Winter tent for camping

Nov 28, 2007
Ok, this isn't a post about what kind of tent I would need for winter camping.

I'm unemployed at this time, and can't afford a new tent for winter camping
so I have to make due with what I have.
What I have is a 2 season tent, that I'm going to try to use this winter.

I have a budget of about $0.00, but I have a couple of heavy duty tarps.
Right now, I'm thinking of putting one tarp under the tent, and using the other
as a kind of fly for the tent. Both tarps are big enough to do this.
As well, I have foam pads, and two of those air mattress type of pads for inside
the tent so I won't be sleeping directly on the floor of the tent.

My tent is a small hexagonal type dome tent. I have a rain fly, but don't
think it will help much.

The camping is going to be car camping so I don't have to worry about packing
the tent and tarps too far.

The question is what else would I do to winterize the tent?
Would I pack snow up against the side of the tent to help insulate it?
The tent stands only a couple of feet high, and is about 6 or 7 feet on
each of the six sides.

I also have a roll of 6 mil poly that I used for a vapor barrier when I
re-insulated my ceiling this summer. That could be used as well.

Any suggestions from the seasoned winter campers as to how I could set
a camp up for maximum warmth given the assets that I have?

Camping conditions would be 3-4 feet of snow, fairly sheltered camping area,
temperatures in the 0F to -25F range.

Apr 12, 2006
i dont think you can really do much to winterize the tent itself. what i would recommend is trying to winterize your sleeping equipment.

heavy duty wool blankets, a good sleeping bag, sleeping mat of some sort (preferable thick) and other goodies that will help you retain body heat (such as wool clothing and long johns).

the heavy duty tarp might make a good ground sheet, i would suggest using the rain fly to help try and keep some of the elements out.

i'm not sure if packing snow on the sides of the tent will help as tents usually are not strong enough to support that kind of weight. if you do decide to go that route please make sure to leave plenty of ventilation possible.

if you have heavy canvas tarps you could try sewing yourself a one man wall tent. a wood burning stove could be knocked together with bits of scrap metal or dumpster diving. the only concern with this method would be that you would require special fire retardent material for the area that surround the stove pipe/chimney, which may not be found easily.

camping in the kind of terrain you've listed without proper equipment may be somewhat dangerous though.
Jan 14, 2007
All tents do is keep you out of the wind and out of rain and sometimes bugs...not a problem in the winter though. Heck, Black Diamonds MegaMid is just a tee pee tent and it works great! No floor and 1 pole. Thats all you need.


Gold Member
Jan 1, 2009
Take the Tarps and the the tent. Use the tarps, save the tent for backup.

In my experience, condensation is your enemy in winter. In a tent you wake up covered in frost which dampens your bag & clothing making you cold. For the few extra degrees you get it's not worth it. The biggest robber of heat will be the ground below you. There is also a line where the temperature inside your bag goes below freezing and that is where the condensation gets trapped.

If fire is available to you the tarp set up makes even more sense. The heat radiated back does wonders both physically and psychologically. It's dark a lot in winter and sitting in a tent in the dark for long periods is not conducive to a good time, trust me. Fire also works well for drying out clothes and bags.

I posted "Viking Camp" here a while back. I built this mostly for fun and a place to drink beer by the fire. If I had to choose between it and a tent I would go with the tarp all the way. In a survival situation I would modify slightly but the design would remain. It has withstood three major 50+ mile windstorms since erected on Halloween, and is no worse for the wear. It is a 16x20 tarp from Lowes

With the amount of snow you speak of, all sorts of wind breaks and reflectors could be fashioned to improve the efficiency of the tarp set up.

Also you might look into building a Quin-zhee.
Kind of an Athabascan igloo the requires little skill to build but sleeps very warm. Make sure you have dry clothes to put on, you will be wet when you're done. These are not practical to use if you are moving a lot but if stationary they work very well.

Lastly it's the little things that will kill you in winter. Hypothermia is sneaky and very hard to reverse if you are alone. Because you don't think straight.

My last and most important advice would be read Garret Conovers " A Snow Walkers Companion" Great advice, clothing patterns, and generally good reading about life outside in the cold.

Good Luck, Don't Die.
Feb 25, 2007
If I were you with the materials listed. I would research and experiment with the tarps made into a tipi tent with open fire for heat. With the temps you described I don't think rain is a problem so you are talking more of a wind break. It a tipi worked for the indians and the sami people, I can't see why it wouldnt work for you.

Just a thought.
Oct 18, 2006
If you get a chance, check out a company called TREK and look at their miltary tent. Enough room for 2 people and gear. It's only $189.00 from the company. I can recommend it as I used it on a day trip last weekend in Northern NY with a night time temp of around 10 degrees. I used a small candle lantern in the tent to cut down condensation. No issues with the tent.
Nov 6, 2006
An important thing in winter camping is to stop the cold from coming up through your pads. If the foam pads you mention are the closed cell kind then put those on the ground and lay your inflatable one on top. I would probably use that poly under the the closed cell pad as well....on the inside of the tent.

You don't mention what sleeping bag you have. If it's not rated for the temps you plan to camp in then you'll have to add something to make it usable. That could be blankets, another sleeping bag, etc.

If you fill a water bottle(s) with near boiling water right before you go to bed and put it into the bag with you it will help to keep you warmer.
Nov 19, 2008
a hint I picked up some time ago, is to use a space blanket under your inflatable mattress. The mylar gives no insulation, but it does reflect back up some of the heat you lose. The ground is a huge heat sink.
Another product that is inexpensive and that works well, is to slide one of those folding car window sun shades under your pad. The shiny reflective ones really do help with heat retention.
Dec 19, 2005
Great advice, especially about losing heat to the ground. I'd also bring a lot of heat packs. They might make the difference between getting a good nights sleep or not.


Jan 3, 2009
Tents for winter or mountaineering use have to take snow loads into account, and usually have more poles of a more flexible material and stronger seams. If you're expecting more than a couple inches of snowfall, I'd shy away from the standard 3 season tent, but if not, it should work fairly well. A heavy groundsheet is also a very good idea, as moving around inside your tent quickly turns the snow under the floor into ice, which can cut or rub through pretty easily.
Nov 23, 2009
you can always make a shelter like a lean-to and put a tarp on top of that for definite rain protection, and have a nice big fire to keep you warm.
Apr 14, 2006
I do it a little different than some of the previous posts. I put an insulated pad on top of the air mattress - this places the insulation right next to you.

Works well for me.

Also check out the thread with the tarp tipis, a few days back.

Apr 20, 2006
Jon-e-warmers are awesome for winter camping. I even bought a couple that were like new for $1 at an auction! Do a quick google search