Heating your tent

Heating your tent.

Perhaps one of the most discussed issues around camping (apart from noisy neighbours and site facilities) is heating the inside of your tent and/or how to stay warm in your tent. Basically at the end of the day you should practise what you feel most comfortable with.

Heating and warmth is an obvious issue because basically let’s face it, no-one enjoys being cold. And tents are, well, they do have relatively thin walls. It is worth saying here that a heavyweight canvas tent will provide much better insulation than a polyester or nylon tent. A canvas tent will also retain any heat generated within the tent much more effectively. Though that is not to say that a canvas tent, in cold weather, if not heated, will not get cold. It may, when first entering from the cold outside, feel warmer than the outside elements, but you’ll still eventually feel cold unless you do something to remedy that situation.

Apart from wearing six layers of clothing a good way of staying warm in your tent is to actually keep the tent interior at a comfortable ambient temperature. This can be done by using electric fan heaters. Not only are these safe from a fire point of view, but they are extremely easy to control and regulate, and will easily keep your tent interior comfortably warm with the minimal of fuss.

Of course to use a fan heater you would need to have access to EHU (Electric Hook Up) or a fairly good quality solar panel/solar charging unit. These units are not difficult to come across these days, though equally they are not particularly cheap. On the plus side a portable solar unit gives you much more flexibility in your choice as to where to camp, especially if you feel the cold. But don’t forget that solar panels produce considerably less electricity during overcast winter months than during the spring and summer.

So moving on from the relative hassle-free ease of a fan heater – when all you need do once it’s plugged into a power source is to turn the switch on or off – is the next option where a tad more effort is involved with a wood burning stove or a multi-fuel stove. These must of course use properly installed safety flue kits plus witches hats, spark arrestors and within the stoves themselves, bafflers. Another feature used in most current (rear exit) flue kits is a safety cooler sleeve, which wraps around the hot section of flue that passes through the side wall of the tent.

A 2.5kw stove will probably have quite a small firebox and will therefore need perpetual feeding. A 3kw stove may be a better size for a 3 metre or 4 metre bell tent, and a 4kw stove should be the maximum that you’d need for a 5 metre bell tent.

These wood burning stoves are built along traditional lines, and before you can benefit from any heat, you of course need to lay the firebox with kindling and then coax the fire into life. Once up and running it’s relatively easy to keep the fire going. Of course never leave a stove lit when you are asleep, or when leaving the tent for any length of time. Always keep the door closed and the stove should be stood on something fireproof, so protecting the groundsheet.

So after your first fire and before lighting the next fire in your stove you’ll need to ensure that all ash etc is cleaned out from the firebox, that a fresh batch of kindling is laid inside the stove and of course that enough dry wood is nearby to keep the stove going. It may be a lot more work but there is something quite primal about watching the glow of a real stove in your tent (if it has a glass window!) Never leave the door of a lit stove open. And always use a professionally made stove that is properly sealed and flued. It goes without saying that you should never, ever use an open flame of any sort inside a tent – no gas stoves, no open fires, no candles, no stoves with doors open, and absolutely definitely no smouldering (or not smouldering) barbecues. And always have a CO2 detector in the tent, along with a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket. A water bucket just outside of the tent door is also something practised by many campers. An adequately sized stove for your tent should keep you toasty warm in some fairly chilly weather.

On a more basic level a lot of people argue that the use of an inner tent will keep you warmer at night while sleeping, simply because the airflow around you is much reduced, especially if you’re in a bell tent which has quite a high centre pole. But be aware that inner tents can fill up to one half of your tent floor space and that does have a serious impact on usable interior space during the day. So to keep warm whilst sleeping use lots of insulation underneath, good duvets and if you like some sheepskins!

Enjoy camping!

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