15 Ways To Heat A Rooftop Tent (and stay warm in winter)

When you want to go on a camping trip with your rooftop tent in winter or during cold weather days, you probably want to know how you can heat your rooftop tent to stay warm.

You heat a rooftop tent with a portable electric heater, propane heater, or (diesel) heat exchanger. And you keep a rooftop tent warm in winter with an additional insulated Thermo tent, an electric blanket, an electric mattress warmer, an insulating sleeping mat, a sheepskin rug, cold weather sleeping bag, thermal clothing, and/ or a hot water bottle.

Let’s dive deeper into all the ways you can heat your rooftop tent and stay warm. So continue reading.

How Do You Heat A Roof Top Tent?

Winter camping can be a mind-blowing experience, and by following these tips below, you can heat your rooftop tent and keep it nice and warm so you can enjoy your time in the great outdoors.

There are a couple of ways, which I already mentioned above, but I will explain more in-depth below with the pros and cons. Plus, I share a couple of the best brands you can use to heat up your rooftop tent.

Electric Heater

The first way in which you can heat your rooftop tent is by using an electric heater. They are small and portable heaters that run on electricity and often need a significant amount of electricity to run. This is a great option when you go to campgrounds that have electrical hookups. Or plug it into your car battery.

Or you can use a generator. This can work perfectly when camping in the wild. But on popular campgrounds, generators often must be switched off at night.

One of the best-rated electric heaters on the market is the Stanley Electric Heater >>.

Propane Heater

Specifically, propane gas heaters can provide more intense heat than electric heaters. They are also small, portable, run off propane gas, and are a very popular way to heat a tent.

Most gas heaters used for heating a rooftop tent are catalytic heaters, which means they have no open flame. Using a catalytic heater instead of an open flame is vital to ensuring your safety while camping and avoiding any concerns over having a gas flame in your tent. 

But this way of heating is not risk-free. Extreme caution should be exercised with propane space heaters because of the risks they pose for igniting a fire if placed too close to combustible items and the danger they create of carbon monoxide poisoning in poorly ventilated spaces like a rooftop tent with all the doors, windows and vents closed. Some of these heaters have an emergency shut-off system if they are accidentally knocked over. But there have been cases of tents catching fire.

One of the best-rated and Indoor-Safe propane heaters is Mr. Heater >>.

(Diesel) Heat Exchanger

A propane heat exchanger is a system that is placed outside your rooftop tent (where the combustion takes place) and pushes the heat into the tent via a tube.

It is a more robust source of warmth which can quickly heat up a large rooftop tent and maintain a comfortable level of warmth for days on end even in the most inhospitable of weather conditions.

It is a bit more expensive and a bit more work to set up. But a great option for when you’re planning on staying longer periods of time at a location. Check out this Portable 12V Diesel Heat Exchanger on Amazon for more information.

How Do You Keep A Rooftop Tent Warm In Winter?

Although camping in a rooftop tent (or any type of tent, for that matter) is an activity that is most often associated with the warmer months of the year, with proper preparation and the right equipment, it can be done anytime, even in the dead of winter amidst conditions like snow and freezing temperatures. Such as the heating options I mentioned earlier.

But there are certain things to keep in mind, and you can do to keep warm during winter camping days and nights. Here are some proven strategies for keeping a rooftop tent warm in the winter.

Use A Rooftop Tent Extreme Weather Cover

You can put a cover over your rooftop tent that is especially designed for harsh weather conditions and help shield the rooftop tent from heavy rain, snow, hail, and can help keep hot air from escaping. But it will also cause more humid inside the tent. An anti-condensation mat is what I always recommend when people want to buy a rooftop tent, but when you put a cover over it, it is highly recommended.

Not every brand will have an extreme weather cover option, so when you’re still picking out the best rooftop tent for you camping trip, this can be a good feature to keep in the back of your mind.

