Last Updated on March 11, 2020
Tents come in so many different shapes, sizes, styles, and colors that it can be hard to tell good from bad and right from wrong. Having a tent that fits you and suits your purposes is important, but one aspect that you may not have considered is the color of your tent. Different tent colors have distinct advantages, primarily related to how they handle weather conditions and hold up over time. In this article, I’ll go over some of the key advantages and disadvantages of different tent colors.
One of the primary advantages of having a dark-colored tent is the ability for your shelter to retain heat during the day. From autumn through spring, you’ll be glad to have a tent that catches the sun and stays warm throughout the day. Solar energy is free and easy to harness, but with a lightly-colored tent, you won’t be able to utilize it as effectively.
The most effective color for keeping your tent warm in the winter is jet black. Other dark colors and grays are also effective at keeping the warmth in your tent, but not as much. My winter tent is a dark navy blue, and it does its job almost as well as a black tent would. To capture heat most effectively, make sure that your tent is positioned in as much sunlight as possible for all hours of the day. If you are camping out somewhere with limited direct sunlight, such as a canyon or steep valley, try to position your tent to capture as much evening sun as possible to keep it warm for longer into the night.
Note that the heat retention of your dark-colored tent will not provide effective warmth throughout the night. When the sun goes out, you’ll need to rely on layered clothes, fires, your sleeping bag, or chemical heat packs to avoid the cold. Until then, though, your tent might be the warmest spot in the entire landscape.
Keeping it Cool
When the summer months hit, and you’re ready to get active outdoors, a dark-colored tent may start to become a problem rather than a bonus. The ability for a tent to stay cool and ventilated is critical if you hope to get a good rest and allow your body to stay hydrated overnight. Light-colored tents are great for summer camping because they should lose heat faster overnight and reach lower internal temperatures than identical tents made of a darker color.
I recommend only going for a pure white or cream-colored tent for use in hotter climates. Lighter colors can still trap heat during the daytime and make your rest spot warmer than it needs to be. Some tents even feature white mesh instead of the typical black material, which can be a nice touch (but this is less important than getting a tent with white canvas). Some ultra-lightweight tents are even made entirely of mesh on some or all of their walls, and although these are likely to be darkly colored, they should be considered an exception to the rule since they provide such excellent ventilation.
Remember, though, that the most important factor in heat mitigation during the summer is the design of your tent, not its color. A well-made jet black tent will probably feel cooler inside than a pure white tent made of thick, cheap materials.
If you plan on taking a tent out for a hunting trip, then you might want to consider a bright orange option. More vivid shades of orange cannot be seen by most animals but are highly visible to humans, making your campsite easy to navigate back to without scaring off any potential targets. A camo tent may be another viable option for the avid hunter, but I don’t feel that there are many advantages over orange tents for these purposes.
If you need a tent to take to big events such as days-long concerts or beach trips, you may want to look into a tent with an unusual color or pattern. These events tend to have tons of red and blue tents, but I don’t see many people taking out yellow or orange tents. Being able to find your spot quickly from afar can be a significant advantage. Tents with two bright, contrasting colors (such as one with two yellow and two green walls) can also do very well in this environment.
Always prioritize the design and build quality of your tent first and foremost, but don’t be afraid to look for models that have color options to suit your needs. These color recommendations are, for the most part, only suggestions. If you’d rather choose a certain tent color for its aesthetics rather than practicality, it certainly wouldn’t ruin an otherwise well-planned excursion. Tent colors are expressive, so don’t be afraid to express yourself.