Is your roof top tent too chilled to chill out in?
Camping sites can get super chilly as the night progresses. Having the proper insulation and heating will not only keep you safe and comfortable but may also prevent you from catching a cold on your camping trip.
While roof top tents do have some insulation, this isn't sufficient to travel during winter. It also may not be ideal if you visit a place known for having strong winds, rain, or snow.
To help you out, I've created this detailed roof top tent insulation guide. I will provide you with a plethora of tips on keeping your tent warm during frigid temperatures. Let's get started.
Top 16 Roof Top Tent Insulation and Heating Tips to Stay Cozy.
Below is a complete list of ideas and tips to implement to stay warm and cozy in your roof top tent when it's cold.
Choose suitable roof top tent material.
The first step to ensuring you are well insulated in your roof top tent is picking a tent constructed from the right material.
Roof top tents come in different materials – cotton (also known as canvas), polyester, poly-cotton, and nylon. Usually, you have two options to choose from – tents made from a single material and multi-season tents.
If you are on a budget, cotton is very amenable to both cold and heat. You won't feel too hot when it's hot outside, and you won't feel too cold when it is chilly outside either.
Polyester is compatible with “everyday weather.” It can offer sufficient roof top tent insulation and additional rain protection if it isn't too severe.
Nylon is better for summers rather than winters. However, it is a very hardy material that can be great for rough terrains.
If you can afford to spend more, though, we highly recommend getting a 3-season or 4-season tent. They use various fabrics and are constructed in a different design compared to single-material tents. These tents can also bear the load of rain, snowfall, and high winds. This ensures you are well insulated and protected from all sides.
While choosing the right material for your roof top tent helps keep you warm, you need to remember that alone isn't always enough. Especially if you're traveling somewhere really cold or going on a trip during winter, therefore, consider implementing some (or all) of the additional tips and ideas listed below.
Line the floors of your roof top tent with insulated floor mats.
Floor mats are inexpensive, and they can help trap heat inside your roof top tent with ease.
These mats are usually made of rubber and are also available in electric variants- although I don't recommend these. For most campers, you must place these mats underneath your roof top tent mattress.
Else, all you need to do is unroll the floor mats on the floor of your tent, and you can set up your sleeping bag and bedding on it.
Consider adding roof top tent insulation fabric.
Some manufacturers provide roof top tent insulation fabric as a separate product that you can purchase to insulate your roof top tent. Tepui is an example of one such manufacturer.
However, the problem with these products is that they are usually made to fit specific roof top tents and won't necessarily be compatible with your tent.
Therefore, if you can't find something similar for your roof top tent, why not consider setting it up yourself with some insulative material?
To do this, simply measure the interior of your tent and cut the right size pieces to fit on the floor, walls, and roof- or wherever you prefer. Then secure the pieces in place with cable ties, duct tape, or by other means.
This option might not be the most aesthetic. Still, it will surely get the job done and significantly increase your roof top tent's insulation.
Choose the right sleeping bag.
The right sleeping bag can also help you with roof top tent insulation. The most inexpensive sleeping bag material is synthetic, which does offer some warmth. Synthetic sleeping bags come in different variants, depending on the use case. There are bags for summer travel where temperatures are around 30°F or higher. Then there are all-season bags that cater to temperatures 15°F to 30°F.
But if you are traveling somewhere with freezing temperatures, you may need another type of sleeping bag. This is where the goose-down material helps, which is significantly warmer. This is great for wintertime travel and even camping out in places where there may be light snow. Depending on the quality and thickness of the down, it can keep you toasty warm up till -40°F.
However, regular goose down loses its insulation when it gets wet. So, if you're visiting a place with heavy snow or rain, then it's best to choose a water-resistant goose-down sleeping bag. This can help if you don't have other heating options and the condensation is high inside your roof top tent.
An important term to understand is R-value. This is a term that can be described as resistance to cold. Some sleeping bags, blankets, and mattresses have this term attached, and it can help pick the right products to keep you warm.
An R-Value of at least 5 is required for camping in the winter, while an R-value of 2.5-4 will be ideal for three-season use.
Pack electric blankets.
