20 Camping Hacks to Stay Cool in Summer

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Almost everyone I know has sweet (or sometimes bittersweet) memories of camping in the summertime, be it an awesome vacation with your family or childhood buddies, your first heartbreak, a romantic escapade…

Interestingly, though, most of us tend to gloss over how freaking hot it can get in the woods during the summer. Yet in case the very idea of being soaked in sweat as you’re out camping gets you worked up, don’t panic.

This list of camping hacks to stay cool in summer will turn it into a nonissue once and for all.

Tips on setting up your tent

1. Set up your tent near water

Girl camping beside lake

In case you’re headed to a desert, then fuggedaboutit. Luckily, most of us go camping near a river, lake, or beach in the summertime — and diving isn’t the only advantage you can take of them.

Large bodies of water have the ability to make temperatures milder in the surrounding areas. Plus, a gentle breeze is more likely to be blowing around them. Win-win!

2. Try disassembling it during the day

Man and woman disassembling orange tent

I’m aware camping is supposed to be about fun, but we both know there’s always some work involved — which is also part of the fun somehow. Think of the extra minutes you’ll spend setting up and taking down your tent every day as part of the fun+work camping combo.

The reasoning behind this tip is that the sun will turn your tent into a sort of greenhouse, which it will still be by the time you go to bed. To avoid this, the only thing you can do is disassemble it when you wake up and reassemble it at night.

3. Understand how the breeze works and make the most of it

Now, this won’t be particularly effective if you don’t own a mesh tent. If you do, you should position your tent in a way that the door faces the breeze. The whole issue is figuring out where the wind is blowing from.

There are a few things you can try to find that out. Asking locals is the obvious choice, though possibly the least feasible when you’re camping in a remote area. In case you have phone service there, try checking your favorite weather app. Most will tell you the direction of the wind.

Worst-case scenario, just hold a wet finger up in the air: the cold side is always where the wind is coming from.

4. Camp in the shade

Tent under trees

I guess only a clueless first-timer wouldn’t want to set up their tent in the shade. Yet there’s more to it than simply finding a shaded spot to call your own.

As the sun moves across the sky throughout the day, it will probably be overhead at some point. The trees won’t be able to help you then, unless you happen to be literally surrounded by (tall) trees. That’s one extra reason to follow my second tip!

How to keep a tent cool in the summer

5. Pick the right tent

Woman looking out of mesh tent

I have one magic word for you: mesh.

Keeping cool in a tent in the summertime won’t be easy if yours isn’t equipped with good ventilation features. Mesh on your door, windows, and perhaps even a canopy will help you enjoy the breeze and sleep way better.

Avoid having to spend extra bucks on a fan or AC if you can make nature work to your advantage — if only your tent will let it do its job.

6. Place an insulating sheet under it

Most tents come with a groundsheet that allows you to insulate your tent for the summer. Bear in mind that the ground gets warm too — much faster than water, by the way. That’s a matter of concern when you’re sleeping so close to it.

A polyester sheet is a fantastic alternative to your regular groundsheet, as it’s more effective in insulating it from heat, water, and humidity.

7. Cover it with a sunshade

Sunshade above the tent

A reflective sunshade is ideally what you’re looking for here, as it’ll send a great deal of the sun heat back to the sky. That said, a regular tarp can help as well, provided it’s not placed directly on top of your tent.

In fact, you should leave 10+ inches between any sunshade and your tent. That will allow air to flow between them, cool it all off, and prevent you from camping in a makeshift sauna.

8. Get rid of your rainfly

Bringing your rainfly with you is always an excellent idea, as you never know when you’re gonna need it. In the United States, spring is typically rainier than summer. But in tropical regions, for instance, you might face a rainstorm every other day.

That said, the waterproof material your rainfly is made of also works as heat insulation. So unless the weather looks especially unreliable and/or you’ll be far from your campsite for several hours, you should definitely put your rainfly away.

9. Pack a portable fan

Portable fan in tent

This should be a decent solution for those of you who are camping in places without a good breeze or maybe own less breathable tents.

The best portable fans are battery-powered and can run for the entire night, which will work wonders to keep you cool in hot weather. Some even boast foam blades, which are safer to use around children (and your face!).

10. Buy an air-conditioned tent

“Air-conditioned tent” might be a little misleading; what you can actually get is a tent with air-conditioner ports.

Granted, this would be labeled as glamping rather than camping if we’re to be accurate. Still, if neither storage space nor funds are a problem, then why not treat yourself to that?

An alternative to a port-equipped tent would be a perfectly insulated tent where you can use a portable AC unit. In this case, you’ll have to make sure your tent has no leaks by covering them with duct tape if need be.

