In some countries (like the UK and northern Europe), summer camping means you actually get to wear those new hiking shorts you knew you’d need at some point. It means daring to shed one of your layers down to a t-shirt, maybe even a vest top if you’re feeling brave! Staying cool when camping is not usually an issue and something certainly not worth worrying about for the majority of the time.
But in other countries where super hot summer weather is actually a thing, camping can be downright miserable when the temperature soars above 30ºC. So knowing how to stay cool while camping is an essential skill that will increase your enjoyment significantly, and in some cases prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
If you’re new to camping, then be sure to read our guide to camping for beginners, as well as the below top tips for camping in the heat.
28 tips to stay cool while camping
If you’re lucky enough to have a ‘proper’ summer climate and are heading out camping this summer, then take a read of these top tips to help you keep your cool in the wild.
Create a cool campsite
1Pitch your tent in the shade
Before you even decide on where you’re going to pitch your tent, take a look at the position of the sun and choose the place that will provide the most amount of shade through the hottest hours of the day. If you get of bit of evening sun then that’s no biggie as temperatures will be a bit cooler by then (hopefully!). But your campsite should, where possible, should be in the shade during the morning and afternoon.
2Get high and enjoy the breeze
Getting up on higher ground is a good way to get some breeze to your tent and campsite. However, this doesn’t always go hand in hand with finding shade. That said, if you’re able to set up a tarp for sun protection, and the breeze provides sufficient relief from stifling temperatures, then it’s probably worth staying high.
3Put up a tarp
While you look for the most shady, breezy spot to set up camp, also consider whether there is enough space to put up a tarp or beach canopy to provide extra shade. This will make hanging out at camp much more pleasant. Be sure to set it up so that it doesn’t block any precious breeze that might find its way through your camp.
4Camp near water
Being able to dip in and out of a river or lake whenever the need arises is the ideal way to enjoy camping in hot temperatures. Plus, there’s no need to plan activities around keeping cool – bring a beach ball, frisbee and inflatable ring and you’ll have nothing but cool and happy campers on your hands! Even a small creek or stream to paddle in and splash yourself with can make a big difference.
5Take an inflatable pool
If access to a large body of water is a no go, bring your own! A small inflatable paddling pool is ideal to help kids keep it cool, and I can think of worse ways for adults to spend their day than sitting in a pool with a cool beer in hand.
Make your tent as cool as possible
6Choose a cool tent
Yep, there are some mega cool tents out there, but many of them won’t keep the heat out when the mercury starts rising. If you’re buying a tent specifically for camping in hot weather then choose something that is light in colour that will reflect the heat better than a dark tent. And opt for a lightweight double walled tent with a mesh inner for the best ventilation. Alternatively, there’s always the Siesta4: Heat and light blocking tent with fans!
7Take off the fly
If the chance of rain is slim and you have a predominantly mesh inner section of your tent, then take the rain fly off your tent completely. Not only is this THE best way to cash in on the through-breeze to help you sleep cool, but it also opens up a ceiling of stars to fall asleep to.
8Open the vents
If you don’t have the luxury of a mesh inner tent to strip down to, then make sure all the windows, doors and vents of your tent are open. Ideally these should all be mesh covered to keep the bugs and mosquitos out.
9Use a sleeping bag liner
Ditch your sleeping bag altogether and instead just use a thin cotton sheet from your bed at home, or better still, a silk sleeping bag liner. Using silk not only feels cooler than cotton, but it is also quick drying and will deal excess sweat much better.
10Get a tent fan
Struggling to get any natural breeze into your tent? Then add some cool to your tent with a portable fan. Hook it to the ceiling of your tent at night, or put it on your dinner table to get some respite during meal times.
11Reflect the heat away
If shade is lacking and you really want to keep the heat away from your communal area or your tent, you can use reflective thermal survival blankets as a heat shield. Set them up as you would a tarp over your chill out area or a couple of feet above your tent.
12Sleep in a hammock
One of the best ways to stay cool at night is to get elevated and sleep in a hammock. The lack of mattress beneath you (designed to trap the hot air for increased insulation), immediately helps to keep you cooler, and if you set your tarp up nice and high you’ll get a good through-breeze above and below you.
Food and drink to keep you cool
13Use a camping cooler
A good cooler with a large capacity is essential when camping in the heat. Fill it with lots of cooling foods, liquids and popsicles! If it’s really hot then you may need to add extra ice every few days, so make sure you are able to get to a store to replenish it.