Electric 12-volt blankets can supplement your roof top tent insulation needs. They can keep you warm throughout the night and are great supplements to some of the other insulation options we've listed.
Since electric blankets can sometimes pose burn risks, you can use them intermittently to warm up your sleeping bag before getting in and then turning it off. You can always turn it back on later.
The thing to remember here is that you'll need access to a power source such as an outlet, car battery, or a portable camping battery (which I highly recommend by the way).
Having an insulated mattress helps significantly.
In addition to having a floor mat, roof top tent heater, and well-insulated sleeping bag, you should also consider getting an insulated mattress. These types of mattresses have a thick pad that prevents your body heat from escaping through the floor of the tent. It also protects you from any cold/condensation coming from the outside.
You can consider checking out my roof top tent mattress guide if you are in need of a new mattress. I also cover some insulative mattress options in that article.
If you do not wish to invest in a new mattress, consider using insulated mattress toppers on your current mattress to increase the insulation significantly. These are easy to position onto your mattress and are inexpensive as well.
Remember the term R-Value, which we discussed earlier when picking an insulative mattress or mattress topper.
Use duct tape to close any areas with wind/water leakage. (DIY Tip).
One of the most common causes of a freezing roof top tent is air leakage from the outside.
Depending on what type of tent you've chosen, how you've set it up, and if there is a tear or loose lining, you may find cold air seeping into your tent from outside. When this happens, no amount of tent heating can help. You may waste a lot of energy to power up your roof top tent heater to no avail.
This is why we recommend that you use good old duct tape to mask off any areas where there may be wind leakage.
Just run your ungloved hands slowly on or in front of each section of your roof top tent. If there is air leakage, you will feel it on your hands. Take a strip of wide duct tape and tape that section securely. Put your hand against the tape to check if you can still feel the air.
When you've securely taped your tent, you'll notice that the tape keeps out not just the wind but water and snow too. This will automatically increase your roof top tent insulation.
Consider Using a Roof Top Tent Heater for Additional Warmth.
A portable roof top tent heater is one of the best ways to heat your tent in minutes. You have multiple portable roof top tent heaters from which to choose.
Both electric and gas heaters are safe for use in tents. However, it's always a good idea to keep an eye on them while they're on. See this guide for heater safety in a tent.
Purchase a portable electric roof top tent heater.
This includes electric fan heaters, which are small fans that produce warm air when you turn them on. You also have electric radiators that provide consistent heating throughout the night.
If you're worried about how to access electricity when you're out camping, don't be. You can connect your electric fan heater or radiator to your car's battery and power them up. Just make sure you keep an eye on how much power your battery still has so you don't run out entirely.
Alternatively, if you can afford it, consider investing in a portable camping battery which you'll also find handy for other electrical appliances. Else consider using another type of non-electric heater.
That said, some electric heaters require significant power usage, and a car battery or camping battery won't suffice. Consider this factor when choosing an electric heater.
Consider using a propane roof top tent heater.
You can also consider a propane roof top tent heater for travel and camping. The propane roof top tent heater provides more intense heat and cold protection than the electric heater.
Don't worry (too much) about carbon monoxide or possible fire hazards. These days, most propane roof top tent heaters are catalytic heaters. This means they are entirely flameless and safe to use inside your tent.
However, as a precaution, we recommend using this heater only to heat your tent and switch it off for a while- for example, when you are asleep. You can turn it on again when you need it again to prevent any accidents. The same concept applies to electric heaters (or any heater, for that matter) as well.
A candle/lantern roof top tent heater works too.
If you need more heat than what your roof top tent heater offers or the weather isn't as severe, bring along a small candle/lantern roof top tent heater. That said, this option isn't recommended as it can be a fire hazard if you're not careful.
This heater isn't the most powerful roof top tent warmer. However, it can supplement the heat you have. Since this uses an open flame inside a closed lantern, it's best to use it only briefly. Or you could keep it for emergencies when your other heaters are malfunctioning.
A hot water bottle/bag can be a miracle.
A hot water bottle is an inexpensive and safe roof top tent insulation option.