Camping hacks to stay cool at bedtime

11. Prefer a sheet over a sleeping bag

Living in Brazil, my go-to combo when I go camping is made up of an air mattress and a cotton sheet. While a comforter or duvet will do too, they’ll take up more space in your trunk.

Sure, you’ll find sleeping bags online that are fitting for camping in hot weather. Yet even those can trap some heat and keep you and that much-welcomed breeze apart.

12. Sleep in a hammock if you can

Boys on hammock in the woods

If I had to choose my favorite tip on how to stay cool when camping, this would be it. After all, what feels more summer-like than a hammock?! A few caveats do apply, though.

First, you’ll need to protect yourself from mosquitoes and the occasional rain shower. A bug net and a tarp above your head should do.

You’ll also have to pay attention to the kind of hammock you’re purchasing. Yours should be meant for sleeping, not lounging. Basically, a hammock for sleeping is considerably larger.

One last tip is to lie diagonally in your hammock so that your body will remain in a flat position through the night. That way, you won’t feel the back pain in the morning you normally would if you slept like you lounge.

13. Go to bed after dark

I know, this might be hard in places where the sun sets at 9-10-ish and you’re simply exhausted after a busy day.

But timing your bedtime to the dark hours has an added benefit: worse than having issues falling asleep is waking up to the greenhouse your tent becomes in the morning.

If you’re used to sleeping 8 hours every night, 10 PM – 6 AM is likely the best time to be asleep. And you’ll even have 2 to 3 hours of cool in the morning before it gets too warm.

14. Take a cold shower before bed

Campervan cold shower

I’ll be honest with you: I don’t take cold showers, ever. I’d think about it, however, if I were soaking in sweat like you probably will be at one point during your camping trip. Plus, lying in a clean bed in those circumstances is just a no-no.

You can try to be creative too: if taking a regular shower is somehow an issue because water is scarce or for any other reason, a nighttime swim in the lake or at the beach is the way to go.

Other camping hacks to stay cool

15. Wear light-colored clothes only

man hiking in white shirt

I’m sure you’re still on top of your high school Physics game, or are you? If not, you’ve certainly watched movies set in the Middle East. Light-colored clothing (and surfaces in general) reflect solar radiation, while dark surfaces absorb it.

So focus on pastel shades and white. There’s plenty of room for a fashion statement with those colors! That’s not everything, though. Pick fabrics like cotton and linen, which are breathable and lightweight, and loose-fitting items. Trust the sheiks, they know what they’re doing!

Pro tip: Don’t forget to cover your head as well. Bucket hats are all the rage like it’s the year 2000 all over again!

16. Don’t skimp on the sunscreen

Well, honestly, don’t do that ever. You should wear sunscreen even on cloudy days as you go about your daily life. When you’re out camping, with all the extra sun exposure, that’s definitely an essential.

Put it on at least half an hour before you’re heading out of your campsite, then reapply it every hour.

17. Carry a wet towel as you go hiking

Bear in mind changing the temperature of water requires a ton of energy; you call that high specific heat. That means water is a flawless coolant. So if you’re hitting a trail or if it’s simply unbearably hot, soak a towel and place it on your neck or forehead. You can do that at night as well if you’re having a hard time falling asleep.

18. Drink as much water as you can handle

Camper having a water break

Like wearing sunscreen, this is more of a life hack rather than a camping one. Yet many people overlook this; not because they don’t really drink lots of water, but because they forget to pack enough of it before hitting the road. This is all the more important if you’re traveling to a remote area.

Also, don’t forget your pets need that precious H2O too! There’s no such thing as wasted storage space wasted if we’re talking about potable water.

19. Bring jugs of frozen water along

There are a few advantages to packing frozen water instead of ice. First, it won’t soak the food you’re storing in your cooler as it melts. Second, you’ll get to drink it when that happens rather than having to toss it.

Finally, you can even place a jug at the bottom of your sleeping bag (or sheet) to keep your feet cool at night. Of course you should only do that if you have enough frozen water to cool your food as well.

20. Go swimming!

Woman jumping into a lake

I mean, being able to swim without freezing is the whole point of summer camping, or is it? And if you can practice some sort of water sport too, all the better. In case you’re not staying near a body of water, try packing an inflatable pool at least.

Conclusion

Hopefully, now that you’ve discovered all these camping hacks to stay cool when you go camping in the summertime, you’ll get stoked to explore the woods more often that time of the year.

After all, every season has its own charm, but nothing beats the magic of summer’s perfect weather.