While camping is a relaxing experience, it can sometimes be tough to get a good night’s sleep when spending time outdoors. Many tents are made of thin fabric that struggles to block sunlight, which can leave you awake at dawn despite your best efforts.
Fortunately, it’s easy to fix this problem by blacking out your tent. In this article, our team of experts will show you several ways to do exactly that, as well as teach you everything you need to know about the pros and cons of doing so.
Below, we’ll go over the following tips about how to blackout a tent:
Buying a tent with darkroom technology
Putting a tarp on or over your tent
Using blackout liner inside of your tent
Camping in a shady spot
Using a sleep mask
How to Blackout Your Tent Directly
While you might see other articles describing 10+ ways to darken a camping tent, there are only 3 ways to do it directly. We narrowed them down here so you can know exactly what makes a difference.
1. Use a Tent With Dark Room Technology
If you haven’t bought a tent yet and are looking for something that can block out the sun, then you should look into dark room technology.
These types of tents are built with a special blackout material that blocks over 90% of the sunlight that would normally enter your tent while maintaining good ventilation. They’re the closest thing to a blackout tent that you can buy directly on the market.
Depending on the size you’re looking for, the dark room fabric might only cover the part of the tent meant to sleep in, which will help it stay cooler overall without the dark colors everywhere. One tent with this technology that we like is the Coleman Skydome Tent.
2. Put a Tarp on or Over Your Tent
The simplest way to blackout your entire tent is to throw a tarp over it. A solid-colored tarp of decent thickness will eliminate any sunlight inside your tent as long as it’s big enough to cover the whole thing.
If your tarp has grommets on the corners, then you can stake it down to ensure it will block out the sun throughout the day and night. Keep in mind that putting a tarp directly on top of your tent will decrease the ventilation, so it might not be the best choice on a hot day.
To avoid this, you can pitch your tent under some trees and tie your tarp to them directly over your tent. While slightly more light will get through, it still blocks a large amount while maintaining the ventilation.
3. Put Up Blackout Liner Inside Your Tent
Lastly, putting up blackout liner inside of your tent is a great way to reduce sunlight. Many camping stores sell specialized blackout liner that you can use for this, but something like a tarp, towel, blanket, or sheet with also work.
You’ll first want to choose the areas that you want to cover with your blackout material. We’d recommend only covering the spots that will directly face the sunrise and leaving plenty of mesh uncovered to keep yourself comfortable.
When we camp, we’ll typically tie our tarp between two poles on the inner tent where we want some sun blocking. Other campers we know attach velcro or pins to their tent fabric so that it’s easy to put the liner on that way. Several methods work.
Other Ways to Reduce Light in and Around Your Tent
While neither of the following two methods involves blackout tents directly, they’ll both help reduce your sun exposure by a large amount, which serves the same purpose. They’re also both much cheaper than the above options, which is another huge plus.
4. Camp Somewhere With Plenty of Shade
If you’re camping in anything above freezing temperatures, you should be looking for a shady spot for your tent anyways, as excessive sunlight will degrade your tent’s fabric. It’s even more important if you want to reduce sun exposure, however.
If you’re camping in the woods, you can maximize shade by going deeper into the middle than you normally would. The body of the trees will block light from reaching your tent as the sun rises, giving you a full night’s sleep.
Also, make sure to position your tent under several large trees to avoid bright light during the day.
If you aren’t camping in the woods, try to position your tent next to a large boulder or mountain that is taller than your tent.
Figure out which direction the sun rises from and make sure that you place your tent in a spot where it will be protected in the morning in case you want to sleep in.
5. Use a Sleep Mask
While it’s not exactly in the rugged spirit of camping, sleep masks are highly effective at blocking light from reaching your eyes and giving you a good night’s sleep.
If that’s all you’re looking for, you can pick one up for under $10 online and move on from this article. Enhanced comfort masks also exist at higher prices, with features such as cooling gel or custom fitted to your face.
Blacking Out a Tent: Pros and Cons
Having a completely dark tent is a nice way to block out the light, but it’s important to know all the pros and cons before you decide that it’s worth it.
The clearest benefit of a blackout tent is a great night’s rest. Since very little sunlight will get inside your tent, you won’t be woken up a minute earlier than you want to be.
As we mentioned earlier, sunlight will degrade your tent fabric over time. Blackout tents with a sunlight-reflecting layer (or camping in the shade) will reduce the amount of light absorbed by the fabric and extend the lifespan significantly.
Before you go buy a darker-colored tent, know that no matter what you do, it will be hotter on the inside than a non-blackout tent. The general rule is that dark colors absorb while light colors reflect, and absorbing sunlight means higher heat.
If you’re camping in hot weather, this could be a problem and you should consider one of the methods that don’t involve blacking out your tent directly.
If you’re camping in a regular dark tent without the extra protection of blackout technology, you’ll have to worry about the sun degrading the fabric, as it will absorb UV rays even more than the average tent will.
Lastly, blackout tents can make it harder to see both inside and outside of your tent. If you leave your tent in the middle of the night, it might be hard to find it again if you walk too far away.
On the inside, the blackout material will reduce your visibility to the outdoors. This can be a problem if you’re camping somewhere with lots of people or wild animals, as you’ll want to know when some are lurking nearby.
Excessive light can be one of the most annoying parts of camping, but using the knowledge you’ve gained in this article, you’ll have no trouble dealing with it.
Do you have any other tips on how to blackout a tent? Please let us know in the comments below. Happy camping!
Depending on the design, a blackout tent can get very hot. Look for ones with plenty of mesh ventilation or that only blackout part of the tent to minimize the heat.
Blackout material can come in a wide variety of different types including nylon, polyester, or vinyl. They are all relatively thick and opaque, which makes them effective at blocking light.
Carl is a content writer for The Camping Buddy, specializing in informational camping articles and product reviews. Carl has been a freelance writer for outdoor news sites while spending his time backpacking across the world. His favorite camping spot is Malaekahana Beach in Hawaii.