Home Camping Tips Car vs. Tent: Which Is Warmer?

Car vs. Tent: Which Is Warmer?

by Rayhan

Meta:  Deciding whether to sleep in your car or pitched tent can be complicated. This article will help you make the right choice for you!


If you’re planning on spending any length of time in cold weather – whether it’s for camping, hiking, or even just sitting in your car during a long road trip – then you need to know how to stay warm. And one of the most important questions you can ask is: which is better for staying warm, a car or a tent?

A car is much warmer than a tent, hands down.

Here’s Why: A car’s metal exterior and engine block help to keep heat in, while a tent’s fabric walls do little to prevent heat loss. In addition, a car has better insulation than a tent, thanks to its thicker walls and closed doors.

Comparison In Terms of Warmness at Camping

         Car           Tent
A car’s metal exterior and engine block act as a barrier to prevent heat loss.A tent’s fabric walls do little to prevent heat loss.
Car has thicker walls and closed doors, which helps to keep heat in and cold out.Tent’s walls are thin and often have gaps or openings that allow heat to escape.
Car has a built-in heat source (the engine)Tent must be heated by an external source, such as a campfire or portable heater
Car’s HVAC system can be used to circulate warm air throughout the car.This is not possible with a tent.                    
Car can be plugged into an electrical outlet to provide heatThis is not possible with a tent.

What Keeps You Warm in a Tent?

Three factors affect how warm you will be in a tent: the tent’s material, the insulation of the sleeping bag, and the heat source.

The Material of the Tent

Tents are made with different materials, each with its advantages and disadvantages. The most common type of tent is made with a waterproof and breathable fabric. This fabric is good at trapping heat but does not work well in cold weather.

Another type of tent is made with insulated fabric. This fabric is better at trapping heat but is not as breathable as the first type of fabric. It means you may sweat more when sleeping in an insulated tent.

The Insulation of the Sleeping Bag

Insulation may be the most crucial factor in determining how warm you will be in a tent. Because tents do not have a heat source, the sleeping bag you use will be your only source of warmth.

There are two types of sleeping bags: synthetic and down. Synthetic sleeping bags are filled with synthetic materials, such as polyester. Down sleeping bags are filled with duck or goose feathers.

Down sleeping bags are warmer than synthetic ones but are also more expensive. Opt for a down sleeping bag if you are camping in cold weather.

The Heat Source

Another factor that influences how warm you will be in a tent is the heat source. Tents do not have a heating element, but you can bring one with you. The most popular form of heat source is a campfire. Campfires are not the only type of heat source available.

You may also utilize a stove, such as a propane burner. Stoves are more effective than campfires in energy efficiency, but they take longer to set up. If camping in cold weather, remember to bring a heat supply. A campfire or stove will keep you comfortable throughout the night. Also, make sure to pack plenty of blankets!

Tips and Tricks to Keep You Warm at Tent

You can do a few things to stay warm while camping in a tent.

  1. Dress in layers: This will trap heat better than one bulky layer.
  2. Use a hot water bottle: Fill a bottle with hot water and tuck it into your sleeping bag. The heat will last for several hours.
  3. A suitable sleeping bag for low temp: A good rule of thumb is to choose a sleeping bag rated 10 degrees colder than the temperature you expect to experience.
  4. Pack extra blankets: Blankets are always a good idea, even if you don’t think you’ll need them. They can be used as an extra layer or to prop up your sleeping bag.
  5. Footwear: Wear socks to bed and make sure your feet are covered. This will prevent heat from escaping through your toes.

What Keeps You Warm in a Car?

 Just like with tent camping, these three things must be considered to stay comfortable.

The Type of Car

The type of car you have will make a difference in how warm you will be. Smaller cars, such as sedans, do not hold heat, as well as larger cars, such as SUVs. If possible, choose a larger car when camping in cold weather. The extra space will give you more room to store blankets and other items that keep you warm. Even if you have a smaller car, you can still make it work by packing wisely.


Another factor that affects how warm you will be in a car is insulation. Most cars have some form of insulation, but it is not always effective. Like, tents, blankets are the best way to insulate a car. You can also purchase an aftermarket insulation kit. These kits usually come with a reflective material that you place on the inside of your windows. The reflective material helps to keep heat from escaping through the windows.

The Heat Source

The heat source is the last factor that affects how warm you will be in a car. Cars do not have a built-in heat source, but you can bring one with you. The most popular type of heat source is a portable heater. Portable heaters come in many different styles, such as propane or electric.

Propane heaters are more popular because they are less expensive than electric heaters. However, propane heaters can be dangerous if not used properly. If you choose to use a propane heater, read the instructions carefully and follow them closely.

Tips and Tricks to Keep You Warm at Car

Car camping in cold weather can be comfortable if you take the proper precautions.

  1. Cover the windows: Use blankets or an aftermarket thermal insulation kit to cover the windows. It will help to keep heat from escaping.
  2. Warm up the car before bed: Start the engine to utilize the HVAC system or turn on the heater about 30 minutes before bed. This will help warm up the car.
  3. Leave the heat on: It is tempting to turn off the heat during the night to conserve fuel, but this is not a good idea. Instead, leave the heat on low all night. This will help to maintain a comfortable temperature.
  4. Invest in plug-in car seat cushions: These are a lifesaver! Plug-in cushions attach to your car’s cigarette lighter and provide warmth for your seats.
  5. Bring a portable heater: A portable heater is a great way to add extra heat to a car. Just make sure to follow the instructions carefully to avoid any accidents.

Bottom Line

In the end, it all comes down to personal preference. Of course, a car isn’t always the best option for camping in cold weather. A tent will be lighter and more versatile if you plan to spend extended periods outdoors or do any serious hiking or climbing. And if you’re worried about carbon emissions, remember that cars produce far more pollution than tents!

But a car is probably your best bet if you’re looking for the warmest option for a quick weekend getaway. Just be sure to pack plenty of blankets and snacks!


Can I Plug My Car into an Electrical Outlet to Provide Heat?

Yes, you can plug your car into an electrical outlet to provide warmth. Just be sure to use the proper adapter for your car’s make and model.

What Should I Do If My Car Battery Dies in the Cold Weather?

If your car battery dies in cold weather, it is important to call a tow truck or roadside assistance service as soon as possible. Do not attempt to jump-start your car, as this could damage the battery. Once your vehicle is running again, drive it for at least 30 minutes to allow the battery to recharge.

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