Whether you’re camping or spending the day on the beach, a tent should provide shelter. It should shield you from the heat and provide a place to sleep. However, staying cool in a tent is not always easy.
While tents can provide shade from the sun, the thin material does not offer a lot of insulation. If I know that the weather is going to be hot, I use the following tips to keep my tent cool and beat the heat.
Use a Cotton Tent for Improved Ventilation
Cotton is more breathable than nylon or polyester. While the cotton material is a little heavier, a cotton tent may help you stay cool. As cotton is more breathable, it offers better ventilation and helps prevent heat from getting trapped inside.
Choose the Right Location for Your Tent
The best way to stay cool in a tent may require several different approaches, starting with finding a shady spot to place your tent. Before you set up your tent, scout the area, beach, or campsite.
When camping, I always look for a spot below a tree. While you shouldn’t have any trouble finding shade in a campsite, you may have trouble finding shade on the beach. If possible, look for an area near a ridge or a low hill.
If you are camping on the beach, you should also point your tent toward the ocean or lake. You may catch a breeze coming off the waters.
Dig a Hole Big Enough to Set up Your Tent
Another way to keep your tent cool is to dig a hole. The soil is cooler than the hard ground and the air, offering the perfect spot to set up your tent.
I know that some campgrounds won’t let you dig a hole for your tent. However, there are plenty of locations where this is acceptable. Just check with the staff or park attendants before you start digging.
The deeper you dig, the cooler the ground will be, helping to keep your tent cool throughout the day and night. If possible, dig about two feet deep. You should also place a tarp below the tent to avoid absorbing any heat that does come from the ground.
Along with a tarp for under your tent, you may want to use a reflective tarp above your tent. The reflective material helps to reflect heat away from your tent, protecting against direct sunshine.
Avoid Pitching Your Tent During the Day
I don’t spend a lot of time in my tent until nighttime. Setting up the tent during the day allows more time for the sun to begin toasting the interior of the tent. Waiting until the evening ensures that my tent is no warmer than the current air temperature.
Along with waiting until the evening to pitch the tent, I also take the tent down during the day when staying more than one night.
Keep the Windows and Door Open
In most cases, the inside of the tent is warmer than the air outside. The tent gets warmer because it traps heat inside. To avoid this problem, keep the door and windows open. This also allows cooler air to enter the tent.
Most tents are equipped with a mesh screen behind every door and window. The mesh screens allow you to keep the tent open without allowing bugs and critters to get inside.
Use a Portable Fan to Cool Your Tent
Along with keeping the door and windows open, portable battery-powered fans can also help circulate cooler air inside your tent. When using a fan, keep at least one window open; otherwise, you’ll simply blow hot air around the tent.
Some people like to place a bucket of ice in front of the fan. While this method does help create cooler air, it also increases the humidity. If the interior of your tent gets too humid, the air may not feel as cool. I suggest that you only use the ice bucket on drier days or in dry regions.
Sleep on Top of Your Sleeping Bag
When the tent is hot, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to bundle up inside a sleeping bag. Instead of sleeping inside your sleeping bag, you should sleep on top of it. You can avoid sweating through the night and the sleeping bag material may also help keep you feel cooler.
Each night, I keep the sleeping bag zipped up, lay on top of it, and kick off my shoes and socks. You may also want to remove any extra layers of clothing. However, while it may be warm when you go to bed, remember that temperatures may drop significantly during the night.
Last Thoughts on Finding the Best Way to Stay Cool in a Tent
You won’t find a single solution that completely keeps your tent cool, other than using a large fan connected to a generator. As this is not an efficient way to stay cool, you need to use a few different methods to reduce the heat.
Remember to choose a shady spot for your tent. You may also try digging a shallow pit to place your tent in. Other solutions include sleeping on top of your sleeping bag, using a portable fan, and placing a reflective tarp above your tent.
Along with ways to keep your tent cool, I have a few suggestions for keeping yourself cool. Start by wearing light-colored clothing to avoid reflecting heat. I also enjoy placing a wet towel across my forehead. It instantly cools me down. However, the benefits only last for 15 to 20 minutes.
If possible, I also suggest taking a cold shower before going to bed. The shower lowers your internal body temperature, helping you feel cooler as you try to fall asleep. If the facilities don’t include a shower, consider taking a quick dip in the water.
As a final tip, check the forecast. If you know that the weather is going to be incredibly hot, consider rescheduling your trip for another day.
Megan Jones is the lead author of Seaside Planet. She is an avid surfer, scuba diver, and travel enthusiast who takes any opportunity she can to spend time in the ocean. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.