How to Stay Cool While Camping in Hot Weather

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Camping during the summer is always a blast. Nature is in full bloom, and everything seems more alive. Unfortunately, depending on your destination, the summer can be hot, camping in hot weather can be rough. Don’t let a little heat ruin your outing! Here are some tips to help you keep you cool while camping-no matter how scorching it gets.

If you’re looking for info on how to stay cool on a hot day, you’ve come to the right place! Keep reading for some helpful tips, with a focus on how to stay cool while camping (though many of these tips apply for any other outdoor activities, such as hiking, fishing, etc.).

The Dangers of Overheating

Note: If you already know how overheating can seriously impact your health, you can skip straight to the tips to stay cool by clicking here.

Being outdoors for extended periods of time in hot weather can be irritating–from feeling sweaty and sticky to being generally uncomfortable, there’s plenty of downsides to prolonged exposure to heat. Aside from negatively impacting your mood and experience, overheating can quickly lead to serious discomfort and health risks. Because of this, it’s important to take precautionary measures when you’re camping in the heat to keep yourself cool and out of danger. Too much heat can lead to heat exhaustion, which can quickly lead to heat stroke–so it’s important to know the symptoms to watch out for.

The Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a condition that can lead to heatstroke. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion can develop suddenly, depending on an individual’s response to the environment they’re in.

When you’re thirsty, your body is already in an early state of dehydration and overheating, so it’s important to quench your thirst with plenty of water to stay hydrated. At first, symptoms may be mild and include feeling restless, dizzy or lightheaded. These symptoms can escalate quickly if quick action is not taken to cool off.

More severe symptoms include heavy sweating, dizziness, fatigue, confusion, low blood pressure upon standing, muscle cramps, nausea, and more. The longer heat exhaustion is not addressed and treated, the more likely it can turn into a heat stroke, and even result in death. The risk of death escalates when the body’s core temperature reaches temperatures of 104 degrees or higher, so as a person nears these temperatures it’s essential to cool them down quickly and get them medical attention immediately.

In some cases, you may need to administer first aid to help stabilize and cool down someone who’s experiencing heat exhaustion, so be sure you always bring a first aid kit and know how to safely and properly render aid in emergency situations.

The Causes of Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when your body can’t properly regulate its core temperature. This can happen when you’re in the heat for extended periods of time, especially if you’re engaged in strenuous activities (hiking, etc.). Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine can dehydrate you, which can accelerate overheating, and overdressing or wearing the wrong clothes can also compound the problem.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to lower the chances of experiencing heat exhaustion when you’re hot weather camping. With some proper packing and planning, and paying attention for signs of overheating or dehydration and acting appropriately, you can keep your body’s core temperature around 98.6 degrees–the average ideal body temperature.

Keeping Yourself Cool

There are plenty of ways to keep yourself cool when camping in hot weather. It mostly comes down to planning ahead and properly preparing before your outing. First, we’ll take a look at a few things to keep in mind for keeping yourself (your physical body) cooler.

Clothing

This is pretty obvious, but it needs to be said anyway: you should pack and wear light colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing when you’re camping on hot days. Dark clothes or clothing made of thick, non-breathable materials won’t do you any favors, and standing out in direct sunlight for more than a few minutes will be less than pleasant. Consider short-sleeve shirts and tank tops, and shorts or lightweight pants that are designed to be worn outdoors in the heat.

Keep in mind: the less your clothing covers your body, the more you’ll need to worry about exposure to the sun, insects, and scrapes–so weigh your options and consider bringing along a variety of clothing (if space allows).

Related:

The Best Pants for Camping & Hiking in the Heat

The Best Hiking & Camping Shorts

The Best Camping & Hiking Shirts for Men

The Best Camping & Hiking Shirts for Women

Footwear

If you aren’t doing any intensive hiking or too much walking, consider wearing sandals, which allow your feet to breathe and can keep your body temperature down. Even if you are planning on trekking, bring along a pair of light, breathable, open-toed shoes you can wear while relaxing around the campsite.

When wearing shoes or boots, be sure to wear socks that are designed to keep your feet cool. Socks designed to wick away sweat can help keep your feet dry and cool… be sure to avoid cotton socks!

Related:

The Best Breathable Hiking Boots for Hot Weather

The Best Lightweight Shoes for Camping

Headwear

When it’s hot & sunny out, you should shade your head from the sun as much as possible. Whether you love hats or hate them, they’re extremely useful when it comes to keeping you cool. Not all hats are created equal, so be sure to avoid wearing tight hats that can trap the heat and increase your body temperature. Ideally, pack a lightweight, breathable hat that shades your face and the back of your neck and be sure to wear it when the sun is beaming down.