You get hot water bottles in various sizes, ranging from 1 liter to 2 liters. You can purchase as many bottles as you need, fill them with heated water and place it next to you as you sleep. As the hot water bottle presses against your body, it transfers heat from the bottle to your skin.
The best places to keep your hot water bottle while you sleep are – at your toes, the base of your back, under your calves & palms. You can also place the hot water bottle under your sleeping bag for a while and wait for it to heat the bag up.
One of the best things about having a hot water bottle as a roof top tent heater is it serves dual purposes. Not only will it provide roof top tent insulation, but it will come very handy if you're feeling sore after the day's trekking/climbing or other activities.
Purchase a rain fly or insulation tarp to keep yourself safe during inclement weather.
Another thing you can do to increase your roof top tent insulation is to buy a tent tarp. This will keep your roof top tent safe from rain and snowfall and add additional exterior insulation.
When buying your tarp, get canvas tarps instead of polypropylene ones. Canvas is ideal for long-term exposure to water and condensation. The thicker the canvas, the better rain protection and roof top tent insulation it offers. However, also remember that a thick tarp will be heavier.
Before purchasing the tent tarp, set up your roof top tent and measure it on the top and the sides. Always buy a tarp that is larger than your tent by a few inches. Also, check how much weight your tent can hold and choose a tarp accordingly- although this probably won't be an issue.
Protect your roof top tent with a tent annex/extension.
A tent annex/extension is an extended structure you set up at the ground level next to your vehicle. Typically, the tent annex/extension gives you extra space to store your bags, wet clothes, shoes, and other gear while you sleep in the roof top tent.
But in addition to acting as a storage space, the tent annex/extension also protects your roof top tent from wind, rain, and snow to a certain extent. It essentially acts like a wall or a barrier that prevents the cold from seeping into your tent, thereby offering consistent roof top tent insulation.
Consider investing in a dehumidifier.
A dehumidifier can be somewhat expensive. But if you can afford it, the dehumidifier can help reduce condensation in your roof top tent.
The good thing is that nowadays, smaller portable dehumidifiers are available. That said, if you wish to use a larger one, you'll have to hook it up to your car or camping battery and let it run for a while.
When you switch the dehumidifier off, you'll notice that the air feels less wet and cold. Combined with the roof top tent heater, it can make your tent extra dry and warm.
What else can you do to keep yourself warm in your roof top tent?
Besides choosing the correct tent, getting a roof top tent heater, and insulating the interiors with the right mats and sleeping bags, consider trying the following to keep yourself warm.
Buy the thermal wear that is ideal for the area to which you are traveling.
You should also make sure to have proper thermal wear. Research the place you intend to visit and then check how cold it gets there. You can buy regular woolen wear or down & feather thermals accordingly.
Cook heat-generating meals.
Foods that generate a lot of body heat are also excellent to prevent feeling cold in your roof top tent. Foods like chili, scones, hot granola porridge, bone broth soup, and fried pasta are just a few of the many foods you can eat.
Keep a good quality thermos to carry hot beverages.
Making hot tea, coffee, cocoa, or even warm water to carry while you are out hiking or in your roof top tent is another easy way to generate some heat.
Be sure to buy a premium-quality thermos to store your hot beverages in. It will keep your drinks warm through most of the night, and occasionally, siping can help keep you heated.
Park your vehicle in the right place and face the correct direction.
Finally, when you're parking your vehicle to camp, be sure to park on flat ground where there is less likelihood of you facing the onslaught of harsh wind. You should also face the direction the wind is heading.
If you face the wind and the cold air flows in your direction, it is more likely to make you feel cold.
Plus, if you have a tent annex/extension, you should set it up so that it protects your roof top tent and does not allow the cold air to seep in. This will ensure your roof top tent heater and other roof top tent insulation accessories are not overworked, which will help increase their durability in the long run.
Wrapping it up
Roof top tent insulation need not be a challenge. Just follow the tips recommended above, and you'll find yourself warm and cozy in your roof top tent wherever you go. You'll find that your camping experience is warm and enjoyable all the time.
BenjaminBenjamin is the founder of RoadMounter. He loves the outdoors and camping- especially when he can do it with a rooftop tent setup. He created this website to help you with everything related to vehicle camping.
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