Rooftop Tents Feature Rugged Construction

When it comes to providing warmth in the winter, the very design of rooftop tents addresses one of the most important strategies: getting off the cold ground. Sleeping or resting on a cold surface is a surefire way to lose precious body heat in the winter, so the fact that rooftop tents are elevated well above the ground is a solid first step toward keeping them warm in the winter.

Another feature of rooftop tents that can help combat cold conditions is how they are made. Compared to their on-ground counterparts, rooftop tents tend to be made from thicker, more durable materials and feature more rugged construction than ground tents, particularly those designated as three-season or four-season tents. This attribute can help repel the chilling effects of snow, rain, wind, and freezing temperatures.

Rooftop Tent’s Material

All rooftop tents will be made from some kind of material – natural or synthetic. Knowing the benefits of each material type and how you can utilize it to suit your camping trip is essential to choosing a rooftop tent and ensuring it stays warm in winter. 

Examples of different tent fabrics:

  • Cotton: A popular and relatively inexpensive material, cotton has the luxury of being amendable to both heat and cold. In addition, cotton is a natural material famous for its versatility and the fact that you can use it to stay cool when it is warm and warm when it is cold. 
  • Polyester: This synthetic material is extremely popular, and you will find it on most rooftop tents. Polyester is primarily suitable for ‘everyday weather and would not be considered an insulating material. However, polyester can be beneficial as rain protection during light rain. 
  • Nylon: Nylon is an excellent material for those looking to camp during the summer. It is a lightweight synthetic material that is very durable. 
  • Hemp: A newer fabric coming on the scene, hemp fabric is making headlines as a natural and sustainable fabric choice. Similar to cotton, hemp can provide warmth in the cold and keep you cool in the heat. It is also an extremely durable fabric, is sustainable to grow, and offers many environmental benefits.

While these characteristics are a good place to start, they alone cannot ensure that you will stay warm in winter. Fortunately, there are additional measures you can take to keep your rooftop tent warm, starting with beefing up the protection it provides. 

Insulation Thermo Tent

One way to look at the challenge of keeping your rooftop tent warm in the winter is to strike a balance between keeping the bitter cold outside and precious warmth inside the shelter. The thick material with which many rooftop tents are constructed can function as an effective barrier against cold weather conditions.

But when temperatures plummet, and the elements become more challenging to overcome, a good way to warm the interior of a rooftop tent is by adding specialized insulation or also called a Thermo Tent, that:

  • Beefs up the walls and roof of the tent with a layer of insulating material
  • It is typically installed with hooks or clips that attach the blanket-like material to the structure’s internal frame
  • Features integrated zippers that allow full access to the tent’s windows and doors

Because the shape, size, and dimensions of rooftop tents can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, it is recommended to get insulation that is specially fitted for your particular tent model. Fortunately, insulation is available as an accessory from many of the top brands in the rooftop tent arena.

Thermo tents are the easiest way to keep yourself warm while camping. It helps to provide and trap heat inside your tent, and they’re relatively affordable for most people.

Electric Blanket

Sometimes all you need is a small bit of heat overnight, and the easiest and most inexpensive option is to warm the body. And most people would be familiar with electric blankets, and you most likely have one lying around your house! Electric blankets can be plugged in and used overnight to keep your bed warm during your sleep. There are 12V electric blankets that you can easily plug into your car. The Stalwart Electric Car Blanket is popular with an extra long (96-inch) cord.

Electric Mattress Heater

Another option is to heat the mattress before you go to sleep. I haven’t found a lot of electric mattress heaters that can be plugged into a car, but if you’re staying on a camping ground with power plugs, this can be a warm idea to do. This mattress heater on Amazon is known to be water-resistant.

Insulating Sleeping Mat

As you probably guessed by now, insulation is the key to keeping warm. So, it won’t come as a surprise to learn that insulated mattresses prevent your body heat from escaping while you are asleep. This Therm-a-Rest Sleeping Pad with Reflective ThermaCapture coating and heat-trapping dimples capture radiant heat, increasing overall warmth by 20 percent for an extra cozy night’s sleep.

