Last Updated on 12/09/2023
In this guide on how to blackout a tent, we share several ways to make your tent blackout or, at the very least, more of a dark room tent. You will learn how you can blackout a tent using liners, outer sheets, and anything around you to create more shade inside your tent.
As much as most people will appreciate witnessing the sun rising from a beautiful camping spot, not everybody loves early mornings and being woken to the rising sun. If you are the type of person with double blackout curtains and blinds on your bedroom window at home, then standard tents don’t offer much in the way of light blocking.
You could wear a sleeping mask to block out the light, but many people find them uncomfortable. You could also pull the hood of your sleeping bag over your eyes to block the light, but that only works for so long. The best way to blackout a tent is to actually just replace your current tent with a newer, purpose-built, blackout tent like these. But you probably already knew that and are looking for a cheap way to make your tent darker. In that case, we have you covered with breakdowns of the obvious ideas and some more creative solutions you might not have thought of.
How to Blackout a Tent to Block Light
You might be wondering if you can put something over the top of your tent, like a tarp, or perhaps paint the walls with some kind of special blackout paint. Both of these might work, but they could potentially damage your tent beyond repair if done wrong. Blackout fabrics can be used both on the inside and outside to block light, but this isn’t always very easy to achieve unless the darkroom fabric is customized for your tent.
If you don’t want to upgrade to a new blackout tent, then it will be very hard, impractical, and costly to try and blackout a tent. You would be much better off using an eye mask or an internal blackout tent that sits over your head inside your existing tent. If you are still determined to make your tent blackout inside, then you can try one of these ways to blackout a tent.
11 Ways to Blackout a Tent for Camping
Wear an Eye Mask
The easiest way to block sunlight in a tent is to wear an eye mask. This may sound like a cop-out, but it’s the truth. It makes way more sense than trying to add large sheets of material or set up elaborate structures over your tent, and it costs way less, too.
Wearing an eye mask tricks your brain into thinking it’s nighttime, the same way a blackout tent does. So, no matter how early the sun rises, you can get up when you are ready and avoid being tired on multi-day hikes.
You can use a cheap eye mask from the dollar store or even the free ones you get on flights and in nice hotels. These do a sufficient job of blacking out sunlight, but if you’re anything like me, then you find it hard to sleep with something pressing against your eyes and tickling your eyelashes. This is why I would highly recommend the Manta Sleep Mask, which has internal space so that it doesn’t even touch your eyes.
If you don’t have an eye mask and are searching for answers while camping, then you can use other things like a scarf, neck buff, bandana, or even just place a small item of clothing over your eyes. If you camp regularly, then it’s definitely worth investing in one, and you might end up liking it so much that you use it every night.
- Simple and portable solution
- Cheap and effective
- Easy to pack and carry
- It can be used in multiple situations beyond in a tent for blackout
- It might be uncomfortable for some people
- It is only effective for the person wearing it, not others in the tent
Use a Blackout Tent Cover
One idea on how to blackout a camping tent is to custom-fit an external liner. This option is much easier than fitting an internal liner as the fabric can be draped over the tent as opposed to finding ways to attach it and keep it attached. You could also custom design a blackout cover with much less hassle.
Ideally, you want to be able to secure the blackout cover down using the same pegs as on your tent, but sometimes, you will have to stretch it out a little to create enough tension to stop it from flapping about in the wind. Using rivets for the holes will reduce the risk of tearing and, if so, will double up the material.
You should use proper blackout material for the darkest shade, but other types of fabric will work well, too. If the fabric is also waterproof, then you will find it adds additional protection from any rain, too.
Something I have often considered is using blackout fabric on just one end of a tunnel-shaped tent. Would this provide enough darkness to make it worth it? One day, I will find out and let you know.
- Easy to install
- Provides a good level of darkness
- It may come with UV protection and additional waterproofing
- It can get hot if not well-ventilated
- Not always available for larger tents
- If heavy, it could potentially damage the frame of your tent
- This can be an issue when camping in high winds
Buy a Head Covering Blackout Tent
You probably didn’t even know this existed because I sure didn’t! Head covering tents are like miniature tents that slot over your head, mostly used as a sun shade when sunbathing. They would be the perfect size for a cat or small dog to have their own tent, but they also fit inside most tents to make them more blackout.
There aren’t any I could find with full blackout material, but customizing one of these mini-head tents to be blacked out would be much easier than trying to do the same thing to a full-sized tent. Also, you could easily drape a towel or jacket over the top of one of these, and it would make it close to total blackout.
