How to Keep a Tent Cool: A Guide for Summer Camping

how to keep a tent cool

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Written by: Ashley Vitiello

Updated May 20, 2023

Are you ready for the thrill of summer camping but dread the thought of sweating all day in a stiflingly hot tent? You’re not alone. From my own camping experiences, I’ve often found that battling the intense heat is one of the most significant hurdles to truly enjoying the great outdoors all summer long.

But what if I told you that those uncomfortable nights of tossing and turning in a sauna-like tent could be a thing of the past? The secret lies in understanding how to keep your tent cool, even during the peak of summer. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll reveal essential tips, techniques, and strategies for how to keep a tent cool that will transform your next camping trip.

So, don’t let the heat hold you back from your next adventure—read on and unlock the secrets to comfortable summer camping.

How Do You Keep a Tent Cool?

Here are 10 steps you can take to keep your tent cool:

  1. Choose the right tent
  2. Select an ideal campsite
  3. Use reflective tarps and shades
  4. Optimize ventilation and air flow
  5. Use cooling devices
  6. Adjust your sleeping arrangements
  7. Stay hydrated
  8. Wear light clothing
  9. Adjust your daily schedule
  10. Consider alternative sleeping options

1. Choose the Right Tent for Hot Weather

When it comes to beating the heat on those sun-drenched camping trips, the type of camping tent you choose can make all the difference. Believe me, having the right shelter isn’t just about withstanding the elements – it’s about creating a cool oasis where you can escape the summer’s intensity.

Polyester Tents

You might be inclined to go for a polyester tent, and I can see why. Polyester is not only lightweight but it also stands up well against UV rays. That’s a big deal, as the sun doesn’t just heat things up, but can also degrade materials over time.

Plus, don’t overlook the breathability factor. While it can’t beat a canvas tent in this department, many polyester tents feature mesh windows and rain flaps. Leave these open during the day, and you’ll notice decent airflow cooling your space down.

Canvas Tents

There’s something about the way the natural fibers allow for air circulation that just keeps the interior cooler on those scorching days.

Sure, they might weigh more and take longer to set up, but once you’re in, you’re in for a treat. These tents are built to last and can weather a storm better than most. Plus, they tend to be roomier, giving you a spacious, cool, and comfortable haven to retreat to.

2. Select an Ideal Campsite Location

Where you pitch your tent can make a world of difference when it comes to staying cool. Hunt for those shaded spots tucked away under trees or other vegetation. They’re your best bet for escaping the sun’s relentless rays.

But here’s the catch – the sun’s a tricky thing. A spot that’s shaded in the morning can quickly fall into direct sunlight as the day progresses. So, try to predict the sun’s journey and choose a spot that offers shade most of the day.

Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to find a spot that catches a breeze, you’ve hit the jackpot. A gentle wind can be a real game-changer for keeping your tent cool on a summer camping trip.

3. Use Reflective Tarps and Shades

Now, let’s talk about a little trick I’ve picked up over the years – reflective tarps and shades. By deflecting the sun’s rays, they act as a protective shield for your tent.

Just tie them up between tree branches or poles, suspending them above your tent. Aim for about a foot’s gap between the tarp and your tent to allow air to circulate freely. And the best part? Reflective tarps won’t break the bank. You can find them in most camping stores, and they’re worth every penny.

4. Optimize Ventilation and Airflow

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of good old ventilation when tent camping. To max out the cooling inside your tent, you’ll want to open up all vents, doors, and rain flaps. If you aren’t expecting rain, you could open up your rainfly to allow for even more air flow. A full coverage rainfly could also trap heat and hot air, so taking it off when possible can make a huge difference.

Get that air circulating and you’ll soon feel the temperature drop, especially once the sun goes down.

The mesh windows on the Nemo Aurora Highrise 4p make it great for summer camping.

5. Utilize Cooling Devices and Techniques

In the quest to keep your tent cool, there are some trusty devices and techniques that I’ve found to be lifesavers on those sweltering summer days. Let me share a few:

Battery Powered Fan

These little gadgets are worth their weight in gold. Portable, battery-powered fans can really stir up a refreshing breeze inside your tent. I recommend looking for lightweight ones that you can attach to the tent walls, floor, or ceiling (like this Camping Fan).

Ice Packs and Cool Towels

Ah, the sweet relief of an ice pack on a hot day. Trust me on this, ice packs and cool towels can feel like a godsend when the heat is beating down. Drape a cool, damp towel around your neck – it’s an instant chill-down. Use ice packs or ice cubes to fill a cooler so all your drinks can be refreshingly cold on demand.

