Camping is a relaxing activity that puts us back in touch with nature. The fresh air, the sounds and smells of the wild, and the feeling of space should be a reinvigorating experience. But many campers find out the hard way that getting enough sleep while encased in canvas tent walls can be challenging. While there isn't much you will be able to do about the sounds of enthusiastic fellow campers, there are some steps you can take to blackout your tent so that you wake up feeling refreshed when you are ready to and not at 5 am when the sun rises.
There are some ways to blackout your tent:
- Get a dark coloured tent
- Camp in a shady spot
- Use a survival sheet
- Eye mask
- Find a cozy corner
- Blackout liner
- Face west
- Blackout the sleep zone
- Dye your tent
- Blackout style tent
- Tarp screen
- Blankets, towels, and other big stuff
Creating a darker inside space inside your tent will allow you to sleep for longer and give you a greater feeling of privacy. If you have an existing tent and don't want the extra expense of purchasing new equipment, there are several hacks that you can try to blackout your tent.
Choose A Dark Coloured Tent
When you buy a tent, you probably won't be thinking about the harsh glare of sunrise after a long night spent with friends around the campfire. Tents are often brightly colored, and because dark colors tend to attract heat more, there is a large selection of light-colored tents available.
While staying cool is an important consideration when camping, so is a good night's sleep. When deciding on a tent, think about the type of camping you will be doing. If it is carry camping, weight and high-visibility for safety are important considerations. But if it's car camping and you will be selecting spots at campsites, choose a darker color. Even if only the inner tent is a dark color, the more light you can keep out, the more comfortable you will be when you need to sleep. There’s also the Coleman 8 Person Tent now in a new blackout version too available now too, though this is more expensive.
OUR TOP PICK
Our top choice in this category. The Coleman Instant Tent Tourer 4 has dark bedrooms and plenty of living space. Can be pitched in under 1 minute. We like the large windows and dark bedroom areas.
Select a Shaded Spot
The sun rises earlier in summer, and fortunately, the trees are all covered in leaves, so before you select your site and pitch your tent, do a quick analysis of the situation. Select a spot that will be shaded for longer as the sun rises.
The shading may not always be just from trees. If there is a large natural feature like a bolder or a tall recreational structure like a climbing wall in the area, pitch your tent where the sun's direct light will be blocked as it comes up over the horizon.
Hang A Survival Sheet
Using what you have available is an important survival skill. Car campers probably won't have much trouble lugging along an extra few liners or blackout sheets to darken their tents, but if you are a carry camper, you do not need any additional weight.
A survival sheet, also sometimes called a space blanket, should be part of every hiker and campers' equipment, so you won't be packing in anything extra. This handy item is low-weight and heat reflective, and you can use it to darken your tent.
There are two ways that you can use a survival sheet to blackout your tent:
- Use one or more survival sheets to cover the side of the tent where the sun will hit you in the eyes first each morning. Drape it over the inner part of the tent. The flysheet can go over the top as usual so that it doesn't blow away. The reflective side of the survival sheet should face outwards, and it should not touch the ground. Note, the survival sheet should only cover one part of the tent. Maintaining a healthy air quality and preventing condensation inside the tent is vital.
- If you need a quick solution to block incoming sunbeams, you can quickly clip the survival sheet across one side of the inside of the tent. These metallic sheets are at least 82" x 52" in size, so they can cover a considerable portion of incoming light if placed accurately.
Cover Your Eyes
Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest. If you don't want to go to a lot of effort but need a dark space, you can fool your body by covering your eyes. The days of bulky sleep masks that are uncomfortably tight or squash your eyes are gone. There are multiple designs to select from, you can get a 3-pack of comfortable, molded 100% blackout eye masks that will keep you asleep longer while camping.
By wearing a comfortable blackout eye mask, there will be no issues of light streaming in, whether from sunlight or the headlights of neighbouring campers who are returning from a night in town. If you don't have a specific eye mask with you, a bandana or scarf can be used as a makeshift sleep mask.
Our suggested solution
Choose A Quiet Spot
It may not only be light from the sun that can be a bother while you are trying to sleep in a tent. Neighbouring campers with flashlights walking to the ablutions, vehicle headlights as new campers arrive, and lights from nearby buildings can all disturb your slumber if your tent allows light through.Unless you particularly need to put your tent near a light, try to find a cozy corner removed from nighttime disturbances. While you may not actually be blacking out your tent, just keeping it out of the path of possible nighttime light sources will help. A bonus is that you will be able to see the stars much more clearly.