14Drink lots of water
Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you should do to keep cool while camping in super hot conditions. Ideally you should be drinking a minimum of 2 litres of water per day in normal temperatures, so try and up that 3 litres, or more if you are active. Put your water in an insulated bottle to keep it really cool. That way you’re more likely to drink more, and you can easily measure how much fluid you are taking on.
15Replenish your electrolytes
If you are sweating lots, then you’ll be losing salts as well as water. So make sure you add some electrolyte tablets like Nuun to your water. Or make up your own drink by mixing sugar, salt and lemon juice into your water. This is especially important if you are being active in the heat, as you’ll be sweating much more.
16Eat cold food
Many people often lose their appetite a little in the heat. So it’s the perfect time to get some cooling salads down you – easy to prepare with little or no cooking needed. Lots of fruit and vegetables will make you feel less sluggish than filling cooked meals – a definite plus when the heat is already zapping you of energy.
Clothing to stay cool in
17Wear a hat
Although wearing a hat can make you feel hot and sweaty, keeping the hot sun off your head is an excellent way to avoid heat stroke. Get one with a brim that goes all the way round to give you some extra sun protection on the back of your neck and face too. Where possible, choose a hat with UPF rating of 50 for maximum protection.
18Wear light colours
Avoid wearing dark colours that absorb the heat of the sun and make you feel even more hot. Instead opt for light coloured clothing that does a better job of reflecting the heat away from already hot bod!
19Choose lightweight items
Lightweight clothing will seriously help you keep cool in the heat. But if you are spending lots of time out in the sun be careful that your clothing isn’t so thin that harmful UV rays can penetrate right through it. As with your hat, opt for lightweight clothing that has UV protection built in.
20Wear loose clothing
Clothing that is tight and restrictive can be annoying at the best of times. Turn up the thermostat and it can be downright miserable! So ditch your stiff jeans and their tight waistbands and instead get some air flowing inside your clothing by choosing baggy pants, skirts and shirts.
21Soak your hat or bandana
If the heat is just getting too much to handle, then soak your hat in water before you put it on. Do the same with a bandana or a buff and place it round your neck. The cool water will trickle down your back nicely and the sodden bandana will help to keep your body temperature down.
It goes without saying that you should wear sunscreen in sunny, hot conditions. Make sure it’s a high SPF rating and be sure to reapply throughout the day. If you are in and out of water then go for a waterproof sunscreen.
Opt for hiking sandals instead of shoes or boots if you are out and about. This will not only feel nicer, minimising the risk of hot foot panic, but it will also prevent sweat building up and increasing the risk of blisters.
24Wear moisture wicking socks
If you’re hiking or exploring in areas where shoes are a must, then go for lightweight hiking shoes (instead of boots), with thin, moisture wicking hiking socks that will help prevent excess sweating and discomfort.
Getting in cold water is the most obvious and enjoyable way to stay entertained in the heat. Seek out some wild swimming spots and spend the day dipping in and out of the water. If you are confident in the water then swimming from A to B along a river or across a lake to a deserted island can be a great way to stay active in the heat. And an excellent adventure too.
Another fun and very cool adventure to do in the heat is tubing. Grab your inflatable ring, pack a picnic into a waterproof bag, and jump into a slow moving river for a day of river exploration, Huckleberry Finn style!
27Head for the hills
If getting into cold water doesn’t float your boat, then take a hike and get up onto high ground. The temperature is usually lower, the breeze cooler and the views much better than in the valleys. Sure, it might take a lot of hard work and sweat to get to the top, but worth it once you’re there.
28Get active at the coolest times of the day
As soon as the sun hits your tent in the morning you’ll need to get up and out ASAP. If you rise early before the sun, however, you’ll avoid that horrible heat panic as your alarm clock. You’ll also be able to enjoy the wilderness at the coolest and calmest time of the day. You can always take a siesta in your hammock later in the afternoon if you need to catch up on sleep. That way you’ll have plenty of energy to get exploring again at sunset.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke – know the signs
The above tips will help you stay cool even in the hottest conditions and are key to preventing heat exhaustion and heat stroke. But sometimes things don’t always go to plan so if you do decide to head out camping in super hot conditions it’s really important that you are able to recognise the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke early. Things to look out for include:
- tiredness and weakness
- feeling faint or dizzy
- a decrease in blood pressure
- a headache
- muscle cramps
- feeling and being sick
- heavy sweating
- intense thirst
- a fast pulse
- urinating less often and having much darker urine than usual
If one of your party shows any of the above signs then cooling them down quickly is essential. Read more about what do here.
Looking for more tidbits of useful outdoor knowhow, head to our Tips And Advice section.