How to Stay Cool While Camping

Camping is arguably one of the best summer vacation options, much preferable to camping in the rain. From staying up and chilling out on warm summer evening, to swimming in waterfalls, there’s nothing quite like being out in nature in the summertime.

However, unlike some countries where you’re lucky to have two or three sunny days a year, the majority of states in the US experience some pretty scorching summers. Away from the comforts of air conditioning and solid walls, campers must find alternative ways of staying cool while summer camping. 

Throughout this article, we will explain loads of handy tips and tricks to keep your tent cool, keep yourselves cool, and make sure your summer camping trips leave you with only good memories. There are plenty of ways to enjoy summer days at your favorite camping spot and to make sure you stay cool and safe throughout your vacation.

Avoiding heat exhaustion and heatstroke is important, so we’ve also outlined the telltale signs, and what to do in an emergency. Don’t fret, with all these tips on how to stay cool while camping, we’re sure you’ll complete your summer vacation with a smile. 


A man sitting against a tree in the woods.

Staying hydrated and out of direct sunlight are some of the best ways to keep cool while camping.


How to keep your tent cool 

As the popularity of RV’s and cabin camping rises, tents are still the most popular form of accommodation for campers in the US, with more than 70% of campers choosing a tent to spend the night. However, in 100-degree weather, those tents can get stifling pretty fast. So, to combat this, here are our 7 top camping tips to keep your tent cool in the hot weather.


  • Set up your tent in the shade: Shady campsites are hot property during the warmest months of the year. This is because sheltering your tent from the sun can go a long way towards keeping it cool. Grab a compass and figure out where the sun will rise, to prevent the heat from waking you up at the break of day. If you can find a spot shaded from all sides, then you’ve struck gold, so hold on tight. The best shady spots are surrounded by trees, as you’ll find these areas stay at a colder temperature all day. If your campground doesn’t have any trees, try to position your car and tent next to each other to provide some shade.


  • Create shade: You can set up a tarp with tent poles and bungee cords to provide a little respite from the sun’s rays. This works over picnic tables or any common area, but you can also set one up over your tent. Make sure to suspend the tarp a few feet above the tent, not touching, so you don’t get the opposite of the desired effect; added insulation. You can also buy a specialized sunshade to reflect away the sun’s heat from your tent.


  • Get high and capture the breeze: The higher ground is always breezier than more sheltered areas, however, this can work against you in the shade department. If you’re able to set up a tarp for some protection from the sun, you can do this on higher ground to enjoy nature’s air conditioning. Using a mesh tent will allow the air to travel through and prevent it from getting too hot inside. 


  • Insulate from the ground: Throughout the hot days, the ground will absorb heat and warm up, which later on can make it hard to sleep. Using insulation between your tent and the ground, for example, a tarp or survival blanket can help eliminate nighttime heat radiating from the ground. You could also try digging your tent into a pit. Not as crazy as it sounds, digging a pit around two feet deep to pitch your tent in can do wonders in keeping you cool. It’s a fair about of effort and activity, but if you’re planning a longer stay then it’s worth it without a doubt. Keep in mind, digging in the sun is a strenuous activity, so drink plenty of water, and take breaks to cool off.


  • Remove your rain fly: If you’ve checked the weather, and there’s little to no chance of rain, removing your rainfly can help you keep cool inside your tent. Since rain flys hug your tent, they lock in both heat and moisture, contributing to a very uncomfortable atmosphere. Removing the rain fly will allow heat to escape through the top of the tent, and a breeze to pass through the windows. 


  • Take your tent down during the day: Although this isn’t practical for huge cabin tents, for smaller 1- 4 person tents, entertain the possibility of taking your tent down each morning, and re-pitching at night. Tents act like greenhouses, absorbing the sun’s rays throughout the day and storing them up, just in time to prevent you from getting a solid night’s sleep. So taking your tent down during the day will prevent this greenhouse effect from taking place, giving you a cooler place to spend the night. Additionally, exposure to direct sunlight can degrade the fabrics your tent is constructed from, so doing this has the double advantage of prolonging your tent’s lifetime. 


