This text is motivated by a comment from an angry reader in one of my sites, who was obviously very unhappy with his dark room tent. I realized that this was because of unreasonable expectations and a wrong interpretation of the facts.
Dark room tents are designed to block daylight, and in some of them this goes to up 98-99%. This is the main function of this design. With this you can definitely sleep longer in the morning.
But in a direct daylight, the interior of any tent will become warm. There are several other factors that may help in reducing the heat inside of such a tent, but one should not have unreasonable expectations. If it is warm outside, it will be worm inside as well. It is as simple as that.
The reality is that dark rest tents are usually not dark from outside, so it is not the dark material that may make them warm. This fact is frequently overlooked by those who complain about them.
There are several terms used to describe such tents. So you will see the phrase ‘dark rest tents’, ‘dark room tents’, ‘lights out tents’, ‘blackout tents’, ‘nightfall tents’, etc. It is interesting that the Core brand uses the phrase ‘block out’.
This is always about the same sort of tents where daylight is more or less reduced as compared to standard tents. This is achieved by using dark materials so that the inner of the tent is dark when the tent is fully closed.
But there is a problem if you fully close a tent that is in a direct sunlight. It is easy to understand why this is so, and this holds for any tent.
What was my reader complaining about?
Apart from claims about me parroting Coleman, it was like follows.
- To have a dark room environment, you have to close the whole tent up. So sleep in it out in the sun. This sentence was with three exclamation signs.
- The coating is a black plastic that apparently has a high heat capacity, and also a high absorption and radiation capacity.
- He measured that the inner surface of the roof is over 20 degrees Celsius hotter.
- As a result, the whole of the tent is much hotter than a tent with a good quality light colored roof.
- It can be cooler in it only at night.
- At night it radiates heat back to the sky and this increases condensation.
There is no doubt that item 1 is partly correct. When you close such a tent, it can indeed be completely dark inside. But in a direct sunlight it will become hot just like any tent, more below.
As for 2, almost every synthetic tent has a coating. But this is normally a thin layer and its heat capacity is minor. However, are dark rest tents really dark from outside?
The answer is – no, they are not. I think this is the most important fact to mention here. If you look at the pictures of the tents here in the post, you realize this. The Core tent above is a great example, but see its fly.
Some lower exposed parts may sometimes be dark, this is typical for Ozark Trail and also the Core tent above, but the bigger upper part of the tent is not darker than standard tents.
The inner is dark indeed, but the inner is under a shell or under a fly which is in the usual colors. So if you feel warm inside, it makes no sense to complain about the dark rest design as a culprit. You see the point?
The Coleman Valdes Deluxe 6 XL Air BlackOut Bedroom Family Tent shown above is an excellent example of a dark rest tent. It is green and gray from outside. Similar colors you will see in many standard tents on the EU market where this tent is available. But here you have a BlackOut Bedroom design, and (I am parroting Coleman, as my reader says) they claim that it blocks up to 99% of daylight.
As for the claim 3, not much to say. Every tent becomes hot in a direct sunlight. Then the whole inner will become hotter. This holds even for the best light colored cotton canvas tents. So the claim 4 is not correct, this has nothing to do with the dark rest design.
The claim 5 may or may not be correct, but this holds for every tent.
Regarding the claim 6, it may be so. But again, this radiation is supposed to be from the fly, so see the tents shown around in the text. Their shells are not dark, or they are not different than any other standard tent. Condensation happens in every tent, even in breathable cotton canvas tents.
As you realize, some of the claims shown above may be correct, but their interpretation that this is all because of dark rest design simply makes no sense.
Here is a video about the mentioned Coleman tent, please have a look:
How much daylight is blocked in dark rest tents?
Typically, this is around 90% according to the specifications. But there are many tents by Coleman where you can read about 98% or even 99% daylight blocked.
In some of tents from other brands, you only have a slightly darker material which results in reduced morning light or glare.
One particular type of these dark rest tents are insulated tents by Crua Outdoors. In this case you have a thick insulated inner cocoon which blocks not only light but also reduces sounds as well. Below you have one example, the Crua Culla Family Insulated Air Beam Tent.
As you see, this tent is not particularly dark from outside. But it is supposed to be used in a shell tent so its actual color is irrelevant. They have several insulated inner tents of this type on the market, see them here:
What are best known dark rest tents brands?
There is no doubt Coleman is an absolute champion of this design. They have branches on several continents and they sell these tents in all of them. The tent below, the Coleman Carlsbad 6 Person Tent is light green, and even its inner tent is not dark from outside, you can see this if you follow the link. They claim its blocks 98% of sunlight.
Ozark Trail is yet another brand that builds dark rest tents. They have a series of cabin-style tents with a dark inner, but these tents are not really dark from outside.
Vango is one of those that uses the term Lights Out. But do not expect a very dark environment in such tents.
Berghaus has a number of true dark rest tents on the market. They use the term nightfall as you realize from the name of their Berghaus Kepler 9 Nightfall Air Tent. This incredible tent has four rooms plus a large porch, and three of them are dark rest.
Robens is yet another brand with such tents, and one great example is their Robens Eagle Rock TC 6+2XP Tent shown below. This tent has mesh and panel on the ceiling. This means you can keep the mesh for more ventilation, but you can also close it to reduce daylight. As you realize, its shell is not dark at all.
You can see more about this great tent also in this video:
So, what to expect from a dark rest tent? Are blackout tents worth it?
I have no doubt that this is a great feature in a tent. Some of the most advanced of them come with a climate control fabric. This together with ventilation can make the temperature inside blackout tents comfortable.
In such a tent you can definitely sleep longer in the morning. But just like with any tent, it is best to avoid direct sunlight as they will get warm during the day. So use a shade of trees if possible, but make sure to avoid dangers of lighting.
You have seen several examples here where the shell is not dark at all. So from outside, these tents look like any other camping tents. If you feel warm inside, this is not necessarily because of its dark rest inner tent, this can be simply because it is warm outside and the tent is in a direct sunlight. So what else to expect?
These tents are usually closable and dark inside. But when you open vents, the inner will be less dark, you have to do this if it is a warm day. This is what I meant when I mentioned reasonable expectations from such tents.
Thank you for reading. You might want to check also my text about air beam tents. Bookmark this site and come again, you will always find new answers on outdoor questions. If you have questions, please use the comment box below.