How to Stay Cool While Camping: 15 Tips to Survive High Temps

Learning how to stay cool while camping is a must for anyone who plans to spend any time under the canvas in the stifling months of summer. Our list of expert tips will help you keep both you and your tent cool!

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Camping in Hot Weather: A Survival Guide

Looking for advice on how to stay cool while camping in a tent?

You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:

    • 15 tips on how to stay cool in a tent
    • Advice on must-have gear, tent setup strategies, tent alternatives, and more
    • Other summer camping tips

In the soaring heat of summer keeping cool while camping might seem like an impossible task. There are, however, a few simple tricks and strategies that can make a big difference in the battle to mitigate the general discomfort of high-temperature days, not to mention avoiding heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and/or sunstroke.

In this guide on how to stay cool while camping, we’ll show you 15 tips and hacks that can help make you and your tent cooler when temps are through the roof.

How to Keep Cool When Camping in a Tent: 15 Tips & Hacks for Hot-Weather Camping

1. Choose the Right Gear

Whether you’re car camping or tent camping, your ability to stay cool in the great outdoors will mainly come down to the quality and suitability of your gear.

The two main contributing components of that gear as regards to the temperature inside your tent will be the tent itself and your sleeping bag.

The solution with sleeping bags is often very simple – if temps are hot enough and you don’t mind sleeping sans bedding, you can simply do without one. If you prefer a little coverage, then just swap your bag for a thin sheet or sleeping bag liner. 

Man organising camp bedding
When temps are high having a sleeping bag liner to sleep in will help.

Finding a tent that will help you stay cool on a summer camping trip is a little bit trickier, but here are some tips to help you narrow down the options:

  1. Choose a Larger Tent – Larger tents are less thermally efficient – and, thus, cooler – because there’s more space to dissipate your body heat and hot breath.
  2. Choose a Double-Walled Tent – This will allow you to use the rainfly in wet weather and ditch it to maximize air flow when conditions are dry and hot. Alternatively, ditch the inner tent and use the rainfly as a standalone tarp.
  3. All About the Features – Tents with two doors, multiple mesh-lined windows, and air vents provide far more airflow and are, therefore, far better performers in hot weather than those without.
  4. Buy a “Dark Tent” – Dark-colored tents are, for reasons explained in tip number 14 (below), more likely to overheat in sunny conditions. Tents with “dark room” technology, however, can block out up to 90% of sunlight, leaving the tent interior relatively cool no matter how hard the sun is shining.

As an added bonus, these tents will also stop the morning sun gatecrashing your slumber.

2. Shaded Areas = Heat-Beating Havens

If possible, try to arrive at your campsite or campground early so you can steal the best spot. The best spot equals one that has a little bit of natural shade cast by trees or buildings. 

This strategy may consign your campsite neighbors to the fiery doom of direct sunlight exposure, but you can rest safe in the knowledge that they would have done likewise had they only arrived first. The early bird gets the worm! 

tent near tree shade
Nothing beats the shade of trees.

3. Leave Your Rain Fly at Home (or at least in the car)

Your tent rain fly is your saving grace in wet weather but your biggest enemy when temps are high. The fly will prevent both fresh, cool air from entering and stuffy, hot air from escaping, thus creating a small-scale greenhouse effect in your camping crib. 

The bottom line? When the weather forecast promises dry weather, leave the fly in the home, or at least in the car.

tent without rainfly
Remove your rainfly during hot weather to allow more cool air to enter.

4. Ice Ice Baby

If you have a camping cooler, great. If you don’t, we highly recommend you invest in one as a means of mitigating the hardships of summer camping.

Having a good cooler filled with ice cubes will not only let you keep your drinks and food stay cool and fresh, but it will also let you enjoy one of our favorite heat-beating apparatuses, the ice pillow.

To create an ice pillow, fill a 2-liter soda bottle with water, freeze it overnight, throw it in your cooler before you leave, then take it to bed with you at night. Your partner may get jealous about all the love you’re lavishing on a lump of frozen water, but they’ll appreciate your lack of crankiness come morning. 

drinks inside the cooler
Don’t forget your cooler filled with ice!

5. Disassemble Your Shelter in the Daytime

Being exposed to the sun all day can and will turn your tent into a hot hell torture chamber. In short, the sun’s rays beating down on your tent walls creates a kind of greenhouse effect whereby plenty of heat is going in and very little can escape. 

To avoid this, take your tent down as soon as you are done using it in the morning or daytime and set it up again just after sundown. This may create a little extra work, but you’ll be glad you did it when it’s time to catch some shuteye.

pitching tent
You can take your tent down during the daytime and put it back up after sundown.

6. Expose Yourself (to the wind, that is…)

A little bit of wind can make a big difference in the struggle against stifling summer heat. This being so, pitch your tent in a spot where it will be exposed to any wind that’s blowing. Also, be sure to angle your doorway so nature’s air conditioning is blowing into it.

camp fire and tent
Pitch your tent in an area exposed to wind with the door oriented to the oncoming wind direction.