  • Abandon the tent altogether: Sleeping in a hammock is a great technique to stay cool at night, as the sun can’t heat it up during the day, and there’s constant airflow all around. If you can find two trees appropriate for hammock camping, it’s a wonderful way to spend the night. If there’s any chance of rain, simply suspend a tarp above, which will provide shade at the same time. We recommend using a hammock with a built-in mosquito net, like this one, to protect from insect bites. 


A person diving into a lake.

If you’re lucky enough to have a body of water or open stream nearby, it’s always a good idea to take a dip or natural shower to cool down.


How to keep yourself cool while camping

Now we’ve covered how to keep a breezy accommodation, you’ll need to know some of our camping tips to help keep yourself and your friends cool and happy. 


  • Opt for light-colored clothing: It’s no secret that darker colors attract more sunlight, and make you much warmer. They absorb the heat, whereas lighter colors reflect away the sun’s rays. Wearing light-colored clothing can make a huge difference to your comfort when camping in hot and sunny weather, so pack a bag full of light-colored clothing. It’s also a good idea to choose breathable fabrics such as cotton and linen, and loose-fitting styles to allow for a little airflow.  


  • Swim and paddle to cool off: If you can camp near a natural water feature, such as a river or lake, it can be loads of fun to go for a dip every few hours. Swimming is a great way to enjoy the outdoors in hot temperatures, even paddling in a small stream or creek can make a huge difference. If there are no natural water features near your campground, consider taking an inflatable pool. Just a small paddling pool will keep the kids happy in the sun for hours and days, and most adults wouldn’t say no to chilling in the water with a cold beer. 


  • Use wet towels: On particularly hot days where you just can’t seem to escape the heat, lay a damp towel over the back of your neck, or across your forehead. You’ll be amazed at how much difference this will make, as the cool water can suck out a significant amount of heat. The same method can be applied by wearing a wet t-shirt or soaking your hat. 


  • Ditch the sleeping bag: No matter how high-tech your sleeping bag, sometimes it’s just too hot at night to be wrapped up. Try using a simple cotton sheet instead, this kind you would at home. This way you’ll still be comfortable, but the breeze will be able to reach your skin. 


  • Wear sandals: A pair of sturdy hiking sandals are a much better choice than hiking boots for the summer. These will allow your feet to keep cool rather than swelter inside boots, and preventing your feet from getting too hot will make you much more comfortable in general. 


  • Enjoy the coolest times of day: Avoid hiking or any other strenuous activity during the hottest afternoon hours, try taking a siesta in a hammock during this time. Instead, make the most of the morning and evening when the sun is lower in the sky. Do your adventure activities during these cooler hours to prevent yourself from getting too hot.  


Two buckets of ice with cold drinks.

Drinking cold drinks, especially with electrolytes is a great way to stay hydrated while camping.


Use food and drink to keep you cool

The importance of hydration and sustenance in keeping you cool and happy during a spot of summer camping cannot be understated. Many people lose their appetite in heat or don’t adequately hydrate, so follow our summer camping tips to keep you cool and, more importantly, safe. 


  • Use a camping cooler: Most campers bring along a cooler on all their trips, but it’s even more essential in hot weather. Fill it with plenty of cooling foods, drinks, and popsicles too! It will also prevent more fragile foods from degrading or going bad in the heat, so make use of a good quality camping cooler, like a Yeti Cooler. If you’re worried about spoiled food due to improper refrigeration, read our article on food to take camping without a fridge.


  • Pack jugs or bottles of frozen water: Rather than filling your camping cooler with ice, as is traditional, freeze as many bottles of water as you can as an alternative. This has multiple benefits; firstly the decreased surface area of the ice block means it will melt much more slowly, so it’ll keep the rest of your supplies cool for longer. It also means that once it melts, instead of having a camping cooler filled with food swimming in dirty water, you’ll have a bottle of nice cool drinking water. Additionally, a frozen jug of water makes a great cold-water-bottle to slip inside your sleeping bag at night, making it much easier to get to sleep. 


  • Replenish your electrolytes: Hot weather+camping activities=sweating. In the hot weather, you’re bound to sweat much more than usual, and this is amplified by activities such as hiking. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, and if your levels become out of balance it can cause some serious health problems. Avoid this issue by simply adding some electrolyte tablets to your water, or for a more natural remedy mix in some salt, sugar, and lemon juice.


