen people adopting which is arguable safer than the Mr. Buddy heater (but still poses fire risk) is to use a GoalZero (or similar) battery to power an electric blanket.
 

Smileyshaun

Rank V
Member

Traveler I

2,309
Clackamas, Oregon
Member #

4799

bag temp ratings are a little misleading , a 20°bag will usually not keep you comfy and warm at 20° it will keep you alive . If you look at the fine print on most bags it will have 2 ratings a comfort rating and a survival rating I try to use a bag rated at 20° colder then the temps I plan on sleeping at . Even in my hammock tent I stay comfortable down to 30 deg, light layers , big water bottle filled with hot water and wrapped in a thick sock goes in the bag a hour b4 bed and warm socks and light gloves . If you keep your extremities warm the rest of your body will stay warm . It's also very overlooked but staying hydrated in cold weather is critical to keeping body temps regulated . If you're dehydrated your body will have a harder time pumping blood throughout your body which in turn will make it harder to keep your body warm. And if all that fails get one of those huge two person sleeping bags and tell the misses getting naked the only way to stay warm and alive usually helps to get her a bottle of wine while you're at it.
 

Damil

Rank 0

Contributor II

The only thing that concerns me about heaters is the idea that you will dress for the temperature the heater puts out, which is fine.. but if the heater fails into the night (electric/gas) while your sleeping, that 'was warm' sleeping arrangements will change quickly and could get serious dependent on ambient temperature. I would much rather take a small wood stove like mentioned due to their ability to retain heat.

But on top of everything, I really believe layering up correctly is the best way for humans to winter camp. The only problem is the dogs and I feel you on this. Dependent on breed and hair, some are harder to warm than others. My pitbull is hot in 80 degrees and frozen in 50 degrees. The best she can do is sleep inside the sleeping bag with me.
 

Corbet

Rank V
Member

Pathfinder I

2,055
Durango, CO
Member #

1204

The only problem is the dogs and I feel you on this. Dependent on breed and hair, some are harder to warm than others. My pitbull is hot in 80 degrees and frozen in 50 degrees. The best she can do is sleep inside the sleeping bag with me.
Agree on breed variables. Mine is hot when temps are over freezing, and well never cold. And honestly hard to coax into a tent. He’d rather be outdoors sleeping regardless of weather. If it rains he will crawl under the truck to stay dry. I used to set up the annex for him. But he’d just wine to be left out.

C8EE7E5E-9426-4337-9CC8-E1975CC2E58C.jpeg
 
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