How to Keep a Tent Cool When Summer Camping

It’s summertime and the weather is fine. What could be better than a camping trip?

Anyone that has ever attempted to enter a poorly ventilated tent on a sunny day could tell that quite a lot of things are better. Hell may even be better. Certainly, Hell seems likely to be considerably cooler than a two-person tent left out in the sun on a humid August day.

No-one’s idea of fun involves trying to sleep in what is, essentially, a mobile greenhouse, but it would be a tragedy if that meant summer camping trips were a no go. Good weather should be a cause for celebration, a spur to head into the great outdoors. It seems like a crime to waste it hiding in the shade.   

Thankfully, there are ways and means of keeping tents cool, even in the heat of summer. This article will provide a step by step guide on how to do just that, allowing you to enjoy, rather than endure, the summer weather!  couple in a tent with shoes off

What you will need

In order to follow this tutorial you will require the following:

  • A tent. You’ll want to use a three season tent (four season ones are built specifically for cold weather and will overheat in summer), preferably one with good breathability – e.g. windows and vents. If you are heading to an area where you can expect to encounter mosquitos and other bugs select a tent with a mesh inner lining so that you can leave the doors and windows of the tent open without inviting nasty bugs to enter!
  • A tarpaulin or ground sheet. This will be placed beneath the tent to minimise heat entering the tent from the ground and should be at least as big as the base of your tent
  • A reflective tarp. This will be fixed above your tent, to minimise direct contact with the sun. It should be big enough to drape across your tent from one side to the other.
  • A battery-powered fan. Self-explanatory!
  • A coolbox packed with ice and a small bucket. The ice can be placed in the bucket to cool the tent in conjunction with the fan.
  • A shovel. This one is optional but, if you’re expecting particularly warm weather, well worth bringing.

6 Steps to Follow For a Cooler Tent

Step One: Choosing Your Campsitebusy campsite with lots of tents

Picking a smart location for your camp is the first step towards summer cool. The banks of a river or a lake are an excellent location – magnets for cool breezes and next to cooling water.

If this isn’t an option look for an area that combines good shade (e.g. tall trees or ridges) with open space for wind to blow through. Your ideal campsite would have all three: tall trees for shade and a water feature with wide banks to allow for wind circulation.

Step Two: Positioning Your Tent

So you’ve lucked into the ideal location for a campsite. Great! Now make the most of what it has to offer. Position your tent so that it will gain the most shade possible through the day.

This usually means placing it where the shade lies in the morning. When putting the tent up think about the position of the door. Since the door is the widest opening (or vent) in the tent you should place it facing into the wind, maximising the flow of cooling breeze into the interior.

Step Three: Don’t Actually Put Your Tent Up Until You Have to!

Let’s face it, putting tents up is a hassle. Putting them up and taking them down again each day is the stuff of nightmares! But is it more of a nightmare than trying to sleep in a tent that feels like it’s approaching boiling point?

In warm weather you’re best advised to put your tent up just before you go to sleep and to take it down first thing in the morning, even if you’re staying at the same campsite that night. This limits the amount of warm air that gets trapped in the tent before you (and all your warm air) get into it.  

Step Four: Laying the Foundations

If you’ve been able to bring along the spade now’s the time to use it. Digging a two feet deep trench in which to place your tent will ensure that it rests in cooler soil than if it simply sits on top of the ground.

Whether you’ve been able to dig a hole or not, place your groundsheet before you begin erecting the tent to create a barrier between the warmth of the ground and your tent. This should limit the transfer of heat via conduction.

Step Five: Thermal Reflection

From the bottom of the tent to the top! Rather than covering the erected tent with the traditional rain fly – which is good at keeping out rain but, unfortunately, equally adept at keeping in heat! – instead either drape or, ideally, suspend over the top of your tent a reflective sheet.

A good way to suspend sheets is by tying them to the branches of nearby trees so that they sit above your tent like a flat roof.

The thermal sheet will reflect many of the sun’s rays away before they can penetrate and heat the tent. Most sheets will also keep light summer rain at bay. However, if you are expecting a storm you may want to put that rain fly up, too – suspended, it at all possible!

Step Six: Open All Vents

Please note: vents are not only the little flaps we traditionally think of as vents! Anything in your tent that opens is a vent – the windows, the doors. In warm weather get absolutely everything in that tent that opens open!

It will allow air to move through the tent rather than getting caught in there and simply heating and heating and heating. The obvious proviso to this if that there are bugs about make sure the inner, insect-proof lining stays shut. The mesh is designed to let the tent breathe without admitting bugs.

Step Seven: Get the Fan On!

Small fans powered by A4 batteries can be a lifesaver. If you are inside a tent in warm weather, turning on that fan and directing its cool air towards you will feel like true bliss.

Step Eight: Add Some Ice!

Just like a drink, a tent in summer is best complemented with some ice. Position your bucket in front of the fan and place some ice inside it. The cool air from the fan will now be even cooler – a fully air-conditioned tent!

Summing Things Up

I hope you enjoyed this article. A few of the steps outlined above may seem like hard work (taking a tent down each morning and putting it up each night!?!) but if you find yourself camping in high temperatures effort really is rewarded. Putting in place the steps above should keep you cool, calm and collected while your less enlightened friends huff and puff in their portable saunas!

It may be the case that you only decide to use one or two of the steps. A portable fan and a tent positioned in the shade, by water, may be just the trick if you’re only facing moderate heat.

It’s good to have options and, thanks to the steps in this article, hopefully you’ll feel confident that camping in summer really is an option.