Window Air Conditioner Unit

If you want to purchase a tent with an AC port (or make your own port in a tent you already own), you could use a window AC unit to cool your tent. You would need an electric hook up but this is going to be the most effective way to cool your tent.

Buy a Portable Air Conditioner

how to keep a tent cool
This Zero Breeze Mark 2 will cool your tent down quickly and efficiently!

There’s one game-changer I haven’t mentioned yet, and that’s investing in a portable air conditioner. I’m talking about devices like the Zero Breeze Mark 2. This is not just any air conditioner; it’s designed with outdoor enthusiasts in mind. It’s compact, portable, and has a built-in battery, making it ideal for use in off-grid settings like a campsite.

The Zero Breeze Mark 2 doesn’t just spit out cool air, it also dehumidifies and circulates the it to ensure a comfortable environment inside your tent. It can lower the temperature by up to 30 degrees, which, trust me, can feel heavenly on a hot summer day. The device even features a sleep mode that keeps it running quietly all night, so it won’t disturb your peaceful night in nature.

But here’s the catch: Portable air conditioners like the Zero Breeze Mark 2 do come with a steeper price tag. They’re an investment, no doubt about it. However, if you’re a frequent camper or just really can’t stand the heat, this could be a worthwhile addition to your camping gear. You’ll be trading in a bit of cash for a lot of comfort, and on those blazing summer days, that might just be a trade you’re willing to make.

6. Adjust Your Sleeping Arrangements

If the night heat is making sleep elusive, it might be time to rethink your sleeping arrangements:

Use Lightweight Bedding

Leave the heavy sleeping bag at home and switch to lightweight, breathable bedding materials like cotton sheets and blankets. They help regulate your temperature and keep you cool throughout those long summer nights.

Elevate Your Sleeping Surface

Consider this: elevating your sleeping surface can actually help keep you cooler. I’ve found that a camping cot or an air mattress not only adds a touch of luxury but also improves airflow by lifting you off the ground. It’s a simple adjustment that can really pay off.

7. Stay Hydrated

I can’t stress this enough – keeping yourself well-hydrated is crucial when you’re out there in the heat. Make it a habit to sip water throughout the day. It not only helps regulate your body temperature but also keeps you feeling fresh and invigorated.

8. Wear Light, Breathable Clothing

When it comes to picking your clothing, my go-to materials are lightweight merino wool and breathable synthetic fabrics like Patagonia’s Cool Capilene. I’ve found that these fabrics work wonders in the heat. Here’s a little secret: opt for lighter hues. They reflect the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them, keeping you cool as a cucumber under that summer sun.

9. Adjust Your Daily Schedule

To make the most of the cooler temperatures, consider adjusting your daily activities. In my experience, getting the more strenuous activities like hiking or setting up camp done in the morning or evening can make a huge difference. Then you can kick back and take it easy during the hottest parts of the day.

We’ve also found it super helpful to take a cold shower before bed. It washes off the sweat and stickiness before bed, helping you feel clean and cooler than before your shower.

10. Consider Alternative Sleeping Options

Alright, let’s say you’ve tried all the above and your tent still feels like a sauna. It’s time to get creative with your sleeping arrangements.


Consider a hammock. They’re not just for afternoon siestas! A sturdy, lightweight camping hammock can provide top-notch airflow, keeping you nice and cool. Make sure to grab a bug net and a rain cover, though. You want to be prepared for whatever weather you may encounter.

Sleeping Under the Stars

Why not take the opportunity to sleep under the stars? Sometimes, ditching the tent altogether can be a game-changer. This style is called ‘cowboy camping’ and is popular among ultralight backpackers.

Just make sure you’ve chosen a safe spot, and don’t forget to pack a lightweight sleeping pad and a bug net. Not only will you enjoy a refreshing sleep, but you’ll also get a front-row seat to nature’s most spectacular show. How’s that for a camping win?


The heat of summer shouldn’t deter you from enjoying your camping adventures. By following the tips and strategies outlined in this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to cool a tent, so you can get a good night’s sleep even in sweltering conditions.

Careful planning, innovative cooling techniques, and adapting to the weather all play a key role in your overall comfort. So, gear up, stay cool, and embrace your next exciting camping adventure with confidence and ease!

Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, wildflowers, scenic snacking, and mushrooms. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has spent years enjoying time outside doing things like hiking, camping, and rock climbing.
Her goal with Know Nothing Nomads is to make these hobbies easily accessible through knowledgeable content and how-to’s based on all the stuff she’s learned on her journey. If she isn’t writing an article, she’s probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.

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