Why do Tents Get so Hot & How to Solve The Issue?


As a guy who lives in the middle east region, I am familiar with the overheating camping tents phenomenon. During the years I was spending outdoors, I came up with several reasons why do tents get so hot and learned how to overcome the issue. In this article, I will discuss seven different causes for this and offer each one with a practical solution.

Tents get too hot when there is direct sunlight above them, when they feature a poor ventilation mechanism or when you are camping during the daytime. Also, this could happen because your tent is currently facing east or when the weather is just too hot for camping. Some features in your tent itself may also cause the problem; such as a dark canvas or a rainfly which is tightly closed.

Direct Sunlight

One apparent reason that might end up with a hot tent is when it is directly exposed to sunlight.

It doesn’t matter how well your tent block the UV radiation, when the sun is right above it – temperatures will increase. For that, I suggest that you do one of two options – using the treetops wisely and building a tarp over your tent.

Taking Advantage of Tree Tops

When you go camping, choosing your campsite is a crucial decision, especially regarding sun exposure. My favorite way to go is placing your tent underneath dense treetops so they would block solar radiation. 

Although, if you plan on building a campfire, you should keep in mind that the trees aren’t too low – otherwise they might catch fire.

Put a Tarp Over Your Tent

There are many reasons why I suggest that you build a tarp of your tent beside blocking the sun – I have elaborated deeply on them and showed why it is crucial that you bring one in this article

Still, having a tarp built in the right way is challenging if you are new to the field of camping.

For that, I’ve written another article which describes 15 camping knots that would help you to build a sustainable campsite and hang your tarp, so it doesn’t lose its touch as a result of strong winds. 

I highly suggest that you take a few moments going through this, it might have a significant impact while very easy to learn.

Poor Ventilation

Besides increasing condensation inside your tent, poor tent ventilation might end up with a hot tent. When you are inside your tent, heat might come from the sun through your tent canvas, or otherwise, from your body temperature.

When the air inside the tent gets warmer, it naturally climbs up, toward the ceiling. However, if there are no vents at the top – the air has nowhere to escape, ending up with internal heat circulation. 

Personally, two solutions pop to my mind according to that issue – leaving the door zipped open and camping in exposed spaces.

Leave The Door Zipped Open

Once you are inside your tent and ready to go to sleep – leave a little gap instead of closing the door entirely.

When you do so, make sure that you leave the upper part open and not the bottom one – otherwise insects or snakes might climb right in.

Also, make sure that the campsite is entirely clean and that all the food cans are hermetically concealed.

Camp in Open Spaces

In opposed to what I said above, camping underneath trees might compromise ventilation and block the winds – which by themselves could cool down your tent.

Well, if you are camping in low areas which don’t feature a sufficient breeze, stick to camping in shaded areas. 

On the other hand, if you are camping on a hill with strong winds from the sides – take advantage of it and stay away from anything that might block it away.

Camping During Daytime

I know, staying in your tent could be tempting during the daytime, especially when you are camping in a large tent with your family. Although, the primary purpose of tents is to shelter you when you go to sleep – past sunset. 

If your tent is getting hot during the daytime, try spending your time outside – you might be surprised how many activities you could take to enjoy nature.

My favorite way to go when things get hot is hanging a hammock between two trees trunks and reading a book I’ve brought from home.

If you are camping with friends or family, you could take a short hike and enjoy your surroundings until temperatures drop down.

Your Tent is Facing East

One mistake many of us do is building our tent in a way it faces east. The problem here is that we are exposed to sunlight from the minute the sun pops out and stay exposed until the late afternoon hours. 

If you are camping next to a large object which blocks the sun, such as a tall building, a hill or a bunch of trees – make sure that they face east and that you are behind them.

Besides keeping your tent cool longer, facing west (i.e., blocking your east) would allow you an extended sleep, even past sunrise. 

If you don’t know where east is and you haven’t brought a compass beforehand – I suggest that you download a compass app in your smartphone; in this case, all you need is GPS reception.

The Tent is Too Dark

There are many advantages to having a dark colored tent – the most apparent of them is that it allows you to sleep longer.

In fact, having a dark tent is so useful that I’ve written an entire article regarding different ways that will assist you in making it darker

On the other hand, having a dark tent may increase the temperatures inside due to UV radiation absorption – I will elaborate that topic later on in this article. 

If a hot tent is your issue and its canvas is quite dark – there is a good chance you will do better with building a tarp over it – as I’ve already described above.

The Weather is Just Too Hot For Camping

It doesn’t matter if your tent is light colored, you have a proper cover, or that you have built it in the right direction – if the weather is too hot for camping – your tent would get hot.

I will elaborate later on what temperatures are reasonable for camping and what to do when facing a heat stroke. Although, I will offer here a few ways to keep yourself cold if you have still gone camping in the middle of the summer. 

If you have a generator – there is no question the best way to get cooler is an air circulator fan – even if you don’t have a power source, you can use one which runs on batteries.

