Over the years, we have spent many hot summer days camping (and sweating our butts off). Because of this, we’ve learned how to stay cool while camping and would love to share some of our tips and tricks with you.
Even though I love the heat, there’s nothing worse than being a hot sweaty mess (especially when you’re trying to sleep.) If you’re in a hurry, I’ve shortlisted my tips below, otherwise, click on the table of contents to jump to a specific section.
How To Stay Cool While Camping (In a Nutshell)
- Set Up Camp in a Shaded Area
- Create Shade at Your Campsite
- Ventilate Your Tent or Camper
- Remove The Rainfly From Your Tent
- Use a Portable A/C unit or Evaporative Cooler
- Use Battery-Powered Fans
- Bring a Tent Fan to Create Your Own Breeze
- Sleep Outdoors
- Take a Dip in a Nearby Lake or River
- Use a Wet Bandana or Towel
- Wear Lightweight and Breathable Clothing
- Use a Pop-Up Canopy to Create Shade at Your Campsite
- Use a Portable Misting Fan
- Drink Plenty of Water to Stay Hydrated
- Eat Light meals That Are Easy to Digest
- Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
- Take a Siesta During the Hottest Part of the Day
- Eat Something Frozen
- Fill a Spray Bottle With Water to Mist Yourself
- Bring a Portable Ice Maker For Cold Drinks
- Take a Cold Shower
- Use a Portable Shade Umbrella
- Bring a Portable Misting System
- Time Your Activities Properly
- Choose The Right Bedding
- Pack Jugs of Frozen Water
- Choose Your Tent Wisely
- Dip Your Feet in Some Cold Water
- Wear a Hat
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How To Beat The Heat While Camping This Summer (In-Depth)
1. Set Up Camp in a Shaded Area
Although this seems obvious, you may not consider it when booking a campsite.
It is important to look for a location that is naturally shaded by trees or other vegetation, if possible. Sometimes this can be hard to do, but here are a few tips to help:
- Scope out the campground before booking if possible. I know this may not always be feasible, but if so, go for it. If it’s not, read below.
- When you’re booking your campsite, a great way to find out which sites provide the best shade is to phone and ask the campground staff. They should be able to tell you which options are the best based on the sites that are available at that time.
2. Create Shade at Your Campsite
If you’re unable to find a shaded spot, you can beat the summer heat by creating your own shade at your campsite. Here are a few things we like to do:
- Use a basic tarp and string it between trees with bungee cords.
- Set up a shade tent.
- Use a personal or beach umbrella.
- Use a shade cloth.
3. Ventilate Your Tent or Camper
Roll up the side panels and open windows and doors to improve airflow in your tent or camper. This is important if you’re camping with your cat or dogs.
If you’re car camping, make sure to open those windows too. This will allow fresh air to circulate and help keep you cool.
On the contrary, if it is extremely hot, I avoid opening windows in our camper and keep the blinds closed during the day. When it has cooled down at night, I will open the windows to allow the cooler air in.
4. Remove The Rainfly From Your Tent
If you’re tent camping, be sure to check the weather forecast beforehand. If there’s no risk of rain, consider removing the rain fly from your tent. This will allow more air to flow through and keep you cooler.
When we used to camp in a tent, we would rarely put the fly on. To me, it just creates a hotbox situation that nobody wants.
However, I’m not going to lie; we did get “caught in the rain” a few times and had to frantically throw it on in the middle of the night.
5. Use a Portable Air Conditioning Unit or Evaporative Cooler
If you hate the heat, you may need a portable air conditioner or evaporative cooler to keep the space cool. These devices can be powered by rechargeable batteries, a generator or an electrical hook-up if available.
Here is a highly-rated option from Amazon that doesn’t require an electrical hook-up:
6. Use a Personal Portable Fan
Another way to stay cool during summer is to use battery-powered fans or a personal neck fan. One of our friends had one of these fancy gadgets at the lake last year, and it was really cool (no pun intended!)
This is the exact one that she has, and she loves it!
If you don’t want to wear your fan, portable fans and handheld fans are great options and can be placed on the floor or hung from the ceiling.
7. Bring an Inflatable Kiddie Pool
If you will be camping somewhere that is not close to a lake or body of water and you have access to running water, this is a great option. It doesn’t have to be huge, just something that you can sit in or dip your toes in.
Even if you will be camping near a lake, sometimes the water conditions are poor and you can’t go swimming. This is a major bummer and having an inflatable pool to fill with cool water can be a lifesaver (especially on hot days.)