Related:

Best Hats & Headwear for Camping & Hiking

Stay Hydrated

Be sure you always have a water bottle filled with clean water close at hand, and drink as much water as you can throughout the day. Remember the 8×8 rule, which means you need to drink at least eight 8oz servings of water each day. Keep in mind that that’s the absolute bare minimum, when possible aim to drink at least a gallon (128oz) of water per day.

When planning your water rations, it’s a good idea to bring along 2 gallons of clean water per person per day, as you’ll likely need water for more than just drinking (cooking, washing dishes, cleaning any scratches, etc.).

Avoid alcohol and coffee during the hottest time of the day (mid-afternoon) as both of those can dehydrate you quickly.

Related:

How Much Water to Bring Camping

How Much Water to Bring Hiking

The Best Camping Water Containers

Eat the Right Foods

Packing and eating the right foods during your trip can help keep you cool. During the heat of the day, avoid eating foods that require cooking over a fire or camp stove if possible. The less you have to be around heat sources, the cooler you’ll be. Plus, hot foods can slightly raise your body temperature, and your body will work to regulate your core temperature through sweating and evaporation, among other mechanisms.

Spicy foods can also impact your body temperature by stimulating your circulation, so it’s best to eat mild meals during the day. Save your spicy campfire chili for the evening after things have cooled off!

Alternatively, cold foods can help slightly lower body temperature, so consider bringing along foods that you an eat straight out of the cooler. Cold cuts and unusual for sandwiches, healthy cereals with cold milk, pre-packed hard-boiled eggs, and other no-cook foods are great options. Ice cream is always a delicious option, but it takes some extra planning and proper packing to ensure it stays cold enough to hold its form in your cooler.

Related:

The Best No-Cook Camping Meals

The Best Camping Foods That Don’t Need Refrigeration or Cooking

Plan Your Schedule

If the days are going to be hot, schedule your adventures around the cooler times of the day, i.e. early morning and around dusk. If you’re familiar with the area and want to go on a hike during the day, try to choose paths where you know there’s lots of tree covering, etc. Otherwise, enjoy nature bright and early before things heat up, come back to your (hopefully) shady campsite and relax during the hottest hours of the day (usually mid-afternoon). Then, if you want to get more exploration in, head for another outing as the temperature drops during the early hours of the evening.

Pay close attention to what your body is telling you. If you’re feeling uncomfortably hot, you can dunk a handkerchief in cold water and drape it over the back of your neck for quick relief.

Regularly Apply Sunscreen

The sun can be unforgiving during summer. Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and reapply it every two hours (higher SPF ratings don’t protect for longer). If you find yourself sweating excessively, or if you decided to go for a swim in a river or lake, be sure to reapply after you get out to ensure consistent protection.

Related:

The Best Sunscreens for Camping & Hiking

Keeping Your Campsite Cool

If you’re camping in the heat, you should choose a campsite where trees are abundant to keep you & your gear (tent included) cooler throughout the day. If your campsite has limited shade, you should reserve it for the tent, because tents can turn into greenhouses in direct sunlight.

Camping Shade

Shade is one of your greatest allies on hot summer days. Depending on where you’re camping and your campsite, you may have access to plenty of natural shade you can utilize strategically to stay cool. If you can’t get solid coverage due to a lack of surrounding trees, all is not lost! With a bit of resourcefulness and some preparation you can create your own shade and keep the temperature down in your campsite.

Natural Shade

If it’s possible to select a campsite with natural shade created by trees or other tall objects, you’ll be in good shape to hide from the sun during the heat of the day. Make note of where the sun will rise and set, and set up your tent or hammock where you can enjoy maximum shade during peak hours.

Safety Camping Tip: When setting up under trees, be sure to look for windowmaker branches. These are large, dead branches that are suspended in the thick of trees, but aren’t securely attached to the trees themselves. These branches can fall at any time (especially if the wind picks up), and can cause serious injury or death if they happen to fall on you or anyone in your party.

Making Your Own Shade

If you can’t find any natural shade at your campsite, you can set up some artificial shade with just a little work.

Bring Some Tarps & Rope

Pack a few tarps and rope for your camping trip so you can set them up over your campsite to create some extra shade. When placed properly around your site, you can avoid direct sunlight, which can help you stay cooler. Even better, consider investing in reflective options to better deflect heat.

