September 10, 2020

It’s still summer, which means camping and outdoor enthusiasts (myself included) are still enjoying the few long and sunny days we have left of the season.

While the heat can make for ideal camping conditions, it can also make spending any amount of time in a tent miserable. A hot tent isn’t only unbearable by day, but it can make sleeping at night nearly impossible.

Unfortunately, cooling down the interior of your tent is difficult without electricity. But, it doesn’t need to be! Don’t let the heat ruin your next camping trip, use these expert tips to cool down your tent without electricity:

Why Does my Tent’s Interior Get so Hot?

A tent can get hot for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes, though, it boils down to the person who set up the tent to begin with. Either they put the tent in a spot that lacks the proper amount of shade, or they set it up too early in the day. Mistakes like these can cause the temperature to rise quickly inside the tent, causing an uncomfortable camping experience.

Additionally, the lack of ventilation inside the tent itself is a big contributing factor to the high temperatures we’ve become accustomed to when spending time in a tent. All tents have the tendency to trap the heat produced by the sun inside - similar to a greenhouse -- and without any ventilation, heat won’t be able to escape.

Gases like carbon dioxide (produced primarily when we breathe) and water vapor are the two biggest culprits for trapping heat inside a tent. The worst part is, these two gases thrive in tiny enclosed spaces. 

In fact, humans can produce up to 1.25 liters of water vapors on a daily basis just with breathing and sweating alone. Now you’re starting to notice the problem. Here’s some tips to keep your tent cool naturally:

Choose a Shaded Area For Your Tent

Tent in the BWCA Wilderness

A lot of people love the sun, especially those who like to use it as a natural tanning source. While you may want to spend all hours of the day in the sun, your tent is a different story. Given the fact that tents trap heat produced by sunlight, you should look for the most shaded spot available to pitch your tent.

Otherwise, your tent can quickly become a scorching sauna, and no one will want to sleep inside it. Be careful though; because the sun moves throughout the day, what may look like a shaded spot at 8am can quickly turn into a sunny spot by noon. So choose wisely!

As a general rule of thumb, if your campsite is surrounded by trees, then you’re probably good to go as they’ll be able to provide natural shade throughout the day. Additionally, you should try to find a spot that is next to a lake, pond, or river, as you’re likely to catch a breeze, which can be a blessing on a hot and sunny day.

Set up at the Right Moment

The longer your tent is up the more time it will have to accumulate heat. It’s common sense, but easy to forget. Just because you get to the campgrounds early in the morning doesn’t mean you need to pitch your tent at that very moment. 

If you don’t plan on sitting in the tent all day (who would do such a thing?) then you should wait as long as possible to set it up. Most campers only use their tents at night to sleep in, so if you can hold off until the sun goes down this will give you the best chance at staying cool.

With that said, I know a lot of people choose to set up a tent early because they know they won’t want to do it later, once they’ve settled in and knocked back a few beers (and a delicious burger or two fresh off the grill). If comfortability is a big priority to you though, you’ll want to at least wait until sunset to set up your tent.

Reflect Heat With Space Blankets 

Improvisation is sometimes needed when you’re camping in an area that lacks trees or other sources of natural shade. Without any shade, it’s difficult to avoid having your tent turned into an oven as heat will be trapped inside all day.

However, covering your whole tent with one (or several) space blankets, is an affordable way to keep the heat out. These blankets are designed to reflect heat -- which is why they’re often used in cars and trucks that are parked in direct sunlight -- and can make a huge difference when it comes to keeping the interior of your tent cool.

You can purchase one big blanket that is large enough to cover the entirety of your tent’s exterior, or buy a couple of smaller space blankets and combine them. The choice is yours. Each one will run you around 10 or 15 dollars, depending on where you buy them and you’ll probably only need 2-3 depending on the size of your tent.

When it comes to assembling them, the process is as straightforward as it gets. Simply drape one big space blanket on your tent’s exterior, or layer several together. 

Build a Makeshift Fan

This tip is a bit of a DIY trick that requires some craft making, so be prepared! The goal here is to create a makeshift for your tent to get some air circulation. To start, you’ll need a piece of cardboard, some empty bottles, and a pair of scissors.

  1. Cut out the bottoms of the bottles using a pair of scissors
  2. Measure the circumference of the bottoms of the bottles and cut out holes in the piece of cardboard.
  3. Insert the bottle into the precut holes

The theory behind this fan-of-sorts is that the air will be able to enter in from the bottom of the bottles and should catch speed once it flows in and space becomes constricted. For this to work, you’ll need to set up your panel of bottles near the entrance of your tent, towards the breeze.

If you want to make the fan even better, you can put a few ice cubes inside the bottles to ensure the air that escapes is cool. 

Conclusion

If all else fails, and your tent is still too hot to handle, I recommend picking up a small battery-operated fan. You can purchase a pretty inexpensive one here at Northern Forest Gear and they can be a big help when it comes to keeping you cool throughout the night. 

The key to cooling a tent is to prevent it from getting hot in the first place, so use the tips listed above to make sure your next camping adventure is an enjoyable one. Stay cool my friends!




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