8. Sleep Outdoors
There’s nothing quite like sleeping under the stars and waking up in the early morning with the birds chirping overhead. Rodney and I have done this a few times, although not necessarily on purpose! A hammock is particularly comfortable in this situation.
Before you decide to ditch the tent, however, make sure you are not in danger of being eaten alive by mosquitoes overnight or worse, A BEAR! I would not recommend sleeping outdoors just anywhere. Know the area and what to be on the lookout for.
9. Take a Dip in a Nearby Lake or River
A no-brainer, of course, but it had to be on the list! Getting in whatever water source is available to you is one of the fastest ways to cool off while camping.
Just ensure you also protect your skin from the sun with sunblock and wear a hat to keep your head cool.
10. Use a Wet Bandana or Towel
If you don’t have access to water for swimming, simply soaking a bandana in cold water and wrapping it around your neck can make a huge difference.
Alternatively, one of these cooling neck gaiters works surprisingly well!
11. Wear Lightweight and Breathable Clothing
Or, depending on where you are camping, wear your birthday suit! Just kidding, but if that’s your thing then go for it. For those of us that like to be a bit modest, here are a few tips on what to wear to stay cool:
- Wear loose-fitting clothing that doesn’t cling to your body. This will allow your skin to breathe better.
- Choose lightweight and moisture-wicking clothing when possible. There are also quick-drying options that won’t stay soaked forever if they do get soaked in sweat.
- Wear light-colored clothing (think white, tan and light khaki.) Trust me, I like black too, but it’s just not the colour for camping on a hot day.
12. Use a Pop-Up Canopy to Create Shade at Your Campsite
If you’re camping in an open area with no natural shade, consider bringing a pop-up canopy or tent to create your own shade. This will provide a cool spot to relax during the hottest part of the day.
There are lots of multi-functional screen tents that will provide protection from the hot sun during the day and blood-thirsty mosquitoes at night.
13. Use a Handheld Misting Fan
Another way to stay cool at your campsite is to use a rechargeable handheld misting fan. These devices combine the cool air from a fan, with a misting system to create a refreshing breeze.
Here is a very popular option (with over 7100 4.5 star+ ratings) from Amazon:
14. Drink Plenty of Water to Stay Hydrated
Drinking plenty of water is essential for staying cool and healthy while camping. I always make sure to bring enough water for the entire trip and bring a water filter or purification tablets in case I need to refill from a natural source.
In addition to water, I like to bring electrolyte tablets or powder to add to my water to replenish my body’s salts and minerals. Coconut water is also a great natural source of electrolytes.
15. Eat Light meals That Are Easy to Digest
When camping in hot weather, staying hydrated and eating light, cool foods is important to keep your body temperature down. In this section, I’ll cover some tips for staying hydrated and eating well while camping.
In the summer I try to avoid heavy, greasy meals that can make me feel sluggish and raise my body temperature. Instead, I opt for light, cool foods that are easy to prepare and won’t spoil quickly.
Here are some of my favourite camping foods:
- Fruit: Watermelon, grapes, and berries are all refreshing and hydrating.
- Vegetables: Cucumbers, celery, and carrots are all great for snacking and can be dipped in hummus or another cool dip.
- Sandwiches: I love a veggie-loaded sandwich but the options are limitless!
- Salads: Pasta salad, quinoa salad, or a simple green salad with a light vinaigrette are all good choices for a cool, refreshing meal.
- Snacks: Trail mix, nuts, and seeds are all good options for a quick, and filling snack.
16. Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
I know I struggle with this one too, but both alcohol and caffeine will dehydrate you, and it is a good idea to avoid them. So, if you must indulge, make sure you chase these beverages with a glass of ice-cold water!
17. Take a Siesta During the Hottest Part of the Day
If you’re like me, napping just isn’t something you do. But when I’m camping, and it’s too hot to do anything anyways, I just embrace it! It allows me to rest and recharge so I’m ready for my evening camping activities (aka games, campfires and beverages).
I like to find a nice shady spot outside (aka my hammock) and fall asleep to the soothing sounds of nature.
18. Eat Something Frozen
I’m not even joking, eating a frozen treat always cools me down instantly! Here are some of my favourite cold treats:
- Smoothies (made with frozen fruit)
- Frozen marshmallows (I know, weird!)
- Popsicles and freezies
- Iced Coffee
- Grapefruit and watermelon wedges!!
