If you’re camping in summer, you won’t want a stuffy, uncomfortably warm tent that makes it hard to sleep. But you might not yet know how to cool a tent effectively.
We’re going to take a look at the best ways to keep your tent cool, with tips for different weather conditions, types of tent, and more. So if you love camping in the summer, but hate stifling hot nights, keep reading for plenty of tips to easily cool a tent.
Why Do Tents Get So Warm?
Novice campers might be surprised just how warm it can be inside a tent, even on relatively cool summer days. When you’re camping in 100 degree weather, it might become unbearably hot inside your tent once the sun has been up for just a few hours.
Sleeping in a tent in the summer can end up being a miserable experience if you’re too hot. Your tent works like a greenhouse, absorbing heat and keeping it trapped. Even once the sun goes down, a hot tent won’t cool very fast.
To prevent your tent from being hot, you need to keep air flowing in and out, so the air inside doesn’t end up getting hotter and hotter.
That all starts with choosing the right tent: one that will stay as cool as possible on hot summer days.
Choosing the Right Tent to Stay Cool
Keeping your tent cool is a lot easier if you buy the right type of tent in the first place. Here are some key considerations if you’re planning on doing a lot of hot weather tent camping:
- Make sure you buy a summer tent, rather than an all-season tent. It should have mesh windows and rain flaps, letting you allow a refreshing breeze into your tent.
- When it comes to the material your tent’s made from, traditional cotton tents will be cooler than nylon or polyester … but cotton is a lot heavier (plus cotton tents can be trickier to set up). For most campers, it’ll make sense to choose a nylon or polyester tent. If you can afford it, though, look into buying a polycotton tent: they’re a hybrid of polyester and cotton, and the fabric is very breathable.
- Choose the biggest tent that works for your budget and packing constraints, as a large space lets air circulate better, helping your tent to stay cool.
- You could also consider opting for a tent with an AC port or a tent with an air conditioner window, but tents with AC tend to be pretty large and expensive – so they won’t suit everyone. They’re also only a useful option if you’re staying at a campsite with an electric hookup, or if they’re capable of being powered by a camping generator. Using AC effectively also means learning how to insulate a tent for AC.
Of course, another option is to forgo your tent altogether. Sleeping in a hammock could be the perfect solution for summer camping: if there’s a bit of a breeze, you may actually find you need a warm blanket.
How to Set Up Your Tent to Stay Cool
It’s easiest to keep your tent cool if you get it set up correctly in the first place. That means thinking about both when and where you want to get your tent set up.
When to Put Up Your Tent
When you get to your campsite, don’t set up your tent immediately, if it’s still early in the day. Instead, wait until the late afternoon, when it’s getting dark – or even better, wait until the sun has gone down. That way, your tent won’t have hours to heat up in the sunshine.
If you’re camping in the same place for several days, you may even want to take your tent down each morning and put it up again once the sun sets. Yes, it’s more work, but it could give you a much cooler night’s sleep.
If you’re buying a tent for the first time, or buying a new tent, you’ll definitely want to pick one that’s as quick and easy as possible to put up and down.
Where to Position Your Tent
You want to position your tent in the shade. That might sound obvious … but keep in mind that the shade will shift during the day. Ideally, you want to find trees that will keep the sun off your tent at pretty much all angles.
You’ll also find that it’s cooler on higher ground, where you’re likely to get more breeze. It’s likely to be harder to find shade on high ground, though.
If you’re able to position your tent near to water, this is a great idea too. It won’t cool your tent itself – but it means you can easily take a dip to cool off. (Plus, being able to paddle or swim makes for easy and free entertainment.)
How to Set Up Your Tent
It’s a good idea to put a blanket or groundsheet under your tent to prevent it from getting too warm from the ground. The blanket traps the heat beneath it, so it doesn’t get into your tent. If you don’t have a large blanket, you could use cardboard or even a thick layer of leaves.
Make sure you open all the windows and vents on your tent immediately after setting it up, so you have as much airflow as possible.
How to Keep a Tent Cool
Once you’ve picked your spot and set up your tent, you’ll want to take some extra steps to keep your tent as cool as possible.
One option that many campers consider is using an AC system. If you want to cool your tent with electricity, you’ll obviously need a campsite that offers an electricity supply to the pitches – or your own camping generator. You’ll also need a tent with a convenient AC port or window, which are usually quite expensive.
If you have a regular tent and no electricity supply, you’ll likely want to turn to one of these other tried and tested camping hacks to stay cool.
