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How do I stay warm winter camping? Camping stoves/heaters?

Recently, I had the idea of going winter camping in Vermont and was wondering what equipment I should use to keep warm and maybe warm up some food. I have a few questions.

1. Is there a heater/stove that can be used inside of a tent with low carbon monoxide risk. 

2. Does anyone have experience or knowledge of camping in cold weather? Is there even a need to use heating equipment inside tents?

3. Last, is there something else I should be more concerned about? 

Thanks for your advice in advance!

17 Replies


Don't ever think about putting a stove in your tent for warmth!

(for all the above reasons)

that said, sometimes you're rained-in and still need to eat (or make coffee), you are less likely to get into trouble CAREFULLY using your stove outside the door of you tent and under your vestibule (imo best use of a vestibule).

try to position the stove where a flare-up will not reach the nylon.

keeping a pot on the stove while under flame, sort of protects the tent from a flame.

REI Member Since 1979

one more 'pro tip'

If you're pretty sure your water is going to freeze despite your efforts, leave water in your cooking pot and let it freeze there, that way you can just put in on the stove and start breakfast.

Use some of that warm water to pour on the frozen lids of your water bottles.

REI Member Since 1979

Just don't try to melt it with a really high flame. Start with a low flame until some water is melted and then turn up the flame. 

aka "Boonerelli"

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@John btw John I totally forgot about candle lanterns!

 I’ve had one since the 80’s and totally forgot about it!

 I’m determined to drag it out this winter and your absolutely right about it only warming a wee bit - but seeming like it!

REI Member Since 1979

@John @Philreedshikes 

Great suggestion! I have a UCO Original Candle Lantern Kit that I take with me sometimes on winter camping trips. I like that they have a handle that swings up, along with a short chain for hanging. It helps ensure you're not hanging a heat source too close to the nylon of your tent. I also have a bigger version of the same lantern with three candles in it that I hang in my car-camping tent (which is a canvas tent that I feel retains warmth a bit better than the lightweight nylon fabric on most tents).

I feel like those lanterns provide a couple benefits:

  • Some, likely debatable, warmth in your tent. I have had nights when I would have bet that the tent was 5-10° warmer inside than the outside, however, who knows how much of that was because of body heat and exhaling as well (or my inability to accurately tell temperatures too!)?
  • Cold weather is really hard on batteries. It's nice to have a light source that I can use for a while to rest my headlamp batteries (or warm them up in my sleeping bag!).
  • It provides some nice ambience and the psychological comfort of the light from a candle.

That being said, lighting a candle lantern, even a small one, comes with it's own set of hazards so you need to be super careful that the heat from the candle doesn't damage your tent, that you don't touch the lantern while it's hot, and that you don't set it down on the tent fabric or anything else you don't want to melt.

Thanks for the great discussion on this topic!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

All true from my experience.

aka "Boonerelli"

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

You could bring along a rechargeable  hand warmer. I just bought a Celestron Elements Li-ion rechargeable warmer, but I'm not sure if I would recommend it just yet, since I am testing it out still. So far just putting it through it's paces it appears as if it takes up to six hours to charge for about 4 hours of continuous use. It's supposed to be a power bank as well so you can charge a phone. Zippo makes one (model 9s) that supposedly charges within 2 hours and can heat for 9 hours. I should have bought that one but there was a clearance sale on the Celestron for $27 normally $50. I let clearance sales get the best of me sometimes. 


Hope this helps.


I do not use any heat and I camp below zero in Alaska. A lot!  I dig out my tent site and I pile up snow around my tent.  I have a below zero bag and I wear my expedition suit. I am fine till about -10,-15 F. I live in a place where there are three bears per person so I do not cook my food.  I drink water, eat almonds, tuna out of a packet and then put in smell proof bags.  I have a bottle to go pee in. Its nice and dark here in the winter and less homeless addicts in the woods trying to get in your tent.  I do carry bear spray.  You are as warm as your skills and equipment.

Everyone's different.   My idea of room temperature is about 60. As long as its not super windy, I am fine.