Sheepskin Rug

We travel through Europe in the winter, so we meet many people on the road. And that is where we also met a family with an iKamper rooftop tent who placed sheepskin rugs underneath their mattress to keep warm. I would normally not advise buying products that are harmful to animals, but if you already have sheepskin lying around the house or can borrow it from friends, this can be a great idea to keep yourself warm in your rooftop tent. Sheepskin allows air to circulate throughout the fibers of the wool, meaning that sheepskin, in its most natural state, will regulate your body’s own temperature.

Cold Weather Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag that matches the weather conditions is the most important item to keep warm.

I recommend researching the lowest temperature at your camping location before buying a sleeping bag. This way, you know your sleeping bag is equipped for the temperatures you’re heading into.

Did you know you have heated sleeping bags? I don’t have any experience with them but you can check out a couple of them here.

Another helpful tip is to get a sleeping bag liner if you already have a sleeping bag. It will save you a bit of money while it adds the warm of around ten degrees depending on the brand. The Litume All Season Sleeping Bag Liner even adds up to 27F. But these claims can be misleading and dangerous. For example, a 300g fleece liner simply cannot make a 0ºC rated sleeping bag into a -10ºC rated sleeping bag according to Mont Adventure Equipment. You might risk getting very cold or even worse, risk of hypothermia.

Thermal Clothing

Now it is down to what you’re wearing when you’re sleeping in your rooftop tent during winter nights.

According to Mont Adventure Equipment on the best ways to stay warm in your sleeping bag is that when it comes to what to wear: “The most effective clothing to wear in a sleeping bag is an even layer of thermal clothing, socks and a beanie. This allows the heat generated by your body to permeate evenly through the sleeping bag and maintain the warmth of your entire body.

Also they have a great tip on what not to wear: “Wearing a large puffy down jacket inside your sleeping bag might sound like a good idea, but this will often be counter-productive. A majority of body heat is generated by your torso, the area of your body with the greatest mass. By wearing a down jacket, this heat will largely be trapped inside the jacket, rather than permeating throughout the sleeping bag. Your torso might be warm, but you may feel uncomfortable because your legs are cold!”

Hot Water Bottle

We like to use a hot water bottle to get direct heat within our sleeping bag when we sleep in our rooftop tent. Most water bottles stay warm the entire night, but do keep in mind that they can get cold. When you notice this happening it is best to put the water bottle away from you so you stay warm.

You can put the hot water bottle in your sleeping bag an hour before you go to bed, so you’ll have a warm and cozy sleeping bag to snug into later that night.

Make sure the hot water bottle is reliable because it comes with an obvious risk; a bursted water bottle will soak your sleeping bag and you’ll be wet and cold during the night! The Qomfor Hot Water Bottle get the best reviews and have a very soft cover.

Make Yourself Warm

Another essential tip to keep yourself warm, is to make yourself warm before you go to bed. I know from experience that it is very hard to get warm in a rooftop tent during cold nights when you have cold feet or your entire body is already cold. That it is why it can be helpful to do a couple of jumping jacks or go for a run to raise your body temperature before you go to bed.

Also, a good and healthy meal before you go to bed and staying hydrated will give your body short-term and long-term fuel to generate heat.

Are Rooftop Tents Good For Winter?

After all the ways I explained how to heat a rooftop tent and how to keep it warm, you might still wonder, are rooftop tents good for winter?

Rooftop tents are great for winter due to the elevated position it provides insulation from cold and wet grounds, the rugged construction and material is suitable for extreme conditions, and they’re easier to set up. Also, a hard shell rooftop tent is the best for winter conditions because the insulated roof provides more warmth than a soft shell.

Now you probably wonder which rooftop tent is best for winter? I’ve done research to help you out and listed the best rootop tents for winter below.

Best Rooftop Tents Brands For Winter

  • Roofnest Sparrow EYE
  • Thule Tepui Autana 3
  • Sheepie Bookara
  • Roofnest Falcon 2
  • iKamper Skycamp 2.0
  • Freespirit Odyssey

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