19. Fill a Spray Bottle With Water to Mist Yourself
This is the simple, Dollar Store version of a misting fan. Simply buy yourself a spray bottle, fill it with water, and mist away. It isn’t fancy, but it’s an easy way to stay cool camping!
20. Bring a Portable Ice Maker For Cold Drinks
This one’s for all of my glampers out there who like to roll in style with their fancy campers and POWER! For those of us who like to camp “off-the-grid”, bags of ice or a really good car cooler will have to do.
21. Take a Cold Shower
Again, nothing revolutionary but it will help keep you cool while camping this summer. Setting up an outdoor shower makes the experience even more enjoyable (especially if you can shower sans clothing!)
I really love this one for its price, simplicity and ease of use:
22. Use a Portable Shade Umbrella
This could be anything from a handheld personal umbrella, to a beach umbrella that you stick into the ground. These are a necessity because they can be set up quickly and provide relief from the direct sunlight no matter where you are. Nothing complicated or hard to pack, just simplicity.
23. Bring a Portable Misting System
I’m not talking about the handheld kinds that we’ve already talked about above. I’m talking about the ones that require a water hook-up (sorry off-gridders!) Simply attach the hose to the water connection and enjoy a cool and refreshing mist.
24. Time Your Activities Properly
One of the best ways to avoid the hottest part of the day is to plan your activities accordingly. I like to wake up early and start my day before the sun gets too hot.
Then I’ll take an afternoon siesta during the hottest part of the day and carry on (fully refreshed) with my evening activities later. This way, I can enjoy the cooler temperatures and avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day.
25. Choose The Right Bedding
Here are some of my top tips when it comes to choosing bedding for camping:
- Choose the right sleeping bag: Look for a sleeping bag that is designed for hot nights that won’t trap in body heat. These bags are made from lightweight materials that allow for air flow and have a cooling effect.
- Use a sheet: If you’re camping in warm weather, consider just using a sheet instead of a sleeping bag. This will help keep you cool and allow for better airflow.
- Go blanketless altogether: And sleep in the nude for a truly “cool” experience!
26. Pack Jugs of Frozen Water
Not only can these be used for ice-cold drinking water, but you can also pack frozen water bottles that can be placed on your neck, between your boobs or any other region that needs some cooling.
27. Choose Your Tent Wisely
Not every tent is created equally. If you plan on doing lots of hot weather camping (yes please) then here are a few things to consider when choosing a tent:
- Choose a light-coloured tent which will deflect the heat better than a dark tent.
- Look for a 3-season tent which is designed to be used in the late spring, summer and early fall. A 4-season tent is designed to be used in the winter and is not ideal for hot summer camping. 1-2 are very basic tents that won’t stand up to summer storms.
- Find a tent that contains multiple windows and mesh elements that you can open up. Just make sure that they’ll keep out bugs too.
- Pay attention to the fabric. While canvas is better at releasing heat, it’s also heavy and expensive (and not ideal for a summer tent.) A tent made of nylon or polyester is a much better option.
- Size matters. Generally, a smaller tent has less “room to breathe” so it will hold in more hot air than a large, open and “airy” tent.
28. Dip Your Feet in Some Cold Water
Another simple, but good, way to stay cool is to take an ice-cold foot bath. A basic rubber maid container, plastic bowl, kiddie pool or wash basin can be used for this purpose. If you’re really hot and have ice to spare, throw in some cubes!
29. Wear a Hat
Wearing a loose-fitting, wide-brimmed, light-coloured hat can help keep the hot sun off your head and keep you cool! Avoid wearing dark-coloured and tight-fitting hats, which will only add to your misery.
This is my hat of choice on a really hot day because it’s breathable and also keeps the sun off my neck.
30. Avoid Hot Camping Surfaces
What I mean is, if possible, to avoid setting up camp on concrete or black asphalt surfaces. The grass is a much cooler option when it comes to setting up a tent, but I know it’s not always an option.
If you’re unsure what a campground has to offer, you could again call ahead to find out.
Avoiding Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke
Recognizing the Signs
Recognizing the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke is important, as they can be dangerous and even deadly.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke, which is a medical emergency. Symptoms of heatstroke include
- Body temperature above 103F
By following all of the above tips, you should be able to avoid heat exhaustion and heatstroke and enjoy your summer camping trip safely and comfortably.
Before You Go….
Now that you know how to stay cool while camping, I think you’ll enjoy some fun and romantic activities you can do when camping.