Here’s how to cool a tent without electricity:
- Use a portable, battery-powered fan. You can get a camping fan that you can attach to your tent (either the floor, wall, or ceiling). This is a great way to stay cooler at night. If you have an electric hook up, you can just use a regular fan and plug it in. You might want to stand a bottle of frozen water in front of the fan to help it cool your tent even more.
- Take off your tent’s rain fly altogether, if it’s removable. Sleeping under just the mesh of your tent will be far cooler. Of course, you’ll want to check the weather forecast beforehand: this definitely isn’t a tip to try on a night when there’s any pdon’ossibility of rain.
- Position a reflective sunshade between your tent and the sun. This is made of a material that reflects back the sun’s light, keeping it off your tent, so your tent won’t warm up nearly so much. Essentially, you’re creating a patch of super-shade for your tent.
- If you have a cooler of ice and you’re happy for it to melt, then bring it into the tent. Open up the cooler, and the ice will help to cool down the air inside your tent. Even better, use jugs of frozen drinking water in your cooler (see below) as you’ll be able to drink the water once it’s cooled.
What if you’ve set your tent up early in the day, and it’s already too hot? The best thing you can do is to take it down again and wait until dusk to put it back up. There’s no good way to cool a tent that’s already baking hot inside.
How to Keep Yourself Cool
You may not need to know everything about how to cool a tent in the summer if you can figure out how to keep yourself cool. Even if the temperature inside your tent is a little higher than you’d like, these tips can help you stay comfortable and get a great night’s sleep.
- Use wet, cold hand towels. If you’re near a lake or river, simply dip your towel in and place it on your head (at night) or on the back of your neck (during the day). It’ll cool you down a lot. You could also use a hat or bandana.
- Take a cold shower before bed, if your campsite has showers – or a dip in the lake or river. If you’re not camping near water, consider taking a small inflatable pool to fill up: you can at least put your feet in it to cool off a little.
- Use a cotton sheet instead of a sleeping bag. If you think you might get too cold during the night, just have a blanket next to you that you can pull over yourself quickly and easily.
- If you do choose to use a sleeping bag, put a frozen bottle of water by your feet. It’ll work a bit like a hot water bottle in reverse, keeping the inside of your sleeping bag cooler.
- Also, make sure you’re using the right sleeping bag for the season (probably a 1 season sleeping bag).
- Drink plenty of cold water. This will help keep you hydrated – essential in hot weather – and it’ll help cool you down, too.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing that’s loose-fitting. This will keep you as cool and sweat-free as possible. Dark colors absorb light, making you warmer.
- Get up before the sun. You’ll want to be out of your tent by the time the sun is blazing down … and if you get up early, you’ll be able to make the most of the day before it gets too hot to hike or explore.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat during the day to stay cool – and to protect your face and neck from the sun. (Don’t forget the sunscreen, either.)
Additional Tips for Keeping Your Tent Cool
Finally, here are a few extra tips to help with cooling your tent:
Remember that the more people there are inside the tent, the warmer it’s likely to be! Your body heat will warm up the tent when you’re inside. This means it’s a good idea to stay outside your tent until it’s actually time to sleep – and to consider taking multiple tents rather than packing several people into a single tent (even a large one).
Eat cold foods. Summer is a great time for salads, chilled fruit, and other foods that help keep you cool. Fruits and vegetables have a high water content, too, so they’ll help keep you hydrated.
Bring some frozen jugs of water. You can use these in your cooler instead of ice: if you have clean jugs filled with drinking water, you’ll have plenty of cool water to drink with you (rather than needing to pour away the water from used ice).
If you do opt for a hammock, either in addition to your tent or instead of it, then make sure you get a good quality camping one that’s designed for sleeping. The type you might use for lounging around in your backyard won’t be supportive enough to keep you comfortable all night. You may also need a mosquito net and rain tarp.
Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. If it’s very warm outside or in your tent, there’s a risk that you or one of your camping party might suffer from heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Heat exhaustion can be treated by cooling someone down, but heatstroke can be very serious and you should call the emergency services if you suspect someone is suffering from it.
Symptoms of heatstroke include not sweating, even while feeling too hot, a high temperature of 104 degrees fahrenheit (40 degrees celsius), fast breathing or shortness of breath, confusion, a seizure, or loss of consciousness.
Be prepared with a Plan B in case it does become simply too hot to safely and comfortably enjoy camping. For instance, you might look up local motels before traveling to the campsite, so you have an easy option if you do need to end the trip early.
With these tips, you should be able to enjoy your camping trip, sleep well at night, and make the most of the good weather.