Getting the most from the great outdoors

Is it warmer to sleep in a car or tent?

is it warmer to sleep in a car or tent

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Most people would use their car to drive to a campsite and then unpack a tent to go camping. But what would happen if you turned up and the weather was bad and you didn’t feel like setting up the tent.

Could you camp in the car instead of the tent and is it warmer to sleep in a car or tent?

Your car will provide you with better protection from wind and rain but it can get just as cold in a car as it can in a tent. If you are considering sleeping in a car then make sure that you are prepared with a good sleeping bag and some blankets to keep you warm. If you are able to put the rear seats down then you can create a lot of room, allowing you to lie down comfortably. Of course with your car you can run the engine and use the heater to create warmth.

It depends on the tent

A good quality, double skinned tent made from a good heavy fabric will most likely be warmer than the car.

The inner area of the tent will warm up from body heat and will stay warm due to insulating effect of the double skin and fabric shell.

Tents that have been specifically produced for cold weather activity may be warmer than cars.

It depends on the car

Different models and makes of car will have differing levels of comfort and insulation and some models will be warmer and will retain heat better than others.

A van will be colder than most cars due to it having mainly oen metal areas with very little carpets, seating or other insulating properties whereas a camper or RV will be warm due to it’s high levels of insulation as it is made for camping.

Bedding is important for both options

Whether you sleep in your car or your tent you will need good bedding to keep warm in both.

Bedding can be in the form of blankets, sleeping bags or simply exttra clothes. In this instance the car may have the advantage over a tent in that you are simply able to carry more bedding in a car than you could if you were hiking and camping.

You can also include a blow up mattress in a car that will provide you with greater levels of insulation and comfort.

How to keep warm when sleeping in a car

There are several things that you can do to make sleeping in a car more comfortable and warmer.

Use window shades. Adding an extra layer to your windscreen, rear screen and side windows can create an insulating effect as well as reduce the amount of light that gets into the car.

Reflective sun shade material can be bought that can be cut to the size of your windows. You simply fix them to the windows to improve insulation.

Reduce moisture levels inside the car. It may sound counter intuitive but opening a window a small amount can help to keep the interior of the car warm.

By doing so you are providing a way for damp air from your breath to escape and not gather inside the car.

Don’t sleep directly on the car floor. If your car is large enough for you to lie down then make sure that you have an insulating layer between your body and the car floor.

Blankets or coats or inflatable mattresses can be used.

If you are sleeping while sat down ( lucky you ) put something underneath your feet so that they are insulated from the floor of the car. 

Wear a hat. Keeping your head warm is one simple technique wherever you sleep.

Keeping warm when sleeping in a tent

Like in the car, bedding and insulation are the key things to consider when sleeping in a tent.

Good quality sleeping bags are a great place to begin.

You also have the option to use small heaters in a tent which can quickly which can quickly warm the interior.

Something as simple as a candle and porcelain plant pot can provide an effective source of heat.

My article here provides some good tips on keeping warm in a tent.


Tents are designed for use as living areas whereas cars are not equipped for sleeping.

Cars will provide better protection against the weather and when it gets bad the car wins for protection against wind, rain, snow and everything else.

In both, you will soon get cold if you do not have good bedding and insulation.

My preference, in bad weather, would be the car. But I suspect that, with the right insulation and bedding, the tent would be the place for a better night’s sleep.

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