Scorching hot weather is the price you pay for summer camping in much of the United States.
And, while we definitely prefer camping in milder weather, it’s totally possible to camp in hot weather – and stay relatively cool while doing so.
Here’s how to stay cool while camping in summer heat.
Pick the Right Summer Campsite
Plan your summer camping trip to a location with bearable temperatures.
At the very least, select a campground with plenty of shade. Or, alternatively, bring your own canopy or awning.
Camping near water will also help you stay cool. Especially if the water is decent for swimming. Lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and streams are all great options.
Summer is also prime for camping at higher elevations. After the snow melts, head to the mountains for cooler temperatures.
If seriously scorching heat is in the forecast, consider switching up your plans and camping at a private campground like a KOA.
In addition to RV hookups to run your AC during the day, most KOA-style campgrounds also have swimming pools to keep your kids cool during the summer heat!
How to Stay Cool While Tent Camping
Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years for tent camping in summer heat in 90-degree weather and above!
Set Up Camp in the Shade
The best way to keep a tent cool is to select a campsite with plenty of shade. Set your tent up in the most shaded area to keep your tent as cool as possible during the day.
Not much shade? Disassemble your tent after waking up to prevent the greenhouse-like heating effect during the day. Reassemble it in the evening before bed.
Shade and/or disassembling/reassembling your tent is also important for your tent’s life – direct sunlight will wear down your tent’s fabrics much more quickly.
Ventilate Your Tent
Even a teensy breeze can have a huge cooling effect on your tent.
If the forecast allows, camp without a rainfly for maximum airflow. Open up any additional vents, windows, or doors to let the breeze air condition your tent during the day.
Take this summer camping tip one step further by facing your tent door in the direction the wind is blowing from.
Wear the Right Clothing
Shorts, tee shirts (or tank tops), and sandals are popular summer camp clothing.
But they aren’t ideal for all camping conditions.
Most important is to pick the right clothing for your campsite. Naturally, RV camping and backpacking require very different clothing.
For dispersed camping or backpacking, it’s generally best to cover up in lightweight, breathable fabric.
Lightweight, breathable pants rather than shorts are a good idea if you’re hiking or bushwhacking. They’ll keep you cool but also protect you from pesky bugs, poison oak, and plain old scrapes.
A lightweight tee shirt (or long-sleeve tee shirt) made of a moisture-wicking fabric will keep you cool and dry. Your sweat will evaporate much more quickly than in a standard cotton tee shirt, reducing any hiking stink.
Just as important as the right summer camp clothing is a good hat. I prefer packable sun hats, like the REI Vented Explorer Hat.
Properly Pack Your Cooler
Everyone has their own opinion on which type of cooler is best for camping.
More important, for summer camping, is properly packing your cooler so it keeps your food cool for as long as possible.
My technique is to start with a foundation of block ice, pack my food in the reverse order I plan to use it, and then cover everything with ice cubes.
Three additional tips that really help keep a cooler colder are to always keep it in the shade, open it as infrequently as possible (and as quickly as possible when you do), and never drain the meltwater.
When camping in hot weather, a layer of reflective paneling on the outside of your cooler also helps big time.
- Check Out Our Yeti Cooler vs Coleman Cooler Head-to-Head Showdown
Drink Plenty of Water
It’s so obvious – but we’re all guilty of forgetting to drink enough water sometimes!
So, pack plenty of water and make sure you and your family are drinking enough throughout the day. This is just as important even when you’re swimming or doing other activities where you naturally stay cooler.
One of my favorite summer camping tips is to freeze milk jugs full of water before leaving. This keeps the water colder for much longer!
Don’t Cook During Midday
Avoid cooking during midday while summer camping.
Do any cooking in the morning and evening. Campfires and even camp stoves produce way too much heat to use on very hot days.
For lunch, eat a meal you’ve prepared earlier that doesn’t require heating or munch on something easy like a sandwich.
Bring a Portable Camping Fan
A portable camping fan is a game changer, whether you’re tent camping or RV camping.
One of my favorite tent fans is the Coleman One Source Fan. It has a rechargeable battery so you can use it in a tent with ease.
For our family, using a portable fan (even in our trailer) makes camping in hot weather so much more enjoyable.
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer
Keeping an RV cool in summer is much the same as keeping a tent cool.
For example, it’s just as important to select a campsite with some shade to keep the inside of your RV cool during the day.
Extending your awning offers you outdoor shade while shutting the window blinds can help keep the RV from heating up.
Of course, the best case scenario for summer RV camping is hooking up to utilities. At a campground with RV hookups, staying cool is as easy as plugging in and turning on your air conditioner!
Not able to run your AC? Then keep your windows and roof vents open to promote a cross breeze. Consider a portable camping fan like the one mentioned above.
Spend as much time as possible in the shade outside your RV rather than inside during the peak of the day.
Don’t Forget About Your Pets
Heat affects your pets just as much as you – likely more so, in fact.
When you’re summer camping with your dog, make sure they have plenty of shade and plenty of water to drink.
A dog cooling vest like the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Dog Vest is another option for extremely hot days – or for summer hiking trips.
How Do You Beat the Heat While Summer Camping?
Hopefully our top tips will help you learn how to stay cool while camping in the summer!
A lot of our tips are just common sense – but there are a few less obvious camping hacks that make staying cool easier.
We’re always looking for new ways to beat the heat while camping in summer. So please let us know if you have any additional tips!
Saturday 14th of July 2018
The waterfalls looked so cool. I'm sure they were great for cooling off. I need to camp more often where there are waterfalls.
Monday 22nd of September 2014
Take a water splach before tyou fall asleep. It works good and helps you stay cool throughout the night while on bed. Sleep on soft cotton stuffed blankets.