Another great way is by having a camping cooler with some refreshing drinks – if you already have, make sure that you keep the melted ice in – I’ve dedicated an entire article explaining why it is better not to drain your cooler

If you are camping next to a lake or any other water source – take a dip and enjoy your surroundings.

Still, make sure that you don’t drink any water which hadn’t been disinfected – you may read more about it on my article regarding the question – is camping safe?

Your Rainfly is Too Close

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, a tent rainfly is the outer layer of the canvas which is usually water resistant and in most of the cases can be removed.

If you do pitch your tent with a rainfly surrounding it – there is a good chance it is too close, compromises ventilation and heats your tent. 

If you feel that this is the case, perhaps the better way to go is not using it at all – rely on a tarp instead. Nevertheless, don’t ditch the fly entirely by leaving it back at home.

As you may know, the weather is tricky when going camping, and you may never know when a strong wind (or perhaps a rainy night) would surprise you.

What Kind of Tents Get Warm in Particular?

There are many different kinds of tents fabrics, although the three which are most familiar to find are synthetics (nylon, polyester) and natural materials (cotton).

These days, manufacturers mainly focus on synthetics since they are breathable and relatively water resistant – although another advantage in this section is that polyester and nylon heat less than cotton. 

Hence, if your tent gets hot and mainly made out of cotton, there is a good chance that is the reason for it. Besides, when producing canvases out of synthetic materials, the producers usually coat it with a polyurethane layer, so it doesn’t soak water.

In opposed to that, cotton tents do generally not repel water and many times may even leak.

Should I Ditch The Rainfly?

When tents get hot, the natural question is whether or not you should ditch its rainfly. As I’ve explained above, this layer task is to repel water and provide shade upon the canvas.

Although when it harms more than it does good, most of the times I suggest that you take the fly off. That is mainly the case when it is too close to your tent walls and lowers its breathability and ventilation in a way the air inside becomes suffocating hot. 

However, if you take it off – your tent wouldn’t be as water resistant as it used to. For that, I recommend that you put a tarp over your tent in a way it would block UV radiation.

Frankly, the best way to answer this question is by experimenting – if you notice an improvement in your tent warmth when the fly is out – do it, otherwise – leave it as it is.

What Tarps Are Best in Blocking UV Radiation?

Frankly, all tarps would block the sun in radiation as long they are not transparent. 

If someone were to convince you on buying the ultimate tarp that would prevent all solar radiation and keep your tent 100% cool – that would probably be a scam.

However, if you don’t mind adding a few more pounds to your carry, I suggest that you go with tarps which are tensile resistance. 

If you hang one above your tent, for instance, it may be exposed to some strong winds during nighttime. When the tarp is resistant to tensile – harsh winds wouldn’t be an issue, and your campsite will be much more durable.

Will The UV Radiation Damage my Tent?

Earlier I said that staying in your tent during the day could contribute to the heat inside, although it could also harm your canvas.

The answer yes, UV radiation could damage tents fabric, especially a prolonged exposure. The UV light would gradually disintegrate the different layers and may weaken your tent sustainability and water resistance. 

If you pitch your tent during the day for long periods, the damage could be done in a single month. If you haven’t brought a tarp with you, please stick to shady places with a sufficient breeze to decrease the temperatures and protect your tent’s layering system.

When is it Too Hot For Camping?

In general, temperatures above 90°F (30°C) are considered hot and could increase the chances to get a heat stroke. 

When the sunlight is direct, prolonged exposure could be the equivalent of increasing the temperature in 15°F. From my experience, it is better to avoid camping at all if the weather is that hot – especially when you are camping in humid places.

If you still go camping in these conditions, bring enough water with you, so you stay hydrated and avoid drinking alcohol. Also, I suggest that you stay in the shade as much as possible and that you eat food with a sufficient amount of electrolytes (salty almonds, for instance). 

When experiencing a heat stroke, the symptoms are usually dizziness, fatigue, fainting, headaches, nausea, and vomiting.

When this happens, you have to drink plenty of fluids and remove any unnecessary tight clothing. If the symptoms haven’t passed in 15 minutes, you should seek an emergency medical assistance (recommendation were taken from WebMD.com)

Why Are Dark Tents Hotter Inside?

The reason why dark tents might get hotter than light ones is that the black color absorbs more energy from UV radiation. 

You shouldn’t miss concept and think that dark colors get hot more easily; if you take both a white shirt and a black one out of a dryer – they will be at the same temperature.

The difference is that lighter tents reflect sunlight better than the darker ones which absorb the energy instead of sending it back to the sun.

Conclusions

Many reasons might lead to the same result – a tent which is too hot. Some of them are related to the camper behavior, such as camping in day hours or choosing to go outdoors in extreme climates.

On the other hand, a hot tent may be as a result of a poor design, such as a black canvas or a suffocating rainfly. Whatever the reason is, you can solve the problem if you implement the necessary steps – as described earlier on.

I hope my article gave you a better understanding of the disturbing phenomenon. If it hasn’t – let me know all about your issue by leaving a comment below!

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