A Guide to Keeping Warm in a Tent or Campervan
With dramatic mountain landscapes, stunning lakes, breathtaking coastline and more, New Zealand is a country where you’re going to want to make the most of the great outdoors. That’s why many of us choose to explore the country from our tent or campervan. While the idea of camping is dreamy in theory, in practice, it can get more than a little chilly even in summer. But as New Zealanders will fondly tell you, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear”. Plus, how you look after said gear can also make the difference between a comfortable night and a miserable one. So, let us guide you to some easy ways to stay warm while camping in New Zealand.
Quick Ways to Stay Warm When Camping
Before we jump into the heavy stuff, here are some quick tips for staying warm while camping in New Zealand.
- Check the weather – See our New Zealand Weather category for articles containing average temperatures across New Zealand month-by-month, as well as the weather forecast before you set off camping. That way, you know what temperatures you’re dealing with!
- Eat hot food – Hot food that is higher in fat helps keep your internal body temperature hotter for longer. It’s best to be prepared with a camping stove, as campfires aren’t allowed everywhere in New Zealand and where they are, dry wood can be hard to come by. Check out our Best Camping Meals for inspiration
- Pee before going to bed – The worst thing is having to leave your pocket of warmth to make a nighttime dash for the bathroom
- Get some heated camping gear, such as a heated camping chair or electric blanket
- Use a heatpad or hot water bottle to warm the inside of your sleeping bag
- Put tomorrow’s clothes in the bottom of your sleeping bag so you can get instantly changed into warm clothes
- Keep your phone in your sleeping bag to stop the power from draining in the cold
- Choose lithium batteries instead of alkaline.
Staying Warm in a Tent
If a tent is your shelter of choice for a camping trip in New Zealand, then make sure you keep warm throughout the night by following these tips.
Bring Proper Camping Bedding
There are two essentials you’ll need for a comfortable night’s sleep in a tent: a quality sleeping bag and a sleeping mat. First, a proper 3 or 4 season sleeping bag is recommended for New Zealand camping whatever the season. A sleeping bag liner can always add extra warmth if needed. If you’re camping in summer, however, you might want to make sure your sleeping bag has a long zip so that you’re able to open it out for more ventilation.
Second, make sure you get off the floor by using a foam sleeping mat or a camping electric blanket. It’s important to keep a layer of insulation between you and the cold ground, while an electric blanket will add a little extra warmth to your night.
Keep Everything Dry
Keeping as dry as possible is the key to a warmer night in a tent. First things first, you’ll want to make sure you’re dry before you go to bed. Don’t be tempted to sleep in the same clothes you’ve worn throughout the day, as any moisture in your clothes, like sweat, will likely cool you down overnight. Take a look at the “Essential Gear” section below for recommended clothing to wear while camping overnight.
As well as keeping yourself dry, you’ll also want to make sure your bedding is dry. First, store your sleeping bag in its proper stuff sack to keep it dry from the elements on the way to camp. Second, lay out your sleeping bag as soon as you get to camp in order to restore its loft, especially if you are using a down sleeping bag. Third, avoid completely covering your face in your sleeping bag, as moisture will accumulate inside. Finally, if you sweat throughout the night, make sure you air your sleeping bag out the next day.
Finally, dry the inside of your tent by opening the ventilation windows after waking up. This way the condensation that your body and breathing caused overnight can escape.
For more advice on what to pack, check out our Camping Essentials Checklist for New Zealand.
Staying Warm in a Campervan
Staying in a campervan or motorhome is a popular way to camp in New Zealand. Still, you face the challenge of keeping warm at night, whether it’s when the temperature drop at night in the summer or the winter temperatures have taken hold.
Stay in a Self-Contained Vehicle
Camping vehicles that are “certified self-contained” in New Zealand not only mean that your vehicle will meet the requirements to do freedom camping, but also means you’ll find it easier to keep warm. Self-contained campervans have, at the least, a sink and/or shower and a toilet. This means there is no need to dash out into the cold of the night to go and use the campground’s bathrooms! Learn more about self-contained campervans in our guide.
Bring or Rent the Proper Bedding for a Campervan
While many campervan rentals offer a standard duvet, pillows and bedsheets, these tend to not be enough to keep you warm outside of summer. For winter camping, we recommend a combination of sleeping bags and blankets. Sleeping bags can sometimes be rented from campervan rental companies. Alternatively, there are plenty of ways to buy your own – just check Where to Buy Camping and Hiking Gear in New Zealand?
Have Some Portable Heating
If you plan to stay in holiday parks, which have powered sites giving you access to mains electricity, then buying or renting a mini-heater will heat up the small space of your campervan in no time. Alternatively, portable heating products often use deep warmth heat technology to keep you at a healthy temperature wherever you are.
Cover the Windows
Bare glass is where you’ll lose the most heat from within your campervan. To tackle this, cover up the windows with curtains if your vehicle has them. Otherwise, hanging towels or spare blankets in front of the windows will help stop precious warmth from escaping.
For more tips on keeping warm in a campervan, especially in winter, see Renting a Campervan in Winter: New Zealand Road Trip Tips.
Essential Gear for Warmer Camping in New Zealand
Finally in our guide to keeping warm when camping in New Zealand, packing the right gear is essential to a warmer night’s sleep in the great outdoors. While making sure you have the appropriate bedding for camping in a tent or a campervan is important, wearing thermal clothing and having portable heating devices are the last two essentials for comfortably warm camping. Both can be applied to camping in a tent or campervan.
Warm Clothes for Camping
It’s quite the balance getting the right layers of clothing for camping in New Zealand. If you don’t have enough layers, you’ll spend hours shivering; have too many and you’ll likely wake up in a hot sweat. Depending on how hot you get when sleeping, you might have to play around with what layers you wear. A good place to start is to wear a base layer, mid-layer, socks (and a beanie in winter).
For your base layer, underwear, a T-shirt and woollen socks are the basics. Make sure these are made from moisture-wicking fabrics, such as merino wool or polypropylene to stop sweat from accumulating on your skin. Avoid wearing cotton or polyester. If you’re prone to feeling cold, a long-sleeved top and leggings (or longjohns) are worth taking too.
What about mid-layers? If you’re a hot sleeper, you may not need a mid-layer, but many will benefit from wearing a light fleece. A fleecy pair of pyjama bottoms will add extra warmth to cold sleepers.
As for clothes to pack for daytime activities, head to our New Zealand Packing List.
Portable Heated Camping Gear
For ultimate peace of mind when it comes to staying warm when camping, you can’t go too wrong with portable heated camping gear. Mobile electric blankets, camping chair covers and heated camping seats are the most recommended thanks to their deep warmth heating technology that has multiple heat settings. Powered by mobile powerbanks, their products last up to 5 to 7 hours depending on the item. What’s more, moisture cannot harm the technology inside, which is essential for camping!