8 ways to blackout your tent for a darker sleep environment

by | Feb 10, 2023 | Backcountry camping

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Sleeping in a dark environment is one of the keys to a good night’s sleep.

Unfortunately, many tents are made with thin material that allows ambient light from the outdoors to seep in and affect your sleep quality.

This may be especially true if you’re camping in the middle of summer when the sun rises as early as 5am and sets as late as 10pm (depending on your location, of course).

Blacking out your tent is one way to ensure you get a good night’s sleep no matter where and when you’re camping.

Here are some tips to consider.

Method #1: Get a “dark room” tent

Two dark room tents made of dark coloured material.

If you’re thinking about upgrading your tent, try looking for one that’s made with Dark Room Technology, which includes a specialized layer that blocks up to 90 percent of sunlight.

You’ll notice that these tents are typically darker in colour.

For instance, the Coleman Skydome tent is a functional and affordable tent built with Dark Room Technology so you can sleep in past sunrise.

You can get it in a variety of sizes (4 to 10 people) and it’s designed to reduce heat so you don’t get too hot.

When choosing a dark room tent, we recommend looking for one that claims to reduce heat since darker colours naturally absorb more of the sun’s energy.

Method #2: Install a blackout liner

A blackout liner with creases.

If you already have a tent and don’t want to upgrade, you can create a similar effect to a dark room tent by investing in a blackout liner.

Blackout liners are basically sheets of fabric that you can use to cover windows and other areas that let light in.

In fact, blackout liners are arguably more effective than dark room tents—many of which can block 100% of sunlight.

All you have to do is cut the liner to fit the shape of your tent and attach them to the inner walls with something like removable hooks, safety pins, or adhesive tape.

It may add a little extra work and time to your tent set-up, but it’s a very easy and low-cost way to darken your existing tent.

Method #3: Line the walls of your tent with dark coloured bed sheets, blankets, or towels

A stack of black and grey towels.

If purchasing a blackout liner isn’t in your budget, you can try to make do with what you already have.

This may prove to be trickier given that the sheets, blankets, and towels you may have come in all different shapes, sizes, and weights—and you probably won’t want to cut them.

To attach them to your inner tent walls without damaging them, try using safety pins or something similar.

Keep in mind that some sunlight may still get in depending on the material and how effectively they cover the inner walls of your tent.

Method #4: Set your tent up in a tree-covered area with lots of shade

A campground with tent camping and RV camping.

Whether you decide to blackout your tent or not, finding a shaded area to set up your existing one is always a good idea to help minimize sunlight exposure.

The thicker the canopy (a.k.a. tree top cover), the better.

Just be sure to check for “widow makers” first, which are dead trees or branches that could fall onto your tent or camp area.

Use a saw, axe, or chainsaw to carefully cut down any precarious branches or trees to make the area safe.

Method #5: Hang a dark coloured tarp over your tent

A tarp set up over a tent on a campsite.

Think dark green, blue, or black.

A tarp won’t just help block sunlight—it will also help protect your tent from rain and wind.

It man not block as much sunlight as a dark room tent or blackout liner, but it’s a good middle ground option if you know you don’t need complete darkness to sleep.

We recommend something like the REDCAMP hammock rainfly/tent tarp, which comes in black and green at just under $20 USD.

Method #6: Line your tent with cheap insulating material for added warmth

Cutting the Reflectix out to fit the pot.

If you’re camping in the shoulder seasons (spring or fall), or you expect it to get chilly at night, you can double up on the functionality of your DIY blackout tent by using something like Reflectix to line the inner walls of your tent.

Reflectix is made from highly reflective aluminum material and is designed to insulate your tent by reflecting heat back into the space.

It’s generally used for insulating hot water heaters and other energy-consuming appliances, but you can use it to line your tent walls for added protection from the cold.

In addition to being cheap, it’s incredibly lightweight, easy to cut and install, and makes for a great barrier between you and cold air or ground temperatures.

We’ve used to create our own DIY pot and water bottle cozies for when we camp in cold weather.

The pot cozy helps keep our hot water or cooked food warm, while the water bottle cozies help prevent our water from freezing in winter.

To attach it to the inner walls of your tent, cut it to shape and then use something like masking tape or safety pins along the edges of your tent to keep it in place.

Method #7: Get creative with bushcraft

A bushcraft lean-to shelter.

Before we go on, it’s important to note that not all parks and campgrounds allow campers to harvest natural materials, so make sure you check the rules before doing anything.

That said, if you’re camping in a place that allows it, consider scavenging natural resources like spruce bows to create a makeshift lean-to for added shade.

Using natural resources to craft your own “tent shade” is not only an economical way to save money, but it’s also a great opportunity to practice some bushcraft skills out in the wilderness.

Method #8: Take the easiest route by using a sleep mask

A black sleep mask.

Let’s face it: it’s kind of a pain to blackout a tent.