Reflective Camping Shade

Regular tarps can go a long way when it comes to keeping you cool while summer camping by keeping the sun off you, but dark tarps can still collect heat. A better option is to use a reflective tarp for staying cool. These tarps help by reflecting sunlight away, which can make a big difference when it comes to maintaining temperature around your campsite.

Related:

The Best Tarps for Camping & Hiking

Take Advantage of Breezes

On hot days, a cool breeze can be a real blessing. Pay attention to the way the wind is blowing as you set up you camp and act accordingly. While the direction may change (usually infrequently), it’s best to utilize wind as it’s available.

Set up your hammock or tent to utilize as much of the breeze as possible. For tents, face the door directly into the breeze so you can ventilate it and keep it cooler. For hammocks, try and set up in an area where the breeze isn’t blocked, and face the hammock broad-side to the wind if possible to enjoy maximum cooling.

Bring a Well-Stocked Cooler

We’ve already discussed the benefits of having cold foods to eat and water to drink to help regulate your body temperature, but a well-stocked cooler can provide other benefits as well. As the ice melts, you can dunk a piece of clothing in it and wrap it around your neck or head to help cool off when you’re feeling hot.

Related:

The Best Camping Coolers

Bring a Portable Fan

A portable, handheld fan can help cool you off in warm weather when there’s not much breeze to enjoy. Just be sure to bring along a way to power the fan when you need it. If you have a rechargeable fan, you can plug it into a portable solar panel or backup charging pack. If you have a battery-operated fan, be sure to bring along a few extra batteries to keep it running during your trip.

Related:

The Best Portable Fans for Camping & Hiking

The Best Portable Solar Panels

Staying Cool in Your Tent

For tent campers, a tent is a sanctuary. It’s where you can escape to for a mid-day break, and it’s usually where you’ll recoup overnight so you can enjoy another day. Naturally, you’ll want your tent to be as comfortable as possible, so here are some tips to keep your tent cool during the day, and while you sleep while hot weather tent camping.

Consider Summer Camping Tents

Not all camping tents are created equal. Some are designed to keep you warm (great for cold weather camping), and some are designed to keep you cool. If you’re camping in the summer heat, you’ll want a hot weather tent that’s designed to keep you cool on a hot day.

A cotton or canvas tent insulates pretty well, so it can keep you warmer on cool days, but can also keep you cooler on warm days. The downside of canvas tents is how bulky they are vs. common nylon tents, so there’s a trade-off when it comes to portability. A polycotton tent is a hybrid that provides some of the benefits of a canvas tent with the portability of a nylon tent.

Choose Cool Sleeping Gear

If you pack the wrong sleeping gear, you’ve set yourself up for some hot, uncomfortable nights before you even arrive at your campsite. Many people just have one sleeping bag that they use year-round, but they’re not all created equal.

Pick the Right Season Sleeping Bag

There are thousands of sleeping bags available for different season depend on how warm they keep you. For hot weather camping, a 1-season sleeping bag would be enough. If it’s warm enough, you may not even want to sleep in a sleeping bag at all–instead, you can use the bag as a cushion by sleeping on top of it, and using a lightweight blanket to cover up.

Related:

The Best Sleeping Bags for Camping in the Heat

Use Blankets

Even sleeping bags designed for summer use can get hot. Bring along a light, breathable blanket to wrap yourself in on extra hot nights. Not only will you stay cooler, but laying on top of your sleeping bag can turn it into a sleeping pad that provides some extra cushion and can make your night more comfortable.

Related:

The Best Camping Blankets

Sleeping Bag Liners

Sleeping bag liners can help keep your sleeping bag clean, even if you’ve gotten sweaty and dirty from hiking. This can reduce the frequency of which you need to wash your sleeping bag, which can help prolong its life. However, some sleeping bag liners are designed to keep you warm, so while they’re handy for winter camping, they can be unbearable to sleep in during warmer outings.

Instead, look for sleeping bag liners that are specifically designed to be used in hot weather. They’ll protect your sleeping bag without retaining body heat and making you hotter.

Related:

The Best Sleeping Back Liners

Dissemble Your Tent During the Day

When it is blazing hot during the day, your tent will work like a greenhouse. It will absorb the sun rays and can retain heat from the sun. When you climb into a tent that’s been cooking in the heat, you may find it feels a lot like a sauna. Pitching your tent in the shade can help, but if you don’t have good coverage and you’re unable to create your own shade, it may be worth taking the time and effort to disassemble your tent after waking up in the morning and reassembling it closer to dusk. However, this is inconvenient and may not be practical if you have a lot of camping gear.

