How to Stay Cool During Summer Camping (15 Tips)

Summer camping offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature, but high temperatures can sometimes detract from the experience. To maximize comfort and safety during your summer adventures, implementing strategies to stay cool is crucial. This guide provides 15 tips that can allow you to enjoy the great outdoors without the discomfort of excessive heat.

1. Choose a Shaded Campsite

Selecting the right campsite is crucial for staying cool. Look for areas that offer natural shade from trees, which not only block direct sunlight but also cool the air around them through transpiration. Tree shade is most beneficial in the afternoon when the sun is at its strongest. Cliffs and large rock formations can also provide substantial shade and are typically cooler than open areas. When scouting for a site, consider the movement of the sun throughout the day so that you are protected during peak heat hours.

For a shaded camping experience that combines natural beauty with cooler conditions, consider the following locations, each renowned for their natural shade and scenic surroundings:

  • Lake Camanche South Shore (California) - Nestled near Wallace, this campground offers extensive shoreline and shaded areas perfect for summer camping. It's a hub for various recreational activities including hiking and swimming.
  • Zapata Falls Campground (Colorado) - Located near Great Sand Dunes National Park, this campground offers natural shade and cooler conditions provided by the nearby waterfalls and sand dunes .
  • Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort (California) - Situated near Mt. Shasta, this campground provides ample shade with stunning views of Mount Shasta. It's ideal for those looking to combine camping with water activities like kayaking or swimming .
  • Bear Creek Lake Park (Colorado) - This park offers a wooded campground with plenty of shaded areas near the lake, suitable for both tent camping and RVs. Activities include hiking, boating, and wakeboarding .
  • Hoffmaster State Park (Michigan) - Located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, this park features densely wooded dunes that provide ample shade. It's perfect for those looking to enjoy the lake while staying cool in the shade .

These sites offer a mix of amenities and natural landscapes that provide relief from the summer heat while allowing you to enjoy the great outdoors.

Choose a place with shade to set up your tent for camping

2. Use a Reflective Sunshade

Installing a reflective sunshade above your tent can significantly reduce the internal temperature. These sunshades work by reflecting sunlight away from your camping area, rather than absorbing it. Materials like aluminized polyester are especially effective as they reflect a considerable amount of sunlight and are lightweight, making them easy to carry. Ensure the sunshade is positioned to cover the tent, particularly over the roof and the west-facing side, to shield from the late afternoon sun. This setup not only cools the tent but also prolongs the life of the tent fabric by protecting it from UV damage.

3. Ventilate Your Tent

Proper tent ventilation is essential for reducing heat build-up inside your shelter. Choose a tent with multiple mesh windows or vents, ideally on opposite sides to enhance cross-ventilation. The goal is to create a flow of air that moves throughout the tent, which helps in expelling hot air and drawing in cooler air from outside. For optimal airflow, position the tent so that these openings face the natural wind direction. Additionally, some tents come with venting options in the roof, which is excellent for allowing hot air, that naturally rises, to escape, thus keeping the interior cooler during the day and at night.

4. Drink Regularly

Staying hydrated is critical in managing your body's cooling system. As you engage in outdoor activities, your body sweats to dissipate heat, and losing too much fluid without adequate replenishment can lead to dehydration. It's advisable to drink water regularly, not just when you feel thirsty. Carrying a reusable water bottle helps remind you to drink water throughout the day. For an average adult, consuming around 2-3 liters of water per day is recommended, but this can increase depending on the heat, your level of activity, and your body type. Electrolyte solutions or sports drinks can also be beneficial to replenish salts lost during heavy sweating.

5. Wear Light Clothing

Choosing appropriate clothing is vital for comfort and heat management while camping in summer. Opt for garments made from lightweight, breathable fabrics like cotton, linen, or moisture-wicking synthetics. These materials do not cling to your body, allowing air to circulate freely, which helps evaporate sweat and keeps you cool. Additionally, light-colored clothing is more effective at reflecting the sun's rays compared to dark colors, which absorb more heat. Wearing light colors can make a noticeable difference in your comfort levels when exposed to direct sunlight.

6. Use a Cooling Towel

A cooling towel is a simple yet effective tool for managing heat. These towels are made from materials that enhance the evaporation of water, providing a cooling effect when placed on the skin. To use, simply soak the towel in water, wring it out, and then drape it over your neck or head. The evaporation of the water from the towel draws heat away from your body, lowering your skin temperature. This method is especially useful during hikes or when sitting outside under the sun, providing immediate relief from the heat.