Use A Blackout LinerA blackout liner is the most common method used by campers to block out light. It is a large black sheet that can be clipped along the walls of your tent to keep light out. The material used should be strong, lightweight, and allow good ventilation.
If you don't want sunlight streaming through the entrance of your tent first thing in the morning, set up camp to enjoy lingering sunsets rather than early sunrises. By facing the tent's opening away from the rising sun and using one of the other methods like a tarp or blackout liner on the rear side, you can be assured of a much darker environment for longer in the mornings.
Create An Inside Tent Sleeping Pod
Instead of blacking out the entire tent, you might consider just blocking light from the small area where you sleep. In general, the darker the tent color, the warmer the interior will become, so only blacking out your sleeping space may prevent the entire unit from heating up inside. You can block off the area where you sleep quite easily by simply hanging a large piece of dark color cloth against the side of the tent next to where you will be sleeping.
However, if you are a car camper with a larger tent, getting a pop-up privacy sleep pod is definitely the way to go to blocking out light and sleep comfortably. Essentially you will be pitching a mini-tent inside your base tent, but it will only be for your sleep area. The units provide excellent ventilation while blocking out light. You will be the envy of fellow campers, and for anyone whose partner is a reluctant camper, this will most certainly make the deal sweeter.
Dye Your Tent
If you have an existing tent that is light-coloured and allows too much light through, it may be possible to dye the inner area a darker shade. This option is only possible with inners that have a high cotton component, like the type often used in bell tents. It would most certainly not be possible to dye the outer canvas weatherproof flysheet.
If the outer sides with a cotton component are attached to a canvas groundsheet or other nylon (is nylon waterproof?) parts, you can immerse it all into the dye mixture. The dye will, however, only adhere to the fabric sections that can be coloured.
If you want to try dying your tent inner, you will need a few packets of dark-coloured fabric dye. Dylon has a great range that is suitable for large items. You will also need to do this outside and have a large enough tank or pool where you can completely immerse the tent. Remember that you will have to drain the stained water somewhere and rinse the tent a few times until the water runs clear.
So be sure that there is a good supply of water to the tub or pool, a garden hose will be fine, and that there is an easy method to drain the pool after the material has soaked for long enough. One more important note: agitate the water and push the tent into the dye using a long pole or broom handle that you won't mind being the same colour as the tent inner. Also, always wear gloves when working with dye. Check out our article about painting your tent for more information.
Blackout Style Tents
Purchasing a blackout tent is definitely an excellent investment if you are a regular camper who is light sensitive. It will save a lot of setup time and extra effort later.
There are two types of blackout tents available. One is made of fabric that diffuses or absorbs light so that the light penetrating through to the inside of the tent is a lot less intense than regular tent fabric. This system is ideal for campers with young children who need a daytime space to have a sheltered nap while camping.
The second type of blackout tent is precisely what its name describes. They can render the inside of a tent dark as night, even during the day. Coleman Tents has a 8 Person Tent now in a new blackout version too available now too. This tent will block 90% of sunlight to stay cool inside while still providing excellent ventilation and protection from wind.
Create A Light Blocking Screen
If you find yourself positioned in a campsite where a glaring light on a pole or early sunrise is robbing you of sleep time, grab a sturdy tarp and create a barrier between your tent and the offending light source. Of course, this method can only work if you have something to attach the tarp onto – trees work well.
So long as your tarp is a dark colour and has sturdy corner grommet attachments, you can try this method to reduce light from being able to fall directly onto your tent. Additional advantages of the tarp not being directly against the tent are keeping the tent cooler and acting as a windbreak.
Use Whatever You Have Available
The funny thing about camp trips is that you will always have forgotten something important at home. You carefully plan and prepare, and when you arrive, you will undoubtedly have left one important item behind. If that item happens to be your intended blackout system, rest assured that you will be able to make do with items that you have on hand as a temporary solution.
Many campers have successfully used blankets, sheets, or towels as temporary tent blackout systems. So long as you don't block the ventilation inside the tent, the goal is to reduce the amount of visible light, and this can be as simple as pegging two beach towels on a rope line on the light-facing outside of the tent. Be creative and have fun while coming up with your own unique blackout solutions.
Camping doesn't need to include restless nights because the tent lets in too much light. It is possible to dim the inside space of a tent. If you already own a tent, there are several methods that you can try to blackout the space so that you can enjoy nights of uninterrupted sleep. If you are considering purchasing a tent, buying a tent that includes darkroom technology may be a worthwhile investment if you go camping frequently.