The good thing is that they are lightweight, compact, and budget-friendly. The downside is that they may not be the most practical or even compatible if you have a deep air bed or camping cot.
- Easy and cheap
- Portable and lightweight
- It may be more comfortable than an eye mask
- Doubles as a pet tent
- It may not be compatible with some sleeping pads or camp beds
- Not total blackout
- It takes up additional space
Install a Blackout Tent Liner
Another idea on how to make a tent blackout is to custom-fit a blackout liner on the inside of your tent. This is probably the hardest option of all, as it requires expert sewing skills as well as some engineering to attach it on the inside. I would definitely not suggest making your own custom blackout tent liner; it’s too much time, effort, and skill.
You could, however, use an insulated tent liner if you have a tent that would accommodate one. Insulated tent liners and reflective thermal sheets would make it easier to throw together a makeshift blackout liner than soft fabric because it has some rigidity to it. For example, if you use a foam camping pad, you could create a blackout area inside the tent without the need for any structure to hold it up.
If you have a double-layer tent with a mesh inner, you can essentially drape some blackout material over this. However, you will likely suffer on the air circulation side. I would avoid putting too much weight on this part of the tent, though, as it is not designed for this purpose.
- Custom-fitted for your tent and needs
- May offer additional insulation
- Installation is time-consuming and requires skill
- It may not fit all tent sizes and shapes
- Attaching it to your tent is a challenge in and of itself
Suspend a Tarpaulin or Rain Fly Above Your Tent
Using a tarp over your tent will not provide a complete blackout, but it will provide a lot of shade and sun blocking without suffering any ventilation losses. Even if you use blackout material as the tarp, light can still get in around the sides. All that said, this is probably my favorite way to avoid the early morning sun and the inevitable hot tent that it creates.
To set a tarp up over your tent to black out sunlight, you will need a minimum of two tarp poles to suspend the tarp from. You will also need extra tent pegs and, most likely, some lengths of paracord for guylines. Or, if you want to cover a larger area, then you should use four or more tarp poles.
If you can’t secure your tarp to the ground and have to use guy lines, then try and set it up to block the rising sun from the east. If it is windy, though, you may have to pitch your tarp in such a way as to deflect the wind instead.
If you don’t want to use tarp poles, you can secure a tarp over a rope tied between two points or even to a natural structure like a tree. When camping close to your car, the roof rails make the perfect attachment point for a tarp.
- Provides some shade and darkness
- Multi-purpose (can protect against rain)
- Relatively inexpensive
- Does not provide complete darkness
- Additional equipment like poles, guylines, and pegs needed
Set Up a Gazebo Above Your Tent
Instead of messing around with a tarp or blackout liner, you could just set up a gazebo over your tent. Granted, this isn’t possible unless you are hiking or backpacking, but if you have your car close by, then why not use it to bring a gazebo?
Portable gazebos are fairly compact and easy to set up, especially if they have a pop-up mechanism, as some do. They also come in handy during the day and in the evening for hanging out, cooking, or just getting out of the weather (hot or wet). This is why they are a good option for making your tent more lightproof.
They don’t offer 100% blackout or anywhere close, but they do create a good amount of shade underneath, and if it has walls, too, then you can make your tent very dark inside. I wouldn’t say go out and get one just to try and blackout your tent, but if you already have a gazebo in your garage, then why not make use of it when camping?
- Provides good shade and waterproofing
- Comes in handy throughout the day and especially in the evening, too
- Strong and durable
- Heavy and bulky to carry
- Does not block 100% of light
Drape a Towel or Sheet Over Your Tent
This is the type of “bush fix” you might use when at a music festival or just camping for one night on the beach, for example. I have done it more than a few times, although not always to black out light. Oftentimes, I have draped a wet towel over my tent to dry and forgotten to take it in at night.
Using a towel or sheet over your tent is not very effective compared to using blackout material, but it does work to some degree. A towel strategically placed on the east side of your tent will do a pretty good job of blocking the morning sun, and if it gets wet overnight, it also keeps you nice and cool as the moisture evaporates.
- Quick and easy setup
- Cheap and available
- Does not provide complete darkness
- A towel or sheet can easily blow off and get wet or dirty, making it a burden to carry the next day as well as unusable
- If it gets wet and doesn’t fall off in the night, it can damage tent poles with its weight
Choose A Shaded Camping Spot
I am not going to try and kid you that this does anything to blackout a tent, but it is a valid tip for avoiding early morning sunrises. This might mean camping behind a mound of dirt, rock, bush, or tree, which will give you several extra hours of shade compared to someone who camps in the open. If the sun rises at 3 or 4 a.m., then you should always consider this tip.