7. Avoid Peak Sun Hours

Minimizing exposure during the hottest times of the day is a key strategy to stay cool and avoid heat-related illnesses while camping in the summer. The sun's intensity peaks between 10 AM and 4 PM, making this period the most dangerous in terms of UV exposure and heat. During these hours, try to schedule less strenuous activities or seek shelter in shaded areas. If you must be active outdoors, wearing a broad-brimmed hat and using sunscreen can provide additional protection. Planning your day with early morning or late afternoon activities when the temperatures are cooler can make your experience more enjoyable and safer.

8. Sleep Above the Ground

Elevating your sleeping arrangement can significantly improve your comfort by enhancing air circulation. When you sleep close to the ground, the heat from the earth can increase the temperature inside your tent. Using a hammock or a cot raises you above the ground, allowing air to flow underneath, which helps to dissipate heat more effectively. This setup not only keeps you cooler but also can provide a more comfortable sleep by avoiding the hard, uneven surfaces often found at campgrounds. If using a hammock, ensure it is securely tied to stable trees or posts and consider a mosquito net if bugs are a concern.

9. Use a Portable Fan

Incorporating a portable fan into your camping gear can greatly enhance comfort by providing active air movement within your tent. Battery-powered or rechargeable fans are convenient as they can be used in remote locations without access to power. Positioning a fan near the tent's entrance or aiming it towards the sleeping area can help circulate air, driving out stale, hot air and drawing in cooler air from outside. Some fans also come with additional features like misters, which can further cool the air by dispersing fine water droplets that evaporate quickly, enhancing the cooling effect.

Use portable fans to keep cool during summer camping

10. Plan Meals Accordingly

Adapting your meal planning can also help manage heat while camping. Choosing no-cook meals eliminates the need for fires or stoves, which can significantly raise the local temperature. Cold dishes such as salads, sandwiches, and wraps not only keep the cooking heat away but are also refreshing and hydrating. Preparing meals ahead of time at home or opting for ready-to-eat camping food can reduce the need for handling and cooking at the campsite, allowing you to spend more time relaxing. Moreover, using insulated coolers to store perishable items ensures that you have fresh, cool food and drinks available without additional heat generation.

11. Stay Wet

Utilizing natural water sources like lakes or streams can provide a significant cooling effect when camping in hot weather. Taking regular dips helps lower your body temperature through the physical principle of evaporation. Water conducts heat away from the body much faster than air, so even a brief swim can reset your body's heat buildup, providing immediate relief. Additionally, staying wet in a light breeze can enhance this cooling effect due to the wind's ability to speed up evaporation. Always ensure the safety and cleanliness of the water source before entering, and consider water shoes to protect against rocky or slippery surfaces.

12. Protect Yourself from the Sun

Sun protection is crucial while camping to prevent burns and long-term skin damage. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat provides shade and blocks direct UV rays from hitting your face, neck, and ears. The use of broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF is also essential; it should be applied liberally to all exposed skin and reapplied every two hours or after swimming. Clothing with UV protection can offer additional defense, as can sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays. This combined approach helps protect your skin from sun damage, reduces the risk of heat-related illnesses, and ensures that your outdoor activities remain safe and enjoyable.

13. Create Your Shade

Creating additional shaded areas at your campsite can significantly improve your comfort during sunny days. Bringing items like umbrellas or portable canopy tents allows you to set up shaded spots wherever needed, particularly in areas where natural shade is limited. This is beneficial for setting up eating areas, social spaces, or a cool spot for pets if they accompany you. Canopies and umbrellas are especially useful as they can be moved according to the sun's position throughout the day, ensuring continuous shade.

14. Use the Earth's Cooling

At night, temperatures typically drop, making it an ideal time to use the earth's natural cooling to your advantage. Hanging damp towels or sheets around your tent can enhance this cooling effect. As the night air cools, the evaporation of water from the towels or sheets absorbs heat, thereby reducing the air temperature around your sleeping area. This method is a simple, energy-free way to keep your tent cooler on warm nights.

15. Adjust Your Schedule

Adjusting your daily schedule according to the temperature can greatly enhance your camping experience. During summer, temperatures are usually cooler in the early morning and later in the evening. By shifting your activity hours to these times, you can avoid the midday heat. This might mean changing your meal times, waking earlier for activities like hiking or fishing, and then relaxing or napping during the hottest part of the day. Sleeping during cooler night hours and perhaps waking up with the dawn can align your body's rest periods with the coolest parts of the day.


To stay cool during summer camping, it's essential to choose shaded campsites, use sunshades, and optimize tent ventilation. Keeping hydrated, wearing light clothing, and utilizing cooling accessories can significantly enhance your comfort. Additionally, adjusting meal times, using portable fans, and creating extra shade are practical ways to manage heat. If you strategically plan your activities and utilize natural cooling methods, you can enjoy a refreshing and enjoyable camping experience, even on the hottest days.

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