If you don’t want to go through all the trouble of blackout methods mentioned above, you can always buy yourself a sleep mask.

This is especially handy if you’re camping with more than one person and only one of them needs to sleep in complete darkness.

A basic eye mask will do the trick, or you can invest in something more advanced like the 100% cotton sleep mask blackout, which claims to block out all light that comes from the nose area.

It may take some getting used to sleeping with an eye mask, but it’s an easy and pain-free way to blackout a tent—especially if you’re camping with someone who doesn’t need complete darkness.

How each blackout tent method compares

Now that you know just how many options you have for blacking out your tent, you may be wondering which one is best for you.

To help you decide, we created a comparison chart to give you a better idea of what you can expect in terms of cost, ease of use, light blockage, and what each method is best used for.

Blackout method Cost Ease of use Light blockage Best for
Dark room tent $75+ Easy 90% Tent upgrade
Blackout liner $25+ Medium 90-100% Tent modification
Sheets, blankets, etc. Free+ Medium Material dependent No budget
Shaded tree cover Free Easy 25-75% Minimal darkness
Dark coloured tarp $25+ Medium 25-75% Rain/wind protection
Reflectix liner $20+ Medium Up to 100% Cold weather
Bushcraft lean-to Free Hard Structure dependent Skill, available resources
Sleep mask $5+ Easy Up to 100% Convenience

The tradeoffs of blacking out your tent

A green tent in darkness at night.

We know that sleeping in a pitch black environment is important for a lot of people, but if you decide to do it, you should be aware of some of the things you may be giving up.

Ventilation and breathability. Blackout methods that involve covering up the walls or using a tarp can reduce the amount of ventilation and breathability in your tent.

This could lead to condensation issues and make your tent humid, so be prepared for that if you choose to go this route.

Ambient sound. Depending on what you use to blackout your tent, such as very heavy insulation material (like Reflectix), you may find that the sonic environment inside your tent is muffled.

This could be a good thing if you’re looking for a way to block out noise, but it can also make you less aware of potential danger (such as wildlife or storms).

Scenery. Covering up the sides of your tent—and perhaps windows and doors—means you won’t be able to see the wonderful nature outside.

That means you’ll miss views of stars and other night sky phenomena, as well as nature’s beauty during the day.

In addition, you may feel a bit cooped up if that’s the case.

Space and mobility inside your tent. Again, if you have blackout material covering the walls, it can make your tent space a bit smaller—especially if the way you installed them causes them to hang slightly away from the walls, such as in a dome tent.

If the material isn’t securely attached, moving around inside your tent could also cause them to fall off, forcing you to fix them every time.

And that’s a wrap on this topic!

Blacking out your tent is doable no matter what tent you have, how experienced a camper you are, or what your budget is.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to sleep better and longer in the great outdoors even when the sun rises early and sets late.

Blackouts for tents FAQ

What’s the best material to use to blackout a tent?

If you’re looking for a blackout liner or similar, look for ones made from thicker, opaque materials like cotton or polyester that don’t let much light through.

You can also get vinyl or plastic liners, which are more affordable but less breathable than the other materials.

What color should I use for my blackout material?

Black or dark grey is the traditional go-to choice for tent blackout materials, but you can really choose any color that works best with your tent’s interior design.

Just make sure that the color you choose doesn’t cause too much glare when exposed to light from outside (such as a headlamp).

Do blackout curtains work for tents?

Yes, in fact blackout curtains are probably one of the easiest and most affordable ways to get a good amount of darkness inside your tent.

Be sure to get curtains that are long enough to cover the sides and windows of your tent, or get multiple pieces to layer up for extra darkness.

Are blackout tents worth it?

If you’re thinking about getting a blackout tent made with Dark Room Technology as mentioned above in the very first section, you’re probably wondering if it’s worth upgrading to one.

The short answer is that it depends on your personal needs (a.k.a. how important it is to sleep in total darkness) and your budget.

Many blackout/dark room tents are made to be just as affordable as a regular tent, so you don’t necessarily need to spend more for the added bonus of a dark tent.

If your existing tent is still in good condition and you like using it, we recommend trying one of the add-on blackout methods above (such as installing a blackout liner) before getting a whole new tent.

However, if it’s time to upgrade your tent because it’s old, damaged, or you want more space and functionality, a blackout/dark room tent would be a great consideration.

Can I make my own blackout tents?

Of course! There are a few DIY methods you can use that involve repurposing everyday items like shower curtains or garbage bags, as well as sewing blackout liners.

However, these methods may not be as effective as pre-made blackout products, and the materials used may not be very durable or breathable.

So if you have the means to invest in a pre-made product, we recommend going that route instead.

Happy camping! Now you know how to blackout your tent for a dark and restful sleep in the great outdoors.

We hope you found this article helpful, and wish you luck on your next camping trip!

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Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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