As someone who grew up camping in tents, I know the feeling all too well. That feeling when you go inside of your tent in the middle of the day, and it literally feels like a heatwave hits you. Even sometimes when you wake up in the morning, you feel the interior heat rising.

Tents have a tendency of capturing heat very easily, but then it becomes somewhat difficult to get that heat to escape. Merely venting the tent oftentimes doesn’t do a whole lot of good, unless there’s a consistent wind. Even then the difference is oftentimes not all that noticeable.

But it’s not as if you can just slap an AC unit into your tent and having access to electricity is usually not enjoyed by tent campers anyway. That then begs the question of how to cool a tent without electricity. It’s a little bit different than heating a tent without electricity, let’s just say that.

From setting up the tent at the right time of day to choosing the right tent material to selecting the location properly, there are a number of tips and tricks that you can employ to make life a lot cooler inside of your tent.

Let’s get into further detail with that in a moment, but let’s first discuss why tents get so hot, in the first place.

Why do tents get so warm?

dome tent on mountain top with sunrise in the background
Image credits: Kevin Ianeselli

Thinking of tents as a greenhouse can kind of help explain why they get so warm inside. Tents will trap warm air during the day as the sun will pass through the fabric of your tent and heat up the inside. As the day progresses, the tent will continue to get warmer and warmer as the warm air can’t escape.

Outside of the sun, your body heat can also play a role in heating up a tent. Of course, this is going to be an issue when you’re physically inside the tent. This one’s a little harder to avoid (clearly).

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How hot your tent gets when you’re ready to get some sleep depends on the color, material, and the type of tent you’re using.

How to cool a tent without electricity

Alsigarh is a village in Jhadol Tehsil in Udaipur district in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
Photo by Arvind Singh Chouhan / Unsplash

Okay, so with that now out of the way, let’s get into more detail to answer this conundrum that tent campers face in the summer (and even warmer days in the spring or fall):

  1. Spend some time finding the ideal location
  2. Pitch the tent at the right time
  3. Consider what materials your tent is made of
  4. Never forget to properly ventilate your tent
  5. Remove the rainfly whenever possible
  6. Use battery-powered fans

Let’s jump straight into the first way to lower the temperature inside your tent.

1. Spend some time finding the ideal location

Where you decide to pitch your tent is going to be choice number one for how to cool a tent without electricity. It’s not as if 10 yards to the left or right is going to make a 20-degree difference, but what you want to have is some shade during the day.

This may require some research on your end if you’re camping at a campground. Some campsites will be wide out in the open with no trees in sight. Not the most optimal location for a tent camper as the sun will be allowed to beat down directly on the tent.

Pitching a tent under trees can provide you (and your tent) with much-needed shade over the course of the day. Keep in mind the area that’ll provide you with the most shade, however, as that’s going to change as the day progresses.

Additionally, if possible, find an area that sees a decent amount of wind. Riverside and lakeside areas will be ideal for this as winds tend to be stronger over open water.

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Finding the ideal location and pitching your tent in the shade is always the best solution if you want to dramatically lower the temperature inside your tent.

2. Pitch the tent at the right time

So far, you can see incredibly simple methods of how to cool a tent without electricity, as this one is. Merely setting up your tent at the right time can make all the difference in the world, as keeping the sun at bay is the goal.

Instead of pitching the tent in the middle of the day or first thing in the morning, pitch it when it gets close to darkness. Doing so in total darkness makes things much more difficult, so take advantage of the time you have after the sun sets (or just before it).

Depending on where you are in the world, you should have a good chunk of time after the sun sets before it gets really dark. This will prevent the sun from heating up your tent throughout the day.

But what happens if you’re camping for multiple nights and can only do this on the first day you arrive at your camping destination? It may sound tedious and annoying but taking down your tent first thing in the morning and re-pitching it that night (before the sunset or at the time of the sunset) is an option.

This gives you even more reason to invest in a tent that’s easy to pitch. If your tent is an absolute hassle to assemble, you’ll have to make a judgment call and ask yourself the following question:

Is it worth it to have a significantly cooler tent if I have to spend several minutes taking down and re-pitching my tent each and every morning and night I camp?

3. Consider what material your tent is made of

If you’ve already bought a tent or love the one that you have, there’s not much you can do about this section if you don’t have the optimal fabrics. The thing is most camping tents are going to be made of polyester and nylon.

Both those fabrics have their advantages from their durability to their lightweight nature. However, the problem is neither of them are great when it comes to insulating the tent from the outdoor heat.

Canvas is a much better material when it comes to insulation, though it’s heavier than both nylon and polyester. Plus, canvas is a very breathable fabric and will allow small moisture particles to directly escape through it.

As with many other tents, you can find canvas tents with large mesh-covered vents and windows for ideal airflow and ventilation.

4. Never forget to properly ventilate your tent

Speaking of airflow and ventilation, you can’t forget about them when trying to figure out how to cool a tent without electricity. Now, early in the morning when your tent is possibly cool, it may be tempting to keep the windows closed to keep the cool air inside.

While this isn’t a terrible idea, it won’t work for long because even the most insulated tents in the world will heat up during the day. So, during the day be sure to vent the tent as much as you can. It’s not going to cool your tent like an AC unit, but the airflow will help.

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Properly ventilating your tent will not only lower the temperature inside your tent but prevent condensation from building up inside the tent too.

5. Remove the rainfly whenever possible

While you shouldn’t remove the rainfly while it’s raining (obviously), removing it while it’s dry can open up the mesh roof that your tent probably has. Removing some rainflies will expose too much of the interior of a tent, but if daytime privacy inside the tent is irrelevant to you then this won’t be a problem.

A neat trick to do if you don’t want to remove the rainfly completely is to hang it over your tent with the help of some trees or other objects. This can provide both shade and ventilation at the same time if removing the rainfly exposes you too much to the sunlight.

6. Use battery-powered fans

Much like using a battery-powered tent heater during winter camping, you could also invest in some battery-powered fans if you want some improved airflow inside of your tent.

Needless to say, pushing around hot air will only help so much, but it’s better than nothing if you have to be inside your tent while it’s hot. Such a fan can be nice for sleeping inside too, though, if needed.

Additionally, placing some ice in a trough and placing the fan behind it can be a way to push some colder air around. Again, don’t expect AC-level cooling capabilities, but it still can help.

Final thoughts

Indeed, there are many different methods you can implement to help cool down your tent by the time you have to be comfortable and sleep in it or while you’re inside of it doing whatever it is that you’re doing. Better yet, the above methods don’t require electricity.

If we had to narrow this list down to the two best ways how to cool a tent without electricity, we’d have to say choosing the right location and pitching the tent at the correct time.

Not to say the others don’t matter, but those two take the sun into play the most. Keeping the heat of the sun at bay is critical, after all.

All this talk about staying cool in a tent was great, but how about staying warm? If you enjoy winter camping, then it’s best to understand how to insulate your tent to prepare for such weather conditions.