If you are using trees as shaded cover, then beware of widow makers (branches that could fall in the night and crush you).
All you have to remember is that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
- Natural way to achieve darkness in your tent
- No extra equipment needed
- It may offer other benefits like protection from wind
- Limited availability
- It will not provide much extra darkness
Use Bushcraft Skills to Create Shade Using Foliage
If getting a good lie-in is so important to you that you would be willing to do anything, then you could use your bushcraft skills to create shade using plants and trees. Depending on where you are in the world, you may have access to plants with giant foliage like palms. These large leaves can be arranged to create a natural shelter above your tent.
You are more likely to create this elaborate solution for other types of protection like wind and rain if your tent is damaged, but if you have the skills and materials, then give it a go and see how dark you can make your tent inside and send us a photograph.
I would strongly dissuade any inexperienced bushcrafters from trying to do this above an expensive tent, as the risk for tears and rips is very high. If your bushcraft blackout falls down, then it could easily damage the shelter and potentially hurt you if you inside and get hit on the head by a supporting beam.
- Natural and eco-friendly
- It can be a fun and educational activity
- Requires bushcraft skills
- It can easily damage your tent
- It could cause injury if you inside, and it collapses
Paint Your Tent with Fabric Paint
There are lots of different black fabric paints out there that you could essentially use on either the external or inner part of your tent to blackout the sun. I would strongly recommend you DO NOT do this to an expensive tent as it will have a big impact on its longevity, not to mention the breathability and condensation.
You could use black ink on the internal tent without affecting the breathability too much, but can you imagine how messy this would be? Black hands every time you touch it, and it would stain all your gear.
No, I would avoid painting your tent altogether.
- Provides a permanent solution
- It can be a creative and fun project
- Can match with your personal style
- May void tent warranty
- Could affect the tent’s breathability and waterproofing
Spray Paint Your Tent
Spray painting the outside of your tent with black textile spray paint isn’t such a bad idea so long as it doesn’t rub off once dry or all stick together when stored for long periods. You could apply a thin layer all over to make your tent more blackout or seriously concentrate on the area where you lay your head and leave the rest of your tent as it is.
I would still be very hesitant to do this with any tent you would be upset to lose, but I think this is the safest way to blackout a tent with paint. I don’t think it would affect the waterproofing, and so long as you don’t apply too thick of a layer or multiple layers, then the breathability should be ok too.
- Quick and easy application
- Relatively inexpensive
- It may affect tent material adversely
- It can look uneven if not applied properly
- May void warranty
Benefits of Blacking Out a Tent
The benefits of blacking out a tent are that you ultimately get better sleep for longer. You don’t get disturbed by an early rising sun, and as a result, you feel better the next day.
Other benefits that can come from making a tent blackout, depending on how you do it, are additional waterproofing, windproofing, UV protection, and blacked-out tents, which can also help keep you cooler.
Downsides of Blackout for Tents
The downsides of blacking out a tent also depend on how you try to block the light; however, in most cases, the biggest compromise is a reduction in breathability. This can cause lots of condensation on the inside of the tent, which, over the course of 7 hours, can completely soak your sleeping bag through drips and moisture in the air.
When you try to modify a tent or use it in a way it wasn’t designed for, there is always a risk of damaging either the frame or the material. If you try and use paint, for example, there is no going back once you’ve started. Alternatively, if you try and use heavy material over the top or even attached to the inside, then you may end up bending or even snapping a tent pole. If the material gets wet, then the weight increase can be ten times more.
To blackout a tent properly takes an incredible amount of time and effort, as well as skill and ingenuity. This is why the eye mask is probably the best way to sleep in pitch blackness when camping in a tent.
Is It Worth Trying To Black Out a Tent?
Honestly, no, it isn’t worth the hassle and downsides of blacking out an existing tent. If darkroom technology is so important to you, then sell your current tent on some marketplace and put the funds towards a new blackout tent. Alternatively, just use an eye mask, which is more effective than any blackout tent. Blackout tents, as a thing, though, are definitely worth it if sleeping in in the morning is important to you.
We hope you found this guide on how to blackout a tent helpful and that one of our ideas inspires a solution for making your tent darker inside.