Can a Candle Warm a Tent? (Is that even safe?)

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You’re about to try late fall camping for the first time, but you’re used to staying warm while you sleep. If you can warm up by the fire, can you bring the fire inside your tent? What about something a little smaller; can a candle warm a tent?

Yes, a candle can warm a tent, but only if you have the right setup and conditions. A naked flame in a tent should never be left unattended. There are pieces of camping equipment designed to safely hold a candle and provide warmth.

For a full guide on what else you need to bring camping, check out the complete beginner’s guide.

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If you're just looking for a quick and simple solution that is pre-made and available online. Then take a look at the UCO Candle Tent heater on Amazon. If you're like me and terrible at DIY or making something out of nothing, then do like I would and just buy the one below.

candle tent heater
Available here on Amazon

Safety First

When you sit at a campfire, the fire is contained in a pit and usually can’t get big enough to cause any problems. These campfires give off quite a bit of heat, make you all cozy, and then off to bed you go. Now that you’re in your tent you might be quite a bit colder. 

It is not safe to bring open fire into a tent. Tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and clothing are all highly flammable. 

A candle by itself won’t even warm a tent by itself. The one little flame in a tent won’t be able to combat the cold that you’re trying to fight with the candle flame. So not only are you putting yourself at risk, but you’re doing it for nothing. 

There is, however, a device you can put candles in that will throw heat a lot better, and a lot safer, than using just a candle. 

DISCLAIMER: This article has been written to help campers judge the risk of using a candle in a tent. The risks of using a naked flame in a tent are huge. You should judge for yourself it's it is safe to do so. We take no responsibility for your own actions.

Candle Warmers

There are very handy devices on the market that will allow you to safely use candles in your tent. These are called candle warmers or candle lanterns, and they provide a place for the candle to burn, a barrier to prevent any flames or sparks from escaping, but vents to throw the heat. 

The most popular candle warmer for campers is the UCO and is loved and trusted by campers everywhere. 

DIY Candle Warmer

If you aren’t looking to buy a candle warmer and you’d like to make one instead, this is for you!

If you need help following along, check out the guide on how to build a candle warmer here

First, you’ll need to gather a few materials. 

  • Large terracotta pot
  • Small terracotta pot (must fit inside the large one)
  • 2-4 small candles
  • Heat-safe dish
  • 2 bricks. 

Once you’ve gathered, or packed everything you need, setting everything up is simple. 

Step 1: lay the bricks flat on the ground, side by side. 

Step 2: put the heat safe dish on top of the bricks. Readjust the bricks to fully support the heat safe dish. 

Step 3: put the candles in the heat safe dish and light them. 

Step 4: put the smaller terracotta pot upside down over top of the candles. The rim of the pot should surround all of your candles inside the heat safe dish. 

Step 5: stack your larger terracotta pot upside down on top of the smaller pot. The rim of the larger terracotta pot should sit on top of the heat safe dish. 

What happens is the heat from the candles quickly warms up the inside of the small terracotta pot. There is a small hole in the bottom of the pot that will allow heat to escape into the area in the larger pot.

All this heat will escape through the hole it the bottom of the large terracotta pot, and through the gaps between the heat-safe dish and the large terracotta pot. 

Getting the Most out of Your Candle Warmer

Both of these methods can increase the temperature inside a tent by around 5F-15F. There are a couple of things you can do to get the most out of your candle warmer. 

  • Set up a footprint under your tent. Using a footprint to trap some air under the tent insulates against the cold ground. 
  • Use the smallest tent size possible. If you are trying to heat an 8-person tent, you are going to be losing a lot of heat. 
  • Close all the windows, doors, and vents to keep all the heat in. 
  • Use your rainfly. Even if your tent is completely closed, your rainfly will provide a layer of insulation to keep the heat in. 

This still isn’t the safest option as the terracotta pots can heat up to 160F or more and can burn you if touched. 

If you plan on camping with children or pets, you should avoid using either of these candle options. At any point, a child or animal can knock your warmer over, and although the flame might not cause any problems, the heat is likely to melt through the bottom of the tent. 

Alternatives

If you’ve found this article because you are concerned about how safe it is to heat a tent with a candle, you might want to consider an alternative. If you use a candle warmer, the risk is much lower than just using an open candle, but for peace of mind consider one of these other options. 

Electric Heaters

These are a suggestion for those of you who camp somewhere that has access to electricity, or if you bring a generator. Make sure that the heater you get has an automatic shut off if it tips over or you can damage your tent. 

Heating Pads

Putting down a heating pad on the floor of your tent heats the space and makes your sleeping pad not have to work as hard. 

Hot Water Bottles

Before your fire dies down for the night, boil some water and put it in a hot water bottle. Put the hot water bottle in the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep yourself warm. 

An extra tip is to put the clothes for the next day in your sleeping day too, so they are warm when you need to change. 

Layers

Don’t wait until you are cold to start trying to heat yourself up. At the first signs of the night cooling off, start putting on multiple layers of clothes. 

You will want a moisture wicking base layer to wipe away any sweat, and then start layering on the socks, sweaters, and hats. 

Wrapping It Up

You can warm a tent with a candle if you put it in a candle warmer made specifically for heating a space. A candle by itself won’t put out enough heat to make it worth the risk of keeping an open flame in your tent. 

If you are worried about having a flame in your tent whether or not it’s protected, there are alternatives so you and your loved ones can stay warm all the time.