In cases where you don’t want to disassemble your tent, and you aren’t able to pitch your tent in shade, consider using a reflective tarp to cover your tent to help deflect sunbeams. Just be sure to leave enough room between your tent and the tarp (at least a foot, ideally) to allow air to circulate properly.

Don’t Put the Fly on Your Tent if it’s Not Raining

A rain fly is essential when it comes to staying dry and protecting your gear in your tent during a storm, but be sure to take it off when it’s not raining. A rain fly can reduce ventilation, causing your tent to be warmer than it would be without it.

Technology to Keep Your Tent Cool

If you’re able to park near your campsite and don’t need to hike a long distance to set up your camp, you may want to consider using technology to bring extra comfort during your trip. If you have access to power at your campsite, have a power generator, or have powerful solar panels and a power bank, you can utilize fans or air conditioners to keep your tent the perfect temperature no matter how hot it may be outside.

Use a Tent Fan

Tent fans are specially designed fans that help circulate air in your tent, making it feel cooler. There are several types of fans to choose from: some can be hung from the top of your tent, others are designed to be placed in the corner of your tent and tilted upward to push air around. Be sure to open your tent windows and door to allow for better air flow. These fans are often larger and more powerful than handheld fans, so it’s worth investing in a rechargeable option that you can plug into a power bank or solar panels to recharge–otherwise, you may wind up with a lot of battery waste over time (plus, the price of batteries can add up!)

Related:

The Best Camping Tent Fans

Use an Air Conditioner

Unlike a fan, an air conditioner actually cools the air in your tent (as opposed to simply circulating the air). This is probably the most effective way to cool down during a hot camping trip, but it’s also the least practical way. Not only are air conditioning systems heavy and bulky, but they require a lot of power so they’re usually only practical at campsites where you have power.

It’s possible to use a standard window-unit air conditioner to cool your tent, but they’re cumbersome and can be difficult to set up correctly. Fortunately, they make tent air conditioners that are designed to cool smaller spaces, so they require a bit less power and aren’t as heavy or bulky.

Related:

The Best Camping Tent Air Conditioners

Consider a Hammock

Who says you *have* to have a tent when you go camping? Hammock camping is a great alternative to tent camping that can keep you cool while enjoying a nice summer breeze all night long. The main downside to hammocks is the fact that they’re not great a deterring pesky insects. If you’re considering a hammock, be sure to consider investing in and packing a hammock bug net.

Of equal importance: be sure to check the forecast for rain! Nothing can ruin a great trip like getting caught in the middle of a summer shower with nowhere to escape to. If there’s even an inkling of rain, it’s a smart idea to bring a backup tent… you never know when it might come in handy. Also, be sure to read our camping in the rain hacks, and if it looks like you may catch a more intense storm, be sure to tips about camping during a thunderstorm.

If you have the right gear and experience, you can enjoy a hammock even if it rains during your trip. Check out our ultimate guide to hammock camping for tips on how to weather any storm while hammock camping!

Related:

The Ultimate Hammock Buying Guide

Dealing with Bugs

The heat can cause some discomfort and can even lead to potential health risks without the proper preparation and action, but there’s another factor to consider when camping in hot weather: insects.

Insects are most prevalent during warmer months, so it’s important to have a plan to keep bugs away from yourself and your campsite. From mosquitos that can cause itchy, irritating bites (and potential illness) to ants infiltrating your tent to snack on crumbs, there are plenty of pests that can put a damper on your trip.

Fortunately, bringing along some bug repellent can help reduce bites and irritation. Whether you choose a traditional bug spray (such as DEET-based sprays) or you choose to go for alternative options, you have plenty of choices to consider.

Check out our comprehensive guide for a complete run-down of various ways to repel mosquitos and insects while camping.

Camping in Hot Weather: Wrap-Up

Heat can pose a real threat during summer camping trips, but if you plan ahead and act appropriately you can avoid dealing with dehydration, heat exhaustion, and more life-threatening conditions.

From bringing along the right clothing (light, breathable gear) to staying hydrated and utilizing shade to avoid overexposure to the sun, there are several ways to stay cool no matter how hot it may be. Just be sure to be thorough in your packing and pay attention to any signs of dehydration or overheating so you can act quickly.

Apply plenty of sunscreen and utilize bug spray to prevent the sun and bugs from ruining your skin, and plan your activities around the cooler parts of the day (mornings and dusk) so you can stay cooler during your adventures.

If you follow these tips for your summer camping trip, you’ll reduce your chances of overheating and have a much more enjoyable trip!

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