7. Try Some Tech

Leaving your home and air conditioning behind when you head out on a summer camping trip is always a bit of a wrench, but this needn’t be the case. Whether you’re RV or tent camping, you can kit yourself out with a powerful, effective camping AC unit that will provide a steady supply of cold air throughout your trip, so long as you have a generator or power source.

A battery-powered fan will also help you stay cool to a certain extent, but not nearly as well as air conditioners.

RV camping
Whether RV or tent camping, an AC unit will help in cooling things down.

8. Hang Yourself… in a Hammock

Hammocks aren’t only incredibly comfortable (if you know how to hang one correctly), but are a good tool in helping you beat the summer heat while camping. The main reason for this is that hammocks allow air to circulate around your body, and aren’t enclosed like a tent.

Sound good? Check out our guide to the best camping hammocks and other resources on hammock camping.

camping hammock
Hammocks are not enclosed like a tent and so will allow air to circulate around your body.

9. Pitch Near Water Sources

Areas in close proximity to water features like lakes, creeks, and rivers are typically a few degrees cooler than elsewhere, so are prime real estate for tent pitching. 

What’s more, having a little bit of cool H2O nearby will make it easy to take a nice, refreshing dip anytime you feel yourself overheating.

camping near a lake
It’s cooler to camp near bodies of water.

10. Use Your Space Blanket…

How to keep a tent cool when camping in the heat? One of the simplest methods is to use that all-but neglected accessory most hikers and campers store away in the bottom of their packs – the mylar blanket (aka “space blanket”) – as a sun shade. 

These blankets will reflect the sun’s heat away from your tent in hot temperatures if attached to the walls using accessory cord or some good old duct tape.

11. Drink, Drink, Drink!

Water, that is…lots of it. Cool drinking water will help bring down your body temperature and prevent dehydration, which is a serious concern when camping in warm weather. To make sure you don’t create an electrolyte imbalance, eat some salty snacks or throw an electrolyte tab in your water bottle.

hydrating
Remember to always hydrate!

12. Soak a Towel in Cold Water

If you’re lounging around camp during the day, feeling the heat, and don’t have access to a cold shower, soak a towel in cool water and lay this over your shoulders. This causes something called “evaporative cooling”, which is essentially what a misting system does. A damp towel may only work its cooling magic for 20 minutes or so at a time, but every little helps! 

13. Wait Until After Dark to Hit the Hay

When asked how to keep cool while camping in the summer months, most people have the stifling temperatures experienced at night in mind. 

The best way to mitigate this problem is to leave your tent door open in the evening (or leave your tent disassembled as per tip number 5) and wait until the sun has gone down before heading to bed. Doing so will give both your body and your tent time to cool down, which should make trying to fall asleep less impossible.

tent in dusk
Wait until after sundown before sleeping to allow your core body temperature to drop.

14. Wear Light-Colored Clothing

Anyone who has walked down a tarmac sidewalk in the summertime has felt the effect of solar radiation soaking into dark surfaces. And what’s true for sidewalks is also true for clothing – the darker your duds are, the more you’re going to feel the heat.

The solution, as you might have guessed, is to wear light colors like white, beige, or pastels, all of which will reflect rather than absorb the sun’s heat. 

Also try to ensure all of your camping clothes are breathable and loose-fitting, as this will make a huge difference in keeping your core temperature down when the sun is doing its worst.

Backpacker with backpack with padded hip belt on sitting on the beach
Lighter-colored clothes reflect heat so make sure to pack accordingly!

15. Eat Cold Meals

Everyone loves a hot meal at the end of a busy, active day in the backcountry, but if staying cool is your main concern, cold-table dining is the way to go.

Instead of your go-to stew or barbecue buffet, try a salad bowl, hearty sandwich, cold pizza, cold noodles, or anything else that isn’t going to further fan the proverbial flames.

pizza
Cold pizza is a staple during hot weather!

Happy Camping!

We hope the above tips have demonstrated that summer camping needn’t be a slog. With just a little bit of effort and a few tweaks to your regular camp setup, you’ll soon be positively flourishing (as opposed to merely surviving) when all others are flailing!

If you liked this article or have any questions, drop us a line in the comments box below. And if you’d like to share it with your friends, please do!

Last update on 2022-10-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

In an age when everyone seems to be locked to their small blue screens, I am vehemently passionate about getting more people outside to enjoy the wonder of nature. I grew up with the outdoors on my doorstep, and when I headed off to university I picked a degree in geology that allowed me to spend a lot of time outside on field trips! Over the last 30 years, I have camped or hiked through the wilderness on 5 continents. I hope my posts are informative for both the grizzled veteran and the complete novice alike.

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