With a little bit of cash and very little time you can thermally insulate your tent. Using sturdy emergency blankets and some clamps its possible to sandwich an insulating thermal layer between your tent and its rain-fly. This thermal insulation layer will then prevent your tent from heating up due to direct sun exposure.
Step 1: What you'll need
- 2 or more sturdy emergency blankets: "All Weather Emergency Blanket" available from sporting goods/camping stores. These "blankets" are insulating tarps and have nice grommets on them. They are NOT the cheap emergency mylar blankets! The mylar blankets crinkle and tear in the wind!
These blankets are 5' by 7' and should cost between $10 and $15 -- that's pricey, but they are well worth it!
- 6 or more clamps: You can get these clamps from your local hardware store. I found that two sizes were really handy: Small green clamps ($.37 at Home Depot) that can pinch one blanket around a tent pole. The larger red ones ($2 also at Home Depot) that can pinch 2-4 layers of blankets for where blankets will overlap.
How many blankets and clamps you'll need depends on the size of your tent. You can cover a small tent in 2 blankets and maybe 6 clamps. My large tent shown in the pictures will eventually have 4 blankets, 6 large clamps and 8 small clamps.
I would suggest that you make a guess as to how many clamps and blankets you need and then simply keep your store receipt so you can return any blankets/clamps that you don't end up using.
Step 2: Setup your tent
Set up your tent when it won't bother anyone (I setup in my parking lot). I didn't stake my tent down, since it wasn't windy -- you'll want to work on a day without much wind. Your life will be much easier!
Important: Don't put the rainfly on your tent! The insulation is supposed to get between your tent and your rainfly.
Step 3: Trial and error: Lay the blankets on your tent
Three sides of the tent are covered without any large gaps: This way, the emergency blankets will reflect heat away from your tent from three sides. Your tent will still get warmer because of the ambient temperature, but you get better airflow in the tent (prevents the tent from getting stuffy). This works well if you're trying to sleep longer in the morning while the outside temperature is sill reasonably low. It won't work if you want to sleep in the tent during the day.
Alternatively you could use more blankets and wrap the whole tent. You'd have to leave a flap where you can get in and out of the tent.
Step 4: Using clamps: Small clamps vs big clamps
Step 5: Rotate clamps and add rain fly
Once you're happy with the coverage on your tent, rotate the clamps (not shown below) so that when you put the rain-fly on your tent, the clamps won't poke through your rain-fly.
Finally, (also not shown), add the rain-fly for your tent -- this is an important step since the rainfly is the primary means to securing your insulation layer. Without a rain fly, even moderate winds will strip the blankets off the tent. To prevent this and to make the wind pass over/around your tent, add the rain fly.
Step 6: Final note: Tent placement
- When setting up camp, make sure you know where the sun rises.
- If you can find any shade (tree or a vehicle), put your tent where the shade will be in the early morning.
- If you have no shade to work with, make sure to orient any uninsulated sides of your tent away from the morning sun.
- Sometimes you simply need to guess at how to orient your tent and you're bound to be off a bit. When you wake in the morning, note where your tent is taking direct sun and adjust the blankets or the orientation of your tent so you can sleep longer the next day!
Happy sleeping in an adverse hot weather!