  • Carry a water bottle: In hot weather, try to keep a water bottle on you at all times. This way you’re more likely to stay hydrated, as once you’re thirsty, it’s already too late. An insulated water bottle will help keep your water nice and cold, so it will help keep you cool as well as healthy. Daily you should consume at least 2 liters of water, but in hot weather, this should increase to at least 3 liters, as you lose much more liquid than usual through sweat. 


  • Eat cold food: Many people find they lose their appetite in hot weather, but not eating as much as usual can be dangerous, especially when hiking. Take the opportunity to eat plenty of salads, with very little cooking or preparation needed, a hearty salad is a perfect summer camping lunch. Fruit and vegetables fill stop you from feeling as sluggish and weighed down as hot cooked meals, and the fact they’re served at a cold temperature makes them all the more enjoyable. 


Someone filling up a water bottle.

Bringing along a light and well-built water bottle will help you stay replenished on your outdoor adventure.


Staying hydrated and avoiding heatstroke

On beautiful summer days, you can spend hours at a time having fun outdoors. However, you must take precautions to protect yourself from the sun and from heatstroke, as this threatens to ruin your summer vacation and could even put you in the hospital.


  • Wear sunscreen: Liberally apply sunscreen to any exposed skin, and re-apply every few hours. Try to find a brand that is water-resistant, and even so you should put on sunscreen again after swimming. Officially it’s recommended to wear at least 15SPF daily, but during the hottest months of the year, we recommend at least 30SPF, especially if you’re spending the whole day in the sun.


  • Hydrate like your life depends on it: When the sun is beating down, drinking plenty of water is the most crucial element in keeping you safe and cool. It’s worth repeating; on hot and sweaty days, drinking around 3 liters of water is recommended. Dehydration is very dangerous and happens all too often on summer camping trips.


  • Wear a hat: Shade your head, ears, and the back of your neck by wearing a wide-brimmed hat while outdoors. These areas are the most sensitive to sunburn, and keeping the sun off them will do wonders for keeping you cool and healthy. 


Staying cool using our tips is the best way to about heat exhaustion and heat stroke, but even so, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms in case of an emergency. Watch out for:


  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Feeling tired of weak
  • Throbbing headaches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Low blood pressure
  • Heavy sweating
  • Fast pulse
  • Intense and extreme thirst
  • Urinating less ofter, and darker colored
  • Flushed skin
  • Rapid breathing


As you can see, heatstroke is no laughing matter. If you suspect someone in your group is suffering from heatstroke, immediately get them into the shade or indoors, remove excess clothing, and cool them by whatever means available. You can put them in a cold shower or cool tub of water, spray them with a hose, apply wet towels or ice packs to the affected persons head, neck, armpits and groin, these are the most effective areas. 

Of course, you should also contact emergency services right away. In the most serious cases, heatstroke can cause seizures or even render people comatose, so please take all the necessary precautions. Without a quick response to a serious case of heatstroke, damage to vital organs can occur, and without treatment, heatstroke can even be fatal.

So, always apply sunscreen, drink plenty of water, and take breaks in the shade when it gets too hot. Certain factors such as age and sudden exposure can leave you at increased risk, so be extra careful if this applies to you. For more information about heat stroke and how to prevent it, visit the Mayo Clinic website. 


A man drinking a bottle of water in the mountains.

Learning how to stay cool while camping or backpacking is essential to a great hiking trip.


Final Verdict:

To conclude, remember the main points of staying cool while camping:


  • Pitch your tent in the shade
  • Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated
  • Take time to cool off, we recommend a dip in the water


Summer camping is an incredibly rewarding experience, and there are plenty of ways you can keep cool while still having a great time. If you’re looking for an extra challenge, why not try primitive camping, go off the grid and set yourself up beside a cool stream for some summertime peace and tranquility. There’s so much to enjoy camping in hot weather, whether you’re swimming in lakes or chilling out in paddling pools. It’s alright to take a break and sit in the shade every once in a while, and this is one of the best and simplest ways to make sure you don’t overheat. 


Bonus tip: Check out the video below for some tips on setting up a tarp for shade:



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Riley Draper

Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.