Summer is a time for camping and exploring the great outdoors! However, it can be tough to keep cool when you're out in nature. Fortunately, there are many ways to keep yourself cool while camping during the summer months. In this blog post, I share my top tips on how to stay cool in a tent so you get a better night's sleep!
Staying cool while camping in the summer
As you may (or may not) know, I've spent a great deal of time living in tents. If I was to add it up, it would probably come close to an accumulated 5 years, spread over different bicycle tours all around the world.
During that time, I've slept in all kinds of climates and terrains, from the mountains of the Andes to the deserts of Sudan. Many people might think that camping in cold climates presents the most difficult challenges, but to be honest, I've always struggled in hot ones.
As getting a good night's sleep after a challenging day on the bike is essential if you want to feel good the next day, I've put together these tips on how to stay cool when camping out in extreme heat.
Whether you're wild camping or staying on an organized campsite in your tent, I hope you find them useful!
Pitch your tent in the shade
It's simple but effective. Sleep in the shade where possible, and keep your tent open to allow airflow inside if there's no bugs around.
Tents keep a lot of heat trapped inside them, so it's also a good idea that you sleep where the air circulates more freely. Find an open space on high ground with plenty of wind – this should keep you cool during the night.
Do you need the rainfly?
If you know the weather is going to be good with no rain, consider removing the rain fly off the top of the tent. You'll get a cooler night sleeping in hot weather under just the mesh of the tent, although anyone passing by may be able to see in the tent more easily.
Take your tent down in the morning
It can be a pain, but if you are staying for more than one night in the same place, consider taking your tent down each morning. This way, it won't soak up heat through the day. Additionally, the UV rays will affect it less and it will last longer.
Put the tent back up again just before sunset or just before the mosquitoes start biting!
Camping near water
If possible, try to choose a a pitch near water. A breeze will create an air flow over the water which will help to keep the temperature down a little.
Lakes and rivers also give you the option of a supply of fresh water (you probably want to filter it first!), and camping by the sea gives you a chance for an early morning swim the next day!
Take a cold shower before sleeping
If you're staying on a campsite with showers, a good way to reduce your body temperature is to take a cold shower before you go to bed for the night.
When you're wild camping, try to wash ‘bits and pits' before retiring for the night. If you've chosen a camp site by running water, perhaps a quick dip might be needed!
Sleep in a Hammock
Is a tent the best sleeping system for the environment you plan to travel in? Maybe a hammock is the better option to beat the heat!
Hammocks keep air flowing around them, and will keep you cooler as there's more room for airflow underneath than with a tent. Of course, you'll need to set up where there are some trees or poles around. Not so easy in the desert, but pretty easy in an olive grove in Greece!
A hot climate can make it very easy to dehydrate, so keep drinking water. You might not feel like you're sweating enough or sometimes you may feel like you're sweating too much – but your body is working hard to keep you cool!
I like to drink a lot of water in the morning, and then sip little and often throughout the day. I also put a little more salt on my food than normal in hot climates to replace what I've sweated out.
Keeping hydrated will make sure your body doesn't overwork, and you get a better night's sleep.
Don't Drink Alcohol & Coffee
If there's a temptation for an alcoholic drink in the evening, then try and avoid this. Alcohol will increase heat production by the liver and coffee will give a jolt of caffeine which could keep you up all night with increased heart rate. Avoiding these will help you stay cool, and it's probably healthier in the long run as well.
Wear Clothes that are Lightweight, Cool and Breathable
It might seem like common sense, but very few people actually wear clothes that suit an environment with high temperatures.
Wear lightweight, loose clothing that keep you cool and allow for airflow. You don't want to be overheating in dark, heavy clothes that trap in body heat!
Also pack clothes with light colors – dark colors can attract heat when the sun is bearing down on you all day long. Bottom line – stay as cool as you can during the day, and you'll sleep easier in your tent at night.
Try a portable fan when camping in hot weather
These might not be practical in all circumstances, but why not give it a go in an effort to stay cool? A handheld, battery powered portable camping fan might just be your favourite bit of kit to take on your next camping trip!
Sleeping bags or sheets?
You definitely don't want to be camping in the heat with your heavy four season sleeping bag! In fact, you might not want to use a sleeping bag at all
If you go camping just for a few nights on what you know will be hot nights, you might prefer to just take a simple sheet. Typically, when camping in hot weather in my tent, I tend to sleep on top of the bag rather than in it.
Additional reading: What to look for in a sleeping bag
Use a handkerchief or cloth soaked with cold water on your neck, head, and armpits
This is a good way to keep cool when you're out and about. If I'm in the middle of nowhere, I'll soak my hat and sometimes T-Shirt if I find water. It all helps to keep the body temperature down, and that means I'll sleep easier in the tent in hot weather at night.
Stay out of the sun at midday
The heat is normally strongest in the middle of the day. If you are hiking or cycling, this is the time of day to find a little shade, and have a long lunch. If you hanging around the campsite, stay out of the direct sunlight if you can so you don't get too hot and sweaty.
Keeping food and drink cool when camping
With the heat, it's important to keep your food and drink cool. If I'm on a campsite, I'll make use of whatever kitchen facilities there are. If I'm free camping, then I have to be a little more creative!
In the past, I've bought frozen packets of meat from stores and put them in a bag with other items I want to keep cool. I've experimented with thermos flasks for cold water, and even kept a damp sock around my water bottle!
When car camping you can take extra luxuries
While my preference to camping is to either hike or cycle, taking a vehicle along has many advantages. Even if you take just your regular car, it means you can keep a cooler for cold drinks and food, can more easily charge devices like a portable camping fan, and if you're particularly weak willed, you can dive in the car and switch the air-con on.
How to spot heatstroke when summer camping
Signs and symptoms of heatstroke may include hot, dry skin or sweating, high body temperature (above 103 degrees F), changes in consciousness such as confusion or stupor, rapid heart rate (more than 140 beats per minute).
If you think someone is developing heatstroke, try to keep them cool and hydrated. Find some shade if possible and get out of the sun as well – this will help keep their temperature down.
The quickest way for your body to cool itself off is by sweating so having a cold cloth on the neck or head might be enough at first. If they don't respond, then it's time to call an ambulance!
FAQ about keeping cool in a tent
Here are some frequently asked questions about camping out in the summer:
How do you stay cool while camping without electricity?
Tips and tricks on ways to stay cool when summer camping include camping in the shade, choosing a breezy area,
How hot is too hot for camping?
This is a difficult question to answer, and everyone has their own preferences. Personally, if the night time temperature is above 34 degrees (around 93 Fahrenheit) I find things a little uncomfortable!
How do I keep my tent cool?
Camp in the shade, when at all possible. You can also use tarps, tents, or an umbrella to create shade.
What are some camping tips for hot weather?
- -Choose a breezy camping spot.
- -Camp in the shade.
- -Use tarps, tents or umbrellas to create shade.
- -Keep food cool by using whatever kitchen facilities are available; at free campsites it can be more of an issue but there are ways to keep things cool!
- -Carry lightweight wet cloths that can be soaked with cold water and applied to the neck, head or armpits – this is a good way to keep cooler when you're out and about and also if you're sitting
Dave is a travel writer who has been sharing outdoor advice and travel tips on this website since 2005. If you enjoyed these summer camping tips, you might also like his other blog posts about camping, bike touring, and travel. Follow Dave on social media for travel inspiration from Greece and beyond: