One thing that camping teaches you is to be prepared for all kinds of weather. Sometimes it’s easy to reschedule a trip if the forecast looks unappealing. But many times, it’s not possible. If you’ve made reservations at a popular campground, it’s likely you booked your site a year in advance. Backing out might mean that you have to postpone your trip until next summer. So what’s the other option? Deal with the weather as best you can.
In some ways, camping in cold weather is easy: bring lots of layers, cold-weather sleeping bags, hot drinks, and a big stash of firewood. (We have some other tips here.) Staying comfortable in hot weather is a little more tricky. If you can’t relax inside an RV and crank the A/C, here are 10 ways how to stay cool while camping on your next summer camping trip.
1. Optimize your tent’s shade and airflow.
When it comes to staying cool in a tent, little things can add up to make a big difference. If possible, choose a shady spot to set up your tent. If you want it to be cooler at night, choose a place that gets shade at the end of the day. (But also be aware that if the tent gets morning sun, it’ll warm up quickly and might force you wake up earlier than you’d like.)
Unless rain is in the forecast, remove the tent’s rain fly so the tent will get more airflow throughout the day and at night while you’re trying to sleep. If you have room, consider sleeping on a mesh cot or air mattress. Both of these options will be cooler than a sleeping pad.
2. Make your own shade.
If you’re at a campsite that doesn’t have trees or other natural shade, you can always make your own. This freestanding canopy from Coleman sets up in less than 3 minutes and is large enough to cover a picnic table or a small tent. (If you’ve removed your tent’s rain fly for better airflow but still want protection from possible rain, you can set up your tent under a canopy like Coleman’s or a tarp.) The synthetic fabric not only creates shade but offers UPF 50+ sun protection.
3. Use a “ceiling” fan when you sleep.
Sometimes you can unzip all your tent’s windows and still not feel any breeze at night. And while tents might not be equipped with ceiling fans, it’s easy to add a makeshift one using a battery-powered fan. Find a lightweight option like Amacool's Portable Camping Fan. This version has three speeds and an LED light. Its handy clip makes it easy to hang inside a tent, and its internal batteries can be recharged with a USB charger such as a power bank, car charger, or laptop. (It’ll also be a great source of white noise if you happen to be at a noisy campground.)
4. Ditch the tent and sleep in a hammock.
Of course, another option is to ditch the tent altogether. Sleeping in a hammock is much cooler than sleeping on the ground or in a tent; warm summer nights are the best time of year to give hammock camping a try. The airflow underneath you (and all around) will help cool you down. If you’re new to hammock camping, check out our complete guide to hammock camping. And depending on where you live, you’ll probably be more comfortable if you add a mosquito net to your hammock set-up. If it looks like it might rain overnight, you can also hang a tarp above your hammock.
5. Try a cooling towel.
A low-tech way how to stay cool while camping is to soak a towel or t-shirt in cold water, then drape it around your neck or on top of your head. One drawback however, is that towels and t-shirts don’t stay cool for long. Another drawback is that you’ll get wet in the process. You can avoid both of these scenarios by using Frogg Togg's Cooling Sport Towel. We won’t claim to know exactly how it works, but all you have to do is get the towel wet, wring it out, and it will stay cool for a long time—and stay dry to the touch! Once the towel is no longer cool, just get it wet and wring it out again.
6. Wear cooling wristbands.
To stay cool while hiking, biking—or even while you set up camp—wear a pair of Mission Enduracool's cooling wristbands. These chemical-free fabric bands can help cool down your whole body by cooling the pulse points on your wrists. All you have to do to activate them is get them wet. They’re reusable and machine-washable.
7. Or wear a cooling bandana.
Another on-the-go cooling option is Ergodyne's cooling bandana. Like the cooling towel and wristbands, the bandana is activated by getting it wet. It comes in 9 colors and patterns.
8. Keep drinking water extra cold with an insulated bottle.
One of the most commonsense ways to avoid succumbing to the heat is to stay hydrated. Make sure you always have cold drinking water available by keeping it in a vacuum-sealed bottle like Contigo's AutoSeal Chill Water Bottle. This stainless steel bottle comes with a plastic lid that seals tight against drips and leaks. It’s guaranteed to keep beverages cold for up to 28 hours without having to add additional ice.
9. Use a portable misting fan.
When A/C isn’t an option, take a break with a portable misting fan. Comlife's battery-powered misting fan has a 17-ml water tank that can last for 30 minutes of misting. Its versatile design allows you to hold it, stand it on a flat surface, or clip it to the inside of a tent or to the edge of a picnic table.
10. Use frozen jugs of water in your cooler.
Instead of filling a cooler with ice cubes to keep things cool, use frozen jugs of water or frozen water bottles. As the water melts, you’ll have cold, clean water that’s ready to drink instead of dirty water in the bottom of the cooler that you have to get rid of. If you want a cooler that’ll keep things cold on a hot summer weekend and is easy to transport, check out our post on the 10 Best Coolers With Wheels.